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

NOVEMBER 17, 2017:


Flawed evidence is why the death penalty must go

After leading the nation for decades in recommending death sentences, juries in Dallas County and Harris County have apparently cooled to the idea. In Dallas, prosecutors have asked juries to condemn a murderer to death just 2 times since 2014, and in both cases the juries declined. That's good news for anyone concerned about how justice is meted out in Texas.

While there are crimes that probably deserve death, the defining characteristic of an execution is its irreversibility. Once carried out, there is no possibility for mistakes to be corrected. That's a problem for a criminal justice system whose mistakes are being brought to light more often than ever by advances in science and technology.

This basic incompatibility has helped soften support for the death penalty.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has sought the death penalty in only 2 cases since taking office, which we hope suggests an increasingly high bar for executions in general. The 1st of them, however, was upended last week when new information about defendant Antonio Cochran's intellectual disability made him ineligible for execution, thanks to the Supreme Court's narrowing interpretation of when the Constitution permits the death penalty. But it's a case out of Bell County not even involving a capital crime that best explains why our system of justice is fundamentally incompatible with the death penalty.

When jurors convicted George Powell of a Killeen robbery in 2009, it looked solid enough. A camera recorded the robber leaving the 7-Eleven, where he had put a handgun on the counter and told the terrified cashier to give him the cash and some cigarettes. The cashier told police the robber had been about 5-foot-6, according to a story published last week by Brandi Grissom, The Morning News' Austin bureau chief, but the clerk and a manager later testified that Powell, who is 6-foot-3, was the robber.

Eyewitness testimony has a lousy track record. And in this case, it was disputed by the manager of another store that had been robbed 12 days before when she testified that she recognized Powell and he was definitely not the one who robbed her.

But prosecutors pointed to the video. And introduced an informant who told jurors that Powell had confessed while they were in jail.

Now, however, both the video and the snitch's testimony have been contradicted. The inmate says he lied to curry favor in his own case. And the video? An expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission has concluded it is impossible that the man in the video was taller than 5-foot-9.

Powell remains in jail serving 28 years. An appeals court will have to decide whether all this means he's innocent. Lawmakers ought to ponder whether new standards for analysis of video evidence are needed, as the commission has suggested.

But whatever happens, we know that since he's still alive any mistakes in Powell's case can still be corrected. That's not possible for those who've been executed.

That's precisely why the death penalty remains fundamentally incompatible with justice.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Court will not reconsider Oviedo killer's death sentence----The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments to throw out Andrew Allred death sentence in the 2007 Oviedo double homicide. Asst. FL. Attorney General Stacey Kircher argues that he was not in a "disassociative" mental state when he committed the crimes.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's decision not to reconsider the sentence of an Oviedo man on death row, documents show.

Andrew Allred, 31, was convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing his best friend and his ex-girlfriend in 2007, following a public break-up during his 21st birthday party. He was sentenced to death for both murders in 2010.

He was appealing the Seminole County Circuit Court's decision to deny his initial post-conviction motion in 2016, where he claimed he was assigned an ineffective attorney.

In January 2017, Allred filed an appeal to the initial motion, which was also denied by the lower court because he voluntarily waived his right to a jury during the sentencing hearings.

"Allred is among those defendants who validly waived the right to a penalty phase jury, and his arguments do not compel departing from our precedent," the justices wrote.

According to court records, on Aug. 25, 2007, Allred's girlfriend at the time - Tiffany Barwick, 19, - broke up with him at his birthday party. During the next few days, he used photos of her for target practice and later sent her pictures of those images with bullet holes.

After Allred discovered Barwick was seeing his best friend, Michael Ruschak, 22, he sent both of them threatening messages.

About a month later, he drove to Ruschak's home in Oviedo, where he rammed into his ex-girlfriend's car several times. He barged into the home and shot Ruschak 4 times, killing him. He then went into the bathroom, where Barwick was hiding, and shot her 6 times.

Allred pleaded guilty to both murders and later waived his right to a jury and his right to be in court during his sentencing hearings, according to court documents.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Supreme Court grants new sentence in throat-slashing death of elderly Jacksonville man

A 49-year-old Jacksonville man on death row for killing an 82-year-old disabled man 20 years ago had his sentence vacated by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.

The court did not throw out Raymond Morrison's 1998 guilty conviction, just his sentence. Now it is up to the State Attorney's Office to review the case and determine if it wants to empanel a new jury to once again seek the death penalty. If not, Morrison will be automatically sentenced to a life behind bars for killing Albert Dwelle.

In its ruling the Supreme Court found that a lawyer for Morrison failed to properly investigate his mental health and background - potential mitigating factors that could have swayed a jury when deciding if Morrison should be condemned to die.

In 1998 Morrison was found guilty of robbing and killing Dwelle, a neighbor of his girlfriend's. Dwelle's throat was slashed and he had been robbed. His body was discovered the following morning by a delivery driver for Meals on Wheels.

Dwelle was disabled for many years after suffering a stroke when he was a child. He could not use his left arm and hand and could hardly stand. Dwelle needed assistance to bathe, dress and cook.

2 years ago Circuit Court Judge Henry Davis ruled that 1 of Morrison's lawyers did an ineffective job representing him in the case that ended with the jury voting 12-0 for a death sentence.

The lower court judge found that there were several people willing to testify that Morrison was somewhere else around the time that Dwelle was killed but none were called to the witness stand.

Davis said attorney Refik Eler did not adequately investigate or prepare an alibi for his client. 2 years ago the Times-Union reported that an examination of Morrison's brain after he was placed on death row revealed that he had abnormal brain metabolism, something typically found with one who has a serious head injury.

Morrison confessed to the crime after a detective told him to make everything right with God. It was later learned that Morrison had smoked crack cocaine hours before his arrest, which should have been used by his lawyers to explain the various contradicting stories he told police.

A number of people said Morrison took responsibilities for crimes that he did not commit. The lower court found that Eler never investigated that or brought it up at trial. Eler had been Jacksonville's chief assistant public defender and the office's death-penalty director under former Public Defender Matt Shirk. On several occasions over the years, courts have called his counsel ineffective.

Davis found that had he or the jury known about Morrison's serious mental-health issues, that would have been a major factor to determine if he was telling the truth at the time of his confession.

After the lower court's decision to throw out the conviction, the then State Attorney Angela Corey vowed to fight the matter at the Supreme Court. The court came back with a unanimous decision to throw out the sentence but keep the conviction.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson could not be reached for comment.



Quadruple murder suspect Adam Matos faces death penalty if convicted of murder----Matos claims self defense

The jury is expected to announce their verdict on Thursday in the trial for a man accused of killing 4 people in Hudson in August 2014.

Matos faces 4 1st-Degree Murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. If the jury recommends capital punishment, the jury must make a unanimous decision.

On Wednesday, Matos took the stand in his own defense and claimed that self-defense and "paranoia" led to the brutal quadruple-homicide.

During the trial, Matos calmly went over the day he killed his ex-girlfriend, her parents, and her new boyfriend.

He said he loved Megan Brown, the mother of their son, and is disgusted by what he did.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it. Those memories. I relive them every day."

Matos says the violence started when he was attacked by Megan's new boyfriend, Nicholas Leonard.

He told a Pasco County jury Wednesday that he feared for his life as Leonard choked him and put a gun to his chest inside this Hudson home.

He also says Megan's father, Greg Brown, came in the room with a gun.

Matos admitted to stabbing Leonard with a knife during the fight.

Then he said he shot Brown because he thought Brown was going to kill him too.

He says he fired a gun near was Megan Brown was hiding, and the bullet ricocheted, hitting her in the eye.

When he realized he'd killed Megan, he says he lost it.

He then went back finish off the injured Leonard with a hammer.

He said he used that same hammer to ambush Megan's mother Margaret Brown when she came home from work.

"I hit her over the head a few times."

Matos says paranoia had taken over.

"I realize now that she probably wasn't trying to kill me I was just out of it, so paranoid. In shock."

Prosecutors disputed the order of the killings, based in part on a witness who heard gunshots.

Even the judge seemed confused over Matos' claiming self defense, specifically in reference to Margaret Brown.

Over the days that followed, Matos stayed in the house with his 4-year-old son.

He attempted to clean up the bloody scene.

The 2 were eventually found at a Tampa hotel.

"I was so lost, I didn't know what to do. I was confused, I was sad. The world was just turned upside down and I didn't have any plan."

The boy is living with family out of state.

During the closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Matos did not act in self-defense claim and emphasized that he had plenty of time to think about his decisions before making them.

The defense attorney focused on trying to convince the jury that the homicides were crimes of passion and that they were not premeditated. If the jury decides the homicides were crimes of passion, Matos could be convicted on Manslaughter charges instead of Murder.

(source: ABC News)


Orleans DA will seek death penalty in murder of NOPD officer

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro says his office will pursue the death penalty against accused cop killer Darren Bridges.

Cannizzaro's office on Thursday secured a 1st-degree murder indictment of Bridges from an Orleans Parish grand jury.

Bridges is accused of fatally shooting New Orleans Police officer Marcus McNeil, 29, in the 6800 block of Cindy Place on Oct. 13.

"From everything I know of Officer McNeil, he seemed to be very well-respected and admired by his fellow officers," Cannizzaro said. "We're going to do our best to see to it that Mr. Bridges is never in a position to ever hurt anyone else again."

The 8-count grand jury indictment unsealed before Criminal District Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson contains the following charges against Bridges:

Count 1 - 1st-degree murder of Marcus McNeil

Count 2 - Felon in possession of a firearm

Count 3 - Possession with intent to distribute Buprenorphine

Count 4 - Possession with intent to distribute cocaine

Count 5 - Possession with intent to distribute alprazolam

Count 6 - Possession with intent to distribute tramacol

Count 7 - Obstruction of justice in a 2nd-degree murder case

Count 8 - Aggravated assault with a firearm upon a police officer, Stephan Stephano

Judge Johnson set no bond for the first-degree murder charge. She set a $250,000 bond for each of the other seven counts.

"Under Louisiana law, the penalty for 1st-degree murder can be death," Cannizzaro added. "At this time, that is how we will pursue it."

(source: Fox News)


Kasich says no execution changes needed in OhioM

A day after another failed execution in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich's office says the state's capital-punishment protocol doesn't need to change.

Meanwhile, civil-rights advocates say the latest failure could be used as evidence in future challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio's death-penalty law.

Kasich was forced to grant a reprieve for Alva Campbell on Wednesday when a medical team in the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville determined that it couldn't find 2 suitable veins in his arms or legs to carry out his lethal injection. Campbell, 69, had been strapped to a gurney and poked and prodded for about 30 minutes when the team made the determination.

The failure of the execution appears to be just the 3rd in modern U.S. history - and the 2nd to occur in Ohio during the past decade.

Campbell's ill health presaged a difficult execution. But in 2009, the state also was forced to halt the execution of a younger, healthier man, Romell Broom, 53, after 2 hours of trying to find suitable veins.

And in 2014, another problem execution took place, when Dennis McGuire choked and struggled for about 10 minutes before dying. The state stopped executions until earlier this year, when it successfully executed Ronald Phillips in July. It also successfully executed Gary Otte in September.

Then came the attempt to execute Campbell on Wednesday.

State law requires that the condemned be executed by lethal injection. The state's execution protocol meticulously sets out how lethal injection is performed.

In the wake of Wednesday's problems, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he would want to see a full report on what happened before deciding whether the state's protocol needs to be changed.

When asked Thursday whether Campbell's failed execution shows the need for change, Kasich spokesman John Keeling simply said no.

In any case, there may be no better alternative, said Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

Because of long years of sedentary living on death row, smoking and a possible history of intravenous drug use, the veins of condemned people are likely to be harder to locate than those of the population at large, Brickner said. And, because professional associations for doctors and nurses oppose the death penalty, the most-qualified medical professionals are unlikely to participate in executions, he said. In addition, the death house doesn't have the medical equipment that hospitals have to locate hard-to-find-veins.

Groups opposed to the death penalty say that taking convicts such as Campbell and Broom to the death house a second time violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and even the Fifth Amendment provision that no person "be subject for the same offense to twice be put in jeopardy of life or limb."

"It's like tying someone to the stake (before a firing squad) and missing," said Abe Bonowitz, of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "It's like a mock execution."

Mock executions, Bonowitz said, are widely considered to be torture.

Broom's lawyers made the constitutional arguments to the Ohio Supreme Court, which in 2012 rejected them. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and Broom is now scheduled for execution on June 17, 2020.

But just because the high court declined to hear Broom's case doesn't mean it will reject every future such case filed by an Ohio inmate, Brickner said. And, he added, Campbell's failed execution Wednesday likely will be used as further evidence in challenging Ohio's method.

Ironically, Brickner said, Ohio and other states moved to lethal injection because concerns arose about the humanity of executing people by firing squad, electrocution, hanging or in the gas chamber. Ohio's problems with the current method point to a deeper problem, he said.

"There really is no humane way to kill a person," Brickner said.


No 2nd Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a 2nd chance.

The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display Thursday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.

This plan for a 2nd execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.

Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.

By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.

The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailments, including lung cancer, COPD and respiratory failure. Campbell has had prostate cancer and a hip replacement. He needs daily oxygen treatments, uses a walker and is tethered to a colostomy bag.

Ohio officials were so aware of Campbell's breathing problems that they provided a wedge-shaped pillow to raise his head, so he could breathe more easily as it set about to end his life.

Officials had been warned about the difficulty of finding a usable vein, and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had problems finding Campbell's veins during a recent exam.

Nonetheless, the state went ahead with his execution.

On Wednesday, the execution team tried 4 different places in Campbell's arms and right leg to insert the needle through which to administer lethal drugs. After 30 minutes it stopped the execution and returned Campbell to death row.

Stopping an execution before it is completed is quite unusual, even if serious problems occur during the procedure. Those serious problems are not rare: Approximately 3 % of American executions were botched during the 20th century, and 7 % of lethal injections have been botched since its 1st use in 1982.

But Campbell's was one of the very few executions to be halted since the mid-1940s.

The 1st of those was Louisiana's botched electrocution of Willie Francis, in which the current of electricity was not sufficient to kill him.

The 2nd time an execution was stopped in mid-course occurred in Ohio during the 2009 effort to put Romell Broom to death. The execution team could not find a usable vein. After 2 hours of repeatedly poking and stabbing Broom's arms and legs, they gave up.

In April 2014, when Oklahoma tried to execute Clayton Lockett, officials also had problems finding a usable vein. They finally inserted the needle into a vein in his groin. When the lethal drugs were administered, Lockett struggled violently: The needle had dislodged from the vein into a muscle. Ultimately the execution was stopped before Lockett was killed. Sometime later he died of a heart attack while still strapped to the gurney.

William Morva's case shows why America shouldn't use the death penalty against those who suffer from mental illness.

Lockett's death was one of the more gruesome in America's history of botched executions, but it spared the state an ethical and legal question that faced officials in the Francis and Broom cases, and now faces Ohio officials who failed to execute Campbell. What should be done with him?

Should the state, having failed in its 1st execution attempt, be able to try again? Are we well served when we force the condemned to undergo the psychological torture of having to prepare to die, only to have to relive the experience of execution a 2nd time?

The courts bent over backward to permit a 2nd execution in the Francis and Broom cases. In the former, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state would only be barred from going through with a 2nd execution if it had intentionally botched the 1st. Even if the state were careless or negligent in its 1st execution attempt, the court said, it could still proceed with another. The state of Louisiana went ahead and put Francis to death.

In March 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Broom to stop his 2nd execution. The court reaffirmed the Francis precedent and added that since the lethal chemicals had not begun to flow when his execution was halted, his "punishment" had not really begun. The United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal that a 2nd execution would constitute double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment. Broom awaits his execution date on Ohio's death row.

The fine legalisms of the Francis and Broom decisions give the state too much room for error in the serious business of putting someone to death. If the state is going to kill, it should have the burden of getting it right the first time. The law should allow no 2nd chances.

I say this not out of sympathy for those whose heinous acts bring them to the death chamber, but because how a society punishes reveals its true character. Punishment tells us who we are.

When we punish cruelly we create "a class of punishers whose lives are wasted and their characters depraved so that as citizens they become almost as undesirable as the criminals they torture."

Those are the words of a playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and, as Ohio considers what to do with Campbell, it should heed his warning. Ohio failed to execute Alva Campbell, despite all the warning signs of the risk of failure because of his weakened physical state. Now, Ohio's citizens and public officials should be careful, lest in their eagerness to try a 2nd time, they "become almost as undesirable" as the murderer they seek to execute.

(source: US News & World Report)


Ohio prisons botch 2 executions in less than 10 years

For the 2nd time in less than 10 years, an Ohio death row inmate survived the 1st attempt of execution after the process already started.

On Wednesday, the execution of 69-year-old condemned killer Alva Campbell was called off after about 25 minutes because the Ohio execution team couldn't find a vein to insert an IV for lethal injection.

The planned execution already drew criticism because of Campbell's health conditions. The Ohio prison department accommodated Campbell with a wedge-shaped pillow to help him breathe while he was being executed because he suffers from an obstructive pulmonary disorder.

A new execution date for Campbell has been rescheduled for June 2019.

In 2009, convicted rapist and killer Romell Broom received 18 needle sticks over the course of 2 hours while Ohio prison technicians attempted to find a suitable vein for lethal injection.

Eventually, the execution was called off.

Broom, now 61, remains on death row with a new execution date set for 2020. He has been arguing in court whether the state should be allowed a 2nd attempt at execution.

After Campbell's failed execution, death penalty opponents are urging the state to put an end to capital punishment.

"This is not justice, and this is not humane," said Mike Brickner of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ohio Correction Director Gary Mohr said that the lethal injection team humanely handled Campbell's attempt and that it was called off after talking with the medical team.

(source: WOIO news)


Experts: Failed execution attempt may cause legal challenges

Ohio's failure to execute a condemned killer with poor veins despite multiple claims by the state that the veins were accessible will lead to new challenges of the state lethal injection process, death penalty experts predict.

Each new problem with executions adds to the question of whether Ohio is violating the constitutional rights of death-row prisoners, Mike Benza, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has represented death-row inmates, said Thursday.

Front and center is the state's protocol for conducting executions, he said.

"How can you write this, say, 'This is what we're going to do, we've trained our people,' and then they don't do it?" Benza said.

Prisons director Gary Mohr called off Wednesday's execution of Alva Campbell about 25 minutes after several unsuccessful attempts to insert an IV in Campbell's arms and right leg.

"The veins were not good," Mohr said, explaining the decision.

Yet 3 times in 24 hours - 12:07 p.m. and 8:09 p.m. on Tuesday, and 9:56 a.m. on Wednesday - the state said Campbell's veins appeared usable.

Campbell was sentenced to die for fatally shooting a teen in a 1997 carjacking. Republican Gov. John Kasich set a new execution date in June 2019.

Ohio's next execution is Feb. 13, when the state plans to put to death Raymond Tibbetts for fatally stabbing a man in Cincinnati in 1997.

Lawyers challenging Ohio's lethal injection system are still reviewing what happened Wednesday, Allen Bohnert, a federal public defender, said Thursday.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which defends the lethal injection process, declined to comment.

The failed execution is another reminder of fundamental flaws with lethal injection, said Lori Shaw, a University of Dayton law professor.

"The state should not adopt a process that requires someone without the proper training and expertise to perform a medical procedure," Shaw said.

The identities of Ohio executioners aren't known, but some have had experience as paramedics, according to past court testimony.

In 2009, the state called off the execution of killer Romell Broom after 2 hours of unsuccessful attempts to find a vein. Broom is back on death row with a new execution date in 2020.

In 2006, Ohio executioners needed more than an hour to put Joseph Clark to death because of trouble with his veins.

On Wednesday, the execution team worked for about 25 minutes to find a vein in Campbell's arms or his right lower leg as he lay on a gurney in the death chamber. Team members used a locating device with an ultraviolet light while comforting Campbell by patting him on the arm and shoulder.

Although it appeared the executioners had successfully inserted a needle in his shin, the warden instructed the team to pull it out, said David Stebbins, Campbell's public defender.

Stebbins said Campbell's poor veins and other health ills are problems that won't go away anytime soon.

Death penalty opponents called for the state to put an end to the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Pfizer warns Nebraska to return any lethal injection drugs it has manufactured that state may have

A major pharmaceutical company demanded in a letter a month ago that the State of Nebraska return any lethal injection drugs it might have that were manufactured by the company or its affiliate.

Pfizer adopted a policy in 2016 banning the use of its products in an execution as a "misuse" of drugs intended to save lives.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment," stated the Oct. 4 letter, signed by Robert Jones, a public relations director at Pfizer.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and the office of Gov. Pete Ricketts declined to say Thursday if the state had obtained any Pfizer drugs.

"We are not disclosing the identity of the supplier at this time," said Corrections spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith.

But Smith said the state spent $10,500 on the 4 lethal injection drugs purchased last month.

This comes 2 years after Nebraska spent $54,000 on similar drugs that it never received.

A week ago, the state informed a death row inmate that it had obtained the substances it planned to use in carrying out the inmate's death sentence.

3 of the drugs are on Pfizers list of substances it prohibits for use in executions.

If Nebraska obtained drugs made by Pfizer, it risks a lawsuit from the company or one of its distributors claiming that it violated the company's ban on using drugs on its list of "restricted products" for a lethal injection, according to a national authority on the death penalty.

"The question is: Is there someone who is violating their contract with Pfizer?" asked Robert Dunham of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center on Thursday. "Or is a distributor being misled about the use of the drug?"

Dunham said Pfizer typically doesn't send such "demand" letters unless it suspects that a state has obtained drugs manufactured by it.

The Pfizer letter was among several documents released by Corrections this week in response to public records requests from The World-Herald and the ACLU of Nebraska. The newspaper and the civil rights group each independently requested information about the state's efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs.

The records show that the state on Sept. 19 received federal approval, if necessary, to import controlled substances. On Oct. 12, records indicated that 4 lethal injection drugs were being stored at a prison in Lincoln.

The documents also list expiration dates for the drugs. 2 of the drugs expire in July and August 2018.

That raises doubts about whether Nebraska could set an execution date before the drugs expire, according to a leading death penalty opponent, State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.

While the state has declined to identify the source of the 4 drugs, Smith, the Corrections spokeswoman, said last week that they came from a source in the U.S.

Dunham said the information released so far seems to indicate two possible sources: either a private compounding pharmacy or a distributor that handles Pfizer products.

The records released by the state indicated that at least 2 of the drugs had been sent to a laboratory in Minnesota for testing. Such testing is required by state law before the drugs can be used in an execution, Smith said.

The 4 drugs that the state obtained included 3 on Pfizer's list of 13 "restricted products" the company has said cannot be used in lethal injections.

The 3 are diazepam, fentanyl citrate and potassium chloride. A 4th drug obtained by the state, cisatracurium besylate, is not manufactured by Pfizer, a company spokesman said Thursday.

The Pfizer letter said the company would reimburse the state for any drugs it returned that were made by Pfizer or Hospira, a Pfizer company. A company spokesman declined to say if Nebraska had returned any drugs, referring questions to state officials.

Nebraska, as well as several other states, have scrambled to obtain lethal injection drugs in recent years, in part because companies like Pfizer have banned their use for executions.

Some documents released to the ACLU illustrated that. Included were pleas from officials in Nevada and Mississippi who were seeking help to obtain lethal injection drugs for their states.

Danielle Conrad, who heads the ACLU of Nebraska, said Thursday that the information released to the ACLU raises more questions than it answers.

"Every attempt to tinker with the machinery of death doesn't bring us any closer to an execution," Conrad said. "It just raises a new set of questions."

Almost 1/2 of the records request by the group produced a state response that "no records" exist. Conrad, a former state senator, said the ACLU is reviewing whether its request was fully complied with, adding that she expects more to be released next week.

Nebraska has yet to seek an execution warrant for the inmate, Jose Sandoval, who was sentenced to die for his role in the murders of 5 people inside a Norfolk bank in 2002. Last week's notice was a required step before an execution date is requested.

There has not been an execution in Nebraska for 20 years, since the electric chair was in use. Electrocution was ruled unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment by the Nebraska Supreme Court, so the state switched to lethal injection.

But the state has stumbled in past attempts to obtain the drugs.

In 2011, a Swiss manufacturer demanded the return of a lethal injection drug purchased through a broker in India, saying it had been improperly obtained by the broker. 2 years ago, Nebraska spent $54,000 through the same broker, Chris Harris, for drugs it never received. That shipment was blocked by federal authorities.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Death penalty hearing for Anthony Garcia will be delayed until March

A 3-judge panel will hear, during a 2-day hearing in March, whether Anthony Garcia deserves the death penalty.

Day 1: March 12.

Day 2: March 13, the 10-year anniversary of the day Garcia invaded a stately Dundee home and knifed to death an 11-year-old boy, Thomas Hunter, and a 57-year-old grandma, Shirlee Sherman.

"It's fitting," said Jeff Sherman, Sherman's son.

Brad Waite, Sherman's brother, said the panel needn't look much farther than the carnage Garcia left behind nearly 10 years ago - a 6th-grader just home from school and a woman on the verge of leaving her cleaning job to pick up her kindergarten granddaughter.

"It'd be nice if they'd announce the sentence on that day," said Brad Waite, Sherman's brother.

The judges won't. In fact, Judges Gary Randall, Russell Bowie and Ricky Schreiner likely will spend that day listening to Garcia's defense team rattle off their reasons Garcia shouldn't receive the death penalty.

Judge Randall granted the delay Thursday in order to give Garcia’s new attorneys a chance to get up to speed on the voluminous case. His former attorneys - Robert Motta Sr. and Jr. of Chicago - officially left the case Aug. 31.

It's just the latest delay in a murder case that has dominated headlines over the past decade.

After a man wearing a dark suit killed Hunter and Sherman in the middle of a spring afternoon, the case went unsolved. Then, in May 2013, the killer struck again - murdering Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary at their home near 114th and Pacific Streets.

Garcia, 44, killed the 4 as revenge for his 2001 termination from Creighton University Medical Center. Dr. Roger Brumback and Dr. William Hunter, Thomas's father, fired Garcia after several incidents of misbehavior.

Douglas County prosecutors brought charges against Garcia in July 2013.

After numerous delays - most of them defense-related - he was convicted in October 2016, 1,200 days after his arrest.

March 12 will be the 1,700th day of the court case against Garcia. And Thursday provided a further question: Will Garcia even bother to attend his own hearing?

He didn't show up Thursday - the 2nd time he has refused to come out of his cell.

After a correctional officer showed up to take him to a transport van, Garcia asked why. The officer handed him a judge's order for the hearing. Garcia read it twice, the officer said. Garcia then pulled the covers over his head and laid back down on his bunk.

"Did he have something else to do?" an attorney asked.

Garcia's new defense team has been busy. Jeff Pickens, Garcia's attorney and the head of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, said he and commission attorneys have been getting up to speed on all the documents, including 7,000 pages of presentence investigative reports, 1,900 pages of jail notes and 258 recordings of Garcia's phone calls.

Another reason for the delay: Pickens said Garcia's former attorneys haven't turned over the discovery file of police reports and have stopped responding to requests to do so.

The commission also has filed more than 50 pages of motions challenging Nebraska's death penalty. Todd Lancaster, an attorney for the commission, asked the judge to declare it unconstitutional. Among other arguments, the commission says the decision on who gets the death penalty is arbitrary, the imposition of the death penalty is unequal across the state and nation and that a defendant has a right to have a jury, not judges, decide whether a death sentence should be imposed.

A 3rd attorney, Sarah Newell, pointed out Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' "intense involvement" in donating to and helping lead the charge to put Nebraska's death penalty back on the ballot after the Legislature had repealed it.

Said Newell: "The crux of (the argument) is the governor, by his intense involvement in the referendum process, has violated the separation of powers clause."

Sherman's family lamented the delay.

"It's ridiculous," Waite said. "It's been over a year since conviction - and here we are, still waiting. If I ran my business the way they're doing this, I'd have been in bankruptcy a long time ago ... It's just on and on. It disrupts our lives - everybody in the whole family."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Will the U of U shooting suspect face the death penalty?

The man suspected of shooting and killing a University of Utah student is expected to be officially charged in Salt Lake County Thursday.

24-year-old Austin Boutain will most likely be charged with murder. If he is charged with aggravated murder he will be eligible for the death penalty.

In aggravated murder prosecutors have to show there was another crime on top of the murder. Police say that was the attempted carjacking of Chen Wei Guo which ultimately ended in Guo's death.

Boutain's wife Kathleen may also be charged. She was originally arrested on drug charges, but both of them have a history of violence.

An affidavit ABC4 first reported Wednesday shows that Austin confessed to killing a man at a Colorado RV park because he was making sexual advances toward his wife. He confessed to stealing the victim's pickup and admitted, when he was finally caught in Salt Lake City, he was wearing the dead man's clothes. The probable cause statement filed by police in Salt Lake says Austin confessed to murdering Guo as well.


ARIZONA----new death sentence:

Ame Deal update: John Allen gets death penalty in murder of 10-year-old girl

A Phoenix man was sentenced to death Thursday in the 2011 death of a 10-year-old girl who was locked in a storage box in sweltering summer heat.

Jurors in Maricopa County Superior Court deliberated for only a few hours before deciding that John Allen should get the death penalty.

The jury previously determined that Ame Deal's death was especially cruel or heinous.

Allen, 29, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and child abuse on Nov. 8.

His 28-year-old wife, Sammantha Allen, was a cousin of Deal's and was convicted of murder in the girl's death in June. She's now the 3rd woman on Arizona's death row.

Prosecutors said the couple forced Ame into the small, plastic box as punishment for stealing ice pops. They went to sleep and the girl was found dead the next morning.

Defense attorney Robert Reinhardt had argued that John Allen, a father of 4 young children, did not intend for the girl to die and that the other adults in the home created the abusive environment.

But County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Thursday that the Allens "received the only proportionate penalty that could rightly be imposed for the torture and pain they put Ame through. Ame deserved so much more from the adults responsible for her care."

Ame's death was the culmination of a shocking history of abuse at the hands of relatives who were charged with caring for her.

Authorities said the girl was forced to eat dog feces, crush aluminum cans barefoot, consume hot sauce and get in the storage box on other occasions.

She also was kicked in the face, beaten with a wooden paddle and forcibly dunked after being thrown in a cold swimming pool, according to police investigators.

Adults at the home originally claimed Ame hid during a late-night game of hide-and-seek and wasn't found until hours later.

3 other relatives are in prison serving sentences for abusing Ame.

David Deal, who is listed as the girl's father on her birth certificate, is serving a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.

Ame's legal guardian at the time of her death was her aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, who is serving a 24-year prison sentence for a child abuse conviction. Ame's grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving 10 years for child abuse.

Authorities said Ame's mother left the family years earlier after suffering abuse from relatives and moved to Kansas without her daughter.

(source: Associated Press)


Cost of death penalty case keeps climbing

The cost of a Bullhead City murder suspect's death penalty case could exceed more than $1 million by the time it goes to trial.

Justin James Rector, 29, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body for the Sept. 2, 2014, death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella.

The total cost for Rector's defense including the 2017-18 fiscal year is now $582,579. That dates to the 2014-15 fiscal year. The cost includes $409,822 for all of Rector's defense attorneys and $172,007 for investigative services for the last 4 fiscal years, indigent defense services director Blake Schritter said.

So far, this current fiscal year, his attorney fees are $31,056 and the investigative services are $20,415. During the 2016-17 fiscal year, his attorney bill was $199,290 and the investigative services cost $129,777. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, attorney fees were $121,725 and the investigative services were $13,578, Schritter added.

Rector's next hearing before Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen is scheduled for today. Vacated several times, Rector's trial has not been scheduled and the length of the trial is not known but could last a month or longer.

Quinn Jolly made his 1st appearance as 1st chair on Rector's death penalty murder case in September. Julia Cassels, who was assigned to the case in July 2016, is the 2nd counsel in the murder case. 2 death penalty qualified attorneys are required in a capital murder case.

Rector's previous attorney took the case in March 2015 but withdrew in July. The public defender's office withdrew from the case in March 2015.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Nevada seeks to use untried execution drugs including opioid

For Nevada's 1st execution in more than a decade, state officials are turning to a never-before-tried combination of drugs, including a powerful painkiller that is fueling much of the opioid epidemic and a paralyzing drug that could mask any signs of trouble.

If the state's highest court approves the plan and it works without complications, the system could offer an alternative execution method to other states seeking hard-to-obtain drugs for lethal injections. But the drugs also carry serious risks, and their use in an execution could invite new shortages of medication used for surgery and pain relief.

"It's an experiment," said Deborah Denno, a law professor and lethal injection expert at Fordham University in New York. "It sounds like a high-risk venture. Even trained people can't claim to know what's going to happen."

None of the drugs - the sedative diazepam, the painkiller fentanyl and the paralytic cisatracurium - has been used in executions before.

Fentanyl has been at the center of the opioid crisis, with thousands of overdose deaths blamed on heroin laced with the synthetic opioid that often enters the U.S. from China and other countries. A fentanyl overdose killed Prince in 2016.

An execution using diazepam, commonly known as Valium, along with high doses of fentanyl, could risk complications such as vomiting, which is common in people experiencing fentanyl overdoses.

"It could be ugly," said Jonathan Groner, a Columbus, Ohio, surgeon and lethal injection expert.

Using fentanyl for an execution could also spur drugmakers in the U.S. and abroad to pull the legal version of the drug from the market in protest, Groner said, which could cut the supply for other legitimate purposes.

A similar scenario occurred several years ago after Missouri announced a plan to become the first state to put an inmate to death using propofol, the powerful anesthetic blamed for the 2009 death of Michael Jackson. An outcry from the medical community helped scrap that approach.

Using a paralytic as a 3rd drug could prevent body movements and disguise any suffering the condemned inmate might experience, Groner said.

The paralytic agent "pretty much ensures that if an execution is botched, we won't know it," he said.

The Nevada judge who delayed the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier cited concerns about "masking" pain and suffering when she balked at letting Nevada prison officials use cisatracurium.

Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti said the state could go forward with the execution but only with diazepam and fentanyl.

An attorney representing state Attorney General Adam Laxalt rejected that idea and said state officials would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, despite the wishes of Dozier, a 46-year-old twice convicted of murder. He has volunteered to die and said in court that he does not care if he suffers.

A stay of execution was filed Tuesday, the same day Dozier's death had been scheduled. Written arguments have not yet been submitted to the seven-member state high court, and a court spokesman said Thursday it wasn't immediately known if justices would hold hearings or make a ruling based on court filings.

The Nevada execution protocol was developed by a state chief medical officer, an anesthesiologist, who resigned 2 weeks ago but said his departure had nothing to do with the execution.

If it goes according to plan, the diazepam will put Dozier to sleep, followed by the fentanyl, which will depress his breathing enough to kill him. Then the cisatracurium is supposed to make death a certainty.

But an expert medical witness testified that if anything goes wrong with the 1st 2 drugs, and Dozier is still alive when the paralytic is administered, he could be left aware, unable to move and suffering "air hunger" until he suffocates.

If Dozier experiences awareness, "it would be a horrific experience," said Dr. David Waisel, a Harvard University anesthesiology professor presented as an expert witness by federal public defenders challenging Nevada's 3-drug protocol.

Some other death-penalty states are already following Nevada's lead in the hopes that the drug combination might provide a new execution method without the difficulty of obtaining drugs made by European companies opposed to the death penalty.

Nebraska last week proposed using the same three drugs along with potassium chloride - to stop the heart - for a yet-to-be scheduled execution next year.

The 31 states in the U.S. with the death penalty have wrestled with finding lethal injection drugs since pharmaceutical manufacturers stopped making some products available. Some executions using substitute drugs resulted in slow, apparently agonizing deaths.

Executions in Arizona were placed on hold after convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die in 2014 after receiving a 2-drug combination - the anesthetic midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.

Most death-penalty states are reaching for untried options, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that charts how states carry out executions.

"Sometimes they're guessing, and sometimes they're just desperate," Dunham said.

"Sometimes you can guess and get lucky," he added. "But we're in a position where everyone is just holding their breath hoping it doesn't go wrong."

(source: Associated Press)


Addressing false assumptions about the death penalty

The claim that the death penalty has "no deterrent effect" is false on its face.

Earlier this month, a panel made up of death penalty abolitionists gathered together at the University of Utah to defend the indefensible - murder and rape. Advocating on behalf of monsters, the panel presented a largely fallacious and emotionally charge argument against the death penalty, an argument they plan to take to the Utah State Legislature in the 2018 legislative session. The panel, hosted by Young Americans for Liberty, made 4 basic arguments: 1. It's too expensive; 2. It unfairly targets minorities; 3. It's too risky and; 4. It's too arbitrary. Arguments centered on the basic premise that there is "no deterrent effect" and that these murderers and rapists are victims of an unfair or mean system.

The claim that there is "no deterrent effect" is false on its face. If, as the panel claimed, there is no deterrent effect, then during the moratorium on the death penalty in the United States from 1972-76, the murder rate should not have significantly risen. However, according to the Bureau of Criminal Justice, in 1960 there were 56 executions carried out and 9,140 murders committed that year. By 1964 there were only 15 executions carried out and the murder rate started to rise to 9,250 murders committed that year. From 1969-76 there were zero executions in the United States and only 2 executions from 1976-80. However, the murder rate skyrocketed from 9,960 in 1969 to 23,040 in 1980 - a 131 % increase in just 10 years.

Regular executions resumed in the 1990s and from 1995-00 we averaged 71 executions per year in the United States - a 21,000 percent increase in executions over the 1966-80 time period. Spoiler alert, the murder rate dropped from a high of 10.2 per 100,000 in 1980 to 5.7 per 100,000 in 1999 - a 44 percent reduction in the rate of murder. In light of these numbers, even if we ignore that just as many appeals are available for persons sentenced to life or that they'll be housed for decades longer, the fact that it is expensive seems worth it considering the number of lives saved by a 44 % decrease in murder rates.

As for the claim that the death penalty unfairly targets minorities or is somehow otherwise arbitrary, let's look at the numbers. According to the Rand Corporation, white murderers receive the death penalty 32 % of the time while nonwhite murderers receive the death penalty 27 % of the time. The perceived arbitrary nature of the application of the death penalty, by people with no legal experience or direct knowledge of the murder cases for which they speak in the abstract, has more to do with what prosecutors think they can prove than their whim. In fact, what some outsider may deem arbitrary may actually be proof of the penalty's judicious use, reserved only for the most heinous or most obvious cases. And there is simply no evidence that a wrongly convicted person has ever been put to death in the United States.

In summation, the argument that life in prison is just as good - "the other death sentence" - ignores the fact that these monsters can still paint, sing songs, hear birds chirp, read books, form relationships, feel love or pride, etc. They can do many meaningful human things that they permanently denied their victims.

As Edward Koch put it: "It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life." Just some things for the death penalty abolitionists to consider.

(source: Op-Ed; Michael Miller holds a Masters of Public Administration and works for the U.S. Department of Defense----Deseret News)


Death penalty possible in La Placita case

Federal prosecutors can pursue the death penalty against 5 suspects accused of taking part in the March 17 robbery of La Placita market that led to the death of Jose Cruz.

A federal grand jury indicted Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar, Jonny Alexander Relles-Martinez, Jose Adan Mejia Varela, Lilian Yamileth Duron and Estrellita Soto on Wednesday.

The 5 have been charged formally with murder through use of a firearm during a crime of violence and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.

Relles-Martinez, 28, made his initial appearance in court last month from a Kansas prison where he had been held.

He will be brought to U.S. District Court in Bowling Green for an arraignment Monday. The remaining co-defendants will be arraigned Nov. 29.

Federal court documents accuse the 5 of taking part in a scheme to rob the business at 710 Morgantown Road.

Caballero-Melgar, Duron and Soto set the incident in motion by conducting surveillance of the store and making wire transfers there prior to the robbery, according to the indictment.

The 3 are accused of executing 5 wire transfers totaling $6,460 to people in Mexico and Honduras, knowing that the store would be robbed later and that money recovered.

"While at the market, Soto telephoned Melgar and gave him information about the market, including where money was kept and customers and employees in the market," the indictment states.

After Caballero-Melgar, Duron and Soto left La Placita, Relles-Martinez and Varela entered the store at 2:58 p.m. March 17 to rob it, with Caballero-Melgar serving as a lookout, court records show.

Cruz, 31, of Bowling Green, had come to the store to pick up his son from his ex-wife.

Kim Quintanilla, a daughter of the store owner, told the Daily News in March that Cruz called the store when he found the door locked.

The ringing phone startled the robbers, and Cruz was shot when he attempted to intervene, later dying at a local hospital.

After the incident, Caballero-Melgar, Relles-Martinez and Varela fled to Tennessee, where they divided the $12,000 obtained from the robbery, according to the indictment.

A federal criminal complaint sworn by FBI Special Agent William B. Kurtz stated that Relles-Martinez admitted to law enforcement that he fired the shot that killed Cruz.

He told investigators that Caballero-Melgar had assisted him in illegally entering the United States and that he was expected to repay Caballero-Melgar the money he spent to get Relles-Martinez into the country.

Caballero-Melgar told Relles-Martinez he could repay his debt by committing robberies, the complaint stated.

Court records indicate Caballero-Melgar provided Relles-Martinez with an identification card in the name of Agustin Flores upon Relles-Martinez' entry into the U.S.

Relles-Martinez told investigators he dropped his cellphone during the fight with Cruz.

The robbery and homicide were investigated initially by the Bowling Green Police Department, under the lead of Detective Mike Nade.

City police obtained a search warrant for a phone recovered at La Placita, learning from records obtained through a grand jury subpoena that the phone’s subscriber was Agustin Flores.

In addition to BGPD, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigated this and other related crimes, with a criminal complaint tying the five co-defendants to robberies that targeted Hispanic-owned stores in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The murder charge is punishable by death, a term of life imprisonment or any number of years, while the conspiracy charge has a maximum penalty of 20 years.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)


Bihar court awards man death penalty for raping and murdering toddler----The convict has been lodged in the Motihari central jail since his arrest soon after the incident was reported in 2011.

A court here has awarded death sentence to a man for raping and killing a 2 1/2 year-old girl 6 years ago.

Additional District and Sessions Judge DN Yadav held Dhruv Sahni guilty of the rape and murder on Thursday and awarded him death sentence on the ground that the case fell under the "rarest of rare" category.

The court handed out the death penalty to the convict for the murder, under section 302 of the IPC. It also sentenced Sahni to 20 years of imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 20,000 on him for the rape, under section 376, IPC.

The convict was also sentenced to 7 years in jail under section 201, IPC for causing disappearance of evidence in the case.

The court, however, acquitted the 3 other accused in the case for lack of evidence against them.

The convict, a resident of Akauna village of the district, has been lodged in the Motihari central jail since his arrest soon after the incident was reported in 2011.

As per the prosecution, Sahni took the toddler to a field, where he raped her before slitting her throat with a knife on March 21, 2011. The family members of the child were watching television at a neighbour's house when the crime took place.

The body of the girl was found from a wheat field the next day and subsequently, an FIR was lodged by her father, Sagar Sahni, against 4 persons, including Sahni.

The police had recovered the knife used in the crime from the spot and the convict had confessed to his crime after his arrest on March 30, 2011, according to the prosecution.



Preliminary Death Sentence for Defendant in Coptic Priest Murder Case

A Cairo Criminal court released a tentative death penalty verdict against the defendant in the case of Coptic priest Samaan Shehata's murder.

The decision was released during the 2nd trial, and the case has been referred to the Grand Mufti for a non-binding opinion. Another session will be held on 15 January to release the final verdict.

The public prosecution accused the defendant, 19, of having a previous intent to murder the priest.

The defendant reportedly admitted his crime and said that he didn't know the priest personally. However, when he saw him with his uniform, he decided to kill him.

Shehata, from Beni Sueif governorate, was killed in October after he had been attacked by the defendant, according to a statement released by the Coptic Orthodox Media Center at the time.

The victim was on a visit to Cairo with another Coptic priest who is reportedly injured, due to the stabbing attack that took place in el-Salam city, Cairo.

The attacks against Christians in Egypt have significantly increased over the past few months, leaving tens of killed Copts and hundreds injured.

About 54 incidents have occurred against the religious minority in Egypt in 2016, according to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.



Kadyrov proposes death penalty for terrorist recruiters

The Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov has said that the punishment for those who recruit new members for terrorist groups should be tougher than those applied to bombers and hostage-takers.

Recruiters must bear stronger punishment than a terrorist who starts a clockwork bomb or someone who takes hostages, or commits acts of sabotage," Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account on Thursday.

'Terrorists can't be cured, only destroyed', Kadyrov said.

"Recruiters must bear stronger punishment than a terrorist who starts a clockwork bomb or someone who takes hostages, or commits acts of sabotage," Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account on Thursday.

"He or they could actually be sentenced to death because, unlike suicide terrorists, they want to live instead of voluntarily planning their own death," he added.

On Thursday, the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed the 1st reading of a the bill to change the maximum sentence for convicted terrorist recruiters from 10 years behind bars to life in prison. The bill also proposes life sentences for organizing terrorist groups and communities, sponsorship of terrorism, undergoing terrorist training, hostage taking, and hijacking aircraft for terrorism purposes.

The most-recent changes to Russian anti-terrorism laws were introduced in July 2016, when President Vladimir Putin approved a package of bills ordering up to 10 years in prison for anyone engaged in international terrorism, and up to 15 years behind bars for anyone found guilty of financing terrorist groups. Terrorist recruitment was also criminalized under the laws, carrying a punishment of between 5 and 10 years.

The new bill also lowers the age threshold for terrorism crimes, such as terrorist attacks and hostage taking, to 14 years from the current 16 years. Presently, the age of minority in Russia is 16, with exceptions for certain crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnapping. For these offences, criminals are deemed legally responsible from the age of 14.

Another part of the bill provides for fines of between 300,000 and 1 million rubles ($5,000 - $16,600) or prison terms ranging from 5 to 7 years as a punishment for public calls to terrorism or justifying terrorist crimes, including via the internet.

(source: rtcom)

NOVEMBER 16, 2017:

TEXAS----new death sentences

Tracy gets death penalty for murder of Telford officer

A Bowie County jury deliberated just over an hour Wednesday morning before sentencing Texas prison inmate Billy Joel Tracy to death.

Tracy, 39, will face the ultimate punishment in the July 15, 2015, fatal beating of Barry Telford Unit Correctional Officer Timothy Davison.

The jury had to consider 2 questions, or special issues, in arriving at Tracy's sentence: "Whether beyond a reasonable doubt there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society," and "whether taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and background and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, there is a sufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances to warrant that a sentence of imprisonment without parole rather than a death sentence be imposed."

The jury unanimously answered "yes" to question one and "no" to question 2. Each of the 9 men and 3 women on Tracy's jury was polled after 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart read the jury's answers.

Lockhart pronounced the punishment of death after advising Tracy of his rights to appeal.

A packed courtroom watched in silence, some of them with hands over their mouths, as Lockhart released the jury. Davison's brother and niece sat surrounded by Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff as the trial ended.

"Justice has been a long time coming," Ken Davison said.

Tracy attacked Timothy Davison as he opened the door to cell 66 and briefly turned his gaze. After knocking Davison to the floor, Tracy grabbed the officer's metal tray slot bar and wielded it like a hammer, striking Davison repeatedly in the head and face after he lost consciousness. Tracy took Davison's pepper spray before throwing him feet over head down the stairwell.

As a group of Davison's fellow officers approached, Tracy fouled the air with the chemical agent and retreated to his cell. A member of the 5-man extraction team that entered the cell to remove Tracy was bitten.

During the trial, Tracy's jury heard testimony concerning multiple acts of violence by Tracy and the offenses which earned him 2 life sentences and a 20-year term in 1998. The jury heard of planned and calculated attacks on officers at units of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice across the state.

Defense experts and Tracy's defense team, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, argued that Tracy suffers from a "broken brain" compounded by a horrible childhood and years in prison.

"He didn't choose this kind of brain. Billy had bad nature and bad nurture," Harrelson said.

The state argued that Tracy is an incorrigible person with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder who will continue to murder and maim if the ultimate punishment is not imposed.

"The state of Texas will never bring you a stronger case for the death penalty," argued Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.

Lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury that someone will be sentenced to death at the end of Tracy's trial.

"Will it be another correctional officer with TDCJ, or will it be Billy Joel Tracy?" Crisp asked. "You decide."

(source: Texarkana Gazette)


Tennessee Colony man sentenced to death in case where 6 killed

Tennessee Colony resident William Mitchell Hudson has been sentenced to death for killing 6 family members in one night in November 2015.

Jurors deliberated for about 45 minutes before delivering the punishment verdict on the 2-year anniversary of Hudson's arrest; District Judge Mark Calhoon sentenced the 35-year-old man.

Hudson was indicted on 3 counts of capital murder in connection with the slaying of 6 members of the Johnson and Kamp families on the night of Nov. 14, 2015: Thomas Kamp, 45; Nathan Kamp, 23; Austin Kamp, 21; Kade Johnson, 6; Carl Johnson, 77; and Hannah Johnson, 40.

According to testimony over the trial's 11 days, the families gathered in Anderson County that weekend to celebrate the upcoming 24th birthday of Nathan Kamp, on land Thomas Kamp had recently purchased from a distant relative of Hudson's. Carl and Cynthia - the sole survivor of that night - arrived 1st, in an RV the retired couple used to travel around the country. Using a lock Tom had given them, the couple cut a lock on the gate, gaining entrance to the land Tom had recently puchased.

Shortly after arriving on the land, the RV got stuck in the sandy ground near their campsite. The sound of Cynthia yelling at Carl as he tried to work the RV out of the ground made its way over to Crystal Hudson's home, where William had been staying.

Friends of the Hudson family testified that they had owned the land since the 1800s, and that William had wanted to buy the land his distant cousin was selling, because he had run cattle over it with his father Mack, who passed away in December 2014. Unemployed and broke, William hadn't been able to buy the land; Tom Kamp purchased it several months before his death.

That Nov. 14 day, William used a tractor to help pull Cynthia and Carl's RV out of the sandy ground. He refused payment for the kind deed, asking instead to share a beer with them. Several hours passed until Tom arrived, late because of work. By then, darkness had fallen, and the group needed more firewood to offset the November evening chill.

William, Tom, Nathan, Kade and Austin piled into Tom's ATV to go into the forest to find firewood. Retelling the bloody night from the stand, Cynthia Johnson said she, Hannah and Carl didn't think anything of the gunshots they heard from the woods, thinking the man and boy were hunting squirrels. Unsure how long they were gone, Cynthia said it was long enough that the trio gave up waiting on them for dinner and started to eat their hamburgers and beans.

William Hudson returned alone on Tom's ATV. Hannah reacted first, screaming "Daddy!" at her father before running into the RV. William fired 2 shots from his shotgun, narrowly missing Hannah's body and hitting Carl in the hip. Out of ammunition, William proceeded to beat Carl to death after he collapsed on the RV's stairs, preventing Hannah from shutting the door and trapping her inside.

Cynthia dropped to the ground and hid on that cold, dark night. Her husband screamed for her help, but Cynthia knew she couldn't move without being discovered.

"I just was wondering what I could do, and, but knowing William was in there ... I would be the end of any witness," Cynthia testified. She then listened as William beat her husband and daughter to death, coating in blood the RV's walls, ceiling, floors, applicances and furniture.

The moonlight especially dim due to a waning crescent, Cynthia hid until the sun rose the next morning, picking up a cellphone Hannah had dropped and fleeing to the woods to call the police. The Anderson County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and arrested William on Nov. 15, exactly 2 years before he would be sentenced to death in a Brazos County courtroom.

Authorities testified in the trial that the bodies of Tom, Nathan, Austin and Kade were found in a stock pond behind Hudson's mother's home. Mental health experts called to testify by Hudson's attorneys in the trial's punishment phase said Hudson had suffered brain damage from multiple seizures at various points of his life, two car accidents and extreme alcohol abuse.

They also said he suffered from a personality disorder and extreme alcohol abuse to mask a crippling sense of inadequacy. Defense attorneys also said William had a difficult home life, arguing that his father Mack was emotionally, and sometimes physically, abusive.

"William Hudson was created, he wasn't born that way," said Stephen Evans, one of Hudson's attorneys.

Mental health experts called by prosecutors, meanwhile, said Hudson had a personality disorder, not a mental illness, and was not likely to be helped by the treatment options available to him.

"This is just who he is," said Special Prosecutor Lisa Tanner. "This is a man who is not gonna change. That ought to scare you."

"This case is exactly why our state has the death penalty," said Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell.

In her closing argument, Mitchell said more than 50 people testified over the trial's 11 days; over 400 exhibits of evidence were presented.

Surviving members of the Kamp and Johnson families flew into Brazos County from across the U.S., some of whom have watched every day of the 11-day trial. Several of those family members read victim impact statements after Calhoon sentenced Hudson to death.



Convicted campsite murderer receives death penalty for crimes

William Hudson, convicted last week in connection with the deaths of 6 people at an East Texas campsite in 2015, was sentenced to death for his crimes. A Brazos County jury sentenced him to the death penalty.

Last Tuesday, he was found guilty on multiple counts of capital murder, in relation to the deaths of Hannah Johnson, her father Carl Johnson, her son Kade, as well as her boyfriend Thomas Kamp and his 2 sons Nathan and Austin.

After the sentences, family members read victim impact statements. Thomas Kamps's uncle, Steve Woodruff said to Hudson that all 6 promising lives were "vanished in an instant by you."

Kamp's step-sister said that the family will move forward, while Hudson remains behind bars.

Hudson has the right to appeal the sentence.

Last week, Lisa Tanner, with the Attorney General's office, said to jurors this case was always about the punishment not about whether Hudson committed the crimes.

(source: KAGS TV news)


Appeals Court Throws Out Death Sentence for Convicted Murderer

An appeals court has thrown out the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a Donna man in 2006.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 5 to 4 that trial attorneys for 47-year-old Douglas Armstrong conducted a constitutionally inadequate investigation.

A Hidalgo County jury decided on the death penalty after convicting him of the murder of Rafael Castelan in Donna.

The court said a more thorough investigation of Armstrong's life and mental issues may have convinced at least 1 juror to choose a life sentence.

No word yet when his new punishment trial will begin.

(source: KRGV news)


Court Orders New Punishment Trial for Texas Death Row Inmate----An Alabama man condemned for a 2006 robbery-slaying in the Texas Rio Grande Valley has won a new punishment trial after Texas' highest criminal court has thrown out his death sentence.

An Alabama man condemned for a 2006 robbery-slaying in the Texas Rio Grande Valley has won a new punishment trial after Texas' highest criminal court has thrown out his death sentence.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled 5-4 Wednesday that trial attorneys for 47-year-old Douglas Armstrong conducted a constitutionally inadequate investigation when they presented jurors their case for why Armstrong should not be given a death sentence. A Hidalgo County jury decided on the death penalty after convicting him of the fatal slashing of Rafael Castelan in Donna in South Texas.

The court says a more thorough investigation of Armstrong's "squalid and dangerous home life" and expert testimony about his mental and physical health issues may have convinced at least one juror to choose a life sentence.

(source: Associated Press)


Adam Matos takes stand in Pasco quadruple-murder trial

The man accused in the brutal 2014 slayings of 4 people in Hudson has taken the stand in his own defense.

Adam Matos, 32, is on trial for the deaths of Megan Brown, her parents, Margaret and Gregory Brown, and Nicholas Leonard, whom Megan Brown had recently begun dating.

According to prosecutors, Matos killed all 4 before taking their bodies to a hill in his Hudson neighborhood, where they were left decomposing in the heat, covered in maggots.

Megan Brown, 27, was shot in the head. Margaret Brown, 52, was bashed in the head and her hands were tied behind her back and a plastic bag tied over her face. Gregory Brown, 52, was shot in the torso. Leonard, 37, died from blunt force trauma to the head.

If Matos is found guilty, prosecutors will ask for the death penalty. If the jury recommends capital punishment, the law now requires that the decision be unanimous.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


District attorney disputes report naming Mobile County as death penalty 'outlier'

Last August, Harvard University's Fair Punishment Project released a study naming Mobile County as 1 of 16 nationwide "outliers" in death penalty cases - counties that imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. In that time, the study noted, Mobile County (population 415,395) sentenced 8 defendants to death, placing it on the list alongside such counties as Riverside in California (population 2.63 million), Maricopa in Arizona (population 4.16 million) and Clark in Nevada (population 2.11 million).

But in the 2 years since, juries in Mobile County have placed another 3 capital murder convicts on death row, while at least 4 more defendants are awaiting trial.

Harvard's report goes beyond the numbers, suggesting the convictions and sentences of the cases it examined were often the result of split juries, inadequate defense, racial bias or exclusion, and overzealous prosecutors. In an interview last month, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, who has presided over at least 7 of the cases personally, questioned the report's accuracy and motives.

"The purpose of this [report] is to skew the public perception of the death penalty," she said. "It doesn't tell you if they studied all the jurisdictions where the death penalty is imposed, so how are they choosing Mobile County as one of the top? They sensationalize everything and there are a lot of facts that are just wrong."

As recently as Oct. 31, a jury recommended the death penalty for Derrick Shawn Penn by a margin of 11 to 1 for the shooting death of his estranged wife, Janet, and the beating death of her boyfriend at the time. It was a retrial for Penn, after the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his original conviction and death sentence after it found "plain error" in how the jury was instructed to consider a single piece of evidence: a restraining order Janet Penn had sought for protection from her estranged husband.

The Harvard report, which called Penn "intellectually impaired," suggested Rich "repeatedly referred to improper and highly inflammatory evidence" during his original trial. The appeals court stated it differently: that Rich, in her closing arguments, used the protective order to "establish what Janet [Penn] had been thinking" in the days leading up her death.

Rich, who admitted those convicted of capital murder have every right to appeal, said the appeals court's decision and Penn's resulting retrial were frivolous.

"At the [original trial], we introduced [the restraining order] under a rule called 404(b) - you can introduce prior acts of the defendant to show motive, plan, design, scheme or intent," she explained. "There was nowhere in the law that said you have to choose one of those ... So the Court of Criminal Appeals, in a series of opinions [in Penn's] case, said under 404(b) you have to pick one: motive, plan, design, scheme or intent. Really? We're doing everything all over again because you have to pick one ... they reversed it on that and that alone."

Penn's was the 2nd death penalty imposed by a Mobile County jury on a capital murder retrial in as many years. Separately, Thomas Lane, who was originally convicted of murdering his "mail-order bride," Teresa, in a life insurance fraud scheme in 2003, was again sentenced to die in a retrial completed last year.

Lane was granted a retrial after the appeals court determined prosecutors improperly removed his chosen defense attorney because the attorney needed to appear as a witness in chain-of-custody testimony involving a key piece of evidence: the defendant's computer. The appeals court awarded Lane a retrial, determining he had a right to the attorney of his choosing. But afterward, Lane chose a different attorney anyway, Rich noted.

"We tried it again, and we got the death penalty again," Rich said. "[Prosecuting] is our job and you're never going to hear me say we don't have enough money or enough time [for retrials]," she said, laying a photo of Teresa Lane's body - drowned in her bathtub - on the conference room table.

Also since 2015, Jamal Jackson, Dennis Hicks, John Deblase and Heather Keaton have been sent to Alabama's death row from Mobile County. Meanwhile, at least 5 other capital cases are pending trial or retrial, while only 2 defendants have been spared the death penalty in the past 2 years.

One, Carlos Kennedy, was originally sent to death row for the sexual assault and murder of Zoa White in Mobile in 2010, but a jury on retrial recommended life without parole. Another, Saraya Atkins, was spared the death penalty by Judge Michael Youngpeter last year in spite of a jury's recommendation of death for her role in the robbery and murder of Robert Perry in 2014.

Rich noted it was the 2nd time in her career Youngpeter chose life in spite of a jury's death recommendation. The other was in the case of Michael Berry, who shot and killed his estranged wife, Wendy Stevens, in front of her 4 children at a West Mobile ATM in 2010.

Speaking cautiously because he has capital cases pending, Youngpeter defended both decisions, adding that he has imposed the death penalty in other cases and may have to do so again in the future.

"As far as Berry, that was not an 'override,'" he said. "In that case I determined, as a matter of law, there was not sufficient proof of an aggravator."

Aggravators can be additional crimes, previous crimes or premeditation that make a felony murder - or sudden, unplanned murder - eligible for a capital upgrade and the death penalty.

"With Atkins, I did not follow [the jury's] recommendation. I did not agree that death for a 20-year-old was fitting," Youngpeter said, referencing Atkins' age.

Youngpeter noted that just this year Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation outlawing "judicial overrides" in the state, meaning judges can no longer stray from a jury's recommendation.

"From now on, they are not making a recommendation, they are making a decision," he said.

While most of the cases reviewed by Harvard involved aggravators including premeditation or murder in the commission of another crime, the district attorney's office has recently employed a more unusual aggravator in seeking a capital conviction. In this year's trial against Jamal Jackson, who was sentenced to death in July for the 2014 stabbing and strangling his girlfriend Satori Richardson before setting their apartment on fire, the crime rose to the level of capital murder based on Jackson's previous conviction of robbery using a firearm.

Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood, who prosecuted Jackson, cited Alabama Code 13A-5-49(2): "The defendant was previously convicted of another capital offense or a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person." Blackwood noted Jackson had a prior conviction of 1st-degree robbery involving the use or threat of violence to the victim of the robbery.

Still other retrials can be beyond the court's control. Just last month, Mobile County death row inmate Garrett Dotch successfully filed a Rule 32 appeal, arguing 1 of the jurors in his original trial failed to disclose that his wife had been murdered.

According to news reports of his crime, Dotch ambushed and killed onetime girlfriend Timarla Taldon outside the Subway sandwich shop in West Mobile where she worked in 2006. He was convicted and sentenced in 2008 and the conviction was affirmed in 2010. The Alabama Attorney General's office will preside over his Rule 32 retrial next year.

Speaking of the jury selection process in Dotch’s case, Rich said, "We asked more than 10 times, 'do you know anybody that's been a victim of a violent crime?' We asked all the standard questions. If you've ever watched our voir dire you know it's an extensive, exhaustive voir dire and [the juror] never once told anybody. After it was over, investigators went out and questioned some of the jurors and they found out he had lied to the court."

Rich said the statute of limitations has since expired in the juror's contempt, so he cannot be prosecuted.

Harvard's report also criticized defense attorneys Greg Hughes, Art Powell and Habib Yazdi for "inadequate defense" in several cases, particularly that of Kennedy, who represented himself at retrial and was given a life sentence, and former death row inmate William Zeigler, who has since been released from prison and whose case has been extensively detailed by this publication.

Last year, a Mobile County judge also released former death row inmate George Martin, who was originally prosecuted by the Attorney General's office.

The full Harvard report accompanies this article on

"It doesn't matter what my perception of people's view of the death penalty is - the law is the law and we have capital punishment in the state of Alabama and I'm a prosecutor charged with prosecuting defendants and making sure the laws in the state of Alabama are followed," Rich concluded.

She retreated to a bookshelf behind her desk, where she retrieved a framed quotation from conservative academic David Gelernter, who was injured by a pipe bomb mailed to him in 1993 by Ted Kaczynski, "the Unabomber," "If we favor executing murderers it is not because we want to but because, however much we do not want to, we consider ourselves obliged to."

The quote is one of numerous mementos from victims, colleagues and victims' families she's collected over the years, many of which are displayed in her office. One, a porcelain figurine called "Brother and Sister," was cited in the Harvard report as an example of her "overzealousness" in the courtroom.

The report claims Rich displayed the figurine throughout the capital murder trial of Heather Keaton in 2015. Keaton became the 1st woman from Mobile County sent to death row in 2015 for the torture and murder of 2 young children - one boy and 1 girl - in 2015, along with her boyfriend and the children's father, John DeBlase.

Rich said the report is inaccurate, and she only displayed the figurine briefly during a sentencing hearing, while the jury was not present.

"They want you to believe in this report, that I would do something unethical by putting a statue on my counsel table to inflame the jury during a serious legal proceeding where we are seeking to impose the death penalty? That's just absolutely false.

"Trying a death penalty case is one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching things you will ever be a part of either as prosecutor or a defense attorney or a victim or a jury member - and we take that very seriously in this office."

Mobile County's death row inmates

Vernon Madison - Killed Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte in 1985. Was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 and again in 1990, but 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year he was incompetent and cannot be executed. The U.S. Supreme Court in November 2017 disagreed, and said Madison is eligible for execution.

Jason Oric Williams - Killed 4 people during a shooting spree in Irvington on Feb. 15, 1992. His appeals have been exhausted.

Jarrod Taylor - Convicted of the execution-style shooting deaths of Steve Dyas, Sherry Gaston and her husband, Bruce Gaston, at Dyas' car dealership on Dec. 12, 1997. In 2014, his sentence was affirmed by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Thomas Dale Ferguson - Killed a Colbert County man and his 11-year-old son on a fishing trip on July 20, 1997. The case was moved to Mobile County because of pretrial publicity.

Joseph Clifton Smith - Sentenced to death in 1998 for the robbery and beating death of Durk Van Dam on Nov. 25, 1997.

Jeremy Bryan Jones - Raped and shot Lisa Marie Nichols in her Turnerville home in September 2004. Received the death penalty in 2005 in a decision upheld on appeal in 2010. Prosecuted by the Attorney General's office.

Thomas Robert Lane - Drowned his wife, Teresa, in October 2003 in an alleged life insurance fraud. His 2006 capital murder conviction was overturned, but he was retried and convicted in 2016 and returned to death row.

Lam Luong - Threw his 4 young children to their deaths from the Dauphin Island bridge on Jan. 7, 2008. His death penalty appeal was rejected by the Alabama Supreme Court in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.

Garrett Dotch - Ambushed and killed onetime girlfriend Timarla Taldon outside the Subway sandwich shop in West Mobile where she worked in 2006. Sentenced in 2008 and conviction was affirmed in 2010. Awaiting retrial in 2018.

Donald Dwayne Whatley - Murdered downtown motel owner Pete Patel during a robbery in December 2003. Sentenced in 2008 and conviction was affirmed in 2011.

Jerry Dwayne Bohannon - Convicted in early January 2014 of the double murder of Jerry Duboise Jr. and Anthony Harvey on Dec. 11, 2010.

Derrick Shawn Penn - Originally sentenced to death in 2011 for the murders of Janet Penn and Demetrius Powe. Retried in October 2017, reconvicted of capital murder and jury recommended the death penalty by an 11-to-1 margin.

John DeBlase - Poisoned, tortured and murdered his 2 children with the aid of his girlfriend, Heather Keaton. Sentenced to death in 2015.

Heather Keaton - Co-conspirator in John Deblase case, became 1st woman from Mobile County to be sentenced to death in 2015.

Aubrey Lynn Shaw - Stabbed his great aunt and uncle, Bob and Doris Gilbert, to death in 2007 during a drug-fueled robbery. Sentenced to death in 2011.

Dennis Hicks - Sentenced to death in 2016 for the murder and dismemberment of 23-year-old Joshua Duncan. Previously on parole for a double homicide in Mississippi.

Michael Bragg Woolf - Convicted of killing his wife and 2-year-old son. Sentenced in 2011. Resentenced in 2014. Filed a Rule 32 petition on Oct. 24, 2017.

Jamal Jackson - Sentenced to death in July 2017 for the 2014 stabbing and strangling of his girlfriend Satori Richardson in 2014 before setting their apartment on fire. Crime rose to the level of capital murder based on Jackson's previous conviction of robbery using a firearm.


Derrick Dearman - Charged with 6 counts of capital murder in Citronelle.

Nicholas Jones - Charged with the capital murder of his girlfriend Kelwanna Bruno and their unborn child.

Christopher Knapp - Charged with aggravated child abuse and capital murder for the death of 20-month-old Dakota Burke in 2015. Scheduled for trial in February 2018.

Summer Everett - Charged with aggravated child abuse and capital murder for the death of 20-month-old Dakota Burke in 2015. Scheduled for trial in February 2018.


OHIO----new execution date

Gov. Kasich sets 2019 execution date for Alva Campbell after failed try

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has set a new execution date that's a year and a half away for a condemned inmate whose poor veins spared him from death.

Kasich set a June 5, 2019, execution date for death row prisoner Alva Campbell as part of a formal reprieve issued Wednesday afternoon.

Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr called off Campbell's execution Wednesday morning after execution team members worked unsuccessfully for about 25 minutes to find usable veins.

Campbell's attorney David Stebbins says governors must include dates in such reprieves and he doesn't know the significance of the 2019 date other than it was free and in the near future.

Stebbins says the date gives Campbell's attorneys time to figure out their next steps.

(source: Associated Press)


ate-Sponsored Torture': Ohio Grants Temporary Reprieve After Botched Execution----Human rights advocates censured the state for making "a spectacle of a man's life," declaring "the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end"

After poking and prodding at a sickly inmate, 69-year-old Alva Campbell Jr., for about 25 minutes, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections temporarily called off his execution.

Medical staff "spent at least 25 minutes in an unsuccessful effort to find a suitable vein in Campbell's arms and right leg," for lethal injection, the Dayton Daily News reports. "While this was happening, Campbell lay in a partially sitting position on a prison gurney in the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Campbell shed tears and shook hands with 2 of the medical staffers attending to him after they were unable to proceed with the execution process."

Prison officials had been warned about Campbell's numerous health issues, and even used a wedge-shaped pillow to help him breathe while officials attempted to kill him. As Esquire's Charlie Pierce wrote - noting the extensive abuse Campbell experienced as a child - "the state of Ohio could find no way to give Alva Campbell comfort as a child, but, now that he's dying, the state of Ohio is doing everything it can to make sure he's comfortable while the state of Ohio is killing him."

Despite Cambpell's reprieve today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich - who denied (pdf) clemency for Campbell - has reportedly rescheduled his execution for June 15, 2019.

Sister Helen Prejean, a well known anti-death penalty activist who has vocally opposed Campbell's execution, turned to Twitter on Wednesday to urge Kasich to permanently call off his death sentence.

Human rights advocates and death penalty opponents quickly censured state leaders and prison officials for attempting the aborted execution, and called on the state to immediately outlaw the practice of executing prisoners.

"We cannot allow this practice to continue. Death row inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without executions."----Kevin Werner, Ohioans to Stop Executions

"This traumatic series of events could have been easily avoided," noted Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "Campbell's health concerns were well documented, and everybody knew this was going to pose issues."

"We cannot allow this practice to continue," Werner concluded. "Death row inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without executions."

"This is not justice, and this is not humane," said ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner, demanding that the state place a moratorium on "this type of state-sponsored torture."

"Today the state made a spectacle of a man's life, and the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end," Brickner added. "This marks the 5th botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the 2nd time the state could not complete an execution."

The last time the state failed to execute a prisoner was Romell Broom in 2009. Over the course of more than 2 hours, medical staff made 18 attempts to insert needles to inject Broom with the deadly cocktail of drugs. Last year, he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to stop the state from a 2nd execution attempt. The court declined to hear the case.



Ohio Must Enact Moratorium on Executions----Latest Botched Execution of Alva Campbell, Jr Shows Flaws with Lethal Injection Procedures

After nearly 2 hours of torture as medical personnel attempted to find a useable vein for the lethal injection of Alva Campbell, Jr the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections called off his execution. This comes after weeks of advocacy from Campbell's counsel explaining that he was too ill and death by lethal injection would be tortuous. The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner:

"This marks the 5th botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the 2nd time the state could not complete an execution. This is not justice, and this is not humane. Campbell was poked and prodded for nearly 2 hours as prison officials and medical personnel attempted to find a useable vein. This type of state-sponsored torture is not acceptable and the state of Ohio must place a moratorium on executions immediately. Today the state made a spectacle of a man's life, and the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end."



Cleveland man accused of slitting ex-girlfriend's throat may face death penalty

A grand jury handed up aggravated murder charges against a Cleveland man accused of slitting his ex-girlfriend's throat in the midst of a domestic violence case.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said he is still deciding whether to seek the death penalty against Dale Peters.

Peters, 65, is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, felonious assault, violating a protection order, grand theft, tampering with evidence and inducing panic in the Oct. 29 killing of 65-year-old Laura Fruscella.

Peters, who is currently being held on a $1 million bond, is set for an arraignment hearing Friday.

The killing came a day before the 2 were set for a hearing in a domestic violence case that Fruscella had brought against him, prosecutors said.

"This was a calculated, vicious attack on a woman who wanted nothing more than to be free from her abuser," O'Malley said in a news release.

The 2 had dated for about 9 years, before Fruscella filed charges against him in August, prosecutors said.

Peters broke into Fruscella's home, punched her and slit her throat, according to police.

Peters then stole Fruscella's TV and her 2016 Toyota RAV4. He drove the SUV to East 55th and Woodland, where he left it, according to police and court records.



Arizona Death Penalty Law Flouts Constitution

Soon the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition for certiorari addressing the death penalty in Arizona and possibly nationwide.

Together with more than 20 retired judges and prosecutors experienced with Arizona's capital system, I have urged the high court to take Hidalgo v. Arizona to eradicate arbitrariness and overbreadth from the death penalty system.

In 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court invalidated capital statutes for making death sentences as capricious as being struck by lightning and, instead, required precise guidelines to avoid executions of a "capriciously selected random handful" of offenders.

Following Furman, then-Arizona state Sen. Sandra Day O'Connor asked me, as the associate director of the Arizona Criminal Code Commission, to draft a new death sentencing statute consistent with the court's narrowing requirement.

The new death penalty law Arizona adopted in 1973 sought to comply with the court's narrowing requirement by making prosecutors prove at least 1 of 6 defined aggravating factors as a precondition to imposing death.

Later as a judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and then the Arizona Court of Appeals, I saw firsthand the problems with evolving capital statutes.

Since the law's passage in 1973, the Arizona Legislature, like that of some other states, including California, has steadily expanded aggravating factors, eventually to 14 broadly defined circumstances. "Heinous," "depraved," "cruel," "calculated" and "without legal justification" are among the sweeping tautologies in these aggravators. The statute now encompasses eligibility for death far beyond "the worst of the worst."

Abel Hidalgo was convicted and sentenced to death in Maricopa County for a gang-related shooting. Hidalgo was born into a gang-affiliated family, and had suffered childhood abuse. In the lower courts, Hidalgo offered expert evidence showing that, over a period of 11 years in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, at least 1 aggravating factor existed in 856 of 866 murders, 99 % of all cases. When virtually all 1st-degree murders are eligible for death, the "worst of the worst" requirement turns on its head. Every murderer is now "the worst."

Arizona's aggravator creep has led to a muscular surge in death sentences. Recently, Maricopa County had 65 % more death penalty cases than the nation's next 3 highest capital jurisdictions combined.

One consequence of this development is finding enough qualified lawyers to handle the onslaught, leading to delays in imposing the sentences and, inevitably, ineffective representation. Aggravator creep has also enabled racial disparities: a Hispanic man accused of killing a white victim in Arizona is 4.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a white killer of a Hispanic victim, giving new meaning to "white lives matter."

Since Furman, this nation has been tinkering with capital punishment in counterproductive ways prompted in part by legislators' disdain for empirical research and preference for tough-on-crime halos over constitutional laws. The court could conclude this experiment by holding that the overbroad death penalty is no longer constitutional in Arizona and, indeed, in all capital states.

31 states have abandoned capital punishment, including 19 that have formally abolished it, 4 that have imposed moratoria, and 8 that have gone without an execution in the past decade.

The 20 executions in the nation in 2016 is the lowest number since 1991. Only 2 % of counties make up the majority of the country's death penalty statistics, with Maricopa County at the top of the list.

Among the reasons for increasing capital discomfort is the fear, observed by O'Connor herself, of executing innocent people. A 2014 National Academy of Sciences study found that 4 % of people sentenced to death between 1973 and 2004 were likely innocent. Since 1973, 159 people have been freed from death row with evidence of their innocence.

While the Supreme Court could instruct the Arizona Legislature to fix its statute again, the legislative pattern over the past 4 decades has resulted in the re-creation of the very arbitrariness the court condemned in Furman.

The more sensible remedy is to acknowledge that the death penalty is broken beyond legislative repair. Ending capital punishment altogether, achieved in the European Union long ago, would remove the risk of executing the innocent, increase public confidence in our justice system, save millions of public dollars, and affirm the inherent value of each human life, including those now politically devalued.

(source: Rudy Gerber retired from the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2001 after 22 years as a judge. He is now an arbitrator and adjunct law professor at Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa,


Jurors weigh whether John Allen should die for locking Ame Deal in box that killed her

Attorneys wrapped up their final arguments Wednesday in the penalty phase of the John Allen murder trial, and jurors now will decide whether he should face the death penalty for the abuse and death of 10-year-old Ame Deal.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found Allen guilty on Nov. 8 of 1st-degree murder, 3 counts of child abuse and conspiracy to commit child abuse.

A jury has spent this week hearing arguments from Maricopa County prosecutors and weighing aggravating factors that could result in a death sentence, along with mitigating factors from defense lawyers that could instead justify a sentence of life in prison.

Ame Deal died in July 2011 after she was locked inside a box as punishment by Allen and his wife, Sammantha Allen. The child was left there overnight and died inside.

Sammantha Allen, Ame's cousin, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and child abuse earlier this year and was sentenced to death. Several other relatives of Ame also have been sentenced on charges stemming from ongoing abuse of the Phoenix child.

On Tuesday, jurors accepted aggravating factors in John Allen's case that included Ame's age, a previous child-abuse offense and the "especially cruel, heinous or depraved" nature of the crime.

The defense acknowledged the severity of the crime, but argued that prison is a lenient sentence when compared with the death penalty and that not all 1st-degree-murder defendants are sentenced to death.

Jurors also are considering mitigating factors while deliberating between the death penalty or life in prison. Allen's background, his character and his intention to not commit murder are the three factors being taken into consideration.

Allen's defense attorney told the jury there was no evidence of intentional murder and that Allen accepted responsibility.

The prosecutor argued that Allen did not show responsibility, since that depends on the time he decided to show it and take responsibility for the crime.

"It didn't start when he and his wife pulled Ame's lifeless body out of the box. It depends on when he called 911 and he didn't. He waited 30 minutes before making that call, and if he did any CPR, it was all for show," the prosecutor said.

During Allen's trial, a videotaped interview of him with a Phoenix police detective was played that showed him eventually admitting he locked the child in the box.

The defense also said Allen, who was 22 at the time of the crime, was a young man who was not fully grown yet was helping to care for several young children who lived in the home, among them Ame.

The defense also urged the jurors several times to act on their own individual moral compass.

The jury will resume its sentencing deliberations on Thursday.



Court overturns man's death sentence, orders new hearing

The Nevada Supreme Court has admitted it made a mistake in a previous decision and ruled that a Las Vegas man convicted in a 1990 slaying is not eligible for the death penalty.

The court, however, rejected a petition from Curtis Guy to overturn his 1st-degree murder conviction. It ordered the District Court to conduct a new penalty hearing.

Guy was driving a vehicle in North Las Vegas when a passenger shot a man. The court ruled that Guy was not a "major participant" in the crime as required to receive a death sentence.

(source: Las Vegas Sun)


Palmdale abuse case: Isauro Aguirre found guilty of 1st-degree murder

A Palmdale man has been found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez.

Isauro Aguirre's fate was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

The jury found him guilty of 1st-degree murder and also guilty in the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

This count makes Aguirre eligible for the death penalty, though jurors were explicitly instructed not to consider potential penalties.

The penalty phase, during which jurors will be asked whether Aguirre should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole, will begin Nov. 27.

Gabriel was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, fed cat feces and forced to sleep while gagged and bound inside a small cabinet, witnesses and prosecutors said. He died in May 2013.

After the verdict was announced, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami was seen crying as he embraced Gabriel's biological father.

In a post-verdict press conference, Hatami said as a father and as a victim of child abuse himself, the case was difficult for him.

"I'm human, and I'm a dad, so yeah, it's hard," he said, as he wiped tears from his eyes. "I come to my job as who I am as a person."

Hatami said he believes that some justice has been served by this verdict.

"Some closure can be felt by Gabriel's family as far as at least they feel that the system, and I'm part of the system, the system is trying to make some things right and this is a small part in that," he said.

Hatami added that he is involved in child abuse cases because he is passionate about protecting children.

"I believe children need someone to fight for them," he said. "People need to fight for children and others who can't fight for themselves."

Wednesday was the 2nd day of deliberations in the case. Deliberations on Tuesday ended early because 2 jurors had personal commitments. The 7-woman, 5-man panel deliberated for a total of around 5 1/2 hours before reaching its decision.

During closing arguments, Hatami called Aguirre an "evil" man who "liked torturing" the boy and did so systematically in the months, leading up to the child's death.

Aguirre hated the boy because he thought he was gay, according to the prosecutor, who began his closing argument by displaying a photo of Gabriel's battered body lying on an autopsy table -- covered in injuries head to toe -- as evidence of Aguirre's intent to kill the boy.

Defense attorney Michael Sklar admitted Aguirre is guilty of beating the boy but argued that the death was accidental. In his closing arguments, Sklar told the jury that Aguirre "acted in a rage of anger followed by an explosion of violence" and not with the deliberation and premeditation required for a verdict of 1st-degree murder.

Sklar said Aguirre tried to save the little boy and cried after confessing to hitting the boy 20 times.

Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, is also charged with murder and will be tried separately.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against both Aguirre and Fernandez.

2 former Los Angeles County social workers -- Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement -- and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.

(source: KABC News)


Judge's discretion in death penalty

For many years now Malaysia has had the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. This means that if a person is found guilty of trafficking then the judge has no choice but to impose the death penalty.

Now the government is making efforts to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act so that the death penalty for this offence is no longer mandatory.

In other words, the judge has a discretion and could, for example, imprison the offender instead.

This is in my opinion a good development. According to international laws and standards, the death penalty can be imposed. However, it is limited only to the most serious offences, and if we look at the decisions of international law bodies, this means crimes that actually cause death.

For example, armed robbery and kidnapping by itself does not warrant the death penalty if a human life is not lost in the process.

Furthermore, a mandatory death penalty is definitely against international standards as it means that the court has no choice in the matter and the accused has limited or no recourse to appeal the sentence.

However, we do not yet know what these amendments look like, so we can't judge just how far the changes in the law will be.

What I am hoping is that the judge will be given a true discretion. This means that he or she can take into account a variety of factors before deciding what punishment should be imposed.

Singapore has removed the mandatory death penalty from their drug offences too. But according to an Amnesty International report, this actually means very little. Before a lesser sentence can be imposed, the judge must be convinced that the accused is merely a "courier". Furthermore, the prosecutor must be satisfied that the accused has helped substantively affect drug trafficking. This means that the judge really has a very limited scope of discretion.

If Malaysia takes this same approach, then I would argue that we will not be following international human rights standards at all and the change in the law will be merely cosmetic.

(source: Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti


All death penalty cases cleared

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday cleared all the 25 cases, which were sent by the trial court for confirmation of death penalty imposed on convicts, pending for adjudication since 2010, with confirmation of death penalty for Mohan Kumar.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice John Michael Cunha has confirmed death penalty in only 3 of the 25 cases.

While 2 cases of death penalty were remanded back to the trial courts, in the remaining, either the sentences were reduced to life imprisonment or lesser period, or the accused were acquitted, said Additional State Public Prosecutor Vijayakumar Majage, while pointing out that 37 appeals filed by the convicts, who were sentenced to death, were also disposed of.



Bihar court awards death sentence to man convicted for rape, murder of child

Summary: Earlier, in June 2016, a fast track court in Raigarh (Chattisgarh) had awarded death penalty to a 23-year-old man for sexually assaulting and murdering a 3-year-old girl. Altogether nine prosecution witnesses, including the doctor who conduct autopsy of the victim, were examined by the court during the trial. A district and sessions court at Motihari in East Champaran district of north Bihar has awarded death sentence to a man accused of the rape and murder of a 2 1/2 -year-old girl in Chiraiyan police station area of the district on March 21, 2011. During interrogation, he confessed to his involvement in the rape and murder of the child. When they returned home, they found the girl the girl missing.

A district and sessions court at Motihari in East Champaran district of north Bihar has awarded death sentence to a man accused of the rape and murder of a two-and-half -year-old girl in Chiraiyan police station area of the district on March 21, 2011. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on the accused, Dhruv Sahni, a resident of Akauna village in the district, who is lodged in the Motihari central jail since his arrest in 2011. "Additional district and session judge-14 D N Yadav awarded capital punishment to Sahni, holding that this was among the rarest of the rare cases and the accused deserved maximum punishment for the inhuman and heinous crime," East Champaran government counsel Subhash Chandra Yadav said. Altogether nine prosecution witnesses, including the doctor who conduct autopsy of the victim, were examined by the court during the trial. According to the prosecution, the incident happened on the evening of Holi festival day in 2011. The victim, who was playing outside her house, was taken to a nearby field by the accused. There, he raped her and slit her throat with a knife, As Reported By Hindustan Times.

According to the Newspaper, He later attempted to obscure evidence by smearing the body with wet mud. The incident occurred when the villagers, along with the victim's family, were watching TV at a nearby house. When they returned home, they found the girl the girl missing. Later, a missing person case was lodged at Chiraiya police station against unidentified person(s). The next day, the police recovered the body from a maize field and arrested Sahni.



Rough Justice? Norwegians More Approving of Death Penalty

Nearly every 3rd Norwegian man - and close to 1/4 of the total population - is positive about the introduction of the death penalty, a new survey has revealed. Human rights activists found this tendency alarming in a country that has not had civil executions for a century and a half.

In a survey carried out by pollster Respons Analyse on behalf of Amnesty Norway, over 1,000 Norwegians were asked to consider the following claim: "I am against capital punishment, regardless of the crime committed."

A total of 23 % of the respondents said they disagree with the claim. Additionally, a marked difference between the sexes was discovered. While only 15 % of Norwegian women supported the death penalty, 31 % of men were in favor of it, national broadcaster NRK reported.

Amnesty Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenaes was surprised by the numbers. By his own admission, he believed that many more of his compatriots were categorically against the death penalty.

"These are alarming numbers. They indicate that we need a change of attitude among Norwegian men," Egenaes said, wondering whether it was still a given for a man to have such a "tough" attitude. "Do women have a different, more humanistic view of life and death than men?" he asked rhetorically.

A similar survey was conducted by the Dagbladet newspaper in 2011, shortly after the terrorist attacks in Oslo's government quarter and at a Labor youth camp on the island of Utoya. The daily concluded that Norwegians did not want Anders Behring Breivik to be executed, as only 16 % of the population said they were in favor of the death penalty, which was ultimately rejected by 68 %.

Historian Bard Larsen of the think tank Civita ascribed the change to a toughening of the narrative in the society.

"The rawer the society, the likelier people are to favor the death penalty," Bard Larsen ventured.

Capital punishment was first eradicated in 1905 and fully abolished in 1979, before finally being prohibited by the Constitution in 2014.

In practice, the last peacetime execution was carried out in 1876. However, several war criminals were executed after WW2 and during the Nazi occupation, including Norway's notorious collaborator Vidkun Quisling. The last execution was thus carried out in 1948, by firing squad.

The sentence of life imprisonment is restricted to the military penal code. In peacetime, a maximum determinable sentence of 21 years is applied. In practice, however, only a small percentage of prisoners serve longer than 14 years. Prisoners are usually rewarded with unsupervised parole for weekends after serving 1/3 of their sentences and are eligible for an early release after serving 2/3 of their sentence.



The death penalty and The Exonerated----Acclaimed play about to have its 1st staging in Galway

THE EXONERATED, hailed as "an artful and moving evening of documentary theatre" by Variety, in its examination of the lives and experiences of six people exonerated from death row, has its 1st staging in Galway this month.

Written by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, the production will feature Sunny Jacobs, an American death row exoneree who will be playing herself, and Peter Pringle, an Irishman, also exonerated from a death sentence, playing the role of Gary Gauger, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his parents. Also in the cast are Lara Campbell, Lelia Campbell, Cormac Culkeen, Sharon Murphy, Bernard McNamara, Iback Lidamlendo, Donald Uviase, Son Gyoh, Orla McGovern, and Darragh O'Brian.

The production is a fundraiser for The Sunny Centre in Connemara, founded in 2015 by Jacobs and Pringle as a healing centre for fellow exonerees from around the globe. Sunny served 17 years in Florida before her release and Peter served nearly 15 years in Ireland before his release. They married 6 years ago.


NOVEMBER 15, 2017:

OHIO----botched execution stopped and postponed

Execution called off; won't happen today

Alva Campbell, Jr.'s execution was called off this morning, after medical personnel were unable to locate a vein to absorb the 3-drug cocktail used as part of the lethal injection process.

"We're not going to rush to execute someone," Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr said before the procedure was called off completely.

The execution effort was halted after prison personnel spent at least 25 minutes trying to find a suitable vein in both of Campbell's arms and in his right leg. They appeared to palpate veins in both arms and the right leg.

As personnel worked on his leg, after stopping with his arms, Campbell removed his glasses and held his hand to his eyes, wiping his eyes.

A staff member patted him on the shoulder and 2 others shook Campbell's hand. Campbell then put on his glasses and sat with his hands in his lap as his pants leg was rolled down and sock pulled up.

Reporters in the witness rooms were escorted out at 11:25 and told there would be a briefing from ODRC Director Gary Mohr on what happened.

It is unclear if the execution will still occur.

The 69-year-old Campbell was scheduled to be executed at 10 a.m.

Campbell, 69, shot 18-year-old Charles Dials to death after overpowering a sheriff's deputy in Franklin County, taking her gun and stealing Dials' truck. At the time of the crime, Campbell was on parole after being convicted of killing a man in Cleveland.

He was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Campbell exhausted all of his appeals and clemency bids, including one before the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Tuesday denied his motion to stay the execution of his death sentence.

Campbell was to be the 56th person put to death in Ohio since the state enacted its current death penalty law in 1981 and the 3rd execution this year. 20 protestors demonstrated outside the prison on Wednesday.

Ohio has sentenced 324 people to death - some more than once - since 1981, according to data through December 2016 from Ohio Attorney General's 2016 Capital Crimes Report.

Campbell on Tuesday morning was transported to the Lucasville prison, where the execution chamber is located.

Campbell made 2 phone calls Tuesday night, one of which did not go through, and had visits from the attorneys who will witness his execution. Smith said he ate part of his special meal and slept through the night.

Campbell has multiple health problems, including issues with his veins. He has asthma, emphysema and requires an external colostomy bag, according to court filings and parole board testimony. The state agreed to use a wedge pillow to help him partially sit up on the execution gurney because of his breathing problems. Smith said 2 tests of his veins showed that they will be accessible for injection.

Campbell's federal public defender, David Stebbins, cited his health problems, along with his violence-filled childhood, in an effort to stop the execution.

Federal and state courts, the Ohio Parole Board and Ohio Governor John Kasich all rejected efforts by Campbell to be spared death. He received the death penalty after his 1998 conviction on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, felonious assault, escape and other offenses in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

In October, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz in Dayton rejected Campbell's request to be executed by firing squad. Stebbins said the request was made as an alternative to lethal injection because of concerns Campbell may not have accessible veins suitable for the 3-drug lethal injection combination that Ohio uses to execute prisoners.

A reporter for the Dayton Daily News is 1 of 5 reporters scheduled to witness the execution. Witnesses for the victim include Dials' sister, brother and uncle, according to Smith. Witnesses for Campbell include Stebbins, 2 other attorneys and a friend.

In an interview, Stebbins said he has witnessed other executions at Ohio's execution chamber.

"It's awfully sterile. It's like being in a hospital but they are executing the guy," Stebbins said. "It's very cold. They try to keep it solemn."

Ohio paused executions 3 years ago after controversy over the prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, of Preble County using a previously untested combination of lethal injection drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone. McGuire gasped and snorted in the 26 minutes it took for him to die in January 2014.

In 2015, Ohio Governor John Kasich said the state would not switch to alternative execution methods, such as firing squad or hanging. Earlier this year, he delayed executions while awaiting a federal court ruling challenging lethal injection procedures.

Executions resumed on July 26, when Ronald R. Phillips, 43, was executed for the 1993 death of a 3-year-old girl he had raped and beaten.

Then, on Sept. 13, the state executed Gary Otte, 45, who killed 2 people in a Cleveland suburb in 1992.

The 3-drug combination now used in Ohio begins with midazolam hydrochloride and ends with potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The 2nd drug used is chosen from a list of 3: vecuronium bromide, pancuronium bromide or rocuronium bromide.

Campbell has a long criminal history. He was first convicted at age 19 in 1967 of shooting a state trooper, armed robbery and grand larceny. He was paroled in 1971 and then shot a man to death during a robbery in Cleveland in 1972. Campbell received a life sentence for 1st-degree murder but was paroled after 20 years.

In 1997, he was arrested in Franklin County, this time for aggravated robbery.

He had been shot during the robbery and pretended to be paralyzed as he was driven by a Franklin County deputy from the Jackson Pike Jail for his arraignment in Franklin County Municipal Court. Campbell then overpowered Deputy Teresa Harrison and took her gun as she attempted to help him out of her vehicle at the loading dock, according to a narrative from court records included in the Parole Board report.

Dials, who was at the court to pay a traffic ticket, was driving away in his pickup truck when Campbell stopped him, pulled open the door, forced Dials to move over and drove off. Campbell later ordered Dials to get onto the floor board of his truck and shot him twice, killing him.

Campbell was captured after stealing another car and attempting to kidnap 2 other people and then hiding in a tree, where authorities found him after a chase.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


Science has taught us juries rely on flawed evidence for convictions; that's why the death penalty must go

After leading the nation for decades in recommending death sentences, juries in Dallas County and Harris County have apparently cooled to the idea. In Dallas, prosecutors have asked juries to condemn a murderer to death just 2 times since 2014, and in both cases the juries declined. That's good news for anyone concerned about how justice is meted out in Texas.

While there are crimes that probably deserve death, the defining characteristic of an execution is its irreversibility. Once carried out, there is no possibility for mistakes to be corrected. That's a problem for a criminal justice system whose mistakes are being brought to light more often than ever by advances in science and technology.

This basic incompatibility has helped soften support for the death penalty. (Other factors that may be playing a role: It is also expensive and has not been proven to be more a more effective deterrent against future crime than, say, the life sentence without parole that has, since 2005, been the minimum sentence for anyone convicted of capital murder in Texas.)

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has sought the death penalty in only two cases since taking office, which we hope suggests an increasingly high bar for executions in general. The first of them, however, was upended last week when new information about defendant Antonio Cochran's intellectual disability made him ineligible for execution, thanks to the Supreme Court's narrowing interpretation of when the Constitution permits the death penalty.

But it's a case out of Bell County not even involving a capital crime that best explains why our system of justice is fundamentally incompatible with the death penalty.

When jurors convicted George Powell of a Killeen robbery in 2009, it looked solid enough. A camera recorded the robber leaving the 7-Eleven, where he had put a handgun on the counter and told the terrified cashier to give him the cash and some cigarettes. The cashier told police the robber had been about 5-foot-6, according to a story published last week by Brandi Grissom, The Morning News' Austin bureau chief, but the clerk and a manager later testified that Powell, who is 6-foot-3, was the robber.

Eyewitness testimony has a lousy track record. And in this case, it was disputed by the manager of another store that had been robbed 12 days before - it was thought by the same robber - when she testified that she recognized Powell and he was definitely not the one who robbed her.

But prosecutors pointed to the video. And introduced an informant who told jurors that Powell had confessed while they were in jail.

Now, however, both the video and the snitch's testimony have been contradicted. The inmate says he lied to curry favor in his own case. And the video? An expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission has concluded it is impossible that the man in the video was taller than 5-foot-9.

Powell remains in jail serving 28 years. An appeals court will have to decide whether all this means he's innocent. Lawmakers ought to ponder whether new standards for analysis of video evidence are needed, as the commission has suggested.

But whatever happens, we know that since he's still alive any mistakes in Powell's case can still be corrected. That's not possible for those who've been executed.

That's precisely why the death penalty remains fundamentally incompatible with justice.

Texas Forensic Science Commission recommendations regarding use of video evidence:

1. The basis for analytical conclusions reached in forensic casework must be supported by clear and comprehensive scientific methods.

2. Analysts should address error rates and uncertainty in their reports.

3. All analytical reports should be subject to peer review before use in a trial.

4. When post-conviction analysis is performed, the results should be immediately communicated to the prosecutor, the court and the defendant.

5. Analysts should follow established industry guidelines that are the consensus of the scientific community.

6. Analysts should take precautions to protect against confirmation bias.

7. In light of ... the concerns highlighted in this particular case, the commission's advisory committee should consider whether new licensing requirements for forensic analysts should be added.

8. The Bell County prosecutor should consider seeking further assistance from the FBI or another qualified law-enforcement forensic service provider if questions remain in the Powell case.

9. The criminal justice community should seek assistance and training when they encounter a forensic video analysis case and need to retain an expert witness.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Hudson not insane, but deficient, experts say

Psychologists, medical professionals and forensic psychiatrists testifying at the murder trial of William Hudson on Monday agreed on 2 things: First, Hudson is a troubled individual; and, 2nd, he is not insane.

Forensic psychologist Daniel Altman took the stand on the 9th day of the trial of Hudson, 35. Hudson was convicted on Nov. 7 of 3 counts of capital murder. Now, in the sentencing phase of his trial, Hudson faces the death penalty.

Altman told the jury on Monday that he spent several hours interviewing Hudson, conducting a battery of psychological tests. Altman said he initially wanted to determine if Hudson was malingering, or faking a psychological disorder.

Altman referred to Hudson's results on the Standardized Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS), which told him that Hudson did not claim to have - nor did he fake - a mental health problem.

Altman then testified to Hudson's Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test. Hudson scored a 79, which is borderline for mental deficiency. With IQ testing, a person is tested at a single moment in time, Altman said. The outcome could depend upon many variables.

Altman said, however, he did not believe Hudson was mentally disabled.

Using results from the Validity Indicator Profile (VIP) and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Altman testified that Hudson over-exaggerated his physical symptoms and pain, and under-reported on areas of the tests where he would have to admit fault.

When cross-examined by Hudson's court-appointed attorneys, Steve Evans and Jeff Herrington, Altman said that, though Hudson did have problems, he would most likely deny them.

"He probably denies these things because he's so cool," Altman said. "He's pretty important to himself."

Dr. Antoinette McGarrahan, a forensic psychologist and neurophsychologist, also conducted an IQ test on Hudson with similar results. However, her neuropsychological evaluation concluded that Hudson's intelligence fell sharply after high school, possibly due to brain trauma. Hudson had been in several car accidents in the past decade, at least 2 of which were the result of driving while intoxicated.

McGarrahan testified that Hudson's difficulties stem from the front part of the brain, which accounts for good judgement, insight, planning and impulsivity. She also said Hudson struggles to remember and concentrate.

"The defendant's ability to look inward is nil," McGarrahan said. She added this condition also contributes to his blaming of others, and his sense of entitlement.

Dr. David Self, a forensic psychiatrist, agreed with McGarrahan, calling Hudson an insecure, arrogant narcissist, who cannot care about the feelings of others.

"He's not very smart," Self said. "[Hudson] has low intellect, but thinks he's the smartest guy in the room."

Self, who also interviewed Hudson for several hours, told jurors that Hudson wanted to take over the land after his father died, but was incapable. This, he said, fueled Hudson's alcohol dependency, until he was "drinking almost continuously."

Prosecutors Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell and Lisa Tanner of the State Attorney General's Office asked Self if an insanity plea could be made for Hudson.

"The defendant wasn't in such a state where he didn't realize what he did was wrong," Self said, adding Hudson suffers from an "anti-social disorder." Such a disorder, he said, is often reflected in, among other things, poor judgement, the inability to stay sober - and rage.

"So, as a result of [Hudson] not getting help," Tanner said, "6 people are dead." But Self doubted if Hudson could interpret events that way.

Sentencing for Hudson continues today. Officials involved with the case could not say when the proceedings would end.

Hudson was convicted on 3 counts of capital murder, stemming from the 2015 killings of Carl Johnson, 76; Hannah Johnson, 40; Kade Johnson, 6; Thomas Kamp, 45; Nathan Kamp, 23; and Austin Kamp, 21.



Accused torture-killer doubles down on plan to defend himself

Notorious murder defendant Steven Lorenzo has turned down help from attorneys and insists he will go at it alone. Now, he is taking legal action via a 1-page handwritten letter to the Hillsborough County Clerk's office.

In it, Lorenzo writes he is the attorney on this case.

"I am requesting to obtain a copy of the docket sheet," he says, and adds he is being housed at the Orient Road Jail and "cannot receive any mail here unless it comes directly from the court."

Pam Williams -- the mother of Jason Galehouse, one of Lorenzo's alleged victims -- finds his defense scheme appalling.

"The sound of his name, to look at his face, I get sick to my stomach," she said.

Back in 2003, prosecutors say, Lorenzo lured Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz to his home in Seminole Heights. There, they say, Lorenzo and co-defendant Scott Schweickert drugged, tortured, and killed them.

Last year, Schweickert cut a deal with the state and got life in prison. Months later, Lorenzo was indicted on murder charges and now faces death penalty.

"I just want him on that death bed," said Williams. She says Lorenzo is acting as his own attorney because he thinks he can outsmart everyone in the courtroom.

"I think he's going to play the pity party with the jury but it's not going to work," she continued.

At a recent court date, the judge in the case suggested Lorenzo may be unfit to stand trial and has ordered a mental evaluation, but Lorenzo wants no part of it. He told the judge he refuses to talk to any doctor.

"I have exclusive jurisdiction over myself," he insisted.

Lorenzo is back in court in December.

(source: Fox News)


Court Won't Re-Impose Death Sentence in Child Rape-Murder

The Louisiana Supreme Court won't consider re-imposing the death penalty for a man serving life for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in 1985, when he was 21. John Francis Wille was originally sentenced to death for 1st-degree murder in the death of Michele Lopatta. However St. John the Baptist Parish prosecutors agreed in 2014 that the sentence should be life, and that Wille could continue with appeals contending he is innocent.

After a new district attorney was elected, she asked courts to re-impose the death penalty, contending the change in sentence was illegal. State district and appeals courts rejected her arguments, and the high court said without comment Monday that it won't hear the case.

"We're very gratified that the Louisiana Supreme Court has decided not to reinstate John Wille's death sentence. And what this means for the future is, we will continue to push forward with post-conviction relief for exoneration of Mr. Wille," said defense attorney Kate Rhodes Janofsky.

District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut did not immediately return a call for comment.

Janofsky said no physical evidence linked Wille to Lopatta, whose nude, beaten and decomposing body was found in St. John the Baptist Parish four days after she went missing from her mother's apartment in the New Orleans suburb of Terrytown.

Prosecutors relied largely on horrifyingly detailed confessions from Wille, his girlfriend, Judy Walters, and Walters' 14-year-old daughter. Wille's current legal team says those confessions were coerced and not true - a conclusion also reached by forensic psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson, who testified at a hearing for Wille in 2000 and described the case and his reasoning in "The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions: A Handbook ."

A judge has heard some evidence, and more witnesses are planned, Janofsky said.

Judy Walters, who was tried separately and sentenced to life, refused to testify at Wille's trial, invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Her post-conviction appeals were being heard with Wille's, but she died Sept. 27, Janofsky said.

More than 20 claims in Wille's petition include assertions that trial attorney George Oubre - a former state senator who had been convicted of bank fraud and was assigned to defend Wille as court-appointed public service - was incompetent.

Oubre told Judge Sterling Snowdy that the trial judge brushed off his protests that the capital murder case "was way beyond me," ' The Times-Picayune reported in 2014.

"I think it's very telling that the original defense attorney supports our petition," Janofsky said.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorneys for Brian Golsby ask to delay trial due to Ohio death penalty bill

The defense attorneys for Brian Golsby are asking a judge to put his trial on hold.

Golsby is charged with the rape, kidnapping, and murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes and has pleaded not guilty.

Golsby's defense team is asking for the trial to be placed on hold because there is a current bill in the Ohio legislature that would abolish the death penalty.

They want the case put on hold until the legislature decides on the bill.

In the motion, the defense attorneys say, "The time and costs of preparing for trial, impaneling a jury, trying the case, and the years of appeals will largely be avoided if the bill passes."

The trial is currently set for February.



Police charge 2 more in slayings at Cleveland used car lot

Police have arrested 2 more suspects in the shooting deaths of a couple at their used car lot in Cleveland.

Authorities said Monday they arrested 2 men, one 23 and the other 24, over the weekend. The men have been charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of 47-year-old Michael Kuznik and 46-year-old Trina Tomola. reports a 29-year-old man was previously indicted on charges of aggravated murder, robbery and burglary in relation to the shooting. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Police say the couple's son found the bodies of Kuznik and Tomola April 14. Both were shot in the head, and their family dog was also killed.

Investigators say the suspects stole 2 cars from the lot, surveillance equipment and computers containing records of business purchases.

(source: Associated Press)


Untried and unethical: why Nevada's new lethal injection crosses a line----As more drug companies prevent sales of their products for execution, some US states have seized on new, untried drug combinations - raising big ethical issues

Today, Scott Raymond Dozier was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Nevada's Ely State Prison. However, the execution has been postponed over concerns around the untested drug combination proposed as the method of death. The postponement is the latest incident in a series of controversial state executions carried out in the United States this year, and brings to the foreground many concerns and ethical issues around state execution - not least the use of the death penalty itself.

In Dozier's case, a completely new 3 drug combination has been proposed for Dozier1s execution. The mixture of diazepam (a sedative), cisatracurium (a muscle relaxant), and fentanyl (a powerful pain-relieving opioid) has raised many concerns - principally because it is completely untried.

So why is this new form of injection being proposed? And what criteria do execution methods have to meet?

The primary aim of capital punishment is, of course, to ensure death. No one wants a prisoner reviving and perhaps having to go through the procedure again. Another aim might be to minimise the degree of suffering experienced by the prisoner in their final moments, although a look at the methods used by various governments around the world shows that this is not always a consideration. In the United States, however, it is a legal requirement that executions do not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment".

A paper written by Harold Hillman back in 1993 looked into the physical suffering of executions. He examined the pain likely to be experienced by those undergoing judicial execution by the various methods that were in use in 1989: beheading, hanging, stoning, shooting, electrocution, gassing and lethal injection. The paper concluded that, with the possible exception of lethal injection, all these methods were likely to cause extreme pain. Hillman's important caveat was that the injections had to be administered successfully.

In the US, shooting, electrocution, gassing and lethal injection are all still legal methods of execution. However, most of states that still have the death penalty favour lethal injection.

Capital punishment by deliberate poisoning is hardly something new. In 399BC Socrates was famously condemned to death for corrupting the youth of Athens and chose to drink hemlock as his punishment. From Plato's account of the death it appears to be relatively pain free. There must have been something else in the lethal mixture, as hemlock poisoning is a very unpleasant way to go. The exact recipe used by the ancient Greeks is not known. Whatever mixture was used it still took a considerable amount of time and, according to the gaoler, was not guaranteed to work with just 1 cup.

Hillman wrote his paper on the pain of capital punishment at a time when barbiturates were being used for executions in the US. Barbiturates are powerful sedatives that cause unconsciousness within minutes and slow the rate of breathing until it eventually stops. But manufacturers of barbiturate drugs have since changed their procedures to prevent these drugs being used for executions. Lethal injections since then have therefore had to be carried out using alternative drugs.

Many states in the US favour massive doses of a three drug combination for executions. The idea is to sedate the prisoner, paralyse them and then stop their heart. But manufacturers of drugs that can perform these functions continue to prevent sales for executions. This has led to some extreme tactics, including a rush to execute 4 people in a single week in Arkansas in April this year before the state's stock of drugs went past its expiry date.

The executions carried out back in April of this year used midazolam, vercuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The 1st drug, midazolam, is a short-acting sedative. This particular drug has been associated with several botched executions, such as that of Clayton Lockett.

The 2nd drug, vercuronium bromide, blocks chemical signals reaching receptors on motor neurons, the nerve cells that trigger movement. The result is paralysis of muscles, including the muscles needed for breathing. If the prisoner is not fully sedated by the midazolam, the pain and distress of suffocation will be considerable.

States are stockpiling lethal injection drugs that could be used to save lives

Once the prisoner has been immobilised, the third drug can be administered to stop the heart. Potassium chloride has been used in several executions. Potassium is an essential element for the normal functioning of the heart as it is involved not only in nerve signals that coordinate the heartbeat but also in the contractions of the heart cells themselves. An excess of potassium causes cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is not always painful, but the potassium injection itself is notoriously agonising and has been described as a severe burning sensation. The immobilising injection of rocuronium bromide could potentially mask signs of any pain the prisoner is experiencing.

On 24 August 2017, Mark James Asay was executed in Florida. No midazolam was available because drugs companies had restricted the sales of the drug. So, an alternative protocol was devised that stuck fairly closely to the previously used triple combination. The new protocol of etomidate, rocuronium bromide and potassium acetate received condemnation from several quarters.

Rocuronium bromide is very similar to the vercuronium used previously, and was not a particularly controversial substitution. The use of potassium acetate instead of the usual potassium chloride raised a few eyebrows. Potassium acetate had only been used once before for lethal injection and that was a mistake (apparently the wrong bottle was picked up). However, it is the potassium part of the compound that does the damage and so, if using the right dosage, it should have exactly the same effects as potassium chloride.

It was the choice of etomidate that caused most concern. Etomidate is a fast-acting but short-lasting sedative used to anaesthetise patients before short, painful procedures such as relocating dislocated joints. With therapeutic doses the effects of the drug can wear off in as little as 5 minutes. 1 minute after injecting etomidate into Asay's body his foot was seen to twitch. Asay was pronounced dead 12 minutes after the 1st injection was administered.

As more and more stocks of drugs go out of date and replacements are in increasingly short supply even more radical alternatives have been proposed. The state of Nevada ran out of drugs for lethal injections in 2016. When it made 247 solicitations for proposals from drugs companies it received no offers. Not one. This was not immediately a problem: Nevada hadn't executed anyone since 2006 and at that time had no plans to execute any of the 81 prisoners on its death row. When Dozier's execution was scheduled, that changed.

Any of the 3 drugs in the combination proposed for Dozier's execution - diazepam, cisatracurium and fentanyl - could kill an individual if administered in a sufficiently high dose, but there are many unknowns. First of all, no one can be certain how these three drugs will work in combination. No information has been released (at the time of writing) about how the drugs would be administered, in what order or at what dosage. In fact, it begins to sound distinctly as though an execution under these circumstances would be akin to an experiment - and there are very specific laws about experimenting on prisoners.

How can we execute people if 1 in 25 on death row are innocent?

The states of Florida and California offer inmates an injection of diazepam immediately before the lethal injection procedure is started, to relieve anxiety. It is not normally part of the 3 drug combination designed to result in the death of the prisoner. Though diazepam is regularly prescribed to treat anxiety, the anxiety of imminent death is a level of distress that it is difficult to test for ethically. Consequently, it may or may not be effective in these circumstances.

Cisatracurium paralyses skeletal muscles and at high dose would result in death by suffocation. Signs of distress will be masked by this drug as the individual can no longer move to signal any pain they are experiencing.

Fentanyl is easily the most lethal of the 3 drugs. The fact that fentanyl is already killing American citizens at a terrifying rate in the country's ongoing opioid crisis testifies to its lethal potential. However, it makes the choice of its use for a deliberate death appear crass to say the very least.

Fentanyl kills by suppressing respiration, meaning that Dozier would suffocate. Fentanyl is also a powerful pain relieving drug so it should, in theory, be a painless experience. However, those who have experienced fentanyl overdoses speak clearly of being unable to breathe and how distressing this is.

As more and more drug companies restrict the sale of certain products for lethal injection, the options available dwindle. With over 2,800 prisoners on death row across the US the manner of their death looks increasingly uncertain - and if untried drug combinations are approved for use, potentially "cruel and unusual" too.

(source: The Guardian)


Death row inmate Dozier removed from suicide watch

The Nevada Department of Corrects says death row inmate Scott Dozier has been removed from suicide watch at Ely State Prison.

According to Brooke Keast, Dozier was placed on the watch since his stay of execution last week after making comments that he would kill himself if the state did not carry out his sentence.

Dozier was scheduled to be executed today, November 14th, after he voluntarily gave up his appeals. But his executed has been stayed after a judge ruled there was valid concerns over the paralytic that would be used in the lethal injection process.

The case is now heading to the Nevada Supreme Court. Dozier is a two-time convicted murderer and was sentenced to death in 2007.

(source: KOLO news)


Urgent Action


A judge stayed Nevada's first execution in over 11 years, scheduled for 14 November, due to concerns about the lethal injection protocol. The state had asked for the stay to allow it to appeal her order to remove one of the drugs from the protocol.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Expressing your opposition to the death penalty in all cases, and calling for a moratorium on executions in Nevada and for the state administration to work with the legislature to abolish the death penalty;

* Noting that since Nevada last carried out an execution, 6 states in the USA have abolished the death penalty and a number of others have imposed moratoriums on executions, and another 22 countries have abolished the death penalty for all or ordinary crimes, with 142 countries now abolitionist in law or practice;

* Pointing to the repeated resolutions at the UN General Assembly calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition of the death penalty.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 25 December, 2017:

Governor Brian Sandoval

State Capitol Building, 101 N. Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89701, USA


Fax: +1 775 684-5683

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)

Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt

Office of the Attorney General

100 North Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89701, USA

Fax: +1 775-684-1108


Salutation: Dear Attorney General

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Ame Deal update: Jury's decision moves Phoenix man closer to death penalty

Jurors have found aggravating factors that could make a Phoenix man eligible for the death penalty in the 2011 murder of a 10-year-old girl.

The Maricopa County Superior Court jury determined that the killing of Ame Deal was especially cruel or heinous since the girl was locked in a small storage box in sweltering summer heat.

Closing arguments in the penalty phase of John Allen's trial are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning.

The 29-year-old Allen was convicted of 1st-degree murder and child abuse last week.

Allen's 28-year-old wife Sammantha Allen was a cousin of Deal's. She was convicted of murder in the girl's death in June.

Authorities say the couple forced Ame into the plastic box as punishment for stealing ice pops.

The girl was found dead the next morning.

(source: Associated Press)


Torture-murder case in death of Gabriel Fernandez, 8, goes to the jury

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday morning in the trial of a 37-year-old security guard charged in the torture-murder of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son.

On Monday, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami called Isauro Aguirre an "evil" man who "liked torturing" Gabriel Fernandez and did so systematically in the months leading up to the child's death. Aguirre hated the boy because he thought he was gay, according to the prosecution.

One of Aguirre's attorneys acknowledged Monday that his client killed the boy in May 2013, but told jurors that the defendant "acted in a rage of anger followed by an explosion of violence" and not with the deliberation and premeditation required for a verdict of 1st-degree murder.

Aguirre also faces a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him and his 34-year- old girlfriend, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, who will be tried separately on the same charges for her son's killing.

Hatami began his closing argument Monday by displaying a photo of Gabriel's battered body lying on an autopsy table - covered in injuries head to toe - as evidence of Aguirre's intent to kill the boy.

"You can't believe a person in our society would intentionally murder a child," Hatami said, comparing the abuse to that suffered by a prisoner of war.

"Believe it, because it happened. This was intentional murder by torture," he told the jury. "Do not go back in the jury room and make excuses for the defendant ... this had nothing to do with drugs ... this had nothing to do with mental health issues."

Hatami said in the months leading up to the boy's death, he was "being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten ... he was belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out. He was tied up every night in a box ... Gabriel was dying."

The prosecutor painted a picture of Aguirre sleeping in a comfortable bed night after night while, in the same room, Gabriel was bound and gagged inside a small cabinet with a "sock in his mouth, a shoelace (tying) up his hands, a bandanna over his face" and his ankles handcuffed.

"To force a child to eat cat litter and cat feces, more than once, how does somebody do that?" Hatami asked, referring to testimony by Gabriel's big brother.

He alleged that the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defendant punched and kicked Gabriel hard enough to dent the walls of the family's apartment and leave the boy unconscious, then - with help from the boy's mother - hid some of the child's bloody clothing and moved a picture to cover up one of the biggest indentations before calling 911.

"There's no evidence that he was going to save Gabriel," Hatami said, telling jurors that the defendant lied to the 911 dispatcher and paramedics who arrived on the scene.

The defense contends that Aguirre never meant to kill the child, but Hatami sought to undercut that claim, telling jurors in his summation of the case that Aguirre hated the boy. The couple only took him from his maternal grandparents so that they could collect welfare payments for his care, the prosecutor said.

"Gabriel was a gentler boy, a sweeter boy (than his brother) and the defendant hated him because of that ... he believed Gabriel was gay," Hatami said. "This stressful situation and rage thing is a lie ... because it's not supported by the evidence. The defendant actually liked torturing Gabriel. He got off on it ... he is a murderer and he is a torturer."

Hatami recalled testimony about a medical excuse to explain Gabriel's absence from school, which was allegedly forged by Aguirre and Fernandez. The prosecutor said that documentation, along with the couple later telling the school that the boy had moved to Texas, was evidence of their sophistication and premeditation.

Hatami showed jurors a picture of Gabriel sitting next to his brother with a big smile on his face.

"The defendant took everything from him," the prosecutors told jurors, urging them to "Hold him responsible. It ends here. It ends now."

Defense attorney Michael Sklar began his summation by telling jurors that "the evidence in this case requires you to find (Aguirre) guilty of (2nd-degree) murder, not 1st-degree murder."

Sklar acknowledged "unspeakable acts of abuse over a period of time" by his client, but urged the panel as a matter of law to focus only on the evening of May 22, 2013, when Aguirre and Fernandez allegedly gave Gabriel the beating that caused his death.

Aguirre was angry because Gabriel had asked his mother to leave Aguirre and then denied saying so, calling his mother a liar in front of Aguirre, the defense attorney said.

"Isauro exploded in a rage of anger" and later "described his anger as a 20 on a scale of 10? to a detective," Sklar said. "He was completely out of control."

Sklar cited testimony by Gabriel's siblings as corroboration, recalling that one of them said Aguirre, who the kids called Tony, became "really, really, really mad.'

Once his client realized Gabriel was unconscious, "he immediately took steps to begin to revive him," the defense attorney said.

Sklar recalled Gabriel's brother testifying that "Tony began CPR before somebody on the phone told him to, and he continued until paramedics arrived," arguing that "an attempt to save is contrary to an intent to kill."

The attorney also alleged that Gabriel's mother was the one who hit the boy with a belt, shot him with a BB gun, forced him to eat cat feces and was responsible for much of the abuse prior to his death.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were called to the family's home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in Palmdale in response to a call that Gabriel was not breathing. He was declared brain-dead that day, then taken off life support 2 days later.

Aguirre and the boy's mother have remained jailed without bail since being charged in May 2013 with the boy's death. The 2 were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury.

2 former Los Angeles County social workers - Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement - and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.

(source: Los Angeles Daily News)


At Guantanamo, a Death Penalty Case Without a Death Penalty Lawyer

The Guantanamo military commissions, the scheme created by the government to try 9/11 and other detainees, have devolved into an unacceptable and alarming assault on defense lawyers attempting to provide fair representation to their clients.

A new letter, drafted by the ACLU and joined by 150 death penalty lawyers and law professors, registers the capital defense community's outrage over the legal breakdown, which clearly violates federal and international law.

In the current crisis, Brig. Gen. John Baker, a decorated combat veteran and the 2nd-highest ranking lawyer in the Marine Corps, was sentenced to 21 days of confinement by the presiding military judge in the prosecution of Abd Rahim Hussein Al-Nashiri, a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Gen. Baker, in his role as the chief defense counsel for the Guantanamo military commissions, had granted a request by Al-Nashiri's defense counsel to withdraw from the capital case because of an ethical conflict that is secret but is known to involve government monitoring of attorney-client communications. 3 of Al-Nashiri's long-term lawyers then withdrew - including his 1 attorney qualified to work on death penalty cases. The lawyer left on the case was a junior military lawyer.

The presiding military judge, Col. Vance Spath, was displeased - both that the lawyers had withdrawn and that Gen. Baker granted their dismissal without his permission. How Judge Spath expressed that displeasure is where things went horribly wrong. He found Gen. Baker had acted in contempt of the court, and ordered him to be confined for 21 days. (Gen. Baker spent 48 hours confined to his trailer at "Camp Justice" on the Guantanamo naval base before being released after he filed a federal appeal, which is still pending.) Spath then ordered the young military lawyer with no death penalty experience to proceed with Al-Nashiri's defense on his own.

Just as you would not expect a recent medical school graduate to perform a complex and risky surgery, you would not assign a junior lawyer without capital experience a leading role in a capital case.

Capital defense is a highly complex and specialized area of law. Both in traditional federal prosecutions and in the unique provisions for Guantqnamo, there must be at a minimum 2 lawyers representing a person facing the death penalty, and at least 1 lawyer must be "learned counsel," with distinguished prior experience and knowledge in the area of capital trials. Just as you would not expect a recent medical school graduate to perform a complex and risky surgery, you would not assign a junior lawyer without capital experience a leading role in a capital case.

Richard Kammen, Al-Nashiri's former long-term capital defense counsel, had been on the case for 9 years. He had been practicing law for 46 years and had served as lead capital counsel in numerous cases. In contrast, Al-Nashiri's remaining defense counsel, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, is a 2012 law school graduate who meets none of the requirements for "learned counsel." He was added to the existing Al-Nashiri defense team just a few months ago. He has no prior capital experience, and no prior criminal defense experience with homicide charges. He rightly told the court exactly that.

Judge Spath ordered the young lawyer to represent Al-Nashiri on his own in the scheduled proceedings. The judge's departure from the rules, which require learned counsel at every part of a capital prosecution, is inexplicable. Even beyond the binding military commission rules, the American Bar Association's guidelines for capital cases have long explained that the unique and complex labyrinth of capital trial preparation and investigation requires qualified death penalty counsel represent the defendant at every stage of the proceedings. There is no exception to this rule because the expertise is deemed necessary throughout. Nonetheless, Judge Spath suggested that the junior defense counsel should, alone, stand in the place of learned counsel and a team with deep knowledge of the voluminous issues that the case raises. The young lawyer resisted, repeating several times, that he was "not qualified" to represent Mr. Al-Nashiri in the capital pretrial matter without learned counsel.

Judge Spath dismissed the lawyer's refusal to speak as a trial "strategy," as if requesting qualified counsel for his client was somehow a personal choice, designed to disrupt the case. The young lawyer pointed out that it was neither his nor his client's choice: "This cannot be trial strategy. It was not our choice." Judge Spath ordered him to continue anyway.

The judge's unjustified and reprehensible attack on defense counsel, and his insistence that a major capital trial go forward without experienced counsel, is just the latest in a long string of outrages in the Guantanamo military tribunals. Listening devices in attorney-client meeting rooms have been installed, disguised as smoke detectors. The FBI has infiltrated and investigated defense teams. Privileged legal mail is seized. Sadly, the list goes on.

The tribunals have become a costly farce, inflicting incalculable damage to due process and justice. This farce must end.

(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment


Over 80 pc of those hanged are ordinary criminals, not jet black terrorists: Babar

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar on Tuesday called for a wide-ranging national debate involving all stratas of society, including political parties, lawyers, religious scholars, intellectuals, media persons and academia, on awarding death penalty in a broken justice system and the laws heavily tilted in favor of the rich and powerful.

Addressing a seminar on 'Trial and Terror' organised by the Justice Project of Pakistan in a local hotel where a report was launched, he said terrorists had refused to be deterred by death penalty. He said the rich and powerful manipulated the Qisas law to get away with murder and only the poor were hanged. He said 3 years since the lifting of moratorium on executions it was time to assess the net result of application of anti-terror laws, the military courts, Regulation in Aid of Civil Power and Guantanamo Bay type prisons for fighting terrorism.

"Nearly 500 have been executed during the last 3 years, over 80 % of them were ordinary criminals and not jet black terrorists as promised at the time of (forming) military courts," he said.

He said in a security-driven state, welfare and rights of people mattered little. "Our rush to carry out executions is a reaffirmation of the truth that a state that does not care about people's lives is least concerned about how they died," he said. He said recently 2 brothers were acquitted of murder by the Supreme Court after nearly 15 years on death row but only after they had already been executed and no one in the criminal justice chain knowing about it.

He asked scholars how they rationalised such gross miscarriage of justice with the insistence that moratorium on executions was against the religion. He said that according to scholars, Islam called for death penalty in only 2 offences but today 27 offences in Pakistan carried death penalty. "There is no reason why we should not revisit the offences that carry death penalty," he said.

He said the implementation of Action on Aid of Civil Administration Regulation 2011 was another worrisome area. "The regulation was given back-dated effect from 2008 to enable the security agencies to conduct open trial of those in their custody for years in PATA (provincially administered areas) of KP," he said.

However, Senator Farhatullah Babar said today, no one knows how many internment centers had been set up for keeping them, how many inmates were there, what were charges, how many had died and whether and how many were being tried for what crimes and in which courts. He aid these internment centres had become like little Guantanamo Bay prisons, black hole for the inmates and no-go areas even for the judiciary and parliament.



Karnataka High Court upholds death penalty imposed on 'cyanide' Mohan Kumar

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday confirmed the death penalty imposed on 'cyanide' Mohan Kumar on the charges of murdering one Sunanda of Sulya in Dakshina Kannada district.

The division bench of Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice John Michael Cunha upheld the death penalty imposed by the trial court on December 21, 2013, as the allegations had been proved.

According to the prosecution, Mohan Kumar befriended Sunanda (28), daughter of Rathnavathi, in January 2008. After few days, he took her to Mysuru on the pretext of marrying her and murdered her by administering cyanide at a lodge in Mysuru.

Sunanda was found dead on February 12, 2008.

(source: New Indian Express)


Donald Trump 'deserves death penalty' for insulting Kim Jong-un, says North Korean state media----President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have exchanged increasingly personal attacks

North Korea's state media has said Donald Trump deserves the death penalty for insulting the country's leader Kim Jong-un.

An editorial in the ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, focused its anger on US President's visit to South Korea last week, during which he denounced the North's "cruel dictatorship" in a speech to legislators in Seoul.

The visit was part of a marathon 5-nation Asia tour by Mr Trump aimed largely at galvanising regional opposition to North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.

"The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership," the editorial said.

"He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people," it added.

The members of the ruling Kim dynasty - past and present - enjoy near god-like status in North Korea, which has demonstrated extreme sensitivity to any remark that might be seen as mocking or disrespectful of the leadership.

Since becoming president, Mr Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with Kim Jong-Un, trading personal insults and threats of military strikes.

The ad hominem attacks between the leaders have come amid rising tension in the region of over the hermit state's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

North Korea has carried out a series intercontinental ballistic missile tests in recent months and detonated what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb earlier this year.

Towards the end of his Asia tour, Mr Trump sent a tweet from Hanoi taunting the North Korean leader over his height and weight.

"Why would Kim Jong-Un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat'?" he tweeted. In the past the President has also referred to Mr Kim as “little rocket man” in his tweets.

The North Korean leader has also returned the personal invective, calling Mr Trump, who is 40 years his senior, a "mentally deranged US dotard" last month. The word dotard is an antiquated term defined as "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile".

(source: Agence France-Presse)

NOVEMBER 14, 2017:


Cardenas Execution Raising Questions About Treatment of Mexican Nationals In U.S. Prisons

The Cardenas execution in Huntsville is raising questions about the treatment of Mexican Nationals in American prisons. News Center 23 had a chance to speak to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs moments before and after the execution of Ruben Ramirez Cardenas.

"Ruben if you can hear us, we are here for you" yell protesters outside the in the rain.

Those may have been some of the last sounds heard by Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, a Mexican National, convicted of killing and Raping his 16 year old cousin back in 1997.

News Center 23 had the opportunity to bear witness to the execution. Friends, family, were not present to see the passing of their loved one. Instead 4 lone protestors battling 50-degree weather in the rain and Mexican dignitaries were hoping the execution was delayed fi not avoided.

Among those protestors, Gloria Ruback a representative of the TX Death Penalty Abolition Movement. She claims that she has been attending and protesting executions since the 1980’s. She says, "we found out that they can hear us back there in the room where they execute them. So to give him a little support ... maybe a smile before he's murdered."

The execution, once slated for 6 PM on November 8th had visitors tense. Appeals made by Cardenas' attorney and The Mexican Foreign Ministry to the Supreme Court were to decide Cardenas' fate.

They appealed to have "the DNA evidence [that] can be properly evaluated." Those appeals were rejected, and Cardenas was pronounced dead at 10:26 that same night.

Jason Clark, spokesperson Texas Department of Criminal Justice talked to press immediately after the execution. He says, "Ruben Cardenas was executed for the brutal murder of 16 year old Mayra Laguna in 1997. He was the 7th person to be executed in the state of Texas this year. He did make a written last state he did not make a verbal last statement."

Ruben Cardenas' Attorney, Maurie Levin states, "I am convinced that we would not be standing here now if Texas had not violated its Vieanna Convention obligations preventing the Mexican consulate when he most needed its help."

"Carrying out the execution would be the equivalent to the arbitrary depravation of life, and the United States would be in Violation of its obligations under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The ICCPR." States Alejandro Alday Legal Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico.

Also in attendance, Susana Guerra coming from Guanajuato Mexico to wait for the execution's results. She proclaims, "We are deeply sorrowed after this result and by the execution of Ruben ... When it comes to the family, the mother, we will try our best to support her. She is sick and frail. But we will be there for whatever she needs."

Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005. Despite the execution, efforts are underway to prove Cardenas' innocence.



Psychiatrist testifies convicted murderer Hudson has personality disorder

A Brazos County jury heard from experts that William Hudson suffers from mixed personality disorder, alcoholism and narcissism. The defense rested Monday in the punishment phase of Hudson's murder trial. The jury will decide if he gets life in prison or the death penalty.

Hudson was convicted last week for 2 of the 6 murders at a campground in East Texas. The victims ranged in age from 6 to nearly 77-years-old.

The jury heard from psychiatrist David Self. He said Hudson can have his personality issues managed but he can't be cured.

The defense also called Antoinette McGarrahan. She is a Forensic Psychologist. She told the jury she spent 14 hour with Hudson completing I.Q. and other tests. She believes he had average intelligence at one time but has fallen 10-15 points after repeated injury to his brain. On one test his intelligence score was 72. She talked about several cars accidents he was in including a roll over where he didn't have a seat belt on. She said damage to his frontal lobes can contribute to things including poor judgment, decision making, planning, aggression and lack of insight.

The court also heard more about what serving life in Texas prisons can look like. Hudson's defense attorneys called Lane Herklotz to testify. He is a retired TDCJ employee who worked for the state prison system for more than 25 years. He described how inmates are classified when they are transferred into prison custody.

Many of in the court were surprised to learn that, despite the fact Hudson is accused of murdering six people, that isn't taken into account when they classify him in the system. TDCJ has five levels, Herklotz told the court, capital murder inmates serving life usually have a roommate or on occasion live in a dormitory. He also speculated Hudson would be considered minimum to medium custody, a level G-3 or G-4. He also couldn't rule out Hudson might be allowed outside the prison walls under armed supervision if he's serving life. Hudson could also potentially request being able to leave the prison to attend a family funeral depending on his conduct in prison. Herklotz said being on death row would be more secure with more restrictions.

The state talked about Hudson's mental state and confirmed with witnesses that Hudson is not faking any illness and his intelligence is not so low that he'd be considered mentally impaired. Daniel Altman, a Forensic Psychologist also testified Hudson has below average intelligence. He said Hudson scored a 79 which is below average. He also tested to see if Hudson was faking mental illness and Hudson did not. Lisa Tanner with the AG's Office says nobody had made a claim Hudson had been faking mental illness.

The state will begin calling rebuttal witnesses next.

The trial resumes Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

(source: KBTX TV news)


After more than 40 years of searching, Alice police on Monday announced they had arrested the man they believe is responsible for killing one of their own.

Alice Police Chief Rex Ramon made the announcement during a news conference at the Alice Public Safety Training Center. Police said they had arrested 70-year-old Roberto Lopez in connection with the Dec. 1, 1974 murder of Alice Police Officer Matthew Murphy, who was killed following a traffic stop near the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and West Main Street.

"This is a long time coming," said Ramon, who first started working at the Alice Police Department in 1988. "I never forgot watching Matt Murphy's plaque at the (police department) and wondering, 'When? When?' and it came true."

"This is only the beginning."

Murphy's former fellow officers attended the news conference, along with city and county officials.

Alice police identified Lopez - an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama - as a suspect Murphy's death in an Oct. 24 affidavit filed by Sgt. Aniceto Perez Jr.

The press conference was meant to publicly announce the department's execution of an arrest warrant on Lopez, who is still being held in Alabama while serving a life sentence without parole for another crime.

According to the affidavit, Lopez reportedly bragged while in prison about shooting and killing a "narc" named "Murphy" with a .22-caliber pistol. Murphy was an undercover narcotics agent who had been put back on patrol at the time of his death. He was shot several times and later died at a nearby hospital.

Kenneth Helms, 70, remembered rolling up on the scene just after Murphy was shot. He was a detective at the time of Murphy's death. It's been 43 years since that fateful day, but Helms became emotional remembering how his fellow officer lay dying in the street from his wounds. He said Murphy actually died in the road, but Helms refused to allow him to stay there to become part of a crime scene.

Helms is now in a wheelchair, limited physically in what he can do, but the desire to see justice for his friend is still as strong as it ever was.

"I went up to him ... and he was trying to say something, but he (Murphy) expired on me," Helms said. "I wasn't going to let him lay there like a dead dog. I said 'He's got a pulse - get him out of here, get him to the hospital.'"

"Sure, you can say he died at the hospital, but he died at the scene," Helms said, his chin quivering with emotion as tears welled in his eyes.

70--year-old Henry Garza, his gray hair and goatee neatly trimmed underneath a U.S. Air Force cap, resigned from the Alice Police Department shortly after Murphy's death to work at a telecommunications company until his recent retirement. He said he left the department after growing frustrated with its handling of the investigation into Murphy's murder.

"It's something that you don't forget," Garza said of his fellow office's death.

According to the affidavit filed on Oct. 24, a lot of the information used to gain the arrest warrant for Lopez was obtained in the early 1980s. Additional information was obtained in during the early 1990s.

For instance, in 1982, an informant sent a letter to the Jim Wells County District Attorney's Office claiming to have information about a man - who later turned out to be Lopez - bragging in prison about killing a "narc" named "Murphy."

The following year, that same informant sent a letter claiming to have information about where the alleged murder weapon was disposed, though the location was not specified at the time. That information was verified in 1994 after follow-up interviews with the informant, along with additional witnesses, one of whom identified Lopez as Murphy's shooter, according to the affidavit.

Lopez reportedly admitted to investigators previously he used to sell narcotics in Alice.

When asked what the difference was between why Lopez was picked up now and not then, Ramon said there wasn't really a clear answer to that question.

"Of course, different officers, different chiefs of police, different (district attorney)," he said. "It's a very hard question to answer because a determination was made. What's the difference between now and then? I guess we're just different people."

Carlos Omar Garcia, the District Attorney for Jim Wells and Brooks counties, on Monday said Lopez's case will be presented to a grand jury at a later date for possible indictment. Police have charged Garcia with capital murder, which is punishable by the death penalty, but he must first be indicted to see if there is enough evidence to allow the case to move to trial.

If an indictment is issued, Garcia said that would begin the process of having Lopez extradited to Texas to stand trial. There was no timetable on when the case would be presented to the grand jury.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

FLORIDA----female to face death penalty

Woman charged in Wellington clown murder case waives speedy trial

After 27 years, a judge agreed Monday that a few more weeks won't make a difference in the "killer clown" murder trial of Sheila Keen-Warren.

Keen-Warren, 54, arrested in September at her home in Virginia, is accused of dressing as a clown and murdering 40-year-old Marlene Warren in Warren's Wellington Aero Club home in 1990.

In court Monday, defense attorney Richard Lubin waived Keen-Warren's right to a speedy trial and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer set the next status hearing for Jan. 23.

Feuer retained Keen-Warren's "no bond" status.

The judge also agreed to a request by Lubin that Keen-Warren need not be present at status hearings.

Lubin has said Keen-Warren will plead not guilty .

In Monday's hearing, which lasted about 2 minutes, Lubin told the judge he recently had received a voluminous batch of documents, both electronically and on paper, from prosecutors, as part of the trial's "discovery," and wanted time to digest them.

"Murder cases in general are very complicated. This one is even more complicated and compounded by the age of the case," Lubin told reporters later. "We just decided to reset it for 60 days and see where we stand. It's going to take a while. But we're not going to dawdle."

Lubin also would not reveal the contests of a lengthy conversation he had right after the hearing with Keen-Warren, sitting in the jury box with other criminal defendants, all clad in blue jail jumpsuits.

Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty. It's been at least 2 decades since a jury imposed a death sentence in state court in Palm Beach County.

Detectives on the cold-case unit at the sheriff's office had said a new DNA analysis finally got them an arrest warrant for the woman they'd suspected in Warren's murder for decades.

In the initial investigation, deputies were told Keen-Warren was having an affair with Michael Warren. 12 years after the murder, Keen-Warren and Warren were married in Las Vegas 12 years after the slaying.

Authorities would not say whether they're investigating Michael Warren or if he may face charges in the fatal shooting.

Marlene Warren reportedly told her family that she wanted to leave her husband but that it was complicated because the businesses they ran together - several properties and a used car dealership - were under her name. Her family told The Palm Beach Post in 2000 that she warned them if anything happened to her, her husband had something to do with it.



Woman accused in killer clown case waives right to speedy trial

It took more 27 years for authorities to make an arrest in South Florida's killer clown case. There won't be a rush for a trial either.

Through her attorney, Sheila Keen Warren on Monday waived her right to a speedy trial on a 1st-degree murder charge. She also will be excused from attending any more routine court hearings.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 54-year-old woman accused of wearing a clown disguise during the May 26, 1990, slaying of Marlene Warren, 40, in Wellington.

The shooting victim and Keen Warren share the same last name yet were not related. But Warren's husband, Michael, is now married to Keen Warren. He was not in court Monday.

Defense attorney Richard Lubin told Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer that his client does not use Keen in her name, although that is how it appears in court records.

Sheila Warren has pleaded not guilty and is being held at Palm Beach County Jail without bond.

Wearing blue jail scrubs, and long golden hair partially obscuring her face, Warren didn't speak during Monday's brief hearing.

The next court hearing will be a case status check between the judge and the attorneys on Jan. 23.

Defense attorney Richard Lubin said prosecutors just days ago handed over the 1st batch of evidence in the case, which he called "complicated" because it's so old.

"I don't really know anything about the case yet," Lubin told the judge.

Detectives say Marlene Warren answered the door to her home in the Aero Club community to accept a bouquet and 2 balloons from a clown wearing an orange wig, a red bulb nose, gloves and a smile painted on its white face.

Immediately, the clown fired at Warren's face. She died within 2 days.

The clown fled in a white Chrysler LeBaron, which was found 4 days later abandoned at a shopping center parking lot. Sheila Keen and Michael Warren were originally identified as persons of interest but neither was charged at the time.

Keen, then 27, had been working for Warren's used car dealership, Bargain Motors Inc. of West Palm Beach, helping to repossess cars.

The case went cold until 2014, when Palm Beach County detectives took a fresh look at DNA evidence. They also learned the Warrens married in Las Vegas in 2002.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and State Attorney Dave Aronberg have told reporters that Sheila Warren's Sept. 26 arrest in southwest Virginia resulted from a DNA link and recent witness interviews.

They did not offer any specifics about the evidence, and there is no arrest report filed in the case that outlines what led to the charge.

After the killing, detectives told reporters that a search of Keen's home yielded fibers from a bright orange wig. And similar fibers were found in the getaway car.

Sheila & Michael Warren's life in Abingdon Virginia

For the past 15 years, the Warrens lived in small, historic Abingdon, Va., within the Blue Ridge Mountains.

They had a reputation as a hardworking, sociable couple who until last year operated a popular fast-food restaurant in nearby Kingsport, Tenn.

After news of Sheila Warren's arrest made national headlines, their neighbors and customers have said they were unaware of their past alleged ties to one of South Florida's high-profile murders.



Despite lost evidence, no mistrial declared in quadruple murder

The penalty phase trial for James Edward Bannister, convicted last week in the deaths of 2 women and 2 children in 2011, began Monday.

The penalty phase trial of an Ocala man convicted of shooting and killing 2 women and 2 children in August 2011 continued as planned after a 3-hour aside about a missing piece of evidence.

After opening statements Monday, 5th Judicial Circuit Judge Willard Pope announced that a printed version of defendant James Edward Bannister's phone records - more than 100 pages of calls and text messages - could not be found. The phone records were placed into evidence to support the state's claim that Bannister lured 1 of the victims, via text messages, to her death and that he was in the area of the crime scene during the murders, instead of at home where he claimed to be.

Bannister, 37, was found guilty Wednesday of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of arson in the Aug. 5, 2011, deaths of CorDerica Hill, 6, CorDarrian Hill, 8, Jocalyn Gray, 27, and Bridget Gray, 52. Jocalyn Gray was Bannister's girlfriend at the time. Bridget Gray was Jocalyn Gray's mother. The Hill children lived with Bridget Gray, who was dating their father, Willie Hill.

Defense attorney Terry Lenamon immediately moved for a mistrial after Pope's announcement early Monday.

"The issue is whether the jury received all the evidence," he said.

Assistant State Attorney Robin Arnold said the CD containing the phone records was still in evidence so the records could be reprinted, but Lenamon was not satisifed by the argument.

Pope told attorneys one juror was seen leaving the jury room with a bag, which he usually carries. Shortly after, the piece of evidence was unaccounted for. The Clerk of Court's office called the juror at home and asked him about the piece of evidence. He said he didn't have it.

Arnold said she was contacted by the office and asked if she had the evidence, but said she didn't. And she "quite frankly forgot" about the correspondence. The defense claimed they were not aware of the missing evidence until Pope brought it up.

"Whatever verdict they come back with, there will be a motion for new trial," Lenamon said. "At the end of the day it will be a waste of judicial resources" to continue the trial."

Pope gave each side an hour to research case law to support their arguments. Once court reconvened, each juror was individually questioned. All said the contacted juror asked them if anyone else had received a call, but they hadn't. The only other discussion, they claim, was wondering what could have happened to the evidence.

Although the specifics of the evidence - jurors only new it was phone records - weren't revealed, many said they remembered placing it back in the evidence box after deliberations. At least 3 separate phone record packets were entered into evidence for the jury to consider.

"This is not a harmless error judge," Lenamon said. "This is a death penalty case."

Lenamon said there is no way to prove the jury reviewed the evidence.

Pope, when denying the motion, said the jurors asked several questions about evidence during deliberation. There was no question about the phone records.

The trial then continued as planned.

Arnold called 2 witnesses to the stand to read victim impact statements. She also submitted an armed robbery certified conviction from Maryland.

"There's not a minute of every day that someone or something doesn't remind me of those kids," the Hill children’s uncle, Raymond King, read from a prepared statement.

He remembered once making fun of CorDarrian for falling backwards off a step onto his backpack like a turtle. King said he thought he would be able to tease CorDarrian about the fall for a long time to come.

And he said CorDerica would have to be bribed with ice cream to go to school.

"Hearing my aunt (Bridget Gray) laugh can never be replaced," Bridget Gray's niece Tarkyshia Wade read from a statement. "Seeing (Jocalyn Gray's) smile from ear to ear is not the same in a photograph."

Defense attorney Tania Alavi began the defense's argument by presenting testimony of Bannister's 5 siblings. Each described a terrible childhood full of abuse and lacking love. Bannister's father physically abused his mother to the point of once causing a miscarriage. And the children were the subject of racial slurs and prejudice at the hand of their relatives - all white.

Bannister's older sister said she once came home to find her uncles had stripped her black dolls, ripped their heads off and hung them up by their feet. The children were also called whatever racial slur the family could think of. She dropped out of school at 15 to take care of her younger siblings because her mother was addicted to crack cocaine and often left for weeks at a time.

Bannister's youngest sister said for a while she thought her oldest sister was actually her mother because she was the primary caregiver.

Each sibling described Bannister as loving, someone who wanted to always get the family together to hang out. And he loved his nieces and nephews.

He would write his younger siblings, whom he hadn't really lived with before, from prison in Maryland.

"It was us against everybody else," one said.

Alavi asked each sibling at the end of their testimony if they loved Bannister and if they would continue to visit him in prison. They all answered yes to both questions.

The defense will continue presenting witnesses Tuesday morning. Evidence of multi-generational trauma, traumatic brain injury and Bannister's PTSD diagnosis will be topics of discussion.

At the end of the penalty phase, the jury will decide whether Bannister is sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A vote for the death sentence must be unanimous.

Bannister is 1 of 7 Marion County defendants facing the death penalty.



If Alabama Executes Vernon Madison, Bill Clinton Will Share the Blame

Vernon Madison has been on Alabama's death row for 32 years. Now 67, he suffers from severe vascular dementia and retrograde amnesia as a result of a series of strokes. Testing revealed that he has a borderline IQ of 72 and a working memory score (which measures attention and concentration) of 58, indicating major impairment. He is legally blind. His speech is slurred. He cannot walk independently. And he is incontinent. The cumulative effect of his disabilities has left him with no recollection of the crime that sent him to prison.

Any day now, the state of Alabama - home of such stalwarts of righteousness as Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice and current Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore - will set an execution date for Madison. If the state succeeds in putting him to death, several parties will share the blame. They will include not only Madison himself, but a system of capital punishment that is cruel, irrational and racist.

Also sharing the blame will be the 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, whose legislative accomplishments include the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, which the Supreme Court relied on earlier this month when it ruled adversely on the latest appeal in Madison's case.

How Madison came to this point is emblematic of much that is wrong with capital punishment. In September 1985, a jury convicted him of capital murder in the death of a Mobile, Ala., police officer. Madison had been charged with shooting the officer in the back of the head during an investigation into a report of a missing child and a domestic dispute between Madison and his girlfriend.

Madison is black. The officer was white.

In 1987, the Alabama Court of Appeals reversed Madison's conviction because the local district attorney had engaged in racially discriminatory jury selection.

Madison was retried in 1990. At his 2nd trial, he didn't deny shooting the officer, but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was convicted again, and once more, the state appellate court reversed, holding that the DA had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by eliciting improper expert testimony about Madison's mental state.

Madison was convicted a 3rd time of capital murder following a jury trial in April 1994. During the penalty phase of the proceedings, evidence was introduced showing that Madison suffered from a mental illness, marked by paranoid delusions, dating to his teenage years. After hearing testimony from both prosecution and defense psychiatrists, who disagreed about the severity of his condition, the jury voted to sentence Madison to life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than death.

The trial judge, however, countermanded the jury's recommendation and imposed another death verdict. At the time, Alabama was 1 of only 4 states (the others were Indiana, Delaware and Florida) that permitted such "judicial overrides." According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the Montgomery, Ala., nonprofit that currently represents Madison, the judge (who died in 2011) overrode a total of 6 life verdicts during his tenure on the bench, the most of any Alabama jurist.

Madison appealed his death sentence unsuccessfully in the Alabama court system, and in 1998, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case. From there, Madison followed the path of many other condemned inmates, filing petitions for writs of habeas corpus in both state and federal courts. The petitions succeeded in delaying the case, but on March 3, 2016, the Supreme Court of Alabama ordered that Madison be put to death by lethal injection.

Before Madison was slated to die, however, the EJI convinced a Mobile County Circuit Court judge to hold a hearing to determine whether Madison was sufficiently competent to be executed.

As interpreted by a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of "one whose mental illness prevents him from comprehending the reasons for the penalty or its implications." In recent years, the court also has barred the execution of intellectually disabled persons. Such executions, the court has reasoned, serve no legitimate penological purpose, whether by way of retribution or deterrence.

But despite ample evidence of Madison's cognitive and memory deficits, the county court judge found him competent. In his order, the judge even failed to mention Madison's diagnosis of dementia.

Running out of time and options, the EJI lodged a habeas corpus petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Prior to the passage of the AEDPA, the EJI might have expected a relatively easy victory based on a violation of Madison’s constitutional rights regarding his competency for execution.

But as 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski has written, the AEDPA "has pretty much shut out the federal courts from granting habeas relief in most cases, even when they believe that an egregious miscarriage of justice has occurred. We now regularly have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted. AEDPA is a cruel, unjust and unnecessary law that effectively removes federal judges as safeguards."

In order to succeed on a habeas corpus petition filed in federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court ruling he contests "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or else was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented." Further, a petitioner has to show that the state court's decision was "so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement."

As investigative journalist Liliana Segura wrote persuasively in a 2016 article for The Intercept, Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law as part of a deliberate policy of presenting himself as tough on crime following GOP victories in the 1994 midterm elections. Based on an examination of a trove White House memos released from the Clinton Digital Library in 2014, Segura argued that the adverse effects the AEDPA and other criminal justice reforms of the era would have on poor and minority defendants and prison inmates were not "unintended consequences," as Bill and Hillary maintained during the 2016 presidential campaign, but were entirely foreseeable.

Still, the EJI managed to convince two members of the 3-judge 11th Circuit panel that heard oral argument on Madison's case that the state court's competency decision satisfied the stringent standards of the AEDPA. Accordingly, the 2 judges in the majority found Madison incompetent to be executed.

That was not so for the Supreme Court.

In a unanimous, 8-page, unsigned per curiam ("by the court") decision issued Nov. 6, the high tribunal held that Madison's claims were foreclosed by the AEDPA. The court reversed the 11th Circuit's judgment and sent the case back to Alabama, which now has the authority to set a new execution date.

In the meantime, Madison remains on death row, awaiting news of his appointment in the injection chamber, unable to recall the night he shot a police officer more than 3 decades ago.

To add further injustice to Madison's regrettable story, there are no longer any states that permit judges to override jury verdicts that call for life sentences rather than death in capital cases. Indiana abolished the practice in 2002, and Delaware and Florida followed suit in 2016 after the Supreme Court invalidated Florida's capital punishment scheme for giving too much power to judges over sentencing.

Alabama was the last to fall in line, passing a new statute in April, outlawing judicial overrides. Unfortunately for Madison, the new law was not made retroactive to his case or that of 32 other condemned men in Alabama put on death row by trial judges who had nullified jury recommendations of life-without-parole sentences.

Although the number of executions in the United States has fallen in recent years, the U.S. remains among the world's leaders in capital punishment, along with the likes of Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Somalia, Iran and Iraq. It's high time we put an end to the travesty.

There's no reason to believe Congress will act, but it could get the ball rolling by repealing the AEDPA. Vernon Madison may deserve to spend the rest of his days locked away, but he should not be put to death because of the rigid dictates of a criminal justice statute signed into law by a Democratic president as a matter of pure political expediency.



Court grants review

In Reeves v. Alabama, the justices declined to wade into the question of when an attorney's representation of a criminal defendant is so inadequate that it violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to have help from an attorney, and how courts should make that determination. In Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court outlined a standard for courts to use to decide whether an attorney was constitutionally ineffective: (1) the attorney's performance must be deficient; and (2) the defendant must have been prejudiced by that deficient performance - that is, he must show a reasonable probability that, if the attorney had not been deficient, the result would have been different.

In 1997, Matthew Reeves was on trial in Alabama for capital murder for the death of Willie Johnson in a robbery. Reeves contends that, although his court-appointed attorneys were aware that he could have an intellectual disability, and although the trial court had granted the attorneys' request for funds to pay for an expert to evaluate Reeves, his attorneys failed to hire any mental health professionals to do so; they also did not call any witnesses to testify about a possible intellectual disability. Instead, they presented testimony from a court-appointed expert who had conducted only a limited examination of Reeves, and with whom Reeves' attorneys had not spoken until the day she testified. Reeves was sentenced to death.

Reeves challenged his sentence, but the Alabama courts ruled against him on the ground that he had not called his trial attorneys to testify about their actions. That rule, Reeves told the Supreme Court, conflicts with the holdings of 5 federal courts of appeals and 1 state supreme court, which "recognize that reviewing courts must examine the record as a whole, even in the absence of direct testimony from trial counsel that purports to explain strategic trial decisions, to determine whether the defendant received constitutionally effective representation."

Today the Supreme Court turned down Reeves' petition. That order drew a sharp 14-page dissent (4 pages longer than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion on the merits last week in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago) from Sotomayor, joined by Ginsburg and Kagan - but not Justice Stephen Breyer, who has recently been most likely to object to the court's rulings against death-row inmates. Sotomayor began by emphasizing that there "can be no dispute" that a categorical rule requiring attorneys to testify in federal cases alleging ineffective assistance of counsel would be inconsistent with the Supreme Court's rulings "requiring an objective inquiry into the adequacy and reasonableness of" the attorney's performance "based on the full record before the court." Indeed, Sotomayor stressed, even "Alabama does not defend such a rule." Instead, she continued, the dispute in Reeves' case was whether the Alabama state court "in fact imposed such a rule."

Because Sotomayor believed that the state court "plainly did so," she would have sent the case back to the state court for it to "explain why, given the full factual record, Reeves' counsel's choices constituted reasonable performance." But instead, Sotomayor lamented, "the Court has cleared the way for Reeves' execution." And that, Sotomayor concluded, "is a result with which I cannot agree."

The justices' next conference is scheduled for November 21.


OHIO----impending execution

Man who killed teen during escape from custody to be put to death in Ohio Wednesday----Lawyers for condemned Franklin County killer Alva Campbell Jr. had argued he was too sick to be executed.

A man who shot a teenager after stealing his car during an escape from custody will be executed on Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

An effort to stop the execution of Alva Campbell Jr., 69, is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the execution goes forward as scheduled, Campbell would be the 3rd person executed this year, when the state ended a 3-year halt in executions after controversy over the prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire using a previously untested combination of lethal injection drugs.

Lower courts, the state Parole Board and Ohio Governor John Kasich have all rejected efforts by Campbell to be spared death for the 1997 killing of Charles Dials.

A federal judge in Dayton also rejected Campbell's request to be executed by firing squad, a request made because of concerns that Campbell may not have accessible veins suitable for the 3-drug lethal injection used by the state to execute prisoners, said David Stebbins, Campbell's federal public defender.

In court filings Stebbins has cited the condemned man's multiple health problems, which include issues with his veins, asthma, emphysema and an external colostomy bag.

"I anticipate they may have some difficulties," Stebbins said. "He cannot breathe if he has to lie flat. And the process takes some time, so they've arranged a wedge to sit him up at a 40-degree angle."

Stebbins said he was given a report by the warden that medical personnel were able to palpate Campbell's veins in his legs and arms in order to find 1 suitable for injection.

The state agreed to use the wedge-shaped pillow on the gurney, said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

"Mr. Campbell's medical condition and history are being assessed and considered in order to identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his execution," Smith said.

The parole board also rejected arguments that Campbell be spared because of violence he said he suffered as a child from his parents and then in foster care.

"He had as bad a childhood as I've encountered in 35 years of doing this work," Stebbins said. "It was significant for the level of violence inflicted on him by his parents."

The state parole board in an Oct. 20 report acknowledged Campbell's dysfunctional and traumatic childhood but said it needed to be weighed against the seriousness of his crimes, including a previous murder conviction.

"Those murders and other crimes committed by Campbell over the course of many years reflect a disturbing propensity to engage in extreme and senseless violence, a propensity that never abated despite multiple incarcerations and attempts by the state to rehabilitate him," according to the parole board's report.

The board voted 11 to 1 that he be denied clemency, and on Thursday Kasich denied Campbell's request for executive clemency.

Campbell was 1st convicted at age 19 in 1967 of shooting a state trooper, armed robbery and grand larceny. He was paroled in 1971 and then shot a man to death during a robbery in Cleveland in 1972. He received a life sentence for 1st- degree murder but was paroled after 20 years. In 1997 he was arrested again in Franklin County, this time for aggravated robbery.

He had been shot during the robbery and pretended to be paralyzed as he was driven by a Franklin County deputy from the Jackson Pike Jail for his arraignment at Franklin County Municipal Court. Campbell overpowered Deputy Teresa Harrison and took her gun as she attempted to help him out of her vehicle at the loading dock, according to a narrative from court records included in the Parole Board report.

Dials was at the court to pay a traffic ticket. He was driving away in his pickup truck when Campbell stopped him, pulled open the door, forced Dials to move over and drove off. Campbell later ordered Dials to get onto the floor board of his truck and then shot him twice.

Campbell was captured after stealing another car and attempting to kidnap 2 other people and then hiding in a tree, where authorities found him after a chase.

In a Sunday tweet, death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean called for people to contact Kasich to stop the execution. Ohioans to Stop Executions also oppose his execution.

The last person executed in Ohio was Gary Otte, 45, who killed 2 people in a Cleveland suburb in 1992 and was put to death on Sept. 13.

Child killer Ronald R. Phillips, 43, was executed on July 26 for the 1993 death of a 3-year-old girl he had raped and beaten.

By the numbers

53: Number of Ohio inmates executed between 1981 and March 2017.

85: Number of victims killed by those inmates.

43: Number of female victims.

19: Number of victims who were children.

45.73: Average age of inmates put to death.

19: Number of African-American inmates executed during that span.

25: Number of victims who were African-American.

34: Number of executed inmates who were Caucasian.

56: Number of victims who were Caucasian.

53: Number of Males.

0: Number of Females.

16.63: Average number of years on death row prior to execution.

[source: Ohio Attorney General's office]

Note: Data does not include Gary Otte, 45, executed in September, and Ronald R. Phillips, 43, executed in July.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


Inmate will get pillow to help him breathe during execution

Ohio will provide a wedge-shaped pillow to help a condemned inmate breathe as he's being executed this week, among other accommodations the state is considering.

Death row prisoner Alva Campbell, who has said he is too ill for lethal injection, became mildly agitated when officials tried lowering him to a normal execution position, according to a medical review by a physician contractor for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Dr. James McWeeney noted there were no objective findings such as increased pulse rate or breathing to corroborate Campbell's anxiety. Nevertheless, he recommended allowing Campbell to lie "in a semi-recumbent position" during the execution.

The same exam failed to find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of Campbell's arms.

Campbell, 69, has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder as the result of a decades-long 2-pack-a-day smoking habit, the doctor said.

The prisoner's attorneys say he uses a walker, relies on a colostomy bag, requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer. They have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Wednesday's execution, because of his poor health, a motion opposed by the state.

The attorneys have warned that Campbell's death could become a "spectacle" if guards are unable to find suitable veins in the sick inmate's arms.

Earlier this month Campbell lost a bid to be executed by firing squad after a federal judge questioned whether lawmakers would enact the bill needed to allow the method.

Prisons department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Monday that Campbell's "medical condition and history are being assessed and considered in order to identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his execution."

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien calls Campbell "the poster child for the death penalty."

Prosecutors say his health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed a teenager during a carjacking.

Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show.

Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked 18-year-old Charles Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.

Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, his attorneys have argued in court filings and before the Ohio Parole Board.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected mercy for Campbell last week.



The Pursuit of Torture

On Wednesday this week, Jeffrey Wogenstahl's fellow death row inmate, Alva Campbell, is set to die.

As a child, Alva Campbell was forced by his father to play games of torture. One was the electrical current game: all the children held hands with their father while he stuck his finger in an electrical socket and one of the children held a faucet to act as a ground; all felt the shock of the electricity flowing through them.

Constantly subjected to this and other abuse, torture would have been internalized as normal by Campbell. The state attempted to support him in later childhood, but by placing him in "dysfunctional and often dangerous environments" it instead added to his emotional instability.

Tragically, Campbell moved into adulthood still broken by his childhood experience of violence, danger, instability and torture. And in this broken condition he committed murder.[i]

On Wednesday, staff working for the state of Ohio will attempt to kill Campbell by injecting him with three drugs. His frailty could cause complications: during a rehearsal staff could not find a vein suitable for inserting an IV.[ii]

Even more problematic are 2 of the drugs, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride: Ohio had promised to stop using them for lethal injections, but then reinstated them, deftly avoiding litigation regarding their constitutionality. The function of the remaining drug, midazolam, is to mask the extreme pain caused by the other 2 drugs; yet credible experts have testified that midazolam is unsuitable for this purpose, and experience in other states confirms its inadequacy.[iii]

To minimize his potential torture, Campbell has asked to be killed by firing squad instead; his request has been refused.[iv]

Soon Campbell's life will have come full circle. Torture awaited him when he was born; torture accompanied him throughout childhood and beyond. And on Wednesday torture inflicted by the state will pursue him to his final moment of life.

It is time for "a civil, thoughtful conversation among the American people, legislatures, and the courts - on the meaning of the [Eighth] Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."[v]

[i] Minutes of the Parole Board meeting, Re Alva Campbell Jr., CCI #A354-963 on October 12, 2017.

[ii] New York Times, Andrew Welsh-Huggins (Associated Press), Doctor approves of ill inmate sitting up during execution, October 31 2017.

[iii] Dissent, Karen Nelson Moore, United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit, In Re Execution Protocol, No 17-3076, June 28 2017. For instance:

"There is significant evidence that the first drug, midazolam, cannot prevent someone from feeling [immense] pain." (page 16)

"[T]here no question that the State has publicly taken inconsistent positions, concealed facts from Plaintiffs to gain strategic advantage, and attempted at every turn to deny Plaintiffs an opportunity to try their constitutional claims ... The majority has ensured that the State will be rewarded [for such behaviour]". (page 40)

[iv] New York Daily News, Elizabeth Elizalde, "Death row inmate wants execution by firing squad, not lethal injection because he has weak veins", November 7, 2017.

[v] Dissent, Jane B. Stranch, United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit, In Re Execution Protocol, No 17-3076, June 28 2017, page 42.



Ohio Man Could Face Death Penalty in Slaying of 1-Year-Old: Prosecutor

An Ohio man who was captured in Pennsylvania could get the death penalty for the slaying of his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter.

Joshua Gurto, 37, is being accused in the death of Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, as reported by The Associated Press. He was indicted several days ago.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said Thursday that Joshua Gurto said that he could face the death penalty if he's convicted of aggravated murder in the Oct. 7 death. He faces other charges including felonious assault, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

Gurto was arrested Oct. 27 in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, after he was spotted in a convenience store.

A coroner said Seriniti died from blunt force trauma to her head and body. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital near Cleveland.

Gurto was taken to the Ashtabula County Jail on Thursday from Allegheny County, the prosecutor said.

Prior to his capture, he had spent e weeks on the run.

It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Gurto's arraignment will take place in "the near future," the prosecutor's office said, according to the Daily Mail.

Gurto was dating Sereniti's mother, Kelsie, when her baby daughter died.

She's not facing any charges.

(source: The Epoch Times)


Attorney change delays re-sentencing for convicted serial killer

New counsel was named Monday for a convicted serial murderer hoping to get a 2nd chance at life in prison without parole instead of death row.

The last-minute change in lawyers for Anthony Kirkland means his re-sentencing hearing will now be delayed several months.

In a surprise move the day jury selection was to begin, his attorneys announced in court last week they wanted off the case.

They said they didn't feel they could represent Kirkland, 49, after learning he was talking to an attorney for the State Public Defender's Office.

The judge agreed to let them off the case and delayed further court proceedings until Monday.

Kirkland was convicted in 2010 of killing 2 women and 2 teenage girls.

The jury recommended the death penalty, and the judge concurred.

But last year, the Ohio State Supreme Court ordered a re-sentencing hearing.

They said prosecutors may have been prejudicial in their closing arguments.

That means the man who sexually assaulted, strangled and then burned the bodies of 3 of his victims could get a lighter sentence.

He could be allowed to live out his days in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kirkland was convicted after a jury trial of murder in the 2006 death of 14-year-old Casonya Crawford and 2009 slaying of 13-year-old Esme Kenney.

He was arrested the day he killed Esme when she went jogging near the Winton Road reservoir.

Before the trial began, he pleaded guilty to killing 2 women, 45-year-old Mary Jo Newton and 25-year-old Kimya Rolison.

Once the jury is set for the re-sentencing, testimony must occur all over again, putting the families through the anguish of reliving the grisly slayings.

(source: WXIX news)


Missouri judge faces rare chance to impose death penalty

A southwest Missouri jury's inability to decide whether a man should be put to death for kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl sets up a rare situation where a judge will make that decision.

Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy is scheduled to announce Jan. 11 whether Craig Wood will get the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. Wood was convicted of kidnapping and killing Hailey Owen in Springfield in February 2014 but the jury announced Monday that it couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on his sentence.

Missouri and Indiana are the only states where a judge can impose a death sentence, while other states follow the federal procedure that a defendant is sentenced to life in prison if a jury can't reach a decision on the death penalty. But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury, not a judge, can make that decision.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said a judge-imposed sentence might contradict the Supreme Court ruling. He said if Mountjoy imposes the death penalty, the constitutionality of the process will "unquestionably" be challenged by Wood's attorneys during the appeal process.

But Wood's attorney Patrick Berrigan declined to comment on his legal strategy.

Berrigan, a public defender who handles only death penalty cases, said it's been more than 20 years since he had a case where a judge imposed the death sentence.

Judge Mountjoy did not respond to requests asking if he has ever been in this situation before.

Dunham said Missouri jurors have not imposed a death sentence since 2013, but the state's hung jury procedure allowed judges to sentence a few men to death row in recent years. He did not have statistics on how many times that has happened in Missouri.

"It raises very serious questions about circumventing the will of the public," Dunham said. "Especially in a state where no jury has sentenced anyone to death for 5 years."

(source: Missouri Lawyers Weekly)


State follows voters' wishes with death penalty plans

The Ricketts administration is keeping the faith with Nebraska voters who in 2016 strongly supported reviving the death penalty.

The Department of Correctional Services announced Thursday that it plans to use a new combination of 4 drugs to carry out the next execution. The previous, 3-drug protocol was replaced because the state could not legally obtain the drugs.

Jose Sandoval, considered the ring leader of the 2002 Norfolk bank robbery murders, would be the 1st person executed using these drugs: diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.

The state's next step is for Attorney General Doug Peterson to request a death warrant.

It's been a while. Nebraska last carried out the death penalty in 1997, when it executed murderer and rapist Robert E. Williams.

Some members of the Legislature highlighted the delays in carrying out the death penalty as a key reason for repealing it in 2015. They had watched the state struggle to obtain the necessary drugs for lethal injection, and the courts had already outlawed using Nebraska's previous method, the electric chair.

A referendum revived capital punishment. Now voters frustrated with the pace of the state's latest implementation of the death penalty will need to practice patience. This new drug protocol, like others before it, will face legal challenges. The appeals process exists to reduce the likelihood of an innocent person being executed.

Death penalty opponents say they plan to question the unproven protocol, although that might be an uphill legal battle. Opponents also continue to appeal the legality of involving a 3-judge panel in Nebraska's sentencing process for capital cases.

The incremental nature of the process was to be expected. The wheels of justice typically turn slowly in capital cases.

But they are turning again, as sought by 61 % of the Nebraskans who voted to restore the death penalty.

(source: Editorial, Omaha World-Herald)


Opponents of death penalty weighing options to block state execution

Opponents of the death penalty are weighing their options now that the state has announced steps toward the 1st execution in Nebraska in 20 years.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad says it's interesting the Department of Correctional Services proposes a 4-drug lethal injection protocol to execute Jose Sandoval.

"At first blush, it definitely appears that this is a novel approach taken by the state of Nebraska and out of step with practices in other states," ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad tells Nebraska Radio Network.

States have traditionally used a 3-drug protocol for lethal injections, though some have moved to a 1-drug protocol.

Nebraska state law requires the department to give the condemned inmate at least 60 days' notice before the Attorney General requests an execution date from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Corrections officials say the state has secured diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride; the drugs needed for lethal injection.

Sandoval received a death sentence after being convicted on 5 counts of 1st-degree murder for the deaths of 5 people in the Norfolk bank robbery in September of 2002. Prosecutors say Sandoval led a group of 4 men who attempted to rob the bank. He shot and killed 3 of the victims.

Nebraska held its last execution in 1997.

Conrad says the ACLU is reviewing the protocol and is consulting with capital punishment experts.

"And a lot of people are really scratching their heads over this very disappointing and strange approach," according to Conrad.



Why Nevada's new lethal injection is unethical

Nevada has temporarily called off its 1st inmate execution in 11 years. Scott Dozier, sentenced for the 2002 murder of his 22-year-old drug associate, Jeremiah Miller, was to be put to death on Nov. 14. Dozier instructed his lawyer in August not to file any more appeals.

On Thursday, Nov. 9, however, Judge Jennifer Togliatti temporarily postponed the execution. Judge Togliatti said she was "loath to stop" Dozier's execution, but she did so because she was concerned about the untested and controversial drug protocol that would be used to put him to death. She wanted to give the state Supreme Court a chance to evaluate.

From my perspective as a scholar of capital punishment, Nevada's new drug protocol sheds a glaring light on the troubled state of lethal injections in the United States. It also raises some serious ethical questions.

The 1st lethal injection protocol was developed by Oklahoma's medical examiner, Jay Chapman, in the late 1970s. Back then, Oklahoma was looking for an alternative to electrocution, which was considered inhuman and brutal.

The protocol Chapman developed called for the use of 3 drugs: The 1st, sodium thiopental, would anesthetize inmates and put them to sleep before the lethal drugs were administered. The 2nd drug, pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, was meant to render the inmate unable to show pain. The 3rd drug, potassium chloride, led to a cardiac arrest and eventual death. This protocol soon became the standard and was adopted by all death penalty states - now numbering at 31.

However, by the start of this decade, pharmaceutical companies, "citing either moral or business reasons," refused to allow their products to be used in executions.

The difficulty of securing the drugs that had been part of the standard protocol led death penalty states to experiment with many different drugs in many different combinations.

States likes Alabama and Arkansas, for example, maintained the 3-drug protocol but replaced sodium thiopental in the standard drug cocktail with midazolam or pentobarbital, which doctors normally use as sedatives or for anesthesia. Other states, including Arizona and Ohio, started using a 2-drug protocol, while a few, such as Georgia, Missouri and South Dakota, adopted a single drug.

Nevada's new protocol involves a 3-drug combination - the sedative diazepam (better known as Valium), the muscle relaxant and paralytic cisatracurium and the opioid fentanyl.

My research on methods of execution reveals that this combination of drugs has never been used in an execution.

Execution by a lethal injection, even when it follows the standard protocol, is a surprisingly complicated procedure. Finding usable veins and getting the drug dosages right has proved to be particularly difficult. As I found out, it has often been an unreliable method of execution. Since its introduction, 7 % of all lethal injections have been botched.

Those complications and difficulties increase when states try out new, untested drugs or drug combinations. Convicts have taken a leading role in opposing such experimentation. In February 2017, a death row inmate in Alabama appealed to the United States Supreme Court saying that he preferred death by firing squad to an injection of midazolam. While it recognized lethal injection's history of problems, the majority held that since Alabama did not offer the firing squad as an execution method, his preference could not be honored. In a dissenting view, however, Justice Sonya Sotomayor called the use of new drugs in lethal injection the "most cruel experiment yet."

Nevada's Dozier too has said that he is opposed to "the state's plan to kill him using a drug protocol that has never been used in an execution."

There are other troubling issues as well. Using fentanyl, a drug that is killing thousands of Americans annually during the current opioid crisis, is horrifying, to say the least.

In addition, figuring out the right dosage of diazepam and fentanyl in Nevada's new protocol will not be easy. And if this is not done correctly, Dozier could even wake up in the middle of the execution, as Susi Vassallo, a New York University professor of emergency medicine, has written on lethal injection notes. In the words of Judge Togliatti, he could be "aware of pain" and struggle to breathe.

Employing the powerful paralytic cisatracurium in this new drug protocol raises other ethical concerns.

If the combination of diazepam and fentanyl fails to work, cisatracurium will prevent Dozier from signaling to his executioners that they are botching the execution even as it happens. As David Waisel, an anesthesiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, claimed, "Cisatracurium can hide signs of inadequate anesthesia." That is its only purpose.

In other lethal injection protocols, the muscle relaxant was also designed to stop the heart. Thus, those who conduct the execution and those who witness it will not be able to see the visible signs of Dozier's suffering if it occurs.

In my view, if Nevada and other death penalty states insist on experimenting with new drugs to keep the machinery of death running, citizens and government officials alike need to take responsibility to prevent any cruelty.

Writing about the use of the guillotine in France more than half a century ago, Albert Camus, philosopher, author and journalist, said,

"Society must display the executioner's hands on each occasion, and require the most squeamish citizens to look at them, as well as those who, directly or remotely, have supported the work of those hands from the first."

While lethal injection is different from the guillotine, in modern times the imperative remains the same.

(source: Austin Sarat, Amherst College, The Conversation)


After saying he opposes death penalty, governor hopeful Sisolak now says it would be appropriate in extreme cases

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak is walking back a previous statement opposing the death penalty, saying he believes capital punishment would still be appropriate in "very extreme" cases such as that of Las Vegas mass shooting suspect Stephen Paddock.

Sisolak, a Clark County Commissioner and devout Catholic, staked out a strong stance against executions in an interview with The Nevada Independent last week.

"I'm opposed to capital punishment," he said. "One, there's a cost factor associated with it that's significant. Two, I think there have been cases where it was proven that the wrong person was executed, and 3, that I don't think that I should play God in terms of determining who dies and who lives."

But on Monday, his campaign sought to clarify that while Sisolak stands by his quote, he thinks capital punishment might be warranted in certain cases such as that of Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured more than 500 on the Las Vegas Strip last month. The Paddock case is moot because the shooter killed himself.

The campaign did not clarify what would constitute a "very extreme" case and whether the defendant in a forthcoming execution would fit under that category, and Sisolak himself didn't immediately respond to the question of how he would define death penalty-worthy cases.

Debate about capital punishment has reemerged as Nevada prepares to carry out the death penalty for the first time in 11 years. The execution of Scott Dozier, a former methamphetamine dealer who has been convicted of murdering 2 drug associates and is now volunteering to die, is on hold pending an order of the Nevada Supreme Court about a never-before-used lethal injection cocktail.

Governors play an outsized role in the death penalty in Nevada. They can put a temporary hold on an execution, and as part of the Board of Pardons Commissioners, hold the deciding vote on whether someone's sentence can be reduced from death to life without parole and can decide whether the board should even consider such a request.

The governor can also veto bills seeking to abolish the death penalty and the future governor's position can determine Nevada's very status as a death penalty state. Democratic lawmakers who supported a death penalty abolition bill this spring abandoned their push after Gov. Brian Sandoval signaled he was opposed to it.

The death penalty bill was not brought up for any votes in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. Notably, the threat of a veto did not prevent Democrats from passing other bills that Sandoval opposed out of the Legislature and sending it to his desk, where he fulfilled the threat.

A poll conducted by The Nevada Independent in January found 66 % of voters support the death penalty.

Sisolak's position to retain the death penalty as an option puts him in line with 3 other Republicans contenders in the governor's race - Adam Laxalt, Dan Schwartz and Jared Fisher. His Democratic primary opponent, Chris Giunchigliani, opposes the death penalty.

Nevada is 1 of 31 states with the death penalty. It has executed 12 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: The Nevada Independent)


CLU To Deliver Death Penalty Petition Today

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada will deliver a petition to Governor Brian Sandoval, asking him to help prevent the use of an untested combination of lethal drugs to execute convicted killer Scott Dozier.

The Nevada Independent reports that the petition is part of a strategy to keep Dozier from being executed, despite the fact that Dozier himself has asked the state to carry out the execution.

The execution has been delayed over concerns about the drug combination scheduled to be used, and as of now, the delay hangs on an order from the Nevada Supreme Court, which has not given a date for its decision.

(source: KNPR news)


Mom's boyfriend 'liked torturing' Gabriel Fernandez, 8, prosecutor says at murder trial

A prosecutor, summing up the case Monday against a Palmdale resident charged in the torture-murder of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, called the defendant an "evil" man who "liked torturing" the youngster.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami began his closing argument by showing a photo of Gabriel Fernandez' battered body lying on an autopsy table - covered in head-to-toe injuries - as evidence of defendant Isauro Aguirre's intent to kill the boy.

"You can't believe a person in our society would intentionally murder a child," Hatami said, comparing the abuse to that suffered by a prisoner of war.

"Believe it, because it happened. This was intentional murder by torture," he told the jury. "Do not go back in the jury room and make excuses for the defendant ... this had nothing to do with drugs ... this had nothing to do with mental health issues."

Aguirre, 37, who worked as a security guard, is charged with murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and his girlfriend, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, who will be tried separately for her son's May 2013 killing.

Hatami said Gabriel was systematically tortured for months.

"He was being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten ... he was belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out," Hatami said. "He was tied up every night in a box ... Gabriel was dying."

The prosecutor said Aguirre is one of a small group of people who are "just bad ... There is evil in this room, and it is right over there."

He painted a picture of Aguirre sleeping in a comfortable bed night after night while, in the same room, Gabriel was bound and gagged inside a small cabinet with a "sock in his mouth, a shoelace (tying) up his hands, a bandanna over his face" and his ankles handcuffed.

"To force a child to eat cat litter and cat feces, more than once, how does somebody do that?" Hatami asked.

After the 6 foot, 2 inch, 270-pound defendant allegedly punched and kicked Gabriel hard enough to dent the walls of the family's apartment and leave the 8-year-old unconscious, Aguirre and the boy's mother hid some of the child's bloody clothing and moved a picture to cover up one of the biggest indentations before calling 911, according to the prosecutor.

"There's no evidence that he was going to save Gabriel," Hatami said, telling jurors that the defenant lied to the 911 dispatcher and paramedics who arrived on the scene.

The defense was scheduled to present a closing argument this afternoon.

One of Aguirre's attorneys, John Alan, acknowledged during his opening statement last month that his client committed "unspeakable acts of abuse" against the boy before "exploding into a rage of anger." But the defense contends that Aguirre never meant to kill the child.

Hatami sought to undercut that claim, telling jurors in his summation of the case that Aguirre hated the boy. The couple only took him from his maternal grandparents so that they could collect welfare payments for his care, the prosecutor said.

"Gabriel was a gentler boy, a sweeter boy (than his brother) and the defendant hated him because of that ... he believed Gabriel was gay," Hatami said. "This stressful situation and rage thing is a lie ... because it's not supported by the evidence. The defendant actually liked torturing Gabriel. He got off on it ... he is a murderer and he is a torturer."

Hatami recalled testimony about a medical excuse to explain Gabriel's absence from school, which was allegedly forged by Aguirre and Fernandez. The prosecutor said that documentation, along with the couple later telling the school that the boy had moved to Texas, was evidence of their sophistication and premeditation.

He said text messages between the pair in the month the boy was beaten to death included 1 from Aguirre telling Fernandez: "stop giving him atencion (sic) ... "I told u I'll handle him." 2 days later, according to Hatami, Aguirre sent a text saying he was "looking at murder cases."

Hatami showed jurors an earlier picture of Gabriel, sitting next to his brother with a big smile on his face.

"The defendant took everything from him," the prosecutors told jurors, urging them to "Hold him responsible. It ends here. It ends now."

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from 2 of the boy's siblings, with his 16-year-old brother telling jurors that the boy was forced to eat cat litter and cat feces and was repeatedly beaten in the months leading up to his death.

The boy's sister testified that Aguirre shot her youngest brother with a BB gun and put him in a cabinet that had handcuffs attached to it so he couldn't get out.

The boy's maternal grandfather described him as "like a son" and said he and his wife had practically raised the tot before his daughter and Aguirre took the child to live with them. Robert Fernandez cried as he recalled promising the boy that he could come home and live with his grandparents after an investigation by the county Department of Children and Family Services was completed.

"Was he loved?" Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami asked.

"Always," the boy's grandfather responded.

The boy's 1st-grade teacher, Jennifer Garcia, told jurors that she called authorities to report his account that he was being hit months before his death and continued to call social workers at various times throughout the school year about the boy, saying it was more calls than she had ever made in her career.

Garcia testified that she stopped sending home notes about behavioral concerns because she was concerned that they were causing the youngster to get injured. She also said she noticed that he had "various bruises in different stages of healing" when he returned from being absent from school.

Jurors also heard emotional testimony from a registered nurse who saw the boy on May 22, 2013, after he was brought by paramedics to Antelope Valley Hospital's emergency room. Christine Estes described the boy's body as "lifeless" with "bruising from head to toe," saying it was "literally worse than any horror movie I've seen."

During the defense's portion of the case, jurors saw portions of a videotaped interview in which Aguirre was crying as he was being interviewed by a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective and saying that he wanted to go see the boy.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were called to the family's home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that Gabriel was not breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, then taken off life support 2 days later.

Aguirre and the boy's mother have remained jailed without bail since being charged in May 2013 with the boy's death. The 2 were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury.

2 former Los Angeles County social workers - Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement - and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.

(source: Los Angeles Daily News)


Palmdale abuse case: 'He had 8 months to save him,' prosecutor says in closing arguments

Closing arguments began in downtown Los Angeles on Monday in the trial of the man accused of beating and torturing to death his girlfriend's 8-year-old son in Palmdale.

Gabriel Fernandez died from his injuries in 2013.

Isauro Aguirre is accused of repeatedly beating the boy and torturing him because he believed the child was gay.

The jury that will be asked to decide the case against Aguirre heard testimony from a senior deputy medical examiner who said that it took 2 days to finish the autopsy on Gabriel.

The boy suffered burns, a fractured skull and broken ribs and was malnourished when he died. Eight BBs were recovered from the boy's body after his death.

Aguirre, 37, is charged with murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

His lawyer admitted his client is guilty but said he doesn't deserve the death penalty.

Gabriel's mother is also charged with murder and will be tried separately.

During the closing arguments, the prosecutor told jurors that Aguirre never tried to save Gabriel during his last moments. "He had 8 months to save him" and didn't. The prosecutor added that although the boy's mother, Pearl Fernandez, was not a good person, evidence shows that the most serious signs of abuse came after Aguirre got in the family picture.

""None of this stuff started until that defendant showed up," the prosecutor said as he pointed at Aguirre.

Aguirre and the boy's mother have remained jailed without bail since being charged in May 2013 with the boy's death. The two were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury.

2 former Los Angeles County social workers -- Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement -- and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.

(source: ABC News)


The Skewed Politics of the Death Penalty

Alfred Dewayne Brown was condemned to death in 2005 after his conviction for killing a Houston police officer and a store clerk in a botched robbery in Texas. He spent a decade trying to prove his innocence, but it was only when an attorney named Brian Stolarz took his case and helped uncover the records of a phone call that proved he wasn't anywhere near the scene of the crime - records that had been concealed from the grand jury - that Brown was finally exonerated and released in 2015.

Stolarz' book about the case, Grace and Justice on Death Row (Skyhorse Publishing), arrives at a time when the movement for abolishing the death penalty continues to be stymied at the federal level - even as it has won more support in the states. In a conversation with TCR's Julia Pagnamenta, Stolarz discusses the outlook for the abolition of capital punishment in the U.S., how the politics of electing judges makes death sentences more likely, and how his Catholic faith influenced his own approach to the issue.

The Crime Report: Why write this book now?

Brian Stolarz: The death penalty debate in this country is trending towards abolition. In a new Gallup poll, approval is the lowest it's been since the 70's. A Pew research poll had [the approval rate] below 50 %. It is my belief that it will be abolished one day. And I hope that cases like Dewayne's shine a light on why.

TCR: And yet in the current political climate, it doesn't seem like the death penalty will be abolished on the federal level.

Brian Stolarz: I think the best way to attack the death penalty right now is through the states. Nebraska was a good example of a traditionally red state having that important debate. I think the federal death penalty will stay in large part because of the make-up of the Supreme Court. Now, with [Neil] Gorsuch taking Justice Antonin Scalia's seat, I think it will be a number of years, if not decades, before the court shifts to a 5-4 for unconstitutionality of the death penalty.

So the way to attack that is on the state level and to identify what is called the "outlier counties." There are only certain counties in this country that use it, and if there's pressure even in those states to narrow it, and get rid of it, then maybe we can chip away at this brick by brick. If Nebraska is doing it, then other states can too, and if we get it so that it's done only in a couple of states, then it becomes even more unconstitutional, and you may even have a federal challenge to it.

TCR: Let's talk a little about Dewayne's case: the prosecutor coerced Dewayne's girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, into giving false testimony, and then hid the phone record that would have exonerated him. How did this happen?

Brian Stolarz: This case was in our view a rush to judgment. You have a high- profile case in which a black defendant is being charged in the murder of a white police officer, and there is a sense that they want to get quick justice. And so because there was never any science that connected Dewayne to the case, (and) never will be, this case was based largely on the testimony of his girlfriend Ericka Dockery.

Dewayne's alibi was incredibly straightforward: He was at Ericka's apartment at the time of the murders, and made a phone call to where she worked. Ericka testified that way in the grand jury.

The DA, and the grand jurors in particular, were badgering her, and in our view threatening her, and they kept pressing on her. I've never seen anything like the transcript in this case. But she held firm to Dewayne's alibi. And the DA - and this is the moment where the case changed - decided that on his own, he would charge her with perjury, and ask for a very high bail, and then she sat in jail for 4 months. Her life fell apart. She lost her job, her kids ... and so she said "fine, I'll say whatever you want."

But then we uncovered through our investigation that she testified about the phone call occurring on the caller ID box. The DA, Dan Rizzo, subpoenaed the phone company the day after she testified in the grand jury. The documents were sent by the phone company to the police, and it showed that Dewayne paid (for) that phone call, but they never turned the record over.

And that is still astonishing to me. The reason we got it was because the DA who was in charge of the writ of appeal emailed us in May of 2013, and said that the cop in charge of the investigation had recently spring-cleaned his garage, and found a box of documents. He sent it to us, and in the middle of the box was the phone record we had been looking for (over) 8 long years.

"It's easier to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent in this country":

TCR: You write about the lack of money and resources for public defenders, especially compared to the funding and political backing prosecutors receive. Please explain.

Brian Stolarz: Sadly, it's easier to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent in this country, and it's always more popular to pay the prosecutor than to pay a public defender. I hope that is going to change, because the Constitution is only upheld and preserved and maintained if the process is fair for everybody. In this case, Dewayne had a court-appointed lawyer, and the DA had all the resources to investigate. I see that in cases I work on all the time, and it's bothersome to me because if Dewayne had the law firm I worked at, K & L Gates, that could have thrown a lot of resources at it, it might have been a different result for him, and he might not have spent 12 years and 62 days in jail for something he didn't do.

TCR: You worked pro bono nature on Dewayne's case. Is this a common practice for private law firms?

Brian Stolarz: A strong public defender is always the first line of defense and that should be where our resources go. You can't depend on large law firms to pick up the slack on everything because there are only a few law firms that will put the kind of resources that our firm put towards it.

TCR: How important to the capital punishment issue is the fact that judges administering these cases are elected?

Brian Stolarz: There's a part in the book where I write that the Alabama judicial system had a jury override function, that the jury could recommend life, but then the judge could override that and give death. Well, in election years, the judges would override the jury verdicts more. It's transparent to me to why they did that: to get elected. To me, that's not justice, that’s political gain; I think all judges across the country should be appointed by their respective governors, or whatever bodies can do it. I think that when you politicize law, you are making it such that certain things are valued over other things, whether it's these tough-on-crime sentences, or whether it's a judicial override, so that a person can say at a rally, I put 10 people to death. Well that's not what I want my judge to be up there saying.

TCR: Your Catholic faith guided you through Dewayne's case, and informs your opposition to the death penalty. And yet, in the book you recall how a religious group outside of Dewayne's prison refused to serve you any food after you told them you were defending a person on death row. How did that affect you?

There is a certain level of hypocrisy that I see when I speak in churches. When I talked to this group, where they were all too happy to give a fish platter to the guard but they wouldn't give one to me because I was defending someone in there. They were all happy to advocate for this man's death. It just didn't seem like the Christian way. Growing up Catholic, I was told that life was life, beginning and end, no matter what you've done, and it's not the state's role to kill anybody. Pope Francis has put a finer point on that now, and I hope that that combined with the advocacy work of Sister Helen, we can finally show that the Christian stance is that the death penalty should not happen.

TCR: Justice Scalia, also a practicing Catholic, supported the death penalty.

Brian Stolarz: Justice Scalia and I differed on our application of it even if we both had a strong Catholic faith.

TCR: Well, maybe in his case it wasn't a Catholic interpretation, but a Constitutional reading of the death penalty?

Brian Stolarz: Yeah, it had to be. That's what I read into it, but my faith has told me it's not the right thing to do. If I were a judge I guess I would have to think about it differently, but from where I sit right now, it's not the right thing to do. The state shouldn't do this, and I hope Pope Francis\'s message carries some weight.

TCR: There is currently an art exhibit, "Windows on Death Row" at Columbia Law School. People on death row made the art, and Columbia hosted several events this fall around the topic. At the 1st event, a Swiss representative who introduced the discussion said a central tenet of Switzerland's foreign policy was a universal abolition of the death penalty. It's also a European Union foreign policy objective. Why is it that the United States is one of the only countries in the Western world that still uses the death penalty?

Brian Stolarz: I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the European Union (EU). I've been to a few conferences and people are still shocked that we have it. We're on a list with countries like Iraq and Iran and China, countries we don't normally want to be on a list with as far as human rights. You can't be a member of the EU if you have the death penalty. EU companies are not allowing drugs to be shipped here for this reason. Their advocacy is really important, and I think with more pressure like that, it may begin to change how we all think.

The American frontier spirit, and the Old Testament "eye-for-an-eye" approach has carried the narrative for us up to now. But I think that's changing given the recent public opinion polls.

(source: Julia Pagnamenta is a news intern for The Crime


ACLU claims death by lethal injection inhumane, cruel and unusual punishment----Media witness account says executions 'somewhat peaceful,' seems ACLU fear-baiting.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to halt the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier, 46. The state's branch of the civil liberties organization objects to using a previously untested drug cocktail on the condemned killer to deliver capital punishment at Dozier's request, KNPR reported.

Dozier's execution by lethal injection was originally scheduled for today but was postponed on November 9. Judge Jennifer Togliatti, Clark County District Court pulled an untested paralytic from the lethal mix of drugs slated for the Nevada murderer's execution injection.

The proposed lethal injection protocol included the paralytic cisatracurium, as well as the sedative diazepam and the opioid fentanyl.

No state has ever used such a drug combination in carrying out a death sentence.

Once Judge Togliatti said no-go to the paralytic drug during execution. James Dzurenda, Nevada's prisons chief, nixed Dozier's execution for now. A solicitor for state Attorney General Adam Laxalt's office assured that the order will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada, according to Time.

The drawback with administering a paralytic, according to experts, is that it might also mask problems with the injection protocol and render Dozier incapable of signaling distress and could lead him to suffocate to death. After the state's high court rules on Nevada's proposed injection protocol, the execution could still take place, Judge Togliatti stated.

The ACLU gave Governor Sandoval a petition yesterday that was reportedly signed by an excess of 600 Nevada residents, asking him to call off the execution, the Nevada Independent noted. Dozier not only murdered 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller, he also dismembered him, shoved his torso in a suitcase, and tossed the suitcase in a trash dumpster. He was convicted and sentenced to death. He also murdered Jasen Green, 26, in Arizona and dumped his dismembered body in the desert.

With Dozier voluntarily asking to have capital punishment exacted, and having abandoned all appeals, his execution will represent an end to the 11-year break Nevada took from carrying out the #death penalty against condemned killers. When executed, Dozier will be the 1st death row inmate put to death in the state's new $860,000 execution chamber.

Condemned killer's execution makes possible additional capital punishments

If Governor Sandoval does not grant a stay of execution and if the Nevada's high court rules to allow Dozier's execution, and if Dozier stays the course, (he assured Judge Togliatti that he very much wants his wishes to be respected), then, there is much more at stake following his capital punishment.

Dozier's execution would open the possibility for additional capital punishments to be carried out. The state will have established its death injection protocol.

Horror stories about executions' cruelty don’t stand up to media witness account

While civil libertarians present strong opinions about why Dozier should not be executed, falling back on the ever-ready claim that capital punishment is inhumane and that execution is cruel and unusual punishment, there are additional opinions that should not be slighted. Media witnesses have attended the executions of death row inmates.

Most recent was the lethal injection of Patrick Charles Hannon in Florida on November 9, the very date that Dozier's date with death was delayed in Nevada. Greg Angel, a CBS news reporter, was one of the media witnesses. It was not his first time watching a killer held accountable for taking people's lives. Hannon's execution marked the third time Angel has witnessed capital punishment imposed on a condemned killer.

Despite horror stories employed by death penalty opponents, it has been Angel's observation that the condemned killers did not suffer as capital punishment was carried out. Angel likened the executions to "watching someone fall asleep," the New Zealand Herald reported.

Executions missing pain and violence, 'somewhat peaceful'

Angel did as was expected in witnessing executions. He reported whether the lethal injection protocol administered was done humanely. Killers going to sleep permanently is entirely a lot less cruel than how they behaved toward their victims.

Among Angel's observations, pain and violence were missing from the executions. According to the New Herald, he actually remarked, "It is silent and somewhat peaceful." That's a far cry from what the ACLU and others would like Nevada's governor to believe, in seeking to sway him to grant Dozier a stay of execution.

State authorities are quite competent and capable of ensuring that justice is not elusive and haunting crime victims' families and friends. When killers are sentenced to die, maybe society needs to stop embracing the fear-baiting of those, such as the ACLU, opposed to the death penalty.



2 US Navy SEALs suspected of killing an Army Green Beret could face the death penalty

The 2 US Navy SEALs who authorities suspect killed US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in a diplomatic compound in Bamako, Mali, may face the death penalty if convicted, a legal expert told Business Insider.

Investigators have ruled Melgar's death a homicide by strangulation, and a recent report in The Daily Beast cited 5 sources in the special-operations community as saying the SEALs, who have not been publicly identified, killed Melgar after he discovered they had illegally pocketed money used to pay informants.

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who's an expert on naval law, told Business Insider that although the Navy had not executed a sailor in more than 150 years, this case was extraordinary.

"If the reported facts were established, the murder of Staff Sgt. Melgar would be among the most aggravating factors and could justify referral to courts-martial as capital cases," Brennan told Business Insider.

According to the law, "the death penalty is available in cases of pre-meditated murder, as appears possible in this case," Brennan said.

Brennan said the SEALs could stand before the military equivalent of a grand jury, where capital punishment would be on the table.

Melgar, a 34-year-old Texan, deployed to Afghanistan twice. He was assigned to Mali with the 3rd Special Forces Group to help train locals and support counterterrorism operations.



Langkawi cops nab Thai drug pusher with gun, RM25k worth of drugs

Police seized a pistol with 5 live bullets from a Thai drug pusher when he was nabbed at a petrol station in Kampung Temonyong here early on Tuesday.

Police also confiscated various types of drugs with a street value of RM25,000.

In the 12.01am bust, the district's Narcotics Investigation Department approached the 35-year-old man at the petrol station, as he was behaving suspiciously.

"Upon noticing the police team's presence, the man tried to flee from the scene but our men managed to apprehend him.

"The team found a .9mm automatic Browning pistol with 5 live ammunitions in the man's sling bag.

"They also seized plastic bags containing heroin, methamphetamine and ketamine with a total street value of RM25,000," Langkawi police chief Assistant Commissioner Dr Che Ghazali Che Awang said during a press conference at his office.

Present was his deputy, Deputy Superintendent Mahani Mohamed.

Ghazali said the man also tested positive for methamphetamine.

Police have classified the case under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

The man is also being investigated under Section 8 of the Firearms Act (Improved Penalty) 1971 and Section 8(a) of the Firearms Act 1969 for illegal possession of a pistol which carries a jail term of up to 14 years and 6 lashes of the whip.

(source: New Straits Times)


New Iran law set to radically decrease executions----A new law in Iran has been written to reduce the death penalty for drug smugglers carrying smaller amounts.

Iran's new law for combating drugs will be implemented beginning Nov. 14. The law - passed by the Reformist majority parliament and approved by the conservative Guardian Council - is set to decrease the number of people executed in Iran, which leads the world in executions on a per capita basis. Agencies in Iran responsible for combating drug smuggling, however, have warned that the new law will increase drug use.

According to the law, those convicted of drug smuggling will be sentenced to time in prison instead of the death penalty and will be ordered to pay fines. The law itself does not completely ban the death penalty. Those caught smuggling a large amount of designated drugs - for instance, 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of heroin - can still be sentenced to death. Drug-smuggling leaders, those who carry arms, financiers of drug smuggling and those who use children under the age of 18 will still be subject to the death penalty. Still, according to most observers, the law will decrease the number of death penalties in Iran for drug-related offenses.

The Iran Drug Control Headquarters, which is tasked with drug addiction treatment, combating drug smuggling and preventing addiction, warned that the law will increase access and use of drugs in Iran. Parviz Afshar, spokesperson for the Drug Control Headquarters, said, "We believe that - for a country whose neighbor is the world's largest producers of drugs [Afghanistan] - completely eliminating the death penalty is not possible."

Afshar noted that a suitable replacement for the death penalty needed to be found rather than just prison time and fines. According to him, confiscating the property of drug smugglers should have been considered in the new law. He also warned that some drug smugglers are also involved in terrorism, money laundering and armed crimes.

Yahya Kamalipour, an Iranian parliament member and deputy president of parliament's legal and judicial commission, explained his support for the bill. "For 20 years I have been a judge and prosecutor and I know well the situation of the prisons and the families of prisoners," he said. "90 % of the executions for drug offenses were smugglers who were forced to carry drugs due to a bad event such as dowry for their daughters or surgery for their mothers. We have taken the death penalty from these people. But [as far as] the prime agents and those who deserve the death penalty, this punishment will be implemented."

The bill still leaves Iran's hard-line judiciary - which only answers to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - enough leeway to interpret the law as they see fit. The head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, has previously said that Iran would not eliminate the death penalty for drug smugglers, saying that without the death penalty the situation with drug use in Iran would be worse.

Iranian officials have been openly debating ending or reducing the death penalty for drug smuggling since December 2015, when 70 members of parliament proposed the bill. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council who has supported ending the death penalty for drug use, said that if Iran were to eliminate the death penalty for drug use, it would reduce the death penalty in Iran by 80%.


NOVEMBER 13, 2017:


Who's on death row in York County murders?----2 await court proceedings that could take them off the execution list

There are nearly 200 people on death row in Pennsylvania. 13 of them -- all men -- were convicted and sentenced to death for murders committed in York County.

1 currently is awaiting a resentencing hearing, another is awaiting a new trial.

Since 1985, Pennsylvania governors have signed hundreds of execution warrants.

3 executions have been carried out -- 2 in 1995 and 1 in 1999-- since a 10-year national moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1977.

Gov. Tom Wolf put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 citing a need for further study.

York County death row inmates, who all are housed at the maximum security prison in Greene County, are:

Paul Gamboa-Taylor

Gamboa-Taylor was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18, 1991, hammer slayings of 4 family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their 2 children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2.

He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger.

Hubert Lester Michael Jr. Michael was sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area.

Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov. Tom Ridge and 2004 by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Mark Newton Spotz

Spotz was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem.

Gunnet was his 3rd victim in a 4-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County.

An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001.

John Amos Small

Small was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith.

Smith's body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.

Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in 2009 by Rendell.

Kevin Brian Dowling

Dowling was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove.

An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell.

Milton and Noel Montalvo Milton was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel was sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside Cruz's York apartment. Rendell signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July 2010 and signed one for Milton in January 2011. Milton Montalvo is awaiting a resentencing hearing.

Harve Lamar Johnson

Johnson was sentenced Nov. 16, 2009, for the April 7, 2008, beating death of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend's daughter, in York.

More: Jury gives death penalty in murder of York's D Kevin Edward Mattison

Mattison was sentenced Dec. 17, 2010, for the Dec. 9, 2008, robbery and shooting of Christian Agosto in York.

Mattison had previously been convicted of 3rd-degree murder and served prison time in Maryland.

Hector Morales

Morales was sentenced Jan. 21, 2011, for the 2009 shooting death of Ronald "Country" Simmons Jr.

Police said Morales broke into Simmons' York home and shot him 6 times because Simmons was set to testify in a drug case.

Aric Shayne Woodard

Woodard was sentenced to death Dec. 18, 2013, for the Nov. 7, 2011, beating death of 2-year-old Jaques Omari Twinn.

Timothy Matthew Jacoby

Jacoby was sentenced to death Oct. 9, 2014, for the March 31, 2010, shooting death of Monica Schmeyer, 55, while he burglarized her West Manheim Township home.

Also of note

Daniel Jacobs was sentenced to death Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992, stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and life in prison for the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.

Federal courts overturned Jacobs' conviction and death penalty for Mock's murder in 2005, ruling his jury should have been informed his mental deficiencies might not have allowed him to form the specific intent to kill Mock.

While Jacobs continues to serve a life sentence for Holly's death, he will stand for re-trial in 2016 for Mock's murder. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections still lists him as a death row inmate.

(source: York Daily Record)


Heinze attorney moves for new trial, cites missing evidence

A Glynn County jury found Guy W. Heize Jr. guilty in October 2013 of killing 8 people - including his father - 4 years earlier at the New Hope Plantation mobile home park. But allegations of missing and mishandled evidence dogged the prosecution, and Nov. 6, Heinze's attorney filed an amended motion for a new trial. The original motion was filed Nov. 1.

Christina Rudy, a lawyer with the Metro Capital Defender's Office, represents Heinze. While a member of the Georgia Capital Defender's Office was part of Heinze's defense team, the office did not participate in the trial.

In the motion, she presents 11 errors committed during Heinze's trial in Glynn County Superior Court.

Among those alleged errors:

-- "The jurors that were empaneled in the trial of this case failed to comply with the instructions that the Court charged. The jury shifted the burden of proof to Mr. Heinze to prove his innocence, required him to provide evidence of an alibi, and rendered a verdict despite not understanding the evidence."

-- An item "... was destroyed without Mr. Heinze having had an opportunity to view or test the item. The State also elicited testimony concerning blood spatter on this item that was not disclosed to the defendant prior to trial, to which the defense objected and moved for mistrial."

-- "Upon information and belief, former Glynn County Police Chief Matthew Doering conducted fingerprint comparisons on the evidence collected in this case. The discovery provided to the defense does not contain any documentation concerning these fingerprint comparisons."

-- "Additional evidence related to the murders at Lot 147 - nunchucks and an Estwing Hammer - was found after law enforcement concluded processing the crime scene .... This evidence was turned over to Glynn County Police but is now missing and was not available for Mr. Heinze to examine, inspect and/or test prior to trial."

-- "The State suppressed an Internal Affairs investigation into the prior conduct by Investigator Michael Owens in which he admitted to collecting evidence in a criminal case, and failing to properly collect and preserve that evidence."

-- Additionally, "... the State lost or destroyed the audio recording of an interview with Joseph Bryant 'Big Joe' Anderson. The contents of the interview ere exculpatory in that Mr. Anderson provides information concerning alternate suspects."

-- The presiding judge made errors in his jury instructions before deliberations, and the lead prosecutor in the case stepped outside the bounds of closing arguments by making "... improper comments on the role of defense counsel at trial, improper comments concerning the magistrate's role in the issuance of arrest warrants, comments contradicted by the evidence during the course of the trial, and impermissibly vouching for the credibility of witnesses."

The motion also includes a notation of the unusual agreement during the trial between prosecutors and the defense "... which resulted in a (juror) being removed from the jury panel and replaced with an alternate and by the State (withdrawing) the Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty 'in this case for this trial and any subsequent trial, should there be a subsequent trial.'"

During the trial, prosecutors argued Heinze, on his own and while high on crack, bludgeoned the 8 victims and assaulted the 9th, a child, with a 20-gauge shotgun.

Investigators never found the murder weapon, though a hammer was discovered at the crime scene a year later. A forensic pathologist testifying for the defense said more than 1 person was likely involved in the crime, and a hammer would account for the victims' wounds.

Prosecutors have until Dec. 15 to file a response to the motion. The defense then has until Jan. 15, 2018, to file a response to the prosecution, with a hearing scheduled for Feb. 13, 2018.



udge: Jury won't hear part of accused killer's confession

A judge has tossed out David Mariotti's confession that he killed 84-year-old Bernadine Montgomery in her home because of "improper police tactics."

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty because the crime was "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel," argued in August that Leesburg Detective James Dunagan did nothing wrong, and a Leesburg police spokesman said Friday it won't make any difference.

"The confession is one piece of evidence. There is a lot more to this case," said Leesburg Lt. Joe Iozzi. "I don't feel that the case hinges on the confession."

Jurors will still be able to hear him confess that he was in her Palmora Park home when she was killed and helped hide her body, Circuit Judge Don Briggs ruled.

Executive Assistant Public Defender John Spivey, who filed the motion to suppress, said it will help his case.

"It makes my job easier," he said, though he acknowledges there are still a lot of challenges.

There are challenges for prosecutors, too. Police have never found her body, which was dumped somewhere along State Road 19 in Putnam County.

Assistant State Attorney Rich Buxman told the Daily Commercial in June that it would be good to have the body in evidence, but it was not necessary since the couple confessed.

Recent court rulings have already made it more difficult for prosecutors to get jurors to recommend a death sentence. Juries must now come back with a unanimous 12-0 vote to send someone to death row.

The murder stunned neighbors in the old, tree-lined, lakefront neighborhood near Venetian Gardens. "I think everyone liked Bea," neighbor Bob Lovell told the Daily Commercial.

Mariotti told police he strangled the church-going widow with a piece of rope when she discovered Mariotti's companion, Tracie Jo Naffziger, stealing and threatened to call the police. She had allowed the couple to come into her home on Palmora Boulevard to do chores.

They laid her body on the couch, covered her with pillows and took joyrides in her 2005 Chevy while using her credit cards and selling her belongings.

Mariotti was arrested in Gilchrist County on credit card allegations. Police explained Mariotti's right to remain silent in that case.

However, Dunagan's statements about the punishment he might face in the murder were "incorrect, grossly unrealistic, unconstitutional and coercive," Spivey wrote in his motion to suppress.

"Let me ask you this," Mariotti asked. "What are, am I going to be charged with here at the end of the day?"

"That almost 100 % depends on you explaining if you had an intent or anything like that ... If you sit here and say I went over there to that house with the intention of killing Ms. Bea, then that would be 1st degree murder," Dunagan replied. "If you say that I went over and punched her and she fell and that's how I know she was dead, that would, I would call the State Attorney's Office, and that is looking more like manslaughter or something like that."

Spivey argued that the detective's interpretation of the law was "false and grossly misleading," because it completely ignored felony murder, in which defendants can be charged with murder while committing other crimes if someone is killed during those crimes.

(source: Daily Commercial)


Lawsuit: Man 'wrongfully discharged' from center before triple homicide

The Dayton man facing a death-penalty murder trial for killing 3 people was improperly discharged from health care facilities due to negligence, according to claims in an amended wrongful death lawsuit brought by administrators of the victims' estates.

Muhammad Shabazz Ali, 62, was indicted on 29 counts - including 6 for aggravated murder - for the Aug. 10, 2016 shooting deaths of 74-year-old Jasper Taylor, 53-year-old Tammy Cox and 25-year-old Michael Cox inside 35 Oxford Ave. in Dayton.

Ali has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. No trial date has been set.

Ali - who police and court reports indicate used to be named Robert Ford Jr. - served more than 2 decades in prison for voluntary manslaughter after he was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend.

Ali allegedly shot to death the three people around 3 p.m. Aug. 10, 2016, hours after he was released from Grandview Hospital, according to police. Ali had been taken to Grandview by Dayton police, who "pink-slipped" him so he could get in-patient treatment. Police use so-called pink slips when they believe a suspect needs a mental health evaluation.

According to police reports, police had responded to a 911 call the morning of Aug. 10, 2016 from Day-Mont Behavioral Center when workers there said Ali was throwing chairs and repeatedly yelling, "I want my medication!"

In the pink slip written by police and included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, Dayton police wrote, "Ali stated he needed his medicine so he doesn't hurt himself or others."

According to the amended complaint that includes some of Ali's medical history, social worker Jeannie Dobrovolc wrote in a consultation note to the psychiatrist on call that Ali had no assault history.

According to the amended complaint filed in October, Dobrovolc's consultation note about whether to release Ali from Grandview didn't include anything about Ali's previous conviction for voluntary manslaughter.

"All Defendants, the mental health care professional Defendants, Grandview and Day-Mont knew, or should have known, or had a duty to know, of the incarceration of Ali for manslaughter for killing a former girlfriend and his violent propensities, with or without proper medication, and inquire about the same to become knowledgeable persons for Ali's care," the amended complaint reads.

The named defendants include Grandview, Kettering Health Network, Day-Mont, Emcare, Inc., the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services and 13 individuals including health care providers and Ali plus several Jane and John Does.

"Unfortunately, due to patient privacy rights and pending litigation, we are unable to share any information at this time," said attorney Charles Shane, who represents and was speaking for Grandview and Kettering Health Network employees and Dobrovolc.

A Job and Family Services spokesman declined to comment. Messages seeking comment were left with Emcare, Inc. and Day-Mont. We will update the story if and when they respond.

In a December 2016 response to the original complaint, a Day-Mont attorney wrote that: "Day-Mont denies that it was negligent, or that any treatment or care provided in its facility causally resulted in any harm or death to any other 3rd party."

Emcare, Inc. did not file an answer to the original complaint.

The lawsuit - which combines and replaces 2 civil actions brought earlier - was filed by Michael Taylor, administrator of Jasper Taylor's estate, and Arryiss Richardson, on behalf of Tammy Cox, Michael Cox and a minor child.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof gave defendants an extension until Nov. 29 to answer the amended complaint in court.

Dobrovolc did write in her consultation note that Ali was found in the parking lot screaming, stating he was hearing voices and needed medication, according to the amended complaint. She also noted Ali was emotionally unstable and that Ali had been seeing and hearing things and that "people are always watching," according to the amended complaint.

The amended complaint claims Dobrovolc advised the psychiatrist on duty, fellow defendant Dr. Brent Crane, that she did not believe that Ali met the criteria for inpatient psych help. Crane, who was not in the hospital, according to the amended complaint, "did not independently examine, evaluate, or diagnose Ali, his records, interview him, or call those at Day-Mont," according to the amended complaint.

Efforts to locate Crane for comment were unsuccessful and he did not file an answer to the original original complaint.

The amended complaint alleges Crane did not follow protocol in approving Ali's release from Grandview.

"His lack of personal knowledge, lack of personal examination, lack of treatment, diagnosis, plan, failure to provide medication was not on personal knowledge as required by law," according to the amended complaint.

The amended complaint also alleges that Ali, when released from prison in 2009, told several health care professionals at Day-Mont about his conviction and violent tendencies, but that records were not kept well enough to adequately inform all medical personnel about Ali's history.

"Ali was wrongfully discharged/released from Grandview at 12:21 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2016 by the social worker and/or a nurse, being allowed to simply walk out of the hospital, without anyone bothering to ascertain if he had transportation or other means of getting home, and with no documented follow-up plan," the amended complaint said.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


2 more suspects arrested in Cleveland car dealership murders

A Cleveland couple was found dead inside the car dealership they owned on April 14.

On Sunday, sources revealed that 2 more arrests had been made in the case.

Cleveland police have spent the past 8 months investigating the deaths of Mike Kuznik and Trina Tomola.

The pair was found shot to death at Mr. Cars on East 185th street.

According to reports, the 1st of the 2 arrests was made Saturday after the suspect was arrested for a different crime and later revealed information on the 2 murders.

29-year-old, Joseph McAlphin was arrested and charged with the crime, he could now face the death penalty.

At the time of McAlphin's arrest, officials suspected 1 or more others were involved with the crime.

Police now believe they have everyone responsible in this case.

A source told WKYC that a press conference to announce the identifies of this weekend's arrests will be held "in the near future."

(source: WKYC news)


Arkansas Justice: Racism, Torture, and a Botched ExecutionM

Just over 6 months have passed since the disturbing execution of Kenneth Williams, but as far as the state of Arkansas is concerned, it might as well be ancient history. No sooner did media witnesses return to the press room on the night of April 27 to describe how Williams coughed and convulsed on the gurney than officials acted like nothing had happened. Never mind the veteran reporter who said it was unlike any execution he had ever seen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson dismissed calls for an investigation. "My goal was to make sure that we had justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state," he said the next day, "and I think that was accomplished."

In reality, the apparently botched execution was the culmination of an ugly ordeal that had put Arkansas at the center of international controversy for weeks. Hutchinson had originally scheduled execution dates for 8 men to take place over 11 days last spring, in a rush to use drugs set to expire at the end of April. The plan sparked chaos, with defense attorneys scrambling to write clemency petitions, state lawyers beating back legal challenges, and prison staff preparing to try out a questionable sedative, midazolam, never previously used in Arkansas. The drug has been linked to several executions gone awry, and many observers warned something was bound to go wrong. Of the 4 executions that proceeded, Williams's fulfilled the worst predictions. One attorney called it "horrifying."

Yet there has been no reckoning; no meaningful look at how the drugs were administered or whether Williams was tortured to death. Shielded by the state's secrecy law, there has been no sanction for state officials who were willing to buy drugs by any means necessary, including by misleading drug manufacturers who did not wish their products to be used to kill. In fact, just this week Arkansas was poised to execute another man, Jack Gordon Greene, until his execution was stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court over concerns about his severe mental illness.

Today, the only public official held accountable for any potential misconduct during the state's execution spree is a man who stood briefly in the way. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order after a pharmaceutical corporation sued the Arkansas Department of Correction, charging officials with buying drugs under false pretenses and then refusing to return them. That same day, Griffen, a Baptist minister, took part in a dramatic Good Friday protest outside the governor's mansion, playing the condemned in a mock execution. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge cried foul - and the consequences were swift: The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a disciplinary review and announced it would reassign all of Griffen’s death penalty cases. In a special session, state legislators voted to implement rules that would allow for his impeachment.

Griffen defended himself, citing his First Amendment rights. But his fight with what he calls Arkansas's "white power structure" has exposed a deeper divide. "In the history of Arkansas, no white member of the Arkansas judiciary has ever been summarily banned from hearing an entire category of cases based on his or her exercise of the First Amendment protected freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly, religion, and exercise of religion," Griffen argues in a lawsuit filed against the Arkansas Supreme Court last month. He cites "multiple white judges in Arkansas who admitted to engaging in criminal behavior have been treated more favorably."

Among them is a judge who led police officers on a high-speed chase after blowing through a sobriety checkpoint. That man pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, on same day Griffen took part in the demonstration in Little Rock. The white judge will go back to presiding over DWI cases next month. "African-American Judge Griffen, on the other hand, is barred for life from presiding over any cases involving the death penalty," his lawsuit argues.

Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how.

Griffen is 65 years old, raised by sharecroppers in the rural town of Delight, Arkansas. He may never have become a judge if not for a lawsuit brought in 1989, which exposed how black voters were being disenfranchised from judicial elections, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In 1991, just as executions were returning to Arkansas, a consent decree forced the state to create new electoral subdistricts. Several black judges would be elected in years to come, among them Griffen, voted onto the bench in 2010.

Griffen is no stranger to controversy. He is outspoken against racism on his blog, sometimes using his sermons to point out ways in which Arkansas has not abandoned the white supremacy of its past, but has reinvented it. He has been open about his moral opposition to the death penalty, while also issuing legal rulings against people facing execution. Griffin argues he is perfectly capable of following the law even when it conflicts with his personal views. Others decry him as an activist judge.

Yet his critics' own controversies have raised questions about how fairly they approach questions of law and order. Chief among them is Rutledge, who continues to lead the charge to carry out executions. A Donald Trump supporter whose father was the drug czar under former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, she came under criticism a few years ago after sending a shockingly racist email mocking black people in 2014. There were no consequences.

Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how. Three black men and one white man died in the Arkansas death house last April. Of all of them, Kenneth Williams undoubtably had the most blood on his hands. But if no one cares to consider how he died, it is also because whitewashing torture has a long tradition in Arkansas prisons. State officials ignored their own grim history in their rush to execute last spring. By absolving itself of wrongdoing, Arkansas continues to repeat it.

Mayor Essie Mae Cableton was in her office the day Arkansas killed Kenneth Williams, across from the Dollar General on Highway 65. The city of Gould, population 836, lies on the southern edge of sprawling farmland owned by the Arkansas Department of Correction, in unincorporated parts of Lincoln County. The land is anchored by 2 maximum-security prisons: the Varner Unit, which houses men on death row, and the Cummins Unit, where they are sent to die.

That morning, 38-year-old Williams waited in a holding cell next to the death chamber just up the road. News vans would soon start arriving to cover his death, scheduled for 7 p.m. It would be the 4th execution at the prison in 8 days.

Cableton once worked at the Cummins Unit. Now 76, she was born and raised in Gould during a different era. She remembers picking cotton in the fields alongside her sisters by the time she was 6. "We would get like $2.50 or $3 per hundred pounds," Cableton said. White students passing on school buses sometimes threw things out the window, laughing at "those niggers picking cotton." After graduating from Gould Colored High School, Cableton worked factory jobs and joined the civil rights movement. She married an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had a field office in town. In one corner of her office, an old photograph shows the safe house where activists met to hide from the Ku Klux Klan.

The Arkansas prison system was built upon "an ancient philosophy of retribution, corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality."

Back then, the local penitentiary, known as Cummins Prison Farm, was "a very horrible place," Cableton said. Neighbors saw men getting whipped in the fields. In the 1969 expose, "Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal," former prison superintendent Tom Murton described the system as one of modern-day slavery, built upon "an ancient philosophy of retribution, corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality." Rather than pay civilian guards, the state relied on armed "trusties," who violently enforced the state-ordered regimen of hard labor on fellow prisoners. Men were towed to the fields like cattle, harvesting crops under close supervision. Many compared it to a Nazi concentration camp.

Whippings were routine and legal in those years - and torture was an open secret. Especially notorious was an instrument called the "Tucker Telephone," facilitated by so-called prison doctors at a penitentiary of the same name. As Murton described it, "An undressed inmate was strapped to the treatment table at Tucker Hospital while electrodes were attached to his big toe and to his penis. The crank was then turned, sending an electrical charge into his body. In 'long distance calls,' several charges were inflicted - of a duration designed to stop just short of the inmate's fainting."

The brutality in Arkansas prisons made national headlines following a police probe in 1966. A handful of firings followed, but many politicians dismissed the revelations. "95 % of the complaints of convicts are lies," said one lawmaker, a former chair of the penitentiary board. Another simply declared: "Arkansas has the best prison system in the United States." After Murton discovered 3 skeletons buried at Cummins - proof of longtime rumors that some "escapees" had actually been murdered - evidence and press witnesses who saw the exhuming were whitewashed by a state investigation. Murton was pushed out. One state senator called for him to be censured for digging up the bodies in the first place.

In 1970, a federal judge declared the whole Arkansas prison system unconstitutional, deeming it a "dark and evil world." By the time Cableton took a job as a guard 30 years later, the system had been totally overhauled. The Tucker Telephone was moved to a museum. Still, at the Cummins Unit, she could see the "circle in the floor where the whipping block used to be."

If torture was officially a thing of the past, a harsh new form of punishment had been introduced in the meantime. In 1990, after more than 25 years without an execution in Arkansas, Gov. Bill Clinton ushered in a wave of new executions, replacing the electric chair with lethal injection. It was ostensibly a more humane method of killing, overseen by medical personnel. But the 1st execution, of Ronald Gene Simmons, was harrowing; witnesses saw him cough and heave, shaking the gurney. 2 years later, while on the campaign trail, Clinton himself famously witnessed the execution of brain-damaged Ricky Ray Rector, who died a similarly disturbing death.

These executions took place before Cableton's time at Cummins. But she remembers the 1995 execution of Barry Lee Fairchild, a black man with mental disabilities who had been railroaded by a racist sheriff for a crime he swore he did not commit. "It still bothers me," Cableton said, "because I'm wondering was an innocent man put to death?"

As a member of Cummins's Emergency Response Team, Cableton provided security on execution nights. "At that time to me, it was just part of the job," she said. Still, the job had always been a last resort. She grew tired of the overnight shifts and "John Wayne-type" supervisors, who reminded her of the men who cursed at her when she was a child working in their fields. "I told them it was time I come out of Egypt," she said. "I can't stand for a man now to tell me what to do." In 2007, at age 65, Cableton left Cummins. She went back to school and got a degree in criminal justice. In 2015, she ran for mayor. She won by 5 votes.

That same year, Hutchinson signed a new lethal injection protocol into law. Cableton's perspective on the death penalty had evolved. "I've come to be a little more sympathetic and compassionate," she said. As Rutledge deployed dozens of lawyers to work over Easter weekend to push through Hutchinson's execution plans earlier this year, Cableton questioned the governor's priorities. He had yet to visit her corner of the Arkansas Delta - and Cableton had yet to secure funding to fix the partially caved-in roof of the town hall building where she works. "If those are our taxpayers' dollars out there, why is it so difficult to get it to do the things that we need to do down in this end of Arkansas?"

As the executions proceeded, other questions were hard to avoid. On April 20, 2 black men were scheduled to die back-to-back. Both insisted they were innocent - and both had disastrous defense representation at trial. "I didn't even want to watch the news," Cableton said. "I really didn't. I called my sister and I asked her, 'Have they executed those 2?'" The next morning, she learned that one execution had gone through while the other had been stayed.

It seemed to be arbitrary, who lived and who died. But as the execution dates came and went, Cableton was not surprised that the single recommendation for clemency went to a white man, or that the 2 black men put to death so far had been convicted of crimes against white women. It was a story she knew too well, a lesson that went back to the murder of Emmitt Till. "That's something I've been mad about all my life," she said.

At 5 p.m. on April 27, reporters settled into the media room at the Cummins Unit. The prison had provided pastries and chocolate frosted cookies, along with fruit punch and sugary coffee, flavored with cinnamon. Media packets featured corrections department's slogan: "Honor and integrity in public service."

Reporters also received a list of everyone executed in Arkansas since 1913. Kenneth Williams would be the 200th - and the 140th black man killed by the state. But he was unusual in one sense. His would be only the third execution ever to come out of small, rural Lincoln County. The 1st was a black man named Fred Pelton, who had killed someone following an escape from Cummins, after going to prison in the late 1800s for the attempted rape of 5 white women in Little Rock, a crime he swore he did not commit. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette praised police for avoiding a lynching of the "negro brute," but he was executed in 1914. Then there was Revertia Reynolds, killed in 1921 for murdering a black man. His execution was notable for being witnessed by the daughter of a local businessman. The headline in the Arkansas Gazette was "Young Woman Sees Negro Go to Death."

Kenneth Williams arrived at Cummins in 1998. Sentenced to life for abducting and killing a 19-year-old college student, he escaped the next year, climbing into a vat of hog slop being towed from the prison. He broke into the home of a local farmer named Cecil Boren, shooting him in the head with his own gun. After driving some 300 miles to Missouri, Williams crashed Boren's truck, killing a 24-year-old man. Later, from death row, Williams wrote a letter confessing to yet another murder.

Members of Boren's family were at the prison that night. Like many in Lincoln County, their lives were intertwined with the Cummins Unit. Boren and his relatives had worked at the prison during some of its most volatile times. After the barracks were forcibly integrated in the spring of 1970, Boren was among those tasked with handling the unrest. Excerpts from local news reports in the 1977 book "Killing Time" included a quote from Boren, who warned that the black prisoners were intent on "burning this place down." His cousin David would later testify that he had been ordered by a field supervisor to fatally shoot a black prisoner, but refused. David said he had "seen inmates assaulted by guards, beaten in the stomach and personally had falsified disciplinary records of inmates to prolong their sentences in isolation cells."

As Williams went to trial in 2000 for killing Boren. It was hard to find an impartial jury in Lincoln County. Many prospective jurors "either work at the prison or are related to someone who works there, or know Boren's family," the AP reported at the time. As the execution neared 17 years later, the local coroner spoke to the New York Times. "What I've heard nonstop in this community - this entire community - is: 'This is the one we're waiting on.'"

At 5:30 sharp, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesperson Solomon Graves welcomed reporters. A black man wearing a pink tie and a gray suit coat, Graves reported that Kenneth Williams had refused a last meal, choosing instead to take communion. Then he listed the food Williams had been given anyway: "2 pieces of fried chicken, barbecue beans, sweet rice, whole kernel corn, stewed seasoned tomatoes, 2 cinnamon rolls, 2 cookies, 4 slices of bread, and fruit punch."

A reporter asked Graves to repeat what came after the sweet rice. Another asked whether Williams "ate the whole tray." An internal affairs log would later detail precisely how much food Williams consumed: "all of the chicken, 1 peanut butter cookie, 1/2 of the sweet rice, 1 slice of bread, and half cup of the BBQ beans."

The atmosphere in the media room was one of collective tedium, peppered with small talk, gossip, and some laughter. Reporters covering the executions had spent long, late hours at the prison, waiting out last-minute legal challenges. Officials came prepared for a long night, armed with candy and a Lays variety pack. A chatty woman in a red blazer brought sudoku, sighing that she had hardly slept for the past 2 weeks.

Reporters checked email and Twitter for the latest legal filings. Attorneys for Williams pointed to his low IQ and abusive childhood as reasons he should be spared. Separately, a story had gone viral about Michael Greenwood, the driver killed in the crash caused by Williams after his escape from Cummins. Greenwood's daughter, Kayla, had written to Hutchinson, asking him to spare Williams. She had discovered he had a daughter her own age who could not afford to come see her father before he died. Her family bought a flight for her, picked her up at the airport, and took her to the prison. "If Mr. Williams is executed, her loss, her pain, will be as real as mine," Kayla wrote. The governor did not respond.

At 6 p.m., it was time to name the media witnesses. Only three local press representatives are allowed to view executions, representing print, electronic media, and the Associated Press. If reporters do not agree on the representatives, the witnesses must be chosen at random. Reporters hastily wrote their names on slips of paper, which were put in a Tupperware container.

Hours would pass with no new information. J.R. Davis, the official spokesman for Governor Hutchinson, came in and out of the media room, with little to share. At 10:11 p.m., a man in a jacket and tie came and finally asked for the media witnesses. For a few minutes, the room silent. But before long, the chatter started up again.

It was 11:07 when Graves answered his phone in the media room. He scratched his head and wrote something down, hanging up a minute later. Then he addressed the reporters. Williams had been declared dead at 11:05 p.m., he said. Then he added, Williams "did shake for approximately 10 seconds" during the execution. He declined to give further details.

Media witnesses returned looking solemn. One man's face was red. AP reporter Kelly Kissel quickly got to the heart of the matter. "Coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking," he said, reading from their pooled notes. The execution began at 10:52. After the midazolam had been administered, he said, Williams lurched forward 15 times, then another 5 times, more slowly. It lasted no more than a minute, he said. But after that, Williams gasped, taking labored breaths. "It was clear that he was in trouble," Kissel said. "It was clear that he was striving for breath."

Reporters asked what drugs had been administered at that point. The 3-drug protocol relies first on an efficacious dose of a sedative - in this case midazolam - to ensure that the effects of the next 2 drugs do not lead to a tortuous death. Kissel said only midazolam should have been given, but there was really no way to know for sure. No one alerted witnesses to when the other drugs were being injected. Continuing through his notes, Kissel said that, at 10:58, witnesses heard a "moan or a groan" from Williams. After that, he went still, eventually appearing "serene." He could not tell if Williams had been conscious while he was lurching. Still, of the 10 executions Kissel had witnessed, he had never seen one like this.

The reporters were still asking questions when a different group of witnesses were led into the room. Several looked shaken. The daughter of Cecil Boren took the podium, her voice strained with emotion. She thanked the state of Arkansas for its handling of the execution, saying that any movement by Williams paled in comparison to what her father had suffered. A reporter asked her if her mother had found peace. "Our peace will come later," she said.

But the last word would belong to J.R. Davis, who took the podium on Hutchinson's behalf. Davis had not witnessed the execution. He ignored the reporters' descriptions, announcing that all had gone well. The convulsing was merely an "involuntary muscular reaction," he said. He reiterated Williams's crimes and said it was important to concentrate on the families of his victims. Finally, he said, the execution of Williams should bring a renewed faith in its judicial system.

The death of Kenneth Williams marked the last of the planned executions last spring. As the national press left Arkansas, Williams's lawyer accused the governor and his spokesman as "trying to whitewash the reality of what happened." He subpoenaed the state crime lab for autopsy records, toxicology reports, and handwritten notes. In response, the state asked a federal judge to quash the subpoena, arguing that such a request would violate Williams's privacy rights.

In June, a brief article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the autopsy and toxicology reports for the executed men, obtained via Freedom of Information requests. They were not revealing. Yet there was one macabre detail: The autopsy for Jack Jones Jr., executed on April 24, found "tan colored makeup" covering multiple needle marks on his neck - places where the prison staff had repeatedly tried and failed to insert an IV. It was not clear who applied it. But it seemed clear it was meant to make things look a little less ugly.

In August, officials announced they had a new batch of midazolam, after the state medical board quietly voted to end a short-lived probe into the acquisition of its previous execution drugs. The new supply was supposed to be used to kill Jack Greene last week. But 2 days after his stay, the manufacturer of the drug was revealed to be a company based in New York state. In a statement on its website, the company made clear it "does not want any of our products used in capital punishment." Whether Arkansas cares is an open question.

Today, a state poll showed that Arkansas residents remain staunch in their support for the death penalty, in contrast to the rest of the country. Governor Hutchinson's popularity has gone up since last year. As Judge Griffen continues to fight to keep his seat on the bench, members of the Arkansas Supreme Court are now in the political crosshairs themselves. After halting 3 of the planned executions last spring, the most recent stay has prompted cries of judicial activism.

"It's just troubling," one politician said of the barrier to carrying out executions. "I want to know the reason why we're delaying justice to these families so we can properly move forward."



Guest opinion: Why I changed my mind about the death penalty

And with the majority of Americans being Christian I suspect this "eye-for-an-eye" legal philosophy reflects the majority viewpoint. Like them, this has always seemed a principled argument to me and I've never really questioned the sentiment further.I mean, if someone takes the life of another don't they forfeit their right to live? But as a national debate about the death penalty has emerged, I have re-examined this issue and exposed myself to new information on how the death penalty is applied. Doing so has caused me to change my mind about the death penalty.

Theories aside, the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Criminal justice experts agree on this. First, only a tiny fraction of 1st degree murderers are ever executed. Deterrence experts know that a swift and guaranteed punishment has a much greater impact on preventing crime than a harsh but highly improbable punishment. Secondly, the infrequency with which the death penalty is applied, and the long delay before executions, eliminates what little deterrent effect might have existed in the first place. Even in areas where the death penalty is most often used, no deterrent benefit is seen. In fact, the region in the United States with the highest use of the death penalty (the South) also has the highest murder rate. If the death penalty deterred crime in a considerable way, the opposite should be true.

While the death penalty doesn’t keep us any safer than prison-for-life, it comes with a far greater burden on taxpayers. According to Utah's Legislative Office of Fiscal Analysis the cost for an average death penalty case to play out is 1.6 million dollars more than a non-capital murder trial. These extreme costs exist because of the extra safeguards in place. And caution is justified when taking a human life.

Due to the gravity of capital cases, specially trained defense lawyers are needed, cases are more complicated, a separate phase takes place after guilt or innocence is decided to determine if life or death should be given, and finally, when "death" is handed-out the long appeals process begins. In almost all cases, the state ends up paying for both prosecution and defense throughout this decades-long process.

And this process can be very harmful to the families of victims. Through every appeal the family must constantly re-experience the most traumatic event of their lives. And, besides lasting years and being highly publicized, capital cases also come with great uncertainty. It is more likely that a death sentence will be overturned than result in an execution. Victims are strung along with the promise of a punishment that is unlikely to ever occur. In contrast, when an offender is sentenced to life without parole, the sentence begins right away and the family can truly move forward with their lives.

Data shows that capital punishment is a power that has been abused. To date, at least 160 people have left death row - set free by new evidence after years of just sitting there burdening taxpayers. Many of these individuals were exonerated based on DNA evidence - evidence that has exposed mistakes by the justice system in hundreds of non-capital cases. So while the death penalty may make sense in theory, the way it plays out in real life makes it clear that it is often a tool of injustice.

Government's primary function is to execute justice. So even though I may agree with "an eye for an eye" in principle, the death penalty offers us sad and compelling evidence that government cannot perform its most basic duty; neither fairly nor swiftly. So why in the world would we give our fallible government the power to decide life and death? Government shouldn't play God.

Let's save the money, stop the re-victimization of the families, and reduce the power government yields. The reality is that we can never have a foolproof system because humans are imperfect. So with that imperfection let's err on the side of caution. It's time to get rid of the death penalty.We'll let God sort it out in the next life.

(source: Thomas Dyches is a conservative podcaster, radio co-host, and grassroots political activist who resides in St.


2012 Delhi gangrape: Supreme Court defers review petition to December 12----The bench had upheld the death penalty for all four convicts in the case on May 5.

The Supreme Court on Monday deferred a review petition filed by Mukesh, 1 of the convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, to December 12.

The matter was heard by a bench consisting Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan. On May 5, the bench had upheld the death penalty for all 4 convicts in the case.

6 individuals, including a juvenile, had raped a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. The woman, whom they had brutally abused, had succumbed to her injuries on December 29 the same year at a hospital in Singapore. The minor accused was released in December 2015 after serving 3 years in a detention home for juveniles while 1 convict died in prison.

A trial court had ordered death sentences for the convicts in September 2013, which was upheld by the Delhi High Court 6 months later. However, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the sentence after the convicts Akshay, Vinay Sharma, Pawan and Mukesh had moved it.

The incident had triggered country-wide protests and demands to ensure more safety for women in India. The outrage had forced the government to introduce new laws on rape.



Thousands demand death penalty for Chinese murderer in Japan

1 month ahead of the trial of a Chinese murderer in Japan, thousands of signatures have been collected to demand the death penalty for the man who stabbed a Chinese girl to death at her doorstep in Tokyo.

The suspect, Chen Shifeng, is scheduled to stand trial on December 11 in Tokyo for the murder of 24-year-old Chinese student Jiang Ge on November 3, 2016, in the capital of Japan.

Jiang's mother began to collect public signatures in August to call for the death penalty for Chen. She also flew to Japan this past weekend to garner more support. There is no exact record on the total number of signatures, but in lettered signatures alone, she has received 2,249 names as of October 29. On Sina Weibo, posts containing the link to the online petition were reposted tens of thousands of times.

"We understand that one is rarely sentenced to death in Japan, but we believe that it is one of the most heinous crimes to brutally kill an innocent girl due to his personal grudge with someone else. The suspect Chen Shifeng also showed no remorse after leaving the victim's family in pieces. We believe that Chen Shifeng must pay for his crimes and we plead for Japanese authorities to protect law-abiding citizens' human rights and sentence Chen Shifeng to death," said the petition letter, which was addressed to the Japanese judges and the trial jury in the name of a Chinese citizen.

Amid the public outcry to punish the murderer, Jiang's roommate Liu Xin has also come under criticism. Liu is an ex-girlfriend of Chen, and their former relationship is allegedly one reason for Jiang's death.

Chen allegedly followed Jiang back home to seek Liu when the murder took place. Liu allegedly refused to let Chen in when Jiang was attacked, but later claimed that she heard nothing and that the door was unlocked. However, neighbors say that they heard Jiang's desperate scream for help.

Liu's absence of apology and comfort to Jiang's family triggered even wider discussions as well as criticisms. She has also reportedly threatened to withdraw from the police investigation after her personal information was released online during her avoidance of contact with Jiang's family.

Many have criticized Liu's "lack of conscience" and want to hold Liu legally responsible for the death of Jiang Ge. Some legal experts have pointed out that while Liu may not be legally accountable, she should not be exempt from moral judgment.



HC commutes death penalty of killer

The death sentence of the killer of Supreme Court lawyer Sayma Khanum was commuted by the High Court to life imprisonment yesterday.

The convict is Faizul Islam, an assistant accountant in the Public Works Department.

According to the prosecution, the convict stabbed advocate Sayma, 44, a former cultural affairs secretary of Dhaka Bar Association, to death inside her Elephant Road apartment in the capital on July 17, 2007.

A week later, Faizul was arrested in connection with the murder. Faizul confessed to killing Sayma, claiming that he had given a total of Tk 12 lakh to Sayma after she promised him that she would arrange a cadre service job for him under the 27th BCS examination. Sayma, however, did not keep her promise, Faizul also claimed.

On October 4 in 2011, a Dhaka court handed down death penalty to Faizul for killing the lawyer.

Yesterday, the HC bench of Justice Md Ruhul Quddus and Justice Bhishmadev Chakrabortty gave the verdict.

Deputy Attorney General Moniruzzaman Rubel told The Daily Star the government will move an appeal before the SC, seeking capital punishment for Faizul.


NOVEMBER 12, 2017:


Murder defendant served 13 years for 2003 killing----Relatives remember 2003 Johnston County victim, reach out to Alamance family

1 defendant charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Harold Dean Simpson, 84, of Burlington was in prison for 2nd-degree murder at this time last year.

Sean Damion Castorina, 42, and Penny Michelle Dawson, 40, could face the death penalty in the killing of Simpson, whose body was found in late August in Caswell County. The pair allegedly then fled to Virginia, and shot a woman and left her for dead before they were arrested in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Castorina had been released from prison last December after serving 13 years for killing his boss.

In that case, Castorina was charged with shooting Sean Nichols, 27, after a disagreement over Castorina's paycheck. After the argument, the 2, who had been hunting buddies, went into the woods on an apparent hunting trip.

"It was one of those things where we knew who had done it right away," said Eric Davis, Nichols' brother-in-law. "They had had a small argument when [Castorina] came. looking for his paycheck. We cautioned Sean not to let his guard down."

"The last day I had seen my brother was the Saturday before Castorina killed him," said Christine Davis, Nichols' sister.

Davis recalled how the 2 men appeared to have left everything on good terms, but she "didn't have a good feeling."

Days later, Nichols went missing. While his family reported him missing, it was several more weeks until his body was found.

The only person who knew about the murder was Josh Harvey, 16 at the time and the brother of Castorina's then-girlfriend.

Harvey was allegedly present during the shooting and was said to have waited in Castorina's truck while Castorina and Nichols went hunting in Johnston County, Eric Davis said.

While hunting, Castorina shot Nichols in the back before shooting him again in the face.

"He covered the body and came back," Davis said. "He told the 16-year-old if he said anything, he would kill him."

Nichols' family called friends in an attempt to find Nichols. Davis claimed some of his friends went to see Castorina, who was "cool."

"The police went to interview him," Davis said. "They didn't really get the impression that we was nervous or lying."

According to Christine Davis, Harvey broke down and eventually led the cops to Nichols' body.

"He basically told the whole story to the police, and they went and found Castorina," Davis said.

Plea deal

Harvey was sentenced 3 to 5 years in prison for accessory to murder, while Castorina was sentenced to 16 years for 2nd-degree murder after a plea deal: Castorina pleaded to 2nd-degree murder, but since he was a 1st time offender, he served 13 years.

Castorina was released last December.

Upon his release, Nichols' family took it upon themselves to follow Castorina in an effort to see whether he would break the law again.

"We have been having to follow Sean Castorina on our own," Davis said.

In March, Davis learned, Burlington police charged Castorina with assault on a female and communicating threats, and his bond was set for $15,000. Christine Davis said the family tried to contact authorities to get Castorina back into jail, with no results.

Castorina was picked up again July 20, 2017, for a theft charge in Johnston County.

"He should never had gotten out," Christine Davis said. "We kept looking."

1 month later, the news came out that Castorina had been linked to Simpson's killing.

When Davis and his wife found out, they were shocked.

"We were never notified by victim services or parole or anything," Eric Davis said. "We had to find out on the Internet."

'It doesn't feel like justice'

Christine Davis expressed her desire to reach out to Simpson's family but knew she needed to wait. She eventually reached out to Heather Dunn, Simpson's granddaughter, on Facebook. The 2 families, including Simpson's son Robert Simpson, recently met to talk about their lost loved ones.

"They wanted to know more about what happened to my brother, what happened with court," Davis said. Dunn "kept getting upset. I know how she feels. I told her if she needs anything, call me."

Davis plans on staying in touch with the Simpson family and helping them through the trial.

Looking back, the Davis family expressed its sadness that another family had to go through the slaying of a loved one.

"I felt terrible that another family had to deal with the same stuff we did," Eric Davis said. "... We were hoping we could prevent this from happening to other people. It felt like we had lost in a way.

"We really feel for them, what they are going through," he added. "It is a long process. When you lose somebody, people think that you get justice, but even if you got the death penalty or life in prison, it doesn't bring that person back, and it doesn't feel like justice."

Christine Davis agreed but expressed anger at the justice system for letting Castorina out.

"I hate that this is happening," Davis said. "It shouldn't have happened. Our justice system needs to work better."



Clemency gone missing from Florida's death row

ustice is supposed to be blind, but not as blind as the U.S. Supreme Court when it ruled in 1993 that a Texas death row prisoner - who claimed to be innocent, but had run out of appeals - should look to the governor to save his life.

"Executive clemency,"wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist, is "the 'fail safe' in our criminal justice system."

But when it comes to the death penalty in Florida, the fail-safe has gone missing.

There hasn't been a death row commutation in Florida since 1983, the 1st year of Gov. Bob Graham's 2nd term.

Since Florida resumed executions in 1979, governors have put 95 people to death and spared only 6, all by Graham.

In at least 17 of those cases, advocates say grounds existed for commuting the sentence to life in prison. That's not "getting away" with anything, by the way. The only alternative to execution is life without parole.

In 4 of those cases, Florida juries had recommended life sentences, but were overruled by the judges. At least 2 of those put to death were insane, including 1 who believed he was being executed because he was Jesus. And 2 were Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's hard to understand what's happening because when it comes to open government, death row clemency is a black hole. Everything about the process is secret unless the governor or Cabinet chooses to hold a public hearing, which hasn't happened since the Jeb Bush administration.

There's no way to know whether the governor is receiving erroneous reports from his staff or from the Commission on Offender Review, which reviews clemency applications.

Neither is there a way to tell whether the governor even reads the files for himself.

Like his predecessors, Gov. Rick Scott routinely signs death warrants without saying why he denied clemency, other than that he found no reason. We asked his spokeswoman. She said: "His foremost concerns are consideration for the families of the victims and the finality of judgment."

Those final words say more than she may have realized. "Finality" is the mantra of appellate courts that have decided they've heard enough from a prisoner. Now it's the governor's mantra, too?

But what if the criminal justice system got it wrong?

It's not a hypothetical question. Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations, with 27. That means that in sentencing someone to death, the state has gotten it wrong 27 times.

Given that sobering statistic, you have to wonder how many innocent people may have been executed or remain on death row.

Gov. Scott has presided over 26 executions, more than any governor since they were resumed in 1979. The latest took place Wednesday, when Patrick Hannon was killed by chemical injection for his role in killing 2 Tampa men in 1991.

The governor's silence about his use of the ultimate punishment is an insult to the people of Florida. Nothing in government is as grave as the power to choose between life and death. He should be accountable for how he uses it. Does he read the letters sent him by families, attorneys or prisoners? Has he ever questioned the reports and requested more information? Has he ever had doubts?

It's not "soft on crime" for a governor to commute a death row sentence to life without parole. In many ways, life without hope is a fate worse than death.

Former governors understood this.

From 1925 through 1964, the start of an unofficial nationwide moratorium, Florida governors commuted 55 of the 250 death sentences that came to their desks, a rate of 22 %. Every governor spared at least 1 in 5. 2 commuted nearly half.

The most famous instance was LeRoy Collins's 1956 decision to spare Walter Lee Irvin, a black man condemned for the alleged rape of a white woman in Lake County. In the aftermath, a posse killed a man who had been with Irvin that day. Irvin, along with 2 others, was badly beaten. Later, while being transported to jail, he was shot by a sheriff, but survived.

The Irvin commutation was used against Collins in his re-election campaign. He won.

"My conscience told me that this was a bad case, badly handled, badly tried, and now on this bad performance I was asked to take a man's life. My conscience would not let me do it," he said.

Collins was vindicated. The "Groveland 4" had been framed. This year, the Florida Legislature formally apologized for the injustice and asked Scott to pardon them posthumously. He has yet to say whether he will.

The Collins example deserves to be followed, not ignored.

Among the proposals filed by members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is one that would repeal the death penalty. This deserves serious consideration.

At a minimum, the commission should open the curtains on how governors use or don't use the power of clemency. Given how often Florida sends the wrong person to death row, we need, as Rehnquist said, a fail-safe backstop.

(source: Editorial, Sun Sentinel)


Search warrants, court filings add details in Butler double homicide----Police investigating a 2016 double homicide in Butler County have been exploring the social media accounts of the four co-defendants and their online interactions with others.

Kentucky State Police obtained search warrants in October for information on the Facebook accounts of 7 people believed to have been associated with Charles Lindsey, Kayla Ford, Arlexis Kawai and Helen Rone. Those 4 have been charged in connection with the deaths of 2 people whose bodies were found Nov. 9, 2016, in a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria that had been set on fire in the 700 block of Region-Reedyville Road.

Lindsey, 33, of Roundhill, is charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count each of 1st-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence. He could face the death penalty if convicted as charged.

Rone, 22, of Roundhill; Ford, 27, of Edmonton; and Kawai, 22, of Bowling Green, are each charged with 2 counts of complicity to murder, 2 counts of facilitation of murder and 1 count each of 1st-degree complicity to arson, 1st-degree facilitation of arson and tampering with physical evidence.

Court records name the victims as Cory Hampton, 28, and Britany Tomes, 17. The car in which their bodies were found was registered to Hampton, according to court records.

Ford, Kawai and Rone are accused of following Lindsey as he drove from Roundhill to the scene of the double homicide and then drove him away from the scene.

Court records indicate Rone sent a picture of Hampton's car from her Facebook messenger account to Kawai's on the night before the double homicide and that Rone and Kawai also discussed "whether Hampton had money and/or drugs in his possession" that night, according to one of several motions for discovery filed in the case by Lindsey's attorney, Sam Lowe of the Department of Public Advocacy.

The search warrants obtained by police seek all information, uploaded photos and messages sent between Oct. 1, 2016, and Dec. 1, 2016, on the Facebook accounts of 7 people, 2 of whom Lindsey reportedly identified as being present at the scene of the homicides. None of those 7 people are charged with a crime in connection with the double homicide.

Police ascertained that the co-defendants and the victims had active Facebook accounts and "affiliations with 1 another through shared friends and/or wall postings."

Investigators sought search warrants for Facebook accounts belonging to Sherman Watkins, Tonia Flowers and Pete Strickland.

In affidavits supporting the request for warrants, KSP Detective Joshua Amos stated that Lindsey disclosed in a police interview that he believed Watkins and Strickland were "involved in the murders and/or present at the scene."

A search warrant granting access to a Facebook account for Jeffery Johnson was sought on the basis that Johnson knows how Hampton and Lindsey met.

"A review of defendant Lindsey's Facebook account reveals that in the days immediately preceding the murders there was communication between Lindsey and Johnson via Facebook," Amos stated in an affidavit.

Police sought access to Robert Flood's Facebook page because "Ford was using Flood's Facebook to communicate with Rone," Amos said in an affidavit.

Information on a Facebook page for Jason Bradley was sought by KSP because police found evidence that Bradley was angry at Hampton's involvement with Bradley's girlfriend, court records show.

Police also requested a search warrant for Sara Meyers' Facebook account because of evidence that Meyers spoke with Hampton via Facebook on the day before the double homicide, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.

Lindsey, Ford, Kawai and Rone are scheduled to appear Dec. 20 for a pretrial conference in Butler Circuit Court before Special Judge John Grise.

It is possible the judge will take up 2 motions filed in October by Lowe to prevent Lindsey's co-defendants from testifying at his trial.

Lowe said in his motion that Ford, Kawai and Rone gave statements to police about the incident, with each maintaining they did not see Lindsey kill the 2 victims or set the Crown Victoria on fire.

The line of questioning pursued by police suggested to Lindsey's co-defedants that picking Lindsey up from the scene amounts to being complicit to murder, regardless of whether they knew what Lindsey was doing, Lowe argues.

"After it was suggested that they could be convicted of murder simply by picking (Lindsey) up, regardless of whether they knew what he did, they then each said that they picked up (the) defendant, saw nothing unusual and then at a later time he confessed to committing the murders," Lowe states in his motion.

The threat of being punished for murder for picking up Lindsey from the scene "calls into question whether they will honor their obligation to tell the truth" at a jury trial, according to Lowe.

In a separate motion, Lowe has requested that 2 interviews Lindsey gave to KSP not be admitted as evidence.

Lindsey was interviewed 4 times by police. Lowe is seeking to suppress the final 2 interviews, given Nov. 20, 2016, and Dec. 1, 2016, after Lindsey was arrested.

During the course of those interviews, Lindsey had a pending theft charge in Allen County that was unrelated to the Butler County case.

Lindsey had a different lawyer in the theft case, and Lowe claims there was no evidence that Lindsey and the other attorney had a "meaningful discussion ... concerning the consequences of waiving his right to remain silent."

Lowe argues that when a defendant in a pending criminal case discusses another case with law enforcement, that discussion will negatively affect the 1st case, in the form of a plea offer carrying a tougher penalty, revocation of bond or an attempt to introduce the facts from 1 pending case as evidence against the defendant in the other case.

"In order for an attorney who is representing a client on an active case to be effective counsel, the attorney must have knowledge that law enforcement wishes to interview a defendant on a subsequent case and thoroughly advise the client whether to speak or remain silent," Lowe said in the motion.

A list of items of evidence provided to the defense by Butler County Commonwealth's Attorney Blake Chambers takes up several pages in court filings and includes security camera footage from various locations, recordings of several police interviews, crime scene photos, Facebook records, state medical examiner's reports and reports from multiple fire departments.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)


Missouri judge faces rare chance to impose death penalty

A southwest Missouri jury's inability to decide whether a man should be put to death for kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl sets up a rare situation where a judge will make that decision.

Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy is scheduled to announce Jan. 11 whether Craig Wood will get the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. Wood was convicted of kidnapping and killing Hailey Owen in Springfield in February 2014 but the jury announced Monday that it couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on his sentence.

Missouri and Indiana are the only states where a judge can impose a death sentence, while other states follow the federal procedure that defendant is sentenced to life in prison if a jury can't reach a decision on the death penalty, The Springfield News-Leader reported. But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury, not a judge, can make that decision.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said a judge-imposed sentence might contradict the Supreme Court ruling. He said if Mountjoy imposes the death penalty, the constitutionality of the process will "unquestionably" be challenged by Wood's attorneys during the appeal process.

But Wood's attorney Patrick Berrigan declined to comment on his legal strategy.

Berrigan, a public defender who handles only death penalty cases, said it's been more than 20 years since he had a case where a judge imposed the death sentence.

Judge Mountjoy did not respond to News-Leader requests asking if he has ever been in this situation before.

Dunham said Missouri jurors have not imposed a death sentence since 2013, but the state's hung jury procedure allowed judges to sentence a few men to death row in recent years. He did not have statistics on how many times that has happened in Missouri.

"It raises very serious questions about circumventing the will of the public," Dunham said. "Especially in a state where no jury has sentenced anyone to death for 5 years."


Judge rules against cameras in Hannibal man's murder trial

Cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom during the Timothy Brokes murder trial.

Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd made the ruling Thursday saying it would "materially interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial."

The Herald-Whig's news-gathering partners at WGEM and Quincy TV station KHQA both asked the court to allow for cameras. The request also asked to allow reporters to post to social media in the courtroom and to stream the proceeding live.

Representatives for both TV stations made statements before Bringer Shepherd on Nov. 1. The request was opposed by Brokes' counsel.

Brokes, 36, has pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Jan. 12, 2016, shooting death of Brittany S. Gauch, 30, and to charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the shooting of her husband, Aaron M. Gauch, 32, the same day. Both were shot in Marion County.

Marion County Prosecuting Attorney David Clayton said in September that he will seek the death penalty against Brokes.

Brokes also is facing charges in Monroe County in connection with the shooting of a Monroe City police officer Jan. 13, 2016. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault on a law enforcement officer, armed criminal action and hindering prosecution of a felony in Monroe County Circuit Court.

He is scheduled to return to court Nov. 27 for a motion to suppress hearing. Brokes continues to be held in the Marion County Jail.

(source for both: Associated Press)


Analysis: Halted Execution Deepens Conservative Ire at Court----The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to halt another execution will only deepen the ire of conservatives at the court over death penalty cases, but it's too soon to tell what the political fallout will be.

The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to halt another execution last week will only further the complaints lobbed by conservatives who say the court is denying closure to victims' families. But it's too soon to tell what the political fallout will be and whether it'll factor into any races next year.

Justices last week granted an emergency stay for Jack Greene, who had been sentenced to death in the 1991 killing of Sidney Burnett, while justices take up a case related to claims that the convicted murderer is severely mentally ill. It marked the 4th execution halted this year by the court, which spared 3 of the 8 inmates Arkansas had planned to put to death before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired at the end of April.

The state's top attorney said she wouldn't appeal the order and vented frustration at the court over its 5-2 decision.

"With no written order or explanation provided, the Arkansas Supreme Court has once again delayed justice for the family of Sidney Burnett," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. "I will continue to fight for justice for Sidney Burnett and to give the Burnett family the closure they deserve."

The stay revived conservatives' criticism of the court, which grew in April when justices scaled back what had been an unprecedented plan to put 8 inmates to death over an 11-day period. Arkansas ultimately carried out 4 executions that month after 3 inmates were spared by the state high court and another by a federal judge.

"These guys committed heinous crimes. They have been convicted and convicted and convicted, and now we have what appears to be activism on our justices' side to basically re-victimize the families and victims," said Republican Sen. Bart Hester.

The criticism is striking for a court that has shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and candidates spent more than $1.6 million last year on a pair of high court races that were among the most expensive and bitterly fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.

As in April, part of the furor has focused on the lack of a detailed ruling elaborating on the court's reason for the stay. The court issued a 1-page decision granting Greene's request for a stay, the same approach taken when it halted three other executions in April. Greene's attorneys asked for the stay so they can appeal a lower court's decision to dismiss their challenge to an Arkansas law giving the state's top prison official authority to determine the inmate's mental competency.

"It's just troubling. I want to know the reason why we're delaying justice to these families so we can properly move forward," Republican Sen. Trent Garner said last week.

The ruling also came days after the court threw another new potential obstacle at efforts to continue executions, ruling that a 2015 law keeping secret the source of Arkansas' lethal injection drugs protected suppliers and sellers but not manufacturers. A New York company revealed last week as the maker of Arkansas' newly obtained supply of midazolam, 1 of 3 drugs used in the lethal injection process, said it didn't want its products used for executions and said it doesn't sell drugs for that purpose.

The 1st big test of whether there's any backlash over the stays will come next year, with 1 of the state's 7 Supreme Court seats on the ballot. Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson, whose seat is up next year, has not said whether she'll seek re-election. Goodson, who voted for the stays, lost her bid for chief justice last year after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her.

Poll numbers last week also showed just how much Arkansans' strong support of the death penalty contrasts with a national decline in recent years. 72 % of respondents in the University of Arkansas' annual Arkansas poll supported death penalty as a punishment for murder. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 % points.

"The average Arkansas voter on this core issue is just different from the average American voter," said Janine Parry, the director of the poll.

(source: Associated Press)


Ada County's rift with association almost costs Boise-area taxpayers big bucks

Idaho's most populated county's plan to go it alone in hopes of saving money lasted only 2 days.

The Ada County Commission voted quickly and unanimously on Thursday to reverse its earlier decision to withdraw from Idaho's Capital Crimes Defense Fund and refuse to sign a joint powers agreement for criminal defense. It did so after learning that the move, rather than saving the money, would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The commissioners had decided to drop out of both of those along with its membership in the Idaho Association of Counties, and informed outgoing Association of Counties chief Dan Chadwick in a letter on Tuesday.

Then, the county got a disturbing call from the State Appellate Public Defender's office.

"They said we have 167 appeals we need to bring by," Tony Geddes, Ada County public defender, told the 3 commissioners on Thursday morning.

Withdrawing from the Capital Crimes Defense Fund, which the Legislature established in 1998, would remove Ada County's access to the services of the State Appellate Public Defender, whose office provides both felony appeals representation when county costs for an individual case exceed $10,000, and capital case representation. It was set up to save counties money. Typically, 30 to 40 % of the office's work involves Ada County cases, according to the State Appellate Public Defender Eric Fredericksen.

Last year, the state-funded office spent nearly $700,000 on Ada County cases.

There also are 2 pending death penalty cases from Ada County that the SAPD's office is handling: The Erick Hall post-conviction appeals, involving Hall's rape and murder of 2 women in Ada County in 2002 and 2003; and the case of Azad Abdullah, who was convicted in 2004 of 1st-degree murder in the arson death of his wife, Angie.

The SAPD's work meets all constitutional standards for public defense. As a result, it was excluded from the ACLU lawsuit that's challenging Idaho's public defense system in counties across the state as constitutionally defective. The Idaho Association of Counties administers the fund.

"All 44 counties are participating in the fund," said Kelli Brassfield, the Idaho Association of Counties government affairs associate. The association administers the fund.

The Capital Crimes Defense Fund assesses counties fees using a formula based on population, but the fund had sufficient reserves that it didn't assess any fees this year or last year.

Ada Commissioner Jim Tibbs said the last time Ada County was assessed, the charge was $200,000.

"We are very frugal with the county's money," Tibbs said. "Nobody knew this was tied to the SAPD, and that you have to be a participant ... to even get the services of the SAPD."

Geddes told the commissioners their withdrawal from the fund caused a "kerfuffle."

"It's an obscure statute," he said. "Not everyone knows about it."

Geddes said the commissioners could make a "simple fix" by voting to "re-engage in the Capital Crimes Defense Fund and avoid losing the services of the state appellate public defender," adding, "There are a lot of people that would be very relieved."

Commission Chairman Dave Case said, "Including the 3 people on this side of the table," referring to the 3 county commissioners.

"The good news is that there were no serious problems caused as a result of it," Tibbs said after the commission voted to rejoin the defense fund. "We were able to catch the problem, and we're fixing it."

The Ada commissioners are sticking by their decision, however, to drop their membership in the Idaho Association of Counties, which also charges fees based on population, and would have charged Ada County nearly $44,000. All 44 counties in Idaho have belonged to the association, which was formed in 1976 and advocates for county issues at state Legislature, provides training and technical assistance, and coordinates numerous other programs.

"We don't really get much of anything out of it. It's mainly for the rural counties," Tibbs said. "We weren't getting the representation that we thought we deserved for the amount of money we're paying."

The Ada commissioners have decided to spend the money they otherwise would have spent on IAC dues on hiring their own lobbyists for the upcoming legislative session. They've hired Jeremy Chou and Ken McClure of Givens Pursley for $40,000.



Governors play a central role in Nevada's death penalty; group appealing to Sandoval to stop planned execution

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada plans to deliver a petition to Gov. Brian Sandoval on Monday, asking him to urge the prisons director to refrain from using a lethal injection drug combination that's never before been used to carry out the death penalty.

Although there are a range of ways to stop an execution in Nevada, ACLU officials believe this is their best hope for staving off the ultimate punishment of inmate Scott Dozier, who has been convicted of 2 murders but voluntarily abandoned his appeals and is urging the state to carry out the penalty. The execution, originally scheduled for Tuesday, is on hold over concerns about the lethal injection method and now hinges on an order from the Nevada Supreme Court; it's unclear when that will come.

"Without more details about the state's plan, it is not clear if the execution will be humane or violate the Constitution," the ACLU said in its petition, which has several hundred signatures. "We need your help to get Governor Sandoval to stop this execution while so many questions remain about it."

With laws on the death penalty varying dramatically from state to state, governors play a central role in the practice. They can veto bills to abolish the practice and wield the power to call off an execution - wide authority that adds weight to the outcome of Nevada's 2018 gubernatorial election.

Sandoval, a former federal judge, included funds for a new execution chamber in his 2015 budget proposal and signaled his opposition to a death penalty abolition bill that emerged in the 2017 legislative session but was never brought up for a vote and died in committee. He said he supports the death penalty even though he's Catholic and some of his faith's leaders are adamantly against it; Pope Francis declared in October that the practice was "contrary to the Gospel."

"It's obviously difficult for me, I'm Catholic," Sandoval said in an interview with The Nevada Independent in late October. "But at the same time, I've always supported the death penalty, and the egregious circumstances whereby an operation of law, a jury of his peers has made that decision ... I support the Nevada law."

He's also expressed confidence in the lethal injection cocktail that the ACLU wants him to block.

"I don't know if I'd call it unknown," the governor said. "I've got to rely upon the expertise, the medical expertise, of the state medical officer, and based on his analysis and recommendations, he feels that it's going to work, so I trust his judgment."

A governor's role

An execution can be held off for a variety of reasons, most commonly as a conviction or sentence is appealed. It can also be stayed while a court investigates the offender's mental sanity or intellectual capacity, or if the inmate is pregnant.

But Nevada law also provides other routes.

The state Constitution empowers a governor to "grant reprieves for a period not exceeding sixty days dating from the time of conviction, for all offenses, except in cases of impeachment."

The ACLU, citing the minutes of a constitutional convention in 1864, interprets that language as granting the governor the chance to postpone the imposition of a sentence by up to 60 days at a time. The intent, according to framers' dialogue, was to allow time for a pardons board to convene and to avoid giving unfettered pardoning power to a single person.

The constitution lays out a more permanent process: The State Board of Pardons Commissioners, which includes Sandoval, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and all 7 justices on the Nevada Supreme Court, can commute (reduce) a sentence. That happens if at least a majority of members vote to do so, and the governor must be among the group voting in the affirmative.

The board typically meets twice a year - most recently last week - and has wide latitude to reduce sentences or pardon people (nullify the consequences of the original conviction, such as loss of voting rights, loss of the right to bear arms, or occupational licensing restrictions). But while it's technically an option, observers say Dozier’s case has virtually no chance of ending up there.

"It's really the wrong vehicle," said Scott Coffee, a Clark County public defender who's been active on death penalty issues. "It's like trying to take a sailboat through the Mojave Desert."

For one, Nevada Administrative Code says the board won't consider applications for a commutation or pardon from someone sentenced to death unless they've exhausted all available judicial appeals. Dozier has voluntarily given up further appeals but could reverse course on that decision if he chooses.

2nd, there are timeline hurdles. A petition for a commutation must be turned in 90 days before the Board of Pardons Commissioners meets; the next meeting is expected to be in May.

3rd, pardons and commutations are typically only handed down in extraordinary situations, such as when a prisoner has shown exceptional conduct or when there's been a drastic change in circumstances since conviction. A pardon granted last week to Fred Steese, for example, came after new evidence emerged in his murder case, and a lower court judge ruled he was actually innocent.

Commutations are rare: the board has historically received about 1,000 petitions for commutation each year, grants hearings in about 20 cases a year and actually hands down a commutation in about half of those cases. Pardons, which are usually granted in cases where there's been a significant amount of time since the person was discharged, were handed down 11 times in 2016.

The governor retains significant power in the pardon and commutation process - he has discretion to remove any application from consideration by the board even if staff approve it for board review.

Only 1 death row inmate has been granted clemency by a Nevada governor since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976 - that was Thomas Nevius in 2002.

The pardons board, chaired by Gov. Kenny Guinn, unanimously commuted Nevius' sentence from death to life without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of people with "mental retardation." Convicted of 2 murders, Nevius had been scheduled for execution 3 times but each instance was called off because of appeals.

Evidence of his disability was not properly provided during the trial phase, and several jurors said they wouldn’t have voted for execution had they seen it. According to an Associated Press article from the time of his pardon, Nevius, "whose lawyers said he knew something 'good' had occurred, murmured his thanks as officers led him away."

Where do Nevada governor hopefuls stand?


Laxalt's campaign did not respond to requests for comment about his position on the death penalty.

But according to the Nevada Appeal, which interviewed Laxalt Monday at a Carson City restaurant during the candidate's statewide campaign launch tour, the perceived Republican frontrunner said he believes in the death penalty in spite of being a devout Catholic. The newspaper reported that he declined comment on the execution of Scott Dozier, noting that he's representing the state and handling legal action related to the execution.

Jordan Smith, one of Laxalt's subordinates, has been arguing in court on behalf of the Nevada Department of Corrections. The agency wants to use a 3-drug combination in the lethal injection that includes a paralytic, but Judge Jennifer Togliatti has barred the 3rd drug, citing a defense expert witness anesthesiologist who said it could mask signs that the other 2 drugs aren't working and lead to Dozier being conscious of a "horrifying" suffocation death.

The state, which stands by the original 3-drug cocktail plan, sought and received a stay of the execution so the Nevada Supreme Court can weigh in on the issue.


The Republican state treasurer said he generally supports the death penalty.

"The death penalty is the state's ultimate punishment for a criminal defendant," he said in a statement. "Am I morally opposed to it? No. But its use depends on the facts and circumstances of each case."


The Clark County commissioner, former state lawmaker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate is opposed to the death penalty and welcomes discussion of abolition.

"It's a tough debate, but it's worthwhile having that discussion," she said in an interview. "At some point, the cost to the taxpayer for all the appeals and the length of time and the individuals who have to be trained to make sure they get the right defense ... It's 20 years in some cases. So really what are we fighting over? The person should be in prison without the opportunity for parole. Make them have to think about what they did."

She said Nevada's independent streak explains some of the state's death penalty trends - it's had 12 executions in the past 40 years, far less than some states such as Texas but far from states that have had bans for more than 100 years.

"I do think Nevadans are pretty pragmatic as far as where they stand whether it's on this issue or education or whatnot," she said. "I don't think we should assume just because we're the West that we're always so far to the right or so far to the left as far as that's concerned. Texas wants to execute everybody."

"It was never a deterrent," she added. "Somebody that's going to be bad is going to be bad no matter what."


The Clark County Commission chairman and Democratic candidate is against the death penalty.

"I'm opposed to capital punishment," he said in a brief interview. "One, there's a cost factor associated with it that's significant. Two, I think there have been cases where it was proven that the wrong person was executed, and 3, that I don't think that I should play God in terms of determining who dies and who lives."

(source: The Nevada Independent)


Yisrael Beytenu to propose death penalty for terrorists

The Yisrael Beytenu party will request at the meeting of coalition heads to submit a proposal to establish the death penalty for terrorists.

The proposal would allow the death penalty for a terrorist convicted of murder during terror activity by a majority of a military court, without the requirement of a unanimous ruling by the court.

(source: Israel National News)

NOVEMBER 11, 2017:

TEXAS----new execution date

Lubbock judge signs death warrant for Rosendo Rodriguez

Lubbock Judge Jim Bob Darnell issued Wednesday an order of execution for 37-year-old Rosendo Rodriguez III, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2005 slaying of a pregnant woman whose body was stuffed inside a piece of luggage found at the Lubbock city landfill.

Darnell's order comes 2 weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Rodriguez's appeal and sets a March 27 date for his execution by lethal injection.

Rodriguez, who became known as the "Suitcase killer," was convicted of the 2005 beating and choking death of 29-year-old Summer Baldwin, who was 5 weeks pregnant. Her body was stuffed inside a piece of luggage found at the city landfill in Lubbock. Baldwin lived in Lubbock and Rodriguez was training here as a Marine reservist.

Court records show Rodriguez was linked to at least 5 other sexual assaults and to the disappearance of 16-year-old Joanna Rogers, who had been missing more than a year. He confessed to killing the teenager, whose body was also found in a suitcase in the Lubbock landfill.

Rodriguez is 1 of 3 Texas death row inmates convicted in Lubbock County.

Joe Franco Garza, who was convicted in the 1998 killing of Silbiano Rangel, is awaiting results of a post-conviction DNA testing filed in 2015, according to court records.

Brian Suniga, who was convicted in the 2011 slaying of David Rowser, is in the midst of appealing his death sentence.

(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)


DA will not seek death penalty in murder of Zoe Hastings

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson will not be seeking the death penalty in the case of Antonio Cochran, charged with the murder of Zoe Hastings in 2015.

Police allege that Cochran kidnapped Hastings in her family's minivan from Walgreens on Garland Road and Peavy Drive, killed the teenager, then dumped her and the vehicle in a creek in Lake Highlands. Hastings was on her way to church.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said that the Cochran had an "intellectual disability," which makes him ineligible for the death penalty. On Friday, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office released the following statement:

"It came to our attention that the defendant may have had some intellectual challenges. As a result, we were pro-active in requesting the court's permission for an evaluation. Our expert's findings are such that the defendant does fit the current legal definition of a person with an intellectual disability. We are not seeking the death penalty in this case because the current law states an individual who has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability is not eligible for the death penalty. However, we remain committed to seeking justice on behalf of Zoe Hastings and her family."

WFAA discovered Cochran has an extensive criminal history in Bowie County that includes multiple felony arrests.

(source: WFAA TV news)


Former partners, jailers give testimony during punishment phase in Hudson capital murder trial

Prosecutors rested their case late Thursday afternoon after calling 8 witnesses during the 2nd full day of the punishment phase of a capital murder trial for an East Texas man facing the death penalty for killing multiple members of 2 families in one night in November 2015.

William Mitchell Hudson, 35, of Tennessee Colony was indicted on 3 counts of capital murder in connection with the slayings of Thomas Kamp, 45; Austin Kamp, 21; Nathan Kamp, 23; Kade Johnson, 6; Hannah Johnson, 40; and Carl Johnson, 76 at a campsite in Anderson County. Jurors convicted Hudson of capital murder in less than 20 minutes Tuesday for killing Hannah Johnson and her father, Carl Johnson. The case was moved to Brazos County because of pre-trial publicity in Anderson County, which is more than 100 miles northeast of Bryan.

The Johnson and Kamp families met on Nov. 14, 2015, at a campsite on land in Anderson County that Thomas Kamp had recently purchased from a distant relative of Hudson's family, a transaction that Hudson reportedly was not happy about. Jurors convicted Hudson for shooting and beating to death Carl Johnson and his daughter, Hannah; prosecutors also argued that Hudson had shot and killed the 4 others in the woods while they were looking for firewood, shortly before he had returned to the campsite to kill Hannah and Carl.

Jurors heard testimony Thursday from Suzanna Reed, one of Hudson's ex-wives, and from Amanda Hyden, Hudson's ex-girlfriend and mother of one of his children. Both women painted similar pictures of Hudson: a violent and erratic alcoholic.

Reed said Hudson had threatened to shoot himself, but had never threatened to shoot her, when he brought his guns out to demonstrate his commitment to suicide. Reed said Hudson hadn't drank much when they were dating, but started drinking heavily once they tied the knot. When Hudson got mad, Reed said, she could see "a rage" in his eyes.

Hyden said Hudson has put guns to her head and once put her in a headlock after she told him she wanted to leave him. She was able to escape after putting her keys between her fingers and punching him in the groin. Altogether, Hyden estimated Hudson threatened her life 10 to 15 times over the course of their relationship.

Reed said Hudson had threatened to cut her brake lines in the future -- when enough time had passed so authorities wouldn't suspect him -- and at one point threw a knife so hard into the ground that it stuck straight up. She said she had been scared of Hudson in the past, but wasn't now.

Hyden, who suffers from epilepsy, said she "had to drive everywhere we went because he was always drunk."

Both Hyden and Reed said they hadn't called the police when threatened because Hudson had warned them against involving the authorities.

"He told me that if I called the police he would shoot them when they came in," said Reed.

Hyden, meanwhile, said Hudson had told her that calling the police "wouldn't matter" because he knew all the cops, so Hyden never called because "it seemed like it was useless."

Hudson's tense relationships stretched beyond his significant others, the women said in their separate testimony. According to Reed, Hudson had a "strained relationship with his parents,"

"There was some animosity, maybe some resentment there," she said of his relationship with Mac and Crystal Hudson.

Multiple witnesses have portrayed Hudson in their testimony as narcissistic and prone to exaggeration. Hyden said part of this derived from his pride in his family.

"He liked to talk about how he was entitled to so many things because of his last name," she said.

Multiple jailers from the Anderson County Jail testified Thursday that Hudson had threatened or verbally abused them, though they could not recount an instance where he had physically harmed another inmate or member of the jail staff. Judith Skinner, former jailer at the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, said Hudson once attempted to strike her, but was unable to do so after she restrained him.

Prosecutors also played recordings of calls Hudson made to his mother and girlfriend from the county jail, where he can be heard repeatedly making threats toward the jail staff who had testified earlier Thursday morning.

In one call, Hudson asked his mother why he was considered a high-risk inmate, noting that he was in a solitary cell.

"They put me in isolation ... I didn't ask to come over here," Hudson said. "They've given me no chance in general population whatsoever."

In another phone call, Hudson said he would beat up a cellmate if he were asked to share a cell, so he could get back to being by himself. In multiple other calls, Hudson could be heard complaining to a girlfriend and his mother about various perceived infractions from jailers at the Anderson County Jail. Hudson can be heard in several calls threatening to kill or hurt other jail staff.

Under questioning from Hudson's attorneys, various witnesses on Thursday said Hudson had not carried out his violent threats -- aside from attempting to strike Skinner -- against jail staff or other inmates, but Aneshia Thompson, investigator with the district attorney's office, said Hudson had been in his own cell and had been restricted from interacting with inmates in general population.

Thursday's testimony ended with 2 members of the Johnson and Kamp families talking about the loved ones they lost in the Tennessee Colony massacre. Elizabeth Helena Johnson Vankirk, daughter of Carl Johnson, sister of Hannah Johnson and aunt of Kade Johnson, said she had begun to move on since the slayings, but "every time something comes up, it brings back the memories all over again."

The trial continues at 9 a.m. this morning, when defense attorneys will have the opportunity to present their case and call their own witnesses. They did not call any witnesses in the trial's guilt/innocence phase.



Longtime Bedford County Judge William W. Sweeney presided over city annexation case, Soering trial

Ascending to a judgeship has been known to cause a spike in self-importance and the erosion of a sense of humor.

Judge William W. Sweeney, who died Nov. 5 at the age of 89, spent most of his 33 years on the bench fighting against those inclinations.

"You have to be careful," Sweeney once told a reporter. "When you're a judge, people stand up when you walk into the courtroom. Lawyers laugh at your jokes, even when they're not funny. You can't let it go to your head."

Yet with Sweeney, by most accounts, it was never about him. It was about the law.

"A good judge," he said, "is like a good basketball referee. You should be almost invisible."

Phil Baker, who argued cases before Sweeney as a Bedford County assistant commonwealth's attorney, said: "He did what he had to do as a judge, and he made the decisions a judge has to make. Sometimes, though, I think it stayed with him."

Like the 3 times during his long tenure on the Bedford County Circuit Court bench when Sweeney had to sign off on death penalty convictions. Or the period in the mid-1970s when he served on a 3-judge panel created to rule on Lynchburg's attempted annexation of portions of Bedford, Campbell and Amherst counties - a decision, Sweeney later said, that brought out as much raw emotion as any criminal case.

Sweeney also faced some criticism when he declined to recuse himself from the double-murder trial of Jens Soering in 1990. He had attended Virginia Military Institute with the brother of Nancy Haysom, 1 of the victims, and had presided over the earlier trial of Elizabeth Haysom, who was convicted of being an accessory.

In his statement, Sweeney said: "The alleged offenses occurred in this jurisdiction. Therefore, it is my responsibility to try unless I am unable to give the defendant a fair trial. I have concluded that I can preside fairly in Jens Soering's trial."

Moreover, he added, Soering's fate would be determined by a jury, and the death penalty had been taken off the table in a deal to get the German citizen back from England. Thus, Sweeney's role would be more like the aforementioned basketball referee than that of a final decision-maker.

William P. Sweeney, the judge's father, had been a self-made man who ran the Duti-Duds Apparel company in Lynchburg and a tight ship at home for William and sisters Pat and Mary. Young William played football at E.C. Glass, ran track at VMI and then volunteered for the Army Airborne, where he made more than 30 jumps.

His military service provided 1 of the stories Sweeney loved to tell about himself. Serving as the jumpmaster on 1 occasion, he mistakenly deployed his paratroopers not over the assigned target field but downtown Paducah, Kentucky.

"I got a little anxious and went out the door prematurely," he said, "and my men followed me. I was lucky enough to land in a schoolyard, but the others had to fend off church steeples and such. The fact that I wore pretty thick glasses never inspired much confidence in my men, anyway."

After his military service, Sweeney graduated from the University of Virginia Law School and then went to work for the law firm of Caskie, Frost, Davidson and Watts in Lynchburg. He eventually became president of the Lynchburg Bar, but he was still surprised when the General Assembly nominated him for the Bedford judgeship in 1965, following the death of Charles Burks. At 36, Sweeney became the youngest jurist in the state.

"Like most people, I didn't grow up wanting to be a judge," he said later. "It just sort of happens to you. It's something you can't control."

But Sweeney was eager for the challenge, and he had always preferred a judicial seat somewhere other than in his hometown of Lynchburg.

"You really don't like to shop and mingle and socialize with people who may one day come before you for one reason or another," he explained.

Sweeney was not the sort of judge inclined to wall himself away from the public for fear of being asked about a case. In so many ways, he was the quintessential well-to-do Lynchburger - an E.C. Glass graduate, a Sunday school teacher at Court Street United Methodist Church, a board member for the Salvation Army and Red Cross, a member of the intellectual Sphex Club, frequent mentor to young attorneys and an engaging public speaker. He regularly made the circuit of local churches at Easter to deliver a lecture on "The Trial of Jesus."

Sweeney's 1st Bedford case was hardly the stuff of high drama, and even may not have been reported in the newspaper. But the new judge took it seriously.

"It involved someone accused of not paying for a refrigerator," he said, "and I remember being very nervous. It may sound trivial now, but to the people involved in that case, it was the most important thing in the world at that moment."

The Soering trial was at the other end of the visibility spectrum, attracting media attention from as far away as Washington, Atlanta and Detroit (where Soering's father occupied a diplomatic post). It also was televised in its entirety via Lynchburg's Cable Channel 6, which then broadcast the day's testimony each evening, unedited, to an increasingly fascinated audience.

This was a contentious and complicated case, and the strain on Sweeney was enormous. Still, he managed to demonstrate his sense of humor in the midst of it.

Early in the trial, he had worn bright red socks on the bench, and the unblinking eye of the TV camera honed in on them. Sweeney's wife, Nada, teased him about it, which inspired him to write a whimsical poem. During a break from the trial, he called a group of reporters back into his chambers and read it to them.

Phil Baker got to see a different side of Sweeney when the judge took up mediation after his retirement in 1998.

"He loved doing that," Baker said, "and he was good at it. He was always a good listener."

Sweeney said he relished the opportunity to work collaboratively with individuals rather than having to pick winners and losers.

"A judge has to make decisions that only God should make," he said.

(source: Darrell Laurant, now retired, was a longtime columnist for The News & Advance. His book, "Even Here," chronicles the Soering trial along with several other high-profile criminal cases from Bedford County in the 1980s.----The News & Advance)


Ruling in Columbus' only pending death penalty case challenged

Attorneys for the man charged in Columbus' only pending death penalty case want the Georgia Supreme Court to review a local judge's ruling justifying the police search that followed Brandon David Conner's arrest on Aug. 21, 2014.

Conner earlier that night is alleged to have killed girlfriend Rosella "Mandy" Mitchell, 32, and their 6-month-old son, Dylan Ethan Conner, before setting their 1324 Winifred Lane home afire.

The fire was reported at 12:35 a.m. Around 1 a.m., Officer Jason Swails saw Conner's blue 2001 BMW turn from Wynnton Road onto Cedar Avenue, and park near Davis Broadcasting, where Conner worked. Conner then sat in the car for 10 minutes, the officer said.

Because of recent business burglaries in the area, Swails found this suspicious, and decided to question Conner. He saw the suspect was shaking and sweating, and apparently had blood on him.

Conner told the officer he had just left work, which Swails didn't believe because he'd seen Conner turn off Wynnton Road and park. Conner then altered his story, claiming he'd left work to get some food, but changed his mind and returned, Swails said.

Swails arrested Conner for breaking a city law against lying to police. Because police routinely search suspects being detained, officers checked Conner's pockets, and found a bloody, yellow dishwashing glove, a bloody baby wipe, a cigarette lighter and an extended grill lighter.

Learning of the bodies found on Winifred Lane, they had Conner's BMW impounded, and got a warrant to search it. Inside they found a bag of bloody clothes, a bottle of bleach and a bent steak knife with blood on the handle, they said.

Defense attorneys William Kendrick and Mark Shelnutt argue all of that evidence now is inadmissible in Conner's trial because prosecutors missed a deadline to prove the city ordinance against lying to police actually exists.

Authenticating the law Conner was arrested for breaking is part of proving the murder case against him, as it led to his initial arrest, the police search of his clothes and car, and his subsequent statements to detectives investigating the homicides.

Defense objections

Kendrick and Shelnutt say the deadline to submit such evidence to Judge William Rumer was April 29, 2016. When the prosecution failed to meet that deadline, they filed a motion the following May 4, noting the omission, and sought to have the evidence suppressed.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly included a certified copy of the law in a brief filed June 20, 2016.

Rumer on Sept. 20, 2016, denied defense motions challenging the search and seizure of evidence against Conner. This past June 14, Rumer ruled the prosecution properly filed the certified copy of the law last year.

Because Conner, 38, is facing the death penalty, a Superior Court judge's rulings in dispute may be reviewed by the state Supreme Court, to avoid errors that could send the case back on appeal, after a conviction.

But Rumer on Sept. 19 told the defense he didn't think the review was warranted.

During a hearing Thursday, the judge said he had to weigh whether the issue was so critical as to warrant the delay an appeal would cause.

Kendrick argued that because Conner's facing death, his life merits the 45-day delay a Supreme Court review would take.

Rumer said he again would consider the defense argument and rule later.

A grand jury indicted Conner April 14, 2015, on charges of murder, aggravated battery, 1st-degree arson and using a knife to commit a crime. Authorities say he stabbed Michell repeatedly in the throat and torso. The nature of the infant's injuries has not been disclosed.

Arson investigators said a dog trained to find flammable liquids alerted to 3 spots in the gutted Winifred Lane home where the fire is believed to have been set. They found a gas can in a closet.

2 trials, same time

So far Conner's trial remains set for Jan. 22 or Jan. 29, but District Attorney Julia Slater said she has filed notice of a scheduling conflict because of another prominent murder case scheduled for trial then:

Superior Court Judge Gil McBride had set an Oct. 30 trial date for 3 men charged in the 2016 triple-homicide of a grandmother, son and granddaughter in Columbus' Upatoi neighborhood, but defense attorneys on Oct. 23 argued they needed more time to prepare, so McBride moved it to Jan. 29.

Slater also is involved in that prosecution, and Shelnutt and Kendrick represent Raheam Gibson, 1 of the 3 suspects. The others are Rufus Burks, represented by Jennifer Curry, and Jervarceay Tapley, whose attorney is Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas.

The 3 are accused of killing Gloria Short, 54; her son Caleb Short, 17; and granddaughter Gianna Lindsey, 10; found dead in the Shorts' 3057 Bentley Drive home on Jan. 4, 2016.

Police said Gloria Short and her granddaughter were beaten and stabbed to death, and the son was fatally bludgeoned.

The defendants' 30-count indictment charges them with 10 counts each: 3 counts of malice or intentional murder; t3 counts of felony murder for homicides involving the felony of aggravated assault; 2 counts of auto theft; and 1 each of kidnapping and 1st-degree burglary.

Back in January 2016, Burks was only 15; Tapley was 17; and Gibson was 19. Now Burks is 17; Tapley is 19; and Gibson is 21.



Death penalty witness: 'It's as though you are watching someone fall asleep'

A reporter who witnessed a death row execution this week has revealed exactly what the process entails. WARNING: Graphic.

Greg Angel is one of about 20 people staring through a glass window as convicted killer Patrick Hannon appears shackled to a bed on the other side.

The American CBS News reporter, based in Florida, has already witnessed the executions of 2 death row inmates. On Wednesday, his tally rose to 3 when he watched Hannon be put to death by chemical injection, in Florida State Prison.

Hannon was executed for the 1991 murders of Brandon Snider, 27 and Robert Carter, 28.

Nearly 3 decades later, family members of Carter and Snider gather in a small room, with a large window, to watch the man - who took the lives of those young men - lose his own life as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

Mr Angel was 1 of 4 members of the media invited to witness the execution in a bid to ensure a "humane process".

"It's seen that the media has a watchdog advocacy role and it's the reporters' job to ensure a lethal injection is carried out with an accurate record of events," Mr Angel told

Despite the nature of the assignment, it's not one that comes at a personal cost, according to the reporter.

"What I find most striking is how unaffected I am," he said.

"Many define an execution as a barbaric act, but it is veiled in the guise of a medical procedure. It is very anticlimactic: There are no violent physical reactions, one you may have with an execution by electrocution.

:"It's as though you are watching someone fall asleep, yet as you watch, you can see the sudden change in colour in the inmate's face.

"Their lips first appearing darker in colour, and then their face becoming an ashy white. That is the only real reminder that what you are watching is someone being put to death."


It's late afternoon on November 8, 2017 when a small media contingent, including Mr Angel, is piled into a van and driven to the middle of a razor-wired compound inside Florida State Prison.

The only items they are allowed to bring inside are 5 $1 notes - for vending machines - and ID. Inside, they are each given a manila envelope with a palm-sized notepad and 2 pencils.

About 3.5 hours later, the group is eventually escorted from a waiting room to the witness chamber where 18 people are already seated, "their gaze locked forward on the 4.5 x 12 foot reflective glass window".

"The black curtain is drawn and it's easy to see the reflections of their faces on the glass," Mr Angel says.

"We're not sure who is who specifically, but we do know they are the families of Robert Carter and Brandon Snider."

The tiny room is busy but silent "with the exception of the buzzing of the window-unit airconditioner".

"It buzzes as the clock keeps ticking," Mr Angel says.

At 8.36pm, the witnesses watch a dark curtain rise on the window - which doubles as a 1-way mirror - and reveals a sterilised white room on the other side.

"There is Patrick Hannon, a white man, 6'3", short, trimmed hair, and beard," Mr Angel says.

"He is tethered by thick leather straps to a gurney in the centre of the room.

"His body covered in a white sheet, with only his head, neck, and forearm exposed."

Hannon is already hooked up, via his forearm, to a machine that will pump lethal drugs into his body "just moments from now", according to Mr Angel.

"Hannon's head tilts up, his eyes shift left to right as he tries to assess the room," Mr Angel says.

"The only thing he sees, from his vantage point, is reflective glass. He has no way of seeing into the witness room, who is there."

Hannon delivers a final statement before the team warden announces: "With the preparation phase complete, the penalty phase will now begin."


8.38pm "The lethal cocktail of drugs that will kill Hannon begins to be administered through an IV hooked to Hannon's forearm. Hannon's head is tilted forward, with a long stare at the glass. He rests his head, but only for a brief moment, before again tilting his head up again. His eyes moving back and forth, surveying the room the best he can."


"Hannon lays his head back on the gurney for the final time. His mouth is slightly open. His lips fluttering. His face will give the only clues to the process, this journey from life to death unfolding before our eyes. Hannon's hands are covered in a white glove-like fabric."


"There is minimal chest movement, but a few coughs or gasps for air. For the next minute, it remains constant, multiple coughs, but nothing alarming. Each person seems to have a different reaction."


"A few minutes after the process began, the warden approaches Hannon. The warden uses his finger to flick Hannon's eyes a few times. The warden then grabs Hannon by the shoulder and vigorously shakes him. This is the assessment to ensure Hannon is unconscious, to lessen any adverse pain or effect of the soon to be delivered lethal drugs.

In Florida lethal injections, there are 3 primary drugs used in the cocktail, administered in stages at various doses.

The Etomidate injection is used 1st, to ensure the inmate is unconscious. A round of Rocuronium Bromide is then used to relax the muscles, essentially to paralyse the inmate, and the 3rd and final and fatal drug is the Potassium Acetate. This is the drug that stops the heart."


"Satisfied Hannon is unconscious, the next round of drugs is administered, and the process continues in a typical anticlimactic fashion. There is little movement from Hannon. However, there is a change in colour in his face. I notice the 1st appearance of a darker colour in Hannon's lips; a sign of death setting in."


"Hannon's face appears to become more ashy white, his lips now even darker in colour than a few minutes before."


"We are now 10 minutes into the process. If all is going accordingly to how it should, we should be done in a few minutes. (Former death row inmate) Mark James Asay was pronounced dead 11 minutes after the process began. (Another former death row inmate) Michael Lambrix's lethal injection took 15 minutes."


"A tall, bald man, wearing a doctor's coat and stethoscope around his neck pulls open a curtain from behind the warden. The doctor walks into the execution chamber/room, and makes a quick right turn to approach Hannon's body. The doctor begins to perform a physical exam, using a flashlight to find signs of eye movement in Hannon's eyes. The doctor checks for any other signs of life, a pulse, breathing, anything. No signs of life are found.

The doctor mouths a few words to the warden, and exits through the curtained doorway where he came in. The warden reaches over and picks up the receiver of a beige phone on the wall, presumably telling the Governor's office that the execution has been completed.

The warden hangs ups, turns to the window where witnesses are on the other side and announces "The matter of State of Florida v Patrick Hannon was carried out at 8:50pm."

The black curtain then abruptly drops as quickly as it went up.

In 12 minutes, Hannon went from a condemned inmate on Florida's Death Row to a former existent being of Earth."

CBS News reporter Greg Angel told he's not affected by watching death row inmates be executed.


Mr Angel told that his experiences watching death row executions haven't shaped his views on the death penalty.

"I believe it is a divisive issue, one that is up to society and government to determine the merits of," he said.

But he's adamant the executions he witnessed were carried out in an ethical and humane way.

"I can say through my observations, as lethal as the end result it, is does not appear from the outside looking in, to be a violent, painful, process," he said.

"There is no surge of physical response, no explosion of verbal cries.

"It is silent, and somewhat peaceful.

"A drastic difference in tone compared to the violent crimes these men are convicted of carrying out that put them on the gurney in the first place."



Prosecutors will seek death penalty in Key West murder case

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the Key West murder case in which a transgendered woman is accused of stomping and stabbing a man to death.

Justin Calhoun, 24, admitted to police she jammed a broken piece of furniture down the throat of Mark Brann, 67, and stomped on it and also stabbed him in both eyes with a pen, according to detectives.

"The murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," State Attorney Dennis Ward said in a filing this week at the Monroe County Courthouse, giving reasons for seeking the death penalty if Calhoun is convicted of the crime.

Calhoun was also committing a robbery at the time of the killing, Ward says.

Brann was attacked early Aug. 14 inside his 1206 12th Street home in New Town, where Calhoun said she often stayed. The 2 had been having a sexual relationship, she told police.

Calhoun admitted to the attack, saying it started when she accused Brann of being a cannibal and Brann grabbed a gun which went off during a struggle, police said.

No one was shot but Calhoun then racked the pistol planning to shoot Brann with it but firearm jammed.

After stabbing Brann in the eyes, detectives said, she jammed a piece of wood down his throat and stomped on it, and then grabbed a dresser drawer and beat Brann about the head and throat with it.

"Calhoun admitted [she] went beyond self-defense," wrote Detective Jeffrey Dean, in the arrest affidavit.

Brann died the next day, having suffered severe head injuries.

Calhoun is also charged with robbery with a deadly weapon, possession of cocaine and possession of hydrocodone.


OHIO----impending execution

Attorney says executing ill Ohio inmate could be a 'spectacle'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he won't spare the life of a condemned killer who has cited his poor health and tough upbringing in an attempt to avoid execution.

Kasich's decision came Thursday in the case of Alva Campbell, who was sentenced to die for fatally shooting 18-year-old Charles Dials after a 1997 carjacking.

The 69-year-old Campbell is scheduled for execution Nov. 15.

Federal public defender David Stebbins says attorneys had hoped Kasich would seriously consider Campbell's health problems and poor veins, which could affect the placement of an IV for lethal injection.

Stebbins said the result could be a spectacle of the 69-year-old Campbell being transported to the execution gurney in a wheelchair followed by difficulties finding a vein.

Campbell's attorneys say he uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy bag, requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer.

They also say Campbell was the product of a violent, dysfunctional and sexually abusive childhood.

Prosecutors say Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed Dials.

Stebbins said Campbell is an old and frail man who isn't a threat to anyone.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty in Kentucky has 'glaring problems'

What should be done to the latest ISIS-inspired terrorist in the USA? His name is Sayfullo Saipov. He is a 29-year-old truck driver from Uzbekistan who was charged on Nov. 1 with material support of a terrorist group and violence and destruction of motor vehicles after he drove a truck down a bike lane intentionally, killing 8 people and injuring 12.

President Trump was quick to say that he should receive the death penalty, and New York's Mayor DeBlasio was quick to take issue. He favors life in prison with no chance of parole. We shall see whether the fate of Saipov becomes part a slight recent rise in the number of executions in our nation, as reported by Richard Wolf in USA TODAY on Oct. 23, or part of the longtime declining trend.

In the Wolf story, it was noted that the execution of an Alabama cop killer, Torrey McNabb the previous Thursday (Oct. 19) was the 21st such execution this year, marking the first time that the number of executions has risen year-over-year since 2009, when there were 52. 2009 was followed by a relatively steady drop until now.

Opponents of capital punishment have been quick to label this new development as only a temporary interruption in the broader trend toward abolition. (Wrongful Conviction Day and the 15th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty were both observed in October, but the U.S. just angered many by voting against a UN resolution condemning the death penalty for homosexuality.)

The number of states doing executions dropped from 9 in 2013 to 5 in 2016, and supreme courts in Florida, Delaware and Connecticut recently struck down those states' death penalty procedures. However, this year, the number of states executing has grown somewhat.

Arkansas rushed to do 4 in 8 days before its supply of lethal injection drugs ran out; and it tried for 8 over a 2-week period, only to be thwarted by court intervention in the other 4 cases.

Florida resumed executions after an 18-month halt because of a Supreme Court ruling on its sentencing procedure. 2 states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, put the death penalty back in state statutes or the constitution, and voters in California defeated an abolition effort. Some recent executions occurred because further claims of innocence and requests for more forensic testing went unheeded.

Despite the increase, only 16 of the nation's 3,000 counties issue capital sentences with any regularity, and most of the people on death row were put there 10, 20 or 30 years ago by juries and prosecutors who, according to Rob Smith, the executive director of the Fair Punishment Project, would not hand down the same sentences today knowing the alternative of life without parole. States still occasionally go on execution sprees (Missouri in 2014-15 and Georgia in 2016), but since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the height of the death sentencing era is now 20 years behind us.

There are several reasons for the overall downward trend. Since 1973, 155 people on death rows have been released with evidence of innocence. Racial disparities have drawn greater attention. The Death Penalty Information Center informs us that African-Americans make up 34.5 % of defendants executed and 42 % of inmates on death row, despite constituting only 13 % of the general population.

The race of the victim weighs heavily. About 50 percent of murder victims are white, but of cases involving the death penalty, over 75 % involved white victims. Among persons executed for interracial murders, 20 whites have been executed for killing a black victim, and 287 blacks have been executed for killing a white victim.

In 2010, it was estimated 61 % of voters would choose another punishment over the death penalty: 39 % would favor life without parole plus restitution; only 33 % would favor the death sentence.

As for the alleged deterrent effect in lowering the homicide rate, the most recent finding was that 88 % rejected the deterrent effect and only 5 % supported it. In a 2009 poll of law enforcement professionals, the death penalty finished last among a series of factors to be ranked in the top 2 or 3 in interference with law enforcement. 20 % picked lack of law enforcement resources, and 20 % picked drug and alcohol abuse. Insufficient use of the death penalty finished ninth (last), with 2 % of those asked ranking it in the top 2 or 3 factors.

Then there is the matter of cost. In 2014, Kansas spent $400,000 per case when the death penalty was sought and $100,000 when it was not. The average death penalty case in Maryland costs $3 million; and between 1978 and 1999, the state spent $186 million while performing 5 executions. Florida has averaged $24 million per case on 44 executions since 1976. North Carolina has spent $2.16 million per execution over the cost of a life sentence. Texas has averaged $2.3 million, 3 times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell with the highest security for 40 years.

For Kentuckians there is a very troubling array of findings by the American Bar Association Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report from December 2011. (Kentucky has 33 people on death row and has executed 3 since 1973.)

Over 500 pages in length, the report highlights such glaring problems in Kentucky's implementation of the death penalty that it recommends temporary suspension of executions until the major issues of fairness and accuracy are rectified.

Of the 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky during the period studied, 50 had a sentence overturned, an error rate of more than 60%. Inadequate retention of evidence diminishes the effectiveness of a state law allowing post-conviction DNA testing prior to execution. Chances to establish both innocence and guilt are thus lost.

There are no uniform standards on eyewitness identifications and interrogations to guard against false identifications and confessions. There is no mechanism to guide prosecutors to avoid discrimination in application of the death penalty. Jurors in capital cases were found to have a disturbing lack of understanding of sentencing guidelines before deciding whether a defendant should be executed.

Public defenders have caseloads far exceeding the national average and salaries 31 % below those of similarly experienced attorneys in surrounding states. At least 10 of the 78 people sentenced to death were represented by defense attorneys who were subsequently disbarred.

There are not adequate protections for defendants with mental retardation or mental illness. And there is a lack of data-keeping throughout the administration of the death penalty, making it impossible to guarantee that the system is operating fairly, effectively and efficiently. What a sobering assessment!

When the Kentucky General Assembly has its next regular session, there will again be proposals to abolish the death penalty, but the past history of such efforts is not encouraging, despite numerous good reasons to abolish it. At least, however, we can harbor the hope that the ABA report's findings will lead to the declaration of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty until the substantial problems cited in the report are rectified to make the system more just and more efficient.

(source: Danville Advocate)


Pending challenges of Nebraska's death penalty system could affect state's latest execution efforts

A legal issue looms over Nebraska's death penalty that's unrelated to the new and untried lethal drug combination state officials unveiled this week.

Defense attorneys say pending challenges of a system that allows judges rather than juries to impose death sentences could impact whether the state ends its streak of 20 years without an execution.

At least 3 of the 11 men on death row have challenged the state's procedure, which gives 3-judge panels the final say in capital cases. They argue that the U.S. Constitution requires the same jury that decides a defendant's guilt to also decide his fate.

Their argument has so far proved unsuccessful. A district court judge recently issued an opinion that utterly rejected any argument of constitutional flaws in Nebraska’s system. Attorneys for the inmates will now hope for favorable rulings in state and federal appellate courts.

Nebraska prison officials announced Thursday they have obtained supplies of 4 drugs they say will allow them to carry out a lethal injection execution. Attorney General Doug Peterson said that after a 60-day notice period, he intends to seek a death warrant for Jose Sandoval, who led 3 gunmen who stormed a Norfolk bank in 2002 and shot down 4 bank employees and a customer.

While attention immediately focused on the drugs, which have never been used in combination by another death penalty state, questions about Nebraska's capital sentencing procedure remain unsettled.

The 3 death-row inmates who have challenged Nebraska's system are John Lotter, Marco Torres and Jeffrey Hessler.

They rely on a 2016 case called Hurst v. Florida, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a capital sentencing scheme that allowed judges to impose death sentences. The ruling in the Florida case prompted the Delaware Supreme Court to end the death penalty there because it relied on a similar system.

Although Sandoval has not yet raised a similar challenge, the issue could potentially affect the state's efforts to execute him, said Rebecca Woodman, a defense lawyer in Lenexa, Kansas, who represents Lotter.

"Those cases could have an impact on Sandoval's case for sure," she said.

But a Nebraska judge recently delivered a blow to Lotter's effort to overturn the death penalty based on the Hurst decision. Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson, who presided over Lotter's motion in Richardson County, said Nebraska's system is substantially different from the one struck down by the Supreme Court.

In Florida, juries provided judges with advisory opinions about sentencing. The key factual determinations regarding punishment were left with the judge.

In Nebraska, juries must decide - during a 2nd penalty phase held right after the trial - whether aggravating factors against a convicted defendant exist. If juries find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that aggravating factors do exist, a 3-judge panel considers any mitigating factors in favor of the defendant

. If the aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, the judicial panel may then impose a death sentence.

"This makes Nebraska's sentencing process completely dissimilar from the sentencing scheme utilized in Hurst," Johnson wrote in an order issued in late September.

The judge went even further in support of Nebraska's system. She said the Hurst decision may apply to death penalty cases still under direct appeal but not retroactively to convictions like Lotter's and Sandoval's, which were long ago affirmed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Lotter also failed in an earlier attempt to raise the issue before a federal district court judge.

Woodman declined to comment about the most recent ruling against her client. But Lotter has appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which recently agreed to hear the case.

Lotter, 46, has spent 22 years on death row for the 1993 triple homicide at a farmhouse near Humboldt, Nebraska. The case inspired the award-winning movie "Boys Don't Cry."

Torres, 42, was sent to death row for the 2007 execution-style shootings of 2 Grand Island men. His challenge of Nebraska's system is part of a habeas corpus motion filed last summer in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

Hessler, 39, was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Gering girl in 2003. A check of court records showed no recent activity on his motion challenging the state's sentencing scheme.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Lawsuits expected over possible Sandoval execution

Death penalty experts say the new four-drug combination Nebraska officials unveiled Thursday has never been used by another state in a lethal injection execution.

That means legal challenges over the drugs could further delay what would be the 1st time Nebraska has used lethal injection to carry out an execution.

"It's yet another experimental protocol. Now the lawsuits begin," said Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced Thursday that it has notified Jose Sandoval - 1 of 3 men convicted of murder in the 2002 U.S. Bank shootings in Norfolk - that it will inject 4 drugs in the following order: diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.

Diazepam (brand names include Valium) is a benzodiazepine that is used to produce a calming effect. Fentanyl citrate is a general anesthetic that has been used since the 1960s. As an opioid, it also blocks pain, which has made it a popular a street drug linked to lethal overdoses.

Cisatracurium besylate (brand name: Nimbex) relaxes or paralyzes muscles and is used along with a general anesthetic when intubating patients or doing surgery.

The final drug, potassium chloride, is used to stop the inmate's heart. It was the only drug that was also used in Nebraska's former 3-drug combination.

Dunham said the 4 drugs selected by Nebraska have not been used in combination by another death penalty state. The 3rd drug, cisatracurium besylate, has not been used before in an execution, he added.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., said that in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court established "a fairly high hurdle for those who would stop a lethal injection."

In deciding a lethal injection dispute in Oklahoma, the court said that to prevent an execution, the drug must present a "demonstrated risk of causing severe pain" in the inmate and the risk must be substantial compared with known alternative drugs, Scheidegger said.

"The objection that a drug has never been used before is not valid by itself," he said.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the leading opponent of capital punishment in the state, said the new and untested protocol would inspire lengthy legal action.

"They're far from being at the point at which an execution can be carried out," Chambers said. "I think the rough ride has just begun."

The senator said he thought that Thursday's announcement was more a "political and public relations" move tied to Gov. Pete Ricketts' bid to win a 2nd term as governor.

The Republican governor helped organize and fund a petition drive to reinstate capital punishment last year after the Legislature in 2015 overrode his veto to repeal the death penalty.

Danielle Conrad, director of the ACLU of Nebraska, said she was "horrified" that the state plans to use Sandoval as a test subject for an unproven lethal drug combination. Her organization, she said, will closely evaluate the constitutional questions raised by the state's plan.

"This rash decision will not fix the problems with Nebraska's broken death penalty and are a distraction from the real issues impacting Nebraska's Department of Corrections: an overcrowded, crisis-riddled system," she said in a press release.

(source: Norfolk Daily News)


Law professor seeks federal court protection against forced video testimony to Guantanamo

A Long Island law professor is seeking a federal judge's protection from an order to testify by video feed next week at a USS Cole case hearing. It is the latest test of the reach of the war court created after the Sept. 11 attacks to try non-citizens.

In court Friday, prosecutor Air Force Maj. Michael Pierson called Hofstra law professor Ellen Yaroshefsky's preemptive habeas corpus filing at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan part of a "collateral attack" on the military commission system.

While war court prosecutors haven't yet subpoenaed Yaroshefsky and 3 "rogue counsel" who have defied a judge's order to appear, Pierson said, Congress and the Secretary of Defense have absolutely granted the power to the prosecutors.

At issue is what Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge, can do about the resignations of 3 civilian defense attorneys for Saudi captive Abd al Rahim al Nashiri - death-penalty defense lawyer Rick Kammen and Pentagon employees Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears. The defenders quit in October citing a classified ethical conflict, after getting advice from Yaroshefsky, who had no access to their secrets.

Spath says they didn't have his permission to resign, considers them attorneys in absentia and is considering contempt proceedings over their "shocking and appalling" decision to "abandon" Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the Oct. 12, 2000 USS Cole bombing. He is charged in a death-penalty case.

So Spath has ordered Yaroshefsky to war court headquarters in Virginia next week to answer his questions about her 8-page Oct. 5 ethics opinion the lawyers used as a basis for their resignations.

When the judge tried to do the same thing - order Kammen, Eliades and Spears to appear by video from Virginia - Kammen got a federal court in Indiana, where he has a law practice, to temporarily suspend enforcement of that order. Now lawyers for the law professor have similarly filed a preemptive habeas corpus petition in federal court against Spath and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to prevent prosecutors or the judge from sending U.S. Marshals to force her to war court headquarters.

The thought is not far-fetched. Spath had marshals seize a recalcitrant witness in Massachusetts last year, hold him overnight in a Virginia jail and deliver him to the same place for video testimony.

Lawyers for Yaroshefsky argue in their petition before U.S. District Court Judge Gregory H. Woods in New York that the Guantanamo war court "lacks any authority to detain or seize United States citizens." They said Yaroshefsky may not be allowed to bring her own lawyers into "the secure government facility" for Spath's questioning, and she and does not want to go.

They ask him to quash any potential subpoena to testify at Guantánamo, even virtually.

They argue that Spath overstepped his role by unilaterally calling Yaroshefsky as a witness, essentially usurping the role of prosecution and defense attorneys. And they say a military commission is less a court than "an administrative agency board that operates under tightly constrained powers and may not act outside of the powers explicitly given it by statute."

In court Friday, Spath said he was waiting to hear more about the scope of his power. "If a District Court judge tells me I don't have contempt authority we will pick up and go home," he said.

Pierson told Spath that prosecutors were confident the law was on their side. The prosecutor invoked an earlier precedent in which a civilian federal court chose to not meddle in a military trial in the interest of "comity, respect for the expertise of military judges and judicial economy."

That case, however, involved a classic court-martial. The war court at Guantanamo is a hybrid civilian-military tribunal created by President George W. Bush and reformed by President Barack Obama solely to try non-U.S. citizens for war crimes.

17 U.S. sailors were killed in al-Qaida's suicide bombing of the Cole off Aden, Yemen, after 2 Yemenis pulled a garbage skiff packed with explosives alongside the ship and detonated it.

Court hearings this week have focused on lead prosecutor Mark Miller's continuing effort to pre-admit evidence, such as debris collected by sailors and federal agents aboard the foundering warship in the aftermath of the bombing.

Nashiri's only lawyer in court all week, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, consistently refused to question the witnesses or take part in the mini-hearing.

Spath explained in court that he was carefully bifurcating and setting aside pretrial preparation portions that, in his view, did not require the guidance of an American Bar Association-approved lawyer with death-penalty experience. The judge called it "nuts and bolts" litigation.

Piette replied the evidence was the "nuts and bolts of a government case that they are trying to use to convict and execute Mr. Nashiri," and that "every aspect of a capital case" requires the guidance of a learned counsel.

After each evidence bag was offered, Piette would declare that in the absence of a death-penalty defender he was bound to ask no questions and "take no position."

Spath, who has become increasingly frustrated with Piette's refusal to participate, at one point replied: "There is a position and a strategic decision from the defense community."

Spath is the chief trial judge of the Air Force. He observed in court Friday, which was Veterans Day, that the law provides skilled death-penalty defense lawyers to war-on-terror detainees charged with capital crimes "to the extent practicable" - unlike in his normal court-martial practice, where airmen charged in death-penalty crimes don't get capital counsel.

Kammen and the other attorneys got the ethics opinion from Yaroshefsky, who does not have a security clearance to know the top secret nature of their concern over a lack of attorney-client privacy. They then submitted their resignations to the chief defense counsel for military commission, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, who knows the classified issue and let them quit.

The judge and general disagree on Baker's authority to release them. After the general refused a direct order from Spath to rescind his opinion, the judge declared him in contempt of court and sentenced him to 21 days confinement in his Guantanamo trailer park quarters and to pay a $1,000 fine. A senior Pentagon official suspended the sentence after 48 hours while he reviews it.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 different lawyers have hired their own lawyers and gone to 3 different federal jurisdictions essentially seeking protection from the war court.

Civilian volunteer lawyers filed an unlawful detention petition in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Marine general confined to his trailer park quarters; resigned attorney Kammen filed his preemptive habeas corpus suit in Indiana, and now Yaroshefsky has turned to New York's Southern District.

In court Friday, another case prosecutor, Army Col. John Wells, announced that the prosecution was arranging for an attorney-client meeting spot in the building housing the judge's chambers and other administration offices at the war court compound called Camp Justice.

Before he quit over the attorney-client privacy problem, Kammen had sought the court's permission to both brief the Saudi about the classified program or information threatening their confidential conversations and to set up an alternative meeting site at Camp Justice, the war court compound miles from the prison.

Spath rejected both requests, saying as judge he didn't have authority to approve the disclosure of classified information to Nashiri, and likewise couldn't decide where lawyers meet their captive clients when court wasn't in session.



Mauritanian prosecutors appeal sentence against 'blasphemy' blogger

Mauritanian prosecutors on Friday said they had appealed against a 2-year prison term served on a blogger who had earlier received a death sentence for blasphemy.

Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir was given the 2-year term on Thursday by an appeals court in the northwest town of Nouadhibou.

"The prosecutors immediately filed an appeal to the Supreme Court" to ensure "a sound and rigorous application of the law," prosecutors there said in a statement.

Mkheitir has been in custody since January 2014 and thus was eligible for immediate release after Thursday's ruling. He was also fined $169. His whereabouts are not known.

A Muslim in his thirties, Mkheitir was sentenced to death in December 2014 over a blog which questioned decisions taken by the Prophet Mohammed and his companions during holy wars in the 7th century.

He also attacked the mistreatment of Mauritania's black population, blasting "an iniquitous social order" with an underclass that was "marginalised and discriminated against from birth."

His case has sparked outrage from rights activists but also fuelled demands for the death sentence to be carried out in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

On April 21 2016, the court of appeal confirmed the death penalty, but reclassified the crime from blasphemy to "unbelieving," for which the punishment is less if the defendant repents.

The case was then sent to the Supreme Court, which on January 31 this year sent it back to the appeals court "in order to correct mistakes made," without elaboration.

Thursday's decision in favour of a jail term sparked scenes of outrage in court and fresh demands for the blogger to be executed.

Appeals were launched on social media for Friday to be observed as a "day of anger."

Security was beefed up in sensitive areas in the capital Nouakchott after weekly Friday afternoon prayers.

Capital punishment in Mauritania, a vast, mainly desert state in west Africa, is usually reserved for murder and acts of terrorism.

According to Amnesty, Mauritania last executed a prisoner in 1987.

Mkheitir on Wednesday told judges that he had "uncovered mistakes in his article" which he "immediately corrected in another article.

He also expressed "every repentance and apologies" and assured the court of his "faith in Allah and his prophet".



British tourist facing the death penalty for smuggling prescription pain killers into Egypt is in 'good spirits' as 'crucial new evidence' is uncovered that could help her be freed

Jailed holidaymaker Laura Plummer is in 'good spirits' as she awaits to find out if she will continue to be locked up on drug smuggling charges in Egypt.

The 33 year old - who has been held for over a month in a hellhole jail - was due to appear before a judge to find out if she would get bail or face being locked up for another 15 days.

But amid much confusion her lawyer said she would not be brought to the court today - although the judge could decide to review her case in her absence.

Ms Plummer, of Hull, east Yorkshire, claims she was bringing the 290 Tramadol painkillers - which are banned in Egypt - into the country for her 'husband' Omar Caboo, who suffers from chronic back pain.

New evidence submitted by Mr Caboo claim to prove his medical condition and need for the pills. It is hoped that this evidence will be enough for an Egyptian court to grant Ms Plummer her freedom.

The documents include X-rays, medical records and a marriage certificate - crucial evidence because authorities believed her to be a smuggle with a made-up spouse.

The shop girl, 33, has been locked up for a month after being arrested at Hurghada International Airport when she was stopped by customs officers and found with almost 300 of the powerful pain killers.

Egyptian Caboo, a hotel activities organiser, had requested them to relieve his back pain.

Tramadol is on a list of banned drugs in Egypt as it is widely used by junkies as a heroin substitute because it is so powerful.

Ms Plummer's worried relatives saw her as jail bosses mocked her complaints about the 'hellhole' conditions, telling her: 'You're not staying in the Sheraton!'

She has endured an ordeal of sharing a 15ft x 15ft cell with 25 other women in sweltering heat and no air conditioning.

This afternoon her mother Roberta, sister Jayne Sinclair and brother Kirk were pictured went to the prison for an hour long visit.

Staff at the prison on the outskirts of the city of Hurgharda showed little sympathy for what the Egyptian media have called the 'Tramadol Tourist'.

Meanwhile, Ms Plummer was able to speak briefly to her mother Roberta today.

As she waited in the entrance hall of the chaotic Red Sea court her lawyer handed her a mobile phone and told her Ms Plummer wanted to speak with her.

The mother's face lit up and she hurried off into a corner to speak with her daughter.

Roberta later told MailOnline: 'She is much better today. Her spirits are good'.

Roberta then booked herself a flight home on Sunday in the hope her daughter might be granted bail in her court appearance.

She was due to fly back to the UK on Saturday night, but on the advice of her daughter’s lawyer cancelled the flight to remain in Egypt.

Laura Plummer had been expected to appear at the court with her lawyer Mohamed Osman presenting evidence that she was not a drug smuggler.

Her husband Mr Caboo, who fled Hurghada after she was arrested on October 9th, came out of hiding to hand over medical evidence to prove he suffered chronic back pain.

Another of her lawyers Tasha Shokry told MailOnline they had presented the medical evidence to the prosecutor in the hope he will not object to a bail application.

Osman said he had explained to Ms Plummer she might have to spend a further 15 days in jail while the judge decided what to do.

He said:' I have explained to Ms Plummer the procedure. She is still under criminal investigation and until that has been completed she faces staying in jail.

'The judge can extend her to stay for another 15 days or he can make it 30 days. The maximum she can be held is 3 months or it has to go to trial.'

Police at the court had been preparing for Ms Plummer's arrival today with a dozen gun toting men standing guard at the rear entrance where prisoners in shackles are brought.

But after two hours when it became apparent Ms Plummer was not being driven the five miles from the police detention centre to the court they were stood down.

Osman said Ms Plummer could still be brought to the court on Sunday but there was no certainty the judge would request her presence.

Her family are pinning their hopes on the shop worker from Hull being granted bail.

Her Mum Roberta, sister Jayne and brother Kirk flew to Egypt in the hope of seeing her released.

Her case was postponed on Thursday and Kirk and Jayne flew back to the U.K. on Friday night.

Her mum is due to fly home tonight but made a last minute dash to the prison to take her food and say an emotional farewell.

Her lawyer Mohamed Osman has warned that she could still be locked up for seven years even if she is cleared of any crime.

And she faces the death penalty if court rules that she was trying to sell the drugs.

A legal source said she was being treated as an 'international drug smuggler.'



Pakistan allows Indian spy's wife to meet with him

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says Islamabad on "humanitarian grounds" has allowed the wife of an Indian naval officer who faces death penalty for espionage and sabotage to meet with him.

In a statement late Friday, the ministry said Pakistan has informed the Indian High Commission about its decision.

The development came months after the wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav requested Pakistan to allow her to meet with him.

Jadhav was arrested in March 2016 and has been convicted and sentenced to death by a military tribunal.

Pakistan says Jadhav was working for the Indian spy agency, called RAW.

Jadhav in a mercy petition has asked Pakistan to spare his life, but authorities have not taken any final decision yet.

(source: Associated Press)


Ahmednagar Court awards death sentence to 3 in rape & murder case

A local court in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra on Friday awarded the death sentence to 3 men convicts of the tragic 2014 Loni Mawala gang rape and murder case.

On 22nd august 2014, a 15 year old girl was gangraped and brutually murdered by 3 men in Lonimawala area of the district.

3 years after the barbaric lonimawala rape and murder case, Ahmednagar district and sessions court judge Suwarn Kewale has awarded death penalty to the 3 main accused, Santosh Lonkar, Mangesh Lonkar and Datta Shinde.

Public prosecutor said that the investigation was able to furnish incontrovertible evidence and along with the 3 main accused, their 3 accomplices were awarded life imprisonment for attempt to destroy the evidence.

The state had appointed noted criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam to argue the case. The parents of the child are happy that justice has been done.

On August 22, 2014 a teenage girl was abducted, raped and brutally tortured to death in lonimawala village in Ahmednagar district while she was going back to home after school.

The savagery with the victim created an uproar in the state with many sections of the society demanding stringent punishment for the accused.

Though the sessions court has delivered its judgement, the accused can move high court against the verdict.



SC gives time to Centre to reply to plea against hanging

The Supreme Court today granted 6 weeks to the Centre to file its response to a plea which seeks to set aside the legal provision that a death row convict would only be hanged to death.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud allowed more time to the Centre on the PIL, which also refers to the 187th Report of the Law Commission advocating removal of the present mode of execution from the statute.

The apex court had earlier termed the Constitution as a "compassionate" and "organic" guiding book and said the legislature could think of changing the law so that a convict, facing death penalty, dies "in peace and not in pain".

On October 6, the apex court sought the Centre's response on the plea filed in personal capacity by lawyer Rishi Malhotra which referred to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution so that death becomes less painful.

The plea said the Law Commission report had noted a significant increase in the number of countries where hanging has been abolished and substituted by electrocution, shooting or lethal injection as methods of execution.

The lawyer also referred to various apex court judgements in which the practise of hanging a death row convict has been assailed.

The plea said "dying with dignity is part of right to life" and the present practice of executing a death row convict by hanging involves "prolonged pain and suffering".

The present procedure can be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber in which death is just a matter of minutes, it said.

The PIL sought quashing of section 354(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that when a person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead.

It said execution was not only "barbaric, inhuman and cruel", but also against the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The plea also said that execution should be as quick and as simple as possible and free from anything that unnecessarily sharpened the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension.

It sought to declare "right to die by a dignified procedure of death as a fundamental right as defined under Article 21 of the Constitution".

"This also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death.

In other words, this may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when his life is ebbing out," it added.

Drawing a comparison, the petition said that while in hanging, the entire execution process takes over 40 minutes to declare prisoner dead, the shooting process involves not more than a few minutes. In case of intravenous lethal injection, it is all over in 5 minutes.

"The Act of the execution should produce immediate unconsciousness passing quickly into the death. It should be decent. It should not involve mutilation," the plea added.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Waking from a Nightmare, 16 Years on Death Row in Taiwan

As a Taiwanese man wrongly held for murder readjusts to society, he has been awarded a record settlement by the courts.

Hsu Tzu-chiang, held for the kidnap and murder of a businessman for 16 years, was awarded a record settlement by a judicial review panel on Nov. 9, 2017. The compensation totals NT$28.12 million (US$932,072) - NT$5000 for each day he was jailed.

Below is an interview The News Lens conducted with Hsu late last year:

There was a time when Hsu Tzu-chiang woke up, quietly put on his best suit, and then sat by himself for hours, waiting to be executed.

After the "normal" period when someone was likely taken to be killed passed, he would return to his cell, slowly remove the clothing, carefully fold it, and put it back under his bed, ready for the next day.

"How long exactly? I can't remember, but this lasted for a couple of months," Hsu, 48, told The News Lens International in Taipei.

It was during the early years of a 16-year stretch on death row, when he was "numb," when he thought "sooner or later" he would be executed. And in Taiwan, the condemned are allowed to wear their best clothing on their execution day.

Hsu, along with 2 others, was sentenced to death for the September 1995 kidnap and murder of businessman Huang Chun-shu. No material evidence was found connecting Hsu to the murder, but the confession of a codefendant - thought by some to be extracted during torture by the police - implicated Hsu. Fearing torture, Hsu went into hiding for months before he turned himself in, in June 1996.

Hsu, who has always maintained his innocence, is very lucky his execution was never carried out; more than 150 people were executed in Taiwan during the time he was in prison. While his case was eventually championed by lawyers and activists, and become synonymous with human rights and legal reform in Taiwan, for the 1st 5 years of his sentence he was just another man on death row.

The nightmare

Hsu's case, as the Judicial Reform Foundation puts it, "repeatedly bounced back and forth" between the High Court and Supreme Court. In his 1st 6 trials, he was found guilty and given the death sentence.

Hsu says he reached his "lowest point" after the guilty verdict was first handed down.

"One part of me was saying 'come and kill me now,' another was saying, 'maybe take me tomorrow, maybe I can see my family again,'" he says.

Throughout the rest of his time behind bars, seeing his family would continue to take him back to that nadir, the most painful part of his experience.

"You go to the visiting room with a very happy feeling, but you leave feeling like that might be the last time you will see your family."

Aside from the very real danger of execution, Hsu's years in the detention center - where Taiwan's death row prisoners are held - appear to be characterized by waiting, eating, smoking and waiting. He tried to keep fit, running on the spot in his cell. If it was not raining, prisoners were allowed outside for around 30 minutes a day - though he notes at 1 detention center with no outdoor area he was indoors for 8 months straight.

For the most part, he just waited; waited to eat and waited for his name to be called - a headcount is taken every time a guards take a break or changes shift. Some guards would give inmates cigarettes to smoke in their cell, as long as they did not tell anyone about it.

"Who was I going to tell?"

Some prisoners had mini portable televisions, but the cost of batteries prohibited most from watching often.

"Everything costs money. Toilet paper too; the government did not provide that," he says.

Hsu says during the first few years he was locked up, the guards could beat prisoners with an apparent impunity - when asked what they did to prisoners he replies, "The question is, what wouldn't they do?"

However, because most of the men in the detention center were "without tomorrow," disputes between prisoners or with the guards were rare, he says.

"Those people don't really have hope anymore; they don't start fights, they don't argue as often as in a normal prison," he says.

Medical problems, however, were common and very slow to be resolved. Hsu recalls toothaches, in particular, as the worst physical torment he suffered. Prisoners with a health complaint had to first fill out a form and then await treatment. If their pain was obvious, guards dished out a few painkillers, but seeing a health professional could be weeks away - Hsu knows of an instance when someone waited 2 months. Unsurprisingly, prisoners took matters into their own hands. Hsu knocked out 2 of his own teeth during his incarceration.

More than 10 years of cold showers came to an end after Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian - charged with corruption upon leaving office - joined the men in detention in late 2008.

No light at the end of the tunnel

As the years crawled by - waiting, eating, smoking and waiting - Hsu's case continued to ping-pong in the courts, with appeal after appeal.

A 2001 report from Taiwan's ombudsman agency - the Control Yuan - found flaws in the confessions of his codefendants and in the handling of the case, including the fact authorities had ignored arguments that Hsu was not at the scene of the murder.

In a 2004 interpretation, the country's constitutional court - also known as the Council of Grand Justices - ruled the use the confessions of codefendants alone was not strong enough evidence to incriminate a defendant. Despite what could be seen as progress - that ruling has had a significant impact on Taiwan's legal system - Hsu was not confident of ever being freed.

"I was always very confident in my own case, but I was always very disappointed with the judges. I didn't have any confidence in the judges," he says.

He was right to be wary. The Supreme Court reopened the case in 2005 and sent it back to the High Court for a 6th retrial. The trial took 4 years and, again, resulted in the death penalty.

In the early years, Hsu says being inside and innocent, was "very difficult, very hard, very painful."

"There is no light on the other side of the tunnel. You cannot see hope," he says. "[In 1996] I turned myself in to explain the case, because I believed in the courts. Then I went there and realized the reality of the court was not how I imagined."

Watching his family continue to help pay for the costly legal bills was also particularly hard.

'I didn't want my family members to pay for something that did not have any hope of succeeding," he says. "At that time, I just wanted to end the pain."

Despite the positive ombudsman’s findings and the constitutional ruling, Hsu says he did not feel much in the way of hope. He had for a long time been moving "one day at a time."

"I didn't really look forward to the result, I had already given up," he says. "When I went to court the judges would say, 'You have to prove you didn't do it.' But I can't prove something that I didn't do." In late 2011, Hsu had been again found guilty of blackmail and kidnapping, but not murder, and was instead sentenced to life in prison. While the High Court in May 2012 upheld that sentence, he was released according to a then-new Fair and Speedy Criminal Trials Act.

In May 2012, Hsu emerged from the detention center into a wet Taipei evening. Pale and dazed, he fronted media briefly before being whisked away by his supporters.

In the preceding months and days, even as it looked like a release from prison may be possible, Hsu, accustomed to disappointment, kept calm and his expectations low.

"I didn't look forward, I didn't look back," he says. "I was not too optimistic, nor too upset about it."

Looking back now, Hsu's memory of his first few hours of freedom is "blurry."

"I didn't feel really happy," he says. "I didn't believe I was walking outside the prison. I remember that there were a lot of people. Other than that, I don't really remember."

Today, Hsu's friends say he looks like a different person. His face is somewhat ageless for a lack of facial hair and a healthy tan. His hair is stylishly cut and he wears tortoise-shell rimmed glasses. On the day of the interview, Hsu is wearing white K-Swiss shoes, tight-fitting jeans and a casual green shirt with white trim.

Appearances aside, assimilation into society has not been easy. Hsu says it took him at least one year before he could really believe he was no longer in prison.

"When I was inside, I often dreamed of being out, free. Then I would wake up and still be in prison. When I finally got out, I was reluctant to go to sleep at night, because I was afraid to dream and wake up back inside the prison," he says.

Of course, the nightmare did continue. Hsu was out and working at the Judicial Reform Foundation, but prosecutors continued to pursue his case. In 2015, the High Court finally found Hsu not guilty. But that decision was appealed. It was not until Oct. 13 this year, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, and the case against him was finally closed after the 9th retrial.

Hsu has now been out of jail for 4 years, but he continued to have "some feeling of not being free."

He says it is difficult to describe exactly how he feels now, or whether anything has changed since that final decision.

"It doesn't really feel that real, yet. It seems like it is over, but I don't know," he says. "Everything is about the same. But something inside my heart, something has disappeared. A feeling of bondage or confinement has gone."

Even now, however, he is still adjusting to freedom. He is reluctant to leave his house alone and does not always feel secure without friends around. It takes him some time to answer questions; he speaks quietly, chooses words cautiously and takes long pauses. There remains a sense of bemusement; could he be the person answering questions about the life of one of Taiwan's most famous death row inmates?

He has low expectations about the chances of compensation from the state.

"How are they going to compensate? A lot of things, you cannot really compensate with money."

Hsu will continue to fight for other innocent people behind bars. In this endeavor, he is, perhaps, motivated by wanting to repay those that helped him fight, as much as in response to his own desperate frustration with the court system, and the judges in particular.

He wants to see major judicial reform. He says "the whole structure has problems," but he stresses, the key problem is "always about the people."

He believes his case should have been easy to deal with, but the judges would not admit they were wrong.

"I don't want anyone to have to walk the same path as me," he says.

When he is with his family, Hsu says, he does not talk about what they have gone through in the past. They do not talk about prison.

"We only talk about the future. We look forward. We treasure the moment together." Special acknowledgment: Yi Pan and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty for translation assistance.

(source: The News Lens)


Papua Police Issue Wanted List of 21 Militants

Police on Saturday (11/11) issued a wanted list of 21 people from an armed group that is besieging 2 villages in Timika, Papua.

The militants have cut access to 1,300 residents of Banti and Kimbely near the Utikini river in Tembagapura district, next to the Grasberg copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.

"Around 100 people came to the location [the villages]. Those with criminal record are on the wanted list," Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters in a WhatsApp message.

According to Boy, almost all of the militants carry weapons.

"We want to capture them," he said.

The men do not let the villagers out since Tuesday. Among the residents are 300 specialized gold miners.

Police believe the wanted militants are led by Sabinus Waker, who tops the list. They are accused of murder, shootings and illegal gun ownership, and may face the death penalty, if convicted.

According to the police, Sabinus and his men attacked policemen and Freeport Indonesia staff in a series of shootings in October, killing 1 officer.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


Tanzania sentences 34 people to death for killing albinos

Tanzania's Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said on Thursday at least 34 people have been sentenced to death by hanging during for killing people with albinism in the country.

Beatrice Mpembo, a state attorney from the DPP, told a two-day consultative meeting to strategise on countering brutality and killings of people with albinism that the convictions were from 2006 to 2016.

"Several other cases of people accused of killing people with albinism are still pending in courts throughout the country," Mpembo said.

She told the meeting organised by Tanzania Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance in the political capital Dodoma that 67 cases of the killings of people with albinism were still pending in courts across the country.

Mpembo said her office has been facing difficulties in administering cases related to the killings of people with albinism and attacks on such people due to insufficient evidence.

"Most cases related to the killings of people with albinism involve some family members, as a result it has been difficult to get sufficient evidence due to lack of cooperation from the relatives thus contributing to delays in delivering ruling on the cases," Mpembo said.

She said the worst of such killings was recorded in the east African country in 2008 where some 19 people with albinism were killed.

Ralph Meela, a senior police officer in charge of Offences Against Persons and Traffic Related Offences, said people with albinism or mothers with children born with the genetic disorder have been denied their rights.

"These people fail to take appropriate action because they lack awareness of their rights," said Meela.

He said there was need to raise public awareness on the killings of people with albinism throughout the country because the police could not eliminate the problem single-handedly.

Killings of albinos have been driven by the belief advanced by some witch doctors that the body parts of people with albinism have properties that confer wealth and good luck.



ZPCS sued over death row inmates

A group of lawyers doing public interest litigation for free have taken the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to court challenging its decision to deny them access to about 90 death row inmates at Harare Remand Prison who they intend to provide legal counsel in defence of their right to life.

Tendai Biti Law Firm is currently representing 17 others who are locked up at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison pending Constitutional Court challenges but ZPCS Commissioner-General Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi had denied the lawyers access to those awaiting execution at Harare Remand Prison.

The lawyers argued that Government was finalising the recruitment of a hangman for the purposes of commencing the execution of the condemned inmates. They also argued that the recent public call by President Mugabe for the restoration of the full effects of death penalty, with all its conditions that existed prior to the adoption of the new Constitution in 2013, was also an indication that execution was now imminent.

To that end, the lawyers filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order compelling Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to allow them access to their clients and all other inmates awaiting capital punishment, in defence of their constitutional right to life. In the urgent chamber application filed on Thursday, the law firm cited ZPCS and its Comm-Gen Retired Maj-Gen Paradzai Zimondi as respondents.

The lawyers, in the interim, want the court to compel ZPCS to allow them to visit all the death row inmates, interview them and to inform them of their rights. They are seeking costs against Comm-Gen Zimondi on a punitive scale because, according to the lawyers, he has acted in a manner that disrespects the fundamental rights, freedoms, democratic values and principles as enshrined in the supreme law of the country.

The law firm, which does public interest litigation for free, has represented at least 17 prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and some of their challenges are still pending at the Constitutional Court. When the 17 were represented by the same lawyers years back, Comm-Gen Zimondi granted access and allowed the law firm to file court applications on the prisoners' behalf.

Tendai Biti Law Firm argued in its papers that the prisons boss was discriminating against about 90 other prisoners who are locked up at Harare Central Prison by denying the lawyers access to them.

“We contend that the position taken by first respondent (Comm-Gen Zimondi) is totally unreasonable, grossly irrational and ridiculous to say the least. For status, first respondent’s actions discriminate against prisoners at Harare Remand Prison. At Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, he allowed us access and we have been able to work with these prisoners.

"He cannot deny the prisoners at Harare Remand Prison the same benefit," reads the papers.

The lawyers said Comm-Gen Zimondi was breaching the right to equal protection to death row prisoners at Harare Remand Prison as guaranteed by Section 56 of the Constitution.

The right to a legal practitioner of their choice was also being violated by the ZPCS boss' decision.

"Every prisoner enjoys the right to challenge his condition in terms of the Constitution. The prisoner cannot exercise such right without information and without legal advice. By denying us the right and opportunity of conversing with those prisoners, the first respondent is breaching their rights," the lawyers argued.

Comm-Gen Zimondi, the lawyers argued, has dismally failed to uphold the Constitution.

"We find it extremely ridiculous that 37 years after independence, a freedom fighter such as the first respondent can adopt the attitude reflected in his letter of the 31st of October 2017. He failed and failed dismally to uphold the Constitution. His conduct is shameful, crass and regrettable and this is why we seek costs against him in this application to be paid on a scale as between attorney and client," reads the court papers.

The application is yet to be set down for hearing at the High Court.


NOVEMBER 10, 2017:

TEXAS----new execution date

Rosendo Rodriguez has been given an execution date for March 27 (2018); it should be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----27

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----545

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

28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546

29---------Jan. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548

31----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------549

32----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------550

33----------Mar. 27----------------Rosendo Rodriguez------551

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Defense expert testifies inmate facing death penalty has abnormal brain

A medical expert testified Thursday for the defense that inmate Billy Joel Tracy has an abnormal brain.

Tracy, 39, is facing a possible death sentence for beating Correctional Officer Timothy Davison to death July 15, 2015, at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston. A Bowie County jury convicted Tracy of capital murder and is now hearing evidence in the sentencing phase of his trial.

The defense began calling witnesses Thursday morning. Neuroradiologist Travis Snyder of Las Vegas, Nevada, testified that Tracy has abnormalities in the temporal lobe of his brain in an area which controls emotions and inhibitions, under questioning from defense attorney Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant. Snyder said the abnormality is significant and could account for Tracy's problems though not all people with abnormal brain scans are violent criminals.

Cobb called clinical and forensic psychologist Mark Cunningham to testify about the effects of solitary confinement. Cunningham said those who are isolated from support groups, human contact and external stimulation for long periods tend to suffer emotionally and often "become a savage or sink into despair."

Cunningham testified that prisoners and correctional officers in a setting such as administrative segregation, where Tracy has been housed since 2005, may develop a "trench warfare" atmosphere which is negative for all involved. Cunningham said officers may become "callous and cynical" and that inmates may become more and more retaliatory in administrative segregation.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp sparred with Cunningham over his description of Davison's death as a "tragedy" and asked if he was blaming TDCJ for his murder. Crisp showed Cunningham a photo of Kasey Kuhn taken when she was 16 and in the hospital after being assaulted, taken from her bedroom and dragged into a wooded area in a Rockwall, Texas, park in 1998.

"He had never been in administrative segregation when he did this," Crisp said.

Tracy was sentenced to 2 life sentences plus 20 years for assaulting Kuhn, burglarizing a house and assaulting a police officer by a jury in Rockwall in 1998. He has been in prison ever since.

A childhood friend of Tracy's testified that he is a "kind" person who looked out for her when the 2 were in middle school, under questions from Texarkana defense attorney Jeff Harrelson. Dawn Monti testified that Tracy's mother and father were not good parents and that they committed him to a psychiatric hospital when he was in the 7th grade.

TDCJ inmate Courtney Shepherd testified that Tracy encouraged him to conform to prison rules while the 2 were both housed in administrative segregation at the Robertson Unit. Shepherd said he was often a "cell warrior" meaning he would make noise, yell and otherwise disrupt, while in his 1-man cell. Shepherd described his time in administrative segregation as frustrating and said, "you're always looking for something to do."

Shepherd, who is serving a life sentence for murder, said he and Tracy would talk together when both were outside in recreation yards at the same time. He said Tracy read and edited his poetry and talked to him about using his time for positive pursuits. Shepherd said he is now housed at a different unit in general population and gives Tracy credit for helping him move to a lower security level that allows him more freedom.

More testimony from witnesses for the defense is scheduled for Friday morning at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart.



In Philly's 'last death-penalty case,' killer gets a life sentence instead

On Tuesday, Philadelphia elected a district attorney who has pledged to take the death penalty off the table.

But 2 days later, prosecutors asked a jury of Philadelphians to impose it 1 last time - in the case of Robert Lark, a 63-year-old man who has already spent more than 3 decades on death row for the 1979 murder of 36-year-old Tae Bong Cho at a takeout restaurant Cho owned in North Philadelphia.

The jurors, who had already found Lark guilty of murder, sent a note to Judge Steven Geroff after an hour of deliberations: "We are at a deadlock. Nobody is budging, and there won't be a unanimous decision."

That meant Geroff would have to sentence Lark instead - to the mandatory term of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

"It's obvious to me that you are quite a villain," Geroff told Lark. Then, he tacked 22 1/2 to 45 more years in prison onto the life sentence, for a series of related convictions on charges including terroristic threats and kidnapping.

Lark was 1st convicted of the crime in 1985. But that verdict was overturned in federal court based on Lark's claim that the prosecutor in his trial had used race-based practices in jury selection. At an evidentiary hearing, the prosecutor could not provide an explanation other than race for striking 3 African American jurors in the case.

Jury selection for Lark's new trial, which began Oct. 2, took more than a week. In a death-penalty case, lawyers must select a pool of jurors who state they are willing and able to impose the harshest punishment the law provides.

"Each of you," Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman told the jury, "looked inside of yourselves, and each of you stated, 'Yes, we can do this.'"

A majority of Pennsylvanians no longer support capital punishment, according to a 2015 York College of Pennsylvania poll. One complaint is that so-called death-qualified juries are inherently biased, and studies have shown such juries inherently are more likely to convict.

No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999. Since 2015, Gov. Wolf has maintained a moratorium on executions.

The standard penalty for 1st-degree murder in Pennsylvania is life in prison, but aggravating factors can trigger the death sentence. The prosecutors described 2 such factors. The 1st, they said, was that Lark had murdered a witness. They said he killed Cho on Feb. 22, 1979, because Cho was scheduled to testify in court the next morning that Lark had robbed him at gunpoint 2 months earlier.

2nd, they said, Lark qualified to be executed because of his significant criminal history, which included the gunpoint robberies of a store clerk, of Cho, and of his own landlord.

"The crime was an affront to the justice system," Fairman said.

Lark's lawyers presented mitigating factors: a childhood destroyed by his mother's drug addiction and neglect, and his stepfather's violent abuse.

His birth was a surprise to his 15-year-old mother, defense lawyer Regina Coyne said. "In his 1st year of school, when he was 5 or 6, he went to 5 different schools," she said. "He was in survival mode."

She described rats and a leaking roof, vomit on the floor. She spoke of foster homes where he was taken away from his siblings, and described how he ran away from those placements and slept in cars until he could find his siblings and reunite them.

The jury's decision means Lark will move from death row - where for 32 years he has been kept in his cell for 23 hours a day, according to his lawyer - into the general prison population.

Nonetheless, Lark will appeal the verdict, according to his other lawyer, James Berardinelli, who said he had been prevented by the judge from presenting key evidence, including a pattern of questionable behavior by the police who investigated the case.

That, prosecutors noted, means prolonging the pain for Cho's family as well.

Seeing the case return to court, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano said, "brought back everything. They thought this was over with, and then they had to relive it all over again."



Delaware prosecutors consider death penalty in prison riot

Delaware prosecutors are holding out the possibility of seeking the death penalty against inmates charged in a deadly prison riot, even though the state does not currently allow capital punishment.

18 prisoners have been indicted for their alleged roles in the February riot. 16, including some already serving time for murder, are charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of correctional officer Steven Floyd.

In a letter last week, prosecutors informed Judge William C. Carpenter Jr., who is presiding over the case, that if lawmakers vote to reinstate the death penalty, prosecutors reserve the right to try to apply it to 1 or more defendants.

The state Supreme Court declared Delaware's death penalty law unconstitutional last year because it allowed judges too much discretion and did not require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant deserves execution. That ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death sentencing law, which was similar to Delaware's.

In their letter, prosecutors pointed out that the killing of a prison employee in the performance of his duties is a specified aggravating factor in Delaware's death penalty statute, which remains on the books despite last year's court ruling.

Based on Floyd's position, prosecutors wrote, "all identified defendants would be eligible for a sentence of death."

At the same time, prosecutors acknowledged that the retroactive application of a revised death penalty statute could face significant legal hurdles.

"The state acknowledges that there may be good faith disagreement and litigation over such an application, but it provides this correspondence to the court and defendants to ensure that all interested parties are on notice of this stated purpose," the letter reads.

Democratic Attorney General Matt Denn, through a spokesman, declined to comment Thursday.

Chief public defender Brendan O'Neill was less circumspect.

"This attempt by the state to reserve a nonexistent 'right' to seek death sentences is not supported by law," O'Neill said in an emailed statement. "It is an ill-conceived, legally unfounded proposal that will create unnecessary legal, practical, logistical and financial problems. Quite simply, it's a waste of money and time for everybody involved."

Amid the outcry over the prison riot and the fatal shooting of a state trooper in April, House lawmakers in May passed a revised death penalty statute that addresses the constitutional infirmities noted in the state and federal court rulings by requiring unanimous jury approval. The Senate never acted on the bill.

Democratic Gov. John Carney has said he supports the state Supreme Court ruling declaring Delaware's death penalty law unconstitutional, but he hasn't taken a stand on any specific legislation to reinstate capital punishment, nor has he ruled out supporting the death penalty for people convicted of killing law enforcers.

A key question for the courts in deciding whether a revised death penalty law could be applied retroactively is whether the revisions to the existing statute are substantive, or merely procedural.

Delaware's Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the application of "procedural" revisions to the state's capital punishment law, while warning that retroactive application of a law that "increased the quantum of a defendant's punishment," would be "manifestly prohibited" by the ex post facto clause of the Constitution.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for a couple charged in the brutal murder of an elderly Caswell County man this past summer. Sean Damion Castorina and Penny Michelle Dawson are both charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of 84-year-old Harold D. Simpson. Investigators say the 2 killed Simpson in rural Caswell County in August, then fled to Virginia where police say they shot another woman and left her for dead. The pair was finally arrested at a gas station in Fergus Falls, Minn.

(source: Martinsville Daily)


Victim's family pushes for death penalty in Bannister case

A day after James Bannister was found guilty of 4 charges of 1st degree murder and 1 count of arson, victims' families, now pushing for him to get the death penalty over life in prison.

The family members say only then will justice be served.

After 6 long years, Frank Brown and his family say they've finally got the answers they've been looking for.

"We the jury finds as follows to count 1 of the charge, the defendant is guilty of murder to the 1st degree premeditated."

Frank Brown said, "When it came down and they said he was guilty it just proved to me who was really in charge."

James Bannister was found guilty on 4 counts of 1st degree murder and 1 count of arson.

And after having time to think it over, Brown says his family and the state attorney's office are pushing for bannister to be sentenced to death.

Frank Brown said, "My sister and my niece and the 2 other kids can't say anything at this point. They're lives are over and the chapter in their books are closed. And now we're the ones that still have to move on from this.”

The sentencing phase of bannister's trial will begin on Monday.

And the same jury that convicted him will now be tasked with deciding whether he should be sentenced to death, or face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Per Florida's new rule the jury must be unanimous in favor of capital punishment in order to sentence Bannister to die.

Frank Brown said, "We'll be there and that's the only thing I can say you know, we'll be there until the end of this journey."

(source: WCJB news)


Man on death row for killing wife re-sentenced to life in prison----In exchange, Lesly Jean-Phillipe agrees not to file future appears

Lesly Jean-Phillipe, who was unanimously sentenced to death for the brutal 2009 murder of his wife, was re-sentenced Thursday to life in prison at the behest of his victim's family.

In exchange for dropping the death penalty against him, Jean-Phillipe gave up any right to future appeals for parole.

Judge Adrian Soud said the life without parole sentence brings closure to the family of Jean-Phillipe's wife, Elkie.

Jean-Phillipe was convicted of going to the Southside Jacksonville home of Elkie's sister in 2009, posing as a pizza deliveryman, and stabbing Elkie to death. He was convicted in 2011 of murder and a jury voted 12-0 to recommend the death penalty.

The direct appeal was denied, but defense lawyers filed a motion to throw out the conviction and sentence, saying Jean-Phillippe had ineffective counsel at trial. A new defense motion asked for Jean-Philippe to be re-sentenced to life in prison in exchange for an agreement that he would file no further appeals.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Moody told the court the family supported the change and wanted closure.

"They want this to be over," Moody said.

In re-sentencing Jean-Phillipe, Soud reminded him that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

"You have no hope of parole," Soud said.



Court Reverses Death Penalty Conviction in Toddler's Death----The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned a 2014 death penalty conviction, saying the defendant was improperly disadvantaged by last-minute evidence, jailhouse informants and a prosecutor's disposal of other evidence.

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a 2014 death penalty conviction, saying prosecutors sandbagged the defendant by introducing last-minute evidence, using jailhouse informants to elicit information when the suspect's lawyer should have represented him and throwing away evidence that could have helped the defense.

The court ruled 9-0 that Justin Blakeney of Laurel should get a new murder trial in the 2010 death of Victoria Viner, the daughter of his then-girlfriend.

"Because Blakeney was denied an opportunity to present a complete defense, because testimony and evidence from witnesses working as state agents was allowed, and because of prosecutorial misconduct, we now reverse Blakeney's conviction and sentence and remand his case for a new trial on the merits," Justice Leslie King wrote for the court.

Jones County District Attorney Anthony Buckley did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The court also overturned a death penalty conviction last week because of questionable bite mark evidence.

An autopsy found the 2-year-old Victoria died of blunt force trauma to the head. Blakeney argued that she'd fallen off a stool weeks before he called paramedics to report she was ill, but a physician at a hospital reported the case as possible child abuse.

The child's mother, Lidia Viner, pleaded guilty to child neglect, was placed on probation and was later deported to Mexico.

Prosecutors relied on two informants who were promised lighter treatment in turn for information from Blakeney. He'd appealed to them for help in joining the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. Prosecutors argued at trial that Blakeney killed the child to qualify to join the gang, but Blakeney said he'd only tried to join the gang for protection after years in jail.

King said it would have been OK if the informants had reported conversations with Blakeney but said the state went wrong when authorities cooked up a plan to use the informants as undercover agents, including one who wore a wire, to seek stronger confessions from Blakeney. King wrote that after Blakeney was indicted, state agents couldn't question him unless his lawyer was there or he waived his right to a lawyer.

The court also found that Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum should have given Blakeney's lawyer more time to prepare after the state introduced more evidence days before trial, including testimony of one of the informants, Randall "Satan" Smith.

"With the untimely introduction of Smith's testimony, the State's case added extremely inflammatory testimony for which the defense needed time to prepare," King wrote. "Had the defense had time to obtain impeachment evidence, it likely would have undermined Smith's testimony in favor of the defense."

Finally, the court found that Assistant District Attorney J. Ronald Parrish erred when he threw away computer and cellphone records from Blakeney and Viner instead of providing them to the defense.

"Clearly, information on Blakeney's and Viner's cellphones and computer potentially could be useful," King wrote. "A recent picture of Blakeney without swastika tattoos could have emphasized the defense's point that Blakeney had not been involved with the Aryan Brotherhood before he went to jail."

(source: Associated Press)


Attorney calls for payroll fraud investigation into Louisiana death penalty prosecutor Hugo Holland

A New Orleans attorney on Thursday asked state officials to open a "payroll fraud" investigation into Hugo A. Holland, one of the most influential prosecutors in Louisiana, accusing the outspoken death penalty proponent of breaking the law by working full-time in multiple judicial districts.

The attorney, Nicholas Trenticosta, forwarded a dossier on Holland to the state Legislative Auditor's Office, saying he holds so many state-paid positions "that it would be impossible for him to have performed the duties for which he was being paid."

The complaint says Holland, a so-called circuit rider who specializes in capital punishment, has been paid by at least 10 different parishes over the past 3 years to prosecute cases while also receiving a state salary, known as a warrant, to work as an assistant district attorney in Lake Charles.

He also runs the Webster Parish division of the 26th Judicial District Attorney's Office, where he screens felony cases and is expected to appear in court twice a week.

"Mr. Holland has been paid the statutorily set amount of $45,000 a year of public money to serve as a full-time prosecutor for the state of Louisiana and has then billed the public fisc another $150,000 or more a year to be a prosecutor" in a host of parishes, Trenticosta wrote.

He added that Holland, who frequently testifies before the state Legislature, has violated the law by serving as an unregistered lobbyist on behalf of state prosecutors.

Holland denied the allegations in an email, insisting the position of assistant district attorney is considered part-time under Louisiana law. He told The Advocate in an interview earlier this year that he holds commissions from 18 Louisiana district attorneys, often flying around the state in a four-seat RV-10 to prosecute high-profile cases in largely rural parishes.

"An individual may hold as many part-time appointed positions as he or she desires," Holland wrote. "I can be a commissioned ADA in all 42 jurisdictions if I so desire and if the DA's in those jurisdictions approve."

He also said that it was "horses--t to claim I am a paid lobbyist," adding, "I simply don't fit the definition."

"I defy any of these ass----s to produce a shred of evidence that I have 'double billed' or 'double dipped,'" Holland said.

Trenticosta's claims echo those made in recent years by a host of capital defense attorneys who have accused Holland of bending the rules in his zeal to secure death sentences. One of them, G. Ben Cohen, an attorney with the Promise of Justice Initiative, told the Washington Post recently that Holland "captures everything that's wrong with the criminal-justice system in Louisiana."

The Post article referred to Holland as "the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana."

(source: The Advocate)

OHIO----impending execution

Gov. Kasich denies clemency request for ill Ohio inmate

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he won't spare the life of a condemned killer who has cited his poor health and tough upbringing in an attempt to avoid execution.

The Republican governor's decision Thursday came in the case of Alva Campbell, who was sentenced to die for fatally shooting 18-year-old Charles Dials after a 1997 carjacking.

The 69-year-old Campbell is scheduled for execution Nov. 15.

Campbell's attorneys say he uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy bag, requires four breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer.

They also say Campbell was the product of a violent, dysfunctional and sexually abusive childhood.

Prosecutors say Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed Dials.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense attorneys for convicted serial killer Anthony Kirkland quit the case----Deters blames public defender's interference

An angry prosecutor Joe Deters is blaming a public defender in Columbus for interfering in the resentencing case of serial killer Anthony Kirkland and forcing 2 defense attorneys to quit.

Jury selection was supposed to begin Thursday, but instead, attorneys Perry Ancona and Norm Aubin told Judge Patrick Dinkelacker that they had to withdraw. Deters was riled because the attorneys revealed that Rachel Troutman from the Ohio Public Defenders Office had advised Kirkland that she was trying to get Aubin taken off the case.

Kirkland was originally sentenced to death for killing 13-year-old SCPA student Esme Kenney and 14-year-old Casonya Crawford in 2009 and 2006, respectively, and burning their bodies.

According to Ancona, Troutman talked to Kirkland about his attorneys in 2 phone calls.

"We're placed in the ridiculous situation this morning here," Ancona told the judge. Ancona said prosecutors just this week gave him and Aubin CDs of Kirkland's conversations with Troutman. They were calls Kirkland made from the Justice Center almost a year ago on Dec. 15, 2016 and last month on Oct. 10.

"A person he referred to as Rachael Troutman on Dec. 15, 2016, indicated and said she has been working behind the scenes to get rid of Mr. Aubin - get him off the case," Ancona said in court.

In the 2nd call last month, Troutman used an expletive to describe the 2 attorneys.

"This person said that Norm and Perry may not necessarily do a good job explaining how Anthony got where he is. I think that's clearly undermining our efforts to work on his behalf," Ancona said.

Kirkland told the judge he only called Trautman because he couldn't get hold of Ancona and Aubin.

"Your Honor, I haven't been able to contact these dudes - my attorneys. Made efforts to contact them," Kirkland said. "I tried to put them on my phone list to get their numbers in so I could talk to them. It was always denied. When I seen them in court, it was only for a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes during the time here and then they're off. Other times when I tried to contact them, I sent them letters. I didn't get a response to my letters.

"The only way that I could make contact through them was going through familiar territory where I was at."

Nevertheless, Deters called Troutman's actions "reprehensible" and said he would take action against her.

"This borders on the most reprehensible conduct I've ever seen an attorney do in all my years of practicing law," Deters said after the hearing. "This was unconscionable for her to interfere and obstruct in this case and we're going to find out what the remedies are.

"I mean, I'm not going to sit back and just let this go by. She clearly was undermining the defense to the point where they can't even represent him anymore? This is a very serious matter."

Deters wasn't finished. He went off on the Ohio Public Defenders Office and state officials who oppose the death penalty.

"We're down in Cincinnati. We don't pay attention to what goes on in Columbus, and it's my belief that the Ohio Public Defender's Office creates a culture where these attorneys feel enabled to do whatever the heck they want, any means to an end," Deters said.

"Now, we've got 100 jurors waiting and they're being excused because of her behavior. She slandered 2 very good defense attorneys with Perry and Norm and she needs to be held accountable.

"But, the problem is we've got judges and bar association people that may have some political bent that they don't believe in the death penalty and they enable people to behave like this.

"So, we again, after bringing the family back in, they have to resume all the pain and agony they went through when their loved one was murdered and we've got to do it again because of the behavior of someone from the state public defender's office.

"If you don't want the death penalty, go to the legislature and end it, but this activity in the courts that they're permitted to get away with so many times over and over again is unconscionable. It makes you lose your faith in the system. It really does."

Deters said $250,000 has already been spent on the case and it could take months for new lawyers to get up to speed.

Dinkelacker said he would appoint new attorneys on Monday.

WCPO has reached out to the Ohio Public Defender's Office for comment.

Kirkland was already serving a 70-year sentence for killing 2 women when he got the death sentence in 2010 for murdering Kenney and Crawford. But the Ohio Supreme Court decided that Kirkland should be resentenced because of a comment by Deters during Kirkland's sentencing.

"So I guess Casonya and Esme are just freebies for him," Deters said at the time. The court found that Deters' comment insinuated that Kirkland would go unpunished for the teens' murders unless he was put to death.

4 of the 7 Ohio Supreme Court Justices voted in favor of a resentencing hearing.

"It is improper for prosecutors to incite the jurors' emotions through insinuations and assertions that are not supported by the evidence and that are therefore calculated to mislead the jury," the Ohio Supreme Court decision said. "Although the crimes Kirkland is alleged to have committed are horrific, due process requires that a jury be free from prejudice before recommending the death penalty."

Kirkland's guilt isn't on trial this time around -- just his sentence.

Retired judge Norbert Nadel said this type of hearing is extremely rare. He also said jury selection may take longer than the resentencing hearing itself.

"The prosecution will put on a synopsis and put on the investigators and all that sort of thing," Nadel said. "It will be done in a brief fashion. (The defense attorneys) have a great hill to climb because of the facts of that case, the horrible facts of the case. They have a horrible, difficult hill to climb -- as they should have."

(source: WCPO news)


Accused baby killer back behind bars in Ashtabula, could face death penalty

The Ashtabula County Grand Jury has secretly and directly indicted the man accused with the rape and murder of a 13-month-old girl.

Joshua Gurto, 37, was taken into custody last month after he was spotted at a gas station near Pittsburgh.

He was brought back to Ashtabula County Thursday morning and is being held in the jail.

Gurto fled shortly after the girl was killed. Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, 13 months, died after being found Oct. 7 with blunt force trauma to the head and trunk.

The Conneaut Law Director's Office filed charges and obtained an arrest warrant for Gurto in Sereniti's murder and rape. He is believed to be the boyfriend of the baby's mother.

Gurto has been on indicted on several charges including the following:

2 counts of aggravated murder, an unclassified felony offense

3 counts of murder, an unclassified felony offense

1 count of rape, a 1st degree felony

1 count of felonious assault, a 1st degree felony

1 count of domestic violence, a 1st degree misdemeanor

The Grand Jury has also indicted Gurto on 2 separate death penalty specifications.

He is expected to be back in court later this month.

(source: Fox News)


Ohio man could face death penalty in rape, slaying of toddler

An Ohio man has been indicted in the rape and slaying of his girlfriend's 13-month-old daughter.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said Thursday that Joshua Gurto could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder in the Oct. 7 beating death of Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley. Gurto also faces rape, felonious assault and domestic violence charges.

The 37-year-old was arrested Oct. 27 in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, the day after he was spotted at a Pittsburgh convenience store.

A coroner has said Seriniti died from blunt force trauma to her head and body. She died at a local hospital after being found unconscious in Conneaut, northeast of Cleveland.

Iarocci says Gurto was brought to the Ashtabula County Jail on Thursday from Allegheny County.

It's unclear whether Gurto has an attorney.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorneys for Golsby seek to throw out death penalty specifications

The attorneys for Brian Golsby are asking the judge overseeing his case to throw out the death penalty specifications in his indictment.

Golsby is the man accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering Ohio State student Reagan Tokes, last February.

According to a motion filed on October 31, defense attorneys cite a report by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Frank Baumgartner to argue race is a factor when the state determines who is eligible for the death penalty.

It reads in part:

"Indeed, 65 % of all executions carried out in Ohio between 1976 and 2014 were for crimes involving White victims despite the fact that 43% of all homicide victims are White."

The defense also argues Prosecutor Ron O'Brien seeks the death penalty against more African American defendants than white ones.

As the motion states:

"Such grave disparity in the most serious of cases cannot be tolerated by a criminal justice system that strives for even the appearance of fairness and equality."

Golsby's attorneys, who also filed a motion to have the evidence collected from the defendant's ankle monitor suppressed, declined to comment.

O'Brien issued the following statement:

"We have 14 days under court rule to respond to any defense motion in a criminal case and are in the process of preparing a response to both motions recently filed in the Golsby case, including the allegation that the death penalty is being sought on a discriminatory basis. Both the facts and the law do not reflect discrimination in those cases in which a death penalty indictment was filed in Franklin County."

Golsby's trial is scheduled to begin in February.

(source: WCMH news)


Prosecutors seek death penalty against principal accused of murder

St. Louis prosecutors on Thursday said they are seeking the death penalty against a principal accused of hiring a hit man to kill his pregnant girlfriend, a teacher. The alleged hit man, Phillip Cutler, is also facing the death penalty.

Cornelius Green is charged with 2 counts 1st-degree murder. He allegedly hired a childhood friend, Phillip J. Cutler, of Oklahoma, to kill Jocelyn Peters, 30.

Prosecutors allege the murder was "outrageously vile, horrible or inhuman in that involved torture or depravity of mind."

"What we have here is an apparent murder for hire," said Jennifer Joyce, former St. Louis Circuit Attorney in 2016. "What we do know is Mr. Green did send Mr. Cutler through the mail $2,500 cash."

Peters was found fatally shot in her Central West End apartment in late March, 2016. She was 7 months pregnant at the time of the shooting. Peters was a teacher at Mann Elementary in St. Louis City.

Court records sat Cutler and Green were childhood friends and Cutler was visiting in St. Louis the week of Peter's murder. The documents also reveal that Cutler's cell phone was near Peter's apartment the night of the murder.

Green is the former principal at Carr Lane Visual Performing Arts School. He was arrested in August, on theft charges, for allegedly stealing $2,700 from a student dance group at the school where he used to be a principal.

Green faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder because the Peters' fetus was 7-months-old.

(source: KMOV news)


Tulsa County DA files intent to seek death penalty in 2016 gang-related torture, slaying

The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office on Thursday announced its intent to seek the death penalty against a man and a woman charged with beating a Tulsa man to death in a gang-related attack and subsequently burning his body.

The case marks the 2nd time in 2 months that the DA's office has sought an execution.

In the current case, Gerald Keith Lowe Jr., 40, and Michaela Riddle, 25, face counts of 1st-degree murder, intimidation of a witness, kidnapping, desecration of a human corpse and committing a gang-related offense in the Nov. 11, 2016, death of 23-year-old Courtney Palmer.

The defendants, who were dating at the time, are accused of beating Palmer inside a home in the 4600 block of North Boston Place during a dispute tied to the Hoover Crips gang before taking his body to Muskogee, putting it in a shallow grave and setting it on fire.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, in a filing Thursday, said the case merits the death penalty because Palmer's slaying was especially atrocious, heinous and cruel, and that the defendants are a continuing threat to society.

Lowe also has a felony conviction for an offense that involved the use or threat of violence on another, which is listed as a 3rd aggravator against him.

Tulsa Police Department investigators found Palmer's burned body in a shallow grave outside a dilapidated home in Muskogee on Dec. 15. An autopsy report from the state Medical Examiner's Office says Palmer died of "homicidal violence by multiple modalities," noting many of his facial bones and ribs were broken.

Charletha Mack, 40, is charged an accessory to Palmer's death but is ineligible for the death penalty. Mack testified against Lowe and Riddle during a preliminary hearing in October, describing how she observed them repeatedly beat Palmer in her home "until he couldn’t breathe no more" and explaining her reasons for not immediately notifying police.

Jeannetta Thomas, 19, was a co-defendant with Lowe and Riddle on the murder, witness intimidation and kidnapping counts, but all charges against her were dropped Monday and she is now a material witness.

Thomas testified in October that Palmer was attacked because of Lowe's and Riddle's belief that Palmer had set up a person named "Duke," and that Palmer repeatedly denied the accusation.

Thomas told Assistant District Attorney Isaac Shields that she saw Lowe choke Palmer after Palmer had a blue dry cleaner's bag placed over his head, and alleged that she saw Riddle pour a pot of boiling water on Palmer's face.

Police said Palmer reported being a witness to an altercation in which "Duke," later identified as his friend Carl Harris, was shot at an apartment complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.

Lead homicide detective Jason White testified that Lowe and Riddle were linked to Palmer's burial site by using DNA collected from a sock and a vacuum cleaner device recovered from the dilapidated home. Lowe and Riddle reportedly had sex in the house before they removed the mattress from the bedroom, placed it over Palmer's body and set both on fire.

A probable cause affidavit states Palmer's girlfriend told White in an interview that Riddle said, "this is about to be some 'First 48' stuff" after the girlfriend began crying upon seeing a news report on Palmer's disappearance. "The First 48" is a television show that tracks the Tulsa Police Department's Homicide Unit, among other agencies, as it works on open cases.

Lowe and Riddle are set for trial court arraignment Nov. 27 before District Judge Sharon Holmes, but their arraignments will likely be pushed back, in part so she can appoint attorneys with experience in death penalty cases.

Riddle's counsel, Stephen Lee and Mark Cagle, have done capital punishment work but are expected to withdraw because they also are representing Michael Browning, whose 2003 death sentence was overturned and who is set for a re-trial in Tulsa next spring in a 2001 homicide.

Lowe's attorney, Brian Boeheim, has not been involved in death penalty matters and could either withdraw or receive death penalty-qualified co-counsel via an appointment from Holmes.

Kunzweiler said the nature of the crime merits the request.

"I do not make these decisions without giving thoughtful consideration to the alleged facts, as well as having extensive communication with the law enforcement officers who investigated the case," he said. "With regard to these 2 defendants, my office believes there exist aggravating circumstances which should afford a jury the option of imposing the death penalty."

Kunzweiler also has requested the death penalty in the case of 41-year-old Gregory Jerome Epperson, who is charged with strangling 19-year-old Kelsey Tennant and trying to kill her boyfriend, Riley Allen, in an east Tulsa apartment on March 20.

Epperson's case, which became a capital proceeding in September, is the 1st such case handled in Tulsa County in nearly 5 years and the 1st for Kunzweiler's tenure as chief prosecutor. Former District Attorney Tim Harris had last filed a bill of particulars in January 2013 against Jacob England and Alvin Watts, who were accused of murder in 3 shootings on Good Friday in 2012 that prosecutors said was a hate crime against black people.

The last death penalty trial in Harris' administration culminated in a jury recommending in early 2014 that Darren Price serve 2 life without parole sentences for his role in the September 2011 Hicks Park homicides. Price was 19 at the time of his arrest, which prosecutors said then may have been a factor in why he did not receive a death sentence.

If the cases against Epperson, Lowe and Riddle go to trial and end in recommendations of death, they would be the first defendants from Tulsa County to face lethal injection since Raymond Johnson, who was sentenced in 2009 to die by lethal injection for killing a woman and her baby in 2007.

Oklahoma has not put anyone to death since the lethal injection of Charles Warner in January 2015, which was later found to have had a drug not listed to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections' lethal injection protocol. Richard Glossip received a last-minute stay in September 2015 after Gov. Mary Fallin learned DOC staff obtained for Glossip the same drug that was incorrectly used in Warner's execution.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office issued a stay of all scheduled executions pending the DOC's release of an updated protocol, after which it said it will wait at least 150 days before placing anyone on schedule to die. The DOC, according to its Oct. 31 status report, has not said it is ready to resume with executions.

(source: Tulsa World)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty for murder defendant accused of fatally shooting Tecumseh police officer

Wounded Tecumseh police officer Justin Terney feared he was dying in the moments after a shootout late March 26.

"Stay with us. Help is coming," Lt. Mike Mallinson told his wounded colleague, according to testimony Thursday. The lieutenant explained to a judge he was trying to keep Terney awake.

"Mike, I think I'm going out," Terney replied, according to the testimony. Terney, 22, died the next day at a hospital.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing Thursday for murder defendants Byron James Shepard, 36, and Brooklyn Danielle Williams, 23.

Prosecutors announced Thursday they are seeking the death penalty against Shepard, who is accused of fatally shooting Terney in the abdomen and leg. Prosecutors allege Shepard is a "continuing threat to society."

Shepard, of Okemah, is charged with 1st-degree murder. Williams, of Tecumseh, is charged with 2nd-degree murder. At the hearing's conclusion, Pottawatomie County Special Judge David Cawthon found there was enough evidence to send their cases to trial.

Terney pulled over a vehicle driven by Williams late March 26 in Tecumseh. Shepard was riding in the car with Williams, his girlfriend, investigators reported.

Shepard fled when the officer discovered he had an outstanding arrest warrant for concealing stolen property, according to investigators. A brief foot chase and the shootout followed, investigators said.

Mallinson testified he responded to the traffic stop to assist Terney after it appeared Shepard had given a false name. Before Mallinson could exit his vehicle, Shepard fled on foot, according to his testimony.

Mallinson said Shepard ran into a wooded area and Terney chased after him. The lieutenant said he heard Terney deploy his Taser twice during the foot chase.

Mallinson told the judge he then heard gunshots. He said he found Terney and Shepard both lying on the ground wounded.

"The defendant continued to scream and I told him to shut up," Mallinson testified.

Investigators reported Terney shot Shepard in the arm, chest and groin. Shepard was treated at a hospital and later taken to jail.

Prosecutors allege Williams knew Shepard had an active arrest warrant and was "harboring" him before the fatal shooting. Law enforcement officers had previously warned her that she would be in trouble if she was caught with Shepard, according to investigators.

Text messages between the 2 defendants also were put into evidence Thursday, some referencing them not wanting Shepard to go back to jail. Prosecutors said one message sent by Shepard alluded to him wanting to "take out 4 or 5" officers.

Shepard also is charged with offenses related to methamphetamine and concealing property.

Both defendants appeared in court Thursday in handcuffs and wearing orange uniforms.

(source: The Oklahoman)


NDCS says it has drugs to execute inmates on death row----A year after Nebraska voters brought the death penalty back, the state says it now has the drugs to enforce it.

A year after Nebraska voters brought the death penalty back, the state says it now has the drugs to enforce it.

"We revised the protocols earlier this year to be the most effective, to comply with state law," Gov. Pete Ricketts said.

Ricketts was part of the protocol changes in January, which made the capital punishment process more public.

First on death row is Jose Sandoval, who was convicted for murdering 3 people in the 2002 Norfolk Bank Robbery.

Corrections Director Scott Frakes explained Nebraska's new execution protocol in a letter to Sandoval, listing the 4 drugs that will be used to kill him.

The process starts with diazepam, an anti-anxiety drug.

? "It causes the body, in large amounts, to go into respiratory depression and shuts down the respiration of the body," said pharmacist Jim Quinley.

The 2nd drug used is fentanyl citrate and the 3rd is cisatracurium besylate, which Quinley said is a skeletal muscle relaxant.

"In large quantities it would shut down your skeletal structure, all your muscles and you can't move," Quinley said. "Including your respiratory muscles."

The final drug in the list of 4 to be used for executions is potassium chloride.

"Potassium chloride is a natural mineral that the body needs, but in large amounts it will put the heart, the cardiac system in afib and cause the heart to stop," Quinley said.

Quinley said the 4 drugs are legal, prescription drugs.

"In smaller doses they're used for therapeutic reasons," Quinley said. "In larger doses they can kill."

Ricketts said Nebraska bought the drugs in the U.S., but would not specify where in compliance with state law.

"We're not disclosing that," Ricketts said. "I'd refer you to the attorney general."

Neither the attorney general nor the department of corrections would answer that question Thursday, or any of KETV Newswatch 7's questions.

Death penalty opponents like Matt Maly said Nebraskans deserve an explanation.

"It's a very scary thing and to me, this just exemplifies how broken the system is," said Maly, operations coordinator for the Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty organization. "You've got a state department putting out a release saying, 'Hey, we've got these drugs. Were not saying where they came from.'"

Maly said his organization also worries about botched executions and that Nebraska's use of this 4-drug cocktail is experimenting.

"Nebraska does have a history of purchasing bad lethal injection drugs from unauthorized suppliers, so it's very important that we know where these drugs came from, who made them," Maly said.

Ricketts said 3 of the drugs Nebraska plans to use are currently a part of Nevada's execution protocol.

Maly said his group or another will likely file a lawsuit to learn where Nebraska bought the drugs.

As for the Sandoval case, the attorney general's office must wait 60 days to request an execution warrant from the Nebraska Supreme Court. That must happen before a date for Sandoval's execution is set.

(source: KETV news)


Nebraska moving forward with execution plans for Norfolk killer Jose Sandoval

Nebraska's attorney general has chosen Norfolk killer Jose Sandoval as the next condemned prisoner to die, after a 20-year hiatus in executions in this state.

No request to the Nebraska Supreme Court for an execution warrant has been made, but Corrections Director Scott Frakes served notice to Sandoval on Thursday of the lethal injection drugs that would be administered to cause his death if an execution takes place.

That combination of drugs chosen has never been used in an execution.

State regulations require the prisons chief to notify condemned inmates 60 days prior to the attorney general requesting an execution warrant.

Attorney General Doug Peterson said he is prepared to request the Supreme Court issue Sandoval's execution warrant after at least 60 days have elapsed from the notice.

Corrections officials have chosen a new protocol for administering lethal injection drugs and have purchased diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracuriam besylate and potassium chloride.

The drugs were purchased in the United States and received into the department's inventory Oct. 10, said Dawn-Renee Smith, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

She would not name the company or suppliers from which they were purchased, or say whether the supplier was local or a compounding company. The Journal Star is pursuing the answers to those and other questions.

Nevada has a similar drug protocol, but uses 3 drugs: fentanyl, diazepam and cisatracurium. That protocol is in question after a judge said Wednesday she may cut a paralytic (cisatracurium) from the state's previously untried lethal injection plan, after hearing that it could mask movements reflecting awareness and pain, according to The Associated Press.

The Nebraska department has tested its drugs for quality, according to a Corrections news release.

Sandoval, 38, is housed on death row at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. He was convicted and sentenced to death 13 years ago for killing 5 people at the U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk in September 2002.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, a longtime opponent of the death penalty, said in spite of the notice he doubted an execution was going to be carried out any time soon.

He and others need to know where the drugs came from, and whether there was a private compounding company manufacturing them, he said.

Other issues that have to be resolved, he said, include whether or not this combination of drugs has been used anywhere else, even though that would not bind Nebraska; whether or not the combination of drugs would be effective in accomplishing an execution; and whether they were designed to be used to take someone's life.

The Associated Press reported in April that a German pharmaceutical company spokesman said the potassium chloride the Nebraska Corrections Department had purchased in 2015 was not intended to be sold to a state corrections department. A distributor had tried unsuccessfully to get the department to return the drugs.

The fact that the department is withholding certain information, Chambers said, indicates it is not fully transparent and may feel there are weaknesses in what it is doing.

Chambers charged that the notice of intended execution drugs is timed to coincide with Gov. Pete Ricketts re-election campaign.

Ricketts responded, saying: "Last year the people of Nebraska reaffirmed that the death penalty remains an important part of protecting public safety in our state."

Thursday's announcement is the next step to carrying out the sentences ordered by the court, he said.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said the organization was "horrified" that the department planned to use Sandoval as a "test subject for an untested and experimental lethal injection cocktail."

"This rash decision will not fix the problems with Nebraska's broken death penalty and are a distraction from the real issues impacting Nebraska's Department of Corrections: an overcrowded, crisis-riddled system," she said.

America is a nation turning away from the death penalty, Conrad said, with more and more states seeing that ending capital punishment means improving public safety. Fiscal conservatives, faith leaders and public safety officials are increasingly leading efforts to replace the death penalty.

"The ACLU will continue to discuss the state's misguided plan with experts locally and nationally and evaluate the grave constitutional, legal and policy questions associated with this untested protocol," she said.

The attorney general said in a statement he agrees with the notice that was given to Sandoval.

"Sandoval planned the Sept. 26, 2002, Norfolk bank robbery when, in less than a minute, 5 innocent people were brutally shot and killed," Peterson said in a news release.

The dead included bank employees and customers. Sandoval personally killed 3 people, 2 more people were killed, and 3 more were in the midst of the gunfire that day. Sandoval's crimes were captured on video.

The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld Sandoval's convictions and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court then denied further review of the sentence. Sandoval never filed any challenges to the Supreme Court decisions, Peterson said.

The last execution in Nebraska was Robert Williams in December 1997. It was carried out using the electric chair.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Nebraska to use 4 drugs never tried together in an execution

Nebraska's corrections department took a key step Thursday to prepare for the state's 1st execution since 1997, unveiling a new combination of lethal injection drugs that no state has ever used on an inmate before.

The state Department of Correctional Services notified death-row inmate Jose Sandoval of the lethal injection drugs to be used in his execution, although no date has been set.

State officials are required to notify an inmate of the drugs to be used at least 60 days before Nebraska's attorney general asks the state Supreme Court for an execution warrant. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said state attorneys plan to seek the warrant after the waiting period has ended.

The announcement came almost 1 year to the day after Nebraska voters reinstated capital punishment, overriding state lawmakers who had abolished the death penalty in defiance of Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

"Last year, the people of Nebraska reaffirmed that the death penalty remains an important part of protecting public safety in our state," Ricketts said in a written statement. "Today's announcement by the corrections department is the next step towards carrying out the sentences ordered by the court."

A corrections department spokeswoman said the state intends to use the sedative diazepam, commonly known as Valium; the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl citrate; the paralytic cisatracurium; and potassium chloride to induce death.

The department has access to all 4 drugs, and all were purchased in United States, said correctional services spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith. Smith, responding to questions by email, did not say how the drugs were obtained or who provided them.

Nevada officials have been pushing to use 3 of those drugs in a scheduled execution on Tuesday. On Thursday, a Nevada state court judge ordered state officials not to use the paralytic cisatracurium. Federal public defenders argued that the paralytic could prevent observers from seeing if the condemnded inmate suffers during his death. Nevada officials also plan to use diazepam and fentanyl.

Sandoval, 38, was sentenced to death on 5 counts of 1st-degree murder for the September 2002 deaths of five people in a bank robbery in Norfolk, a city of 24,000 about 110 miles northwest of Omaha. It's unclear whether he has an attorney. The Norfolk lawyer who handled his most recent appeals did not immediate respond to a phone message.

"He has to be given some sort of opportunity to challenge it," said Jeffery Pickens, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, which has represented other death-row inmates. The commission cannot represent Sandoval because it defended some of the other men convicted in the crime, so it has a conflict.

Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers, a longtime death penalty opponent who sponsored the repeal law in 2015, said he believes the execution announcement was politically motivated.

Ricketts vetoed the death penalty repeal measure during his 1st year in office, and suffered a political blow when lawmakers overrode him. The former TD Ameritrade executive also helped bankroll the petition drive to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot with $300,000 of his own money. Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty. Ricketts is up for re-election in 2018.

"They're a good long ways from being able to carry out an execution," Chambers said. "But I think the timing is suspicious."

Chambers predicted that attorneys for Sandoval would "tear into" the state's plan and create more delays. Nebraska's last execution was in 1997, using the electric chair. The state has never carried out an execution with lethal injection drugs.

Ricketts did not address Chambers' criticism in his statement.

State officials chose a combination of drugs that has never been used before in an execution, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national group that has questioned the way executions are performed.

Dunham said the use of a paralytic could effectively hide any pain an inmate experiences during the execution, thus obscuring whether the execution was carried out without causing unconstitutional pain and suffering.

"It's literally human experimentation, because no one has done it," Dunham said. "That doesn't necessarily mean it won't work, but it means there are serious questions about it."

Potassium chloride has been used in other executions to stop an inmate's heart, but it also caused severe chemical burns during a botched execution in Florida in 2014, Dunham said.

(source: Associated Press)

NEVADA----stay of impending volunteer execution

Nevada execution postponed over dispute about paralytic drug

Nevada's 1st inmate execution in 11 years was postponed Thursday after a state court judge ordered a paralytic drug removed from a never-before-used lethal injection plan that also includes the first use by a state of the powerful opioid fentanyl.

Prisons chief James Dzurenda called off the execution that had been set for Tuesday for twice-convicted murderer Scott Raymond Dozier after a solicitor for the state attorney general's office said the order would be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, prisons spokeswoman Brooke Keast said.

Dozier has given up appeals and repeatedly told Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti he wants his death sentence carried out.

The judge said before issuing her order that she was "loath to stop" the process but was concerned the state plan to administer the 3 drugs could leave Dozier aware of pain and struggling with "air-hunger."

The state had planned to administer the muscle paralytic cisatracurium after injecting Dozier with high doses of the sedative diazepam and with fentanyl to depress and stop his breathing.

The judge pointed to testimony last week from Dr. David Waisel, a Harvard University anesthesia professor and pediatric anesthesiologist at Boston Children's Hospital. He said the paralytic should not be needed if the other 2 drugs are delivered properly in the lethal amounts in the state protocol.

"It's for the Supreme Court to decide," Togliatti said Thursday. "They're going to have to be the court to make that determination that we as a state are OK with a paralytic."

Togliatti said the execution could go forward with a 2-drug combination. But, "If the state of Nevada is not comfortable with the fentanyl and diazepam alone, then it supports the argument that (cisatracurium) is being used for a mask and he could suffer," she said.

Dozier's execution can still happen once the state Supreme Court rules, Togliatti said.

She set a Dec. 7 date to check the status of the case.

Waisel was hired by David Anthony, a deputy federal public defender who Dozier allowed to review the untried 3-drug protocol.

Anthony contended the paralytic was being used not as a substitute for a heart-stopping drug like most death-penalty states use, but to prevent witnesses from seeing if Dozier experiences an unconstitutionally inhumane death.

Assistant state Solicitor General Jordan Smith did not present testimony from Dr. John DiMuro, an anesthesiologist and the state's chief medical officer who developed the diazepam-fentanyl-cisatracurium protocol.

DiMuro resigned last week from his position as the state's top doctor, but provided an affidavit to the court saying his departure had nothing to do with Dozier's execution.

DiMuro's brother and lawyer, Christopher DiMuro, said his brother carried out an assignment to develop an execution method using drugs that Nevada could obtain.

Invoice records show the drugs were delivered in late May to Nevada prisons from the usual pharmacy supplier, Cardinal Health, at a cost of $482.52. A Cardinal Health spokeswoman didn't directly say whether the pharmaceutical wholesaler knew the intended use for the drugs.

John DiMuro wouldn't agree to an interview, Christopher DiMuro said, but he wouldn't disagree with Waisel that the paralytic could be unnecessary if the 1st 2 drugs are properly delivered at fatal doses.

"John is not on one side or another about the death penalty," the brother said from New Jersey.

Dozier also used the name Chad Wyatt. He would become the 1st person put to death in Nevada since 2006, when Daryl Mack asked to be put to death for his conviction in a 1988 rape and murder in Reno.

His would be the 1st lethal injection in a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison, 250 miles north of Las Vegas. It was completed in November 2016 at a cost of about $854,000.

(source: Associated Press)


Experts weigh in on use of paralytic drug in executions

Nevada's 1st execution in 11 years was delayed after a Las Vegas judge decided Thursday to strike a controversial paralytic drug from the state's never-before-used 3-drug lethal injection plan.

Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti expressed concerns over the effects the paralytic drug would have on death-row inmate Scott Dozier.

Experts testified the drug would cause Dozier to suffocate to death and mask his possible suffering if the other 2 drugs, fentanyl and diazepam, were administered incorrectly.

Dozier, 46, who was twice convicted of murder, voluntarily waived his right to appeal his death sentence after living behind bars for more than a decade. His execution was scheduled for Tuesday night at Ely State Prison.

Nevada ACLU launches petition to stop upcoming execution of Las Vegas murderer

On Thursday, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced a stay of execution, and it was unknown when Dozier's sentence would be carried out.

A lawyer for the state attorney general's office said they plan to appeal the judge's order with the Nevada Supreme Court.

But the debate over the use of a paralytic drug in lethal injection executions is nothing new. It's an issue that's been talked about for 40 years since Oklahoma adopted lethal injection as a means of execution - a year after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Many death penalty experts argue paralytic drugs can lead to a cruel and unusual death, which would go against the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Reno Gazette Journal reached out to several experts to discuss why the use of a paralytic drug has created such a huge controversy among state officials, attorneys and physicians.

Lethal injection: A 40-year battle

In 1977, Dr. Jay Chapman developed a 3-drug protocol to be used in Oklahoma, which became the 1st state to adopt lethal injection execution. The drug cocktail included the sedative sodium thiopental; a paralytic agent, pancuronium bromide; and potassium chloride, which stopped the heart.

Up until 2009, each state implemented similar protocols using those 3 drugs. But many pharmaceutical companies stopped manufacturing and selling the drugs, leading to a shortage, according to Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University School of Law.

Denno has written 26 articles about capital punishment. She said she looked at the dosages states were using in lethal injection executions for a nationwide survey she conducted in 2001 and 2005.

"The states were going everywhere and in every which way because they couldn't find this initial drug that rendered the inmate unconscious," Denno said, referring to sodium thiopental. "And in some of these cases, they weren't giving nearly enough drugs to make somebody unconscious."

And that presented a problem, according to Megan McCracken, an attorney for the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law.

"From a legal perspective, we know it's beyond question that if the person is conscious or aware, that would lead to an excruciating death," McCracken said. "That would violate the Constitution."

Lethal injection has resulted in several botched executions - most recently in Ohio, Oklahoma, Arizona, Georgia and Alabama within the past 3 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Several death-row inmates were seen gasping for air or writhing in pain.

Paralytic drugs affect the way skeletal muscles relax and contract. It paralyzes the diaphragm, which controls breathing.

If the prisoner isn't rendered unconscious, they can suffocate to death.

The paralytic was meant to preserve the dignity of the prisoner, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit organization that provides information and analysis on death penalty issues.

"The paralytic performs no legitimate function in the execution itself," he said. "It's so that it's less difficult for the eyewitnesses to watch."

Death by suffocation: Is it cruel?

None of drugs chosen by state officials to be used in the lethal injection were designed to kill, according to Dr. Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University School of Medicine.

Fentanyl is an opioid designed to take away symptoms of pain. Diazepam is a drug similar to Valium used to treat insomnia and anxiety. It's also used in non-invasive procedures, but it does nothing to affect awareness or consciousness.

The 3rd drug, the paralytic cisatracurium, is used on patients undergoing surgery to prevent muscle contraction.

Zivot said cisatracurium would have paralyzed and then ultimately killed Dozier.

"So, essentially what this is - to be clear - is death by suffocation," Zivot said.

Other medical experts like Dr. Susi Vassallo, a professor of emergency medicine at New York University School of Medicine, argues fentanyl is the killing drug.

"In this case, we have thousands of deaths from fentanyl, and it clearly works," she said, adding fentanyl is at the center of the opioid epidemic in the U.S. "Then why add valium to that? Why paralyze them if (fentanyl) is so effective?

"There's no pain, you're unconscious and you stop breathing. It's perfect."

The use of a paralytic drug could prevent witnesses - and the public - from knowing whether Dozier's execution was unconstitutional.

"It's the witnesses' responsibility to observe the execution and then decide whether or not it looks cruel," Zivot said.

Constitutional problems

Dunham, who previously worked as an attorney in death penalty cases, said the way states carry out executions raises questions about possible constitutional violations.

He said the Supreme Court has allowed executions to move forward using drug combinations that have been known to be problematic. The Supreme Court has also allowed states to execute prisoners while they were in the midst of litigation, Dunham said.

Another problem is the state execution protocols.

"A botch implies that things did not go as planned, and that somehow the state failed to follow this protocol," Dunham said.

"It's the protocol that's the problem," he said. "You can botch it on top of that, which is always a risk."

Experts agree that the execution protocol is key in determining whether an execution will be lawful. The protocol would include information on the order the drugs will be administered, the dosages and who will be carrying out the execution.

But the Nevada Department of Corrections has yet to release the state's execution protocol to the public, despite requests from media and local civil rights groups.

Spokeswoman Brooke Keast previously told the Reno Gazette Journal that the protocol was under seal. It was unknown when it would be released following Togliatti's order to remove the paralytic drug from the state's execution plan.

Federal public defenders representing Dozier have pushed to ensure that his execution be done humanely.

Dunham said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a death-row prisoner must not only prove their execution method is cruel, but also offer an alternative.

"It's virtually impossible for the defendant to meet the burden because the states in charge of carrying out these executions hide the execution behind a veil of secrecy," he said.

Nevada lawmakers are debating whether or not to pass a bill that would end the state's death penalty. Supporters cite a 2014 audit report that says the death penalty costs about $500,000 more than non-death penalty cases.

Dunham said lethal injection is "essentially a medical practice."

"You're inserting IV lines, and you're often dealing with the sobriety of drug abusers or inmates who, because of various health reasons, don't have accessible veins," Dunham said. "And medical personnel are not permitted to participate because that's unethical."

"So, you have people who are not as well-trained dealing with setting IVs ..." he said.

He said an execution would not be considered unconstitutional unless the courts rule it as such.

"The medical evidence is the medical evidence, and there's going to be a certain amount of pain involved in an execution no matter how it's carried out," Dunham said. "The question is: How much is acceptable?"

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)


Death penalty does a disservice to Nevada: Editorial

The state of Nevada is set to execute Scott Dozier on Nov. 14 for the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller in Las Vegas. And for the 1st time since the 2006 execution of Daryl Mack, the debate on capital punishment in Nevada shifts from philosophical abstraction to stark reality.

For the moment, let's ignore how they do it in other states and other countries. Pay no attention to the opinions of out-of-state politicians, national media pundits and global religious leaders. Nevada's death penalty is for Nevadans to debate.

And in the opinion of the RGJ Editorial Board, the death penalty does not serve Nevada in any way.

Proponents have argued that the crime of 1st-degree murder deserves nothing less than the ultimate punishment, and that the existence of the death penalty deters violent crime and gives prosecutors another weapon in their arsenal to solicit plea bargains. Available evidence suggests those things are not true in this state.

Fear of the death penalty doesn't deter violent crime.

The homicide rate hovered below 15 per 100,000 Nevadans in the mid-1970s, when the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the death penalty to be unconstitutional. The rate spiked to 20 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1980, 4 years after the death penalty was reinstated. Similarly, the rate of violent crime in the state surged in the late '70s and early '80s despite the return of capital punishment.

Over the past 13 years, as states have begun to place moratoriums on the death penalty or abolish it altogether, Nevada - 1 of 31 states practicing capital punishment - has ranked in the top 10 for violent crime per capita every year since 2002, and in the top 5 every year since 2006. If potential criminals in Nevada have any apprehension about committing violent crime, it's not reflected in the numbers.

Prosecutors aren't using the threat of the death penalty to encourage plea bargains.

The death penalty isn't used strategically to avoid trials or elicit plea bargains - in fact, plea bargaining takes place about 14 % less often when defendants potentially face the possibility of capital punishment, according to a death penalty performance audit commissioned by the 2013 Nevada Legislature.

In fact, the bureau directly asked the district attorneys' offices in Washoe and Clark counties if the death penalty was used as a bargaining tool. Both offices said no; Clark County DA Steve Wolfson said the practice would be "unethical."

The cost of seeking the death penalty wastes taxpayer dollars that could be used for other law enforcement needs.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau's report found that costs for incarcerating inmates prior to execution were lower than incarcerating inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of parole - approximately $175,000 less per inmate. But 11 of the 12 inmates executed in Nevada since 1976 gave up on their right to continue appealing their conviction. When death-row inmates continue to pursue appeals, the LCB found that incarceration costs were slightly higher than those serving life without parole.

The most significant cost difference between the death penalty and life without parole is in trial and appeal costs. Pursuing the death penalty costs approximately $532,000 per case more than murder cases where the death penalty isn't sought, due to separate trials for sentencing, automatic appeals and other procedural safeguards to ensure fair, error-free trials.

Those are dollars that can and should be used by Nevada's counties for public safety - law enforcement salaries, crime lab equipment, search-and-rescue funding. The presence of capital punishment doesn't seem to have any impact on Nevada's rate of violent crime; allocating tax dollars to pursue the death penalty instead of other law enforcement functions is making Nevadans less safe.

Over time, we've changed our thinking.

Over the years, our thinking has evolved on the death penalty. As far back as the 1870s, the Nevada State Journal wrote both pro- and anti-death penalty editorials; the editorials, written years apart, both expressed the belief that Nevada's crime rate would be reduced based on their way of thinking.

Capital punishment "does not diminish respect for life, but proclaims the high value of life for all its citizens," read a Reno Evening Gazette editorial in 1979. We lamented "the seemingly endless string of appeals" available to death-row inmates in a 1997 editorial.

But since 2001, the RGJ Editorial Board has grown increasingly wary of the death penalty, based on the cost, the sentencing of underage defendants and the mentally disabled, and the chance that insufficient legal counsel and a rush to prosecute could lead to the execution of an innocent person. For just over a decade, we have believed that the system is far too flawed to fix, and have called for the abolition of the death penalty in Nevada.

Once again, with another execution date approaching, the RGJ Editorial Board is calling for an end to capital punishment in the state of Nevada. As a crime deterrent, a prosecutorial tool and a use of tax dollars, it just doesn't make sense for the Silver State.

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial Board)


If This Case Is Heard By The Supreme Court, It Could End The Death Penalty----Hidalgo's team is asking the court to strike down Arizona's death penalty and rule on the constitutionality of capital punishment nationwide.

45 years ago, a case came before the United States Supreme Court that led to the temporary strike down of the death penalty. Now, the court has the opportunity to take up another case that could transform - or even end - the death penalty in America.

In 1972, a black man named William Henry Furman was caught, mid-burglary, by a homeowner in Georgia. Furman attempted to flee and in doing so tripped and fell, causing the gun he was carrying to fire and kill the resident. Furman v. Georgia asked the Supreme Court if the imposition (and carrying out) of the death penalty in Furman's case constituted cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments. The answer, in a 5-4 decision, was yes.

Justices William Douglas, Potter Stewart and Byron White came to the conclusion that entrenched racial biases caused an unacceptable level of arbitrariness in deciding who would receive the death penalty. Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan went a step further, coming to the shared conclusion that the death penalty in and of itself was cruel and unusual punishment and utterly incompatible with the evolving standards of decency of a civilized society. Justice Powell, in his opinion, famously wrote that the death penalty was imposed on a "capriciously selected random handful" and was "cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightening is cruel and unusual." Furman v. Georgia resulted in a 4-year-long moratorium on executions in the U.S., and each person on death row had their death sentence commuted to life in prison. A number of columnists across the country seemed to be in agreement that it was unlikely that the death penalty would ever exist again in the United States. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

In the wake of Furman, a number of states moved to entirely re-write their death penalty statutes in an attempt to prove that their systems for imposing the death penalty weren't arbitrary. Ideally, this would have meant narrowing the imposition of capital punishment to the very worst crimes. What happened instead, somewhat ironically, was the number of crimes that are death-penalty eligible ballooning in number. In 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty by approving several states' new laws.

Many states have continued to add more and more aggravating factors that render someone eligible for the death penalty, including murder for hire and aggravated kidnapping. In 2015, Kelly Gissendaner was executed in Georgia for orchestrating the killing of her husband, even though she herself did not commit the murder.

In Arizona, the legislature has more than doubled its number of aggravating factors since the 1970s. When Abel Daniel Hidalgo was sentenced to death for 1st-degree murder in 2015, the state had approved so many aggravating circumstances that nearly everyone convicted of 1st-degree murder was now eligible for death. Hidalgo also produced evidence that showed that several neighboring Arizona counties were unable to pursue a death sentence in cases far more egregious than his due to simple budget constraints.

In early 2017, Neal Katyal, the former Solicitor General under Obama (most recently famed for his work as the lead attorney for Hawaii's challenge of President Trump's travel ban) agreed to represent Hidalgo's case before the Supreme Court. Hidalgo's team is asking the court to strike down Arizona's death penalty and rule on the constitutionality of capital punishment nationwide. The administration of the death penalty in 2017, they argue, is in clear violation of the 8th Amendment, which holds that capital punishment must be reserved for only the worst offenders. Arizona's current capital sentencing statute, which allows for 99 % of 1st-degree murders to be death-eligible, does not meaningfully narrow the class of offenders eligible to be executed to "the worst of the worst."

There were approximately 17,250 murders in the United States last year. There were 30 new death sentences imposed. Were these handed down in response to the most egregious crimes to the most irredeemable people? No. Their race, their socioeconomic status, their geographical location, and the quality of their lawyers - both defense and prosecutor - ultimately played the most decisive roles in which of them received a death sentence. Statistics tell us that it's likely that 1 in 25 of those new death sentences was handed down to a person who was completely innocent of the crime. There are clear patterns of race of victim, or race of defendant, discrimination in courts across the country. A total of 20 white people have been executed for the murder of a black person, while 287 black people have been executed for the murder of a white person. 94.5 % of prosecutors in death penalty states are white.

It is time to accept that the death penalty experiment in the United States has failed. The tangled web of racism, classism and human error has proven time and again to be ineradicable in the administration of the ultimate punishment. If the Supreme Court decides to hear Hidalgo v. Arizona, there is a very real possibility that executions in the United States will end. As they should.

(source: Hannah Riley, Criminal Justice Reform & Anti-Death Penalty Advocate----Huffington Post)


Wrongful Convictions Like Mine Are Why It's Time To End The Death Penalty----With another Arizona death row inmate taking his case to the Supreme Court, justices ought to keep people like me in mind.

Let's play 2 truths and a lie.

I have played Dungeons & Dragons with guys on death row.

I got new teeth thanks to the TV show "Extreme Makeover" and now have a Hollywood smile.

I am a lifelong Republican and veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

All 3 are true, no lies.

I spent more than 10 years in Arizona prisons for a crime I didn't commit, including almost 3 years on death row. In 1992, I was convicted of killing a waitress in a Phoenix bar where I sometimes played darts.

Because of a car accident in childhood, I had crooked front teeth. The police interrogated me and asked me to bite into a piece of Styrofoam. At my trial and re-trial, a so-called expert said that my teeth marks on the Styrofoam matched teeth marks on the victim's body.

The police decided I did it and built a case against me. No one bothered to test the blood that the real killer left on the victim's underwear. The crime lab didn't test the hairs found on her body. Fingerprints from the crime scene weren't sent to the national database for a match. It wasn't until 2002 that DNA testing - which Arizona prosecutors opposed - showed that I couldn't have committed the crime and identified Kenneth Phillips, who is now serving a prison sentence for his crime.

Arizona is back in the spotlight because a man on death row named Abel Hidalgo has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the state's death penalty statute and abolish capital punishment nationwide. Before all this happened to me, I supported the death penalty. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" sounds good, unless they are talking about you and you were home asleep at the time of the murder.

"The death penalty is supposed to be applied to the worst offenders, but it's more often applied to the defendants with the worst lawyers."

Now I join the chorus of voices, including a growing number of conservatives, who say it's time to end the death penalty in every state. We have been unable to create a system that is applied fairly, reserves the punishment for the most serious crimes and doesn't make terrible mistakes. The death penalty is supposed to be applied to the worst offenders, but it's more often applied to the defendants with the worst lawyers.

Mr. Hidalgo was convicted in Maricopa County, which uses the death penalty more than any other county in Arizona. That means whether you get the death penalty is an accident of where the crime occurred, not necessarily the facts of the case or the nature of the offender. And all too often, the race of the defendant and the victim drives who gets the death penalty. One study showed that white jurors were more likely to recommend a death sentence for Latinos than for white defendants.

The court should look at where we are as a country, find that a national consensus has emerged against the death penalty and rule it unconstitutional, once and for all. 31 states have formally abandoned capital punishment. That figure includes 19 states that have ended it all together, 4 states that have put the death penalty on hold, and 8 others that haven't had an execution in the past 10 years.

All the numbers point toward the death penalty's demise. Last year, juries imposed 31 death sentences, the fewest since the Supreme Court declared then-existing death penalty statutes unconstitutional in 1972. The 20 executions in 2016 marked the lowest number in a quarter century, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Also last year, national public opinion polls showed support for capital punishment at a 40-year low.

I wish I could say my story is unusual. But the truth is, 160 men and women have been exonerated and freed from death row since 1973. I often wonder how the police and prosecutors that railroad innocent people onto the gurney sleep at night.

In an op-ed, Marty Stroud, a former prosecutor in Louisiana who caused an innocent man, Glenn Ford, to serve 30 years on death row before being exonerated and released, explained: "In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning." Mr. Stroud is unusual for his honesty, but not for his tactics.

A TV show was able to fix my teeth, but no one has been able to remove mistakes and unfairness from our death penalty system. A sentence of life without parole, which is available in essentially every state, keeps the public safe while affirming our basic humanity. The U.S. Supreme Court should take Hidalgo v. Arizona and end the death penalty in Arizona and everywhere else.

(source: Ray Krone, Death row exoneree, co-founder of Witness to Innocence----Huffington Post)


Man gets death penalty in balcony murder case

A man convicted of throwing a woman he had pursued for 8 years from a high-rise apartment building has been sentenced to receive the death penalty, Qianjiang Evening News reported.

The Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court on Thursday found the 27-year-old man surnamed Xue guilty of intentional homicide for the March 21 slaying of the victim, surnamed Wang.

Xue had thrown Wang from the balcony of a 19th-story apartment that they shared together with another friend in a fit of jealousy, the court found.

The case has stirred controversy online ever since details of the case were released in August.

While some netizens called for Xue to be punished, many had condemned Wang because she had rebuffed Xue's numerous romantic advances while accepting expensive gifts from him.

Wang and Xue had attended the same high school. During their friendship, Xue had expressed on many occasions he wanted to become romantically involved, but Wang refused.

The two kept in contact after Xue left to study in the US. During that time, Xue sent Wang a number of luxury gifts, such as handbags and jewelry.

He returned to China early this year in order to be closer to Wang. Soon after, he convinced Wang and her coworker to share an apartment with him in Hangzhou.

According to media reports, Xue became furious after discovering Wang had a boyfriend.

On March 21, Xue found her talking on the phone in the apartment with her boyfriend.

"It only took 5 seconds to push her from the room to the balcony. She didn't try to fight back because she didn't know what I was going to do," Xue told prosecutors during his trial.

The crime occurred 40 days after Xue's return from the US.

Xue's counsel had sought a reduced sentence for his cooperation in the case.

(source: Global Times)


Mauritanian blogger who faced death penalty for apostasy to be freed

A Mauritanian blogger condemned to death in 2014 for apostasy in a Facebook post about Islam will be freed because an appeals court on Thursday overturned his sentence, his lawyer said.

Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir has spent nearly four years in jail after a high-profile case surrounding a post in which he criticized the use of religion to justify social discrimination.

The case has highlighted tempestuous social divisions in the desert West African country, often based on ethnicity. Thousands protested in the capital Nouakchott and other cities during the trial demanding Mkhaitir be put to death.

Mauritania has not carried out a death penalty sentence since 1987, but last year a group of influential Muslim clerics urged authorities to apply the harshest punishment.

The court reduced Mkhaitir's sentence to 2 years in prison and a fine of 60,000 ouguiyas ($170). He will be allowed to go free because of time already served in prison, his lawyer Me Mohamed Ould Moine told Reuters.

"This is a great victory for Mauritanian justice," Moine said after the appeal hearing in the northern city of Nouadhibou. "The judges respected Mauritanian law taking into account his regrets and repentance."

The streets of Nouakchott were calm immediately after the hearing, though there was extra security in place there and in Nouadhibou. His lawyer and rights groups have expressed concerns about Mkhaitir's safety following death threats to him and his friends.

(source: Reuters)

NOVEMBER 9, 2017:


Texas execution of Mexican man draws fire from Mexico's president

A Mexican citizen on death row in Texas was executed Wednesday night for the slaying of his 16-year-old cousin who was abducted from her family's apartment and fatally beaten.

Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, 47, was given a lethal injection after several federal court appeals failed to halt his punishment for the February 1997 killing of Mayra Laguna.

Asked by the warden to make a final statement, he replied, "No, sir."

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital began, he took a couple of breaths and then began snoring. After less than a minute, all movement stopped.

21 minutes later, at 10:26 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead, making him the 7th convicted killer put to death this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.

Shortly after the execution, Mexican President Enrique Nieto tweeted, "I express my firm condemnation of the execution of the Mexican Ruben Cardenas Ramirez in Texas, which violates the decision of the International Court of Justice. My deepest condolences to the mourners."

Cardenas' attorney, Maurie Levin, contended eyewitness testimony against Cardenas was shaky, that little physical evidence tied him to the killing and that a confession he gave was obtained after 22 hours of isolation and intense police questioning.

She also said that authorities acted improperly when not telling the Mexican-born Cardenas that he could get legal help from the Mexican consulate.

Being born in Mexico, which does not have capital punishment, made Cardenas eligible for legal help from the Mexican consulate when he was arrested, according to provisions of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, which is a 1963 international agreement. The courts have allowed executions to move forward in several previous Texas death row cases in which the agreement was said to have been violated.

"For the Mexican government, capital punishment constitutes one of the most essential violations of human rights," Jacob Prado Gonzalez, the Mexican government's general director for consular protection, said.

Cardenas grew up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

In a handwritten statement released afterward, Cardenas thanked his family, attorneys and the Mexican consulate for their help.

"Now! I will not and cannot apologize for someone elses crime, but, I will be Back for Justice," he wrote. "You can count on that!"

His punishment was delayed for about 4 hours as last-ditch appeals for the former security guard focused primarily on efforts to have trial evidence undergo new DNA testing. In a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court hours before his execution, lawyers argued Texas was violating Cardenas' due process rights and a state statute that covers forensic testing. They asked the justices to halt the execution for a court review.

They also asked the justices for more time to appeal a lower court's rejection of a federal civil rights lawsuit in which they claimed his due process and civil rights were being violated because Texas officials wouldn't release evidence so it can undergo new DNA testing. Attorneys for the state said the lawsuit was improper and that state courts already refused the DNA request because Cardenas could not show that more advanced tests would exonerate him. DNA results in evidence at Cardenas' trial were not false, state attorneys said.

The high court, without comment, rejected both appeals.

Earlier this week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, rejected a similar appeal seeking DNA tests. Cardenas' attorneys argued the new testing would be better than the now-obsolete testing that left "persistent doubts about his guilt and the integrity of his conviction."

Laguna was snatched from a bedroom she shared with a younger sister at her family's public housing apartment in McAllen in South Texas. In a confession to police, Cardenas said he and a friend drove around with the high school student in his mother's car. He said he had sex with the teen and then punched her as she fought him after he unbound her arms to let her go.

"I didn't plan on doing this, but I was high on cocaine," he told authorities.

He said after he hit the teen in the neck, she began coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing. After trying unsuccessfully to revive her, he said he tied her up "and rolled her down a canal bank."

Her body was found in a canal near a lake in the Rio Grande Valley in far South Texas.

Laguna's sister, Roxana Jones, said she had waited 21 years for justice to be served.

"Words can't begin describe the relief it feels to know that there is true peace after so much pain and sorrow," she said in a statement released by prison officials. "Mayra can be remembered as loving, caring, funny and dimples when she smiled. She will continue to watch over family and friends."

The friend who was with Cardenas during the abduction, Jose Antonio Lopez Castillo, now 45, was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and is serving a 25-year prison term.

(source: CBS News)


In race against Texas judge Sharon Keller, Republican highlighting infamous death row call----Sharon Keller, the longtime presiding judge of Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals, has tried to move on from several past ethical controversies - including blocking the last-minute appeal of a 2007 execution. A primary challenger hopes voters will reconsider them.

It's been more than a decade since Sharon Keller became an international figure in the death penalty debate.

On the afternoon of Sept. 25, 2007, when attorneys for death row inmate Michael Richard asked if they could file an appeal at the court a few minutes past their deadline, Keller, the presiding judge of the state's Court of Criminal Appeals since 2000, famously insisted "we close at 5." Richard was executed hours later.

The incident earned Keller questions from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct and widespread criticism from Texas legislators, ethics experts and the impassioned authors of, a website sparked by the incident.

Keller says the controversy is behind her. David Bridges disagrees.

Bridges, a justice on Texas' 5th District Court of Appeals, is making Keller's past ethical controversies central to his campaign to unseat her in next year's Republican primary.

"I have to tell [voters] that she's had a few lapses in judgment," Bridges said. "If the voters don't know who we are and what our backgrounds are, then how do they make a choice?"

For her part, Keller said she is not approaching this election any differently than she did her past races. Elections, she said, are "cleansing" - and voters knew her when they elected her the last time around, rendering any past controversies moot.

"What you're asking me about are things that happened in the past. In the time since then, the voters have decided to keep me on the court," Keller said in an interview with The Texas Tribune last month. "What's important now is whether I'm qualified - whether I'm the best candidate for the job."

Keller, who has served on the court since 1994, insists that experience is the most important consideration in her re-election. Bridges argues that her past should disqualify her from a seat whose occupant should be above reproach.

And he has not been shy about bringing that up. On his campaign website, Bridges writes, "I ask you to Google her name Sharon Keller ethics," even providing a link.

Along with the infamous Richards execution, Bridges also points to criticism Keller drew in the late 1990s, when a property she owned in Dallas County housed a strip club called the Doll's House. And in 2010 she was fined $100,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to disclose nearly $3 million of personal real estate holdings. (She later negotiated the sum, which was the largest civil penalty ever levied by the Commission, down to $25,000).

Keller's past came up in 2012, when she was last up for re-election. But that time around her primary challenger dropped out months before voting began, and in a statewide judicial race in deep-red Texas, even a controversial Republican incumbent is likely to best a Democratic challenger. No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994, and judicial races rarely draw much attention.

"If she faces a Democrat, the only thing important about her will be the 'R' after her name," said Craig McDonald, the executive director of a watchdog group that filed a complaint against Keller in 2009. "That dynamic may change a little bit in a Republican primary. The race becomes a little more interesting."

In 2012, Keller won her seat with 55 % of the vote; the other 2 incumbents from the Court of Criminal Appeals on the ballot that year, Judges Barbara Parker Hervey and Elsa Alcala, each took 78 %. Keith Hampton, the Democrat who ran against Keller 6 years ago and drew 41 % of the vote, said he is positive that his party affiliation is the only reason he didn't win.

"The reality is that people don't flock to the polls to vote for judges," said Hampton, who doesn't plan to pursue the seat again next year. "It didn't matter the individual race. They went in, they punched 'R,' they walked out."

(source: Texas Tribime)


' Houston death row inmate denied retrial in 2005 carjacking, rape and murder

A federal judge this week denied a retrial for a condemned Houston man on death row for a 2005 rape-murder.

Dexter Johnson was 1 of 5 men who carjacked 23-year-old Maria Aparece and her boyfriend Huy Ngo as they sat in their chatting on a summer night more than 10 years ago.

Prosecutors during his trial alleged Johnson had "fun" when he and his friends carjacked the couple and drove them around town demanding money, credit cards and ATM access.

Then, they parked near a patch of thick woods and forced Ngo to listen as Johnson raped Aparece in the backseat.

Afterward, Johnson shot Ngo in the side of the head execution-style before slaughtering Aparece with a shot to the top of the head. At trial, defense counsel argued that it was someone else who walked the couple into the woods and fired the fatal shot.

During his trial, the then-19-year-old hurled a chair across the courtroom and at one point refused to come to his own court dates.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----27

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----545 Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546

29---------Jan. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548

31----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------549

32----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Christian activist to speak Nov. 11 at Brookside church on abolishing the death penalty

Christian activist and author Shane Claiborne will speak about abolishing the death penalty, and his book, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It's Killing Us, at public events in Manchester and Durham on Saturday, November 11.

Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, heads Red Letter Christians, a movement of folks who are committed to living "as if Jesus meant the things he said." Shane's activism has led him to jail advocating for the homeless, and against war and the death penalty. His work has appeared in Esquire, SPIN, Christianity Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been on Fox News and Al Jazeera to CNN and NPR.

Mr. Claiborne will speak and take questions at 2 public events on Saturday.

2 p.m., Brookside Congregational Church at 2013 Elm Street in Manchester.

7 p.m., The Community Church of Durham at 17 Main Street in Durham.

In a 2010 statement, agreed unanimously by the 10 member churches, the Council stated:

Scripture cautions us: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all" (Romans 12:17). From this Christian perspective we are led to conclude that the death penalty does not provide justice.

The Executive Director of the Council of Churches, Rev. Jason Wells further said:

"Shane is an engaging and faith-filled speaker who can help Christians reflect on their beliefs more deeply as next year the New Hampshire legislature debates a bill to abolish our state’s death penalty."

This event is sponsored by the New Hampshire Council of Churches and the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

(source: Manchester Ink Link)


DA provides exclusive details on Pitt murder, additional rape allegation against suspect

The Allegheny County district attorney has provided exclusive new details on the murder of Pitt student Alina Sheykhet.

"We believe he went in through the basement," Stephen Zappala told Channel 11's Courtney Brennan.

Zappala is talking about Matthew Darby, Sheykhet's ex-boyfriend, who is charged in her death. He's in jail in South Carolina awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania.

According to Zappala, Darby used a hammer and knife to attack Sheykhet. Both murder weapons came from inside her home.

"We believe that the murder weapon was taken from the house, was already in the house," he said.

Pittsburgh police say Darby dropped those weapons into a sewer about 2 blocks away from Sheykhet's home before fleeing to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he was eventually caught.

Channel 11 also has learned Darby now faces a new rape charge in Allegheny County, in addition to the rape charge he currently faces in Indiana County.

"A week, approximately, before the homicide took place in Oakland, the juvenile accused Darby of raping her," Zappala said. "That matter is being investigated by the county police and we authorized charging 2 days ago."

Zappala said the victim told Pittsburgh police she was raped a week before Alina's murder in Elizabeth Township, and county police are now investigating that case.

"So you have the rape in Indiana, you have the trespass in Allegheny County, you've got allegations of rape in Allegheny County and you've got the homicide, so this is a bad man," Zappala said.

Channel 11 asked Zappala whether, given the violence involved in that series of alleged incidents, if he would seek the death penalty.

“The nature of the conduct merits consideration, but it's a little too early to determine whether or not that would be appropriate," he said.

Sources told Channel 11 investigators tracked Darby to West Virginia, where he used an ATM after allegedly killing Sheykhet, and have surveillance video of him changing the license plates on his car before driving on to Myrtle Beach.

A vigil is planned for Sheykhet on Thursday night, with another planned this weekend. A high school friend, Salvatore Desimone, spoke at her funeral Wednesday and told Channel 11 Thursday she was a joy to be around.

"She was just too perfect for the world, so God wanted her back," he said.

(source: WPXI news)


"Stocking Strangler' Carlton Gary makes final appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court

Had jurors in Columbus "Stocking Strangler" Carlton Gary's 1986 trial seen the evidence his defense team since has uncovered, they either would have found him not guilty in the heinous serial killings of 1977 and '78, or at least not sentenced him to death.

That's the argument Atlanta attorneys Jack Martin and Michael McIntyre make in their 90-page application to the Georgia Supreme Court as they try to persuade the justices to hear what could be Gary's final court appeal.

Though Gary may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, it previously has refused to review the case. Though all condemned inmates get a last hearing before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, it declined to commute Gary's sentence to life in prison in 2009.

In 2009, Gary was hours away from lethal injection when the state Supreme Court stayed his execution and sent the case back to Muscogee Superior Court to consider DNA-testing any suitable evidence from the 7 rapes and stranglings of older Columbus women, most of them residents of the Wynnton area.

That testing produced mixed results, with the most promising semen sample tainted and destroyed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

Attorneys since have battled over the relevance of other evidence that the defense says either exonerates Gary outright or casts so much doubt on his guilt as to have led to a different verdict or sentencing.

His defense team now is appealing Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr.'s Sept. 1 ruling denying Gary both a new trial and new sentencing. Jordan agreed with the defense that much of the evidence cited is new, having come to light since Gary was convicted in 3 of the 7 serial killings on Aug. 26, 1986, but he ruled it was not so "material" as to have led to a different outcome.

A key point in the defense appeal is this: Prosecutors in 1986 used other crimes in which Gary was implicated as "similar transactions" illustrating his method of operation, so if any of the evidence in those cases does not fit Gary, it must be considered evidence of his innocence, and thus so "material" that it could have altered the outcome.

That evidence involves so many cases over so many years that it requires a chronological review.

Back to the 1970s

Gary grew up in Columbus before moving to Florida and then New York, where he was implicated in the April 14, 1970, rape and strangling of Nellie Farmer, 85, in her home in the Wellington Hotel, Albany, N.Y. Gary's fingerprint was found at the scene. Gary was convicted only of robbery, claiming another man killed Farmer.

Then-District Attorney Bill Smith in 1986 said this case fit Gary's pattern: Farmer was raped and strangled and her body left covered, and when arrested, Gary blamed someone else. This would become routine, in Gary's murder cases.

Undisclosed to the defense during Gary's trial was a footprint found on a bathmat, where the killer apparently cleaned himself after Farmer's rape. The imprint was a shoe size 9. Gary wears size 13 1/2.

In August 1977, Gary escaped from prison in New York and moved back to Columbus, to a home on Fisk Avenue

That was near the 2703 Hood St. home of Gertrude Miller, 64, who was beaten, raped and choked with stockings on Sept. 11, 1977. Miller was a star witness at Gary's trial, identifying him in court as the man who assaulted her.

But a DNA test of evidence from Miller's case excluded Gary as the source of semen found on her undergarments. So, her identifying him - already problematic because she said she recognized him on TV after his arrest, and did not pick him from a lineup of lookalikes - must have been mistaken, the defense said.

On Sept. 16, 1977, Mary Willis "Fern" Jackson, 59, of 2505 17th St., was found brutally beaten, raped and strangled with a stocking and sash. Her body was left covered, and her stolen car later was found on Benner Avenue, near Gary's Fisk Avenue home.

After Gary's arrest, police reported they'd matched his fingerprint to one found at the crime scene. The defense maintains all the stranglings' fingerprint evidence is suspect because investigators had no set standard of "points of comparison" to declare a match, and they neglected to photograph where at the crime scenes police found the prints.

On Sept. 24, 1977, Jean Dimenstein, 71, was found raped and strangled with a stocking in her home that then had the address 3027 21st St. (the street has since been renamed). Her body was left covered with sheets and a pillow.

A DNA test matched Gary to evidence found in vaginal washings from her body, authorities said. The defense questions whether prosecutors are entitled to present their own "newly discovered" evidence on a defense appeal, and whether a jury would believe results from a crime lab that tainted and destroyed another sample.

Blood evidence and DNA

On Oct. 21, 1977, Florence Scheible, 89, was found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 1941 Dimon St. home, which now has a different address. Her body was left covered. Police said they found Gary's right thumbprint on a door frame leading into Scheible's bedroom.

On Oct. 25, 1977, Martha Thurmond, 70, was found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 2614 Marion St. home. Her body was covered by a pillow, blankets and sheets. Gary's fingerprint was found on the frame of a rear bedroom window.

While again disputing the fingerprints, the defense argues testimony regarding blood evidence found at the Scheible and Thurmond crime scenes simply was wrong. A prosecution witness testified it showed the killer was a "weak or non-secretor," meaning his bodily fluids were missing markers signifying his blood type. Gary is a strong secretor.

Secretors make up 80 % of the population; non-secretors 20 %. "This is a genetic factor based upon a recessive gene and was an important investigative tool in rape cases before the advent of DNA testing," the defense writes.

The prosecution witness at Gary's trial said such secretions may vary over time, so a strong secretor may appear to be a weak or non-secretor. During hearings on Gary's appeal, a defense expert testified this just isn't true: Secretors are always secretors; they don't change.

The Thurmond crime scene produced the best semen sample suitable for DNA testing. That was the sample the GBI crime lab tainted and destroyed. "At the very minimum, the issues surrounding the egregious destruction of critical evidence as occurred in this case merits review by this court on appeal," the defense writes the state Supreme Court.

On Dec. 28, 1977, Kathleen Woodruff, 74, was found raped and strangled in her 1811 Buena Vista Road home, later demolished during an Aflac expansion. Gary's right little fingerprint was found on the aluminum window screen where the intruder entered, and his palm print was found on the windowsill just inside.

The defense again disputes the validity of such fingerprint evidence.

The 'Night of Terrors'

Feb. 11 and 12, 1978, would become known as the "Night of Terrors," when a rapid series of burglaries would coincide with an attempted strangling and another murder.

Ruth Schwob, 74, of 1800 Carter Ave., was nearly strangled to death by an intruder she fought off, pressing a panic alarm by her bed. Police found her sitting on the edge of her bed, gasping, a stocking wrapped around her neck.

That same night, the 2021 Brookside Drive home of Abraham Illges was burglarized, but the intruder triggered an alarm and fled. Police said Gary later told them he ran and hid in Wildwood Park.

The next day, Mildred Borom, 78, 1612 Forest Ave., about two blocks from Schwob's home, was found raped and strangled with a cord cut from window blinds. Her body was covered with a garment.

Undisclosed to the defense during Gary's trial was a footprint found on the air-conditioner outside the window Schwob's assailant crawled through. It was a size 10 shoe.

Gary wears a size 13 1/2, the defense again notes. Because prosecutors told jurors the same person attacked Schwob, killed Borom and broke into the Illges home, the shoe print clears Gary in all 3 cases, his attorneys argue.

On April 20, 1978, Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, was found raped and strangled with a stocking. A pillow covered her face.

Investigators found a bite mark on her left breast, and the coroner had a dentist make a mold from it, preserving the teeth marks. The mold was lost until Nov. 9, 2005, when then-Coroner James Dunnavant found it in a file drawer in his office.

The mold shows a gap in the biter's upper teeth and a crooked lower tooth, defects Gary's teeth never had, the defense says, noting he would not have been hired as a TV model for "The Movin' Man" clothing store in the 1970s had his smile been so flawed.

Prosecutors argued Gary later had dental work in prison. The defense counters the work was on his upper teeth only, so that does not account for the crooked lower tooth.

On May 3, 1984, authorities arrested Gary in Albany, Ga., and brought him to Columbus. That night, from around midnight until 3:30 a.m., he is alleged to have taken investigators on a tour of homes he broke into, blaming the stranglings on an accomplice, as he did in other cases.

This confession was not recorded, nor did police create a written statement for Gary to sign. The defense argues it is invalid, noting that in the Farmer case, in 1970, Gary gave a full statement 12 pages long and signed it. So, why would he refuse to sign one in 1984?

The jury in 1986 convicted Gary of burglary, rape and murder in the Scheible, Thurmond and Woodruff stranglings, with evidence from other cases used as "similar transactions."

Had those jurors seen what has since been revealed, that would not have been their verdict, the defense concludes:

"There is an even greater probability that at least one juror would not have returned a death sentence due to lingering doubts as to guilt in light of this powerful and persuasive physical evidence undermining guilt. Simply put, this evidence shows that the state's theory that Mr. Gary was a serial killer who had committed 7 different rapes-murders was not in fact true."

The defense filed its appeal Nov. 1, leaving prosecutors 10 days to respond. District Attorney Julia Slater said the prosecution will respond Monday.


This timeline was compiled from Columbus police, court records and Ledger-Enquirer archives:

Sept. 24, 1950, Carlton Michael Gary is born in Columbus, Ga., where he lives until age 16, when he moves with his mother to Fort Myers, Fla., and later Gainesville, Fla.

Sept. 3, 1964, Gary attends Carver High School.

Nov. 18, 1965, Gary attends Spencer High School.

Jan. 31, 1966, Gary returns to Carver High School and later transfers to Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Fla.

Oct. 31, 1967, Gary's charged with breaking into an automobile in Gainesville, Fla.

March 17, 1968, Gary's charged with arson in Gainesville, Fla.

Nov. 26, 1969, Gary's charged with assaulting a police officer in Bridgeport, Conn.

April 14, 1970, Nellie Farmer, 85, is raped and strangled and her body left covered in her home in the Wellington Hotel, Albany, N.Y. Gary's fingerprint is found at the scene. Gary claims another man killed Farmer, and is convicted only of robbery.

July 15, 1970, Gary's sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery.

March 31, 1975, Gary is released from prison and moves to Syracuse, NY.

June 27, 1975, the body of Marion Fisher, 40, is found on a road just outside Syracuse. She was raped and strangled. Authorities in 2007 say they match Gary's DNA to the cold-case evidence.

July 25, 1975, Gary's charged with escape, resisting arrest and violating parole.

July 17, 1976, Gary's released on parole.

Sept. 3, 1976, Gary's charged with assault.

Jan. 2, 1977, Jean Frost, 55, is raped and nearly choked to death in her home in Syracuse, N.Y. Gary has a watch taken from Frost’s home when police arrest him 2 days later. Again he blames another man for the assault. He is charged with possessing stolen property, resisting arrest, perjury and assault.

Aug. 23, 1977, Gary escapes from New York's Onandaga County prison by jumping from a 3rd-floor window. He goes home to Columbus, where he soon moves to 1027 Fisk Ave.

Sept. 11, 1977, Gertrude Miller, 64, is beaten with a board and raped in her 2703 Hood St. home, about 2 blocks from Fisk Avenue. Her assailant leaves behind knotted stockings he took from her dresser. She in 1986 identifies Gary as the rapist.

Sept. 16, 1977, Mary Willis "Fern" Jackson, 59, of 2505 17th St., is found brutally beaten, raped and strangled with a stocking and sash. Her body is left covered. Her stolen car is later found on Benner Avenue near Fisk Avenue.

Sept. 24, 1977, Jean Dimenstein, 71, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her home that then had the address 3027 21st St. (the street has since been renamed). Her body was left covered with sheets and a pillow Later tests match Gary's DNA to crime-scene evidence.

Oct. 4, 1977, Gary moves to 3231 Old Buena Vista Road.

Oct. 8, 1977, the 1427 Eberhart Avenue home of sisters Callye East, 75, and Nellie Sanderson, 78, is burglarized. Sanderson's son Henry is visiting. The intruder steals his Toyota, which has a .22-caliber Ruger pistol under the seat. The car's left on Buena Vista Road.

Oct. 21, 1977, Florence Scheible, 89, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 1941 Dimon St. home, which today has a different address. Her body was left covered. Gary's right thumbprint was found on a door frame leading into Scheible's bedroom.

Oct. 25, 1977, Martha Thurmond, 70, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 2614 Marion St. home. Her body was covered by a pillow, blankets and sheets. Gary's fingerprint is found on the frame of a rear bedroom window.

Nov. 11, 1977, Gary moves to 2829 Ninth St. and gets a job working the late shift at Golden's Foundry.

Dec. 16, 1977, Gary leaves the foundry job.

Dec. 20, 1977, the 1710 Buena Vista Road home of William Swift is burglarized while the residents are away. Swift later discovers the burglar removed bars from a kitchen window to get in, then set the bars back on the windowsill. Detectives later say Swift never told police this; Gary did.

Dec. 28, 1977, Kathleen Woodruff, 74, is found raped and strangled in her 1811 Buena Vista Road home, which later was demolished during an Aflac expansion. Gary's right little fingerprint is found on the aluminum window screen where the intruder entered, and his palm print is found on the windowsill just inside.

Jan. 1, 1978, the 2021 Brookside Drive home of Abraham Illges, who is 85 and whose wife is 75, is burglarized and a Cadillac stolen. The car's left at a restaurant on Victory Drive. Police say Gary later refers to this home as "the castle."

Feb. 11, 1978, Ruth Schwob, 74, of 1800 Carter Ave., is nearly strangled to death by an intruder she fights off, pressing a panic alarm by her bed. Police find her sitting on the edge of her bed, gasping, a stocking wrapped around her neck.

Feb. 11, 1978, the Illges home is burglarized again, but the intruder triggers an alarm and flees. Police said Gary later told them he ran and hid in Wildwood Park.

Feb. 12, 1978, Mildred Borom, 78, 1612 Forest Ave., about 2 blocks from Schwob's home on the west side of Wildwood Park, is found raped and strangled with a cord cut from window blinds. Her body's covered with a garment. This series of rapid events becomes known as "The Night of Terrors."

April 20, 1978, Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, is found raped and strangled with a stocking. A pillow covers her face. Police find Cofer's stolen car on Mill Road.

April 20, 1978, Gary robs the Burger King at 3520 Macon Road.

May 14, 1978, Gary robs the Hungry Hunter restaurant at 1834 Midtown Drive.

Sept. 4, 1978, Gary robs the Western Sizzlin restaurant at 4385 Victory Drive.

Sept. 22, 1978, Gary robs the Talk of the Town restaurant in Greenville, S.C.

Oct. 8, 1978, Gary robs the Ryan's Steakhouse in Greenville.

Oct. 19, 1978, Gary robs the Western Sizzlin steakhouse in Greenville.

Nov. 5, 1978, Gary robs the Po' Folks restaurant in Greenville.

Dec. 7, 1978, Gary robs Jack's Steak House in Greenville.

Feb. 15, 1979, having earned the nickname "Steakhouse Bandit," Gary robs a Po' Folks restaurant in Gafney, S.C., and is arrested the next day.

Feb. 22, 1979, Gary is convicted of armed robbery in Greenville County, S.C.

March 29, 1979, Gary is convicted of armed robbery in Cherokee County, S.C.

March 15, 1984, he escapes from a prison in Columbia, S.C., and returns to Columbus.

April 3, 1984, Gary robs a Po' Folks restaurant on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City and rapes a woman who works there.

April 10, 1984, Henry Sanderson calls Columbus police to ask about the Ruger pistol taken from his Toyota in the 1977 Eberhart Avenue burglary. A detective sends out a nationwide alert for the gun, which turns up in Michigan and is traced back to Gary.

April 16, 1984, Gary robs a Wendy's restaurant in Gainesville, Fla.

April 22, 1984, Gary robs a McDonald's restaurant in Montgomery, Ala.

April 28, 1984, Gary robs the County Seat Store in the Oaks Mall of Gainesville, Fla.

April 30, 1984, prompted by Sanderson's call and the gun trace, copies of Gary's fingerprints arrive at the Columbus Police Department, where 1 is matched to a print found on the frame of a screen removed from Woodruff's home.

May 3, 1984, authorities arrest Gary in Albany, Ga.

May 4, 1984, from around midnight until 3:30 a.m., Gary takes investigators on a tour of homes he tells them he broke into. He blames the stranglings on another man.

May 8, 1984, Gary attempts suicide in jail.

May 9, 1984, then Superior Court Judge John Land appoints attorneys William Kirby and Stephen Hyles to represent Gary.

Aug. 28, 1984, attorney August "Bud" Siemon becomes Gary's lead defense counsel.

Oct. 11, 1984, attorney Bruce Harvey becomes Gary's co-counsel. Attorney Gary Parker joins the defense team the following December.

Feb. 8, 1985, Siemon files a motion asking Judge Land to recuse himself because he has personal knowledge of the case. Land recuses himself.

May 13, 1985, Judge E. Mullins Whisnant is assigned the case.

May 22, 1985, Siemon files a motion asking Whisnant to recuse himself because he was the district attorney during the stranglings.

May 20, 1985, Whisnant recuses himself and the case is assigned to Judge Kenneth Followill.

Dec. 18, 1985, Parker withdraws as co-counsel after Followill refuses to grant the defense team funds for an investigator.

Dec. 29, 1985, Gary tries to escape from jail.

March 10, 1986, on the day Gary's trial is to start, he refuses to get dressed and come to court. Harvey files a motion questioning Gary's competency to stand trial, saying the defendant's mental health is in decline. Followill orders a psychological evaluation.

March 24, 1986, Gary goes to Georgia Central State Hospital in Milledgeville for his evaluation, but refuses to cooperate with doctors.

April 21, 1986, Followill holds a trial to determine Gary's mental competency.

April 28, 1986, the jury finds Gary competent for trial.

June 9, 1986, Gary's trial is set to begin, but Siemon files for a change of venue.

July 2, 1986, Followill decides that instead of moving the trial, the court will bring jurors from Griffin, Ga., to hear the case.

July 7, 1986, Harvey withdraws, leaving Siemon as Gary's only lawyer.

Aug. 11, 1986, Gary's trial begins.

Aug. 26, 1986, the jury finds Gary guilty in 3 of the 7 stranglings, though then-District Attorney Bill Smith maintains one perpetrator committed all seven along with the attack on Miller and Schwob. Smith used evidence from the other cases to illustrate a pattern of criminal behavior.

Aug. 27, 1986, the jury sentences Gary to death.

Sept. 25, 1986, Gary moves for a new trial. His motion's denied the following Oct. 18, and he appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court.

June 26, 1987, the Georgia Supreme Court sends the case back to Columbus, instructing the court here to determine whether Gary had ineffective counsel.

Nov. 4, 1987, Followill holds hearings to determine the effectiveness of Gary’s defense.

June 12, 1989, Followill rules Gary failed to show his counsel was ineffective.

March 6, 1990, the Georgia Supreme court upholds Followill's ruling and reaffirms Gary's conviction and death sentence.

Jan. 27, 1995, the superior court of Butts County, Ga., where Gary is imprisoned, rejects one of his habeas corpus appeals.

Nov. 13, 1995, the court rejects another of Gary's habeas corpus appeals.

Nov. 18, 1997, Gary files a habeas corpus appeal in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Sept. 28, 2004, the federal court rejects Gary's appeal, and he appeals to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nov. 9, 2005, then-Coroner James Dunnavant finds a bite-cast mold made from teeth marks on Janet Cofer's body. It has been missing since Dunnavant's predecessor Don Kilgore died.

Nov. 23, 2005, the appeals court sends the case back to U.S. District Court to consider the bite-mark evidence.

Feb. 14, 2007, the district court holds a hearing and decides the bite cast would not have bolstered Gary's defense and again rejects his appeal. Gary again appeals to the 11th Circuit.

Feb. 12, 2009, the 11th Circuit rejects Gary's appeal. He appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dec. 1, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Gary's appeal. His execution is set for the following Dec. 16.

Dec. 16, 2009, Gary is hours away from execution when the Georgia Supreme Court issues a stay and sends the case back to Muscogee Superior Court to consider DNA-testing evidence.

Feb. 19, 2010, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to DNA-test suitable evidence samples, four items from 3 cases: Dimenstein, Scheible and Woodruff.

Dec. 14, 2010, attorneys say the initial DNA test results match Gary to the murder of Jean Dimenstein but not Martha Thurmond. The defense seeks testing on clothes from Gertrude Miller the morning after she was raped and beaten.

March 6, 2012, tests of the Miller evidence yield a DNA profile that does not match Gary. The prosecution says the defense can't prove Miller was wearing the garments when raped.

Nov. 21, 2013, District Attorney Julia Slater announces the Thurmond DNA test was tainted at the state crime lab and thus invalid.

February 24-28, 2014, Judge Frank Jordan Jr. holds evidentiary hearings on Gary's new trial motion.

Jan. 11, 2016, Doug Grubbs, son-in-law of sheriff's investigator Don Miller, in the attic finds a briefcase containing files on the strangling. He turns it over to the sheriff's office.

Jan. 27, the defense is told of the briefcase.

Feb. 3, both sides meet to inspect the documents. They find a composite sketch believed to have been drawn as Gertrude Miller described her assailant under hypnosis in October 1977.

Jan. 12-12, 2017, Jordan holds a final set of hearings on the new evidence in Gary's motion for a new trial.

June 27, the prosecution files a motion asking Jordan to issue a ruling.

Sept. 1, Jordan denies Gary's motion for a new trial in a 50-page ruling.

Sept. 20, Gary's attorneys file for an extension of the deadline to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Nov. 1, the defense files a 90-page application for appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. The prosecution has 10 days to respond.



Florida executes man for pair of killings dating to 1991

A man convicted of killing 2 people in 1991 on Wednesday became the 3rd inmate executed in Florida since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty after a hiatus.

Fifty-three-year-old Patrick Hannon received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, the office of the governor said.

Hannon was strapped to a gurney as witnesses watched on the other side of a glass window. While he expressed regret over the killings, he said it was two accomplices that killed the victims, Robert Carter and Brandon Snider. Carter was fatally shot and Snider had his throat slashed.

"I hope the execution gives the Carter family some peace. I wish I could have done more to save Robert. I didn't kill anybody, but I was there," he said.

As he spoke, one of the victim's female family members cursed.

"Robby was a good man and a good friend, and I let him down when he needed me most," Hannon continued. "As far as Brandon Snider, I think that everybody knows what he did to get this ball rolling. I'm sorry things worked out like this the way it did."

The same woman, who authorities declined to identify later, cursed again in a whisper.

Then as the execution began at 8:38 p.m., the woman made eye contact with Hannon and raised her hand as if to wave "bye, bye."

Hannon's body moved during the execution procedure. His lips twitched, his chest heaved and his arms, legs and body appeared to convulse a bit. Then, 12 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead.

Florida resumed executions in August after making changes to its death penalty sentencing law. The law now requires a unanimous jury vote for a death sentence.

The U.S. Supreme Court had previously found that Florida's old sentencing law, which did not require unanimity, to be unconstitutional. However, the new sentencing law did not affect Hannon's case because the state's high court ruled that those decided before 2002 were not eligible for relief.

Hannon was convicted in 1991 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the slayings of Snider and Carter.

It was in January 1991 when Hannon and 2 other men went to Snider's apartment in Tampa.

Hannon's friend, Jim Acker, initially attacked Snider with a knife, according to authorities. Prosecutors said the attacks were motivated by Snider's vandalizing of Acker's sister's apartment. Snider was "eviscerated" by the initial stabbing, according to court documents, and Hannon sliced his throat, nearly cutting off the victim's head.

Carter, who was Snider's roommate, also was home and fled the violence to an upstairs bedroom, where Hannon dragged him out from under a bed and shot him 6 times, the jury found.

Hannon's jury recommended death unanimously after finding him guilty of both killings.

Hannon's lawyers had earlier requested a halt to the execution plan before the Florida Supreme Court, but that was denied. Hannon had asked for a new sentencing phase, citing recent changes to Florida's death sentencing system. Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, who dissented from the rest of the court, wrote that the jury was not given enough information to make an informed decision in Hannon's sentencing phase.

Without explanation Wednesday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court denied 2 last-hour requests by Hannon's lawyer sto block the execution.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO----impending execution

Ill Ohio inmate asks US Supreme Court to halt execution

A condemned Ohio killer who argues he is too ill to execute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his upcoming execution.

Attorneys for death row inmate Alva Campbell say his breathing problems and poor veins will create a spectacle when lethal injection is attempted.

They also argue he was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child. Attorneys late last week asked the high court to stop Campbell's Nov. 15 execution.

The state was expected to oppose the request.

Court documents indicate Ohio's prisons system may provide a wedge-shaped pillow to elevate Campbell and facilitate his breathing during the execution.

Prosecutors said Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed 18-year-old Charles Dials in 1997.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury declines death penalty option in Howland capital murder trial----The jury has returned for its verdict in the Nasser Hamad case after deliberating for over 10 hours

After deliberating for over 10 hours to decide the fate of convicted killer Nasser Hamad, the jury declined the death penalty option in a Howland capital murder case.

The jury suggested a life sentence with parole eligibility after 30 years.

Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice will have the ultimate say in sentencing. He'll make his decision at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Because the jury didn't recommend death, Judge Rice cannot impose a death sentence. He will be asked by the prosecution for 2 consecutive 30-year-to-life sentences, however, because Hamad was convicted of 2 murder charges.

Jurors were sequestered just before 9:30 p.m.Tuesday night and returned to the courtroom Wednesday around 10 a.m. to give their decision.

Hamad was convicted last week of 2 counts of aggravated murder and 6 counts of attempted aggravated murder with firearm specifications. The jury deliberated less than 2 hours to decide his guilt.

Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker took his last moments in front of the jury Tuesday to remind them that Hamad attempted to kill 5 people and was successful in taking the lives of 2.

Prosecutors reiterated that the death penalty was appropriate in this case.

"The state position is that it is not even close. It just isn't and that leaves you no other choice under the law but to go back to the jury room and find the death sentence appropriate," said Trumbull County Assistance Prosecutor Mike Burnett.

Hamad's attorney told the jury that this was their opportunity to show mercy. He also reminded jurors of testimony depicting Hamad as a good father, a hard worker and that he suffered from PTSD.

Hamad was convicted in the shooting deaths of 19-year-old Josh Haber and 20-year-old Josh Williams outside his Route 46 home in Howland. 43-year-old April Trent, 20-year-old Bryce Hendrickson and 17-year-old John Shively were injured in the shooting. Hendrickson died later from unrelated causes.

Hamad had maintained that he was acting in self-defense, and the group that came to his house that day had been harassing him and making threats in an ongoing dispute on social media and among other family members.

(source: WKBN news)


Arkansas got execution drug made by resistant manufacturer

1 of the 3 drugs Arkansas planned to use in a lethal injection this week was made by a New York company that says it won't sell its products if it fears they'll be used in executions, court documents released Wednesday show.

A package insert and drug label for the state's supply of midazolam released by the state in Pulaski County Circuit Court identifies Athenex as the maker of the drug, 1 of 3 used in Arkansas' lethal injection process. The insert was included as part of an affidavit filed by state Correction Department officials.

The affidavit was filed the day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ordered the Department of Correction to release a copy of the insert to Steven Shults, an attorney who had sued the state for the document. The Arkansas Supreme Court last week ruled that a state law keeping the source of Arkansas' execution drugs secret applied to suppliers and sellers, but not drug manufacturers. Pierce ruled Wednesday that other information on the drug label that could be used to identify the drug's seller can be withheld.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday that it "does not want any of our products used in capital punishment."

"Athenex does not accept orders from correctional facilities and prison systems for products believed to be part of certain states' lethal injection protocols," the company said in the statement. "Further, Athenex distributors and wholesalers have agreements with Athenex not to sell or distribute any such products to these facilities. Athenex does not distribute these products through wholesalers unwilling to implement distribution control to prevent capital punishment."

Arkansas has planned to use the drug Thursday to put convicted murderer Jack Greene to death, but the state Supreme Court halted his execution Tuesday so that it can consider a lawsuit related to claims that Greene is severely mentally ill. The state is not appealing that order.

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since April, when the state put 4 murderers to death over an 8-day period. The state originally planned to execute 8 inmates that month, before its previous supply of midazolam expired, but 4 executions were halted by the courts. 2 pharmaceutical companies unsuccessfully tried to block the state from using their drugs in the executions. A case is pending before the state Supreme Court over a challenge from a medical supply company, which said it was misled by Arkansas prison officials who bought one of its execution drugs.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled Greene's execution after state officials said they had obtained a new midazolam supply. The state said it paid $250 in cash for enough of the drug to carry out 2 executions.

(source: Associated Press)


Captial murder trial seeking death punishment delayed

A capital murder suspect is expected to stand before a Faulkner County judge for a pretrial hearing exactly 2 years from his arrest date in early 2018.

The case is the 1st in more than 30 years where prosecutors in Faulkner County are seeking the death penalty.

Attorneys representing suspect Scotty Ray Gardner, 56, cite a need for more time to prepare for trial.

"Although counsel is working as diligently as possible to prepare this case for trial, it is not possible for this case to be adequately prepared as currently scheduled," Defense Attorney Katherine S. Streett wrote in a motion to Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. requesting to delay the trial.

Streett and Defense Attorney T. Scott Brisendine said they now have a lead on "potentially mitigating evidence" and will need more time to investigate and prepare for trial.

"Specifically, a continuance is necessary due to the recent discovery by the defense of potentially mitigating evidence which requires further investigation," the motion reads. "Because the evidence at issue is located in another state and dates from several decades ago, the investigation into this information will likely be more time consuming than would otherwise be expected."

Gardner is suspected in the March 6, 2016, hotel slaying of Susan "Heather" Stubbs.

He was accused in Stubbs's death after a hotel clerk found her lying facedown in Room 114 of Days Inn on Oak Street. When police arrived, she was found strangled to death from a cord.

According to an affidavit, Gardner told prosecutors anger and jealousy caused him to snap the day he allegedly killed Stubbs.

The 2 had been staying in Room 114 since Feb. 21 and Gardner said he became upset when he noticed Stubbs talking to other men walking past their room on March 6.

Gardner told officers he was still upset with Stubbs from a previous incident, "but had been trying to forgive her for it until this new incident happened," referencing a Dec. 19 incident where Stubbs filed a 3rd-degree battery report against him.

"He said he knew that he could not just grab her and throw her on the bed because she would go and tell on him. He said everything just kept building up and he had just snapped. Scotty said the only thing he knew was that he 'was not going to let Heather go tell the police nothing,'" the affidavit reads.

At one point during the heated argument, Gardner "eventually grabbed a nearby cord and 'wrapped it around her neck'" when she tried to scratch him in defense, according to the affidavit.

'I might have killed her ... I don't know," he said, adding he then left to go gambling to avoid thinking about the situation.

Gardner has been charged as a habitual offender in the past. He was sentenced to Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) in October 1991 and served 23 years of his sentence.

On Nov. 8, 1990, Gardner was charged with 2 counts of criminal attempt to commit 1st-degree murder.

He was sentenced to 2 30-year concurrent terms, with 7 years of each term suspended.

The case was later reopened and he was convicted of 1st-degree criminal attempt to commit murder and 1 count of 1st-degree battery for shooting his then-wife, who was pregnant.

He was paroled from ADC on Dec. 4, 2015, about 3 months before he allegedly killed Stubbs.

Clawson agreed Tuesday to move the trial to next summer, resetting the 2-week trial for Aug. 14-24.

Gardner is set to appear in Faulkner County Circuit Court prior to the trial for a pretrial hearing at 1 p.m. March 7, which is exactly 2 years after he was arrested on the aforementioned capital murder charge.



Coulter Dies in Death Row Cell

An inmate who was sentenced to death almost 30 years ago by an Ashley County jury was found dead in his cell last week.

In October of 1989, an Ashley County jury sent Roger Coulter to death row for brutally killing and raping 5 year old Natasha Phelps of Bradley County.

The prosecutor at that time, John Frank Gibson, and the bailiff back then, David Oliver both said it is still to this day the worse case they've ever seen.

"It was horrible. It really upset me because I had a 5 year old daughter at that time," Gibson said.

According to Oliver, coulter tortured the child, raped her and strangled her.

"I saw the photographs; it made me sick to my stomach," Oliver said. "It was horrible."

Court documents read that Coulter was living with his victim's mother up until he kidnapped the child. In April of 1989, Coulter was supposed to give Phelps a ride to school, but the school reported the child never made it that day. The family reported her missing, and her body was found a day later in a hollowed out tree covered with sticks and limbs.

Coulter was convicted of capital murder in the Circuit Court of Ashley County in October of 1989 and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Gibson says Coulter was successful at getting the death penalty delayed by asserting he was retarded. "But he never asserted that in the trial." Gibson said.

In 1991, The Supreme Court reaffirmed his conviction and Coulter was waiting on death row all of this time.

Coulter was in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Corrections and was being held at the Varner unit. According to the ADC, Coulter, now age 57, was found unresponsive in his cell last Friday evening around 6:30, and was declared dead less than an hour later.

(source: Ashley County Ledger)


Collings Appeals Death Sentence and Conviction in Murder of 9 Year Old Rowan Ford

Today marked the2nd Missouri Supreme court appeal for Christopher Collings. He was earlier convicted and sentenced to death for the 2007 rape and murder of 9-year-old Rowan Ford.

An attorney from the public defenders office in Columbia offered arguments today before Missouri Supreme court justices asking them to prevent Collings' execution and overturn his conviction.

Collings' attorney said his conviction was based on 2 legal fictions that went unchallenged by his previous counsel. One, that he was sober when committing the crime and the 2nd that his brain was able to form accurate memories to offer a confession considering his history of substance abuse including the night of Ford's murder.

Because it is a death penalty case Collings had a previous direct appeal to the state's high court. That appeal was denied.

The new appeal comes just 1 day before the 10th anniversary of the discovery of Rowan Ford's body on November 9th, 2007.

Her body had been thrown into a hole in the ground in McDonald county known as Fox Cave.

The appeal and the anniversary bring up raw emotions for everyone in Rowan's hometown of Stella, Missouri. Some there say the crime put the town on the map for all the wrong reasons and they long for justice.

Becca Hance said, "It hits you hard especially when it's one of your own. And this magnitude of tragedy, it's something you never forget."

Hance walked Rowan home from the Stella Baptist church Wednesday nights. It's what she called a safe place for Rowan who arrived before everyone else and sat on the steps. 10 years later she said the hurt doesn't stop.

Hance explained, "Until justice has been 100 % served, I don't think it will ever go away." Becca and others aren't happy with the 2nd supreme court appeal for convicted killer Chris Collings.

She said, "No amount of punishment will every justify what happened to Rowan and he shouldn't get the option to change his sentencing."

Nine year old Rowan was taken from her Stella home the night of November 2nd, 2007. Collings confessed to raping and strangling her and then dumping her body in McDonald county. Newton county Sheriff Chris Jennings said, "In all my years of law enforcement, that's probably the most horrendous crime, not just because it was a child that was murdered, but how she was murdered. So, yes, I've never forgotten about it." Jennings was then Chief deputy on the case and keeps Rowan's photo id in his card case.

He said, "I've carried it, like I said every day since she first disappeared."

Ken Copeland was sheriff at the time of the case which he still finds upsetting. He said Collings got a fair trial with 2 top notch public defenders. He says it's a shame there are so many appeals when Rowan didn't have a chance to appeal for her life.

Tracey Welch shares his sentiment, "She had no chance. The things those men or that man did to her were unthinkable."

Welch was principal at Tri-way elementary, Rowans school and says Collings took the life of an innocent child.

Welch elaborated, "Who had nothing but goodness and joy in her heart. And he stole that from her violently and brutally with no thought of what she was going through, none, none at all. And he killed her because 'Oh my God! She might have known who I was." I have no sympathy for that."

The community is not just upset about Collings and the appeal. But that Rowan's stepfather, David Spears who was another suspect, is now out of jail having plead guilty to a lesser charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

Becca Hance lamented, "He's living life freely...Chris has an appeal and Rowan, her life was cut short at 9 and that's just not, just not fair."

Attorneys for Collings also dispute his confession because Spears also confessed. Public defender's say attorneys during trial should have called attention to differences in those confessions and the fact that k9 officers pointed to a vehicle Spears borrowed from his mother.

Rowan's mother said in 10 years nothing's changed. She said Rowan hasn't been vindicated. She hopes the high court denies Collings appeal a 2nd time.

Rowan was killed after Collings, Spears and another man had a night of drinking and smoking marijuana. Intoxication and substance abuse are part of the basis of Collings appeal.



Why Kansas has not used the death penalty

"It's the most unbelievable horrible thing that could ever happen to a person and it happened to my daughter," said Brian Sanderholm sitting in his Arkansas City home.

Ten years later, Sanderholm still struggles with his daughter's murder. In 2007 his daughter Jodi Sanderholm was abducted, raped and murdered. Investigators would later arrest Justin Thurber for the unthinkable crime.

"He tortured Jodi," said Brian.

"For hours," chimed in mother Cindy

He was sentenced to death for the crime. Including Thurber, 9 men are currently sentenced to death in the state, but Kansas has not executed an inmate in more than 50 years.

"Well, the death penalty in Kansas doesn't work," said Brian.

"That's the problem," said Cindy.

Our investigation found an appeals process that's notoriously slow and a state supreme court that has consistently ruled in favor of defendants. One example: convicted serial killer John Edward Robinson. He struck a deal with prosecutors in Missouri to avoid the death penalty, but for murders in Kansas, he was willing to risk it. The reason: since 1976 Missouri has executed 87 inmates and Kansas has executed none.

"These cases have dragged on for such a very long period of time. Some of the early cases after the legislature re-instituted the death penalty in 1994 are particularly long," said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

The Kansas Supreme Court has also overturned a number of death sentences, including the Carr brothers, convicted of a crime spree that ended with four counts of capital murder and 1 count 1st-degree murder. It was a case that went all the way to the nation's highest court. In an 8 to 1 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalties for the Carr brothers with a scathing criticism of the Kansas Supreme Court.

"The Kansas Supreme Court time and again invalidates death sentences because it says the Federal Constitution requires it."

The opinion continued saying, "Turning a blind eye...would enable state courts to blame the unpopular death-sentence reprieve of the most horrible criminals upon the Federal Constitution when it is in fact their own doing."

Yet in not one of the death sentences in Kansas is the guilt or innocence of the murderer in question. Death sentences are consistently thrown out on technicalities during the appeals process. This frustrates the Sanderholms as they wait for their daughters killer to be executed.

"I'm all for the death penalty. I believe it should be and I believe it is our responsibility since it's our law to execute him and go on. Or change the law." said Sanderholm.

In late October the Sanderholm family traveled to Topeka for the Thurber's 1st appeal in front of the Kansas supreme court. Jodi's Cindy knows the odds but is hopeful she gets justice for her daughter.

"He didn't let Jodi appeal her life. He killed her and that was all," said Cindy.

(source: KAKE news)

NEVADA----impending volunteer execution

Nevada judge to hear from inmate again about execution

A judge in Las Vegas who has been hearing a challenge of the state's untried lethal injection plan was set Wednesday to ask an inmate one last time whether he had changed his mind about becoming the 1st person to be executed in Nevada in 11 years.

Scott Raymond Dozier, 46, a twice-convicted murderer, has given up all appeals and repeatedly told Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti that he wants his death sentence carried out.

The judge scheduled a videoconference from the state prison in Ely, where Dozier has been on death row since 2007 and his execution is set for Tuesday in a newly constructed death chamber.

After killing people in Phoenix and Las Vegas, Dozier stood before the judge in August and said he wanted to die and isn't concerned that it could be painful.

"If they tell me, 'Listen, there's a good chance it's going to be a real miserable experience for those 2 hours before you actually expire,' I'm still going to do it," Dozier said at the time. "I'm not going to waver on this."

But he is letting federal public defenders examine how the state decided on a 3-drug combination that has never been used for lethal injections in any state.

The plan, approved by a chief state medical officer who resigned last week, uses the sedative diazepam, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium. The procedure is expected to depress Dozier's breathing to the point that he suffocates.

(source: Associated Press)


Nevada once used an automatic shooting machine to kill a prisoner

Convicted murderer Scott Dozier is scheduled to be executed Tuesday, the 1st execution at Ely State Prison and Nevada's 1st execution in 11 years.

The state will also be using an untested lethal drug cocktail, which has prompted controversy as some fear the execution will be inhumane.

But it will hardly be the state's 1st unique execution.

Before 1903, executions were the responsibility of the local sheriff where the crime was committed.

The only woman to be executed in Nevada was Elizabeth Potts, who was hanged in 1890.

In the 114 years since the Nevada Department of Corrections has carried out executions, 54 people, all men, have been put to death, according to NDOC records.

For many years, hanging was the primary execution method, but in 1911 the state legislature changed the law to allow prisoners to choose between hanging and death by firing squad.

Andriza Mircovich was the only inmate to ever choose to be executed by shooting. But the Department of Corrections struggled to find employees willing to participate.

"There was some controversy over trying to get enough individuals, staff to volunteer for that execution using firearms," said Glen Whorton, longtime NDOC employee and eventual NDOC director.

"Ultimately, several employees and the warden resigned."

The new warden created a unique shooting machine that killed Mircovich automatically, Whorton said.

The 1921 Nevada Legislature outlawed hanging and shooting, becoming the 1st state to allow execution by lethal gas.

In 1924, Gee Jong was the 1st person in the United States to be executed by lethal gas.

32 prisoners were killed in a gas chamber over the next 50 years before safety concerns prompted the state to switch to lethal injections.

"There were concerns about the seal and whether or not it was a tight environment," Whorton said. "There's also concerns about evacuating the gas."

11 inmates have been executed by a lethal cocktail.

Over the years there have been several attempts to abolish capital punishment in the Silver State.

Most recently, 2 Democratic lawmakers sponsored a bill to prohibit the death penalty. That bill never advanced out of committee during the 2017 legislative session.



Phoenix man found guilty in death of girl locked in box

A Phoenix man was convicted of 1st-degree murder Wednesday in the 2011 death of a 10-year-old girl who was locked in a storage box in sweltering summer heat.

After deliberating for a day, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury also found John Michael Allen, 29, guilty of child abuse in the killing of Ame Deal.

Jurors now must determine whether the killing was especially cruel or heinous before moving onto the sentencing phase, which could include the death penalty.

Allen's 28-year-old wife Sammantha Allen, a cousin of Deal's, was convicted of murder in the girl's death in June. She now is on Arizona's death row.

Authorities said the couple forced Ame into the small, plastic box as punishment for stealing ice pops. They then went to sleep and the girl was found dead the next morning.

Defense attorney Robert Reinhardt had argued that John Allen, a father of four young children, did not intend for the girl to die and that the other adults in the home created the abusive environment.

Ame's death was the culmination of a shocking history of abuse at the hands of relatives who were charged with caring for her.

Authorities said the girl was forced to eat dog feces, crush aluminum cans barefoot, consume hot sauce and get in the storage box on other occasions. She also was kicked in the face, beaten with a wooden paddle and forcibly dunked after being thrown in a cold swimming pool, according to police investigators.

Adults at the home originally claimed Ame hid during a late-night game of hide-and-seek and wasn't found until hours later.

3 other relatives are in prison serving sentences for abusing Ame.

David Deal, who is listed as the girl's father on her birth certificate, is serving a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.

Ame's legal guardian at the time of her death was her aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, who is serving a 24-year prison sentence for a child abuse conviction. Ame's grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving 10 years for child abuse.

Ame's mother left the family years earlier after suffering abuse from relatives and moved to Kansas without her daughter.

(source: Associated Press)


Why haven't we abolished the death penalty and moved on?

In Stanley Kubrick's 1957 powerful antiwar film, "Paths of Glory," an injured and virtually unconscious French soldier, chosen at random to be executed, is slapped awake just as he is about to be shot. The movie was based on an actual World War I incident, although I can't vouch for the firing-squad scene. I can vouch, however, for this week's Supreme Court decision that will permit the execution of a 67-year-old man who has suffered from strokes and cannot remember his crime.

Of course, others can remember precisely what Vernon Madison did. Back in 1985, he killed a cop when the officer responded to a domestic dispute. This was in Mobile, Ala., and the state is now preparing to set a new execution date. If it is carried out, Madison will die 32 years after he committed his crime. All he knows, the court said in its opinion, is that "he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed."

The death penalty has become one of those odd American anomalies, like the right to casually buy semiautomatic weapons. The rest of the advanced world has moved on and abolished capital punishment. As a nation, we now keep odious company - with China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, among others. The latter 2 have public executions which, if you believe that the death penalty is a deterrent, makes perfect sense. Trouble is, capital punishment is not a deterrent. In the first place, murder is often a spontaneous event, and where it is dispassionately planned, it is done so by people who do not believe they will be caught. Try telling a teenager not to drive fast. Those who do are oblivious to the consequences.

In truth, I have little sympathy for Madison. He killed a cop. But surely he did not plan the murder and, just as surely, awaiting execution for 3 decades has to be cruel - maybe not cruel and unusual, but certainly cruel. In a way, in fact, it's typical. A drumbeat of Supreme Court rulings and changing public opinion have made the death penalty unusual in itself. 19 states have abolished it. Others hardly ever use it. In the Northeast, it is all but gone. In the South, particularly Texas and Florida, it remains robust. In time, that, too, will change.

It has gotten harder and harder to legally kill a person. Executions have become complicated affairs, sometimes hideously botched. Moreover, we have lost faith in the infallibility of the criminal-justice system. DNA has injected doubt. Since 1973, more than 155 people have been released from death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The law of averages and common sense tell us that, along the way, innocent people have been put to death.

It has become increasingly difficult for states or the federal government to apply the death penalty. But why even try? Nothing is accomplished, and while the chances of making a mistake are now diminished - DNA can prove guilt as well as innocence - life in prison is a worthy substitute. It shows that society appreciates what the loss of innocent life means - both to the victim and, more pertinently maybe, to the survivors. The grieving are surely owed our empathy, but capital punishment can neither right a wrong nor prevent another from happening.

(source: Opinion; Richard Cohen, Washington Post)


SCOTUS Opinion May Offer Insight Into Future of Death Penalty----Analysis: Per curiam ruling earns comment from execution-skeptical justices

A unanimous decision issued Monday by the Supreme Court carried with it several concurring opinions from the Court's liberal justices, suggesting an ongoing interest from that wing in revisiting the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The case, Dunn v. Madison, concerns the intellectual competence of Vernon Madison, convicted in 1998 of the murder of police officer Julius Schulte. Madison had suffered several strokes in the time between his conviction and scheduled execution, and could not recall the details of his crimes, though did admit to understanding why he was being executed.

Madison petitioned for a stay of execution on the grounds that, due to his strokes, he lacked "the mental capacity to rationally understand that he is being executed as a punishment for a crime," a standard set up when the Court struck down the death penalty for the mentally ill in Ford v. Wainwright. The eleventh circuit court of appeals agreed with Madison.

In a per curiam (issued as a unanimous whole) decision, the Supreme Court reversed the eleventh circuit, narrowly ruling that under existing statutory rules - specifically, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, which set many constraints on death penalty litigation - the case as presented did not merit full consideration.

2 concurring opinions from the Court's liberal justices signaled skepticism about the underlying issues of the death penalty for Madison and the death penalty in itself.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, noted in a one-paragraph concurrence that while the AEDPA's constraints, "preclude consideration of the question," Madison's appeal pointed at a deeper concern.

"The issue whether a State may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of his commission of a capital offense is a substantial question not yet addressed by the Court. Appropriately presented, the issue would warrant full airing," she wrote.

Breyer, in a separate, solo concurrence, reinforced his past concerns about "one of the basic problems with the administration of the death penalty itself ... the unconscionably long periods of time that prisoners often spend on death row awaiting execution." He pointed to the extended periods of time - decades - that capital convicts spend on death row, suggesting that it would become an increasing problem as death penalty cases continue to drag.

"Rather than develop a constitutional jurisprudence that focuses upon the special circumstances of the aged, however, I believe it would be wiser to reconsider the root cause of the problem - the constitutionality of the death penalty itself," Breyer concluded.

This opinion dovetailed with - and relied upon references to - Breyer's dissent in 2015's Glossip v. Gross. That case concerned the constitutionality of a certain kind of lethal injection. However, in a lengthy dissenting opinion joined by Ginsburg, Breyer called for "full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution."

Dunn further contributes to the sense that some on the Court, including at least Breyer and Ginsburg, may be interested in revisiting the death penalty's constitutionality.

The Court's 4 conservative justices - Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch - are generally agreed to be fairly safe pro-death penalty votes. Breyer and Ginsburg, meanwhile, are among the group of justices who seem suspicious of the death penalty in and of itself.

"From my reading of what gets said, and more importantly what does not get said, and who's not saying it, the movement to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances probably has at most 3 votes on the Supreme Court," said Bill Otis, a former federal prosecutor, professor at Georgetown law school, and outspoken proponent of the death penalty.

Otis suggested that Sotomayor's concurrence in Dunn, as well as her separate dissent in Glossip and several comments at law schools, all suggested that she had moved towards Ginsburg and Breyer's skepticism of the death penalty.

"It seems to me that Justice Sotomayor, although she has never said so directly, is very much leaning in the direction of at some point taking the view that the death penalty is constitutionally impermissible in all circumstances," Otis said.

That leaves 2 justices: the liberal-leaning Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is generally perceived as the Court's swing vote.

Kagan, an Obama appointee, was conspicuously absent from either concurrence in Dunn. While she did join Sotomayor's narrow dissent in Glossip, she also did not join Breyer's more wide-reaching dissent.

During her confirmation hearing, Kagan called the death penalty's constitutionality "established law," further insisting that it was "settled precedent going forward" that should generally not be disrupted. However, that does not guarantee that she has not "evolved" on the issue, as some of her peers have historically.

Kennedy's vote on abolition also remains up in the air. Otis pointed to his past rulings in cases like Roeper v. Simmons, which struck down the death penalty for minors, but also noted that Kennedy joined the Court's majority in Glossip, suggesting he may have grown more execution sympathetic.

Evan Mandery, chairperson of the department of criminal justice at John Jay College and a death penalty expert, cautioned against reading too much into Dunn, noting that Breyer's dissent simply reiterated many of his concerns in Glossip and that the case mostly concerned a narrow issue pertaining to AEDPA.

"I don't really think it's like a game changer in any way in terms of reading the tea leaves," he said.

"I think what they're saying is, they think it's a legal issue that merits full consideration. I'm sure it wouldn't be first on everybody's plate of things to take on about the death penalty," he said.

Questions of whether or not the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," have been before SCOTUS before. In 1972, the Court issued a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment in Furman v. Georgia, a moratorium that was ended 4 years later in Gregg v. Georgia after reforms from state legislatures.

Since then, many have tried to challenge the death penalty's constitutionality. Most recently, former acting Solicitor General and celebrity litigator Neal Katyal filed a petition in Hidalgo v. Arizona to challenge Arizona's death penalty, as well as asking the Court to consider, "whether the death penalty in and of itself violates the Eighth Amendment, in light of contemporary standards of decency."

The Court has not yet agreed to hear Hidalgo. If it does, it may pose a serious challenge to capital regimes across the country.



Egyptian court orders retrial of 7 Daesh defendants

Egypt on Tuesday overturned the death penalty and jail sentences for 7 defendants who have been accused of establishing links with Daesh.

The Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of the cases by the criminal court, the official Middle East News Agency, MENA, reported.

The defendants were referred to the criminal court along with 13 others in 2014 by the country's late Attorney General, Hisham Barakat, accused of creating a terror cell that carried out hostile acts against police and army personnel. They were also accused of embracing extremist ideologies and establishing links with Daesh.

The court had already sentenced 4 of the other defendants to death, 3 of which were in absentia, 2 others were sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour, 6 to 10 years with hard labour, and 11 defendant was acquitted, added MENA.

(source: The Gulf Today)


4 Prisoners Executed For Drug Offences

4 prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison (Northwestern Iran) on drug related charges.

According to a close source, on the morning on Tuesday November 7, 4 prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison (Darya). The prisoners, who were sentenced to death on drug related charges, were transferred to solitary confinement from ward 15 yesterday.

The prisoners were identified as Asghar Ranjbar, Hedayat Shirzad, Hassan Bashoqi, and Ali Zare'.

"The prisoners were sentenced to death on the charge of possessing 5 to 200 kilograms of heroin or meth," said a close source to Iran Human Rights yesterday.

These prisoners were executed while a few weeks ago a new anti-narcotics bill was approved by Iran's Parliament and the Guardian Council. The bill was also announced by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and published in an official newspaper on Saturday October 29 2017.

According to Article 2 of the civil law, the laws are ought to be enforced within 15 days after being published in an official newspaper (6 days from now).

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

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Pakistani death sentences show blasphemy laws' threat

The October death sentences for 3 Pakistani men demonstrate the threat of blasphemy laws in many countries to the life and liberty of Christians and other religious minorities.

The judgments for the Pakistanis -- all members of the Ahmadi Muslim sect -- came 2 months after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a report that showed more than 1/3 of the world's countries have blasphemy laws. Most of the blasphemy laws in those 71 countries not only transgress international human rights standards but fail to fully protect freedom of expression and impose unduly severe punishments on violators, according to the report.

Arrested in 2014, the 3 Ahmadis -- Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed -- received the death penalty Oct. 11 in a court in the Punjab Province of eastern Pakistan. They were charged with violating the country's law against deliberately insulting Islam by tearing down a religious poster, according to a report by Voice of America (VOA). An Ahmadi spokesman said the poster was anti-Ahmadi, VOA reported.

While Ahmadis describe themselves as Muslims, Pakistan -- with Islam as its state religion -- does not recognize them as such and prohibits some of their practices. Ahmadis differ from other Muslims in that they believe the Messiah has already come.

Southern Baptist religious freedom advocate Russell Moore said the sentencing "is yet another reminder how imperiled religious liberty is throughout the world."

"Conscience freedom is the most fundamental human right of all," said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, "but for millions of people across the globe, including many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, such freedom is consistently and violently attacked."

In written comments for Baptist Press, Moore said he prays the United States "will continue to take the lead in global advocacy for religious liberty. Most importantly, I pray that we as Christians would work and pray for conscience freedom for everyone and everywhere."

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said in a written statement, "In short, Ahmadis are required to renounce their faith in order to avail themselves of important civil rights in Pakistan."

USCIRF -- a bipartisan panel selected by the president and congressional leaders -- "has consistently called on Pakistan to repeal such laws. They violate human rights standards and make the government the ultimate arbiter of religious doctrines or truths. This is quite simply wrong," Mark said.

The situation for minority faith groups is growing worse, an expert on blasphemy laws told BP.

"There is an escalation of pressure and charges of blasphemy against religious minorities in many Muslim-majority countries, both in terms of formal legal charges by the government and also in private accusations by radicals, vigilantes and terrorists," said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.

Accusations are more dangerous than government charges, he said in an email interview.

"For example, nobody has been executed for blasphemy under Pakistan's current laws, which date from the 1980s, but dozens, perhaps hundreds, have been murdered after they had been accused of blasphemy or quasi-blasphemy laws," said Marshall, who co-wrote a 2011 book on blasphemy codes.

Blasphemy accusations are increasing not only in Pakistan but in Egypt, Algeria, Bangladesh and Indonesia, he said.

When USCIRF released its report Aug. 16, Mark pointed to this double-edged menace.

"Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders and mob attacks," he said in a written statement.

As an example, a Pakistani Christian man and his wife were falsely accused of tossing pages of the Koran into the garbage and were thrown into the furnace of a brick kiln in 2014, according to Morning Star News.

In its report, USCIRF defined blasphemy as "the act of expressing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or sacred things." In the study, blasphemy laws include sections "that sanction insulting or defaming religion and seek to punish individuals for allegedly offending, insulting, or denigrating religious doctrines, deities, symbols or 'the sacred,' or for wounding or insulting religious feelings."

The USCIRF report showed the 5 countries with the worst scores in its survey -- Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Qatar in order -- all use blasphemy laws to guard the state religion of Islam, violating the rights of other religious groups in the process.

While many of the 71 countries with blasphemy laws hold Islam as the government religion, many others do not. Some countries with blasphemy laws seem surprising, such as Canada, New Zealand and several European countries, including Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Some of those governments do not enforce their laws, according to the USCIRF report.

USCIRF calls "upon those countries to set an example for the others and repeal their blasphemy laws," Mark said. "And we call upon all countries to repeal any such laws and to free those detained or convicted for blasphemy."

USCIRF found 86 % of the countries with blasphemy laws call for prison sentences for violators.

The United States has the ability to help combat blasphemy laws round the world, Marshall said.

"The U.S. should point out that empirical research shows that restrictions on religious freedom, including blasphemy laws, actually increase religious tension, hostility and violence and push to limit and ultimately abolish blasphemy laws and restrictions wherever they occur," he told BP. "We should also resist so-called 'hate-speech' laws in the West, since many of these function as blasphemy laws."

In addition to the 3 Ahmadis sentenced to death in Pakistan, other individuals charged, sentenced or imprisoned under blasphemy laws in recent months include:

-- Slimane Bouhafs, an Algerian Christian who had his request for parole rejected in early October despite his poor health while serving a prison sentence for a social media post saying the light of Jesus overcomes the "lie" of Islam and its prophet, according to World Watch Monitor.

-- Nadeem James, a Roman Catholic father of 2 who has been sentenced to death for blaspheming Mohammad, Islam's prophet, in a phone text despite the fact he is illiterate, Morning Star News reported Sept. 18.

-- Shahzad Masih, a 17-year-old Roman Catholic in Pakistan who was arrested July 14 after being accused by a Muslim co-worker of blasphemy following an argument, according to Morning Star News.

-- Ishfaq Masih, a Christian father who was arrested June 16 in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy by a Muslim client following a disagreement over a repair bill, Morning Star News reported.

-- Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian ousted as governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, who began serving a 2-year prison sentence for blasphemy in May for comments he made during a 2016 re-election campaign, BP reported.

The USCIRF report -- "Respecting Rights? Measuring the World's Blasphemy Laws" -- is available online at

In September, USCIRF issued a follow-up compilation titled "Selected Blasphemy Cases," which provides information on many individuals imprisoned for violating blasphemy laws. The report is available at

(source: Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service----Baptist Press)

NOVEMBER 8, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

exican citizen to be executed in Texas for killing cousin

Police who stopped at a convenience store more than 20 years ago in South Texas determined 2 men at the business were drunk and told them to find a friend to drive them home.

Ruben Ramirez Cardenas and buddy Jose Antonio Lopez Castillo instead dropped off their designated driver after a short distance and Cardenas drove the rest of the way to his home in Edinburg - to get a bottle of brandy. Then they hit the road again and headed to an apartment where Cardenas' 16-year-old cousin, Mayra Laguna, lived about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away in McAllen.

Laguna was later found fatally beaten, her body rolled down a bank and into a canal near a lake in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Cardenas, 47, a Mexican citizen who grew up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, is set to be executed Wednesday for Laguna's February 1997 abduction and slaying. He would be the 7th inmate executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state.

Attorneys for Cardenas say they plan to file multiple federal court appeals hoping to delay his punishment. They already appealed to state courts, arguing that evidence in his case should undergo new DNA testing because previous testing that pointed to him might not be reliable. Those courts rejected their arguments.

Prosecutors have called the DNA testing request a delay tactic. It's not clear if the lawyers will present the DNA argument at the federal level.

Attorney Maurie Levin, an attorney for Cardenas, said Tuesday the trial court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, used "legal technicalities" to block new DNA testing "that could prove his innocence."

Levin also argued the eyewitness testimony against Cardenas was shaky, contended that little physical evidence tied him to the killing and said a confession from him was obtained only after 22 hours of isolation and intense police questioning.

"All hallmarks of wrongful convictions," Levin said. "To permit his execution to proceed when there is potentially exculpatory DNA testing available violates the most basic notions of fairness and justice."

She added that the Mexican-born Cardenas wasn't told he could get legal help from the Mexican consulate.

The victim's younger sister, Roxanna Laguna, told authorities she awoke in pre-dawn darkness to see an intruder in their bedroom. She said Mayra's mouth was taped and her hands were bound, and that the man went out a window with her.

A woman at the Hidalgo County public housing complex where the Lagunas lived called police after seeing a man walking with a girl who was barefoot and only wearing a shirt and underwear.

Cardenas initially was questioned about the teen's disappearance because he was a close family member who had socialized with the girl. He was released, then questioned again and arrested after authorities said information he provided conflicted with details from Castillo.

In his statement to police, Cardenas said he was high on cocaine when he and Castillo drove around with Laguna in his mother's car and eventually had sex with her. He said when he untied her to let her go "she then came at me," scratching him and kneeing him.

"I then lost it and started punching her on the face," he told detectives. He said after he hit her in the neck, she began coughing up blood and having breathing difficulties. After trying unsuccessfully to revive her, he said he tied her up "and rolled her down a canal bank."

Hidalgo County prosecutors argued the DNA request was intended to delay the punishment and "muddy the waters." Prosecutors also pointed out in court filings that Cardenas led them to the scene of the killing, providing information not publicly disclosed.

Being born in Mexico made Cardenas eligible for legal help from the Mexican consulate when he was arrested, according to provisions of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, which is a 1963 international agreement. The courts have allowed executions to move forward in several previous Texas death row cases in which the agreement was said to have been violated.

Cardenas' friend, Castillo, was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and is serving a 25-year prison term.

(source: Associated Press)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----26

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----544

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

27---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas---------545

28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546

29---------Jan. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548

31----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------549

32----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Civil rights lawyer Krasner elected Philly's top prosecutor

A longtime civil rights attorney who has sued the police department scores of times, opposes the death penalty and promised to help hold bad officers accountable was elected Tuesday as Philadelphia's next district attorney.

Larry Krasner, 56, ran a campaign focused on combating inequities in the criminal justice system.

He will succeed Democrat Seth Williams, who resigned in June after pleading guilty to taking a bribe in exchange for legal favors and was sentenced last month to 5 years in prison.

Krasner beat Republican Beth Grossman, who had been a lifelong Democrat until switching parties a few years ago because of what she said was the Democratic Party's corrupt stranglehold on the city.

A crowd of about 100 people erupted into a chant of "Larry! Larry! Larry!" as Krasner entered election watch party just after the results were called.

"This is a mandate for a movement that is loudly telling a government what it wants, and what it wants is transformational change in criminal justice and in the district attorney's office," he said, flanked onstage by his children, mother-in-law and wife.

Krasner also vowed to stop President Donald Trump's immigration agenda. The city has been standing its ground in the Trump administration's promised crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities" like Philadelphia, despite possible financial risks.

He thanked Grossman for maintaining a standard of civility "unfamiliar in Trump-world."

Krasner has said he will encourage a number of reforms, including changes in bail practices that currently result in many poor people being jailed while awaiting trial and alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. His bid was opposed by the local police union, which endorsed Grossman.

"My view of justice means you don't just look at when incarceration is appropriate but look at when it's not appropriate and take into account the tremendous costs it imposes," he said during the final days of the campaign.

His campaign got a $1.5 million boost ahead of the May primary from billionaire George Soros.

John McNesby, president of the city Fraternal Order of Police chapter, called Krasner "anti-law enforcement" after Krasner's supporters bashed the union during chants at the candidate's primary victory party. But Krasner predicts he'll have a productive relationship with the department. He was endorsed by the local chapter of The National Black Police Association.

He said he will be a help to the police commissioner.

? "We are in a city where police commissioners for a long time have needed a district attorney who would be supportive when they try to fire and try to discipline and try to hold their officers accountable rather than always siding with the FOP because it was politically convenient," he said.

During 30 years as a civil rights attorney, Krasner has defended a host of protesters and activists, from Black Lives Matter demonstrators to the hundreds of people arrested during the Republican National Convention in 2000.

He said none of his clients has been sent to death row in 25 years of defending capital cases. Pennsylvania under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has a moratorium on executions, but prosecutors can still pursue death sentences.

During the campaign, Krasner heaped scorn on Williams' predecessor Lynne Abraham, Philadelphia's best-known law and order district attorney who was nicknamed "America's deadliest DA" for her aggressive use of the death penalty.

Though he has no experience as a prosecutor, he said his experience as a defense attorney helped prepare him to be the city's top law enforcement officer.

"When you are preparing cases for the defense, you are also simultaneously preparing in your mind the prosecutor's case because that is the only way you win," he said.

He will take office in January. As of Nov. 6, the city had recorded 272 homicides, a 15 percent increase over same period last year, putting the city on track for its deadliest year since 2012.

Krasner has said he will target the 6 % of criminals who commit most of the city's serious crimes, in part by spending more on proactive policing.

"We have to recognize that we can't incarcerate our way out of this. It hasn't worked for decades, and it's not going to work now," he said.

(source: Associated Press)


Prominent Raleigh lawyer pleads guilty to embezzling client's settlement money

The rough-and-tumble career of a Raleigh lawyer who represented defendants in some of Wake County's most high-profile cases has come to a standstill for the 2nd time this decade.

Johnny Sherwood Gaskins, who has represented 20 death penalty defendants during his nearly 40-year practice of law, signed a consent order of disbarment Thursday after he pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $20,000 from a client.

Gaskins, 68, was convicted of 2 felony counts of embezzlement, according to records filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office. With the signing of the disbarment order, he admitted that he failed to inform his client, Robert Sullivan of Wake Forest, that Gaskins had settled the client's injury claim.

Sullivan hired Gaskins to represent him in May 2015 after he was involved in an automobile accident. In October of that year, MetLife Auto & Home Insurance agreed to settle Sullivan's insurance claim for $23,000. The insurance company on Oct. 30 issued a check payable to Sullivan, his late wife and Gaskins. The next month, on Nov. 17, Gaskins deposited the funds with forged endorsements of both Sullivans into his own personal banking account with BB&T, according to the complaint.

Gaskins had told Sullivan that it could take up to 2 years before he could receive payment for his personal injury claim.

Prior to being admitted to the NC State Bar on Aug. 19, 1979, Gaskins was a former agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. He built a legal career on a reputation for asking the right questions and paying attention to detail. He won his 1st jury trial as a 3rd-year law student while attending Campbell University Law School.

Gaskins over the years represented death penalty clients, many of whom were too poor to afford their own lawyers. He often represented drug dealers who became targets of robbery and torture because they carried large amounts of cash, court records show.

Gaskins represented Kwame Mays, who was spared the death penalty in 1997 after he was convicted of killing popular Raleigh police detective Paul Hale. In recent years, Gaskins was involved in the defense of Amanda Hayes, a 1-time actress who was convicted in 2014 for the 2nd degree-murder of Laura Jean Ackerson, a 27-year-old Kinston woman who was killed and dismembered. And he was the attorney for Israel Vasquez, a Garner teen acquitted of double murder last year.

This is not the 1st time Gaskins has lost the right to practice law in North Carolina. On Dec. 28, 2010, a disciplinary hearing panel suspended his license for 2 years after a federal jury the year before convicted him of dividing large sums of money into small amounts so that his bank would not fulfill an Internal Revenue Service requirement to report cash transactions of more than $10,000. The rule is intended to flag large sums of money that might be tied to illegal activity.

U.S. District Couty Judge Earl Britt could have sentenced Gaskins to a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. He instead ordered the lawyer to spend 1 day in jail. Gaskins’ law license was reinstated on Jan. 3, 2013, according to the N.C. State Bar.

After his guilty plea last week to the embezzlement charges, Gaskins was sentenced to 48 months probation and ordered to pay Sullivan $20,616.23.

Gaskins can apply for reinstatement of his law license on Nov. 2, 2022, according to the consent order.


FLORIDA----impending execution

Patrick Hannon's execution set for Wednesday night; convicted of killing 2 men in Tampa in 1991

A man convicted of killing 2 people in North Tampa is schedule to die by lethal injection on Wednesday night.

Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant in October for Patrick C. Hannon, setting the 52-year-old's execution at Florida State Prison in Starke for 6:00 pm.

Authorities say Hannon and 2 other men went to the Cambridge Woods apartment of 27-year-old Brandon Snider and 28-year-old Robert Carter on January 10, 1991. One of the other men stabbed Snider several times when he answered the door. Hannon then cut Snider's throat.

Carter, who also lived in the apartment, tried to hide under a bed, but Hannon followed and fatally shot him 6 times.

Authorities believe revenge was the motive for the killings. Investigators say Snider returned home to Indiana shortly before he was killed and threatened his ex-girlfriend, the sister of 1 of the men with Hannon.

The Florida Supreme Court refused to block Hannon's execution last week. Hannon's attorneys argued that his execution should be stopped for several reasons. The court rejected those arguments.

Justice Barbara Pariente dissented saying the jury was not properly presented with information about Hannon's background before recommending a death sentence. The jury had voted unanimously to sentence Hannon to death.

Before the murders, Hannon served over 2 years in prison for the crimes of burglary, grand theft and cocaine possession he committed in the late 1980s.

(source: Associated Press)


Patrick Hannon faces execution for brutal 1991 Tampa murders

Patrick Charles Hannon has lived 2 lifetimes: The 26 years he lived before he was sent to death row, and the 26 years he has spent on it.

He and 2 other men brutally murdered roommates Brandon Snider, 27, and Robert Carter, 28, in a townhouse near the University of South Florida on Jan. 10, 1991.

Hannon was 26 then, and a jury unanimously voted that he should die.

Now he is 53, and set to be executed on Wednesday. Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant last month.

For Snider's half brother, Hannon's death would be justice served.

"I think it should have happened a long time ago," said Tony Snider. "He's had 26 years more than my brother had."

But he knows Hannon's execution will only ease so much.

"I'll just feel like there's closure," said Tony Snider, who shared a father with Brandon Snider. "I know there's no way it's going to bring my brother back."

Tony Snider said his younger half brother started life "with 2 strikes against him." He was born to an alcoholic mother and suffered the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome. And after birth, his mother abandoned him.

Investigators believe he was the target in 1991. Prior to the killing, they said Brandon Snider had returned to Indiana and threatened his ex-girlfriend, Toni Acker, the sister of co-conspirator James Acker, and reportedly fired a gun into her home and left a threatening note.

Tony Snider remembers it differently. He said Toni Acker had agreed to celebrate Brandon Snider's birthday with him, but instead he discovered that she was out with another guy. Tony Snider said his half brother caused damage to her bedroom.

That was during the Christmas holiday, Tony Snider said. On his way back to Tampa, during a layover in Atlanta, he said Brandon Snider called his ex-girlfriend, apologized and offered to pay for the damages.

"So everything was alright as far as I knew, as far as he knew," Tony Snider said.

Investigators believed Acker, Hannon and Ronald Ivan Richardson went to the Cambridge Woods Apartments near USF looking for Snider.

Snider was the 1st to die. Acker stabbed him 14 times and Hannon then slit his throat "to the point of near decapitation," according to court records.

Carter begged to be let out of the apartment, investigators said, but the men chased him upstairs. He tried to hide in a bedroom, but Hannon shot him 6 times in the chest.

Richardson cut a deal with prosecutors, accepting a charge of accessory after the fact and a 5-year prison sentence in exchange for testifying against the other 2.

Acker, now 53, is serving his sentence at Cross City Correctional Institution in Dixie County. He was convicted in both murders and sentenced to serve 2 life sentences before winning a new trial. He was convicted again in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison, plus 22 years.

Tony Snider said he has no reservations about Hannon's fate.

"A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye," he said. "He took my brother's life, why shouldn't the state of Florida take his?"

The execution is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Raiford.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Exonerated death row inmate to speak at Jackson State

In 1990, Sabrina Butler Smith, a teen mother from Mississippi, was convicted of murdering her nine-month-old son Walter. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing and is 1 of only 2 women in the United States exonerated from death row.

On April 12, 1989, Smith rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors tried to resuscitate the baby, but failed. The day after her son's death, Smith was arrested for child abuse because of bruises left by her resuscitation attempts. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Her conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992. The court said the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident. At retrial, she was acquitted on Dec. 17, 1995, after a brief jury deliberation. It is now believed that the baby may have died either of cystic kidney disease or from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smith spent more than 5 years in prison and 33 months on death row.

Smith will join a group of panelists at Jackson State Community College at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15 for a discussion on "A Broken System: Perspectives on the Death Penalty." The event will be held in the Jim Moss Center for Nursing, Room 203, at Jackson State Community College.

Other panelists at the event include: Cynthia Vaughn, whose mother, Connie, was murdered in Memphis in 1984, and whose stepfather, Don Johnson, is now on death row in Tennessee, convicted of the crime; Amy Lawrence, coordinator of Tennessee Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty; and the Rev. Stacy Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP).

"In October, Rickey Dale Newman of Arkansas became the 160th person since 1973 to be exonerated and released from death row in this country," Rector said in a press release. "Since 2000, Tennessee has released 4 individuals who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death while executing 6. Mrs. Smith's story reminds us of just how real this risk is."

(source: The Jackson Sun)

OHIO----impending execution

Death row inmate wants execution by firing squad, not lethal injection because he has weak veins

A death row inmate in Ohio convicted of murdering a teenage boy wants to be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection because he has weak veins.

Lawyers for Alva Campbell - who is scheduled to be executed next month - argue that a lethal injection would harm him whereas the firing squad method would not require access to his veins. A nurse last month was unable to find veins on his arms to insert an IV tube.

A federal judge rejected Campbell's lawyers' firing squad argument on Tuesday, saying the inmate during a recent hearing didn't provide sufficient evidence to prove why that method was suitable for him.

His lawyers said they were disappointed with the judge's decision and are planning to appeal their client's case.

Gov. John Kasich in 2015 ruled out using firing squads for executions.

Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah are the only states that allow the firing squad method, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The 69-year-old inmate uses a walker, has an external colostomy bag and undergoes treatment for his breathing. He also may have lung cancer, his lawyers and court records say.

The Ohio Parole Board rejected his request for clemency in October. Kasich has the final say.

In 1997, Campbell snatched a Franklin County sheriff deputy's gun while on his way to a court hearing on armed robbery charges. He then carjacked and fatally shot 18-year-old Charles Dials in the head, court records show.

(source: New York Daily News)

ARKANSAS----impending execution stayed

Arkansas Supreme Court stops execution of Jack Greene

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted this week's planned execution of an inmate whose attorneys say suffers from psychotic delusions.

Justices on Tuesday granted the request for an emergency stay for Jack Greene, who had been scheduled to be executed Thursday night. Greene, who's from North Carolina, was sentenced to die for the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and shot.

Greene's attorneys had asked for the stay so justices could review a lower court's decision to dismiss his challenge of a state law that gives Arkansas' top prison official the authority to determine whether he is competent

In response to the ruling, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she won't ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider the emergency stay granted to Greene.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said he was "surprised" by the ruling, saying that last minute delays "only prolong the justice the Burnett family was promised more than 20 years ago."



Emergency stay granted for Arkansas' oldest death row inmate

The execution of the oldest inmate on Arkansas death row is off.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has confirmed she will not appeal Tuesday's decision of the State Supreme Court granting an emergency stay for Greene.

Rutledge will also not ask for a rehearing in this case.

"With no written order or explanation provided, the Arkansas Supreme Court has once again delayed justice for the family of Sidney Burnett. I will continue to fight for justice for Sidney Burnett and to give the Burnett family the closure they deserve," Rutledge said in reaction to the stay decision.

Governor Asa Hutchinson issued this statement:

"I am surprised by the Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to issue an emergency stay of execution for Jack Greene," he said. "Last-minute delays are always very difficult and only prolong the justice the Burnett family was promised more than 20 years ago.

"This case has been reviewed by the courts on numerous occasions, and the state must now await further court action before the penalty given by an Arkansas jury is carried out."

(source: KARK news)


Poll shows strong support for death penalty in Arkansas

A new poll shows overwhelming support for the death penalty in Arkansas months after the state conducted 4 executions over an 8-day period and days before another inmate is scheduled to be put to death.

The University of Arkansas' annual Arkansas Poll released Tuesday shows that 72 % of respondents support the death penalty as punishment for people convicted of murder. 17 % of respondents opposed the death penalty, while 11 % didn't know or refused to answer.

Arkansas resumed executions in April after a nearly 12-year lull, and the state plans to put convicted murderer Jack Greene to death Thursday night.

The poll surveyed 801 Arkansans between Oct. 12 and Oct. 22. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 % points.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury foreman describes how jurors deadlocked over death penalty for Craig Wood

The 12 people chosen to decide whether Craig Wood should live or die went into a room Monday, sat around a table and tried to determine what justice is.

Wood kidnapped, raped and killed 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014.

The jurors unanimously agreed last week that Wood was guilty of 1st-degree murder.

Next, it was their job to sentence him.

The jurors had listened to 6 days of emotional testimony, read Wood's handwritten stories about having sex with girls, and looked at pictures of Hailey's lifeless body stuffed in a plastic bin.

"It's something that you're going to carry to your death," said Andy Meyerhofer, the foreman of the jury. "The images are seared into your mind."

Meyerhofer described Monday's jury deliberations to the News-Leader. It grew heated at times, he said, as some jury members attempted to sway others.

The jury - faced with deciding between life in prison or the death penalty - could not make a unanimous choice. The decision now rests in the hands of Judge Thomas Mountjoy, who could sentence Wood as early as Jan. 11, when Wood has his next hearing.

The jury was brought in from Platte County, north of Kansas City.

Meyerhofer said he moved to Missouri about 2 years ago and was not familiar with the case at all.

All the potential jurors had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire with answers about their views on the death penalty, religion and politics, Meyerhofer said.

Meyerhofer was told he was a juror on a Friday and sequestered on Sunday, he said, and that's when it really hit him.

"This is a very important case," Meyerhofer recalled thinking.

At that point, he still had very few details about the case and said he was ready to do his civic duty. Then came the horrific photos.

"(By the end of the trial), you've seen the body of a 10-year-old girl that's been shot in the head, sprayed with water that likely contained dog feces, put into a box after she's been raped and sodomized," Meyerhofer said.

Jurors were also given 2 handwritten stories about sex with girls that had been found in Wood's bedroom.

Meyerhofer said the 1st story was about a girl who was given medication and then raped. The 2nd, he said, was about a girl who played truth or dare and then willingly had sex.

The girl in the story was "nervous" at first," Meyerhofer said, but excited by the end.

To Meyerhofer, the stories showed a progression in Wood's mind: from a fictional forced rape to a fictional willing participant to the real abduction and rape of Hailey.

Meyerhofer said a unanimous decision to convict Wood of 1st-degree murder was swift.

"I really was impressed with how thorough this prosecution did in terms of gathering evidence and not cutting any corners," Meyerhofer said. "It was never slanted one way or another ... We were forced to process what that meant."

The penalty phase of Wood's trial lasted 3 days. On Monday, the jurors heard closing arguments and went to deliberate.

For a jury to sentence someone to death for murder, it must find there was at least 1 "aggravating factor" as outlined in state law. The prosecutors presented several aggravating factors, including that the murder was "wantonly vile" and that Hailey was a random victim.

The jury decided "fairly rapidly," Meyerhofer said, that all the aggravating factors applied.

Then came the hard part: A secret poll about whether Wood should be put to death.

According to Meyerhofer, 8 jurors voted for the death penalty, 1 for life in prison and 3 were undecided.

Jurors were passionate as they argued their opinion, Meyerhofer said, but always respectful.

At times, he said, pauses were taken so jurors could cool down.

"A significant amount of time was then spent on discussing - 'moral compass,' I think is the phrase that comes to mind," Meyerhofer said. "What was your personal, moral compass telling you to do?"

After more than 4 hours of deliberation, Meyerhofer said it was apparent the jury was deadlocked.

10 were in favor of death, Meyerhofer said, and 2 were for life in prison.

The mood, he said, was mixed.

"Clearly there were those that felt like justice had not been done for Hailey Owens," he said, but others put a lot of weight in the mitigating factors.

Wood's attorneys said the mitigating factors were a family history of depression, a loving relationship with his parents and that Wood could have a positive impact on his friends' lives - even from behind bars.

Meyerhofer said he voted for death.

"To a degree, I think serving on that jury hardens me a bit," he said. "Human life is very important and that is not an easy decision to make. And it changes you - it changes how you're going to approach the world with your own children."

Meyerhofer is a father of 3 daughters.

"The world I wanna live in," he said, "my kids walk home without being afraid of being picked up randomly by someone to be murdered."

Meyerhofer said he was able to compartmentalize this case - to not compare Hailey to his daughters.

"This whole thing for us was always about Hailey Owens losing her life," he said.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)

NEVADA----impending volunteer execution

Attorneys for Nevada inmate not seeking stay of execution

The 46-year-old condemned Nevada inmate, who wants to be executed, is expected to appear via video conference from Ely for Wednesday's proceeding in a Las Vegas courtroom. He is scheduled to die less than a week later. Federal public defenders representing Dozier have pushed to ensure that his lethal injection is carried out humanely, but after more than an hour of argument on Monday, they told District Judge Jennifer Togliatti that they were not asking her to postpone the execution.

"These issues pose a moral dilemma. That's the best I can say," Assistant Federal Public Defender David Anthony said after the hearing. "As a defense attorney, I try to help people and save people, and so it creates a moral dilemma."

Dr. John DiMuro, the state's chief medical officer who designed the 3-drug cocktail for Dozier's execution, resigned last week. The cocktail consists of the anxiety drug diazepam, the pain reliever fentanyl and the paralytic cisatracurium.

Assistant Solicitor General Jordan Smith told the judge on Monday that DiMuro was replaced by a psychiatrist. Another doctor with about 40 years of experience will oversee the execution.

Anthony said defense attorneys had an agreement with Dozier that they would not pursue a delay of the Nov. 14 execution without his consent. But Anthony added that he had not yet talked with Dozier about the new medical officials in place at the Nevada Department of Corrections.

"It's not a shame for anyone here if we need to push the pause button," Anthony said, adding that the state's lethal injection plan had "no upside but unlimited downside."

Smith argued that Dozier's lawyers were pushing for "a de facto stay" and had no legal grounds for delaying the execution.

"The state has every interest in making sure this goes correctly," Smith said.

Last week, a Boston anesthesiologist testified that a paralyzing drug, such as cisatracurium, could cause "cruel pain and suffering" and lead to a "horrifying experience" for a condemned inmate.

Togliatti said she found the defense expert's testimony credible, and the focus of her concern centered on the state's lack of experience with executions.

Dozier, who requested last year that his appeals stop, would be the 1st inmate executed since 2006.

A Clark County jury convicted Dozier in September 2007 of killing 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at the now-closed La Concha Motel. In 2005, Dozier was convicted in Arizona of 2nd-degree murder in another case.

Dozier did not appear in court Monday. For more than a year, Dozier has not wavered in his desire for execution.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Call For A Moratorium On Executions In Nevada (USA: UA 250.17)

The State of Nevada is set to carry out its 1st execution in over 11 years. A prisoner who has waived his appeals is due to be executed at 8pm on 14 November. Amnesty International is calling for a moratorium on executions as a 1st step towards abolition.


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

Expressing your opposition to the death penalty in all cases, and calling for a moratorium on executions in Nevada and for the state administration to work with the legislature to abolish the death penalty;

Noting that since Nevada last carried out an execution, six states in the USA have abolished the death penalty and a number of others have imposed moratoriums on executions, and another 21 countries have abolished the death penalty for all or ordinary crimes, with 141 countries now abolitionist in law or practice;

Pointing to the repeated resolutions at the UN General Assembly calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition of the death penalty.

Contact these 2 officials by 14 November 2017:

Governor Brian Sandoval

State Capitol Building

101 N. Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89701, USA


Fax: +1 775 684-5683

Salutation: Dear Governor

Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt

Office of the Attorney General

100 North Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89701, USA

Fax: +1 775-684-1108


Salutation: Dear Attorney General

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Life and death

Midazolam is supposed to prevent condemned prisoners from suffering while they die. But opponents say several problematic executions involving the drug are evidence that it doesn't work consistently.

The death penalty should be abolished completely in the states. All humans, including criminals, have the right to life.

The death penalty is also not very favorable for us law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. It is every expensive. Lastly, the death penalty does not deter crime whatsoever. The criminal is going to do the crime no matter what.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reached out to 2 medical experts to help explain how each of Nevada's lethal injection drugs (fentanyl, diazepam and cisatracurium) work and how they're used in medicine.

The death penalty is a violation of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment states that "any State [should not] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property." The death penalty does just that by taking the life of the criminals.

The death penalty is very expensive for the states and its tax-paying citizens. Studies have been done stating that taxpayers in Maryland have paid at least $37.2 million per every 5 executions. In Texas, the death penalty costs about 3 times more than keeping the inmate in their cell.

Lastly, the death penalty does not deter crime. No criminal that has done a vicious act ever thinks of the consequences beforehand.

The death penalty should be abolished completely from the United States. It is a violation of one's rights, it is costly to all states, and it in no way deters crime.

Maile Richardson

St. George

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Spectrum)

IDAHO----new death sentence

Man gets death sentence for killing Idaho police sergeant

A man who prosecutors said was high on methamphetamine when he ambushed and killed an Idaho police sergeant was sentenced to death.

District Judge Lansing Haynes imposed the death penalty Monday for Jonathan D. Renfro, who was found guilty of 1st-degree murder for killing Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Greg Moore 2 years ago.

"It brings this chapter to a close," Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said. "The difficult part is behind us, we can begin to move forward."

Haynes also ordered an additional sentence of life in prison without parole plus 19 years behind bars for convictions for robbery, eluding, taking a police officer's firearm, concealing evidence and grand theft, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported.

Haynes gave Renfro credit for the 915 days he has been incarcerated since his 2015 arrest.

Moore was killed while on a routine patrol where he encountered Renfro. Prosecutors previously said the convicted felon was high on methamphetamine, ambushed Moore, took his firearm and fled.

Family members including Lindy Moore, widow of Sgt. Greg Moore, and ex-wife Jennifer Brumley, thanked police and prosecutors for their support and work in the case.

"Nothing can bring Greg back, but we feel justice has been served," Lindy Moore said.

The defense team has more than a month to start the appeal process.

Because it is a capital case, the Idaho Supreme Court must review the court's handling of the case before approving the sentence for Renfro.

White said he hoped Monday's sentencing sends a message to criminals, and that he appreciated how the community rallied around the department and Moore's family.

"We stay in close contact with them." he said. "Our relationship will continue beyond today."

(source: Associated Press)


Only 3 death row inmates have been executed in Idaho since 1977

The death sentence is the ultimate punishment for the most heinous crimes.

On Saturday, a North Idaho jury handed Jonathan Renfro that sentence. Renfro was convicted of f1st degree murder for killing Coeur d'Alene Police Sergeant Greg Moore in 2015.

Renfro will join 8 others on death row in the state of Idaho. KREM 2 learned death penalty cases like this are extremely rare and it can be decades before a death row inmate's fate is sealed.

A 2014 study done by Office of Performance Evaluations for the Idaho Legislature said since 1998 the death penalty was sought in just 22 % of cases where people were charged with 1st degree murder. Just 7 of those cases resulted in an actual death sentence.

Currently, the state of Idaho has 8 inmates on death row. The inmate who has spent the longest time on death row is Thomas Creech, who was incarcerated 34 years ago. He was convicted of beating an inmate to death.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center there is only 1 death row inmate in the federal prison system who was prosecuted in Idaho, convicted child killer Joseph Duncan. Duncan was sentenced to death in 2008. He plead guilty to a 10-count indictment charging him with multiple crimes related to the 2005 kidnapping and murder of a 9-year-old Dylan Groene and the kidnapping of 9-year-old Shasta Groene from their home outside Coeur d'Alene.

Since Idaho enacted a new death penalty law in 1977, just 3 inmates have been executed. These executions took place in 1994, 2011 and 2012.

It can take decades for a death sentence to actually be carried out. Of the 8 people sitting on death row, 6 of them have been on death row for more than 20 years.

Prosecutors said all appeals must be exhausted before that step is taken. The Idaho Supreme Court is required by law to review every death sentence whether the defendant wants them to or not.

In recent years there has been 2 notable former Idaho death row inmates, who used the appeal process and were eventually set free.

In the 1984, Charles Fain was convicted and sentence to die for the murder a 9-year-old girl in Nampa, Idaho. DNA evidence exonerated him after 18 years on death row.

Donald Paradis was accused of murdering a couple in his Spokane home and dumping their bodies in Post Falls in the 1980. He was a leader of the biker gang Gyspy Jokers. Paradis was acquitted in 1 murder and found guilty in the other. Paradis spent 14 years on death row before his sentence was commuted after new evidence was found.

(source: KREM-TV news)


Mauritania appeals court set to review blogger death penalty case

In Mauritania, an appeals court is set to review on Wednesday the case of a young blogger sentenced to death after posting a 2014 article challenging the use of religion to support social injustice.

Mohammed Ould Mkhaitir was arrested almost 4 years ago after sharing his critical views on the way Islam is wielded as a weapon to perpetuate what is essentially modern-day slavery in the western African nation. He was initially charged with apostasy and - although that charge was later reduced - the death sentence remains.

Mkhaitir's case drew angry street protests from those calling for his execution as well as those who wished to defend human rights and free speech. The social and political instability surrounding the widely publicized case led to frequent court delays and postponements.

On Friday, Mauritanian journalist Mohamed Diop reported that police authorities prevented protesters calling for Mkhaitir's execution from marching in the streets of Nouakchott.

The Human Rights Watch organization said Mkhaitir's parents fled the country last December amid death threats that are common among human rights activists who support the blogger.

"Mauritania has no business charging anyone with 'apostasy,' much less sentencing a blogger to death for such an absurd charge based on an article he wrote," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the regional HRW director. "It's good that the appeals court is reviewing this case, but he never should have been charged in the first place."

The Freedom Now organization has provided legal counsel to Mkhaitir in the past, along with local lawyers, some of whom quit during the proceedings because of the death threats. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other rights groups have appealed to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on the blogger's behalf without success.

Aziz initially told Mauritanians that media content must respect Islam, and the government "will do everything that is necessary to protect the Islamic religion and to defend the Messenger of Allah."



Ekiti Assembly approves death penalty for cultists

A bill seeking to prohibit the activities of secret cults on Tuesday scaled third reading at the Ekiti State House of Assembly.

The substance of the bill, which is yet to be signed into law by the governor, is the prescription of death penalty for those found guilty of breaching the law in that regard.

Those aiding and abetting cultism would also bag life imprisonment if found guilty. The new provision was an amendment to the law against cultism, enacted by Ayo Fayose during his 1st tenure as governor of the state.

The law had provided a 7-year imprisonment for anyone convicted of cult activities, whereas those aiding and abetting the act were to be imprisoned for 5 years.

The bill titled, 'Secret Cult (Abolition and Prohibition) [Amendment] Bill, 2017,' gained the lawmakerss attention following increase in cult activities at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti which led to the killing of students recently.

Before the passage, the House Leader, Akinyele Olatunji, recalled the killings at the university due to cult activities.

"We will not allow any group to turn Ekiti into death trap area," he said, while thanking the governor, Ayodele Fayose, for introducing the bill.

"We cannot fold our arms while some people would constitute themselves as a menace and eliminating the lives of innocent people of this state," Speaker of the house, Kola Oluwawole, said, while making his remarks on the bill.

"It is an everlasting sorrow for someone to lose his child or relative. The bill will reshape the lives of our youth. It will 'touch' those who intend to join any secret cults and those who have the intention to take another person's life.

"Those people that we are representing will have peace of mind that their lives and those of their children are safe. The bill considers very seriously the negative consequences of such action because of the irreparable loss of lives."



How these UDF cadres ended up on death row - Michael Masutha----At handing over of exhumed remains justice minister says he hopes racist tendencies deterred by coffin case

Address by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, MP, (Adv) on the occasion of the handing over of exhumed remains of 12 UDF political activists in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Program Director

Families of our departed patriots

Premier of the Eastern Cape; Mr Phumulo Masualle

Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Metro; Mr Anthol Trollip

Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans; Mr Kebby Maphatsoe

Eastern Cape MEC for Sports Arts and Recreation; Miss Pemmy Majodina

Provincial leadership of the ANC and alliance partners

Members of MKMVA

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


At 6h00, on 6th April 1979, a young heroic son of our revolutionary struggle from Mamelodi was hanged by the racist minority regime in Pretoria. Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu walked to the gallows with unflinching courage and defiance in the face of his own demise. As the hangman was about to end his life, he said "Tell my people I love them and that they must continue the struggle, my blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom". As if that was not enough, the apartheid regime was so ruthless that they had no shame in putting a rope around the neck of an 18 years old POQO cadre from Bhaziya in Mthatha, Bhekaphantsi Vulindlela thereby mercilessly ending his life.

This sombre occasion should remind us of the words of the late President Mandela when he summarised the death penalty and said "The death sentence is a barbaric act ... It is a reflection of the animal instinct still in human beings".

We are here today, at the friendly province of the Eastern Cape, the birthplace of many late and living struggle icons, OR Tambo, whose 100th birthday we celebrated on 27 October, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile and the former President Thabo Mbeki, to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Afrika, to establish contact beyond the grave, with the great African heroes and assure these sons of the soil that their struggle was not in vain. We have been here in Port Elizabeth on several occasions to hand over mortal remains of PEBCO 3 and Thamsanqa Poto, amongst others.

To you families of our departed comrades, after travelling hundreds of kilometres from this province to Gauteng to witness the exhumation of their remains, you must be relieved that at last you can now close the chapter in this dignified and solemn occasion for your loved ones.

Today's event was preceded by the launch of the Gallows Exhumation Project, on 23 March 2016 at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional centre in Gauteng. This was all in recognition of the sacrifice of political prisoners who were judicially executed between 1960 and 1990. This was also in appreciation of some of the earlier political resistance initiatives against the colonial rule and domination imposed on Africans here and elsewhere on the continent and around the world .On that day we recounted the remarkable story of the brutal hanging of Kgosi Mampuru II which was reported as far as the United States.

The New York Times of 19th December 1886 recorded that: "Mampuru was led naked to the jail yard in the presence of 200 whites. The 1st rope broke when the trap was sprung and Mampuru fell into a pit below. He was dragged out, however, and another attempt to hang him was successful."

These cadres including Kgosi Mampuru II were eliminated by the racist regime because they were black and it is quite disheartening that the racism they fought against is still rearing its ugly head as clearly evident in the recent coffin assault case. However we must commend the judiciary, NPA and law enforcement for aggressively dealing with the case and hope that any racist tendencies will be deterred.

Program Director

Allow me to also give an account of how these cadres ended up on death row.

All of these 12 UDF comrades were hanged for events or incidents that took place during the period of intense political turmoil in the Eastern Cape in 1985 and 1986. They were all buried as paupers in unmarked graves in Mamelodi cemetery in Tshwane within hours of being hanged. At the time the bodies of hanged prisoners remained the property of the state and families were not permitted to attend the burial. It means you were a prisoner of the state even in death.

Today we are able to fully acknowledge and register our appreciation of their role in the struggle for freedom. The 1980s was a period of detention, death, imprisonment, banning of organizations and a state of emergency. Despite those conditions, they decided that their mission was the freedom of their country and its people from apartheid oppression.

Generations to come will know the outstanding heroism and bravery they displayed. They will know how their families were harassed and persecuted by the apartheid state by virtue of being related to them as fighters of freedom and justice.

Lungile Rewu, age 19, and Sipho Mahala, age 21, were among 8 persons charged with the murder of a 16 year old teenager on 2 November 1985 in Veeplaas in Port Elizabeth during violent clashes between UDF and AZAPO supporters. The teenager was suspected of being part of an AZAPO group sent to attack UDF supporters. 1 of the accused absconded and 4 were discharged at the end of the trial. Another was found guilty of common assault. Lungile Rewu and Sipho Mahala were convicted of murder without extenuating circumstances and sentenced to death on 20 May 1987. They were hanged 10 months later on 29 March 1988.

Thobile Lloyd, age 27, and Siphiwo Lande, age 22, were among ten individuals charged with murder. During the trial, eight of the accused escaped of whom 2 were recaptured. The 4 remaining accused faced charges regarding the killing of 2 men on 18 April 1985 and a policeman on 28 April 1985 in KwaZakhele in Port Elizabeth. In the 1st incident, a large group of UDF supporters decided at a people's court to execute certain individuals suspected of certain murders in the community. In the 2nd incident, a policeman was abducted from his home and also necklaced to death with car tyres. Thobile Lloyd was convicted of the 1st 2 murders and Siphiwo Lande of all 3. They were sentenced to death on 7 July 1987 and both were hanged 9 months later on 14 April 1988.

Kholisile Dyakala, age 33, and Zwelidumile Mjekula, age 36, were charged along with 2 other individuals with the murder of a security guard at Coega in Port Elizabeth on 9 June 1986 and robbery with aggravating circumstances. The state alleged that the 4 men set out to rob the security guard of his fire arm and shot him dead during the robbery. One of the accused was killed in an unrest related incident prior to the trial and the 4th accused was acquitted. Kholisile Dyakala and Zwelidumile Mjekula were sentenced to death on 14 December 1987 although Mjekula was only convicted on the basis of dolus eventualis. The 2 were hanged 11 months later on 24 November 1988.

Benjamin Mlondolozi Gxothiwe, age 27, and a member of the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress (PEYCO), was charged with the fatal shooting of a policeman on 25 December 1985 in Swartkops, Port Elizabeth. He was 1 of 6 individuals charged for the murder as well as the theft of a firearm and a motor vehicle. Although the court accepted that there was no evidence of premeditation to the killing of the policeman, Benjamin was sentenced to death in September 1987 and was hanged 6 months later on 25 March 1988.

Tsepo Letsoara, age 25, was 1 of 4 individuals charged with the murder of a young woman on 7 October 1985 in Motherwell in Port Elizabeth. The young woman was accused of being a police informer after she was detained under the State of Emergency with a large group of youth but was released a day later while the others were detained for over a month. Tsepo Letsoara was convicted and sentenced to death in September 1987 while his co-accused were discharged. He was refused leave to appeal his conviction and sentence and was hanged 6 months later on 18 March 1988.

Ndumiso Silo Siphenuka, age 25, and Makhezwene Menze, age 44, were among 8 persons charged with the murder of an elderly farmer and his wife on 17 June 1985 at Kirkwood, Eastern Cape. The court charged that members of the Addo Youth Congress met on 16 June 1985 and decided to launch an attack on the farm the following day. All 8 accused were convicted of murder on the basis of common purpose, but extenuating circumstances were found in the case of 4 due to their young ages, and prison sentences were imposed on them. The remaining 4 were sentenced to death. 2 were later commuted to prison terms. Ndumiso Siphenuka and Makhezwene Menze were hanged on 20 April 1989.

Raymond Welile Gwebushe, age 29, from Jansenville in the Eastern Cape, was charged with the murder of a suspected police informant. On 6 April 1985, a meeting of the Jansenville Youth Congress was held attended by several hundred youth at which a decision was taken to execute the alleged informant. Raymond was convicted of murder without extenuating circumstances and was sentenced to death on 6 June 1986. The State President declined to grant mercy and he was hanged on 19 August 1987.

Mangena Jeffrey Boesman, age 37, was 1 of 8 persons charged with the murder of a school teacher on 19 October 1985 in the town of Sterkstroom, Eastern Cape. A large group attacked the teacher's home as she was defying the longstanding school boycott and was believed to be reporting incidents to the police. Mangena Boesman and 2 fellow accused were sentenced to death on 21 October 1988 for her murder. His 2 fellow condemned received a reprieve seven days before their execution. Mangena Boesman was hanged on 29 September 1989. He was the last political prisoner to be executed.

The Missing Persons Task Team (MPTT) and the TRC unit have exhumed 105 remains of the freedom fighters, 24 identified and ready to be handed to their families while 10 are awaiting DNA and forensic examinations. On the Gallows Exhumation Project, out of 83 of those hanged, 37 remains of individuals belonging to both UDF and PAC have been exhumed leaving us with 46.

During apartheid rule it was common for black people convicted of murdering whites to be sentenced to death, but very rare for whites who murdered blacks to be given the death sentence. A study of death sentences in 1 year found that 47% of blacks convicted of murdering whites were given the death sentence as opposed to no death sentences at all for whites convicted of murdering blacks. Between 1960 and 1990, at least 140 individuals were hanged for politically motivated offences.

Our country has since changed this reality and established a society that values human rights. As one of the leading nations in the promotion of human rights, South Africa has taken a progressive stance to end the death penalty. Our democratic constitution which has guided us for the past 20 years declares the right to life as a fundamental human right. The Constitution also implores us to uphold the dignity of all living human beings. We hope that the recovery of these remains will go some way towards relieving the decades of pain experienced by the families of those hanged, and at last allow them to be buried with the dignity they deserve.

I must take this opportunity and express our gratitude to the provincial government led by Premier Masualle and MEC Majodina for its support to this project, national Department of Defence and Military Veterans,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality, , Ekurhuleni Metro, Missing Persons Task Team and our TRC unit under the leadership of Madeleine Fullard and Thapelo Mokushane of the TRC Unit team for all the hard work that yielded these results.

As we proceed to take these cadres to be with their forebears, let us then be reminded to constantly be on guard, to defend this democracy, for it did not come cheap.

Masibakhaphe Ngesidima Ogatyeni, Otshangisa, Ombona, Omokoena, Ompondo, Osduli, Omzangwa, Omsiya, Omgcina, Omadiba, Odlomo, Nocirha.


I thank you.

Issued by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, 6 November 2017



'Black widow' murder case casts shadow on lonely hearts among Japan's elderly

The sensational case of a serial killer, dubbed Japan's "black widow" and accused of killing elderly men - all of whom she met through a matchmaking service - has cast a shadow over a growing trend of elderly Japanese people seeking partners.

The case of 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi - who repeatedly met, dated and married elderly men, including her 4 victims - came at a time when elderly people have become more and more interested in finding partners amid a rapidly aging population and the spread of nuclear families in the country.

Kakehi was given the death sentence by the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday for the murders of her 75-year-old husband Isao and common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, as well as for the attempted murder of her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide between 2007 and 2013.

Kakehi had registered with a matchmaking service in the hope of meeting wealthy men with an annual income of more than 10 million Yen ($87,900). She married or was associated with more than 10 men and inherited about 1 billion Yen, though she eventually fell into debt.

But there is a view that Kakehi's case may not deter elderly people from falling prey to similar schemes, apparently due to an anticipated rise in elderly people living alone and no conclusive measures to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

"I will stay with you for the rest of my life," Kakehi wrote in an email to her husband, which was read during her trial. The email was sent to him before his death. It was apparent that immediately after meeting Kakehi through matchmaking, he was smitten by her charms and determined to marry her.

At a court hearing, a man in his 80s who said he dated Kakehi around the time of her husband's death took the stand as a witness.

"My wife died, and living alone was tough, so I wanted to live together (with Kakehi)," the man recounted.

The 2 met through matchmaking, and in their 4th meeting, he entrusted her with his house key. He eventually broke up with her, at the warning of local police, who found the circumstances of her husband's death suspicious.

Still, the man had good words to say about Kakehi, describing her as a "good woman."

According to a survey by a major marriage-hunting service company, there has been a rise in the number of people of middle age or older who have remained unmarried through their lives but are looking for partners. Of that age group, many men aged 65 and older use websites and marriage consultation centers.

The company has also started a new service catering to middle-aged and elderly people in recent years.

Novelist Hiroyuki Kurokawa, who wrote a book in 2014 about a woman who was angling for inheritance by repeatedly marrying and dating elderly men, said, "At marriage consultation centers, elderly men are popular."

Kurokawa, 68, discussed the psyche of elderly men, who have a short time left and assets to spare.

"A man, who lives on his own and far from his family, would want (someone) to be with him, even if he knew his partner is only out for his money," said Kurokawa, a recipient of the renowned Naoki Prize for popular fiction.

While the case brought to light the tactics of a scheming wife and serves as a cautionary tale, Kurokawa warned that there is no "preventive measure" to ensure that a similar incident does not occur.

"Elderly people living alone will increase due to a longer average life span. Those becoming 2nd wives are also on the rise," he said.

(source: Japan Times)


3 Men Get Death Penalty For Killing Woman, Son After Raping Her In Rajasthan----The 3 convicts were booked in December 2012 by Udhyognagar police in Rajasthan's Kota on charges of robbery, gang-rape and murder

3 people have been sentenced to death for raping a 30-year-old woman and killing her along with her minor son after a robbery in December 2012 in Rajasthan's Kota. The Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes special in Kota also imposed a fine of Rs. 75,000 on the three convicts.

The 3 were booked in December 2012 in Udhyognagar police station in the city on charges of robbery, gang-rape and murder.

Judge Girish Kumar Agrawal convicted Kapil Anna and Imran Dillhi Wala, both residents of Udhyognagar in Kota, and Tipu Sultan Aabeed of Tonk district, Special Public Prosecutor Kamal Kant Sharma said. The three convicts are between 22 and 25 years old, he said.

The 3 were also sentenced to life imprisonment.

Police said the 3 men broke into the house of Shiva Koli at night and looted jewellery, cash and other items. They gang-raped Shiva's wife, who was sleeping with her minor son in the room, the special public prosecutor said.

The 3 convicts then shot dead the woman and her son and escaped after placing the boy's body in a box, he added.

Udhyognagar police had on December 6, 2012 filed a case and then arrested the 3 men after investigation. They have been in jail since.

35 witnesses have been produced before the court, the prosecutor said.



CTG GANG RAPE IN 2005----HC commutes death penalty of 3

The High Court yesterday commuted the death sentence of three convicts to life imprisonment in a case filed for gang rape of a Brac employee at Banshkhali in Chittagong in 2005.

The convicts are Md Shofi Alom, Md Kalu and Md Abul Hossain. Kalu is now on the run, Deputy Attorney General Md Bashir Ullah told The Daily Star.

The bench of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha and Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam delivered the verdict after hearing the death reference and appeals filed by the convicts against the trial court verdict that had sentenced them to death, he said.

Bashir said the 30-year-old health official of Brac was a mother of three children. She was gang raped by the convicts in Jaldi area in Banshkhali on June 12, 2005.

The Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-1 of Chittagong on January 5, 2015 sentenced the 3 to death, he said, adding that the HC commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds that the 2 convicts were in condemn cell for a long time and death sentence for rape is harsh.

(source: The Daily Star)


\Alleged killer of Depok housemaid might get death sentence

The alleged killer of domestic worker Samsiah, 40, in Depok, West Java, is threatened with the death penalty, according to an official.

"The threat is a death sentence or lifetime imprisonment," Depok Police's criminal unit head Comr. Putu Kholis Aryana said on Wednesday as quoted by

Separately, the Depok Police's head Herry Heryawan said the suspect was upset with Samsiah because the latter urged him to pay his debt to her.

"The suspect and the victim argued because the latter asked him to give back her money," said Herry. After the argument, the suspect allegedly committed violence against the pregnant woman. Samsiah was found dead on Nov. 5.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

NOVEMBER 7, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution//Vienna Convention issues

UN experts urge US to halt Texas execution of Mexican Ruben Cardenas Ramirez

2 UN human rights experts have called on the US Government to halt the execution of a Mexican national amid concerns that he did not receive a fair trial.

Ruben Cardenas Ramrrez is due to be executed in Texas at 18:00 CST on 8 November 2017.

"If the scheduled execution of Mr Cardenas goes ahead, the US Government will have implemented a death penalty without complying with international human rights standards," the experts said. "This will be tantamount to an arbitrary deprivation of life.

"We call for his death sentence to be annulled and for Mr Cardenas to be re-tried in compliance with international standards relating to due process and fair trial."

Mr Cardenas, who was convicted of capital murder in 1998, did not have access to a lawyer for the first 11 days of his detention. Some of the statements he made during this period were relied on by prosecutors during the trial.

At the time of his arrest, Mr Cardenas was not informed of his right to seek consular assistance. The UN's International Court of Justice later found that the US Government had breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and ordered the Government not to execute Mr Cardenas until his case had been reconsidered.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also called for a new trial which respects due process and fair trial standards.

The experts added: "If Texas proceeds with the execution of Mr Cardenas, this action will put the US in breach of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, which are binding on all levels of government and public authorities."



Commentary: A sad day for human rights in Texas

An execution date for Ruben Cardenas-Ramirez, a Mexican national challenging his murder conviction, was set for Wednesday.

Tomorrow could be a sad day for those of us who believe in human rights. If Ruben Cardenas-Ramirez, a Mexican national, faces his scheduled execution, another battle to preserve the right to life and justice will be lost.

For the government of Mexico this is not an issue about culpability or innocence, but about respect for human rights and due process. Because we hold these principles as unalienable rights, Mexico has displayed a solid legal strategy to assist Cardenas-Ramirez and 57 other Mexican nationals who are facing the death penalty in the United States.

Since the beginning of his case - Cardenas-Ramirez was charged in the 1997 rape and murder of his 16-year-old cousin in South Texas - he was denied the right to due process of law, as he was not granted prompt access to consular assistance. Mexico presented Cardenas-Ramirez's case to the International Court of Justice, along with those of other Mexican nationals sentenced to death in the United States. In 2004, the court decided in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals. The judgment stated that the U.S. breached its obligations under international law by not notifying Mexican authorities about the arrest of 51 of its nationals, thus denying them the right to consular assistance from their government.

In 2010, at the request of the government of Mexico, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued its opinion on the matter. The commission recommended that the government of Texas cancel the execution of Cardenas-Ramirez and provide him with a new trial. Furthermore, Cardenas-Ramirez's case was included in the Mexican government's Capital Legal Assistance Program, which provides highly specialized legal assistance for Mexicans facing the death penalty in the United States.

Through legal and diplomatic channels, Cardenas Ramirez's lawyers have requested that Texas authorities consider their client's claim of innocence and allow a new DNA test to be conducted. Additionally, the government of Mexico has repeatedly requested that Texas honor U.S. international commitments and abide by international law.

Despite all efforts, an execution date was fixed for Wednesday. In response, the government of Mexico and many other countries, as well as international organizations and civil society, have petitioned Texas authorities for clemency on behalf of Cardenas-Ramirez. The Consulate General of Mexico in Austin delivered over 20 petition letters from Mexican federal and state authorities to the governor of Texas and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The petition has been echoed by other nations that firmly oppose the death penalty.

Mexico stands against the execution of Ruben Cardenas-Ramirez and any other person facing the death penalty. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, capital punishment undermines human dignity. It has an irrevocable nature, posing an unacceptable risk of executing innocent people. There is no evidence proving that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime. Furthermore, it has been deemed to be a form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, given the extreme conditions prisoners endure for many years while waiting in death row.

The government of Mexico firmly believes in the fundamental nature of the right to life. For this reason, we consider that capital punishment constitutes one of the most essential violations of human rights. Like many countries, Mexico opposes capital punishment. Tomorrow will be a day of grieving. Nonetheless, we will continue tirelessly protecting our nationals.

(source: Commentary; Gonzalez-Gutierrez is the consul general of Mexico in Austin----Austin American-Statesman)


Simpson murder suspects to face death penalty----District Attorney: 'They lured him out to this location in Caswell County' to attack and kill 84-year-old victim

District Attorney Pat Nadolski informed the court Monday, Nov. 6, that his office will seek the death penalty against Sean Damion Castorina and Penny Michelle Dawson, each charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Harold D. Simpson, 84, this past summer.

Castorina, 42, and Dawson, 40, are accused of killing Simpson in rural Caswell County in August, fleeing to Virginia where, Nadolski said, they shot another woman and left her for dead, and ultimately were arrested in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Simpson went missing Aug. 19. His silver 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt was found abandoned in Nelson County, Va., 3 days later, and according to police, items belonging to Castorina and Dawson were found inside.

Human remains believed to be Simpson's were found in late August off Totten Road in Caswell County.

Nadolski said Dawson had befriended Simpson months before his death with the aim of getting "money and support," and on Aug. 19, they got him to the isolated place.

"They lured him out to this location in Caswell County," Nadolski said.

Nadolski said both defendants attacked Simpson, tried to strangle him, and then killed him by shoving his own walking stick down his mouth and throat.

The couple fled to Shipman, Va., where Castorina had a friend. While trying to steal some things from the friend's house, Nadolski said, the friend's girlfriend came by to check on the house. Castorina and Dawson are charged also with taking the Virginia woman against her will, tying her up, blindfolding her, putting her in a bathtub, shooting her in the back of the head, leaving her for dead and stealing her 2002 Dodge Dakota on Aug. 22.

The woman was taken to UVA Hospital in Charlottesville and was able to identify Castorina and Dawson as suspects. Virginia State Police have charged Castorina and Dawson with malicious wounding and use of a firearm.

While the prosecution believes Simpson was killed in Caswell County, according to First Assistant District Attorney Corey Santos, the defendants planned the murder and began the chain of events in Alamance County.

"It is our view that there is concurrent jurisdiction in both Alamance and Caswell County, but we have elected to prosecute," Santos wrote to the Times-News.

State law requires evidence of at least 1 of 11 aggravating factors in a murder case before prosecutors can pursue capital punishment, including committing the crime while incarcerated, against a law enforcement officer, or in the furtherance of a violent crime such as rape or for financial gain.

In this case, prosecutors allege the aggravating factors are murder in the course of another crime, for financial gain, and as part of a course involving violent crimes against other people.

Castorina also faces the aggravating factor of previously having been convicted of a violent crime. He was convicted in 2005 of 2nd-degree murder in Johnston County and served 16 years, 6 months in prison.

"At this point there's not much to say," said Castorina's lawyer Todd Smith. "He maintains his innocence, and we're ready to move forward, judge."

Dawson's lawyer is Robert Collins.



Lexington man charged in fire, explosion on UNC campus

After deciding that Garry Gupton was guilty of setting a United States veteran on fire and ultimately killing him, jurors now must decide whether Gupton deserves a death sentence.

Jurors returned to Guilford County Superior Court Monday after a week off and listened to Gupton's friends and family talk about what "a good person" Gupton is.

Last Monday, jurors found Gupton guilty of 1st-degree murder and 1st-degree arson after setting Stephen White on fire in the Battleground Inn on Nov. 9, 2014.

White and Gupton met the night before at Chemistry Nightclub, a gay bar and lounge. Gupton had been struggling with his sexuality but went back to the hotel and had oral sex with White. Gupton testified that the sexual encounter went further than he expected and he ended up beating and strangling White before setting a fire next to White's unconscious body.

Doctors spent the next six days trying to save White, who suffered from burns so severe his bones were exposed. White died from his injuries on Nov. 15, 2014.

Gupton's defense team, Ames Chamberlin and Wayne Baucino, tried to prove to jurors that Gupton was insane at the time of the attack. Ultimately, the jury decided he was guilty of both the murder and 1st-degree arson but was not insane.

"We respect your verdict," Chamberlin told the jurors this morning. "We're no longer talking about excuses or justifications."

Now, the defense is trying to point out the good qualities about Gupton and the personal problems he went through before White's death. The defense wants to stop the jurors from choosing the death penalty instead of life in prison.

Witnesses spoke Monday about those hardships, the friendships Gupton formed with classmates and neighbors, and the support he gave to his family in moments of sorrow.

They spoke of Gupton's diabetes diagnosis before kindergarten, the intense bullying he experienced because of his disabilities, his mother's death while he was in high school and his struggles with whether he was gay or straight.

Jurors heard from several classmates, a roommate, a neighbor, Gupton's landlord, his boss, an aunt and his grandmother before taking a break for lunch.

Each told jurors that his actions did not change the way they felt about him.

"I will love him always," said Mabel Gupton, the defendant's grandmother.

The capital sentencing hearing resumes at 2 p.m.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)


Supreme Court Removes Obstacle to Executing Alabama Inmate----The Supreme Court has removed an obstacle to Alabama's efforts to execute a convicted killer who is in declining health.

The Supreme Court on Monday removed an obstacle to Alabama's efforts to execute a convicted killer who is in declining health, ruling the inmate knows he will be put to death as punishment.

The justices unanimously reversed an appellate ruling that had blocked the execution of Vernon Madison, who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1985.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office would seek an execution date for Madison.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Madison, 67, is incompetent to be executed because he has suffered from strokes and doesn't understand his death sentence or remember what he did.

The Supreme Court said in an unsigned opinion that testimony shows Madison "recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed," even if he doesn't remember the killing itself.

The court noted that federal courts' review of Madison's case is constrained because of a 1996 law that was intended to limit federal judges' second-guessing of state court decisions. State courts upheld Madison's death sentence, and the Supreme Court, applying the 1996 law, said those decisions should be respected.

"Under that deferential standard, Madison's claim ... must fail," the court wrote.

The justices have never ruled on whether someone who doesn't remember their crime can be executed.

Madison was convicted of killing Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a domestic call involving Madison. Prosecutors said Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Madison has been on death row "nearly half his life," Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a separate opinion in which he renewed his call for the court to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Attorneys from the Equal Justice Initiative who are representing Madison argued that his health declined during his decades on death row and that strokes and dementia have left him frequently confused and disoriented. The Equal Justice Initiative is a Montgomery, Alabama-based nonprofit organization that represents prisoners in need, including those on death row.

The appellate court in May halted Madison's execution seven hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection. A divided U.S. Supreme Court maintained the stay.

(source: Associated Press)


Supreme Court upholds death sentence for man who can't remember his crime

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Alabama prisoner on death row for more than 30 years can be executed despite having no memory of his crime.

The justices, without any noted dissents, reversed a federal appeals court ruling that had struck down Vernon Madison's death sentence for killing a police officer. The lower court said that because Madison had suffered strokes in prison and could not remember the crime, he could not make sense of his punishment.

But the Supreme Court ruled that there is a difference between condemned inmates who cannot recall their crimes and those who cannot "rationally comprehend the concepts of crime and punishment." They said under federal law, Madison's lawyers had not proved he was incapable of understanding that.

State and federal courts had upheld the death sentence on that basis, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed those decisions.

The Supreme Court, however, said the state court reasonably "determined that Madison is competent to be executed because - notwithstanding his memory loss - he recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed."

3 of the court's more liberal justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor - agreed. But they said the court has never ruled on the specific question of memory loss and should hear such a case in the future.

Breyer wrote separately to repeat his concerns, first aired in a 2015 case, that the death penalty may be unconstitutional. Among many reasons, he said Madison's imprisonment on death row since the 1985 murder means he has lived with the specter of death for 32 years, which he said "can deepen the cruelty of the death penalty while at the same time undermining its penological rationale."

(source: USA Today)

ARKANSAS----impending execution

Stay of Execution Filed for AR Death Row Inmate Greene

Attorneys for Arkansas Death Row inmate Jack Greene have filed an emergency petition for a stay of execution with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The petition was submitted late Monday morning.

The convicted killer has been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday.

"Multiple doctors have diagnosed Jack Gordon Greene with a severe mental illness-specifically, Delusional Disorder," the petition begins. "Greene believes that, for the past 13 years, his attorneys and the Arkansas Department of Correction have conspired to torture him."

" Greene's mind, his execution is the ultimate act in a cover-up of what he calls "crimes against humanity," the motion continues.

The Arkansas Attorney General's Office issued this statement after the petition was filed:

"Attorney General Rutledge is reviewing the petition filed today with the Arkansas Supreme Court from Inmate Greene. She opposes the inmate's request for a stay and will file a response within the time frame set forth by the Court."



Jury can't reach unanimous decision for Craig Wood sentence----After more than 4 hours of deliberation a jury could not come to a unanimous decision on whether Craig Wood should be sentenced to death

A jury could not come to a unanimous decision Monday on whether Craig Wood, who killed 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014, should be sentenced to death.

The jury's decision was announced after more than 4 hours of deliberation.

A motion for a new trial will be heard on Jan. 11. Judge Thomas Mountjoy said that if the motion is dismissed, he will proceed to sentence Wood.

Prosecutors had argued Wood deserved the death penalty for kidnapping and raping Hailey, then taking her down to his basement and shooting her in the head.

A 12-0 decision was needed from the Platte County jurors for Wood to get the death penalty.

The jury found Wood guilty of 1st-degree murder last week. Under state law, the only punishments allowed for a 1st-degree murder conviction are life in prison and the death penalty.

Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson gave his closing argument, asking the jurors to give Craig Wood the death penalty for murdering Springfield 10-year-old Hailey Owens.

"This is it," Patterson said. "This is the case. This is the case that calls for strict enforcement of the law and the ultimate penalty, the death penalty."

Patterson reminded jurors of the details of the crime - Wood snatched Hailey off the street, took the girl back to his home, sexually assaulted her and shot her to death.

"I'm at a loss for words how to accurately and adequately describe what Hailey went through on that day," Patterson said. "I just don't have the words to describe it."

In his closing arguments, Wood's attorney Patrick Berrigan urged the jurors to consider mercy.

"You now decide for yourself because each one of you is going to be living the rest of your life with this decision, too," Berrigan told the jurors. "You don't have to defend it, and you don't have to explain it."

There must be at least 1 "aggravating factor" to sentence someone to death. State law outlines several aggravating factors, and prosecutors said several apply to Wood's killing of Hailey, including that:

The jury found that all of those were acceptable aggravating factors. The jury also found that none of the mitigating circumstances outweighed the aggravating factors.

Ultimately, though, the jury passed the decision to sentence Wood to Judge Mountjoy.

Hailey's mother, Stacey Herman, told reporters she trusts Mountjoy to make a fair decision.

For at least 2 more months, Greene County residents will have to wait to hear whether Wood dies of natural causes or at the hands of the state.

Berrigan previously said that Wood was willing to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty.

Herman told the News-Leader in April that she would like to avoid a trial and she asked Patterson to accept the plea deal.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)


Accused Colorado Walmart shooter Scott Ostrem to be formally charged Monday

The man accused of shooting and killing 3 people at a Thornton Walmart last week is expected to be formally charged in the case Monday afternoon.

Scott Allen Ostrem, 47, is expected to have formal charges filed against him at a 1:30 p.m. court appearance in Adams County. You can watch the hearing live in the player embedded below, or by clicking here.

His arrest warrant carried three first-degree murder after deliberation charges, but District Attorney Dave Young said Friday that Ostrem would likely see "multiple counts" in the case, possibly including attempted murder.

"When you fire into a crowd of people you don't necessarily need to fire more than one shot to be convicted or charged with attempted murder," Young said Friday.

Should Ostrem face either 1st-degree murder or felony murder charges and be convicted, he could possibly face the death penalty.

Colorado hasn't executed anyone since 1997, though 3 inmates remain on death row. Gov. John Hickenlooper has pledged to not execute anyone while he's in office, but the state will elect a new governor next November.

Class 1 felony convictions are also punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Should Ostrem face and be convicted of a class 1 felony, like 1st-degree murder, a separate sentencing hearing would be held to determine if prosecutors would seek the death penalty or not.

Also, if a person is found to be mentally incompetent to be executed, the state is barred from executing them in accordance with state law. A law enforcement source told Denver7 last week Ostrem's mental health history was being evaluated.

Young would not comment Friday on whether he would seek the death penalty for Ostrem.

The filing of formal charges against Ostrem could also unveil more details about the shooting, which officials have yet to say much about. Thornton police are leading the investigation, but the FBI is also involved. Neither had determined a motive in the shooting as of Friday, and the affidavit in the case has been under seal.

Police arrested Ostrem near 72nd Ave. and Federal Thursday morning more than 12 hours after the shooting occurred. An anonymous citizen tip alerted authorities to his presence in the area, police said, though FBI agents also spotted him in the area. Ostrem was arrested just a few blocks from his apartment.

The coroner for Adams and Broomfield counties on Thursday identified the 3 killed in the shooting as 52-year-old Pamela Marques of Denver, 66-year-old Carlos Moreno of Thornton, and 26-year-old Victor Vasquez of Denver.

Ostrem had a history of run-ins with the police - most recently a driving while ability impaired conviction in Wheat Ridge in 2014. Neighbors said he was "weird" and kept to himself. Another neighbor told Denver7 Ostrem came off as rude and unapproachable.

"He was on the edge, not friendly, wouldn't talk to anybody," said neighbor Teresa Muniz. "You didn't dare talk to him, because he always looked mad."

Ostrem walked off his roofing job Wednesday morning in Frederick, the company confirmed, but was otherwise a "good worker," fellow employees said. He also had several failed businesses, and declared bankruptcy in September 2015. He was held without bond over the weekend pending the filing of the formal charges. Denver7 is expecting to stream is court appearance live on this page and on Facebook.


NEVADA----impending volunteer execution

Arguments continue over drugs set to be used in execution of Scott Dozier

In just 7 days, the state of Nevada is set to execute a convicted killer.

Scott Dozier has said repeatedly he is ready to die, but defense attorneys want to make sure he doesn't suffer.

On Monday, both sides were back in court, still arguing over how the execution will happen.

One point of contention for the defense is that the acting Chief Medical Officer for the state is a psychiatrist, not an anesthesiologist.

The doctor who will actually oversee the execution isn't either; he's in family practice.

The issue for the judge is making sure Dozier's death is not cruel and unusual punishment.

"I think the one thing we can agree on is that no one wants a botched execution," said David Anthony, Assistant Federal Public Defender.

Anthony says there's no shame in hitting the pause button, as he looks out for the interests of Dozier.

The convicted killer has stated in the past that he's ready to die.

The state is ready to move forward Nov. 14, administering a never-before-used 3-drug cocktail.

After hearing from an anesthesiologist on Friday, the defense worries that 1 of those drugs, a paralytic, would amount to suffocating Dozier.

"There's nothing wrong with the protocol as it stands now if it's done right. If the dosing is done right, if the administration is done right, and if somebody who is experienced in depth of anesthesia, he will not suffer," said Judge Jennifer Togliatti.

Still, Anthony points to another execution from 2014 out of Arizona.

The lethal injection death of Joseph Wood took more than 2 hours. Some witnesses described Wood as gasping for air -- something Dozier's team is trying to avoid.

"After the botch we're talking about in the Wood case, that brought executions in Arizona to a standstill, they would rather not execute a person than use a paralytic," said Anthony.

But according to the state of Nevada, the decision to stop next week's execution sits with one person, the defendant himself.

"If Mr. Dozier decides he doesn't want to go forward, then Mr. Dozier can say that. If Mr. Dozier wants a stay, Mr. Dozier can say that," said Jordan Smith, Assistant Solicitor General.

On Wednesday, the judge will hear from Dozier 1 more time, appearing via video conference from prison.

Togliatti wants to make sure he understands exactly what is being discussed when it comes to the drugs and prison protocol for his execution.

(source: NBC News)


Against a 'Cruel and Unusual' Death----Nevada must not allow a death-row inmate to 'volunteer' for execution by fentanyl and other drugs.

Last Thursday, the ACLU launched a petition drive aimed at convincing Nevada's governor to stop the execution of Scott Dozier. A convicted murderer, Dozier has ended all of his legal appeals and asked that his capital sentence be carried out without further delay. He is scheduled to be put to death on Nov. 14.

If Dozier gets his wish, he would be the 1st in Nevada since 2006 and the 22nd execution in the United States this year. He also would be the 142nd "volunteer" to be executed since the United States resumed executing people in 1976.

Nevada intends to kill Dozier using a previously untested lethal injection protocol, including the controversial drug fentanyl, which has played a large role in America's opioid epidemic.

But Dozier's execution raises serious questions about whether death-row inmates should be allowed to waive their legal rights and volunteer to die, especially when the methods used to kill them risk violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Dozier is by no means a sympathetic character. Having previously been convicted of second degree murder in Arizona, he was found guilty and sentenced a decade ago for a gruesome murder. Dozier robbed and killed 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller in a Las Vegas motel. He cut his corpse into pieces, and Miller's head, arms and legs have never been found.

On Oct. 31, 2016, Dozier wrote to District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, informing her that he wished to waive all remaining appeals and be put to death as expeditiously as possible. He told friends and family that "he is tired of life [and that] he envisions his path to the execution chamber." He told a lawyer, "Perhaps there's some fundamental differences in our philosophies of life. And I think I recognize this causes you cognitive dissonance because it's just never going to make sense. But I think you find life has a deeper inherent value than I believe, especially in mine."

While controversial, courts have consistently upheld the right of death-row inmates to forgo their appeals, so long as they are "competent" to make that decision. As the Supreme Court put it in a 1966 decision, judges hearing such requests need to assess whether a death-row inmate "has [the] capacity to appreciate his position and make a rational choice with respect to continuing or abandoning further litigation."

But can decisions when made on death row ever be "competent" and "rational"? Conditions there are dreadful, by any standard, enough to make us question whether inmates can feel free in any sense to make life and death decisions. And almost 90 percent of those who have waived their appeals in death cases suffered from some form of mental illness at the time they made their decisions.

In Dozier's case, there is a further complication beyond his request to be executed promptly. The method Nevada intends to use for his execution raises serious questions. While Dozier has said that if it were up to him he would like to die by firing squad, he acknowledges that the decision is not his.

Nevada, having failed in its efforts to obtain other drugs more commonly used in American executions, will use a new and untested lethal injection protocol. That protocol involves the sedative diazepam (better known as Valium), the muscle relaxant and paralytic cisatracurium and the opioid fentanyl.

As one commentator recently observed, "You got something that's killing hundreds of people a day across the United States. And you got prisons who can't get death penalty drugs, so they're turning to the drug that's killing hundreds of people across the United States. This sounds like an article from the Onion."

In addition, both the combination and sequence of drugs seem odd, since fentanyl and diazepam each cause unconsciousness. If taken in large enough doses, either can bring about death.

When other drugs, like midazolam, have been used in executions, there have been dosing problems, and one wonders whether the state wishes to administer two such drugs as if to circumvent those risks.

And, if the other drugs don't work, cisatracurium will prevent Dozier from registering pain, even as he experiences the feeling of being unable to breathe and suffocating to death.

We have no idea how this drug cocktail will affect Dozier, but there is little reason to have faith in its effectiveness. Lethal injection, even when it used a standard drug protocol for decades, was America's most unreliable method of execution.

Because Nevada's protocol is at best "experimental," wrote a former county prosecutor, "the risk of a botched execution is real."

The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once said that "the Eighth Amendment not only protects the right of individuals not to be victims of cruel and unusual punishment, but ... also expresses a fundamental interest of society in ensuring that state authority is not used to administer barbaric punishments."

Nevada's plan to execute Scott Dozier threatens to violate the Eighth Amendment. For that reason, the decision to die should not be left to him.

Nevada's governor needs to act to protect the "fundamental interest" that Marshall described. The governor can do so by stopping his state from proceeding with what can only be deemed a cruel form of human experimentation.

(source: Op-Ed; Austin Sarat is associate dean of the faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College----US News & World Report)


Prisoner wants to die, but debate rages in Nevada over whether to use a new lethal drug

Defense attorney David Anthony faced a dilemma Monday as he argued that his client shouldn’t be put to death with a new, untested lethal injection cocktail: As long as his client professes an unequivocal desire to die, saving him might prove difficult, if not impossible.

And time is running short, with Scott Dozier facing execution on Nov. 14

Anthony can't ask for a stay of execution if Dozier doesn't want it - and Dozier has said he doesn't want one.

"These issues pose a moral dilemma," the lawyer said outside a Las Vegas courtroom where he argued for a delay of the execution.

Anthony said there also remain concerns about the use of a paralytic drug during the lethal injection. Testimony by an expert on Friday suggested it could lead to pain and suffering for Dozier. And Anthony argued that it was especially risky since it would be administered by out-of-practice prison personnel, under a new chief medical officer.

Dr. John DiMuro, an anesthesiologist who stepped down from his post as Nevada's chief medical officer about a week ago, was replaced by a psychiatrist, according to Assistant Solicitor General Jordan Smith.

That change had led to uncertainty in a state that doesn’t carry out executions with regularity. The last execution in Nevada was in 2006. Anthony argued that a psychiatrist simply didn't have the same experience for overseeing the protocols for drug-based executions.

Smith argued there would be an attending physician who oversaw Dozier's execution and that there would be trained medical personnel present as well.

The paralytic drug cisatracurium is at the center of the controversy. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, the state would be the 1st to use the paralytic during an execution in combination with fentanyl and diazepam. There are fears cisatracurium would simply act as a mask - paralyzing Dozier while his body was in pain and he experienced "air hunger" - the phenomenon of not being able to breathe.

"It's not a shame for anyone here if we need to push the pause button," Anthony said. "If it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do."

The 46-year-old death row inmate was convicted in 2007 of murdering and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller 5 years prior at a Las Vegas motel. He also was convicted in Arizona 12 years ago for the murder of 26-year-old Jasen Green.

A little more than a year ago, Dozier asked to waive his appeals and sought to be put to death as soon as possible. Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti signed his death warrant, but said she wanted to proceed with "an abundance of caution."

Anthony brought in Dr. David Waisel, a Boston-based anesthesiologist, on Friday to testify that Nevada's desire to use a paralytic drug could mask any pain and suffering by Dozier as his body is injected with fatal doses of fentanyl and diazepam.

But Waisel also was critical of the state's lack of practice in administering the toxic cocktail of drugs via lethal injection - noting it's been 11 years since Nevada executed an inmate.

"Lethal injection in Nevada is ripe for error," Waisel said in brief filed Monday. "Nearly every tenet for safety is violated. It is a dramatically unfamiliar situation and location for the individuals performing the injections. Even for experienced individuals this increases risk; it is increased even more for the inexperienced, especially without high quality practice."

Smith said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the potential for errors during an execution does not violate the cruel and unusual punishment standard. And Waisel acknowledged that if the process were carried out correctly and exactly, the risk of suffering would be minimal.

"It's never a guarantee that an error wouldn't happen," Smith said.

Atty. Gen. Adam Laxalt's office said it would not comment on pending litigation.

Togliatti didn't rule Monday on the use of the paralytic and said she wanted Dozier present via video from his cell in Ely when the hearing resumed Wednesday.

The judge also said she wanted to give Anthony time to consult with Dozier about the risks laid out about the use of the drugs, the issue of a new medical director overseeing the state's protocols he didn't establish and how the drugs would be administered.

"Part of the struggle I'm having is, we're not a regular execution state," Togliatti said. "We don't do this on a regular basis."

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Nevada names interim medical officer ahead of execution

Nevada officials are pressing toward the state's 1st execution in 11 years, naming the state's top psychiatrist as interim replacement for the anesthesiologist who resigned last week after signing off on the lethal injection plan.

Jordan Smith, of the state attorney general's office, told a judge Monday in Las Vegas that Dr. Leon Ravin (RAY'-vehn) has replaced Dr. John DiMuro as the state's top doctor.

That makes Ravin the medical official with primary responsibility for next week's scheduled execution of twice-convicted murderer Scott Dozier.

Dozier wants his sentence carried out.

But he's letting federal public defenders challenge the state plan to use a never-before-tried combination of drugs for his scheduled Nov. 14 execution at Ely State Prison.

The judge says she'll hear from Dozier himself on Wednesday.

(source: Associated Press)


Why we want the Supreme Court to nix Arizona's death penalty----The author of Arizona's death penalty statue now argues it's unconstitutional. More than 20 former judges, prosecutors and legal experts want the U.S. Supreme Court to agree.

We've been tinkering with the death penalty for 40 years, but haven't been able to remove mistakes and unfairness from the system.

As president of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, I joined with more than 20 former Arizona judges, former prosecutors and legal experts to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to accept a challenge to Arizona's death penalty statute and end capital punishment in our state and nationwide.

Former Judge Rudy Gerber, who co-authored Arizona's death penalty statute, has joined in our challenge to the statute, agreeing that it is now unconstitutional. Why?

Most cases can't be 'worst of the worst'

The court has held that the death penalty is only constitutional if it is reserved for the "worst of the worst." To comply with this narrowing requirement, prosecutors must prove there is at least one aggravating factor before the death penalty can be imposed.

Gerber, to help comply with this requirement, co-drafted the statute with six aggravating factors, any one of which qualifies a defendant for the death penalty. Over time, the Arizona Legislature has piled on more. Today, prosecutors have 14 aggravating circumstances to allege.

There are now so many aggravating factors that Arizona prosecutors can seek the death penalty in 99 % of 1st-degree murder cases. 99 % of cases cannot all be "the worst."

The Legislature has failed its constitutional duty to narrow the death penalty to the most deserving offenders. The prosecuting agency has the right to decide in which cases it will pursue the death penalty, and the exercise of that discretion varies throughout the state, from zero in some counties to among the highest in the country in others.

Maricopa County leads the nation in death penalty sentences, with a far greater number of cases prosecuted as capital crimes. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that these defendants have the right to counsel and these attorneys must be specially trained and qualified.

One consequence is that the county, on multiple occasions, has run out of defense attorneys who are qualified to handle capital cases. As a result, capital cases often wait - sometimes for years - for justice for all parties involved.

There currently are a staggering 56 death penalty cases pending in Maricopa County's Superior Court. Capital murder cases cost 8 to 40 times more than 1st-degree murder cases where the death penalty isn't being sought.

Increased costs include not only attorneys but court administration, housing, jury compensation and delays to other cases. And because some counties have the money to prosecute death penalty cases and some don't, where the crime occurred can become more important than the facts of the case.

As a nation, we have moved away from capital punishment. 31 states have stopped using the death penalty. 19 have formally abandoned it, 4 have instituted moratoria, and 8 have not had an execution in the past decade.

Other states keep the public safe through sentences of life without parole. Arizona, which has already abolished parole for adults, can do the same.

The court should accept review of Hidalgo vs. Arizona and hold capital punishment unconstitutional in our state and everywhere else.

Regardless, the State of Arizona should take a hard look at why we are spending so much money to continue to engage in this failed experiment. It is time to admit that the system is broken beyond repair.

(source: Op-Ed; Amy Kalman is a defense attorney in Maricopa County with experience in capital litigation, and is the president of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal


The Arizona Supreme Court has vacated the death sentence for Jasper Phillip Rushing, who cut off the penis of a fellow inmate before beating him to death.

In 2010, when the murder took place, Rushing was already serving a 28-year prison sentence for killing his stepfather, who he believed had raped a young relative of his. (No evidence of the rape ever surfaced.)

At the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, Rushing was forced to share a small isolation cell with Shannon Palmer, who had a history of mental illness and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Palmer had been charged with criminal damage after he climbed a Salt River Project power pole during a thunderstorm and had to be talked down. He was reaching the end of his 3-year sentence when Rushing killed him.

The cell was supposed to house 1 person, not 2, and Palmer's erratic behavior aggravated Rushing, as Phoenix New Times detailed in a 2011 cover story.

Eventually, he snapped.

The brutal beating raised questions about the Arizona Department of Corrections' policies for housing inmates, as well as the lack of mental health services available to people like Shannon Palmer who wind up incarcerated because the state doesn't know what else to do with them.

In fact, after the murder, Rushing told Phoenix New Times writer Paul Rubin, "It makes no sense at all to put a murderer in a cell living assholes-to-elbows with a guy who is crazy and probably shouldn't be in prison at all. Bad things can happen in a house like that."

He explained, "Day after day and night after night of his paranoid bullshit, and his disrespect for women and children. It was almost pitch-black in there because they couldn't fix the lights. I couldn't read or think straight. This is what can happen."

During the trial, attorneys presented evidence that Palmer had still been alive when Rushing severed his penis with a shank that he'd fashioned from the blade of a disposable razor. He'd also wrapped a book in a bedsheet and used it to bash Palmer in the head, then gouged Palmer's throat open with the shank.

A Maricopa County jury sentenced Rushing to death in 2015. Shortly afterwards, he filed an appeal, arguing that his constitutional rights had been violated during the trial.

On Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected the majority of his claims, but agreed with him on one point: The trial court had messed up by failing to tell jurors that Rushing was ineligible for parole.

The court's newly released opinion states that jurors were given "a 'false choice' of death, natural life, or life with the possibility of release." In fact, there was no chance of Rushing ever being released, since he was already serving a life sentence for murdering his stepfather.

That could potentially have influenced jurors' decision to impose the death penalty, the opinion notes:

The prosecutor implied that Rushing could be released by telling jurors in the penalty phase opening statement that the court had rejected the State's request for a natural life sentence for the stepfather's murder and instead imposed a sentence of life with the possibility of release after 25 years. Rushing had served 14 years of his life sentence at the time of trial, and he was then 35 years old. Some jurors might have believed that if the court again refused to impose a natural life sentence, Rushing could be released after serving 25 years of a 2nd life sentence, whether that sentence was concurrent with or consecutive to the first sentence. The jury deliberated for most of a day, and it is not possible to know whether even the remote prospect of release affected any juror's decision to impose the death penalty.

As a result of the error, Rushing's death sentence has been overturned - at least for now.

In its decision, the Arizona Supreme Court also upheld his conviction for premeditated, 1st-degree murder. That means it's now up to the Maricopa County Superior Court to hold a new penalty phase proceeding to determine the sentence that he'll face.

(source: Opinion; Amy Silverman is managing editor at Phoenix New Times)


Leave the death penalty in the past

A rare occurrence indeed, the recent terrorist attack in New York City has resulted in a live assailant. Despite killing 8 people, the attacker is alive, still espousing his radical causes. The man's act and following lack of remorse has sparked many - including the President - to demand his execution. I do see the reason behind this: If there were ever a case where capital punishment was justified, it would be this. Regardless, the prospect itself still does not sit easily with me, for more than just an aversion to death.

Often, the main argument against the death penalty is the inability to make it absolutely infallible. If even 1 innocent person is put to death as a result of the justice system, that is inexcusable. While this is true in my eyes, and while people guilty of no crime have indeed been put to death, that is not the case in this circumstance. Even before finalizations of any legal procedures, the terrorist behind this act is most certainly the suspect charged.

Apart from the imperfect system of guilt, capital punishment also denies any chance at redemption by the perpetrator. An outlook often shared by religious groups, the belief stands that letting the wrongdoer live allows them to look within and without, perhaps coming to terms with things and seeking repentance. Again, though, in this situation, the argument falls apart a bit. As said before, the culprit stands by his actions, proclaiming the tenets of ISIS. While this could change with time, there is reason to believe his judgment has been permanently muddied.

Even beyond these 2 sensible arguments, there is the oft-touted statistic about how putting someone to death is more expensive than life in prison. While this is certainly true according to some groups, it also may not be exactly applicable here. Most sources on this topic are heavily biased one way or another, and, even if it is true, I could imagine a world in which the attacker's passion and political climate result in an expedited execution, regardless of the justice of such a situation.

Well, that seems to be the big 3 in terms of why not to put someone to death and it seems the New York terrorist managed to act in a way that refutes all of them. I brought up these arguments not to condone the bloodlust for him, though, these just serve as a preliminary display of the absurdity of capital punishment in the general case.

As for this person, I encourage the President and the public to not lose sight of their humanity. Murder is illegal because no one person or entity should be able to decide what is truly, physically irreprehensible; the judgment of an individual is too biased and emotion-fueled to be regarded as righteous. The government should be held to the same standards. While legal judgment strives to impartiality, each component of the system is operated by humans. The judge draws on not only prior documentation but their own experience. A jury is easily swayed by gaps in perception. The lawyers on each side of a case may be harshly imbalanced. Even the common law and standards the entirety draws upon are based on the biases of society and culture at the time. Justice is supposed to be constant, regardless of era or location. While these slight imperfections are permissible (if still unfair) for lesser punishments, the finality of the death penalty is too much for any debate.

Keep in mind that this is not the defense of a terrorist. While I wish for the attacker to find inner peace for his own sake, I have no issue with keeping him away from the public for the rest of his life. Let his name be lost to the sands of time as it has to this article. This is a defense of the justice system from itself. Passion and avenging may be attractive traits for a fictional vigilante, but the real world needs to be more level-headed than that. Capital punishment should go the way of its Hammurabian ancestors, a relic of a more primitive time.

(source: Opinion; Peter Fenteany is a campus correspondent for The (Univ. Conn.) Daily Campus)


Elena Berkova: Former porn star running against Putin wants death penalty for sexual harassers----Celebrity said she was 'fed up with Weinsteins'

Berkova is 32 - 3 years too young to run for President, according to Russian law Tim Stewart

A former adult film star running for the Russian presidency has pledged to introduce the death penalty for sexual harassers.

Elena Berkova of Murmansk, now the 4th female candidate for the 2018 election, said in an Instagram video that she was "fed up with Weinsteins", referring to disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein who faces dozens of allegations of sexual abuse and harassment.

"The death penalty for harassment. We've got the Weinsteins, too," she told her 647,000 followers, wearing black glasses and lingerie.

In Ms Berkova's manifesto, she vowed to introduce sex education in schools, make it impossible to get divorced and criminalise women who wear long skirts.

"Some of them [other candidates] are from show business, I ran for mayor of Sochi and have taken part in politics, so I decided to run for the president of Russia," the reality television star said.

"I plan to make divorce almost impossible for men, as these days women bear almost all the responsibility for children.



4 Prisoners Scheduled for Execution For Drug Charges

4 prisoners who were sentenced to death on drug related charges were transferred to solitary confinement in Urmia Central Prison in preparation for executed.

According to a close source, on the morning of Monday November 6, four prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement from ward 15 of Urmia Central Prison (Darya) to be executed.

The prisoners were identified as Asghar Ranjbar, Hedayat Shirzad, Hassan Bashoqi, and Ali Zare'.

"The prisoners were sentenced to death on the charge of possessing 5 to 200 kilograms of heroin or meth," said a close source to Iran Human Rights.

These prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement while after the bill for the amendment to the drug law in Iran was approved, the executions of this type were supposed to be stopped until further investigation of their cases.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Port Moresby police have warned against the vigilante torture or killing of suspected sorcerers.----For those that torture and kill suspected sorcerers, the penalty is DEATH!

Port Moresby police have warned against the vigilante torture or killing of suspected sorcerers.

The warning now comes in the light of sorcery-related revenge killings in the past week at Eight-Mile in Moresby Northeast.

The "witch-hunt" was led by the family of a young man from Wabag, Enga Province, who claimed he had died as a result of black magic.

1 woman was tortured and killed and several homes torched as a result.

2nd-in-command of Gordon police station, chief sergeant Hanson Tokally said yesterday that anyone who killed in the name of revenge or vigilante justice is also guilty of murder and as such, would not be immune to the consequences of the crime.

"People who torture and kill them (suspected sorcerers) are also guilty of a criminal offence and they will be dealt with seriously.

There is a law and the law applies to everyone ... we cannot let them go free," Mr Tokally said.

"People have to be careful when they are in these kinds of situations.

We are talking about people's lives here. This might be according to our traditional beliefs, but there has to be concrete evidence to prove that these people were killed through sorcery.

"You cannot just go blindly accusing someone and attacking them. I know that grieving relatives may want to take revenge, but we have to be careful in these types of situations. Respect the law, and allow the law to take its own course," he said.

Furthermore, amendments to the PNG Criminal Code in 2013 now facilitate for the maximum penalty of death to be applied on those who commit the willful murder of individuals accused of practicing sorcery.

Section 299A of the criminal code (willful murder of a person on account of accusation of sorcery) states:

-- Any person who intentionally kills another person on account of accusation that the person is practicing sorcery is guilty of willful murder and shall be sentenced to death.

-- For purposes of Subsection (1), "sorcery" includes (without being exhaustive and exclusive) what is known, in various languages and parts of the country, as witchcraft, magic, enchantment, puripuri, mura mura dikana, vada, mea mea, sanguma, or malira, whether or not connected with or related to the supernatural.

Chief Sgt Tokally said investigations into the recent revenge killing are ongoing and police are appealing to anyone with information regarding the case to come forward.

(source: Post-Courier)


'Fed-up' DCW chief demands 'death penalty' for child rapists

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chief Swati Maliwal on Monday said that she was "completely heartbroken" and "fed up" with the increasing number of child rapes in the capital.

"I am fed up of child rapes in the capital. A few days ago, a brutally raped 1 1/2-years-old girl underwent surgery for 1 1/2 hours in the hospital. Even 3 days were not over and now a 7-year-old girl is gang-raped. She underwent a surgery for 2 hours and I am going to spend the entire night with her in solidarity," she said.

The 7-year-old girl was raped on November 4 in Delhi's Kanjhawala area. 2 juvenile boys lured her for a bicycle ride and committed the crime.

The Police arrested the accused on POCSO charges and sent them to juvenile detention center. The victim is admitted in a critical condition in Bhim Rao Ambedkar hospital.

'What's wrong with Delhi? Their eyes haunt me, they ask me thousands of question which I don't have an answer for. Who will answer these questions," she asked.

Urging Home Minister Rajnath Singh to constitute a high-level committee, Maliwal said "I need the system to ensure death penalty for child rapist within 6 months. Then only fear, deterrence will be created and people's mentality will change."

"Since the last 2 years, I have been literally begging in front of the Central Government to form a high-level committee which should be headed by Rajnath Singh Ji, and include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Ji, Delhi Police Commissioner, Lieutenant governor of Delhi Anil Baijal Ji and DCW team. Meeting should be conducted twice in a month to ensure the safety of women," Maliwal said.

"All these rape victims and survivors are Nirbhaya of Delhi. I think we need to come on roads again to protest and wake up the sleeping system," she added.

A few days ago, the 1.5-month-old girl Maliwal spoke about, was raped in South Delhi. A 33-year-old man was arrested for the crime.



apan's 'Black Widow' given death penalty for murders----Japan's infamous "Poison Lady" used cyanide to rid herself of her lovers. Today she was finally sentenced for her gruesome crimes.

A 1-time millionairess dubbed the "Black Widow" over the untimely deaths of lovers and a husband was sentenced to death Tuesday, in a high-profile murder case that has gripped Japan.

Kyoto District Court condemned Chisako Kakehi, 70, to the gallows for the murder of 3 men - including a husband - and the attempted murder of another, a court official said.

Prosecutors said she used cyanide to rid herself of her lovers, amassing a reported one billion yen ($8.8 million) in payouts over 10 years.

The victims are among 6 men who died while in a relationship with Kakehi over the past 20 years. All of them were between 70 and 80 years old and met Kakehi between 2007 and 2013.

The woman's 3 other husbands, whom she married in the same period, have also all died, but she has not been charged in their deaths.

Kakehi has become notorious over accusations, she dispatched a number of elderly men she was involved with, drawing comparisons with the spider that kills its mate after copulation.

Kakehi initially refused to speak when her trial began in June but later stunned the court by admitting having killed her 4th husband in 2013.

She was arrested in 2014, after the 75-year-old retired salaryman, was found dead at his home in Muko, a city near Kyoto.

"I killed my husband," Kakehi said from the witness stand in July this year.

"I have no intention of hiding the guilt. I will laugh it off and die if I am sentenced to death tomorrow.

"I was waiting for the right timing as I wanted to kill him out of deep hatred."

Kakehi has previously addressed allegations she killed her partners to cash in on their insurance policies.

"I wasn't given any money after I married him," she said, according to news reports.

"I felt like Isao was discriminating against me in comparison to the last woman he was in a relationship with, and I got angry."

Kakehi's lawyers argued throughout the trial that she was not guilty of murdering Isao Kakehi on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Kyoto District Court said last year that medical examinations found that Kakehi had early-stage dementia but was fit to stand trial.

Kakehi had relationships with many men, mostly elderly or ill, meeting some through dating agencies, where she reportedly stipulated that prospective partners should be wealthy and childless.

Reports say she subsequently lost much of the fortune through financial trading.

Japan's criminal justice system has come under scrutiny in the wake of Kakehi's arrest, with questions being asked as to why a number of her lovers' deaths were not investigated as suspicious.

In several cases, autopsies were not carried out on their bodies - something that could have found traces of the cyanide detectives now believe she used to kill them.

Kakehi, who is also known as "The Poison Lady", is said to have stashed some of the substance in a plant pot that she later threw out.

The police who earlier raided her home in Kyoto found traces of cyanide in the rubbish, media said.

Cyanide was also found in the body of at least 1 of the men she was involved with before her recent marriage.

They also found paraphernalia for administering drugs and medical books at an apartment she kept south of Kyoto.

Her lawyers reportedly plan to appeal to the higher court, suggesting that the high-profile trial could continue.



Fed Govt gets wake-up call on 600 death row Nigerians in Asia

The Legal Assistance and Defence Projec (LEDAP) has berated the Federal Government for not showing interest in the plight of over 600 Nigerians on death row in foreign countries.

The National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, expressed this concern during a media chat in Lagos on the occasion of the World Day Against the Use of the Death Penalty.

The theme of this year's World Day Against the Use of the Death Penalty is "Poverty and the Death penalty".

Obiagwu said while there is a growing concern by rights activists over the rising number of Nigerians who are awaiting execution in South-East Asian countries for various offences, the Nigerian government hasn't paid any attention to their plight.

He pointed out that the number of Nigerians, who are facing the death penalty in foreign countries, most of which are for drugs-related offences was startling.

According to him, "South-East Asia alone, has over 600 Nigerians who have been condemned to death, and are awaiting execution in various prisons".

He said: "Why this is a worrisome development that deserves the attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria, most of the convicts never had the benefit of proper legal representation.They were therefore, subjected to summary trials and convicted and sentenced to death, without being given the benefit of legal counsel".

The National Coordinator of LEDAP contended that abolition of death penalty in law and practice, should be the desire of the government, "as death penalty is cruel and inhumane treatment, and has no place in modern society".

He lamented that the application of the death penalty is discriminatory in the country as it has become a punishment exclusive to the poor in society.

LEDAP contended that the reason for the discriminatory outlook, is due to the fact that the rich have the resources to settle the police or afford the best lawyers, who ensure that they are not convicted.

He remarked that because of the firm belief of the group on abolition of death penalty, LEDAP has continually fought legal battles with the federal and state governments, on the need to ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are safe-guarded and the death penalty is abolished.

He said within the last 2 years, the group has secured acquittal for 18 death row inmates in different prisons in the country on appeal, a development which he said lend credence to the unreliability of the criminal justice delivery system, on capital offences.

The group urged state governors not to sign any death warrants, as it constitutes state murder.

"With the high number of criminal convictions overturned on appeal, continued execution is risky, as innocent people may be wrongfully killed.

"LEDAP strongly believes that in its practical application, the death penalty is discriminatory, as there is hardly any rich or influential person in society, who is sentenced to death", he added.



Experts Divided Over 2,194 Death Row Prison Inmates

The 2,194 death row inmates in Nigerian prisons as at November 2017, has attracted divided opinions from lawyers and other criminal justice analysts.

In the Nigerian prison with about 70 % of the about 74,000 inmates awaiting trial, the number of death row inmates is about 4 % of the prison population.

There is the suggestion that the number is rising because state governors are not signing the execution orders, or commuting the sentences through the prerogative of mercy. Yet there is the view that the country's criminal justice system is skewed against the poor members of society.

Analysts are quick to point at the case of Emeka Ezeugo, alias Reverend King, as one of the few prominent citizens to be handed the death sentence. While others point to the application of the law vis-a-vis the gravity of the offence as the major factor responsible for the increasing number of death row inmates.

The Nigerian criminal law recognizes capital punishment for offences of murder, treason, treachery, and armed robbery, while some states have enacted capital punishment for kidnapping. Section 221 of the Penal Code and Section 319 of the Criminal Code provide capital punishment for murder, while sections 37 and 38 of the Criminal Code prescribe punishment by death for treasonable felony.

During the 15th World Day Against Torture recently, the Avocats Sans Frontiere France (ASFF) otherwise known as Lawyers Without Borders, said its records showed that most individuals "on death penalty row are from disadvantaged groups."

ASFF's Angela Uwandu, who spoke on the theme, 'Death Penalty and Poverty' in Abuja, noted that poor offenders cannot hire the services of experienced lawyers to defend them in court, thereby denying them their right of defence.

"Although the right for appeal in death penalty cases is fundamental according to the Nigerian constitution, most persons who have been sentenced to death are unable to challenge their convictions on appeal due to the exorbitant costs of appeals at both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court systems," she said.

"The death penalty is discriminatory and is used disproportionately against the poor. Legislations prescribing the death penalty will ultimately put the economically disadvantaged population at higher risk of death penalty. The death penalty is not a deterrent and is not a solution for crimes like kidnapping, as is wrongly assumed by several state legislatures," Uwandu averred.

In the same vein, the Executive Director, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), Sylvester Uhaa, expressed worry over the preponderance of persons of poor background who could not afford good legal representation in the death row inmates. He also faulted politicians who believe the death penalty is a solution to crime.

"The argument that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime is flawed because studies in many jurisdictions show it does not. The death sentence is an emotional response to crime, an act of vengeance and retribution," he said.

"But in actual sense they are not because they fail to address the root causes of violent crimes in our society. More so a fundamentally and deeply flawed criminal justice system in Nigeria which lacks the basic elements of justice cannot demand the death penalty, as this would lead to the killing of innocent people," he added.

But the second vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onyekachi Ubani, said the death penalty remains part of the Nigerian law even though most state governors have shied away from giving effect to the law. He explained that if the country wishes to remove capital punishment, that can only be done through the National Assembly.

"I am in favour of obeying what the law says. If the law says execute, you execute. For now, that is the law, so the governors must carry out all that is required for the amendment of the law in order to escape carrying out that responsibility," Ubani said.

He also agreed that the criminal justice system in Nigeria is skewed against the poor who have no money to hire good lawyers, explaining that they don't get the best from the pro bono services provided by some lawyers.

Also, human rights lawyer, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, said where the judge has decided on the law, he becomes 'functus officio' and only the state can now confirm that sentence.

"As our Administration of Criminal Justice System is, anyone found guilty should be dealt with according to the laws of the land and that is the core principles of rule of law," he said.

On the argument that death row inmates are mainly poor persons, Jimoh said being guilty of crime is a matter of social status, stressing that "even the society will not be secure if some of those genuinely guilty persons are released to the society. Definitely, poor persons without moral upbringing are more prone to committing crimes than the rich."

For its part, the Nigerian Prisons Service, through its spokesman, Francis Enabore, said it is focused on providing safe and human custody to the inmates.

"It is the prerogative of state chief executives to either sign execution warrants or commute the sentences to terms of imprisonment for those that have exhausted their appeals," he said.

(source: Daily Trust)


Quash Blogger Mkhaitir's Death Sentence

press release

Mauritanian authorities should quash the death sentence for a Mauritanian blogger, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, and drop all charges against him that violate freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today. The Court of Appeals in Nouadhibou is due to review the case on November 8, 2017.

Prosecutors charged Mkhaitir with apostasy for posting an online article in January 2014 questioning the use of religion to legitimize ethnic and caste discrimination in Mauritania. After 3 years of judicial proceedings, Mauritania's Supreme Court in January set aside a ruling by the Court of Appeals that upheld the death sentence and referred the case to a new panel of judges for review.

"Mauritania has no business charging anyone with 'apostasy,' much less sentencing a blogger to death for such an absurd charge based on an article he wrote," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "It's good that the appeals court is reviewing this case, but he never should have been charged in the first place."

Human Rights Watch raised concerns about the conviction, lengthy procedure, and extreme sentence Mkhaitir is facing for a speech offense with Justice Minister Mohamed Ould Daddah during a meeting in Nouakchott on October 19. "Mkhaitir is entitled to a fair trial in line with our international commitments," he told Human Rights Watch. "I hope that he will be tried by the end of the year."

It has almost been four years since Mauritanian authorities arrested Mkhaitir after the Mauritanian news website Aqlame published his blogpost on the marginalization of certain groups in Mauritania. He spent 12 months in pretrial detention, and a court sentenced him to death in December 2014 for "speaking lightly" of the Prophet and heresy.

In 2016, the Court of Appeals in Nouadhibou lowered the charges from "apostasy" (zendagha) to "disbelief" (ridda) but maintained the death sentence. The defense appealed the case to Mauritania's Supreme Court, which set aside the lower court's decision on January 31, 2017, and sent the case back to a new panel of judges from the same Court for a new hearing.

Some Mauritanian activists have noted that there has been an outpouring of protests over the article on religious grounds. Over the last 2 1/2 years, thousands of protesters have gathered on a number of occasions to call for Mkhaitir's execution. On November 3, Mohamed Diop, journalist for the Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar, reported that police authorities prevented protesters calling for Mkhaitir's execution from marching in the streets of Nouakchott and arrested four of them.

Mauritanian human rights activists who have publicly supported Mkhaitir have received death threats, Aminetou Mint Ely, a prominent women's rights leader, told Human Rights Watch. In December 2016, Mkhaitir's parents fled the country and sought asylum in France stating that they could no longer live in Mauritania under permanent threats.

Mauritania's prosecution of Mkhaitir for his writing violates the international law guarantees protecting free speech, such as those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Mauritania has been a party since 2004. The Mauritanian constitution guarantees freedom of opinion, thought, and expression. Restriction of speech, and in particular criminal prosecutions, should only be used as last resort, for a justifiable reason, when the law is clearly defined and the restriction is proportionate. Mkhaitir's speech, given it could not conceivably be construed as incitement to violence or hatred, should never have been subject to prosecution.

Both United Nations and African human rights standards on the right to life encourage states to move toward abolition of the death penalty and in those states that retain the death penalty make clear it should be limited to the most serious crimes and can only be imposed after a fair trial. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has stated that: "In those States which have not yet abolished the death penalty it is vital that it is used for only the most serious crimes - understood to be crimes involving intentional killing."

Mauritanian prosecutors should drop the charges against Mkhaitir, Human Rights Watch said, and Mauritanian legislators should repeal penal code provisions that violate freedom of expression, including Article 306, which provides the death sentence for apostasy.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


British woman 'facing death penalty' in Egypt for carrying painkillers pleads for help in secret message from cell----Laura Plummer made 'honest mistake' by travelling with tramadol for boyfriend who was suffering back pain after car crash

A British tourist imprisoned in Egypt after flying into the country with painkillers for her boyfriend has pleaded for help in a secret message passed from behind bars.

Laura Plummer, 33, from Hull, said she had "no idea" she was breaking the law when she entered the country with 290 tramadol pills and naproxen in her suitcase.

She fears she could face the death penalty for drug trafficking for bringing the medication for boyfriend Omar Caboo, 33, who had been suffering severe back pain following a car crash.

In a note from her prison cell, she said: "Please help me get out of this hellhole.

"I don't know what's happening. I'm scared. I had no idea that what I was doing was wrong. I thought I was doing a good deed."

The message was passed to The Sun, which reported Ms Plummer was being kept with 25 women in a 15ft-by-15ft cell.

Her sister Jayne Sinclair, 40, said: "She's absolutely petrified."

Ms Plummer was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking at Hurghada International Airport on the Red Sea coast on 9 October.

She had packed 29 strips of tramadol, each containing 10 tablets, and some naproxen ahead of flying to visit Mr Caboo. The medication, which reportedly had a street value of just 23 pounds in Egypt, was supplied by a friend who had been prescribed them in the UK.

Tramadol is widely prescribed in Britain but Egypt, in common with many other countries, has strict rules on any drugs containing opioid analgesics. The drug cannot be brought into the country without prior permission from the Ministry of Health.

Ms Plummer reportedly signed a 38-page statement in Arabic which she believed would allow her to leave the airport, but has been incarcerated ever since.

Her brother, James Plummer, 31, said the family has been told she could face up to 25 years in jail, with 1 lawyer even mentioning the death penalty.

Her brother said bringing the tablets into Egypt had been an "innocent, honest mistake", adding: "It's just blown out of proportion completely."

Ms Plummer's mother and sisters have flown out to visit her amid fears for her welfare. They said her hair was falling out due to stress, she was suffering from an ear infection, and she was still wearing the clothes she travelled in.

"They say she's unrecognisable," said Mr Plummer. "When they seen her, she's like a zombie, they said.

"I don't think she's tough enough to survive it."

More than 11,000 people have signed a petition calling for her release.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in Egypt."


NOVEMBER 6, 2017:


The death penalty doesn't make us safer

Charles Davenport argues that we need the death penalty to preserve an orderly society (column, Oct. 15). The only problem is, there is no evidence to support his claim. Here are the facts:

The murder rate in states without the death penalty is lower than in states with capital punishment. Over the past decade, the average murder rate in non-death-penalty states has been 20 to 40 % lower.

In North Carolina, our last execution was in 2006, and juries are sending fewer people each year to death row. If the death penalty were key to our safety, murders would have soared. Instead, the murder rate in 2015 (the most recent year for which the SBI provides statistics) was 5.8 per 100,000 people. That's 37 % lower than it was in 2006.

As a person of faith, I am against the death penalty in any form. I believe that forgiveness is far more healing than taking a life. As a community, we must work to protect citizens from violence and crime. The death penalty does not advance these goals.

The Rev. Willard Bass


(source: Letter to the Editor, News & Record)


Republicans join effort to abolish death penalty in Ohio

With another execution looming next week in Ohio, a Democratic lawmaker is pushing a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in the Buckeye State.

Although similar tries in 3 previous legislative sessions have gone nowhere, this time some Republicans are on board.

House Bill 389, sponsored by Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, would replace capital punishment with a life sentence without parole.

"The consideration of death by the state would be off the table. ... This doesn't mean they aren't prosecuted to the fullest extent by the law," Antonio said.

Support for the death penalty is the lowest it has been in more than 4 decades, a 2016 Pew Research Center study shows. Nearly 1/2 of Americans, 49 %, favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder while 42 % oppose it. The Gallup Poll shows the same trend.

A 2015 CBS News Poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Republicans, 73 %, favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Democrats were more split on the issue, with 44 % favoring the death penalty and 46 % opposing it.

The surveys indicate Americans are increasingly concerned about innocent people on death row and racial disparities in sentencing. But proposed changes in Ohio's death-penalty procedures by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor have made little headway.

Antonio's bill has bipartisan support. Reps. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, and Craig Riedel, R-Defiance, are co-sponsors.

"It's a life issue," Antani said.

He says the ability to put someone to death is "way too big of a power" for the government.

As a Roman Catholic, Riedel opposes capital punishment.

"It's my faith that has led me to believe to not support the death penalty," Riedel said. "Mankind is not in charge of natural death."

This is not the 1st legislative effort that has tried to put an end to capital punishment in Ohio. In fact, this is the 4th time Antonio has introduced the same bill to the General Assembly.

"We are not saying do not punish the criminal," Antonio said. "Punish the criminal through a sentence of life without parole."

Capital punishment is legal in 31 states, including Ohio.

The next execution is scheduled for Nov. 15. Alva Campbell, 69, is set to die that day by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. He was sentenced to death for the 1997 aggravated murder of 18-year-old Charles Dials after taking a deputy's gun, escaping custody and car-jacking Dials' vehicle near the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus.

The Ohio Parole Board has recommended Gov. John Kasich deny clemency to Campbell.

This would be Ohio's 3rd execution in 4 months, after a lengthy delay until the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's lethal-injection protocol. Gary Otte was executed Sept. 13 using 3 lethal drugs, and Ronald Phillips was executed July 26.

"I've visited death row inmates and they don't like my bill," Antonio said.

She said they view the death penalty as a way to put them out of their misery.

"Ohio is an outlier" when it comes to executions, said Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Currently, 27 men are scheduled to be executed in Ohio, including Campbell.

"There's no state in the country that has that many executions lined up that far in advance," Werner said.

Almost 140 prisoners were on death row in Ohio as of Oct. 2, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Some people are put on death row only to be later found not guilty, Antonio said.

"I would think that no one would want to sentence any innocent person to death," Antonio said.

Despite the shift in public attitudes, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association continues to support capital punishment, said John Murphy, executive director.

"We would oppose a bill to abolish the death penalty," Murphy said.

The association has maintained opposition to the repeal of the death penalty, said Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson, president of the group.

"We believe it's a deterrent factor of the most serious crimes," Dobson said.

(source: Times-Gazette)

ARKANSAS----impending execution

Ark. judge dismisses bid to halt killer's execution

An Arkansas judge dismissed an effort Friday to halt this week's planned execution of a convicted killer despite his attorneys' arguments that he's not mentally competent.

The ruling came shortly after Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was unlikely to grant clemency to Jack Greene, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday night. Greene was convicted in the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and later shot.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis dismissed a lawsuit filed by Greene's attorneys challenging an Arkansas law that gives the state's top prisons official authority to determine an inmate's mental competency. Dennis ruled that the state Supreme Court had already upheld the law as constitutional. Dennis also said she did not have the authority to halt Greene's execution.

Greene's attorneys plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. They argue that Greene suffers from psychotic delusions and believes prison officials and his attorneys are conspiring to cover up injuries he believes corrections officers inflicted on him.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly found that severely mentally ill death row prisoners like Mr. Greene must have access to competency hearings presided over by neutral decision makers in order to prevent unconstitutional execution," Scott Braden, an assistant federal defender representing Greene, said in a statement Friday.

The state said it was prepared to defend its plan to execute Greene.

"The attorney general continues to believe the execution will occur as scheduled, but is prepared to respond to any and all challenges from inmate Greene in the days leading up to the execution," said Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

If carried out, Greene's execution would be the 1st since Arkansas put 4 inmates to death over an 8-day period in April. Arkansas originally planned to put 8 inmates to death over an 11-day period, scheduling the executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired, but 4 of the executions were blocked by the courts.

Hutchinson scheduled Greene's execution in August after the state obtained a new supply of midazolam, the expired drug. The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state to identify the manufacturer of the drug, saying the information was not protected by an execution drug secrecy measure.

The ruling, which requires a lower court to determine what information on the drug's label other than the manufacturer can be withheld, doesn't directly address Greene's execution and will take effect early next week.

Hutchinson earlier Friday said he was unlikely to halt Greene's execution. The state Parole Board last month recommended Hutchinson not grant clemency, rejecting Greene's argument that he was not mentally competent. Hutchinson said he believed Greene was mentally competent based on U.S. Supreme Court standards, and didn't plan on granting clemency.

"I've seen nothing that causes me concern in proceeding forth at this point," Hutchinson told reporters. "Obviously, we will continue to receive any information, continue to evaluate that, but at this point the execution is still scheduled and will remain on schedule."

(source: Associated Press)


Analysis: Secrecy lingers over Arkansas' next execution

As Arkansas prepares to restart its death chamber several months after the state carried out its 1st executions in nearly 12 years, an order from the state's highest court to release more information about lethal injection drugs could throw an obstacle in its path. At the minimum, it may raise a new round of uncomfortable questions about how the state obtains its execution drugs.

The state Supreme Court ruled last week that a 2015 law keeping secret the source of Arkansas' execution drugs doesn't extend to manufacturers, a decision that could force the state to release drug labels for its supply of a lethal injection drug early this week. It could undermine an approach Arkansas and at least a dozen other states have used to repel legal challenges by keeping secret how and where they obtain their drugs.

The ruling came a week before the scheduled execution of Jack Greene, a convicted murderer scheduled to die Thursday. A state judge dismissed Greene's attempt to halt his execution on Friday, but the inmate's attorneys said they're appealing to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Greene was convicted for the 1991 killing of Sidney Jethro Burnett after Burnett and his wife had accused Greene of arson. Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week said he's seen nothing in Greene's case file so far that would prompt him to halt the killer's execution.

If put to death, Greene will be Arkansas' 1st execution since the state put 4 men to death over 8 days in April. The state had originally planned to execute 8 men over 11 days before its supply of midazolam, 1 of the 3 drugs it uses in lethal injections, expired. 4 scheduled executions were halted by the courts.

The Supreme Court ruling revives a familiar issue: the secrecy surrounding the source of Arkansas' lethal injection drugs. A 2015 state law keeps the drug source a secret, a move Arkansas officials have said is needed to ensure it can find suppliers.

"Public pressure from anti-death-penalty advocates likely would lead manufacturers to implement even more distribution controls that would, as a practical matter, make it impossible for the state to acquire the drugs in its lethal-injection protocol," the state argued in court filings last month.

Justices, however, dismissed that argument and said doesn't protect the drug makers.

"The evidence presented in this case demonstrated that many manufacturers of lethal injection drugs already prohibit the use of these drugs in executions and that these manufacturers often have contracts in place with their distributors that prevent the downstream sale of the drugs to prison officials," Justice Courtney Goodson wrote in the court's ruling last week. "It is therefore the confidentiality of the sellers and suppliers of these drugs to the (Correction Department) that the confidentiality provisions were intended to protect."

The state had previously released photos of its execution drugs with the manufacturers' names blacked out, but stopped doing so after The Associated Press was able to use those labels to identity the drug makers. A separate lawsuit seeking the same information about the state's 2 other lethal injection drugs is also pending before the high court. Both lawsuits were filed by the same attorney, Steven Shults, who has been seeking the labels.

Hutchinson in August scheduled Greene's execution after prison officials said they'd obtained a new supply of midazolam. The department said it paid $250 in cash for enough of the drug to conduct 2 executions.

2 drug makers unsuccessfully sought to prevent their drugs from being used in Arkansas' executions in April, and a case is still pending before the state Supreme Court over a medical supply company's claims that the state misleadingly obtained 1 of the drugs.

Details about the maker of the latest midazolam supply could open the door for new challenges. The ruling, which takes effect early this week, orders a lower court to determine what information other than the manufacturer must be withheld from the drug labels released.

With a narrow window until Thursday night, the biggest question remaining is how much of an impact - if any - the decision to release those labels could have on efforts to spare Greene's life.

(source: Times Record)


$3.15 million paid to former Oklahoma death row inmates, civil attorneys who sued after convictions overturned

2 former death row inmates and their civil attorneys have been paid $3.15 million to dismiss federal lawsuits against a former prosecutor and the state of Oklahoma.

Almost 1/4 of the settlement payments came from state funds. The rest came from the former prosecutor's liability insurance company.

Yancy L. Douglas, 43, and Paris Lapriest Powell, 44, filed separate lawsuits in Oklahoma City federal court in 2010 after their murder convictions were overturned.

The cost to the state and the insurance company could have been much more if the cases had gone to trial. Each was seeking $32 million.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the convictions in 2009 after concluding the prosecutor, Brad Miller,

(source: The Oklahoman)


Appellate attorney fired for making statements on death penalty case that were 'harmful' to Weber County's reputation, officials say

An appellate attorney is out of a job after speaking publicly about a lack of funding in a death penalty case - comments that Weber County officials deemed "harmful to the county's reputation."

Defense attorney Samuel Newton had been representing Douglas Lovell, who was sentenced in 2015 to be executed for killing 39-year-old Joyce Yost in 1985 to keep her from testifying that he had previously raped her.

Newton, who is based in Montana, had a contract with Weber County to represent the death row inmate in his appeal and was contracted to handle all of the other appeals for indigent criminal defendants in the county.

He withdrew from Lovell's case in September, saying payment issues were causing stress-related medical issues, as well as a conflict of interest.

Newton said at that time that a conflict was created after the payment dispute left him feeling like he "had to choose" between supporting his family financially and zealously representing his client.

Now, Newton said he also has lost his contract to handle other appeals for Weber County defendants who can not afford their own attorney - a contract which he has had for about 7 years and makes up the bulk of his law practice.

In a letter to Newton dated Oct. 26, Weber County Commissioner James Harvey wrote that county officials are terminating Newton's contract to handle those appeals, effective Jan. 31.

"While we have appreciated your hard work and dedication," Harvey wrote, "this past year you have made various representations to the media and to the court that have been untruthful and harmful to the county's reputation."

Harvey echoed those sentiments in a Friday interview, but he declined to elaborate on specific untruthful statements he believes Newton has made.

Harvey said he felt Newton was spending too much time trying to create relationships with his clients in prison, when "all the state wants to know is if the appropriate decision has been made" in a conviction.

"I very much care about the character of Weber County and very much want to be fiduciarily responsible for taxpayer funds and how they're spent," Harvey said. "I don't agree with giving a guy an open checkbook because he wants to create a relationship with a convicted felon on the taxpayers' dime."

Newton has expressed concerns over payment both in court and in recent Salt Lake Tribune news articles. He also penned a commentary about how the capital punishment system is unfair to defendants and attorneys that was published in The Tribune op-ed section.

The funding dispute centered around a now-delayed multiday evidentiary hearing, where witnesses were to be questioned about what work Lovell's trial attorney did on the case - and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interfered with the trial by limiting what bishops who worked with Lovell at the prison could say on the stand during the penalty phase of trial.

Lovell is currently appealing his conviction to the Utah Supreme Court, which had sent the case back to the district court for the evidentiary hearing.

Newton had argued in court papers that the hearing would require hundreds of hours of investigation and preparation, which he estimated would cost more than $37,000. The county, however, had authorized additional payment of only $15,000. The attorney said concerns about inadequate pay on Lovell's case and another death penalty appeal was causing him stress-related heart problems.

County officials have disagreed with Newton's assertions, saying that a "soft cap" for funding was in place, but Newton could have asked for more money if he could show it was needed.

"We had never given him a firm amount, saying, 'We won't pay you anymore than this,'" said Deputy Weber County Attorney Bryan Baron, who works in the county's civil division and handles contracts.

In a June email to Newton, Baron wrote that the commissioners were concerned that Newton was overbilling in Lovell's case and questioned why he was communicating with the defendant so often.

"The consensus from the meeting was that unless significant changes are made to the invoices and future billing practices, the county needs to look for another attorney for future appeals," Baron wrote in the email, which was filed among court papers. "Again, they don't have a problem with the quality of your work. Their concern is with the amounts that you are billing and the items that you are billing them for."

Based on this email, Newton said this week that it was not entirely unexpected that the county decided to pull the plug on his contract for other appellate work.

'I'm disappointed that the county terminated my contract, where I have had no performance issues," Newton said. "I never believed I said anything untrue and was only zealously representing my client and fighting for the resources he needed to defend his life."

Weber County has hired a new attorney, Colleen Coebergh, to take over Lovell's appeal. The county contracted a "soft cap" of $100,000 for Coebergh, according to Commission minutes. Newton's cap had been $75,000, according to court motions.

Anyone who is charged with a crime that includes the possibility of jail time - in Utah, that is anything more serious than an infraction - is entitled to an attorney, even if they can't afford one. For death penalty cases, those attorneys must be experienced and qualified under court rules.

Utah is 1 of 2 states in the nation that delegates the responsibility to provide defense lawyers to individual counties and cities.

Most counties in Utah pay into a state-managed fund for death penalty cases, a sort of insurance policy from which officials can request money if they have a death penalty-eligible case in their county.

Weber County, however, is 1 of 5 counties that does not participate in this fund - instead, it uses its own money to contract with individual attorneys.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Capital punishment system unfair to defendants and attorneys

When asked if I would be willing to represent a Utah death-sentenced inmate, Floyd Maestas, I said absolutely not. I was well aware of the emotional, physical and financial toll the representation would place on me and on my practice. Yet I eventually agreed because I believe those on death row deserve good representation.

Floyd insisted he was not there during the murder, even though at trial 2 eyewitnesses placed him there, his fingerprint was at the scene and there was DNA under the victim’s fingernails. But I took my charge seriously and worked feverishly to find evidence of innocence.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that post-conviction lawyers must diligently scour the evidence, investigate the case for innocence, and search for any evidence that could "mitigate" or reduce a defendant's death sentence. These efforts have resulted in the reversal of death sentences around the nation, where innocent people have been exonerated.

Given a shoe-string budget of $30,000, our investigators discovered serious evidence to support Floyd's innocence. This included a letter from 1 of the eyewitnesses, saying he and his friend framed Floyd and that his friend was the real murderer. The DNA "match" was not a match at all, but a Y-chromosome test that would match 421 of 591 Hispanics, Floyd's race. Our fingerprint expert also believed there were serious problems with the fingerprint identification.

We discovered a very traumatic family history. Floyd was raised in the ghetto in a cardboard house with no running water. His father froze to death from alcoholism and 2 of his siblings were murdered. As a boy, Floyd held his dying sister in the living room after her boyfriend stabbed her. A few days after Christmas, police found 13-year-old Floyd passed out on the street from extreme intoxication.

Before his trial, all but one expert concluded Floyd was intellectually disabled, a finding that prohibits his execution. While the judge sided with the one expert at trial, even that expert has now indicated that under newer diagnostic criteria, he also believes Floyd is intellectually disabled.

But we were out of money and time. I had exhausted our limited budget. My investigators had fronted $17,000 of their own money for evidence and the court would not reimburse them. They told me that they could no longer work on the case. I still had not read all Floyd’s file given its enormity and asked the court for more time. The request was denied.

The court denied funding for almost all of my work, resulting in around $100,000 of losses. My co-counsel has never been paid for hundreds of hours of donated time. I had to put my expenses on credit cards and my wife took a 2nd job. The stress culminated when I woke in the night feeling chest pain and ended up in urgent care. My doctors believed the heart stress was related to the case and asked me to withdraw. I asked the court to let me off and was denied. In desperation, I reached out to the American Bar Association, who located a large firm who was willing to assist on the case on a pro bono basis.

In capital cases, states provide counsel to the lowest bidder and encourage attorneys to do little work and then get out. And courts don't fix the problems either. They have refused to find that a defendant was deprived an effective attorney, even if he sleeps or is drunk during trial. In my case, the state believes my client has no right to an effective attorney at all and that he should be grateful they even gave him someone.

The system is full of errors. Since 1976, we have executed 1,452 nationally but exonerated 159, a shocking number for so serious a penalty. An astonishing 47 of 100 death sentences are reversed at some point. These reversals happen because of good lawyering, but this safety net is often lacking. Nationwide, public defenders work under enormous pressure, with massive caseloads and have seen little sign of reprieve.

Our capital punishment system is a charade. We provide a "defense lawyer" but either give someone with no experience or refuse to give the necessary resources to experienced attorneys. In Utah, a state with one of the lowest death penalty populations in the United States, which has not executed a defendant since 2010, almost every attorney to take a death penalty case has suffered extreme personal loss. The result is a crisis-level lack of qualified attorneys willing or able to take on capital cases.

If we have the death penalty, we must commit to protecting the innocent from execution. We must also commit to adequately support the attorneys who are called upon to perform these difficult tasks.

(source: Commentary; Samuel Newton has been a criminal defense attorney since 2003. He has worked as a public defender in Salt Lake City, a professor of criminal justice at Weber State University and as a private practitioner focusing on criminal appeals and capital litigation----Salt Lake Tribune)


S won't extradite American charged with murder to Tonga

An American charged with murder in Tonga in connection with his wife's death has been released from prison in Hawaii after the U.S. State Department refused to extradite him because of concerns he would not have received a fair trial.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exercised his discretion in denying the Kingdom of Tonga's request to extradite Dean Jay Fletcher for trial in the South Pacific archipelago nation, according to a letter to U.S. prosecutors from the State Department.

A U.S. judge in Hawaii on Wednesday ordered Fletcher's immediate release from the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, where he had been held for nearly a year.

Fletcher was indicted on murder and other charges in Tonga in the July 2016 death of his Canadian wife, Patricia Linne Kearney.

Earlier this year, a U.S. judge in Honolulu ruled that Fletcher could be extradited.

But a letter Tuesday from the State Department expressed concern that Fletcher would have faced a death sentence or life in prison and that he would not have received a defense attorney for free.

If he had been convicted and sentenced to death, Fletcher would have been hanged and would have been the 1st person executed in Tonga since 1981.

Fletcher's lawyer, Melinda Yamaga, declined comment on where Fletcher went following his release and said he did not want to speak with journalists about his case.

3 diving operators saw Fletcher assaulting his wife on a dinghy after she picked him up at a Tonga port, according to provisional arrest documents filed in federal court in Honolulu.

Fletcher kept kicking and punching Kearney as the couple arrived at another boat named the Sea Oak, Tonga officials told U.S. prosecutors.

One witness reported seeing Fletcher grab his wife's head while she was in the dinghy, "slam his knee into her neck and punch her in the head," the documents said.

The next day, Fletcher went to police to report his wife had died when she slipped and fell down stairs on their yacht.

Fletcher allegedly told an acquaintance that his wife had a nerve disease and had been drunk. The person reported seeing a blood-stained bed sheet in the dinghy, and another person said Fletcher dropped the sheet into the sea, the documents said.

While in police custody, Fletcher asked a detective for permission to use the toilet then ran out of a cell in a police station and was caught after a brief foot chase, authorities said.

The records say officers could not catch him when he fled a police station cell again in September 2016 and was last seen sailing away in a boat.

He traveled about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north to American Samoa, where he was arrested.

U.S. marshals escorted him to Honolulu because American Samoa does not have a federal court.

Tonga Acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu told The Associated Press Thursday the decision to free Fletcher was a disappointment.

He said he told U.S. officials it would be very unlikely that the death penalty would have been imposed. No one in Tonga receives free legal representation, and the case against Fletcher was solid, he said.

"We have very strong circumstantial evidence," he said.

The charges against Fletcher remain active, and the country could seek Fletcher's extradition if he travels to other countries, Kefu said. "We believe he's committed a crime here in Tonga, and we won't stop until we're able to bring him to justice," he said.

Yamaga declined to comment on the Tonga charges and said she had raised concerns with the State Department based on humanitarian issues, she said.

Allen S. Weiner, the director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law, called the case "a little unusual" because the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Tonga.

Countries usually avoid signing extradition treaties when they have doubts about legal systems, he said.

Fletcher's case is also unusual because it is usually other countries that do not want to extradite their citizens to the United States when the death penalty is a possibility, Weiner said.

(source: Associated Press)


Over 1/2 of S. Korean people support carrying out death penalty: poll

About 1 out of every 2 South Korean people is in favor of implementing existing death penalty provision, a poll said Monday, although the country is classified as a de facto abolitionist country in the international community.

South Korea has executed no one since the end of 1997, when 23 people were put to death. The moratorium was enacted in February 1998 by then-President Kim Dae-Jung.

According to the survey of 511 people across the nation conducted by Realmeter on Friday, 52.8 % were for returning to execution, while 42.8 % were against it.

Of its opponents, 32.6 % said it is desirable to retain capital punishment but to not put it into practice, and 9.6 % thought the death penalty itself should be scrapped, the poll said.

Among those polled who are in favor of resuming executions, people in their 20s were the most supportive at 62.6 %, trailed by those in their 30s at 59.5 %, those in their 60s or older at 53.5 % and those in their 40s at 42.9 %.

By ideology, 66.2 % of conservative respondents supported implementing the death penalty, and 54.2 % of centrist ones did so. On the other hand, only 39.4 % of progressive respondents were in favor.

By region, Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province showed the highest support with 66.8 %, while Gwangju and Jeolla Provinces posted the lowest support with 46.3 %, the poll said.



Death penalty for killing his wife----The man was accused to beating his wife to death in Sharjah

A Gulf national has been given death penalty on charges of beating his 25-year-old Arab wife to death.

The verdict was issued by the Sharjah Sharia court on Sunday morning.

The court handed down its verdict after the victim's family refused to pardon the killer and accept blood money.

The court said the man would be executed in the presence of his wife's family members, who insisted for 'Qasas' (retributive justice as per Islamic Law) and refused to pardon him.

According to court record, the case is dated back to January 2016 when a 37- year-old Gulf national got involved in quarrel with his wife over marital issues and their discussion turned violent. Then the husband slapped his wife and left the house. The couple have 1 daughter.

During the police interrogation and court hearing, the accused confessed to the crime. He said he did not intend to kill his wife and he slapped her after they got involved in a heated discussion and then he went out of the house. He said that he found his wife drinking wine when he came back home late at night. He took the bottle from her hand and tried to take the glass as well but she refused and resisted. At this, he beat her again and went to sleep.

He said he found his wife was sleeping with high fever but later he discovered that she was dead. He reported the incident to police operation room and surrendered himself to police.



2 Executions on Murder Charges

1 prisoner was executed at Mashhad Central Prison and 1 at Urmia Central Prison, both on murder charges.

Execution in Urmia (Northwestern Iran)

According to a report by Kurdistan Human Rights Network which was also confirmed by Iran Human Rights (IHR), on the morning of Wednesday November 1, a prisoner was hanged at Urmia Central Prison (Darya) on murder charges. The prisoner, identified as Tohid Mohammad-Bagherloo, 30, was from Khoy and was in prison on murder charges for 6 years. He was transferred to solitary confinement from Ward 1 and 2 of Urmia Central Prison on Tuesday.

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

Execution in Mashhad (Northeastern Iran)

According to a report by Khorasan Newspaper, on the morning of Wednesday November 1, a prisoner was hanged at Mashhad Central Prison (Vakilabad) on murder charges. The prisoner, identified as M.T., was sentenced to death on murder charges.

The report stated that the prisoner murdered a 67-year-old man with the help of his friend in 2011.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.


Man Executed on Murder Charges

A prisoner was hanged at Maragheh Prison (East Azerbaijan province) on murder charges.

According to a close source, on the morning of Tuesday October 31, a prisoner was executed at Maragheh Prison (Northwestern Iran) on murder charges.

The prisoner, identified as Hooshang Delijan, 29, was from Hashtrud. He was arrested and sentenced to death on the charge of murdering a taxi driver in Maragheh 4 years ago.

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

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


14 Kurdish MPs facing death sentence threats for referendum

14 Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament are facing the threat of death sentences from Baghdad for voting in Kurdistan Region's independence referendum on September 25.

Dr. Muthana Ameen, an MP from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), 1 of the MPs in question, says "They want to try us with Iraq's penal code 156 for voting as Kurds and in a civil and democratic way for the independence of Kurdistan."

Ameen slammed the parliament's decree saying "We see this decision against us as political not legal."

The Iraqi Parliament's MPs affairs committee has so far read 3 recommendations from the parliament against the 14 Kurdish parliamentarians which include stripping them of immunity, trial and banning them from parliamentary duties until their cases have been decided on by the court.

Amin wonders why the parliament is only after these 14 MPs when "many others" voted, too.

"If death sentence is issued for an MP for voting, then 3 million Kurds must be punished," said Amin.

On suggestions from the Shiite State of Law Coalition nearly 100 MPs submitted a letter to the Iraqi Federal Court, wanting legal measures taken against the Kurdish MPs who voted for the independence of Kurdistan from Iraq.

Of the 14 MPs, 10 are from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), 2 from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the other two from the KIU.

The Federal Court refused to issue any verdicts against them, saying according to the Iraqi constitution, it was not their business to issue verdicts against the respective MPs.

On October 10, a temporary committee comprised of the legal and MPs affairs committees decided to expel the 14 MPs and sent their cases to the court.

Amin Bakir, a Change Movement (Gorran) parliamentarian in Baghdad echoed the sentiment that stirring the motion against the Kurds in the parliament is more of "political."

"This question is political and lifting immunity on MPs is not an easy job," Bakir, who is also member of the legislature's legal committee, told Rudaw.

He added they "Do not know the opinion of other Kurdish MPs since they have not returned to Baghdad yet. But this subject is certainly more to do with political stalemates between Erbil and Baghdad."

In the meantime, the Iraqi parliament is trying to persuade the Kurdish MPs to return to Baghdad.

According to Renas Jano, 1 of the 14 charged MPs, Salim al-Jabouri, parliament speaker, had asked several MPs to persuade other Kurdish parliamentarians to return and attend the sessions.

"But Jabouri has not given any guarantees to the MPs that there will not be any legal measures against them once they return," he explained.

According to Iraq's penal code 156, a person is sentenced to death who "intentionally" threatens the sovereignty and unity of the state.



Executions approved by President of Iraq

The Media Office of the Presidency of the Republic announced that on Thursday, November 2, 2017, Fuad Masoum, the President of the Republic ratified [gave formal consent to], a number of death sentences, pointing out that those covered by it were convicted for serious crimes.

The Media Office of the Presidency of the Republic clarified that the signed decrees have been sent to the respective executive authority for the purpose of implementing these provisions on those convicted.

Capital punishment was commonly used by the government of Saddam Hussein; and has been since his removal from office.

After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, suspended capital punishment on June 10, declaring that "the former regime used certain provisions of the penal code as a means of oppression, in violation of internationally acknowledged human rights."

On August 8, 2004, capital punishment was reinstated in Iraq and most recently in 2016 the country carried out at least 88 formal executions.

After the defeat of ISIS, Iraq has continued to try and sentence groups of terrorists to death in large numbers, referring them to the office of Fuad Masoum for final authority. The most recent mass execution was of 42 'terrorists' in September 2017. A move denounced by death penalty and human rights activists across the region.



Workshop calls for moratorium on Myanmar death penalty

A gathering of human rights experts and government officials last week ended with a demand that the Myanmar government implement a moratorium on the death penalty, pending its abolition.

The Workshop on the Moratorium of the Death Penalty was held at Naypyidaw's Hotel Max on October 30 and 31 and was organized by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and supported by the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

The 33 participants in the workshop included MPs, senior government officials, representatives of civil society organizations, and members of the NHRC.

NHRC chairman Win Mra gave the opening speech at the workshop, according to The Global New Light of Myanmar. In his speech, the chairman explained to the participants that although serious criminals are still occasionally sentenced to death in Myanmar, an execution has not been since 1988, making the death penalty "abolished in practice."

After his speech, Win Mra invited participants to present their arguments for an official moratorium on the death penalty.

Dr. Jon Yorke, a professor of human rights at the Birmingham City University School of Law outlined international perspectives on the death penalty, including the UN's calls for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

NHRC member Soe Phone Myint gave an explanation of the laws pertaining to the death penalty in Myanmar. Crimes including corruption, treason, and military mutiny are technically punishable by death. Murder and drug trafficking carry a mandatory death sentence.

Khin Maung Lay, another NHRC member, referenced the final resolution of the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in October 2016, which called on abolitionist countries to make their cooperation in some multilateral projects contingent on commitments from other countries to abolish or reduce the applicability of their death penalties.

In January 2014, then-President Thein Sein commuted all of Myanmar's death sentences to life imprisonment.



Biswajit murder: Pleas seeking stay on acquittal of 4 dropped

The Supreme Court cleared the way for the 4 accused, who were acquitted by the High Court in the sensational Biswajit murder case, to walk out of jail.

Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division of the SC Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain dropped 3 petitions filed by the government seeking stay on the acquittal of the 4 accused from its hearing list.

"SC chamber judge's order means that there is no legal bar for the 4 acquitted accused to release from jail," Additional Attorney General Momtaz Uddin Fakir told The Daily Star.

The court also allowed the government to file a leave to appeal petition with the apex court against the HC order that acquitted the 4 accused, he said.

Among the four, Md Saiful Islam and Qayum Mia Tipu were sentenced to death and Golam Mostafa and AHM Kibria were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court, he said, adding that the HC has acquitted them of the charges.

Bishwajit Das, a tailor shop employee, was hacked to death in broad daylight in Dhaka by a group of activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League, a front organisation of ruling Awami League, during a countrywide road blockade on December 9, 2012.

On August 6 this year, the HC delivered the verdict on the death reference and appeals in the murder case.

In the verdict, it upheld death sentences of 2 BCL men, commuted that of 4 to life term imprisonment and acquitted 2 others. All of the 8 were handed down capital punishments by a lower court on December 18, 2013.

On November 1, the HC released the full text of judgment of the case, observing that the rich and the powerful in the society enjoy a type of impunity and they can easily influence the outcome of an investigation after committing an offence.

It also said some youths involved in organised criminal activities are stigmatising student politics.

(source: The Daily Star)


2 get death sentences for 2014 murder of schoolboy in Dhaka

A court in Dhaka has sentenced two people to death in the 2014 abduction and murder of an 8th-grader.

Md Hasan, who lived in the capital's Demra, went missing on the afternoon of Jul 10. 2 days later, his parents received a phone call demanding a ransom of Tk 500,000.

Hasan's father filed a complaint with the police the next day and later paid a ransom of Tk 50,000, but his son was not relased.

12 days later, the boy's body was found in a sack near his home.

On Sunday, the court of Dhaka's additional metropolitan magistrate convicted Billal Chaprashi and Md Shahjahan and awarded the death penalty.

The court has also fined them by Tk 25,000 each.


NOVEMBER 5, 2017:


Appeals court affirms death row inmate's conviction, but 'disturbed' by former Alabama DA's conduct

A federal appeals court has called a former Alabama prosecutor's behavior "unconstitutional and unethical" in a 1997 death penalty case.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals describes former Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska's misconduct in an opinion issued in October. The court also said it planned to forward its opinion on his conduct to the Alabama State Bar.

The appeal was filed by death row inmate Artez Hammonds, who was convicted by Valeska in 1997. Hammond was asking the higher court overturn a Alabama Supreme Court ruling, which decided inappropriate comments by Valeska at the trial did not sway the jury.

The opinion states, "Although Valeska's improper remarks 'almost persuaded' the Alabama Supreme Court to reverse Hammonds's conviction, it nonetheless held that 'the trial judge corrected any harm by giving appropriate corrective instructions.'" It continues, "Because Hammonds cannot show that he was actually prejudiced by any constitutional trial error, we affirm."

Valeska was first elected Houston County District Attorney in 1986 and served until 2016, when he decided not to seek a 6th 6-year term. He has been a controversial figure in the past, and was even the focus of a New York Times article last year.

Hammonds was convicted of killing of Marilyn Mitchell, who was was found raped and murdered in her townhouse in May 1990. At trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing Hammonds DNA and fingerprint at the scene, and showed that Hammonds pawned a ring similar to Mitchell's engagement ring after she was killed.

Hammonds did not testify at trial.

While a constitutional amendment allows a defendant the right to not testify-- and prosecutors cannot their silence against the defendant-- Hammonds' attorneys asked the court in a pre-trial motion to preclude Valeska from making any negative remarks about Hammonds' decision "given Valeska's track record." The motion was granted.

Cobb in early January filed a complaint with the Alabama State Bar's disciplinary committee stating that Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska had given false statements, or was not properly prepared and relied on a faulty memory, to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

"But neither the Constitution nor a direct order from the court inhibited Valeska from improperly referring to Hammonds's decision not to testify," the Eleventh Circuit opinion states.

The appeal and the ruling focuses on two comments made by Valeska during the 1997 trial: One where Valeska said during an objection, "Let him testify," and another during closing arguments when Valeska referred to Hammonds' previous imprisonment, before his arrest in Mitchell's slaying.

The court states their job is to decide whether the remarks swayed the jury's decision. "Hammonds argues that the prosecutor's first statement, which referred to his decision not to testify, violated his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. He's right," the opinion states.

It states, "We are very disturbed by Valeska's behavior. Not only did Valeska intentionally refer to Hammonds's decision not to testify, but he did so in flagrant violation of the court's pre-trial order... Valeska had been reprimanded in prior cases for engaging in precisely the same unconstitutional and unethical behavior."

The order continues with its review of Valeska, claiming the state "white-washed" his actions. "For this reason alone, we, like the Alabama Supreme Court... are tempted to grant Hammonds's petition. But as we have explained, we cannot do so unless Valeska's conduct actually prejudiced Hammonds."

"We can, however, provide the Alabama State Bar with a copy of our opinion for consideration of Valeska's conduct, and we will do so," the ruling states.

Valeska has faced at least one bar complaint before, filed by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 2016.

The court says in the order that while Valeska's conduct was inappropriate, the trial judge immediately gave jury instructions to disregard the remarks and that prosecutors presented "overwhelming evidence" incriminating Hammonds. For those reasons, the court ruled, the errors didn't prejudice Hammonds.

Houston County has 18 inmates on Alabama's death row-- the 2nd most behind Jefferson County, which has 25. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 Houston County had a population of 104,056-- Jefferson County had a population of 659,521.



Trial date set for quadruple-murder suspect

A trial date has been set for the man accused of killing 4 people and severely injuring a fifth person Oct. 11 in Pedro, Ohio.

Having pleaded not guilty Oct. 20 to a 13-count capital murder indictment, Arron Lee Lawson, 23, will go to trial Aug. 6, 2018. A capital indictment was filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio, which means Lawson could face the death penalty by lethal injection if he were convicted.

Lawson has been accused of killing Pedro residents Donald McGuire, 50; his wife, Tammie L. McGuire, 43; her daughter, Stacey Jackson Holston, 24; and Holston's son Devin Holston, 8, as well as stabbing Todd Holston, who survived and was treated for his injuries.

The indictment, which was returned Oct. 18, included 4 counts of aggravated murder, as well as rape, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, attempted murder, aggravated burglary, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.

Judge Andy Ballard is presiding over the case. Under Ohio law, 2 lawyers certified to handle death penalty cases are assigned as defense counsel, and the court appointed Kirk A. McVey, assistant state public defender, and Portsmouth lawyer Gene Meadows to represent Lawson.

Prosecutors agreed to comply with several standard motions McVey filed, as well as sealing evidence, appropriation of funds for a defense investigator, a defense litigation expert and a defense psychologist.

Ballard ordered the parties exchange all evidence by May 11, 2018, and a final pretrial hearing will be held at 10 a.m. June 26, 2018. The jail administrator also asked for a list of approved visitors.

Lawson appeared clean shaven and with a haircut during a pretrial hearing Friday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court in Ironton, and he was not cuffed.

Following a manhunt that lasted more than 36 hours and involved more than 100 law enforcement officers, Lawson was arrested without incident around 10:35 a.m. Oct. 13 while walking along the 1700 block of County Road 52 after authorities got a tip from someone who spotted him. Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless told The Herald-Dispatch at the time that Lawson, who seemed worn out, quickly gave up when authorities approached him.

Family members said Lawson often baby-sat Devin Holston and his 2-year-old brother, Braxton, who was there during the killings but physically was unharmed. Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson declined to talk about a motive Friday, but three of the aggravated murder charges in the indictment included a specification alleging Lawson killed the McGuires and Devin Holston after killing Stacey Jackson Holston to keep them from testifying against him.

McVey also declined to comment about the status of the case.

Lawson is being held without bond.

(source: The Herald-Dispatch)


Court won't review death sentence in prison riot murders

The U.S. Supreme Court won't reconsider the case of a death row inmate convicted in the slayings of 5 fellow inmates during a 1993 prison riot in Ohio.

48-year-old Keith LaMar was convicted of aggravated murder in 1995 for the deaths of 5 inmates during an uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution at Lucasville. He received the death penalty for 4 of the 5 killings.

Justices rejected LaMar's petition Friday.

LaMar wanted his case reconsidered in light of a high court ruling last year that found Florida's death penalty sentencing method unconstitutional.

(source: WHIO news)

ARKANSAS----impending execution

Analysis: Secrecy lingers over Arkansas' next execution

As Arkansas prepares to restart its death chamber several months after the state carried out its first executions in nearly 12 years, an order from the state's highest court to release more information about lethal injection drugs could throw an obstacle in its path. At the minimum, it may raise a new round of uncomfortable questions about how the state obtains its execution drugs.

The state Supreme Court ruled last week that a 2015 law keeping secret the source of Arkansas' execution drugs doesn't extend to manufacturers, a decision that could force the state to release drug labels for its supply of a lethal injection drug early this week. It could undermine an approach Arkansas and at least a dozen other states have used to repel legal challenges by keeping secret how and where they obtain their drugs.

The ruling came a week before the scheduled execution of Jack Greene, a convicted murderer scheduled to die Thursday. A state judge dismissed Greene's attempt to halt his execution on Friday, but the inmate's attorneys said they're appealing to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Greene was convicted for the 1991 killing of Sidney Jethro Burnett after Burnett and his wife had accused Greene of arson. Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week said he's seen nothing in Greene's case file so far that would prompt him to halt the killer's execution.

If put to death, Greene will be Arkansas' 1st execution since the state put 4 men to death over 8 days in April. The state had originally planned to execute 8 men over 11 days before its supply of midazolam, 1 of the 3 drugs it uses in lethal injections, expired. 4 scheduled executions were halted by the courts.

The Supreme Court ruling revives a familiar issue: the secrecy surrounding the source of Arkansas' lethal injection drugs. A 2015 state law keeps the drug source a secret, a move Arkansas officials have said is needed to ensure it can find suppliers.

"Public pressure from anti-death-penalty advocates likely would lead manufacturers to implement even more distribution controls that would, as a practical matter, make it impossible for the state to acquire the drugs in its lethal-injection protocol," the state argued in court filings last month.

Justices, however, dismissed that argument and said doesn't protect the drug makers.

"The evidence presented in this case demonstrated that many manufacturers of lethal injection drugs already prohibit the use of these drugs in executions and that these manufacturers often have contracts in place with their distributors that prevent the downstream sale of the drugs to prison officials," Justice Courtney Goodson wrote in the court's ruling last week. "It is therefore the confidentiality of the sellers and suppliers of these drugs to the (Correction Department) that the confidentiality provisions were intended to protect."

The state had previously released photos of its execution drugs with the manufacturers' names blacked out, but stopped doing so after The Associated Press was able to use those labels to identity the drug makers. A separate lawsuit seeking the same information about the state's 2 other lethal injection drugs is also pending before the high court. Both lawsuits were filed by the same attorney, Steven Shults, who has been seeking the labels.

Hutchinson in August scheduled Greene's execution after prison officials said they'd obtained a new supply of midazolam. The department said it paid $250 in cash for enough of the drug to conduct 2 executions.

2 drug makers unsuccessfully sought to prevent their drugs from being used in Arkansas' executions in April, and a case is still pending before the state Supreme Court over a medical supply company's claims that the state misleadingly obtained 1 of the drugs.

Details about the maker of the latest midazolam supply could open the door for new challenges. The ruling, which takes effect early this week, orders a lower court to determine what information other than the manufacturer must be withheld from the drug labels released.

With a narrow window until Thursday night, the biggest question remaining is how much of an impact - if any - the decision to release those labels could have on efforts to spare Greene's life.

(source: Associated Press)


Anti-death penalty protesters in Springfield

Anti-death penalty protesters have been outside the Greene County Courthouse during Craig Wood's sentencing phase.

"It's important to not have the death penalty because what we believe is that the cycle of violence has to stop and when you have the death penalty, the cycle of violence continues," says Donna Walmsley.

Donna Walmsley is part of the Springfield Chapter for the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and says the death penalty furthers the social standard of violence.

"Violence has to stop and when we have state sanctioned murder of our own citizens even though in some cases they have done horrible things, we don't believe that we sholdl be involved in riddling someone else when there is another way to keep society safe."

She says the penalty phase of this trial has put a burden on Hailey's family and tax payers after prosecutors decided to go to court instead of offering a plea bargain.

"We are also victims in Greene county because we have had to pay a lot of money for a trial that did not have to happen."

That money she says should go to community resources.

"We could use this money on many other things. You know we have a jail here, we could use more community policing, what we really need is money put towards mental health treatment, not towards killing someone else."

The group says they will be outside the court house for the remainder of Wood's penalty phase.


IDAHO----new death sentence

Renfro receives death penalty for the murder of Sgt. Moore

A jury decided Saturday morning that the man who killed Coeur d'Alene Police Sergeant Greg Moore should receive the death penalty.

Jonathan Renfro was found guilty of 1st degree murder for Moore's death back on October 13. He will have a sentencing hearing on Monday at 1:30 p.m.

In May 2015, Moore stopped Jonathan Renfro while walking through a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood that had become the victim of recent car burglaries. Investigators said Renfro pulled out a gun, shot Moore, took the officer's gun and then sped off in his car.

(source: KREM TV news)


Arizona's 40-year experiment with the death penalty has failed

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider taking a case that challenges Arizona's death-penalty law on the grounds that it fails to narrow the punishment to the worst offenders. Regardless of whether the court accepts it, the case raises serious questions about the death penalty that the Arizona Legislature needs to come to grips with.

As the attorney general, I was responsible for overseeing dozens of appeals from sentences of death. 6 people were executed during my tenure. It was critical for me that we imposed the ultimate sanction only on those most deserving.

Tragically, our state has failed in this undertaking in fundamental ways. The breadth of our statute, capturing nearly every 1st-degree murder, makes it unconstitutional. But more than that, Arizona's use of the death penalty is bad policy.

Arizona does not have a good track record for getting it right. At least 9 times our death penalty has swept up the innocent in its net. Nationwide, 160 people have been exonerated from death row. Getting it wrong once is 1 time too many. Death, in its finality, means correcting a wrongful sentence is not an option. Sentencing the innocent to die undermines the public's confidence in the entire criminal justice system, and is reason alone to abandon the death penalty.

Moreover, Arizona's death penalty scheme has unsettling racial disparities in its application. People in Arizona who are accused of murdering white victims are more likely to receive the death penalty. Hispanic men who are accused of murdering whites are more than 4 times as likely to be sentenced to death as white defendants accused of murdering a Hispanic victim. Any other state policy with that sort of disparity would be quickly repudiated. The Legislature should end this horrible death penalty malfunction.

The spiraling costs of seeking and imposing a death sentence are further reason to abandon the policy. These costs have caused the location of the crime to take precedence over its heinousness. Several counties simply cannot afford to pursue the death penalty, creating imbalances having nothing to do with the crime. Maricopa County imposed the death penalty at a rate 2.3 times higher than the rest of the state between 2010 and 2015. The increased use of the death penalty was driven, in part, by an overzealous County Attorney, Andrew Thomas, who later lost his law license for abusing his authority.

The costs associated with defending Arizona's statute (never mind the cases themselves) have been substantial. Dozens of convictions have been set aside because Arizona, unlike almost every other state, did not provide for jury sentencing in capital cases. Arizona was 1 of 2 states to extend the death penalty to felony murders, leading to a rebuke by the Supreme Court and further reversals. The Arizona Supreme Court narrowly interpreted our state's prohibition on executing the intellectually disabled until they were recently forced to reconsider. And case after case has been reversed because of flaws in the instructions given in capital sentencing proceedings.

The case now before the Supreme Court is only the latest example of these problems. But the case itself highlights stunning breadth of Arizona's statute. Virtually every 1st-degree murder is eligible for the death penalty, leaving imposition of the death penalty to the unfettered discretion of prosecutors and juries, causing an intolerable risk of arbitrariness in its administration.

We've been here before. In 1972, the court struck down every state's death-penalty statute because they operated to execute a "capriciously selected random handful," rather than the worst offenders. Similar to other states' efforts, then-state Sen. Sandra Day O'Connor and Rudy Gerber (who later became an Arizona judge) rewrote Arizona's statute to comply with the court's narrowing requirements by obligating the prosecutor to prove one or more aggravating factors before the death penalty could be imposed.

More than 4 decades have passed and we are back to square one. Despite the efforts of O'Connor and Gerber, Arizona has failed to narrow the application of the death penalty and has been unable or unwilling to provide the guidance necessary to ensure that the death penalty is only imposed on the worst offenders.

Finally, 31 states have abandoned the death penalty. In light of its myriad problems, Arizona should join the rising tide against imposing it.

(source: Commentary; Terry Goddard served as the state attorney general from 2003 to 2011 and the mayor of Phoenix from 1984 to 1990----Arizona Daily Star)


Iraqi general responsible for losing Mosul has been sentenced to death

The Iraqi commander responsible for conceding the historical city of Mosul to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in the Summer of 2014 has been sentenced to death by a military tribunal, Al-Sura News reported.

General Mahdi Al-Gharawi was issued a death sentence by a military tribunal this week, marking the 1st time an army commander has been given the death penalty under Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar Al-'Abadi.

ISIS took control of Mosul in 2014, following the abrupt withdrawal of some 10,000 Iraqi Army soldiers under the command of General Gharawi.

(source: almardasnews.,com)


Report: Netanyahu prevented advance of terrorist death penalty----PM publicly supported death penalty for terrorists at condolence visit, 2 days after reportedly thwarting a proposal to advance the issue.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thwarted several months ago during a cabinet meeting a proposal that sought to impose a death penalty on terrorists who had committed particularly brutal acts, according to a report this morning in Haaretz.

At a July 25 cabinet meeting following the murder of 3 members of the Salomon family in the community of Neve Tzuf, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reportedly requested that the military prosecutor seek a death penalty for the terrorist murderer, who was caught alive after the attack. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz also supported Liberman's position.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit responded that the prosecution's policy has long been not to seek the death penalty. He added that the issue was complex and had broad political implications, and he therefore did not want to make such a decision alone. He suggested that cabinet ministers authorize him to seek the death penalty for particularly cruel murders.

According to the report in Haaretz, Netanyahu heard the remarks and said that they had not convened to talk about this issue, thus ending deliberations on the matter.

2 days later, the Prime Minister arrived for a condolence visit at the Salomon family home, where he specifically expressed support for the progression he had thwarted 2 days before.

Netanyahu told the family members, "The time had come to impose the death penalty for terrorists."

"This is permitted by the law; it needs a unanimous decision by the judges, but they'll want to know the position of the government as well. And my position is, as Prime Minister, that in this case, of this lowly terrorist, that he should be executed. He simply cannot be allowed to smile again," Netanyahu said, referencing pictures taken of the terrorist smiling shortly after the attack.

Several cabinet ministers present were amazed by Netanyahu's words, in light of the gap between his rhetoric and lack of readiness to advance such a proposal when the opportunity had presented itself.



Manal Assi's killer sentenced to death

Mohammad al-Nhaily was given the death penalty at the Court of Cassation earlier this week for the 2014 murder of his wife, Manal Assi, according to local paper An-Nahar.

(source: The Daily Star)


New anti-terror laws include death penalty

The newly announced laws against terrorism and its funding include the death penalty.

The new laws state that individuals defaming and publicly insulting the King and the Crown Prince will be sentenced to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment.

Terrorists conducting terror attacks while carrying arms and explosives will face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Terrorists establishing a terrorist cell or leading one will face 10 to 25 years in prison.

Individuals receiving training from terrorist organizations on using arms, explosives, chemical substances, wired and wireless telecommunication devices and ways to smuggle them into the Kingdom will face 20 to 30 years in prison.

Individuals who entice and coax another person to join a terrorist organization will face 8 to 25 years in prison.

Individuals who set up a training camp or manage one or get training in such a camp will face 10 to 20 years in prison.

The punishment will be harsher for individuals with a military background. They may face 20 to 30 years of imprisonment.

Individuals who help terrorists with weapons in any way will face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Individuals who misuse their status in any way either academic or social status or media influence to promote terrorism will face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Individuals who forge documents for terrorist operations and get training on martial arts for terrorist operations will face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Individuals who smuggle explosives, atomic substances or wired or wireless communication devices will face 15 to 20 years in prison.

Individuals conducting a terror attack that results in the death of 1 or more people will face the death penalty.

Individuals may face a fine of a minimum of SR3 million and a maximum of SR10 million for funding terrorist operations.

The specialized court has the authority to freeze the individual's financial accounts and transactions or to appoint a judicial guard to manage the individual's money and transactions.

The court also has the authority to publicize the individual's crime and penalty.

The new laws also include protecting witnesses and keeping their identities confidential.

(source: Saudi Gazette)


Mugabe's death wish is cruel, unhelpful

The death penalty has been a contentious subject of debate in Zimbabwe for many years, but there have been indications in recent years that Zimbabweans are against taking of life as punishment.

The country's new constitution leans in favour of abolition and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was, until last month, the Justice minister, is also against capital punishment.

The fact that there has been no executions for the past 12 years and that the country has no hangman is evidence that Zimbabwe has been moving towards the abolition of the death penalty.

It was shocking, frightful and tragic therefore, to hear President Robert Mugabe last week expressing a wish to have executions resumed. One of the reasons for Mugabe's death wish was the recent callous murder of a Catholic nun by a suspected mentally-challenged person.

Mugabe is entitled to his personal opinions, but as leader of a country, advocating for death when it is apparent, in the constitution, that the majority of your subjects are against the death penalty, becomes worrisome.

There is more than 60 people waiting to be killed at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison right now and they have been sitting in the solitary confinement of their cells for years, waking up every morning and expecting to be dragged to the gallows. Their petitions for clemency have been rejected by Mugabe.

We extend no mercy for these condemned societal outcasts, but still, they deserve to receive justice as modern society deems - not to be killed. While we do not condone criminals, including murderers, we think the death penalty is morally wrong.

Those who clamour for the death penalty do not know that they have literally descended to ancient times where an eye for an eye was central to legislation and this, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, will make the whole world blind.

We are all aware of how the justice system is prone to manipulation by politicians in this country and it might not be surprising to have innocent people hanged for political expediency.

Research has also shown that although the death sentence represents a strong condemnation of brutal and violent crimes, it does not necessarily deter people from perpetrating violent crimes.

The late former High Court judge Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, who in his career sentenced many convicts to death, said him and many of his colleagues on the bench, wished the death penalty was abolished.

He said judges go to great length to find extenuating circumstances in a bid to avoid reaching the capital sentence verdict.

We believe human life is sanctified and no person has the power or control over another.

(source: Editorial, The Standard)


Pakistan's political parties capitalise on blasphemy laws

3e police officers stand daily guard at the tomb of Pakistani student Mashal Khan to prevent religious hardliners from fulfilling threats to blow up the grave of the 23-year-old who was beaten to death over rumours that he blasphemed against Islam.

His grieving family, also under police protection, have little hope the shocking campus killing will lead to a re-examination of blasphemy laws that carry a death penalty, or action against the mob justice that often erupts in such cases.

On Friday, there was more evidence the opposite is happening.

A new political party that has made punishing blasphemers its main rallying cry won a surprisingly strong 7.6 % of the vote in a by-election in Peshawar, 60km from where Mr Khan was killed 6 months ago.

The Tehrik-e-Labaik's relatively strong showing - and a separate outcry over a proposed change to an election law that outraged the religious right - has elevated blasphemy into a potent political issue in the run-up to a general election next year.

While Tehrik-e-Labaik (Movement of the Prophet's Followers) is unlikely to break out of single digits in coming votes, its rapid rise, along with another ultra-religious party, could create an additional challenge for the ruling Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif was ousted as prime minister in July by the Supreme Court, and opposition leader Imran Khan - who spearheaded the legal case that removed him over unreported income - is seeking to press the advantage.

While Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party retained the parliamentary seat on Friday with 34.8 per cent of the vote, the gains by Tehrik-e-Labaik - formed just last year - have grabbed attention.

Blasphemy is an effective wedge issue in Pakistan because there is almost no defence against an accusation. For that reason, say critics, blasphemy laws are often invoked to settle personal scores and to intimidate liberal journalists, lawyers and politicians.

Even before the Labaik party's political debut, politicians found promising swift action against blasphemers an easy way to appeal to conservative voters.

In March, then-Prime Minister Sharif issued a public order to prosecute anyone posting blasphemous content online.

The next month, Mr Mashal Khan was accused of online blasphemy and beaten to death by fellow students and religious activists as onlookers filmed the scene.

Mr Khan's father, Iqbal, said his son was the victim of false rumours.

Learning of the Labaik party's gains only made him more pessimistic about the government's ability to stop abuse of blasphemy claims. "I know very well, I'm not going to get my son back," he said. "But this only adds to my pain."



Bring back the death penalty in bloody republic

The murder statistics are horrible - 52 people murdered a day, including young children.

What use is our constitution if murderers go free or spend little time in jail?

The renowned ones like Oscar Pistorius get treated favourably - 6 years for a cold-blooded murder. The rest are never caught.

The police lose documents, so cases are dropped for lack of evidence.

Jacob Zuma keeps saying he will send the army to crime hot spots, but nothing happens.

A number of murders are committed by people who have murdered before.

Bring back the death penalty so that the criminals are put to death so at least they won't be able to repeat the crime.

It is no use saying that civilised countries have banned the death penalty.

South Africa is nothing like a civilised country, as the crime statistics show.

If it were, people would not be raping and abusing small children, teenagers and defenceless women daily.

This is indeed a bloody republic, and until steps are taken to bring back the death penalty, it will remain so.

JM Chipkin

Cape Town

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Republic)

NOVEMBER 4, 2017:


After 38 years on death row, Philly man gets new trial - and another guilty verdict

It took 32 years of legal filings from his cell on death row, but Robert "Sugar Bear" Lark finally got a new trial.

On Friday, the jury delivered its verdict. Guilty. Again.

Prosecutors said it was a straightforward case. On Feb. 22, 1979, Lark put on a ski mask, stuffed a gun in his belt, walked into a fast-food store at Broad Street and Erie Avenue, and shot dead the store owner, Tae Bong Cho, a 36-year-old father of 2. The slaying was the night before a preliminary hearing for Lark, who had robbed Cho at gunpoint months earlier.

"He killed him in a brazen manner, and then he boasted about it," Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano said in his closing argument.

The defense argued that Philadelphia police detectives systematically provided incentives and threats to induce witnesses to talk. Some had open cases or probation violations when they testified.

"They were handpicked," Lark's court-appointed lawyer, James Berardinelli said. "What made someone an elite detective back in 1979 when Frank Rizzo was still mayor was a heck of a lot different from what makes an elite detective today."

The jury, which found the prosecutor's version of events to be credible, will now have to decide whether Lark, 63, will face the death penalty once again. Given a statewide moratorium and the stances of the candidates running for district attorney here, some are calling it the last death-penalty case in Philadelphia.

It was Lark's 3rd trial: The 1st resulted in a mistrial, the 2nd in a conviction. His charges included not only the murder of Cho but also the kidnapping of a woman and her 2 children - he escaped into their house before police captured him and remained there for 2 hours - and terroristic threats against Charles Cunningham, the prosecutor in Lark's robbery case.

But in 2012, he won the right to yet another trial, after persuading a federal judge that the prosecutor had stricken black jurors simply because of their race - a practice that is illegal but was standard operating procedure for Philadelphia prosecutors, according to a training tape of former Assistant District Attorney Jack McMahon that became public in the '90s. Half the jury for this trial was black.

Proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt 38 years after the fact - when some witnesses are dead and others' memories have faded - was a complicated matter.

For those witnesses who are now deceased, testimony had to be reenacted - the prosecutor, defense lawyer, and judge all reading lines along with an actor in the witness box.

Some other witnesses, brought in from out of state and, in at least one case, from federal prison, adamantly contradicted the testimony they gave at the previous trials in the 1980s.

One, Linda Timbers, who is the mother of Lark's daughter, said the statement police had taken in 1980 was false. According to the statement, she'd been with Lark waiting in line for a movie when a man named Stanley Coleman came up and discussed the murder with Lark. She said that Lark had never taken her to a movie, that she did not know a Stanley Coleman, and that she had not heard about the murder.

"If somebody talked to me bragging about a killing, I would remember that," she said. If she did sign a statement, she insisted, it was out of exhaustion. "It seems like I wasn't going to be able to go home with my children to get something to eat unless I signed it."

Another witness, James Spencer, previously testified that Lark had boasted to him about the murder, but he recanted that statement on the stand. A 3rd testified he now has no memory of the events. A 4th gave similar testimony; she said she was a drug addict desperate to get out of the interrogation room and get her next fix when she made her statement to police.

The defense argued those recantations were clear evidence that the earlier testimony had been tainted - either by prosecutors' promises to offer lenient treatment on open cases or by police threats of implication in the case.

For example, Spencer was facing 4 open cases; 2 were thrown out after he testified. "This is someone who had a motive to fabricate," Berardinelli said.

Notaristefano, on the other hand, said Spencer's recantation was further proof of Lark's campaign of terror: Spencer, he said, "has to take the witness stand so he can recant everything in public in front of the defendant, so that his family can be safe."

The jury will be back on Tuesday to determine whether Lark will return to death row.

Prosecutors offered to take the death penalty off the table if Lark would waive his right to appeal. But as Judge Steven R. Geroff stated the offer, Lark interjected.

"I reject that," he said.

He wants to keep fighting the case.

(source: The Inquirer)


Doctor: Death row inmate's upbringing was 'perfect storm' to create problems

A psychologist argued a former Santa Rosa inmate facing the death penalty for the murder of his prison cellmate was raised in a "perfect storm" of factors to make him unstable and impulsive.

In August, Shawn Rogers, 47, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Ricky D. Martin. Martin and Rogers shared a cell in the state's Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in 2012, where Rogers bound, beat and stabbed Martin in what was reportedly a racially motivated attack.

After finding Rogers guilty of the murder, a jury unanimously recommended he be sentenced to death. However, Rogers gets the opportunity to present mitigating evidence directly to a judge in a last-ditch effort to be sentenced to life in prison rather than death.

In a hearing Friday morning, Dr. Jethro Toomer - a Miami-based forensic and clinical psychologist - took the stand for the defense and testified that Rogers' childhood trauma had an extremely adverse impact on his development.

Toomer said for children to develop into "normal functioning" adults, they need to grow up in an environment of safety, saneness, nurturance and predictability. He said Rogers had none of these things.

"Not only were (these factors) missing, but the onset was early," Toomer testified. "Mr. Rogers' records reflect at age 2, he was in (protective) placement already."

Toomer said Rogers had bounced between 7 foster homes by the age of 9, had been abandoned by his mother and had been exposed to violence. Toomer briefly referenced Rogers suffering "blows to the head," but provided no context for the statement.

The psychologist said Rogers showed signs of toxic stress disorder, which can occur when a child undergoes constant and prolonged adversity without the support of an adult. He said the disorder impairs the child's development, making them less capable of controlling impulses, of appreciating the consequences of their actions and of weighing alternate solutions to problems.

He described it as a near-perpetual state of fight or flight, noting those with the disorder are "unable to manage stress" and "the human reflex for survival remains elevated or is easily triggered."

Toomer said in decades of experience, he had not seen another individual raised in a "perfect storm" of negative influences like Rogers.

Still, Toomer's assessment was based on one interview with Rogers in October and a partial review of documents related to his case. Toomer admitted on cross examination Rogers had been seen by multiple other doctors, none of whom mentioned toxic stress disorder.

Prosecutors also pointed out that Rogers had been functional enough to represent himself at trial, which required planning, scheduling and questioning witnesses. They also noted Rogers had been capable of premeditation, stating Rogers admitted he plotted to kill a white person in retaliation for the 2012 shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The prosecution and the defense are scheduled to file their positions to Judge John Simon in writing in the coming weeks, with Simon then issuing a sentence at a final hearing. Simon did not set a definitive date for the hearing, but estimated it could come before the end of the month.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Florida considers eliminating death penalty, restoring voting rights to felons

Florida's Constitution Revision Commission is submitting proposals to amend the state's constitution.

Every 20 years, a group of appointees and lawmakers meet to talk about amendments to the constitution for voters to decide on.

"It's unique to nowhere else in the United States," said Jimmy Patrons, Chief Financial Officer for the state. "At least a revision commission for appointees from that generation to come together and present new ideas that help adjust our state's constitution with the citizens that are living in the state at the time."

With more than 70 proposals from commissioners this year, some of the more interesting ideas include restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

"I don't have any problem with it, if they've done their time and they're on the right path," said Bear, a Panama City Beach local.

"I mean, they have rights just like you and I," said Samuel Irvin, another Panama City Beach local.

Also on the list of possibilities: eliminating the death penalty as a punishment for capital crimes.

"The death penalty, I think, is a good deterrent," Irvin said.

"Taxpayers are spending a horrendous amount of money for these people to go to trial and so forth. I believe everybody deserves a second chance, but the heinous ones, I'm sorry," said David Owrey, a Bay County local. "You knew what you were doing when you did it."

Eliminating salaries for school board members and those serving on state university boards of trustees made the list.

Another proposal makes money available for students to go to college.

"I'm all for helping somebody to get what they need so they can be prosperous and have a good job in the future," Owrey said.

The public submitted close to 800 proposals for the Constitution Revision Commission to consider.

Since the Commission last met in 1997, the state's population has gone up by 5 million people.

(source: WTVY news)


Jury rejects death sentence for woman who killed roommate for insurance money

acqueline Luongo killed her roommate for money. Prosecutors proved it, a jury decided. But the same jury decided Luongo did not deserve to be executed for the murder.

In September 2014, she handcuffed Patricia Viveiros, 68, and wound a roll of duct tape around her head, cutting off the victim's air supply so that she knew she was going to die for at least a few minutes before she passed out.

Luongo stuffed Viveiros' body in a garment bag and left her to rot in her own closet for days. During that time, Luongo put on a blond wig and, pretending to be Viveiros, cashed checks to profit from her crime.

The jury agreed with all of the allegations made by prosecutors at Luongo's murder trial in April, but late Thursday jurors also decided that Luongo should not be put to death.

Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey sentenced Luongo to life in prison, a mandatory term, along with 30 years for hiring a man who turned out to be an undercover detective to kill her 1-time girlfriend, Maria Calderon, who alerted police to Viveiros' murder.

Luongo's case was the first in Broward to be considered under Florida's latest death penalty law. Before 2016, a jury could recommend death by a simple majority. Now jurors must unanimously find that the prosecution proved "aggravating factors" that warrant death.

In Luongo's case, the jury agreed with prosecutors Shari Tate and Lanie Bandell that the crime was "heinous" and committed for financial gain, but did not agree that capital punishment was warranted.

Suspect in Deerfield roommate slaying was taken in by victim in time of need, say friends.

Over hearings that lasted 3 days, defense lawyer Phyllis Cook presented numerous "mitigating" factors for the jury to consider, including alleged abuse suffered by Luongo at the hands of her brother as they were growing up, conflict between Luongo's Catholic upbringing and her sexuality, and faithful attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Jurors did not indicate how many of them voted to execute Luongo, but under the current law, only 1 has to reject death in order to spare Luongo's life.

Viveiros' family declined to comment after the jury came back with its decision.



Florida man sentenced to death for killing wife, 5 kids

A Florida man received 6 death sentences for the murders of his wife and 5 children 8 years ago.

Mesac Damas was sentenced Friday morning by Collier Circuit Judge Christine Greider, bringing resolution to one of the most horrifying Southwest Florida murder case in recent memory.

"In reaching this decision, the court is mindful that, because death is a unique punishment in its finality, its application is reserved only for those cases where only the most aggravating and least mitigating circumstances exist," Greider said at the end of the 1 1/2-hour long proceeding.

It was September 2009 when Damas brutally killed his wife, Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and the couple's 5 young children - Michzach, 9, Marven, 6, Maven, 5, Megan, 3, and Morgan 1 - slicing their throats with a filet knife inside their North Naples townhouse. At the time, Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk called the killings "the most horrific and violent event" in county history.

Damas, now 41, fled to Haiti, where he was born and raised, but authorities soon located him.

While being transported from Haiti back to Florida, Damas confessed his guilt to the Daily News. Did you kill them? Yes, I did. Why? Only God knows.

He was driven to kill by the devil, he said. He wanted death. He wanted to be buried with his family. He expected to go to heaven.

This focus on God and religion and spirits and demons would continue throughout his time in the Collier County jail and during his court appearances. Early on he was prone to courtroom outbursts, begging to be put to death and imploring a courtroom gallery to come to Jesus. He has maintained that he was "possessed by demons" at the time of the crime.

In jail he fasted, leading to drastic weight fluctuations. He was, he said, trying to starve out the demons. He also shared his Christian faith with other inmates.

It was a lapse in faith before the killings had left him vulnerable to a demonic attack or hex, he would later tell a defense expert, a specialist in Haitian religion.

His court case was marked by fits and stops - a trip to a state mental hospital, challenges to the state's death penalty law, and a rotating door of public defenders and judges (Greider was the 4th judge to oversee Damas' case).

Toward the end, Damas virtually shut down in court, refusing to participate in hearings or speak with his court-appointed lawyers. He wanted to represent himself in court; a request that was denied.

In early September, Greider allowed Damas to plead guilty to the 6 counts of 1st-degree murder. He waived his right to a jury. He also waived his right to have his attorneys present mitigating evidence in his favor.

On Tuesday, when Greider asked Damas if he still wanted to waive his right to mitigating evidence, he refused to speak. Instead, he wrote her a note.

"Go ahead, continue your work, may my blood be upon your shoulders."

He signed the note, "COG" - Child of God.

(source: USA Today)


Death row and executions in Florida: An overview from 1827 to now

There are 356 people on death row in Florida, 2nd only to California. Mesac Damas will be the 357th Florida inmate on death row and only the 2nd from a Collier County case, joining Brandy Bain Jennings, who was sentenced to death in 1996 for killing 3 people during a holdup of a Naples Cracker Barrel restaurant. There are 5 death row inmates from Lee County.

Florida has executed 94 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The most recent inmate executed was Michael Lambrix, 57, on Oct. 5, for killing 2 people after a night of drinking in 1983. The 1st known execution in Florida was in 1827, when Benjamin Donica was hanged for murder.

Florida leads the nation with 27 death row exonerations since 1973, followed by Illinois with 20 and Texas with 13.

Florida allows inmates to choose whether they will be executed by electrocution or lethal injection. The state's 3-legged electric chair was constructed from oak by Department of Corrections personnel and installed at the Florida State Prison in Raiford in 1999. It replaced the state's original electric chair, built from oak in 1923.

The executioner in Florida is a private citizen who is paid $150 per execution.

[sources: Florida Department of Corrections, Death Penalty Information Center, Associated Press]

(source: Naples Daily News)


Death penalty trial for Hamilton drive-by shooting pushed back again

The death penalty trial of a Hamilton man charged with a 2016 drive-by shooting that killed two men was scheduled to begin in February, but has been continued again.

Michael Grevious II, 24, of Maple Avenue, is 1 of 4 who was facing the death penalty if convicted in the murder-for-hire shooting that happened after a fatal shootout at the former Doubles Bar on the city's west side.

Just days before trial in September, Grevious' attorney David Washington requested a continuance because an expert had not completed work in the case. Butler County County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens granted the continuance and rescheduled the trial for Feb. 26.

On Friday, Washington and Grevious again appeared before Stephens because a problem with scheduling an expert continued.

While Stephens said he was not in favor of continuing the trial again, he wanted to assure nothing occurred to get the case overturned for a retrial in the future.

The new trial date for Grevious is April 16.

"I am taking it as a guarantee the mitigation expert will be available," Stephens told the defense team.

July marked the 1-year anniversary of the shootout at Doubles Bar that killed 1 person and wounded 7 others. The shooting sparked retaliation violence on the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2016, that killed 2 people.

According to prosecutors, Grevious, 1 of the men allegedly involved in the Doubles shootout, hired Zachary Harris to kill Orlando Gilbert for $5,000.

Then on the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2016, a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Melinda Gibby pulled up next to a black Ford Mustang occupied by Gilbert and Todd Berus. Tony Patete, the front seat passenger of the truck, opened fire with an AK-47 multiple times, killing Gilbert and Berus, according to court documents.

Grevious is charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault for the Doubles shootout.

In August, Gibby, 35, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated murder. The defense and prosecutors agreed to a sentence of 30 years to life for Gibby, but her sentencing is not scheduled until February 2018. She avoided the possibility of a death sentence if convicted in a jury trial.

Last month, Zachary Harris, 25, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated murder in the retaliation shooting and received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Gibby will not be sentenced until after her cooperation in the trials of the others.

Patete, 23, of Newark, is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder. He is scheduled to stand trial on Dec. 4.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


Ill inmate suggests firing squad as execution alternative

A Franklin County killer scheduled to die on Nov. 15 for the slaying of an 18-year-old man said officials should execute him by firing squad because his breathing problems and poor veins make him too ill to be killed by lethal injection.

But, a federal judge didn't buy the argument.

Ohio lawmakers could quickly approve legislation allowing the firing squad to be used as an alternative execution method for the 1st time in the state, attorneys for death row inmate Alva Campbell said in a court filing late last month.

Campbell's attorneys argued that the method would not require access to his veins, which is important given that last month a prison nurse failed to find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of his arms. Campbell also indicated an allergy to the 1st drug used in the state's 3-drug injection process, his attorneys said.

Death by firing squad is a "known, feasible, readily implemented and available alternative execution method and procedure" that substantially reduces the risk that Campbell would suffer serious harm by injection, his lawyers said.

Federal Judge Michael Merz, of Dayton, rejected the argument for a firing squad execution on Tuesday, noting Campbell didn't offer evidence in support of the method during a recent weeklong hearing. He also questioned whether lawmakers would pass a law allowing it. "Execution by firing squad would be unlawful because (state law) requires the use of lethal injection," he wrote.

In 2015, Republican Gov. John Kasich ruled out the firing squad as an option in Ohio. At least 2 U.S. states allow the firing squad, including Oklahoma, which permits it if other methods aren't available.

On Friday, Merz also rejected Campbell's overall claims that Ohio's lethal injection process raises an unconstitutional risk of serious harm because the 1st drug may not render inmates completely unconscious. Merz previously rejected similar arguments by Raymond Tibbetts, scheduled to die Feb. 13 for fatally stabbing a man in Cincinnati in 1997.

While "surgeries should be pain-free, there is no constitutional requirement that executions be painless," Merz said in last week's ruling.

Campbell's attorneys are deciding whether to appeal.

"We are disappointed with today’s decision, particularly in light of the disturbing evidence from recent executions using midazolam conducted in Ohio and other states," they said.

Campbell uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy bag, requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer, according to his lawyers and court records.

He was also regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, his attorneys said.

The Ohio Parole Board rejected Campbell's request for mercy last month. Kasich, who has spared some inmates while rejecting clemency for others, will have the final say.

Prosecutors said Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed 18-year-old Charles Dials.

On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show.

Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as he crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien calls Campbell "the poster child for the death penalty."

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)


An Unseemly Spectacle----Alva Campbell is next in line to be executed by the State of Ohio.

For the last month of his life, Campbell will have been intensely monitored: 2 corrections officers watch him round the clock to ensure there is no suicide. The state is determined to do the killing itself.

In Campbell's case the monitoring creates a particularly gruesome display for those, like Jeffrey Wogenstahl, who share death row with him. Campbell is frail: he has had portions of his lung, thyroid, prostate, colon, and intestine removed and has a colostomy bag; he has problems related to his heart (and to cancer, pneumonia, sarcoidosis and MRSA); he is frequently short of breath; and he uses a walking frame. He moves slowly: if he leaves his cell, he and his 2 watchers form a slow, macabre procession.

One may guess that his poor health is linked to the horrendous abuse and systematic torture that he suffered throughout childhood. A sociologist with 30 years' involvement in capital cases refers to Campbell's childhood home as "a place of total chaos, turmoil, pain, and deprivation" and adds that he "never witnessed an upbringing as bad as Campbell's."

A forensic psychologist explains: "The violence that Campbell has exhibited as an adult is ... a barometer of the amount of trauma he experienced growing up."

At his trial, however, Campbell's lawyer neglected to make it plain that his client's detrimental experiences continued after he left the family home at age 10; worse still, the prosecution claimed falsely that Campbell was eventually given the support needed to turn his life round. Campbell was failed at trial, just as he was failed during the critical years of his childhood.

Campbell's current lawyer believes that executing this terminally ill man when he is unable to walk or breathe without assistance would result in an "unseemly spectacle."

Governor Kasich has yet to announce whether he will grant clemency and stay Campbell's imminent execution. But for the inmates on death row, the unseemly spectacle of his grotesque death watch has already begun.


ARKANSAS----impending execution

Arkansas Death Row Inmate Wants Brain Examined If Executed

An Arkansas death row inmate scheduled to be executed next week wants his head to be removed after his death and his brain to be examined by a doctor, his attorneys said.

Jack Greene's last will and testament includes a request that his head be "surgically removed from my body and transported out of state to an independent medical examiner, such as Dr. Jan Garavaglia," a former medical examiner in Florida who had a reality television show.\

Garavaglia, reached by phone Friday, declined to comment on the request.

Greene, 62, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday. He was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of retired pastor Sidney Burnett - who had accused him of arson - days after he killed his own brother.

Greene's attorneys say he suffers from severe mental illness and delusions. Greene claims in the will that the Arkansas Department of Corrections has caused him brain injuries and severe dementia, a connection he believes a medical examiner could prove.

"This is something he really insisted that he dictate to me and to write down," Greene's lawyer, John Williams, an assistant federal public defender, said in a phone interview Friday. "He wants to prove all the injuries that he believes have been committed against him."

An Arkansas circuit judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt the execution. Williams said they have appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Greene tried to bring up the last will and testament in court Friday, but was silenced by a judge, Williams said. "I think it's important for people to understand what his mind is working like as he approaches his execution," Williams said.

It is unclear whether Greene's last will and testament could be fulfilled.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he had reviewed "all documents, transcripts, and comments from interested mental health professionals," but he said Greene's testimony at his parole board made it clear to him that the death row inmate understood his punishment and his decision to kill Burnett.

"Numerous courts have reviewed the case and I am satisfied that the Supreme Court's standards have been met and that he is competent to be executed," Hutchinson said in a statement. "As normal, I will continue to review any additional relevant facts as November 9 approaches."

The governor's office said they had not had a chance to review Greene's will as of Friday evening. Hutchinson is traveling in China and Japan on a trade mission and will return on Nov. 7 - 2 days prior to Greene's scheduled execution date.

Two dozen Arkansas mental health professionals and the American Bar Association urged Hutchinson to "show mercy" because they believe Greene to be mentally ill.

"While the ABA does not take a position for or against the death penalty per se, nor is Mr. Greene's guilt in the tragic murder of Sidney Burnett in dispute, the ABA has significant concerns about whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment in his case in light of his severe mental illness," Hilarie Bass, the president of the American Bar Association, wrote in a letter.

Arkansas put 4 death row inmates to death in April - its 1st executions in nearly a dozen years. It had originally scheduled 8 before the end of the month because the state's supply of the lethal injection drug midazolam was set to expire. 4 of those executions were blocked by the courts.

Greene's execution was scheduled after prison officials obtained a new batch of midazolam, but on Thursday the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state had to identify the drug's manufacturer. But the court also ruled that the state was not required to identify sellers and suppliers.

Arkansas officials have argued that the identities of manufacturers, sellers and suppliers should be hidden by the secrecy statutes surrounding Arkansas's execution laws. Otherwise, pharmaceutical companies would attempt to prevent the use of their drugs in executions, as 2 companies attempted during the April spate of executions.

"The Arkansas Supreme Court has correctly concluded that the lot, batch and control numbers on lethal injection drug labels should remain confidential under state law," Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said in a statement. "While the Attorney General does not agree with other aspects of the Court's ruling, she is pleased that the Court agreed with her arguments on this point."

(source: NBC News)


Arkansas death row inmate dies after being found unresponsive in cell

An Arkansas death row inmate was pronounced dead minutes after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the Varner Unit, the Arkansas Department of Correction states.

ADC spokesperson Solomon Graves says inmate Roger Coulter was found by a correctional officer Friday at approximately 6:28 p.m.

He was pronounced dead nearly 40 minutes later.

Coulter was sentenced to death for capital murder by an Ashley County jury back in 1989.

(source: KATV news)


Death penalty possible for man guilty in kidnaping, murder that prompted Kan. Amber Alert

The latest on the trial of a former middle school coach accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a 10-year-old Missouri girl.

The case prompted an Amber Alert in Kansas in February 2014.

On Thursday, a jury found a former middle school football coach guilty of kidnapping a 10-year-old girl from a Missouri neighborhood in front of horrified witnesses before raping and killing her.

Jurors convicted 49-year-old Craig Wood of 1st-degree murder in the 2014 death of Hailey Owens.

Jurors will hear more arguments before deciding whether to recommend the death sentence. The defense didn't dispute that Wood killed the girl, but contended that Wood didn't deliberate first, as prosecutors allege.

During the trial, a witness testified that he was raking leaves when he saw Wood pull Hailey into a pickup truck. The man was unable to get to the girl. His wife called 911 and reported the truck's license plate, which led police to Wood's home. Hailey's body was in the basement. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Walmart Shooting Suspect Scott Ostrem Could Face Death Penalty

The Denver man accused of opening fire inside of a Walmart, killing 3 people in what police say was an act of "mass chaos," could face life in prison or even the death penalty, a judge said Friday.

Scott Ostrem, 47, made his 1st appearance in an Adams County courthouse dressed in a blue jumpsuit and giving one word responses to the judge.

Although prosecutors asked for more time to consider multiple counts against Ostrem, they were ordered to file formal charges by Monday. Until then, he is being held without bond on an initial warrant of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Police in the Denver suburb of Thornton have provided no motive for why Ostrem walked calmly inside of a Walmart on Wednesday night and allegedly fired at random. He fled amid the panic, sparking a manhunt, and was captured the following morning about a half-mile from his home.

The victims were identified as Carlos Moreno, 66, of Thornton, and Victor Vasquez, 26, of Denver, both of whom died at the scene, and Pamela Marques, 52, of Denver, who died at the hospital.

The affidavit in the case remained sealed Friday.

While police released little information about Ostrem, neighbors at the Samuel Park Apartments described him as a loner who would walk around carrying weapons.

"He didn't seem to have anybody," Teresa Muniz, one of his neighbors, told The Associated Press. "Being angry all the time. That's what he seemed like, always angry."

Muniz said most of the building's tenants talk to one another, but Ostrem never returned her greetings and swore at people for leaving laundry in communal machines. She also said she sometimes saw Ostrem carrying a shotgun or a bow and set of arrows to and from the building.

Another neighbor, Gerald Burnett, 63, said he was sitting on the stairs outside drinking coffee one morning when Ostrem came down, told him to move and cursed at him.

"Dude had an attitude, big time," Burnett said. "He's the type of person if you said, 'Good morning,' he wouldn't say nothing."

Another resident, Dennis Valenzuela, told NBC affiliate KUSA that he noticed Ostrem treated tenants differently because of their race. Thornton is about 1/3 Hispanic or Latino.

"Very quiet, but verbally abusive toward Hispanics," said the 49-year-old maintenance worker. "Just real rude, he would use vulgar language with Hispanics and stuff like that."

Thornton police spokesman Victor Avila wouldn't say if investigators knew about neighbors' statements or whether race played a role in the shooting, but told NBC News that the case is "an active investigation and everything will be looked at."

Ostrem recently had financial problems and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2015. He also had minor run-ins with police dating back to the 1990s.

For the past three years, he worked in the metal fabrication shop of a roofing company. On the morning of the shooting, he left his work station without any explanation and never came back, boss David Heidt told the AP.

"We're all bewildered as to where we are now," Heidt said.

(source: NBC News)


Capital punishment system unfair to defendants and attorneys

When asked if I would be willing to represent a Utah death-sentenced inmate, Floyd Maestas, I said absolutely not. I was well aware of the emotional, physical and financial toll the representation would place on me and on my practice. Yet I eventually agreed because I believe those on death row deserve good representation.

Floyd insisted he was not there during the murder, even though at trial 2 eyewitnesses placed him there, his fingerprint was at the scene and there was DNA under the victim's fingernails. But I took my charge seriously and worked feverishly to find evidence of innocence.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that post-conviction lawyers must diligently scour the evidence, investigate the case for innocence, and search for any evidence that could "mitigate" or reduce a defendant's death sentence. These efforts have resulted in the reversal of death sentences around the nation, where innocent people have been exonerated.

Given a shoe-string budget of $30,000, our investigators discovered serious evidence to support Floyd's innocence. This included a letter from 1 of the eyewitnesses, saying he and his friend framed Floyd and that his friend was the real murderer. The DNA "match" was not a match at all, but a Y-chromosome test that would match 421 of 591 Hispanics, Floyd's race. Our fingerprint expert also believed there were serious problems with the fingerprint identification.

We discovered a very traumatic family history. Floyd was raised in the ghetto in a cardboard house with no running water. His father froze to death from alcoholism and 2 of his siblings were murdered. As a boy, Floyd held his dying sister in the living room after her boyfriend stabbed her. A few days after Christmas, police found 13-year-old Floyd passed out on the street from extreme intoxication.

Before his trial, all but one expert concluded Floyd was intellectually disabled, a finding that prohibits his execution. While the judge sided with the one expert at trial, even that expert has now indicated that under newer diagnostic criteria, he also believes Floyd is intellectually disabled.

But we were out of money and time. I had exhausted our limited budget. My investigators had fronted $17,000 of their own money for evidence and the court would not reimburse them. They told me that they could no longer work on the case. I still had not read all Floyd's file given its enormity and asked the court for more time. The request was denied.

The court denied funding for almost all of my work, resulting in around $100,000 of losses. My co-counsel has never been paid for hundreds of hours of donated time. I had to put my expenses on credit cards and my wife took a 2nd job. The stress culminated when I woke in the night feeling chest pain and ended up in urgent care. My doctors believed the heart stress was related to the case and asked me to withdraw. I asked the court to let me off and was denied. In desperation, I reached out to the American Bar Association, who located a large firm who was willing to assist on the case on a pro bono basis.

In capital cases, states provide counsel to the lowest bidder and encourage attorneys to do little work and then get out. And courts don't fix the problems either. They have refused to find that a defendant was deprived an effective attorney, even if he sleeps or is drunk during trial. In my case, the state believes my client has no right to an effective attorney at all and that he should be grateful they even gave him someone.

The system is full of errors. Since 1976, we have executed 1,452 nationally but exonerated 159, a shocking number for so serious a penalty. An astonishing 47 of 100 death sentences are reversed at some point. These reversals happen because of good lawyering, but this safety net is often lacking. Nationwide, public defenders work under enormous pressure, with massive caseloads and have seen little sign of reprieve.

Our capital punishment system is a charade. We provide a "defense lawyer" but either give someone with no experience or refuse to give the necessary resources to experienced attorneys. In Utah, a state with one of the lowest death penalty populations in the United States, which has not executed a defendant since 2010, almost every attorney to take a death penalty case has suffered extreme personal loss. The result is a crisis-level lack of qualified attorneys willing or able to take on capital cases.

If we have the death penalty, we must commit to protecting the innocent from execution. We must also commit to adequately support the attorneys who are called upon to perform these difficult tasks.

(source: Samuel Newton has been a criminal defense attorney since 2003. He has worked as a public defender in Salt Lake City, a professor of criminal justice at Weber State University and as a private practitioner focusing on criminal appeals and capital litigation----Commentary, Salt Lake tribune)


How will Scott Dozier die? Experts weigh in on Nevada's experimental execution cocktail

Imagine you're lying down, and you tell yourself to take a deep breath. But you realize you can't.

You want to jump up, wave your arms or call for help. But even your face is frozen. You're completely paralyzed.

You're slowly suffocating to death, and no one seems to notice.

That's how 2 medical experts described a Las Vegas inmate's possible fate if state officials don't administer enough drugs to render him unconscious during his voluntary execution - scheduled in less than 2 weeks at Ely State Prison.

That scenario would challenge the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from imposing a cruel and unusual punishment, according to experts.

In August, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced it would use fentanyl, diazepam and Cisatracurium in Scott Dozier's lethal injection - a cocktail of drugs never before used in an execution.

The new cocktail has raised questions about how the drugs will be administered, the details of which would be available in the state's execution protocol. The state still hasn't released how it will use those drugs, including dosages.

A court hearing is scheduled for Friday in Clark County about unsealing those details for the public.

Dozier, 45, was sentenced to death for the 2002 murder and dismemberment of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller, whose torso was found in a suitcase inside a trash bin at an apartment complex near the Las Vegas Strip.

Dozier has been sitting behind bars for more than a decade and voluntarily waived his right to appeal his sentence.

The drug cocktail has sparked debate over the use of paralytic drugs in lethal injections, a topic that's been talked about for decades since the 1st lethal injection execution was carried out in 1982.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reached out to Dr. Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University School of Medicine, and Dr. Susi Vassallo, a professor of emergency medicine at New York University of Medicine.

Zivot, Vassallo and Denno have all served as experts and written extensively about lethal injection and its role in capital punishment.

Here's a look at how each of the 3 drugs work, what they're used for and how they could affect Dozier if state officials don't administer them correctly.

Fentanyl in executions: 'It makes sense'

Fentanyl is an opiate, like heroin, but it was "cooked up in a laboratory," according to Vassallo.

It's a potent synthetic drug designed to take away symptoms of pain.

"It's extremely short-acting and extremely powerful," said Vassallo, who is an emergency medical physician certified by the American College of Medical Toxicology, which deals with drug overdoses.

"Depending on the amount you give, somebody can become unconscious and stop breathing," she said. "That can be lethal."

The opioid crisis: Here's what you need to know about the deadly opioid.

Fentanyl is a drug that's used every day in modern medicine. It's also at the center of the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States.

"So, you can see that fentanyl - if you're trying to kill somebody - it's a very good drug for lethal injection," Vassallo said. "It makes sense if that's what you're trying to do."

Fentanyl affects different opioid receptors in the body, which are responsible for pain relief and breathing.

Opioid receptors exist not only in the nervous system, but in organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

"When you inject fentanyl into a human body, that fentanyl goes and finds that receptor and provides pain relief and respiratory depression," Vassallo said. "It slows breathing until it stops."

At the same time, it keeps the person unconscious and unable to feel pain.

"Nevada could easily kill a human being with fentanyl," she said. "Or they could inject an even longer acting, enormous dose of morphine or any kind of powerful opiate ..."

Diazepam: The sleeping drug

State officials also plan on using diazepam as part of lethal injection cocktail. But the drug itself isn't dangerous . And it doesn't make much sense to use it in an execution, according to both Vassallo and Zivot.

Diazepam is used for various reasons. It can be used to temporarily treat insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms and anxiety. It can also be used as a light muscle relaxant or as a sedative for minor surgery or non-invasive procedures, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Veterinarians also use it to help alleviate anxiety in dogs and cats. But it doesn't affect consciousness.

"Diazepam is used for anxiety," said Zivot, who's practiced anesthesiology for 25 years. "In the past, they were used as sleep promoters."

Basically, it's just a Valium, Vassallo said.

"People take valium to relax," she said.

"Valium, in general, won't kill someone. It would have to be massive doses, very massive and given very rapidly."

Cisatracurium: The paralyzing drug

Zivot and Vassallo agreed using Cisatracurium in Dozier's execution could violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which prohibits the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment.

Cisatracurium is a paralytic drug, typically used on patients undergoing surgery.

Cisatracurium affects how skeletal muscles contract and relax. Even if a patient is deeply anesthetized, muscles can still contract during surgery.

"Paralyzing drugs are used safely every day in the country and around the world to facilitate surgery," Zivot said. "It allows for muscle relaxation, so the muscles don't create a barrier next to the organs beneath."

It's also helpful when placing a ventilation tube in a patient's throat.

"There is a muscle for breathing called the diaphragm, and the diaphragm is a skeletal muscle," Zivot said. "When a person is given Cisatracurium, the diaphragm muscle becomes paralyzed. It won't move."

But the drug won't affect consciousness, awareness, pain or anxiety, which is why state officials plan to use fentanyl and diazepam.

"If I gave Cisatracurium to a person who was awake, they would become quickly aware of their inability to move and ... breath," Zivot said. "Even though our brain is sending messages to our muscles to move, the muscles themselves would not be able to respond."

"Outwardly, we would appear calm," he said. "The expression of our face would be relaxed.

"Inside, we would be dying. We would be suffocating, and it would be terrifying. But you can't communicate this terror."

(source: Reno Gazette Journal)


Renfro tells jury he accepts his fate, even if it means the death penalty

For the 1st time since his trial began on Sept. 11, convicted killer Jonathan D. Renfro took the stand Friday to speak about his role in the death of Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Greg Moore.

He used his first words to address the slain officer's family.

"I know you all hate me with good cause," Renfro said, facing them. "I know you probably don't believe me, but I am sorry."

Renfro then turned to the jury - the same jury that convicted him of 1st-degree murder in the May 5, 2015, ambushing and killing - and told them he accepted whatever fate they chose.

"I've taken the life of a man who was much greater than I am. I can never fix that. Not only have I destroyed that family, I've destroyed my own family," he said.

"If you decide the death penalty will give back to the community and the Moore family," he continued, "I accept that decision and will support it."

After deliberation, the jury may now elect that Renfro face the death penalty. If it doesn't unanimously agree to that sentence, Renfro will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The jury had not reached a verdict by the end of the day Friday.

During the day's proceedings, however, Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor David Robins gave the jury a long list of reasons why the state believes Renfro should receive the death penalty.

"Greg was a good man who deserved many more years with his wife. He was a good man who deserved to raise his children," Robins said. "He was a good man whose life was ended by a man who didn't want to go back to prison.

"In terms of the family, no words I can say can do justice to the pain they feel every day," he continued. "The death penalty will not bring Greg back, but it will provide justice to a family that will suffer for the rest of their lives."

Defense attorney Keith Roark did not try to convince the jury that his client had not committed the killing. Instead, he asked that they simply let Renfro die in prison.

"I am asking you to take from this man all of the things that make his life worth living. Put him in a place where he will never again be able to look at a sunrise over Lake Coeur d'Alene or smell the pine trees after a spring rain … to never know what it is to walk down the street holding the hand of someone you love.

"This can all be over," Roark said. "Nothing you do is going to put back in the heart of Dylon Moore what a father's love means. But there is no need to kill this man."

Renfro's statements followed a day of painful testimony, as Moore's family described how the officer's death had ripped through their lives.

"I miss his touch, his warmth and his presence," Moore's widow, Lindy Moore, said through tears. "I miss being his wife. I miss the way he loved me. I miss him and I will never be the same.

"My husband was murdered in one moment," she continued. "Our future is gone."

Friday also included the continued testimony of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who testified that he believed Renfro suffers from antisocial anxiety disorder and not from a traumatic brain injury as experts from the defense had claimed.

Welner, who charged the state $210,000 for his research and $6,000 a day to testify, said Renfro had been doing well before making a decision to pursue criminal activity.

"If he wasn't armed, he would not have shot Sgt. Moore," Welner said. "He chose to arm himself. This was a byproduct of his won choices, of doing what he wanted to do and being where he wanted to be."

First District Judge Lansing Haynes then allowed Moore's mother, father and 14-year-old son to testify.

The stories painted a compelling picture of a bear of a man who always found time for his family, who daily wrestled his son and became a lifelong friend to anyone who got to know him.

Dylon told the jury he knew his father as "Batman" because "he worked in the night, and he had a belt with a lot of gadgets. He was filled with a love for me that will never be duplicated."

The teenager testified about the night his father was shot and the ongoing regret of not being able say goodbye to his dying father, who he was told was unrecognizable because of the shot to his face.

"I didn't know I would never give him another hug or see him at the softball game again," he said as he cried. "He made me feel like I had a place at the top of his heart. I love my dad, and will miss him for the rest of my life."

Fred Moore, himself a lifelong police officer, spoke in broken sentences about the son who followed his footsteps into law enforcement.

Greg Moore "told me many times that he loved his job because he liked to help others," Fred Moore said. "I was always told that the loss of a child is the worst thing a human can suffer. I can tell you ... it's unbearable and it just never goes away."



Trump's complicated past with the death penalty and due process

The day after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was charged with desertion in 2015 after being held captive in Afghanistan for nearly 5 years, Donald Trump tweeted that the former Taliban prisoner should "face the death penalty" for abandoning his post and endangering his unit.

On Friday, a military judge gave Bergdahl no prison time, a move that now-President Trump criticized on Twitter as "a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military."

Earlier this week, as the clock approached midnight, the President tweeted that the suspect who killed 8 by driving a truck down a Manhattan bike path "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!" -- the 1st time he tweeted a call for capital punishment as sitting President.

Legal experts said the President's comment, followed by a subsequent tweet repeating his call the next day, could entangle prosecutors as they seek to seat an unbiased jury and deliberate over what punishment to seek.

For the last 1/2 decade of public life and beyond, Trump has consistently called for capital punishment against some of America's most high-profile criminals. But he's done so with limited concern for due process -- in both the justice system and the method of execution itself -- which courts have shaped and ethicists have debated in the US for decades.

Trump has called for the death penalty more than a dozen times in the last 5 years, including:

On Drew Peterson, who gained national headlines after the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, Trump tweeted to "change the law" and "bring back the death penalty!"

Trump called for the "DEATH PENALTY!" in a tweet against the "deranged animals" who killed two police officers in Mississippi in 2015.

He also tweeted that Jared Lee Loughner, who shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed a half dozen others in 2011, "should be given the death penalty, not his plea bargained life in prison -- which will cost the taxpayers many millions of dollars."

But it's not just the use of capital punishment that Trump has pushed for. He's also called for expediting the judicial process and hinted at skirting the justice system's due process and implementing more brutal methods of execution.

In 1 tweet against the Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, who shot 82 people in a movie theater, Trump called for a "fast trial" and for lawmakers to "immediately pass speed up legbostoislation."

On a gunman who shot and killed a former coworker at the Empire State Building in 2012, Trump recommended "fast trials and death penalty."

In the case of Boston Marathon bomber, Trump tweeted for a "quick trial, then death penalty."

After a string of missing children in October 2012, Trump called for "fast trial" and "death penalty" on Twitter.

But he's also entertained more gruesome methods of execution. He also called for a "very fast trial and then the death penalty" against "the animal" who beheaded a woman in Oklahoma in September 2014, then tweeting "the same fate - beheading?"

And in a February 2016 speech on the campaign trail, Trump mocked people who consider the death penalty unconstitutional and develop humane methods of execution while talking about the fight against ISIS and the immigration system.

"It's like these guys that commit murder, right? They commit murder. They kill someone. ... They go to jail. 'We don't want the death penalty. It's cruel and unusual punishment,'" he said. "And then you have another case when they get the death penalty, want to give them drugs to put them to sleep quietly and this. Look, we're in a fight for our lives."

Capital punishment is legal in 31 states and the federal government, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures.

On the campaign trail ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Trump proposed an executive order requiring mandatory capital punishment for killing a police officer. Legal experts highlighted multiple constitutional concerns with the proposal at the time.

Trump's support for the death penalty stretches back decades, when he ran multiple full-page ads in New York City newspapers in 1989 following the rape and assault of a Central Park jogger.

In the full-page ads, Trump said that "our society will rot away" until capital punishment is used more commonly. "I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid," he wrote. "They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.''

Trump interviewed with Playboy on the topic the next year. "When a man or woman cold-bloodedly murders, he or she should pay. It sets an example. Nobody can make the argument that the death penalty isn't a deterrent. Either it will be brought back swiftly or our society will rot away. It is rotting away," he said.

Trump's desire to expedite the justice system hasn't stopped at capital punishment. When asked on "Fox and Friends" in April 2013, he said he supported nixing the US Supreme Court's requirement that suspects be read their rights to remain silence and obtain a lawyer at apprehension -- dubbed Miranda rights.

"I don't think so at all," Trump said in 2013 when asked whether he thought police ought to maintain the Miranda requirement.

"What I don't like seeing is a lot of people are saying we did something wrong," he said, lamenting questions at the time over whether a Boston Marathon bombing suspect was read his Miranda rights properly. "Here we go again, I mean I see it all the time. We did something wrong. We didn't read their rights. They weren't told of their rights."

"You know we have to get back to business in this country. This is disgraceful," he said.

(source: CNN)


Child-killer Joseph Duncan still fighting death sentence

Although child-killer Joseph Duncan waived his right to appeal his triple death sentence for the 2005 kidnapping, torture and murder of a 9-year-old North Idaho boy, Duncan, through a team of attorneys, is now pressing a series of continued challenges.

That's in part because more than two years after Duncan waived his appeals, he changed his mind. Courts said it was too late for his direct appeal, but he's now in the midst of the next stage, his habeas filings, in which his attorneys can challenge aspects of his conviction and sentencing on constitutional grounds. These challenges start in the U.S. District Court but can be then appealed again to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Duncan's case already has been to the U.S. Supreme Court twice; the high court refused to review it each time.

Last week, federal prosecutors in Idaho filed their legal arguments responding to Duncan's 231-page "motion for collateral relief," which his attorneys filed last winter.

"None of Duncan's contentions have merit," prosecutors wrote in their conclusion, after going through, in detail, Duncan's arguments on various legal and procedural grounds.

Duncan's attorneys are raising arguments ranging from questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty to suggestions that Spokane attorney Roger Peven's early withdrawal from Duncan's case due to unrelated personal problems sabotaged Duncan’s case - even though the confessed murderer and child rapist pleaded guilty to all the charges, including multiple murder charges.

"Duncan attempts to lay the blame for every asserted error at the feet of Roger Peven," federal prosecutors wrote. "After Peven revealed personal and substance abuse issues that had affected his ability to represent Duncan, the court permitted him to withdraw as lead counsel. But Duncan never wanted for attorneys, and enjoyed the services of the nation's most celebrated capital-defense lawyer, Judy Clarke, as an advisor to his team of lawyers and eventually, in Peven's stead, as lead counsel."

Duncan's appellate attorneys, led by Assistant Federal Defender Lindsay Bennett in Sacramento, are offering an array of other grounds as well for overturning his death sentence.

They're suggesting a possible "miscarriage of justice" because Duncan's history of being abused as a child wasn't detailed to jurors. Duncan himself refused to allow that evidence to be presented, saying he didn't want his past experiences presented as an "excuse for his behavior" and that childhood abuse he suffered was "irrelevant."

He acted as his own lawyer during his federal sentencing trial and refused to present any of that evidence. But much of it came out anyway, when the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold a "retroactive competency hearing" to determine, in open court, whether Duncan was mentally competent. He had lawyers at that 6-week 2013 hearing, and after Lodge again found him competent, they appealed unsuccessfully both to the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Duncan's lawyers also are suggesting Duncan wasn't mentally competent to plead guilty in 2007, though at the time he was represented by a team of attorneys and consulted with them on the decision. They're alleging he had ineffective assistance of counsel in that decision, violating his constitutional rights.

Federal prosecutors counter that the lawyers didn't seem to question Duncan's competency until he fired them and took over his case himself.

Duncan's lawyers say his legal team was pressed for time to prepare for his trial because Peven's departure, and his lack of early preparation work, had left them far behind schedule, and U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge wouldn't grant their requests for more delays in the case.

When they advised Duncan to plead guilty to the crimes and move on to the sentencing phase of the trial - something he'd been indicating all along he wanted to do - "this was triage, pure and simple," Clarke wrote in court documents, "motivated exclusively by our need for more time to prepare."

There are other claims Duncan is raising, including that a 2015 Supreme Court case changed the interpretation of one of the three charges under which he received the death penalty; and that video evidence shown in court of Duncan torturing his young victim, Dylan Groene, was prejudicial and shouldn't have been shown.

Prosecutors responded that the graphic videos showed exactly what jurors needed to see "in order to decide if a defendant should receive the greatest punishment," including the presence of aggravating factors such as committing the offense in a "heinous, cruel or depraved manner" and with a "vulnerable victim." "Such evidence can be expected to be horrific," the U.S. attorney's office wrote. "They showed precisely what Duncan did."

Now that the government has responded, Duncan's lawyers have until Jan. 30 to file a reply. Then, Lodge could hold a hearing, or rule on the arguments as submitted. After his decision, further appeals could follow.

It's part of a lengthy series of steps, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, that must occur before a criminal defendant can be executed. Just 3 federal executions have been carried out since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988; the last one was in 2003.

"It is a long, long road," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Syrena Hargrove, who worked on the latest filing for the Idaho U.S. attorney's office.

In addition to the 3 death sentences for the kidnapping, torture and murder of Dylan, Duncan received 9 life sentences for his 2005 attack on Dylan's family at their Wolf Lodge Bay home. Duncan killed Dylan's mother, older brother and mother's fiance before kidnapping the family's 2 youngest children. Only Dylan's then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, survived the ordeal.

Duncan remains on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana. Aged 42 at the time of the crimes, he is now 54.



Mugabe wants return of death penalty to cure rising murder cases

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has made a case for the return of death sentence onto the law books.

Mugabe cited the increasing rate of murder cases in the southern Africa country as justification for a return of the law. He also expressed worry at how people killed others because of trivial and ritual purposes.

The 93-year-old was speaking at the funeral of a political ally, Don Muvuti, in the capital Harare on Wednesday. "Let's restore the death penalty. People are playing with death by killing each other.

"Is this why we liberated this country? We want this country to be a peaceful and happy nation, not a country with people who kill each other," he added.

The AFP news agency reports that the last execution in the country happened 12 years ago after which the hangman retired. But a justice ministry official is said to have disclosed that that over 50 people have since applied for the vacant post of the executioner.

Reports indicate that the country currently has over 90 prisoners on death row. Rights groups have increasingly called for the death penalty to be scrapped from the law books across the world.

Most African countries only have them sitting on the books but hardly implement them. Nigeria's Lagos State recently mooted death sentence for kidnappers after a spike in the crime.

In Tanzania, however, President Magufuli was quoted as saying even though it was on the books, he will not be in a position to sign death warrant of convicts.

"I know there are people who convicted of murder and waiting for death penalty, but please don't bring the list to me for decision because I know how difficult it is to execute," he said.

Tanzania's Penal Code, Cap 16 stipulates the death penalty for serious offenses like murder and treason.



ourist 'faces death penalty in Egypt' for carrying painkillers----Laura Plummer remains in custody and her family says they were told she could face execution

A British woman has been detained in Egypt after flying into the country with painkillers for her husband's sore back.

Laura Plummer, 33, from Hull, was arrested when she was found to be carrying tramadol and Naproxen in her suitcase.

The newspaper said she signed a 38-page statement in Arabic which she thought would result in her being able to leave the airport, but she has been held in a 15ft by 15ft cell with 25 other women for nearly a month.

Her brother James Plummer, 31, said the family has been told she could face up to 25 years in jail, with one lawyer even mentioning the death penalty, The Sun reported.

Irish citizen released from prison in Egypt after 4-year detention

Mr Plummer said his sister had been arrested for what he thinks the authorities in Egypt call "drug trafficking", but said she had only brought a small amount of medication for her Egyptian husband who she visits 2 to 4 times a year.

The Sun said she took 29 strips of tramadol, each containing ten tablets, plus some Naproxen, adding that her husband suffers back pain due to an accident.

Mr Plummer said: "It's just blown out of proportion completely."

He said his sister just thought she was doing a "good deed" by bringing the medication over to her husband, and said she will be "completely out of her comfort zone" in jail.

"She's so by the book, so routine, she just likes her own home comforts, watches Emmerdale every night or things like that, going to bed at 9 o'clock every night," he said.

Mr Plummer said his mother and sisters have travelled to Egypt to visit Laura following her arrest on 9 October, adding: "They say she's unrecognisable. When they seen her, she's like a zombie, they said."

He said her hair is starting to fall out due to stress and he voiced concerns about how she will cope.

"I don't think she's tough enough to survive it," he said, adding: "She has a phobia of using anybody else's toilet, so let alone sharing a toilet and a floor with everybody else. That will be awful for her, it'll be traumatising."

Mr Plummer said the family feel "helpless" due to being in a different country, and said of his sister: "It's awful for Laura ... she's not a tough person at all. She's only small."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in Egypt."

(source: The Independent)


Thousands of Iranian Death Row Inmates to Receive Sentence Reviews Under Amended Drug Law

Thousands of Iranians currently on death row for low-level drug crimes will receive sentence reviews under a newly amended law, announced Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi on October 31, 2017.

"The judges presiding over these cases have to be ready to implement the newly amended Law Against Drug Trafficking," he said. "The law will become mandatory 15 days after its publication in the official newspaper [of the Islamic Republic of Iran]"

"The judges have to review the death penalties and issue new sentences based on the new law," he added.

On October 14, the Guardian Council, which vets laws for conformity with Islamic principles, approved the amendment after it was passed in Parliament, giving hope to an estimated 4,000 prisoners on death row in Iran for petty drug-related crimes.

Iran maintains one of the highest per-capita execution rates in the world. At least 567 people were executed in 2016, down 42 % from the 977 who were in executed in 2015. The vast majority of executions were for petty drug-trafficking crimes, including for carrying small amounts of illegal drugs.

Under the new law, the death penalty can only be issued in convictions involving:

Armed trafficking

Playing a leading role in organizing and financing drug trafficking, including with the use of child trafficking

In cases involving previous death sentences, life sentences, or sentences of more than 15 years

Possession or transportation of more than 50 kilos of opium and other "traditional drugs," 2 kilos of heroin, or 3 kilos of methamphetamine

The initial version of the law mandated capital punishment for possession or transportation of more than 5 kilos of opium or 30 grams of heroin or industrial narcotics.

"Most of the people who have been executed in the country were mainly small-time traffickers, while the profits went to gang leaders living comfortably abroad," said the deputy chairman of the parliamentary Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee, Mohammad Kazemi, on October 18.

On September 10, committee member Yahya Kamalipour said the amended law would be applied retroactively.

The UN, other international rights-monitoring groups, and human rights activists inside the country have heavily criticized Iran's high execution rate.

Several anti-death-penalty activists have been imprisoned in part for their stance on the issue, including human rights defender Narges Mohammadi and political activist Arash Sadeghi.

(source: Center for Human Rights in Iran (formerly known as International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)


Death penalty reforms must be an opportunity for positive human rights change - Amnesty International Malaysia

Amnesty International Malaysia welcomes the statement by the Malaysian government outlining its efforts to amend Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and to provide courts with the discretion to spare lives when imposing the death penalty. The organisation encourages the Government of Malaysia to ensure that the proposed amendments will fully remove the mandatory death penalty and establish a moratorium on all executions as first critical steps towards abolition of the death penalty.

The announcement comes after a parliamentary reply by Law Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said on 30 October 2017, stating that the 1st draft of the amendment has been completed by the Attorney General's Chambers and is awaiting the approval of the cabinet.

The organisation also welcomes the support of the Attorney General, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali in giving the discretionary power to the judiciary in drug-related offences in a statement made on 31 October.

While Amnesty International believes that these amendments is a step in the right direction, the organisation hopes that these amendments will be implemented in a manner that is effective and far-reaching.

The organisation renews its call on the Malaysian authorities to abolish the mandatory death penalty for all offences and restrict the scope of the death penalty to the "most serious crimes", which do not include drug-related offences. International law prohibits the use of the mandatory death penalty and restricts the use of the ultimate punishment, in countries where it has not yet been abolished, to intentional killing.

Amnesty International Malaysia is in fact concerned that the statement of the Attorney General suggested that the death penalty legislative amendments, as currently drafted, would introduce limited sentencing discretion only for those found guilty of transporting prohibited substances. Amnesty International's analysis of the impact of similar reforms implemented in Singapore since 2013 indicate that the introduction of limited sentencing discretion that fell short of fully abolishing the mandatory death penalty has done little to improve the protection of human rights.

In its report Cooperate or Die; Singapore's Flawed Reforms to the Mandatory Death Penalty, Amnesty International found that the mandatory death penalty continues to be extensively imposed in Singapore, and that drug trafficking continues to involve the great majority of the death sentences imposed in the country. In cases where information is available, the burden of the death penalty once again appears to fall on those with less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and convicted of importing relatively small amounts of controlled substances.

The amendments also introduced a new section in the Singaporean Misuse of Drugs Act, giving courts discretion to sentence persons to life imprisonment, if found guilty of drug trafficking or importing prohibited substances over certain amounts if they can prove their involvement in the offence was restricted to that of a "courier"; and if the Public Prosecutor issues a "certificate of substantive assistance", confirming that the convicted person has substantively assisted in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

This not only narrows the court's discretionary powers considerably, it violates the right to a fair trial as it places life and death decisions in the hands of an official who is neither a judge nor a neutral party in the trial and should not have such powers.

It is our hope that the Malaysian authorities will make the ongoing legislative reforms on the death penalty a meaningful opportunity to improve the protection of human rights and adopt a comprehensive approach on its policies on the death penalty.

Pending abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International Malaysia renews our call on the authorities to establish a moratorium on all executions. The government had stated that as of April 30, 2016, 1,042 people comprising 629 Malaysians and 413 foreign nationals were sentenced to death due to murder, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking or kidnapping; Sixteen (16) death row inmates have been executed since 2010 in Malaysia.

Even with plans to amend laws and rulers granting pardon to death row inmates, Amnesty International Malaysia still calls for the total abolition of the death penalty as it is proven multiple times not to have a unique deterrent effect on crimes, and violates the Universal Declaration of Human rights, including the right to life and the right to live free from torture.

It is in this context that Amnesty International Malaysia welcomes the pardon by the Sultan of Perak on November 1 of 2 prisoners, who have been imprisoned for more than 16 years. Death row prisoners are usually kept in solitary confinement once their sentence has been imposed.

In a country where information on the use of the death penalty is not publicly available, the announcement of the pardon is a positive development which the organisation hopes it can be replicated to allow for greater transparency and more commutations of death sentences.


Mandatory death sentences leave courts no option but to condemn drug offenders and those convicted of murder to the gallows. Drug trafficking does not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international human rights law.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organisation considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International calls for the government's urgent intervention to halt all executions and to broaden the scope of the proposed reforms to encompass all capital offences; and to abolish the automatic presumptions of drug possession and trafficking allowed under Section 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952 as initial steps.

Amnesty International has ranked Malaysia 10th in the use of the death penalty among 23 countries that carried out capital punishment last year.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.


NOVEMBER 3, 2017:


Lawyers agree to DNA testing in Swearingen's death row case

After years of courtroom wrangling, lawyers from both sides are finally agreeing to move forward with DNA testing in the 1998 rape and murder of Montgomery College student Melissa Trotter.

The agreement, expected to be finalized in court papers in the coming weeks, comes just days after a judge called off the pending execution of death row inmate Larry Swearingen, who was convicted in the slaying nearly 2 decades ago and has since repeatedly professed his innocence.

"They're doing the right thing," defense attorney James Rytting said Sunday, pointing to another death row inmate's alleged plan to confess to the crime as evidence of the need for testing.

A lab would likely evaluate the rape kit, the ligature used to strangle Trotter, finger nail scrapings and hair.

"We're still working out the details, but I'm excited that Mr. Rytting has finally agreed to allow us to test this DNA," Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said Sunday. "I'm glad to be moving forward on this matter."

Years-long legal battles over DNA testing have become a hallmark of Swearingen's case, which even sparked changes to state laws regarding post-conviction DNA testing in 2015. Both sides have pushed for DNA testing at times, but always using different legal mechanisms and never in agreement.

At least twice, a trial court judge sided with Swearingen's testing requests - but each time the state slapped down the lower court's move, ruling that new DNA wouldn't be enough to counter the "mountain of evidence" pointing to Swearingen's guilt.

In 2013, prosecutors filed a failed bid for DNA testing, but the defense opposed.

Now, though, an alleged death row confession plot that could have seen another convicted killer confess to Trotter's death has sparked new interest in testing.

"Both sides now recognize that there's a need to test the evidence," Rytting said.

Swearingen and Trotter were seen in the college's library together on Dec. 8, 1998 - the day of the teen's disappearance. Afterward, a biology teacher spotted Trotter leaving the school with a man.

Hair and fiber evidence later showed that she'd been in Swearingen's car and home the day she vanished.

The killer's wife testified that she came home that evening to find the place in disarray - and in the middle of it all were Trotter's lighter and cigarettes. Swearingen later filed a false burglary report, claiming his home had been broken into while he was out of town.

That afternoon, Swearingen placed a call routed through a cell tower near FM 1097 in Willis - a spot he would have passed while heading from his house to the Sam Houston National Forest where Trotter's decomposing body was found 25 days later.

Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000, but on Friday a judge approved calling off his Nov. 16 death date - the fifth one scheduled in the case - as a result of a filing snafu.

Back in August,, the Montgomery County District Clerk sent notice of the November execution scheduling to the Office of the Attorney General's writ office instead of to the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs. Because the law requires notice to the OCFW - which defends death row convicts - to be mailed within 2 days of the setting of an execution, the date had to be called off. It has not been rescheduled.

Swearingen's attorneys first pointed out the problem in court papers on Wednesday, filing a motion to withdraw the execution in light of the mistake.

But aside from the clerical issues, Rytting also requested calling off the execution in order "to investigate newly discovered information suggesting that Anthony Shore - a convicted serial killer - has confessed to the murder of Melissa Trotter," according to court papers.

"Mr. Swearingen will seek to depose Mr. Shore in order to preserve his testimony regarding the nature of any confessions he made, to obtain a DNA sample, and to obtain all other relevant information including documents, recordings and any other evidence concerning Mr. Shore's connection to Ms. Trotter's murder."

Word of the alleged confession scheme emerged on the eve of Shore's scheduled execution on Oct. 18.

Hours before he was scheduled to die, Shore won a 90-day stay after prosecutors said the 4-time killer admitted to an abandoned plan to admit to Swearingen's crime.

Officials first found out about the possibility of a last-minute confession attempt back in July, when a death row cell search uncovered materials relating to Trotter's killing - including a hand-drawn map marking the supposed location of more evidence - stashed in Shore's cell.

The day before his scheduled execution, Shore told investigators he'd only considered confessing to get his friend off, and not because he'd actually committed the additional crime. The multiple murderer also agreed to answer questions about other cases, and a judge greenlit pushing back his first scheduled execution date. He is now slated to die by lethal injection on Jan. 18.

(soruce: Houston Chronicle)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----26

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----544

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

27---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas---------545

28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546

29---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------547

30----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Prosecutor asks for current medical standards in death penalty evaluations

The top prosecutor in Harris County is proposing a new way for Texas to determine if a death-sentenced inmate is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution: use the current clinical books.

When determining whether someone with a death sentence has a mental disability, Texas has long used outdated standards partially created by elected judges. Now that those standards have been ruled unconstitutional, one district attorney wants the state to use a markedly different measuring stick: current medical science.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg sent a brief to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday afternoon in the case of Bobby Moore, a man convicted in the 1980 shooting death of a Houston supermarket clerk. Ogg now says Moore is intellectually disabled, but the questions surrounding the prisoner's mental capacity led to a March Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Texas' method of determining intellectual disability for death row inmates. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the court's opinion that the state's test created an "unacceptable risk" of executing intellectually disabled people, a practice deemed unconstitutional.

But while the ruling tossed out Texas' old way of determining the disability, it didn't create a new one. Instead, cases of death-sentenced inmates who were deemed competent for execution under the old test were suddenly ripe for new litigation, and at least 2 men who had been on death row for decades had their sentences changed to life in prison - all while awaiting a final ruling on Moore's intellectual capacity.

Ogg asked for Moore's sentence to be reduced to life in prison, and her brief also asked Texas to create a new way of determining intellectual disability - one that sticks to the medical books.

'"Unacceptable risk' necessitates that the States should strictly adhere to the definitions of intellectual disability as contained within the most current versions of the clinical manuals," said the brief.

She implored Texas to conform to the standards set by the American Psychiatric Association, similar to how Louisiana and Mississippi determine intellectual disability. If the Texas court accepts Ogg's suggestion, death penalty experts say it will put Texas in line with the Supreme Court's ruling and will put fewer Texas death penalty cases in front of the high court in the future.

"You don't have the same systemic problems in states that are using medical definitions," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national organization critical of current death penalty practices. "We see persistent problems in states [that] have adopted standards that are clearly inconsistent with the contemporary medical standards or have created procedures that make it virtually impossible to prove intellectual disability."

Dunham said in general that states have sought to conform to previous Supreme Court rulings, but others -0 Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas and Florida - have created hurdles for proving the disability. He said the best way for Texas to avoid future problems is to use existing medical standards.

The Texas Attorney General's Office, which represents the state in federal death penalty appeals, and several district attorneys in counties where intellectual disability cases are in play did not return phone calls Thursday.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, but it left it up to the states to determine how to qualify the condition. The legal definition of intellectual disability doesn't have to fully match a medical definition, but it does have to be informed by the current medical frameworks, according to the court.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals created its own method 2 years later. Death penalty critic Judge Elsa Alcala wrote in a 2015 opinion that the test was only meant to be a temporary solution "in the absence of any legislative guidance." The method found inmates facing execution intellectually disabled if their IQ was 70 or below. If an IQ was above 70 but close enough to be within a margin of error (the state put Moore at 74), the court would look at how well the person functioned in daily life by referencing 1992 medical guidelines and a controversial set of questions called the "Briseno factors."

The factors included questioning if a neighbor or family member would consider the person disabled, the person's ability to lie and the planning involved in the murder. In its March ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said the Briseno factors strayed too far from medical-based frameworks.

"The [Court of Criminal Appeals] overemphasized Moore's perceived adaptive strengths - living on the streets, mowing lawns, and playing pool for money - when the medical community focuses the adaptive-functioning inquiry on adaptive deficits,” Ginsburg wrote.

Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the incorrect usage of the Briseno factors but wrote in a dissenting opinion that the court's majority tossed the Texas court's ruling without considering societal standards.

"The Court instead crafts a constitutional holding based solely on what it deems to be medical consensus about intellectual disability," Roberts wrote. "But clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards; and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment."

It's unknown when the Texas court will make a decision in Moore's sentence or a new way to determine intellectual disability. In the meantime, the death penalty's intersection with intellectual disability is up in the air.

(source: The Texas Tribune)

FLORIDA----impending execution

FL Supreme Court Denies Stay of Wednesday's Execution

Pat Hannon's jury never heard any evidence of mitigation and his codefendant received a life sentence for the same crime.

The Florida Supreme Court has refused to grant a stay of execution for Patrick Hannon. Justice Barbara Pariente dissented on the (Nov. 1, 2017) denial of a stay: "In recommending between life and death in Hannon's case, the jury was denied access to 'voluminous evidence of mitigation.' Also Hannon's codefendant, who had personal motivation to commit the crime and first attacked the targeted victim, received a life sentence of which this Court was unaware when it affirmed Hannon's sentences on direct appeal. For all these reasons, I dissent from denying Hannon relief from his pending death warrant."

Governor Scott ordered the execution of Patrick Hannon for Wednesday, November 8th at 6pm ET. Hannon was sentenced to death in 1991 for participating in the killing of Brandon Snider and Robert Carter. He has been on death row 26 years. Please Take Action!!!

Contact Gov. Rick Scott and urge him to halt the execution of Patrick Hannon and convene the Board of Executive Clemency to commute Hannon's sentence to Life in Prison With No Parole.

Governor Rick Scott

The Capitol

400 S. Monroe St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399

Phone: 850-488-7146 (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm)


When you call or write, please be sure to give your name and where you live. If you are not a Floridian, provide a connection (i.e., visit Florida, have friends/family there, want to move there someday, etc). The staffer answering phones will be very nice and courteous. They won't question or challenge you. They simply record the issues that people are calling for and make a tally to give to the Governor.

Your voice needs to be heard. When contacting the Governor's office you can use the sample script below:

"I'm calling to urge Governor Scott to halt the execution of Patrick Hannon. His jury never heard any evidence of mitigation and his codefendant received a life sentence for the same crime."

(source: Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)


Luis Toledo declines to testify in death-penalty case

Luis Toledo shook his head and said, "No sir," when the judge asked him on Thursday if he wanted to testify before the jury which will recommend whether he be sentenced to death.

Toledo, sitting between his attorneys, said he was not aware he would have the chance to testify but declined it anyway.

When Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano asked if he wanted to talk to his attorneys about testifying, Toledo again said, "No sir."

Zambrano then gave Toledo the option to return to jail in time for a hot meal or remain for the conference in which attorneys and the judge work on instructions for the jury.

Toledo opted for the hot meal, saying he trusted his attorneys.

Toledo, 35, was convicted last Friday of 2nd-degree murder for killing his wife Yessenia Suarez, 28. He faces up to life on that charge. Toledo was also convicted of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of her children Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Elijah Otto, 8.

Toledo killed his wife after being enraged when he discovered she was having an affair. Then he killed the children to eliminate them as witnesses, prosecutors Ryan Will and Mark Johnson said.

The family vanished Oct. 23, 2013, and their bodies have not been found.

The same jury that convicted Toledo must next decide whether to recommend that Toledo be sentenced to death. That recommendation must be unanimous for the judge to have the option to sentence him to death. If just one juror recommends life, then the judge must sentence Toledo to life without parole.

Toledo had already declined to testify during the first portion of the trial before the jury found him guilty.

Toledo had even said on Friday that he did not want to allow his attorneys to argue against him receiving the death penalty.

"But when I confronted you with the fact that I may appoint an independent counsel to do that, then you decided to allow your lawyers to do it for you," Zambrano said on Thursday when he referenced the issue while talking to Toledo about whether he wanted to testify.

Toledo's day in court on Thursday began with a different talk from the judge: a warning.

Zambrano told Toledo to stop making hand gestures, which the judge said were a distraction and a security violation. A camera caught Toledo on Thursday making the hand gestures. The video showed Toledo bringing his hand close to his face and apparently signaling what appeared to be numbers with his fingers.

"I'm going to warn you not to do that again," Zambrano said.

It's unknown what the gestures meant. Toledo was once a top ranking member of the Latin Kings gang in Florida. That's a fact that the judge ruled could not be told to the jury because it was too prejudicial.

After the warning from the judge, the jury was brought in to continue hearing evidence in the penalty phase against Toledo.

Toledo's defense attorneys, Michael Nielsen, Jeff Deen and Michael Nappi, are trying to convince at least one juror to recommend life by saying that Toledo has an abnormal brain and has suffered traumatic brain injuries and seizures since a young child.

Nielsen called psychologists who testified about Toledo losing his father to ALS and his mother also dying when he was young. Toledo also spent seven months in a psychiatric hospital when he was 9, according to testimony.

Nielsen called Dr. Joseph Wu to testify about PET scan images of Toledo's brain. Wu said the scans found a decrease of frontal lobe metabolism which is consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Wu said a damaged frontal lobe would make it difficult for Toledo to control impulsive and violent behavior.

Toledo also suffered seizures from when he was a child, according to testimony. Wu said several times during his testimony that the stress from learning your wife was having an affair could trigger a seizure. That in turn could make it difficult for Toledo to control his behavior, Wu said.

During cross examination, prosecutor Johnson asked Wu whether he could tell just by the PET scan alone that Toledo had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Wu said no but that was his opinion based on other evidence, such as medical records, including a time when Toledo was hit by a ball in the eye when he was a child.

Johnson said the doctors at the time of those other incidences did not find a brain injury.

Wu said that traumatic brain injuries are often missed in emergency rooms.

Johnson asked Wu if he asked Toledo about what was going through his mind the night of the murders. Wu said no. Wu said his job was to perform the PET scan. Johnson asked if it wouldn't have been best to ask Toledo. Wu said it was not essential.

Nielsen then came back up and asked Wu whether the defense had asked him to interview Toledo. Wu said no. Wu said he usually he does not interview people in such cases.

The penalty phase resumes at 11:30 a.m. Friday with closing arguments after which jurors will begin deliberations on whether to recommend death.

Johnson later called Larry Holder, a psychiatric expert for the state, who testified that he did not see any signs of brain abnormality in Toledo's PET scans.

The defense finished the day by calling Toledo's cousin, Madeline Gonzalez, who identified Toledo in a family picture when he was 8-years-old.

But Toledo said he did not want the picture viewed by the jury. Zambrano asked him if that was his decision.

"Correct," Toledo said.

Gonzalez also said she still cared for Toledo and would continue to support him.

So the picture will not be shown to jurors who will return to hear closing arguments at the Richard O. Watson Judicial Center.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Will history repeat itself when it comes to the death penalty in Florida?

Florida requires unanimous juries in death cases, and judges can no longer change sentences voted up by juries.

But, Florida is on a path to continue executing people who had less than unanimous jury verdicts because of when they were sentenced.

In 2002, in a historic decision known as "Ring," the U.S. Supreme Court said juries, not judges, must impose death sentences.

Over the next 14 years, Florida executed 40 men and women, all sentenced by judges. All of them argued their sentences were illegal.

Then, in 2016, the nation's high court ruled Florida got it wrong.

"The Florida Supreme Court did not apply Ring after it was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court," said Mark Schlakman, a human rights attorney. "The U.S. court said, in effect, Ring does apply."

Now, history may repeat itself. More than 170 death row inmates, all sentenced before 2002 and most by non-unanimous juries, still face death.

But, those convicted after Ring can't be executed without a new, unanimous sentencing hearing.

The practice, known as "partial retroactivity," was challenged at the highest levels in the 2 most recent executions with no relief.

Both Mark Assay, who was executed in August, and Michael Lambrix, who was executed earlier this month, argued they weren't being treated fairly.

"These legal distinctions, while accepted and appropriate, are far from a fundamental fairness perspective," Schlakman explained.

Partial retroactivity won't be an issue for Patrick Hannon. The state is preparing for another execution; he's set to die on November 6.

In 1991, his Tampa jury found his crimes so heinous, it recommended death twice, both by unanimous verdicts.

The Florida Supreme Court began recommending a unanimous jury verdict to state lawmakers in 2005.

The legislature failed to heed their warning until after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the sentencing scheme unconstitutional early last year.

(source: Capitol News Service)


State high court upholds Curtis Giovanni Flowers' last conviction and death sentence

The Mississippi Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision has once again upheld the conviction and death sentence of Curtis Giovanni Flowers in his 6th trial involving the 1996 killing of Winona furniture store owner Bertha Tardy and 3 of her employees.

The court's decision comes after being ordered last year by the U.S. Supreme Court to take another look at Flowers' claim that African-American jurors were excluded from his last trial in 2010 for racial reasons.

"We have thoroughly reviewed the briefs, arguments, record, and trial transcript, and we have determined that each issue raised by Flowers is without merit," Justice Josiah Coleman wrote in the majority opinion. "Therefore, as there are no individual errors, there is no cumulative error. Each issue raised by Flowers is without merit. Flowers' 4 convictions for capital murder and sentences to death were properly decided by the jury, and we affirm."

In addition to Coleman, Justices Dawn Beam, Mike Randolph, James Maxwell and Robert Chamberlin voted to affirm Flowers' convection.

Chief Justice William Waller Jr., Leslie King, Jim Kitchens and David Ishee opposed upholding Flowers' conviction and death sentence.

"I find plain error in the prosecution's mischaracterizations, particularly given our admonishments in Flowers II," Waller said of misstatements to the jury. "Therefore, I would reverse the judgment in this case and remand for a new trial."

King wrote in a separate dissenting opinion that he couldn't say Flowers received a fair trial.

"The State presented insufficient evidence to meet its burden," King wrote. "The most that may be said in this case is that the jury could speculate that Flowers committed one of the murders to avoid arrest. There was no evidence that he did. In fact, the State argued in the guilt phase that Flowers committed the murders for different purposes: revenge and anger over being fired as well as to effectuate the robbery. From its opening statement, the state's theory of the case was that Flowers possessed a motive to commit the murders because he had been fired by Tardy's. This motive - a revenge killing - is at odds with a conclusion that he killed out of a necessity to avoid arrest. No evidence was presented that Flowers expressed an intent to kill to avoid arrest."

In May of last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, refused Flowers' motion to force District Attorney Doug Evans to turn over law enforcement and prosecution files in his case as well as Evans' notes, jury strike sheets and other documents relating to jury selection in Flowers' 6th trial.

After Flowers' conviction in 2010, Circuit Judge Joseph Loper Jr. issued a 42-page opinion denying Flowers' motion to throw out the jury verdict, or, as an alternative grant him a new trial. The state Supreme Court affirmed Flowers' conviction. However, Flowers filed a new post-conviction appeal, citing prosecutoral misconduct.

Flowers' attorney, David Voisin, said normally there is presumption that the prosecution has fully disclosed all information.

"Ordinarily, we presume that public officials have properly discharged their duties. However, this is no ordinary case," Voisin said in the motions. "Instead, the lengthy and tortured history of this case includes an extensive history of prosecutorial misconduct, to be detailed in petitioner's forthcoming petition for post-conviction relief."

The state Supreme Court reversed Flowers' conviction 3 previous times.

Flowers, 47, was first convicted in 1997 for killing Bertha Tardy and then in 1999 for killing Derrick Stewart. He received the death penalty in both trials, but the state Supreme Court reversed the convictions on appeal.

In 2004, Flowers was tried when all 4 killings were consolidated into 1 trial, and he again received the death penalty. The Supreme Court reversed that decision as well.

(source: Clarion Ledger)


Halt Execution of Alva Cambell (USA: UA 247.17)

Urgent Action


Alva Campbell, aged 69, is due to be executed in Ohio on 15 November. The governor can commute the death sentence despite a parole board vote against clemency.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling on the Governor to stop Alva Campbell's execution and commute his death sentence.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact below official by 15 November, 2017:

Governor John Kasich

Riffe Center, 30th Floor

77 South High Street

Columbus, OH 43215-6117, USA

Fax: +1 614 466 9354

Email (via website):

Twitter: @JohnKasich

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)

ARKANSAS----impending exexcution

Arkansas high court rules prisons agency must identify manufacturer of execution drug

Arkansas' highest court has ruled state prison officials must identify the manufacturer of one of the lethal injection drugs they plan to use to put a convicted murderer to death next week.

The decision by the state Supreme Court reversed in part a Pulaski County judge’s September ruling, which ordered the state to release unredacted copies of package inserts and drug labels for its batch of midazolam, a sedative used to start executions.

The court said Thursday that the labels must be released but said a Pulaski County judge must determine what identifying information other than the manufacturer can be withheld.

The decision comes a week before Arkansas is set to execute Jack Gordon Greene at the Cummins Unit on Nov. 9.

Earlier Thursday, Greene appeared shackled in a Jefferson County courtroom, where his lawyer's challenged state prison director Wendy Kelley's assertion that Greene is competent to be put to death.

The attorneys from the federal public defender's office in Little Rock argue that Greene is delusional and are seeking an independent examination of his mental health. Greene, however, alleged that his lawyers are conspiring against him before being silenced by the judge.

Eleventh West Judicial Circuit Judge Jodi Dennis had yet to make a ruling in that case as of Thursday afternoon.



Kansas Supreme Court reviews death sentence for murderer of Arkansas City teen

The Kansas Supreme Court sifted through nuances of evaluating intellectual disability and 2 dozen other alleged trial errors Friday in the appeal of a south-central Kansas man's death sentence for kidnapping, raping and strangling a teenage college student.

Justices worked through 2 hours of argument by appellate counsel Reid Nelson and Kansas deputy solicitor general Kristafer Ailslieger, who argued divergent views of convicted killer Justin Eugene Thurber's contention he should be spared execution because a Cowley County trial judge improperly denied a request for a hearing to determine whether he functioned at a "significantly sub-average" level.

Thurber was sentenced to death in 2009 for murdering Jodi Sanderholm, who was a 19-year-old student at Cowley College at the time of her abduction. Her body was found in January 2007 under brush in a remote area near Arkansas City.

"He graduated from high school. He went to college and passed courses," said Justice Eric Rosen. "Wouldn't that be an indication he wasn't suffering from adaptive deficits that's in question here?"

Nelson said the trial court should have relied on testimony of clinical professionals at a special hearing to determine Thurber's intellectual capacity.

"There was testimony he was socially awkward throughout school. His dog was his best friend growing up," Nelson said. "He had a 6th-grade reading level after 2 years of college. He had a hard time living on his own. He couldn't handle money very well."

However, Ailslieger countered the lower court was on solid ground proceeding to issuance of a death sentence after the defense's own expert told the trial court Thurber wasn't mentally disabled.

"What's a district court to do?" he said. "Really, the discussion should stop there. That ship has sailed."

Thurber, 34, is among 10 men convicted of murder and placed on Kansas' death row. Kansas restored the death penalty law in 1994, but the state hasn't executed anyone since 1965.

Other questions raised during oral argument hearing in Topeka centered on admissibility of a videotape of Thurber. The video was used by the prosecution in Cowley County to depict the spooky-calm demeanor of Thurber in aftermath of the murder.

"He didn't really care," Ailslieger said. "It showed, basically, he was a cold-blooded killer."

The opposing attorneys waded into whether sufficient evidence existed to declare Sanderholm endured heinous, atrocious or cruel treatment warranting imposition of a sentence of death.

"There's no evidence of conscious physical suffering," Nelson said. "The prosecutor can't pretend he's there watching it happen."

"She was beaten pretty severely," replied Ailslieger, who reminded the justices Sanderholm was strangled, allowed to recover and strangled again during a period lasting up to 12 minutes. "She was suffering severe mental anguish. That's a pretty logical inference."

In addition, Nelson said, Kansas' antiquated law related to handling of intellectually disabled defendants in capital cases reflected thinking prevalent in the 1700s when "idiots" were exempt from capital punishment. State law is unconstitutional given U.S. Supreme Court rulings that execution of someone with even a mild mental disability violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, he said.

"We need a constitutional statute. The Legislature has got to fix it. If he's a protected class, he can't be executed," Nelson said.

The alternative could be imposition of a life sentence without possibility for parole, he said.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)

NEVADA----impending volunteer execution

Nevada is keeping its fentanyl execution plan a secret

Almost nothing is known about how Nevada plans to conduct its first execution in 11 years later this month, but one thing is certain: The state will use fentanyl, a powerful opioid that caused more than 20,000 overdose deaths last year.

Lawyers for death row inmate Scott Dozier are battling with the state in court this week about the secrecy surrounding plans for his execution, set for Nov. 14. Nevada intends to use a sequence of 3 drugs for the lethal injection that\'s never been used before - a sedative, fentanyl, and a paralytic. His lawyers say the combination leaves doubt about whether the execution will be humane.

"With so much secrecy around the execution plan, which has not been finalized, how can Nevadans even know simple facts such as whether the prison staff will be adequately trained to implement this experimental execution cocktail in a constitutional manner?" ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose said in a statement last month.

Dozier, 46, was convicted of 1st and 2nd degree murder for killing and dismembering 2 people in the early 2000s. The state has kept secret the details of its plan for the execution, including training for the execution staff and how the state acquired the drugs and from where.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Dozier's lawyers argued in front of a local judge that the novel drug combination is dangerous. They are concerned that using a paralytic will mask any problems with the other 2 drugs, as Dozier will be unable to express pain or suffering. That's suspected to have happened already in several other states with another drug, midazolam.

\"We're absolutely concerned about the fact that there's been so little transparency in relation to the drug combination, the dosages, the sequence, the training going into the execution itself," Lauren Kaufman, an attorney with the ACLU, told Las Vegas station CBS 8 in Last Vegas.

Dozier's lawyers are calling on Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to halt the execution until the state makes its execution plan public, and it's vetted by the courts.

State lawmakers are concerned about how the state acquired the fentanyl, an opioid at the center of an overdose crisis in the U.S. More than 20,000 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016.

"I don't know why fentanyl is even allowed to be manufactured," said state Sen. Tick Segerblom in an interview with VICE News in August. "People are killing themselves, drug abusers with fentanyl, and now the state is going to do the same thing to this guy."

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.



ACLU wants governor to stop Nevada's 1st execution since '06

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has launched a petition to try persuade the governor to stop the state's 1st execution in more than a decade.

46-year-old Scott Dozier is scheduled to die by lethal ejection Nov. 14 at the Ely State Prison about 60 miles from the Utah line.

The ACLU is calling it an "experimental execution" because the blend of drugs has never been used anywhere else in the country.

The group posted a petition online this week seeking signatures on a letter asking Gov. Brian Sandoval to intervene.

The ACLU says there's a "very real" chance a botched execution could result in an unconstitutionally torturous and inhumane death. It says paralytic drugs like one that would be used in the mixture to kill Dozier can't even be used to euthanize animals in Nevada.

(source: Associated Press)


Death row double-murderer dies at San Quentin: Gang member targeted a Marine and a teenager in separate attacks

A Desert Hot Springs gang member who killed a U.S. Marine and a 17-year-old boy was found dead in his death row cell at San Quentin State Prison, authorities said Thursday.

An autopsy was pending to determine the cause of 40-year-old Emilio Manuel Avalos' death, according to the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

A spokesman for the state agency, Lt. Sam Robinson, said the convicted murderer was pronounced dead about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Avalos had been on death row since March 5, 2013, 2 weeks after Indio- based Riverside County Superior Judge James Hawkins imposed capital punishment on the felon for the slayings of 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano in 2001 and 17-year-old Jahi Collins in 1994.

Avalos fatally shot Collins and severely wounded his friend, Bobby Wilson, on the night of Dec. 21, 1994, as the 2 sat in a park, where they had been socializing with a couple of teenage girls. The location was considered the territory of Avalos' gang, the West Drive Locos, whose members were anti- black.

Collins was black and Wilson white. Both men were shot multiple times. Wilson suffered a paralyzing wound that left him unable to walk.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 2001, Avalos followed Lozano after he visited the residence of the gang member's ex-girlfriend, who had spurned him in favor of Lozano. The young Marine was gunned down by Avalos in his vehicle less than a mile away.

Both shootings went unsolved until 2006, when investigators began amassing evidence with the help of informants, culminating in murder charges and special circumstance allegations against Avalos. He was convicted in the fall of 2012.

Since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978, 74 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 25 have committed suicide and 13 have been executed, according to the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Another 8 have died from unspecified causes, while 3 deaths, including Avalos', are unresolved.

The death row inmate population is currently 745.



The Supreme Court should strike down the death penalty

[Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University]

After more than 40 years of experimenting with capital punishment, it is time to recognize that we have found no way to narrow the death penalty so that it applies only to the "worst of the worst." It also remains prone to terrible errors and unacceptable arbitrariness.

Arizona's death-penalty scheme is a prime example of how capital punishment in the United States unavoidably violates the Eighth Amendment's requirement that the death penalty not be applied arbitrarily. The Supreme Court will soon consider accepting a case challenging Arizona's statute and the death penalty nationwide, in Hidalgo v. Arizona.

45 years ago, in Furman v.?Georgia, the court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional because it was administered arbitrarily. Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual." As a result, Arizona and other states rewrote their death-penalty statutes in an attempt to narrow the punishment to the worst offenders. The Arizona legislature passed a law in 1973 that required prosecutors to prove at least one of six aggravating factors before the death penalty could be imposed.

The constitutionality of the death penalty returned to the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. There, the court concluded that state lawmakers could "minimize the risk of wholly arbitrary and capricious" executions by specifying aggravating circumstances for which the death penalty could apply. In the 4 decades since Gregg, Arizona and other states have expanded their list of aggravating factors, such as committing murders for hire or committing multiple murders. Since 1973, the Arizona legislature has more than doubled its number of aggravating factors to 14.

Scholars call this problem "aggravator creep." As a result of Arizona's ever-expanding list of aggravating factors, 99 % of those convicted of 1st-degree murder are eligible for execution. This wholly fails to meet the constitutional duty to narrow the punishment to those murderers who are "most deserving" of the punishment.

It has also opened the door to disturbing racial trends. Studies show that people in Arizona (and nationally) accused of murdering white victims are much more likely to receive the death penalty. There are also geographic disparities: Some counties do not pursue the death penalty, while Maricopa County, where the defendant in the Hidalgo case was tried, imposed the death penalty at a rate 2.3 times higher than the rest of the state over a 5-year period.

The Hidalgo case exemplifies the problems with our current capital punishment regimes, problems that several Supreme Court justices have expressed interest in addressing. It also presents these constitutional problems cleanly, without the procedural obstacles that sometimes dissuade justices from hearing important constitutional cases.

Instead of continuing, in the words of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, to "tinker with the machinery of death," the court should hold the death penalty unconstitutional nationwide.

In doing so, the court would be recognizing our country's movement away from capital punishment: 11 states that have the death penalty on their books have not had an execution in the past 10 years - 4 states have suspended the death penalty, and 19 have abolished it entirely. Each year, the death penalty continues to shrink as its use becomes not less but more arbitrary: Death sentences have declined by more than 1/2 in just the past 5 years. Executions went from a modern-era high of 98 in 1999 to 20?in 2016. A handful of counties - just 2 % - are driving the death penalty while the rest of the nation has moved on.

One reason jurors are increasingly uncomfortable in choosing death is the growing awareness that too many condemned people are, in fact, innocent. In the modern era of the death penalty, 160 people have been exonerated and freed from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. A painstaking study from the National Academy of Sciences concluded that 4 out of every 100 people sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. When even 1 in 1,000 would be unacceptable, the continued use of the death penalty undermines the public's confidence in the criminal-justice system.

The court should acknowledge that capital punishment - in Arizona and everywhere else - violates human dignity and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. At the very least, it should enforce the requirement that the death penalty be available only in the rarest of circumstances.

(source: Op-Ed; Washington Post)


Next hearing delayed in convicted murderer's death penalty appeal

The next hearing in the case of a Minnesota man sentenced to death for killing a University of North Dakota student in 2003 has been delayed 6 months.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of Crookston, Minnesota, is appealing his conviction and sentence for kidnapping and killing Dru Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. Rodriquez filed what is considered his final appeal in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson says the hearing is being moved from December to July to allow lawyers time to review evidence and "frame up the issues."

Lawyers from both sides requested that Erickson remain on the case even though he has been elevated to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

(source: Associated Press)


Trump: NYC Truck Attack Suspect Should Get Death Penalty

A day after the deadly terrorist attack in New York City that killed at least 8 people, President Trump said suspect Sayfullo Saipov should get the death penalty and that he would consider sending Saipov to Guantanamo Bay even though he has already been charged in civilian court.

Saipov was arrested Tuesday after police said he drove a rented pickup truck into a pedestrian and bicycle path in Manhattan, mowing down dozens of people. The 29-year-old suspect, who is a native of Uzbekistan and a legal resident of the U.S., was charged Wednesday in federal court with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Authorities said they found a note in the truck pledging loyalty to the Islamic State.

The president, asked by reporters on Wednesday if he would consider sending the suspect to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, said: "I certainly would consider that," adding: "Send him to Gitmo, I would certainly consider that, yes."

At a White House briefing later, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether Trump thinks Saipov should be classified as an enemy combatant.

She responded, "I believe we would consider this person to be an enemy combatant, yes."

Later on Twitter, though, the president appeared to backtrack from this approach.

"Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system..." Trump tweeted Thursday morning. "...There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!"

Still, one theme did remain clear: Trump's displeasure with the speed of the U.S. criminal justice system.

"We also have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," he said Wednesday.

"They'll go through court for years. And at the end, they'll be - who knows what happens," Trump said. "We need quick justice and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now."



German justice minister slams death penalty after Trump's tweets----'No state has the right to kill people as a form of punishment,' said Heiko Maas.

Germany's justice minister launched a Twitter attack on the death penalty soon after U.S. President Donald Trump called for capital punishment for the man suspected of this week's terror attack in New York.

'No state in the world has the right to kill people as a form of punishment," Heiko Maas tweeted on Thursday. "The death penalty contradicts our notions of human dignity."

Maas' statement came minutes after Trump tweeted for the 2nd time that the terror suspect behind Tuesday's attack should get the "DEATH PENALTY."

The attack, which killed 8 people and left 12 others injured, was the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

Trump also suggested that the suspect should be prosecuted in a federal court instead of transferred to a military detention facility.

"The quality of a nation under the rule of law is shown when it is under threat: Toughness of law against terrorists, but no interference in the independence of the justice system," Maas also said.

While legal in 31 U.S. states, the death penalty was outlawed in Germany after World War II.