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

JUNE 26, 2017:

MISSISSIPPI:

3 accused in child's death to appear in court Monday

3 Mississippi teenagers charged in connection with the shooting death of a 6-year-old boy are scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Madison County Justice Court Judge Bruce McKinley will consider the case against 19-year-old Byron McBride and 2 17-year-olds, Dwan Wakefield and D'Allen Washington, deciding whether there is enough evidence to bind the case over to a grand jury. The men are currently jailed without bail.

The 3 are charged with murder in the May 18 death of Kingston Frazier. Investigators say his mother left Frazier sleeping in a running car when she went into a Jackson supermarket. The car was found abandoned hours later in nearby Gluckstadt, with Frazier dead from multiple gunshot wounds in the back seat.

Court papers obtained by The Associated Press show Wakefield told investigators after his arrest that McBride stole the car and shot Frazier. Another key piece of evidence that could be discussed Monday is whether investigators have found a gun they believe was used in the killing.

Family members of McBride and Wakefield have asserted their innocence.

McBride could face the death penalty. Wakefield and Washington are ineligible for the death penalty because they are 17, but are being charged as adults and could face life in prison without parole. Both were high school students at the time of their arrest.

Washington was under indictment for armed robbery charges in a separate incident at the time of his arrest.

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest has said Frazier was shot in Madison County, but Washington's lawyer has questioned that, saying he believes charges should be filed in Hinds County, where the car and boy were taken.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has said he intends to seek additional charges against the defendants in his county.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Pair charged with capital murder of Woodland Hills hairdresser

A woman and her lover were charged June 16 with killing her husband earlier this year in Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Monica Sementilli, 45, and Robert Louis Baker, 55, were each charged with 1 count of murder in the death of hairdresser Fabio Sementilli, 49, with the special circumstance allegation that they carried out the crime for financial gain.

Prosecutors said Monica Sementilli and Baker were having an affair when they plotted to kill her husband.

On Jan. 23, Baker broke into the couple's home and stabbed Fabio Sementilli while he was sitting on the patio. Baker then stole the husband's Porsche, which was later found abandoned several miles away.

LAPD officers responded to the scene where they found Fabio Sementilli with injuries to his face, neck and chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The pair could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made at a later date.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

NEW ZEALAND:

Drug Foundation head slams Harawira's execution policy

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has slammed Hone Harawira for floating the death penalty as a policy idea to combat methamphetamine.

The Mana party leader told The AM Show on Monday morning that he was 'absolutely serious' about his policy that Chinese people who import P should be executed.

Mr Bell said it's frightening that Mr Harawira is bringing up "the ultimate breach of human rights" as a solution to New Zealand's methamphetamine problem.

"In 2017 this conversation shouldn't be one that we're having, full stop. The thing that worries me is when these ideas, which are usually confined to the fringes of the internet, are mainstreamed by political candidates, when they're spoken about on national TV. All we see happening is you give license to people who hold those obscene views about the role of the death penalty, and it diverts attention away from real solutions".

"Sadly he didn't say it was an accident. He said it once, he said it twice, and he put out a press release about it."

Mr Harawira has singled out Chinese drug dealers in his policy because it's the biggest source of P. He told The AM Show "the greatest source for methamphetamine is China, the greatest source for the precursors of methamphetamine is China, the greatest source of expertise for the production of methamphetamine is China".

However Mr Bell said focusing on China as the source of P is short-sighted. "In fact we're also getting meth out of Mexico, we're getting methamphetamine from Canada, what are we killing Mexicans and Canadians now? Whether it's coming from China, Mexico, Canada or homegrown, it's going to exist as long as there's demand. So the best way to tackle New Zealand's drug problem is to focus on the demand."

Mr Harawira said he'd modelled his policy idea on Singapore, where they have a 3-strikes penal policy and the execution of drug smugglers. They also use the cane as punishment for possession of marijuana, leading Mr Bell to ask whether the Mana leader would also back that policy.

Mr Bell said the policy would harm the people in the Northland electorate the most, the seat the Mana leader has his sights on. "When countries double down and try to fight a literal war on drugs like they're doing in Mexico, the people that get harmed most in those punitive approaches are the most vulnerable people. In this scenario the most vulnerable people are Hone's constituents in Northland."

The New Zealand Drug Foundation focuses on treatment, prevention and rehabilitation as solutions to the problems caused by drugs rather than focusing on punishment.

"You're not going to fix health and social problems through beating people and through executing people, as much as [Rodrigo] Duterte has tried that in the Philippines," Mr Bell said.

"New Zealand has a proud history on the world stage of speaking out against the death penalty and we should continue to do that. We should never entertain the idea that the death penalty is a justifiable thing."

(source: newshub.co.nz)

JUNE 25, 2017:

VIRGINIA----impending execution

He's a killer set to die. But his mental illness has set off a new death penalty battle.

Someone was trying to kill him. William C. Morva was certain of it.

He couldn't breathe and he was withering away, he told his mother in a jailhouse call.

"Somebody wants me to die and I don't know who it is," he said. "They know my health is dwindling, okay?"

He sounded paranoid. His voice grew more frantic with each call over several months on the recorded lines.

"How much more time do you think my body has before it gives out?" he asked just months before he escaped from custody, killing an unarmed guard and later a sheriff's deputy before his capture in woods near Virginia Tech's campus.

Morva faces execution July 6 for the 2006 killings.

With the date looming, Morva's family, friends and lawyers are pressing for clemency from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in what has become a broader national push to eliminate capital punishment for people with severe mental illnesses such as Morva's delusional disorder.

Supporters say the jury at Morva's trial was given inaccurate information about his mental health and are asking McAuliffe to commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Supreme Court in recent years has ruled that juveniles, whose brains are not fully developed, and people with intellectual disabilities are not eligible for the death penalty. Lawmakers in 8 states, including Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana, have introduced bills that would expand the prohibition to people with severe mental illnesses.

A vote on an Ohio measure pending in the state legislature is expected this fall. It is backed by a coalition of providers of mental-health services, social justice groups, religious leaders, former state Supreme Court justices and former Republican governor Bob Taft.

The bills address punishment, not guilt or innocence. If lawmakers in Columbus sign off on the measure, Ohio would become the 1st state to pass an exclusion for severe mental illness among the 31 that retain the death penalty.

Bipartisan legislative efforts underscore shifting views of capital punishment, and about whether it can be applied consistently and fairly.

Advocates for reform say the penalty was not intended for people who are incapable of distinguishing between delusions and reality, and that jurors often misunderstand mental illness.

The reformers' efforts have met with resistance mostly from prosecutors and law enforcement officials who say jurors already can factor in mental illness at sentencing and that the exemptions are too broad.

Morva, 35, exhausted his legal appeals when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his case in February.

"It hurts me so much to know that there is nothing I can do to fix him," Elizabeth Morva, his mother, said in an affidavit in support of her son.

Morva was 24 when he fatally shot a decorated sheriff's deputy, Cpl. Eric Sutphin, and beloved hospital security guard Derrick McFarland. Each was married and the father of 2 children.

"If someone had intervened sooner, I truly believe William would never have killed those 2 men," his mother wrote. "But I cannot change the past. I can only say that I am so sorry and ask that my son please be spared."

Attorney Dawn Davison of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center says the jury in Morva's 2008 trial did not consider his psychotic disorder because experts in that case did not have access to Morva's complete history. Morva was under the influence of his delusions when he escaped and killed Sutphin and McFarland, she said in submitting Morva's clemency application.

Relatives of the victims did not return phone calls seeking comment on Morva's petition.

Mary K. Pettitt, the Montgomery County (Va.) commonwealth's attorney who helped prosecute Morva, has urged the governor to let the jury's verdict stand.

"To assert some 10 years later that all 3 of the original experts were wrong is absurd," Pettitt wrote in a letter to McAuliffe. "With enough time and motivation one can always find an expert to say what you want to hear but that doesn't mean it is true or accurate."

McAuliffe is reviewing the case and declined to be interviewed in advance of a decision. The governor is personally opposed to the death penalty, attributing his views to his Catholic faith. He has allowed 2 executions to go forward, while commuting the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz in April because the sentencing phase of his trial was "flawed and unfair."

***

It has been years since Morva accepted in-person visits from his lawyers and his mother.

He insists they are part of the conspiracy to kill him.

Long before Morva committed the murders, there were signs that he was not well. In his senior year at Blacksburg High School, Morva's parents moved back to the Richmond area, where his father had worked in engineering. Morva stayed behind but dropped out of school weeks before graduation.

In Blacksburg, he walked barefoot in winter and sometimes slept in the Jefferson National Forest, buried in piles of leaves. He was known at the local coffee shop for diatribes about politics and religion, and confided in family and close friends about what he said were special powers he possessed to fix the world's problems.

Morva's early encounters with police came in 2002 when he was 20. Friends say their free-spirited, compassionate classmate who had been active in Amnesty International became consumed by unusual eating patterns - large amounts of raw meat, nuts and pine cones - and spent hours in the bathroom.

In August 2002, Virginia Tech police found Morva after 9 p.m. half-naked on the floor of a women's bathroom on campus. Officers turned him over to the Blackburg police and called Elizabeth Morva.

"They said, 'Ma'am he's not normal.' I said, I'm beginning to realize that. And they said, 'Ma'am your son needs help.'"

Morva's mother, a classroom aide for special-education students, declined to be interviewed for this story. Her statements are drawn from transcripts of Morva's robbery trial and sworn written statements she submitted for her son's appeals.

At the time of his 2002 arrest, Morva's mother tried to get him help.

She asked police for a temporary detention order to force an evaluation.

But by then, Morva had calmed down and police said a detention order was not needed. Morva was instead charged with trespassing, released and banned from the university campus.

In the years that followed, Morva worked briefly at a hair salon, in construction and as a waiter. And at his father's funeral in early 2004, he showed up barefoot and disheveled.

At dinner with his mother soon after the funeral, Morva lectured loudly about the plight of indigenous people. He was in training, he told her, to live in the wild and fight on behalf of Native Americans.

Elizabeth Morva gently suggested her son see a therapist.

"His mind was not normal. His thoughts were not normal, they were disconnected," she said.

The next year, those undiagnosed, untreated problems landed Morva in jail, his supporters say.

***

Morva was charged in 2005 in a series of botched robberies and burglaries.

In an attempted robbery, Morva, masked and carrying a shotgun, crept up to a convenience store, only to find the doors locked, then ran off and hid in woods - where police found him.

Jailed for a year while awaiting trial, Morva's mental health deteriorated. His mother did not bail him out, thinking that he would finally get psychological treatment.

Morva told his mother that he was dying, that someone was torturing him and intentionally withholding medical care - and with that mind-set, was convinced he had to flee.

"He believes anybody would have done exactly what he did," said Davison, the lawyer who has worked on Morva's appeals since 2009. The escape, she said, "was all part of this effort to save his life. He's incapable of seeing things any other way."

In August 2006, a deputy escorted Morva to the Montgomery Regional Hospital for minor injuries. In a bathroom, Morva knocked him unconscious and took his gun. Morva then shot McFarland, the unarmed hospital security guard, from 2 feet away as hospital colleagues watched in horror.

He killed Sutphin the next day as the deputy was on a wooded trail in the hunt for the fugitive. Morva shot Sutphin in the back of the head.

The jury that decided Morva’s fate in 2008 heard from two doctors who diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder similar to schizophrenia. They noted his rigid thinking, odd behavior, and that Morva's maternal grandmother had been treated for schizophrenia in the 1950s. But the doctors told jurors that Morva was not delusional, an assessment his lawyers dispute - and a determination that later was rebutted by another doctor in what now is the key contention before McAuliffe.

Prosecutors portrayed Morva at trial as "extremely intelligent and extremely dangerous." The jury reviewed a letter Morva wrote to his mother 1 month after landing in jail, in which he promised to "kick an unarmed guard in the throat and then I will stomp him until he is as dead as I'll be."

Morva's lawyers acknowledged his horrible crimes but said Morva was "hurting the people that he thought would put him back in jail." The jury did not hear from Morva's mother, who said she wanted to testify to explain, not justify, his actions.

After 3 hours of deliberations, the jury imposed the death penalty.

Before the judge formally sentenced him to death, Morva, in his chance to address the court, called himself Nemo.

"I'm almost done. You may kill me, that's guaranteed. I can't fight. There's nothing more I can do. But there are others like me, and I hope you know that. And soon they're going to get together. They're going to sweep over your whole civilization and they're going to wipe these smiles off of your faces forever."

In the lengthy appeals process, a federal judge agreed to appoint a forensic psychiatrist to evaluate Morva.

By then, Davison and her colleagues had collected dozens of sworn statements. The trial experts, Davison said, had "lacked the complete picture," and that meant that the jury did, too.

High school classmates, roommates, relatives and co-workers swore to what they had observed up close and consistently in Morva during the years leading to the killings.

The new psychiatrist reviewed their statements and medical records and met with Morva in state prison in 2014.

She concluded that Morva's delusions began years before the murders and recommended antipsychotic medication.

Morva's appeals were restricted to narrow legal questions about his trial. The appeals courts could not take up the question of whether Morva was mentally ill when he killed McFarland and Sutphin.

"That's what the governor can do," Davison said. "The governor is his last hope."

(source: Washington Post)

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

European Union trying to block William Morva execution----Morva is Hungarian-American

The Hungarian Government and European Union are trying to stop the execution of a Virginia inmate.

William Morva is set to be executed on July 6.

Morva was convicted of killing Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy, Corporal Eric Sutphin, and security guard Derrick McFarland during a prison escape in 2006.

His lawyers filed a clemency petition Tuesday.

They said jurors did not know Morva suffered from a severe mental illness.

His attorneys want to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.

Both Hungary and the European Union have reached out to Governor McAuliffe to stop the execution.

According to the Mercy for Morva Group, he is a Hungarian-American dual national.

(source: WSLS news)

ALABAMA:

Alabama's execution drugs may be close to expiring----State officials mostly mum on status of lethal injection drugs

In the past year, 2 states have seen their lethal injection drugs expire - forcing state officials to search for new drugs or scrap executions altogether.

It's possible Alabama could soon face a similar hurdle.

A number of factors - the pace of executions, new information about the state's last purchase of the drugs and the shelf life of the state's drugs - suggest that Alabama could be out of drugs in about a year, if it isn't already.

Any estimate of the timetable requires guesswork, though, because the Alabama prison officials have been secretive about when and where they get the drugs used in executions.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said states aren't trying to keep the drugs secret from the public, but rather from the makers of the drugs.

What follows are questions and answers on the topic:

Can execution drugs really expire?

Yes. 2 states, Arkansas and Florida, recently acknowledged that they could no longer use the drugs they'd acquired for executions because the drugs were past or near their expiration dates.

Obviously, expiration dates and other rules are meant for the safety of patients who are trying to heal, not convicts the state is trying to kill. Still, states are under pressure to follow federal rules for the use of drugs - particularly after Alabama and other states got into trouble with the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2011 for illegally obtaining its supply of an earlier execution drug, sodium thiopental.

Alabama may have already passed a drug expiration deadline once in the past. In 2014, after nearly a year without an execution, state officials acknowledged that they couldn't execute more inmates because the state's supply of execution drug pentobarbital had run out.

It's unclear whether the state had used all its drugs or let its drugs expire.

Later that year, the state switched to a new drug, midazolam.

How hard can it be for a state government to get these drugs?

Pretty hard, actually. Opposition to the death penalty is strong in Europe, where many drug manufacturers are headquartered, and European drug companies years ago began shutting down sales of execution drugs to prison systems in the United States.

More recently, U.S. companies and distributors have joined in, partly because professional associations for doctors and pharmacists have expressed their opposition to members' participation in executions.

In 2014, state prison officials campaigned for a bill that would make the names of drug suppliers a secret, in hopes of protecting suppliers from political pressure. That bill didn't pass, but the state still refuses to release the names of its drug suppliers.

Manufacturers are genuinely skittish. When drugmaker Akorn was mentioned in an Alabama death penalty appeal in early 2015, the company quickly moved to declare it would never intentionally sell drugs for executions, and even asked for the state to return any drugs it had. When drugmaker Becton-Dickinson was mentioned in court documents later that year, that company also declared that its drugs weren’t meant for use by U.S. prison systems.

Earlier this month, the state prison system's main drug supplier, Corizon Health, acknowledged that it had never supplier drugs for an execution either. Since then, The Star has also contacted drugmakers Baxter, Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward. All of them said they weren't the suppliers of Alabama's execution drugs.

So who's really supplying the drugs?

It's not 100 % clear that either Akorn or Becton-Dickinson are the actual makers of the drugs Alabama has used in its most recent executions. State officials used technical information from both companies in their arguments in court, but it's possible they were using that information as a stand-in for the technical specs from their actual drug supplier.

It's equally possible that they bought drugs produced by either or both manufacturers, but got them from a 3rd-party supplier against the wishes of Akorn and Becton-Dickinson.

When will the drugs expire?

Possibly as early as September. Maybe never. It all depends on how you read the timeline of events.

Here's what we know: In September 2014, state officials said they had enough midazolam on hand to kill nine inmates. That means the oldest drugs in the inventory could be nearly 3 years old.

And here's what we found out earlier this month: In an Arizona court case last year, lawyers asked Alabama officials to give depositions on their sources of execution drugs. Anne Hill, a lawyer for the Department of Corrections, declined to name the state's drug suppliers, but did say that Alabama last bought midazolam in 2015.

That could mean 1 of 2 things.

If the state bought drugs in both 2014 and again in 2015, Alabama may have a secure supply of drugs - a seller they can go back to again and again.

But the 2015 purchase could have another meaning.

Akorn demanded a return of its drugs in March 2015. After that, Becton-Dickinson got more mentions in court documents, but the company didn't announce its position on death penalty drug sales until September of that year.

If Alabama bought Akorn's drugs in 2014 and returned or destroyed them months later, the state might have bought drugs made by Becton-Dickinson between March and September of 2015.

Becton-Dickinson's midazolam has a shelf life of no more than two years, according to officials at Fresenius Kabi, the company that acquired Becton's injectable midazolam operation in 2016. If the state has a batch of Becton-Dickinson's midazolam, purchased between March and September 2015, those drugs could expire by September, or they could be out of date already.

Drugs by other manufacturers seem to have shelf lives that aren't much longer.

Injectable midazolam in its powder form lasts for 3 years unopened, said Christopher McCurdy, pharmacy professor at the University of Florida and president-elect of the the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Officials of the Alabama attorney general's office said they had no comment on the purchase or expiration dates of midazolam.

What evidence supports the soon-to-expire theory?

Within the last month, Alabama executed 2 inmates, Robert Melson and Tommy Arthur, just 2 weeks apart. But state officials tell The Anniston Star there are no future execution dates set.

That seems to mimic the recent execution schedule in Arkansas, where the state sought to executed 8 inmates in rapid succession to beat the deadline on their execution drugs. Another state, Florida, saw its midazolam expire last year and has already switched to a new execution drug.

What evidence works against the soon-to-expire theory?

As any addict knows, there are lots of ways to get drugs for off-label use if you're really determined. The state could be using an offshore supplier or transferring drugs from another state agency.

The state Department of Public Health buys millions of dollars' worth of drugs every year, but both current director Tom Miller and past director Don Williamson told The Star the department hasn't supplied midazolam to the prison system for executions.

"We were never asked nor did we order it," Williamson said.

The Department of Mental Health's Chief of Staff Jerry Mitchell told The Star the department hasn't supplied DOC with midazolam, either.

That eliminates 2 of the state's biggest purchasers of drugs, but there's always the chance the state could have picked up the drugs through a different state agency.

Alabama could even pay a compounding pharmacist - a specialist who mixes drugs in small batches - to make the drugs from scratch. Court documents show the state couldn't find a single Alabama pharmacist who would take the job. But there’s always the possibility state officials have ordered drugs from an out-of-state supplier.

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

ALABAMA'S EXECUTION DRUGS

Last known purchase of midazolam by Alabama prison system: 2015

Shelf life of midazolam: 2 to 3 years

Executions in last month: 2

Executions currently scheduled: None

Source of state's midazolam: Unknown

Potential drug sources who've refused to supply midazolam or denied involvement in executions:

Corizon Health, Akorn, Becton-Dickinson, Fresenius Kabi, Baxter, West-Ward, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Department of Mental Health.

(source: The Anniston Star)

ILLINOIS:

Man Spared the Death Penalty for Murder Dies in Prison at 74----Patrick Wright Is Accused of Killing Founder of Coles County Coalition Against Domestic Violence

A 74-year-old man initially sentenced to death for killing a central Illinois woman in 1983 has died in prison.

Patrick Wright died on May 5 at the prison in Pontiac. The Herald & Review in Decatur says he had heart failure, emphysema and other health problems.

Wright was convicted of killing Carol Specht and attacking her daughter at their apartment in Mattoon. His death sentence was overturned by a federal judge. Before he could be sentenced again in 2004, Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all death sentences to life in prison or a term of years.

Specht was 44 years old at the time of her death. She was founder of the Coles County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Death sentence in jeopardy in scandalous 2001 Oklahoma City murder case

A federal appeals court has ruled 2-1 in favor of a notorious Oklahoma City murderer on his latest legal challenge to his death sentence.

James Dwight Pavatt, 63, is on death row for the 2001 shotgun slaying of his lover's husband, Oklahoma City advertising executive Rob Andrew.

The decision throws out a key justification for Pavatt's death sentence. If it stands, prosecutors will have to seek the death penalty again before a new jury.

The jury at his 2003 trial chose the death sentence on 2 grounds - that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel and that it was done for remuneration, specifically $800,000 in life insurance benefits.

Pavatt complained the evidence in his case was insufficient for the jury to find the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. His attorneys argued essentially that the victim had died too quickly, after being shot twice.

In a ruling June 9, two judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed. In holding for Pavatt, they pointed to U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1972.

The decision also could impact Pavatt's lover, Brenda Andrew, now 53, the only woman on death row in Oklahoma. She was sentenced to death on the same grounds after a separate trial. She has made the same argument in her appeals.

On Friday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter asked for a rehearing.

The attorney general called the decision in Pavatt's case "a drastic departure" from rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. He asked the 2 judges to reconsider their decision or for all the judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take up the issue.

"To the extent the majority determined Mr. Andrew did not suffer severely enough, or long enough, there is no clearly established federal law which requires conscious physical suffering, much less suffering of a certain intensity or duration," Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett wrote. "Simply stated, the Supreme Court has never held that 'a brief period of conscious physical suffering' is insufficient."

The two judges "overlooked" another reason the shooting was considered especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, its "pitiless nature," the assistant attorney general also wrote.

Pavatt, an insurance salesman, and Brenda Andrew became lovers after meeting at church, according to testimony at the trials. They even taught a Sunday school class together.

Pavatt and Rob Andrew had been friends. He assisted Rob Andrew in setting up a life insurance policy worth $800,000.

The Andrews' 17-year marriage fell apart in 2001, with her filing for divorce and him moving out.

On Nov. 20, 2001, Rob Andrew came to the family home in Oklahoma City to pick up his son and daughter for Thanksgiving. He came into the garage after Brenda Andrew told him the pilot light on the furnace was out.

There, he was shot twice, 1st by Pavatt and then by his wife, with his own 16-gauge shotgun, prosecutors alleged. Pavatt also shot Brenda Andrew in the arm with a .22-caliber pistol to make it look like she was a victim, too, prosecutors alleged.

Brenda Andrew, who suffered only a superficial wound, called 911 and reported her husband was shot. Emergency personnel were unable to revive him after arriving. Rob Andrew was 39.

Brenda Andrew told police two armed, masked men had attacked her husband. Police later found evidence that Pavatt hid afterward in the attic of the home of the Andrews' next-door neighbors, who were away.

Brenda Andrew had a key to the neighbors' house.

As police suspicions about her story grew, Pavatt and Brenda Andrew fled to Mexico with her children. After running out of money, the couple re-entered the United States in February 2002. They were arrested at the border.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 2007 had rejected Pavatt's same complaint about his sentence.

The state court pointed out the medical examiner testified that death was not instantaneous, that the victim was clutching a trash bag full of empty aluminum cans and that Brenda Andrew had claimed in her 911 call that he was conscious and trying to talk to her.

"All of these facts tend to show that Rob Andrew suffered serious physical abuse, and was conscious of the fatal attack for several minutes," the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said.

(source: The Oklahoman)

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

'The Hanging Judge'----Famous judge contended that he didn't hang anyone, the law did

In an interview he gave to reporters from his deathbed, "The Hanging Judge" insisted that he never hanged anybody the law did, veteran Chautauquan Doug Mishler points out.

Technically, Judge Isaac Parker was right.

Though his "show no mercy" judgments reduced untamable outlaws to skeletons, Mishler makes no bones about the character he portrays:

"If you're found guilty of murder or rape the 2 capital crimes you die. There was no alternative. And so if he felt they had murdered somebody, he gave them the death penalty. And most of the people that he sentenced to die, I don't think they made many mistakes, 'cause it seems like they're a rogues' gallery of scum. They're horrible human beings, these people they killed. It's just Charles-Manson-on-steroids kinds of people," Mishler said.

He cited a deputy who found a man calmly continuing to play cards after shooting to death one of the other cardplayers. His late victim was still occupying a chair at the table.

"These guys are cold. They killed 'em for a hatband, a hat, a saddle, for no reason at all. A couple of bucks. ... As Parker uses the term, 'the spark of humanity is gone for these people.' So that is a lot of who he deals with," Mishler said.

Understandably, given his views, Parker made it a point to stay away whenever executions were held on the Fort Smith, Ark., scaffold. As many as 6 desperadoes might swing on a single day.

To see Mishler's presentation of the legendary Judge Isaac Parker for the 2017 Lawton Chautauqua, be at the City Hall Auditorium, 212 SW 9th, at 7 p.m. tonight. The performance is free, thanks to a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The living history interpreter has been on the road for the past month, doing his Parker impersonation at Chautauquas in Altus, Tulsa and Enid before arriving in town last Sunday. He will have a five-day break before he takes on his second new character of the year, Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, in Maryland.

Mishler said he doesn't practice his characters' mannerisms in front of a mirror.

"I think about what I'm going to do. I try to figure out who the character is, and then I figure out what I want to do with it. And then I try to keep it a little bit fresh, for me, by not really over-rehearsing it," he said.

When he does theater, and he does a lot of it, he insists on a lot of rehearsal to lock a performance down.

"When I do Chautauqua, I think it's more spontaneous than that, because I have to think and answer questions ... It's a little more improv," he said.

Researching "The Hanging Judge" is tough, for several reasons.

"There are not many writings by him because most of his personal papers blew away in a tornado a couple of years after he died," Mishler said. His home in Fort Smith, Ark., was destroyed, "so we don't have a lot of that. We don't. If there are letters out there, we really don't have many of those. What we have is the court cases, and a few comments he made to the newspapers over the years. And that's all we know about him."

There are no real biographies devoted to Parker. There are books about the Federal Court of the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith that include him because he was so central to it, but they too suffer from lack of documentation.

"For years and years and years, the number of how many people he hung was just all over the place, because nobody really went into the records. The court records are still a terrible mess. ... Most people now have agreed that the one who's gone in and went through the records to get the total number, got 79. So most people agree with 79 now as the actual number of hangings," Mishler said.

Searching the records is a daunting task because cases were not assigned docket numbers in those days. To find the materials associated with any 1 case means looking for witnesses in 1 file, the arresting officer in another and the case itself in yet another. Cases were filed alphabetically by name, not by year. A lot of the records are in shorthand.

"They finally have digitized it, but it's still a mess," Mishler said.

(source: The Lawton Constitution)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Defenders Seek $350,000 for South Dakota Death Penalty Case----The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is asking the county for about $350,000 to help defend a man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of his ex-girlfriend.

The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is asking the county for about $350,000 to help defend a man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of his ex-girlfriend.

The Rapid City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2t6N2ak) that the extra costs in Jonathon Klinetobe's case involve expert evaluations, travel expenses and witness fees.

The 27-year-old Klinetobe, of Sturgis, is charged with 1st-degree murder for the stabbing death of Jessica Rehfeld. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Klinetobe and Richard Hirth, an alleged accomplice.

Eric Whitcher, director of the public defender's office, says it's a complex issue and death penalty cases are "extremely expensive." He could not elaborate because of a judge's gag order.

Authorities say they believe Rehfeld's May 2015 death was a contract killing. Her body was discovered last summer.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

6 Nazi spies were executed in D.C. White supremacists gave them a memorial - on federal land.

A team of power company workers was trudging through a seldom-visited thicket in Southwest Washington when they spotted something odd in a ditch.

Protruding from the grass was a rectangular slab of granite.

They looked closer, and an inscription on the surface came into focus. What they saw astonished them.

It was a memorial. In honor of Nazi spies. On U.S. government property.

"In memory of agents of the German Abwehr," the engraving began, "executed August 8, 1942."

Below that were 6 names, and below those was another cryptic line: "Donated by the N.S.W.P.P."

News of the unsettling discovery soon reached Jim Rosenstock, who worked in resource management for the National Park Service and also happened to be a local history buff. He was curious, but also skeptical. How could someone have planted such an item there? And why? And - above all - who?

Rosenstock needed to see it for himself, so he, too, made the hike into Blue Plains, a woody area known best for a wastewater treatment plant and an abundance of mosquitoes. And that's when he saw the stone.

"I kind of started doing a little bit of my own research," Rosenstock recalled of that day in 2006 when he began to help unravel an only-in-Washington mystery, complete with World War II espionage, nationwide panic, a mass electrocution, J. Edgar Hoover chicanery, white supremacists, classic federal bureaucracy and a U.S. Supreme Court case that played a significant role in America's modern war on terror.

***

For decades, very few people in Washington, or elsewhere, knew of the stone's existence. It wasn't a secret so much as something that just never got out - remarkable in a town famous for its leaks.

Only when a former Park Police detective mentioned it in passing to a Washington Post reporter, then provided photographic evidence, did anyone ask the Park Service about it.

A spokeswoman referred the Post to the now-retired Rosenstock, because perhaps no one has thought more about the 31-by-26-by-8-inch object than he has.

At the start of World War II, Rosenstock discovered when he began his research, Adolf Hitler had been determined to show the world just how susceptible America was to a Nazi attack, so he ordered his military to devise a plan.

The high command, according to a 2002 Post story, recruited 8 Germans for the mission. In teams of 4, the men were loaded onto a pair of U-boats, 1 destined for Jacksonville, Fla., and the other for a beach near the tip of Long Island.

On June 13, 1942, the New York group reached shore - and was almost immediately discovered by an unarmed Coast Guards member on foot patrol. The men escaped, but by morning, the Coast Guard had unearthed the Germans' buried supplies: fuses, pre-made bombs and 4 crates of TNT. That wouldn't have mattered to their leader, George John Dasch, who hadn't intended to wreak devastation on Hitler's behalf anyway. When the group reached New York City, he and a comrade decided to turn the others in, so Dasch phoned the FBI.

4 days later, he took the $82,000 he'd been given for the operation - more than $1 million in today's money - and boarded a train for Washington. There, he met with FBI agents, whom he expected to welcome him as a hero.

They didn't.

J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous head of the bureau, recognized an opportunity. In late June, with all 8 men caught, Hoover announced their capture in New York - and claimed credit for his agency.

He made no mention of Dasch.

"The country went wild," Francis Biddle, then attorney general, later wrote in a memoir.

Hundreds of German aliens were rounded up and others, suspected of spying, were arrested. The Justice Department banned German and Italian barbers, servers and busboys from Washington's hotels and restaurants because 3 of the would-be saboteurs had worked as waiters in America.

Ignoring due process, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the men be tried in secret before a military commission - a tactic, then backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that President George W. Bush would replicate 59 years later in his directive that Guantanamo Bay detainees be judged in a similar fashion.

In mid-summer 1942, 7 U.S. Army generals found all 8 men guilty but left their punishment to the president. He sentenced 6 to death and 2, including Dasch, to lengthy prison terms (both were deported after the war).

The electrocutions began at 12:01 p.m. on Aug. 8. By 1:04, all 6 were dead.

3 days later, they were secretly buried amid a seldom-visited thicket of Southwest Washington known as Blue Plains.

***

Rosenstock quickly learned the backstory of the 6 Nazi spies listed on the stone, but another question remained: Who had placed it there?

The line at the bottom - referencing the "N.S.W.P.P." - offered a clue.

Until the mid-1960s, the National Socialist White People's Party had gone by a more familiar name: the American Nazi Party. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group's founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, had given it the new title shortly before his assassination in 1967.

By the 1970s, though, the group had begun to split apart and had lost much of its relevance, leading Rosenstock to believe the Nazi memorial dates back to that time.

The party didn't entirely cease to exist until 1983, the law center said, so the stone may had been carved more recently - though that still means it likely sat on Park Service land for more than 2 decades before the power company's discovery.

For Rosenstock and his colleagues, the memorial presented a conundrum. It was deplorable, and certainly not something that belonged on public property, but none of their handbooks suggested how to deal with a 200-plus pound monument to Nazis installed on public land by white supremacists.

Plus, the Park Service couldn't do anything until they were sure it hadn't been placed atop someone's bones.

What if, they wondered, the Nazis were buried beneath it?

The Park Service scoured World War II-era records for details on their bodies, but researchers could find nothing that provided a definitive answer. Old maps showed conflicting spots, including 1 beneath a building.

"The location is a little bit confusing," he said, "and I think deliberately so."

Rosenstock suspected that whoever disposed of the spies' bodies didn't want them found.

What he did learn, though, is that no one was buried beneath the stone because a creek had run through that area in the 1940s.

Still, the Park Service hadn't decided what should be done.

"It was an illegal monument," Rosenstock said. "And we certainly did not want to be hosting a site for midnight rituals on Hitler's birthday."

That was a legitimate concern. Rosenstock once found deer bones arranged atop the memorial. Others had found candles around it and noticed that it was regularly cleaned.

"At least 1 fellow in the Park Service suggested breaking it up with sledge hammers and throwing it in the river," he recalled. "It's not the argument that historic preservationists make."

The memorial remained intact.

In 2010, under the direction of a museum curator, a forklift exhumed the granite block and lowered it into a truck.

The stone, tagged OXCO-475, now spends its days beneath a protective blanket on a shelf at a storage facility in suburban Maryland. Park Service staff asked that The Post be no more specific than that because, though they didn't mind its long-unknown story being told, they'd prefer that its exact location remain a secret.

(source: Washington Post)

GLOBAL:

Inhuman punishment to the death penalty: where being gay is a crime----More than 70 countries in the world have some sort of punishment for homosexual intercourse

Some of the punishments that include more than 70 countries in the world are fines, prison, whipping, imprisonment or even death penalty for those who maintain a homosexual relationship, according to the report "Homophobia of State 2017" of the International Association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, Trans and Intersex (ILCA).

According to the report, in 124 countries in the world, relations between adults of the same sex are not criminalized. Some of these never had provisions that criminalizing these acts, while others have repealed them. Despite this, says the Agency, in many of these countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, transvestite and intersex (LGBTTI) suffer clear discrimination and social stigma.

The death penalty

The same report points out that there are 13 countries in which relations between people of the same sex are punished with the death penalty.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen and Sudan, this sentence applies effectively throughout its territory under Sharia law, or Islamic law. In Nigeria and Somalia applies only in some provinces, also under Islamic law.

In Iraq and Syria, this sentence is implemented in the occupied territories in both countries by the Group extremist Islamic State (EI). Even videos on social networks where jihadists throw men, accused of being gay, from the top of buildings, as they claim, says Islamic law have spread.

While in Afghanistan, Qatar, Pakistan, Mauritania and the United Arab Emirates the death penalty for same-sex relations is codified in law, this does not usually apply.

Fines to inhuman punishments

In 71 countries, says the report, homosexual relations are considered illegal and condemned with punishments which the UN has designated as "cruel, inhuman and degrading".

Some of these Nations, the law applies only to men, but in most it is also applied to women.

According to the ILCA report, most of the Nations that punish homosexuality are in Africa: Algeria provides for up to 2 years in prison; 15 Ethiopia and Gambia gives life sentence, to give some examples.

Asia is the second continent with more countries that criminalize homosexuality. In India, for example, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison "carnal relations against the order of nature". But there are also some countries in America taking measures like Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and Guyana.

In addition, some countries - such as Kenya, Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda and Zambia - allow, under law, forced Annals examinations and mandatory testing for HIV and hepatitis B "suspicious men's sexual behavior with someone of the same sex".

Made-up criminalization

On the other hand, there are at least 19 countries in the world that have laws of promotion or advertising, and norms that regulate moral and restrict freedom of expression in relation to sexual orientation, including Russia, Lithuania, Egypt, Indonesia and Jordan.

"Conversion" therapies and clinics

According to the ILCA, there are some countries where there are so-called clinics or hospitals that promise to treatments of "conversion" or "cure" homosexuality.

Although they are not legally accepted, these sites are managed as against Addictions clinics and carry out unregulated, and often tortuous procedures.

However, in many countries, discourse on the use of this type of practice is often normalized, the absence of a clear and informed dissent on the matter.

The most talked-about cases currently are the so-called "gay concentration camps" in Chechnya. Despite the fact that the authorities of Russian territory that has denied its existence, some survivors have reported torture and abuse experienced in these places.

Another case is that of clinical of conversion in Ecuador which, although they are not accepted by law, working clandestinely under the guise of treatments for addictions.

The photographer Paola Paredes denounced through a series of images - recreated after interviewing the victims, abuse, torture and even "corrective rape" suffered by the inmates in hundreds of these places that exist in the South American country.

After a thorough investigation, the photographer Paola walls revealed what lies behind hundreds of "hospitals" that promise to "cure" homosexuality and that operate in a clandestine manner in Ecuador.

Mexico

Our country is part of the 124 Nations that does not criminalise relations between people of the same sex.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court of Mexico stated that it was contrary to the Constitution for a State to deny the recognition of a marriage between persons of the same sex validly celebrated in another State, even though there have been voices, mainly from Western Mexico, still opposed to the recognition of equal marriage.

On the issue of discrimination, in 2014, article 9 of the Federal Act to prevent and eliminate discrimination was modified to prohibit incitement to hatred and violence. Article 1 of this law includes "sexual preferences" as one of the prohibited grounds. Federal determinations also prohibit employment discrimination on these grounds and employers who commit them can face severe penalties.

(source: businessmonkeynews.com)

CHINA:

Life imitates drama in corruption case, but is justice served by China's secrecy over the death penalty?

The execution of a former senior Chinese Communist Party official last month could have been lifted straight from the plot of "In the Name of the People", the hugely successful anti-corruption drama that is currently captivating mainland audiences.

Zhao Liping, the former Communist Party Secretary of the Public Security Department of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, had been convicted of murder, a charge which brought him the death penalty, as well as corruption and other charges. A short state media report on his execution received a flurry of positive reactions on social media. One popular post read, "Wow, this is the real life version of Qi Tongwei!" - a reference to the corrupt and scheming high-level police official in the TV series.

The blockbuster series has quickly become one of the most popular in Chinese television history, in part for its depictions of decadent corruption: senior officials hiding literally tons of cash in luxury villas, top judges sleeping with foreign sex workers, sons of high-ranking officials using political connections to build massive business empires, and networks of corrupt officials suppressing workers' rights by bending the law.

But - spoiler alert - in the TV series corrupt officials can never, ultimately, escape the long reach of the law. All corrupt officials and their family members eventually get lengthy prison terms, and one even gets a death sentence.

At the same time, anti-corruption agents come off as earnest and honest. They are depicted as dedicated in getting to the truth in investigations, no matter how many obstacles they face.

And the highest ranking Communist Party official in the drama, Provincial Party Secretary Sha Ruijin, in a not-so-subtle idealized version of President Xi Jinping, is as determined to crack down on corruption as he is to "Serve the People".

But if Zhao Liping's execution was seen by audiences as akin to the corrupt officials from "In the Name of the People" getting what they deserve, was the case actually as clear cut as the public was made to believe?

No state media reports mentioned the troubling issues raised by Zhao Liping's family and legal team: allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to extract a "confession” used to convict him, the fact that he spent 9 months in detention without ever seeing a lawyer, and evidence of conflicting witness testimonies.

3 witnesses to events in the case identified another suspect, but they were not called to give evidence at Zhao Liping's 1st trial. During the 2nd trial, only 1 witness was called, and he substantially changed his original testimony.

There is more than enough evidence to suggest that Zhao Liping did not receive a fair trial and at the very least should have been granted a retrial.

The fact that state media omitted such serious allegations shows the lengths the government is prepared to go to manipulate public opinion and ensure support for government policies, including those on corruption and the death penalty.

China claims it is making progress towards transparency in the criminal justice system but executions remain shrouded in almost absolute secrecy. The selected cases that receive national media attention almost always serve a political purpose.

As Zhao Liping's case shows, it is hard for the Chinese public to engage in an informed debate on the death penalty since they can only view a scatter shot of cases that make it to the media.

Judicial authorities have a duty to address claims about unfair trials, and especially so in death penalty cases since mistakes can not be rectified. Transparency in the legal process is an essential safeguard of fair trial but in many of these cases important concerns are air-brushed from government narratives.

The clear aim is to skew public opinion and avoid scrutiny of the defects of a judiciary that is not independent but led by the Communist Party.

An exhaustive Amnesty International investigation published in April showed that despite claims of progress towards transparency, China continued to enforce an elaborate secrecy system designed to obfuscate the extent and details of the thousands of executions taking place each year.

Only a fraction of the cases believed to have been conducted were included in the database, including several hundred cases that had been reported in state media.

And so while the public is led to believe that the fight against corruption is as simple as it appears on TV, the reality is very different. Sometimes even a police chief, as seems possible in the Zhao Liping case, is denied a fair trial and is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

If the government truly wants people to trust the law, it must end its reliance on fiction when it comes to how the justice system works - and how much it has to progress. Undertaking such transparency really would be "In The Name of the People".

(source: Hong Kong Free Press)

NIGERIA:

IGP recommends death penalty, life jail for sentence for kidnappers

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has advocated death penalty or life jail for anyone guilty of kidnapping.

The IGP, who spoke in Abuja, said the punishment applicable to kidnappers needed to be patterned after the laws of Lagos and some other states.

The IGP was discussing the issue of the suspected billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike also known as Evans, while holding a session with members of civil society organisations (CSOs).

? The IGP told the CSOs that states needed to impose sanctions on kidnappers just as it is in Lagos and other states.

Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode had in February, signed into law the anti-kidnapping bill, which was passed into law in January by the state assembly.

The law approved death penalty for kidnappers whose victims die in the process of kidnap.

States such as Baylesa, Anambra, Bauchi and Kano, have also introduced laws that approved death penalty for kidnappers.

According to the IG, there is the néed to review the nation's laws to ensure that stiffer punishments are meted to kidnappers.

"We should start looking at punishment and the possibility of establishing special courts to address issues of kidnapping.

"On daily basis, we arrest hundreds of suspects. We should look for a way to review our laws and impose sanctions like we have in some states like Anambra, Lagos, Kano and Imo.

"Evans has undoubtedly changed the face of kidnapping in this country, if you see his magnificent mansions in Ghana.

"That was why he refused to invest in his own state and preferred to build houses in Ghana and other places.

"This was because he knew his investments would be lost. So the issue of punishment is very important.

"He told his boys not to have landed property in either Anambra or Imo because he was aware the houses will be demolished and the boys ostracised if caught.

"He refused to own any property in his place. You know, in that part of the country, even in churches, relatives of kidnap suspects are avoided and treated as outcast by people.

"You can see why our youths have taken this way to easy life. That is why we have to up the risk. If you engage in kidnapping the punishment should be death or life imprisonment.

"We need to review those punishments, we should have a time frame for the conclusion of the trial of suspects.

"This will serve as a deterrent to youths that may wish to engage in the crime," he said, adding that "some of these local people don't really understand, they see people being paraded on television after arrest and think that is just where it ended.

"Kidnapping obviously has become a very major challenge for us in this country. However, I am happy to state that in virtually over 80 % of cases reported to the police, the suspects were arrested," he stated.

(source: nigerian Tribune)

EGYPT:

Main opposition CHP leader Kilicdaroglu calls on Egypt to halt executions

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called on Egypt Saturday to halt the executions of six men convicted in the murder of a police officer earlier in June in a trial that has been described as "flawed" and "unfair" by international organizations and human rights groups.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the 10th day of his march from Ankara to Istanbul on the eve of the Ramadan holiday, Eid al-Fitr, Kilicdaroglu expressed that he hopes for a peaceful and calm Eid al-Fitr across the Muslim world.

"There is one thing that deeply upsets me during this Ramadan holiday and Ramadan, which is the executions in Egypt. We know that political executions do not bring any benefits to any society. Turkey went through this and suffered a lot as a result of this issue. We have commemorated politicians that we formerly executed. We have named squares, dams, roads and schools after them. This was done in a way to overcome the injustice we have caused but the ones who died never return," Kiliçdaroglu said, referring to the executions of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Affairs Minister Fatin Rüstü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan who stood unfair trials conducted after the 1960 military coup. Numerous young political activists, charged with crimes ranging from murder to crimes in violation of the constitution, were also executed after the 1971 and 1980 military coups.

"That is why I would like to call on the authorities in Egypt and the brotherly people of Egypt. Tomorrow is the Ramadan holiday. If you want definitive proof that no society benefits from executions, you should look at Turkey's history. We want the Ramadan festivities to bring a sense of peace, brotherhood and calmness to the Muslim world. There is bloodshed and tears falling all across the Muslim world," Kilicdaroglu said.

Egypt's top appeals court upheld the death sentences against the men, known as the Mansoura 6 in a reference to the Nile Delta city where they were tried, charged with killing Sergeant Abdallah al-Motweli, who guarded the house of a judge who was on a panel of judges in the trial of Egypt's former President Mohamed Morsi of the to 20 years in which he was sentenced to 20 years on charges of killing protesters during his reign.

The men were arrested among others in 2014, less than 2 weeks after the guard was killed. Egypt's Interior Ministry accused them of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group, which was outlawed after Morsi was toppled on July 3 by the military headed by then Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Human rights groups urged Sissi, who was elected president in 2014, to intervene by a Thursday deadline to commute the death sentences, which can no longer be appealed after Egypt's top court this month upheld their conviction.

"The most important recommendation is protecting the 6 young men's right to life, which only the president can currently do through commuting the sentences," the Geneva-based Committee for Justice (CFJ) said on Wednesday.

In a detailed 30-page report based on a review of court records and interviews with their families and lawyers, the CFJ highlighted what it said were several violations faced by the defendants.

The report focused on several violations: the defendants were forcibly disappeared, not legally arrested, and were tortured into confessing. Their confessions were taped and aired by the police before prosecutors questioned them, the report also said, in violation of Egypt's penal code.

Egyptian authorities do not comment on cases after a court has issued a verdict. The Interior Ministry denies all allegations of abuse.

The Mansoura 6 were kept in illegal detention centers, denied access to lawyers, and were kept in inhumane conditions, CFJ's report also said. Court records seen by Reuters show the judge based his verdict on police investigations that cite "secret" sources which officers refused to reveal in court.

Amnesty International also urged Sissi to intervene to prevent the execution of the 6 men.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No one should be deprived of their right to life, no matter how horrific the crimes they have been accused of are," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa Campaigns Director.

"Time is running out to save these men's lives, they can be executed at any time. The Egyptian authorities must immediately halt these executions."

U.N. human rights experts also urged Egypt on Thursday to halt the execution of 6 men, saying that their trials were "flawed" and "did not meet international standards of fairness."

"The defendants recanted the confessions made under torture, and asserted that the severity of torture allegedly made them consent to memorize police stories that confirm the charges against them," the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a statement earlier this month.

U.N rights experts expressed "deep concern" over the convictions of the men based on "forced confessions" which were later retracted and demanded clarification from Egyptian authorities.

"This is in clear violation of Article 1 of the Convention against Torture, to which Egypt is a party," they said, adding that supporting evidence used against the men, as well as testimonies from state security members, showed major inconsistencies.

International watchdogs have repeatedly voiced their concern over human rights abuses in Egypt, allegations Egypt routinely denies or attributes to isolated instances.

(source: Daily Sabah)

PAKISTAN:

Our rampant misuse of death penalty----Pakistan must right the series of wrongful executions by bringing back the moratorium on the death penalty

Pakistan lifted a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Executions were restored under the pretence that they would only apply to individuals convicted of terrorism related offences. Of course, within a few months, Pakistan lifted the moratorium on all death-eligible crimes.

Terrorism and murder certainly fall under the category of death-eligible crimes; however, nonviolent offences such as adultery, kidnapping, highway robbery, and drug-related offences are also punishable by death. If you're a member of the Pakistani Army and you show "cowardice" in the presence of any enemy, you could be executed for that offence.

Furthermore, combined with the lack of due process in the Pakistani criminal justice system, many have been wrongfully executed. Pakistan has sentenced juveniles and mentally ill individuals to death despite domestic legislation and international treaties forbidding their execution.

Last year, the Supreme Court acquitted two brothers of murder charges, but it later turned out they had already been executed. Apparently, even dogs are unable to escape the death penalty in Pakistan.

Next month, Pakistan will be reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Pakistan is likely to face backlash from the Committee over its use of the death penalty - it will be deja vu for a country that received a scathing Convention Against Torture review over the same issue earlier this year.

Pursuant to the ICCPR, Pakistan is required to reserve the death penalty for only the most serious crimes - intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences. The Human Rights Committee has stated that imposing the death penalty "for offences which cannot be characterized as the most serious, including apostasy, committing a 3rd homosexual act, illicit sex, embezzlement by officials, and theft by force, is incompatible with article 6 of the Covenant." Therefore, by executing those convicted of lesser offences, Pakistan's use of the death penalty is in direct violation of the ICCPR.

For this reason, Pakistan's cruel and unjust death penalty laws continue to face intense scrutiny from the human rights community. The United Nations, the European Union, and many local and international human rights groups around the world have demanded that Pakistan re-impose its moratorium on the death penalty. Despite the calls from these groups, the death penalty still attracts broad support among the Pakistani public. Many cite Islamic or Sharia law as the reason for their support. However, some of the 27 crimes that can receive the death penalty in Pakistan have no support in the Quran or authentic Hadiths; thus, even Sharia law is not a justification for such punishments.

Supporters of the death penalty often use the retributive justice argument to justify executing criminals, i.e. criminals deserve to be executed because we should "take an eye for an eye." We can set aside the fact that this argument fails for many of the crimes that are eligible to receive the death penalty - no one is arguing that the Pakistani Penal Code should state that the proper punishment is to kidnap a kidnapper or rape a rapist.

Due to the lack of due process in the Pakistani criminal justice system, many have been wrongfully executed. The country has sentenced juveniles and mentally ill individuals to death despite domestic legislation and international treaties forbidding their execution

Despite the inconsistency, this argument is still widely used to justify the executions of murderers. Even then, the retributive justice argument falls apart. If we were really "taking an eye for an eye," the death sentence would only apply to murderers who arbitrarily chose a victim, told the victim he would murder them at a specified date, confined them in a prison, tortured them mentally and/or physically for eleven years, and then finally murdered them.

No man can inflict such pain; only the state.

If Pakistan is not swayed by the moral argument against capital punishment, it must at least ensure that it is complying with its international commitments. Hundreds of people have been executed in our country as Pakistan has risen in the ranking of countries deemed to be the most prolific executioners in the world. Since lifting the moratorium, Pakistan has abused its power by executing individuals for crimes that breach the holdings of the Human Rights Committee, thereby violating the ICCPR.

The EU has already warned Pakistan that a failure to comply with international conventions could lead to the suspension of Pakistan's GSP+ status - a preferential tariff system that grants Pakistani products a duty-free access to the European market. As the Human Rights Committee reviews Pakistan's application of the ICCPR provisions in July, all eyes should be on Pakistan's violation of its moral and legal responsibilities. Pakistan must bring an end to the misuse of the death penalty and the series of wrongful executions in our country by bringing back the moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: Opinion, Amber Quershi; The writer is a J.D. student at Yale Law School and a summer intern at Justice Project Pakistan, a human rights law firm in Lahore----Daily Times)

JUNE 24, 2017:

TEXAS:

Love gets new attorneys for capital murder retrial

Former convicted murderer Albert Leslie Love Jr. has 2 new lawyers for a retrial of his capital murder case, including one who represented him on appeal.

In a brief hearing Friday, Love informed 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother that he requires court-appointed attorneys to represent him because he and his family can't afford to hire attorneys for the retrial of his death-penalty case.

Love left death row and has been back in the McLennan County Jail since May 2. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction and death sentence in December.

Strother appointed Austin attorneys Ariel Payan, who worked on Love's appeal, and Jim Young to represent Love on retrial. Strother said Friday it likely will be 2019 before Love's case can be tried again.

A Williamson County jury returned the death penalty against Love in 2013 in the 2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled that Love's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his cellphone, including text messages, without a search warrant. Prosecutors then used the messages at his trial.

In a motion for rehearing rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals in April, prosecutors argued that Waco police officers relied on what they understood the law to be at the time and exhibited a "good-faith belief" that warrants were not necessary for the cellphones.

Love was appointed new attorneys because his original trial attorneys, John Donahue and Jon Evans, bowed out of representing him again because Love's appellate attorneys alleged in briefs that the attorneys were ineffective, a common tactic on appeal.

Love's trial was moved to Georgetown because one of his co-defendants, Rickey Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. The appeals court affirmed Cummings' conviction and death sentence.

Cummings' younger brother, D'Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.

Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed to escape.

Testimony from both trials showed Cummings and Love wanted to kill Hubert out of revenge because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel "Man Man" Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.

McDonald capital murder trial postponed

In other court activity Friday afternoon, Strother indefinitely postponed the capital murder trial of Todric Deon McDonald to give his attorneys sufficient time to have DNA evidence analyzed.

McDonald, 30, and 32-year-old Tony Olivarez are co-defendants in the shooting deaths of Justin Javier Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, at the Pecan Tree Apartments in the 2600 block of Grim Avenue. The cousins died of multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judge his office likely will get a report back next week concerning 36 items that were tested for DNA, and then he will forward the information to the defense.

Evans and Donahue, who represent McDonald in the death-penalty case, told Strother they would need time to have the evidence analyzed by defense experts to provide McDonald with a proper defense.

Jury selection in the case had been set for October. Jarrett said the state has no objections to the postponement.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)

VIRGINIA:

Judge hears motions in capital murder case in Danville

A Danville judge this week denied a motion by defense counsel to declare a capital murder case unconstitutional.

The Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Pierre Antoine Dixon, 30, in December 2016.

Dixon, of Danville, is charged with capital murder in the November 2013 shooting death of Lynchburg resident Antwan Lamontah George Rucker. Police have said Rucker was believed to have been led to the Innkeeper hotel on Piney Forest Road to be robbed.

Danville Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Petra Haskins said in an email Friday afternoon the state is seeking the death penalty in the case for numerous reasons.

Rucker "was lured to the Innkeeper by [Sharika] Murphy who was in cahoots with Dixon to rob Antwan Rucker," Haskins said in the email.

"A homicide in the course of a robbery is potentially a capital crime," Haskins continued.

The death penalty is sought in this case due to the "aggravating factors of both future dangerousness and vileness," according to a motion filed by Steve Milani with the Roanoke Capital Defense Unit.

Milani filed the motion to "declare 1 part of Virginia's capital murder sentencing scheme unconstitutional, the so-called future dangerousness aggravator," Milani said in an email Friday morning.

Danville Circuit Court Judge Joseph W. Milam Jr. denied the motion.

In a separate development this week related to the case, Milam granted a $50,000 secured bond to Sharika Mershay Murphy, 25, who pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to homicide and robbery in November 2016 in connection to the case.

Murphy's defense attorney, Mark Williams, said in court Friday afternoon that his client would live in Danville with family.

Murphy has no prior record to this incident and is a mother of 2 children, Williams added in his closing argument.

"She wants to be here in Danville" as opposed to being in the Martinsville City Jail, where she had been assigned, Williams said.

Murphy's sentencing date has not been set, and she is expected to testify in Dixon's case in December. "That's a long time to leave her in limbo," Williams argued.

Murphy also has family in Newport News she wanted to stay with until sentencing.

If the court were to grant a bond, Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Newman argued in his closing argument that Murphy stay in Danville, as Newport News was too far.

Milam agreed to a $50,000 secured bond, requiring Murphy to stay drug and alcohol free and only stay with family in Danville and no other location.

Murphy's sentencing is due to be set next week.

(source: godanriver.com)

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Reston Teen's Accused Killer Could Get Death Penalty: Report----Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, is accused of beating 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen to death last Sunday.

If an autopsy report currently underway on the body of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen shows that she was sexually assaulted before her murder on Sunday, her accused killer could get the death penalty, according to a report.

The murder of Hassanen, a Muslim girl who was walking near her mosque with friends when she got into an argument with a man in the car, touched off nationwide fury over what appeared to be a hate crime. However, Fairfax County Police claim that 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres killed her in a fit of road rage -- not out of anti-Muslim hate -- that developed as he confronted teens that were walking and biking in the road.

WUSA9 reports that if an autopsy shows that Hassanen was sexually assaulted, prosecutors could opt to add capital murder to the charges, which could include a death sentence if convicted.

Police believe Martinez Torres chased Hassanen's friends in his car, and then assaulted Hassanen. He then allegedly pulled her into his car, took her away from the scene, and then assaulted her again before dumping her body in a pond in nearby Sterling.

But it's the possibility of a sexual assault before her fatal wounds that could change everything about the case.

"We have to await forensic examination results and the report from autopsy from the medical examiner to confirm whether or not that took place," Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler said according to WUSA9.

Martinez Torres has a court date set for July 19.

Vigils were held across the country to honor Hassanen's life, including one at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston that drew thousands of people.

(source: patch.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Dead Wilmington woman's DNA found in Bradley's truck

DNA, computer searches and letters written from jail by the defendant were presented to the jury in the 9th day of testimony Friday in the murder trial of James Opelton Bradley.

Bradley, 54, of Wilmington is charged with 1st-degree murder in the presumed death of his missing coworker Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, 53, of Wilmington, who vanished April 5, 2014.

Investigators testified Bradley told police 3 different stories in the days after Van Newkirk went missing -- initially denying he saw her on the day she was last seen and then ultimately saying he'd picked her up from her house that day. When a discussion they were having became "heated," she ran from his truck near Greenfield Lake, investigators said Bradley told them.

Three weeks later, when police searched land in Hampstead owned by Bradley's employer, they unearthed the body of Elisha Tucker, 33, another missing Wilmington woman who'd last been seen in August 2013. Despite the fact that Van Newkirk's body was never been found, Bradley is being tried in her presumed death.

A trial in Tucker's killing has yet to be set, but prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in that case. Bradley has a previous murder conviction for killing his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1988. The jury learned of that prior conviction after the prosecution successfully argued it be admissible.

On Friday, Sharon Hinton, a DNA analyst with the N.C. State Crime Laboratory, told the jury that she was unable to locate Van Newkirk's DNA on any of the items she tested from Bradley's apartment or vehicle.

But, Hinton said, she was able to extract a "full DNA profile" for Elisha Tucker from at least 1 stain from the carpet padding in Bradley's Chevy Tahoe. The probability of it being anyone else's DNA other than Tucker's was 1 in 359 trillion, she said. That stain, however, did not test positive for blood.

FBI computer examiner Rich Novelli testified that on April 20, 2014 -- 4 days after his last interview with police -- Bradley searched online for information on cellphone pinging and visited a webpage that explained how cellphones are tracked. Novelli said Bradley also searched for the StarNews.

Additionally, Jurors each read a copy of 2 letters. One was addressed to a relative's daughter and the other was to a friend. The contents of the letters were not discussed before court took an early recess.

Testimony in the case resumes Monday.

(source: Wilmington Star News)

FLORIDA:

Judge rejects Toledo's defense claims that death penalty is unconstitutional

A judge rejected claims that Florida's death penalty was being retroactively applied to Luis Toledo, the Deltona man accused of killing his wife and her 2 children.

Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano also denied a defense motion that argued that Florida's death penalty was so broad it could be applied to virtually any 1st-degree murder case in the state.

Toledo, 33, is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the killing of his wife, 28-year-old Yessenia Suarez, and 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of her children, Thalia, 9, and Michael, 8. The mother and children were reported missing Oct. 23, 2013, from their home at 317 Covent Gardens Place. Their bodies have not been found.

Toledo's trial was initially set to start in January 2016 but rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court coupled with the Florida Legislature's work to rework the state's death penalty continually delayed the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that the method by which the state applied the death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges and not enough to jurors. The state then passed a new death penalty law which required that at least 10 of the 12 jurors recommend the death penalty before a judge could impose it. The state Supreme Court struck down that law, saying the jury recommendation must be unanimous.

Jeff Deen, 1 of Toledo's defense attorneys, argued that Florida's new death penalty statute could not be retroactively applied to Toledo because Toledo has never been eligible for the death penalty since the state's prior death penalty laws were unconstitutional.

Deen also argued that aggravating circumstances in support of the death penalty could be applied to virtually any 1st-degree murder case. But Deen said not everyone charged with 1st-degree murder faced the death penalty, that makes the death penalty arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Prosecutor Ryan Will said that the state's death penalty was never declared unconstitutional only the method by which it was imposed. He also denied that the law was being retroactively applied to Toledo.

Zambrano ruled against the defense on both issues.

Trial for Toledo, a former high-ranking Florida member of the Latin Kings gang, is set to start with jury selection on Oct. 2 in St. Augustine.

After the defense told the judge that there might be some late motions in the trial dealing with the death penalty, Zambrano said he understood but that he was determined to keep the trial on schedule. Zambrano then said he was quoting Admiral David Farragut to illustrate his approach to holding the trial.

"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead," Zambrano said.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)

ALABAMA:

Alabama Enacts New Law to Speed Death Penalty Appeals

The Alabama Senate gave final passage on May 18th to the "Fair Justice Act" (Senate bill 187), a measure designed to speed up state appeals in death penalty cases, and on May 26th, Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law.

That was also the day that Alabama carried out its long-delayed execution of Tommy Arthur, a 75-year-old inmate who had been convicted of a murder committed in 1982. Over the last 16 years, his execution had been scheduled on seven different dates, but each time was postponed by a series of legal appeals. The widely-publicized case highlighted how inmates in the state sometimes can remain on death row for decades.

The new bill, which will cover sentencing from July 1, sets new deadlines for filing appeals under state law, as well as how long state courts can take in deciding on those appeals. It would, for capital cases, amend Alabama's Rule 32 on post-conviction appeals based on trial defects, such as jury misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel, by requiring that such appeals be brought at the same time as any other appeals the defendant may make.

Without this change, inmates facing death sentences can wait up to a full year after a direct appeal of their conviction before filing a Rule 32 appeal and beginning what can be a lengthy appeals process. The new law affects only appeals based on state law, so does not have any effect on appeals based on federal legal or constitutional claims.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall, a supporter of the bill, said it will allow death penalty appeals to "proceed in a fair and efficient manner," providing justice to all parties and avoiding prolonging the suffering of victims' families. He estimates the new state law could bring an average 5 to 6-year reduction in the time it takes the state to carry out death sentences, which would save the state more than $100,000 in total incarceration costs per condemned inmate. As of mid-June, Alabama had 182 inmates with death penalty convictions.

Marshall also claims that even with the sped-up timeline for appeals, the new law will not reduce inmates' opportunities for appeal, and will bring them better legal representation by requiring that they be appointed counsel for Rule 32 post-conviction appeals within 30 days of receiving a death sentence.

But opponents of the measure, including the American Bar Association, disagree. ABA president Linda A. Klein wrote legislators saying the bill would be "unlikely to achieve its intended goal of streamlining justice," since it might "unduly limit counsel's ability" to investigate potential issues for post-conviction appeals. Although the group takes no position on the death penalty itself, the ABA said the Alabama law runs counter to guidelines it has adopted for how appeals for such cases, including post-conviction appeals, should be handled.

Streamlining appeals procedures is not the only capital case topic on which Alabama has legislated recently. In April, Gov. Ivey signed into law a bill passed by wide margins in the legislature to end the state's unique law allowing judges to impose the death penalty even when a jury has recommended life imprisonment instead.

(source: Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016)----Huffington Post)

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Alabama Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty Appeal----Alabama Supreme Court turns down death penalty appeal of man convicted of killing his girlfriend's toddler son.

The Alabama Supreme Court won't reconsider the sentence of a death row inmate who argued a judge had too much power in handing down the death penalty.

Justices on Friday turned down the appeal from Ronnie Lynn Kirksey, who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of killing his girlfriend's 23-month-old son.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ordered a review of Kirksey's sentence after that court struck down Florida's similar death penalty sentencing statute.

Kirksey argued his sentence was also unconstitutional because the jury, which suggested a death sentence, was told its decision was merely a recommendation.

The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his sentence. Judges said there are key differences that make Alabama's statute constitutional. The state Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal with 1 dissent.

(source: Associated Press)

LOUISIANA:

Man facing death penalty for allegedly killing Jefferson Parish deputy files civil rights lawsuit

Jerman Neveaux, who faces the death penalty for allegedly shooting a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputy to death last year, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against more than 2 dozen officers for injuries he sustained during his arrest.

A bystander captured video footage of officers beating Neveaux while arresting him in the backyard of a home in Harvey. The suit says Neveaux suffered "nerve damage, mental anguish, disfigurement and partial blindness in the right eye."

The suit was filed by attorney Willard Brown Sr. in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday, exactly 1 year after Detective David Michel Jr. was shot during a scuffle near Manhattan Boulevard in Harvey. Deputies found Neveaux hiding in the backyard of a nearby home shortly after the killing.

The suit includes 2 previously unreleased photos of Neveaux's face - cut, swollen and bleeding - taken shortly after his arrest. For comparison, it also includes a pair of mug shots: 1 taken after Neveaux was beaten, another from a prior arrest.

The suit accuses police of using excessive force and acting with "willful and wanton indifference to and disregard for (Neveaux's) Constitutional rights."

The suit requests a jury trial to determine damages, along with interest and legal costs. It seeks to hold JPSO officers liable for Neveaux's medical and related expenses, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life, among other damages.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The suit references the cell phone video, a portion of which was shared with a local TV station, which blurred out the faces of the deputies.

According to the lawsuit, parts of the video that were not made public show deputies approaching Neveaux, 20, with their guns drawn as he stood in the yard. Neveaux raised a hand and started to drop to the ground when several deputies rushed him, according to the lawsuit.

The suit says that several officers began to kick and beat Neveaux as they handcuffed him and that one of the deputies slammed his face against the corner of a table, slicing open his face and eye.

Other than the photos, the suit contains no new details about the arrest of Neveaux, whose attorney, Martin Regan, has repeatedly described deputies slamming his client's face against the counter.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a press conference 2 days after the incident that he would ask the FBI to investigate whether his officers used excessive force.

The suit casts a wide net, naming 28 individual deputies, far more than were captured on video. It does not name Sheriff Newell Normand or the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office as an institution. It does not specify who actually struck Neveaux. The individual defendants are: Sgt. Christy Clement, Sgt. Julio Avarado, Det. George Kister, Dep. Joseph Ragas, Sgt. Frank Renaudin, Det. Blake Hollifield, Det. Todd Rivere, Det. Derek Green, Maj. Michael Dupuis, Sgt. Travis Eserman, Det. Melvin Francis, Sgt. Marlo Bruno, Sgt. Rodney Naumann, Col. John Fortunato, Det. William Roniger, Sgt. Mark Layrisson, Dep. Nathanial Obiol, Det. Adrian Thompson, Det. Stephen Villere, Dep. Eric Hymel, Sgt. Gary Barteet, Det. Donald Zanotelli, Sgt. Thomas Gai, Lt. Elvin Modica, Det. Michael Schmitt, Det. Robert Miles, Det. Jean Lincoln and Dep. Sean Whalen.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said in October that his office would pursue the death penalty against Neveaux in Michel's killing.

Neveaux, who has attended court hearings in a wheelchair, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Regan has claimed Neveaux suffered a mental illness attributable to lead poisoning as a child.

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)

OHIO:

Lincoln Rutledge's attorneys likely to cite mental health in opposing death penalty

The Franklin County jurors who convicted Lincoln S. Rutledge on Thursday of purposely killing a Columbus police officer weren't allowed to consider his mental health.

That changes Monday, when Rutledge's mental health is expected to be at the forefront of an effort by his defense attorneys to persuade the same jury that he shouldn't be sentenced to death.

Under Ohio law, mental health is among what are known as mitigating factors that jurors can weigh in determining an appropriate sentence. If they decide that death is not appropriate, they must recommend a sentence of either life in prison without parole, or life with a chance of parole after 25 or 30 years.

Their sentencing recommendation must be unanimous.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from Rutledge's ex-wife about how his mental health was unraveling in the months leading up to an April 10, 2016, standoff with a SWAT team during which Officer Steven Smith was fatally shot. Officers had tried to arrest Rutledge on a warrant accusing him of setting her house on fire. Instead, Rutledge barricaded himself inside his Clintonville apartment and began shooting.

Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott, at the urging of prosecutors, instructed jurors that they couldn't use evidence of mental-health problems in determining whether Rutledge was trying to kill officers or knew that he was shooting at officers.

Defendants in Ohio can't use mental illness as a defense unless they are arguing that they are not guilty by reason of insanity, said Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh, who presided over a death-penalty trial in 2008. But when it's time for sentencing, mental health and "just about anything else about the defendant can be considered as mitigation," McIntosh said.

State law lists the mitigating factors to be considered, including "whether, at the time of committing the offense, the offender, because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of the offender's conduct or to conform the offender's conduct to the requirements of the law."

The law gives defendants "great latitude" in presenting mitigating factors, which can include the person's age, character, criminal record "and any other factors that are relevant to the issue of whether the offender should be sentenced to death."

Defense attorney Jefferson Liston said Friday that testimony will be offered by a psychologist, as well as "family and friends as to the life of Lincoln Rutledge, which substantiate mitigating factors."

Jim Crates, a death-penalty mitigation specialist based in Granville, said personality disorders are more commonly cited during mitigation than are diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

"A significant majority" of death-penalty defendants "are very damaged human beings," Crates said. "We try to get a handle on why they are as damaged as they are. It can be family trauma, emotional abuse, sexual abuse."

Mitigating factors shouldn't be viewed as mere excuses for criminal behavior, said Ronald Janes, a Columbus defense lawyer who estimated he has handled about 10 death-penalty cases. Anyone who is dismissive of mitigating factors should be excluded during the jury-selection process in a death-penalty case, Janes said.

"The legislature decided that this is important, that these are factors that the jury should consider," Janes said. "It's up to the jurors to decide how much weight to give them."

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

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Man convicted of killing SWAT officer, could face execution

A man accused of fatally shooting an Ohio SWAT officer during a standoff last year has been found guilty of aggravated murder and could face the death penalty.

Lincoln Rutledge had pleaded not guilty to charges he shot Columbus officer Steven Smith in the head as officers were trying to arrest Rutledge on an arson warrant on April 10, 2016. Smith died 2 days later.

A Franklin County jury returned the guilty verdict Thursday.

Rutledge's ex-wife testified his mental health was unraveling in the weeks before the shooting.

Rutledge's attorney argued Rutledge was firing blindly and may have been reacting to police attempts to break a window open. A message seeking comment from Rutledge's attorney was left at his office Thursday.

A sentencing hearing begins next week.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

DA files notice to seek death penalty in Fairmount Park attack

Prosecutors have filed a formal notice announcing their intent to seek the death penalty against Cornell McNeal - the man accused of raping, beating and burning a woman in Fairmount Park nearly 3 years ago.

McNeal on Friday was arraigned on capital murder, 1st-degree murder and rape charges connected to the Nov. 14, 2014, random attack on 36-year-old Letitia Davis, a year and a half after question of his competency to stand trial stalled the case in 2015.

Davis, a newly engaged mother of 4, was found naked and lying in a ring of fire at the park, near Wichita State University, on Nov. 14, 2014. Police have said she was snatched and assaulted while walking late that night. She died from her wounds 8 days later.

McNeal, in a police interview after his arrest, denied involvement. DNA and a broken cellphone linked him to the attack, according to court records.

The notice, which reserves the state's ability to seek a death sentence if McNeal is convicted of capital murder, was filed following Friday's arraignment, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said. McNeal, who refuses to speak to his attorneys or in court, was deemed competent to stand trial last week.

The court has set an October jury trial date for McNeal, according to Sedgwick County District Court records. The trial is expected to last 2 weeks.

(source: Wichita Eagle)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Death penalty cases in Rehfeld murder could prove costly

The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is asking the county for around $350,000 toward defending a man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Eric Whitcher, director of the public defender's office, has asked for an additional $150,000 to its existing budget and around $200,000 for next year's to be spent on extra costs in Jonathon Klinetobe's case.

Klinetobe, 27, of Sturgis, is facing felony charges, including the capital offense 1st-degree murder, in the 2015 killing of his former girlfriend, Jessica Rehfeld. The Pennington County State's Attorney's Office declared in April that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Klinetobe and Richard Hirth, an alleged accomplice.

Klinetobe's 3 lawyers include 2 from the public defender's office.

The extra costs in a death penalty case involve expert evaluations, travel expenses and witness fees, Whitcher said in a June 13 letter to the county auditor's office in which he requested the additional funding for 2017.

Death penalty cases "are extremely expensive," Whitcher said Wednesday at a county commission hearing on his office's proposed budget for 2018. "To do our solemn responsibility, to do our due diligence in those cases requires substantial expenditures of experts."

Based on national averages, the defense spends $250,000 to $750,000 on extra costs in the initial 2 phases of a modern death penalty case, Whitcher told the Journal. The 1st phase is to determine whether the defendant is guilty; if the person is convicted, the next phase is to decide whether the punishment should be death.

"This is an extremely complex case," Whitcher, himself a lawyer, said of Klinetobe's case. He could not elaborate because of a gag order from the trial court.

Whitcher said it is crucial to handle death penalty cases meticulously, or the public might have to spend twice if the death sentence is reversed on appeal.

The public defender's office is requesting a total of $2.7 million for 2018, an increase of $370,000 over its current budget, according to documents released by the county commission

The presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit Court, which is hearing the Klinetobe and Hirth cases, mentioned the death penalty cases in explaining its proposed budget increase.

The Pennington County Courthouse's major category of expenses include court administration, which covers fees for jurors and witnesses, as well as court-appointed private attorneys, Judge Craig Pfeifle told the commission Thursday.

Hirth, 36, of Rapid City, who is facing identical charges as Klinetobe, is represented by 2 court-appointed lawyers.

The law mandates that defendants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer be appointed 1 by the court (Death penalty cases require at least 2 lawyers). But defendants are responsible for repaying the county the cost of their legal defense.

Any increases in the department budgets will come from the county's general fund, largely fueled by property tax collections, said Hollie Hennies, county commission office manager.

The new budgets that department heads are presenting to the commission this week, she said, are preliminary numbers that will likely change as the commissioners craft a final budget to be approved by Sept. 30. A public hearing on the provisional 2018 budget will be held Sept. 5.

(source: Rapid City Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

California's longest-serving death row inmate returns to Fresno courtroom

A judge on Friday denied a motion for a new trial in the Fresno County Superior Court for Douglas Ray Stankewitz, California's longest-serving death row inmate. Stankewitz, 59, was convicted nearly 40 years ago for the 1978 kidnapping of a 22-year-old woman outside a Modesto Kmart and her shooting death in Fresno.

Stankewitz's death sentence was originally overturned in 1982, then the following year he was again convicted and sentenced to death. In 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that death sentence because of incompetent legal representation. The court didn't overturn his murder conviction but only ruled that a new jury should determine whether Stankewitz should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole.

On Friday, Serra cited incompetent former legal counsel, an affidavit that a now-deceased witness left behind and the discovery of new evidence as reasons for a new trial, but Judge Arlan Harrell said those issues have been raised and resolved by previous courts.

Harrell did not address the application the defense filed for a habeas corpus release, which would have to show Stankewitz was wrongly imprisoned due to a legal or factual error. Serra said he believes Stankewitz was shackled and handcuffed as he spoke to the judicial panel in a previous trial, an event that Serra called "outrageous."

Holding up a large stack of files on the matter, Harrell said he would accept the request but told Serra, "I don't want redundancy."

Harrell denied a defense request in April to issue a gag order against retired Appellate Justice James Ardaiz, who convicted Stankewitz of murder in the 1970s. Speaking to The Bee in October 2016, the former 5th District Court of Appeal judge said, "Doug Stankewitz did what I convicted him of doing - a cold-blooded, premeditated murder."

Outside the courtroom, Serra said although Friday's ruling was not what he was looking for, he is still optimistic. He said he thinks Stankewitz will fare better in an appellate court, and he isn't worried if the habeas corpus application isn't accepted.

"No jury is going to find death is an appropriate penalty for this human being," he said, explaining that Stankewitz has a different mentality and personality than he once did. "Law enforcement will come forward to be character witnesses. They are willing to help us."

The next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 11.

(source: fresnobee.com)

USA:

'It's far more emotional': Rodriguez death penalty appeal testimony tough for Sjodin family

For Linda Walker, the last four days have provided some of the toughest testimony that she and her family have heard related to the 2003 kidnapping and murder of her daughter, Dru Sjodin.

The evidentiary hearing in the death penalty appeal for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the man convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 in the case, has been filled with graphic descriptions from autopsy reports that have added to the family's anguish, Walker said Friday, Jan. 23.

"This hearing was far more difficult because of the details that were given out and how repetitious everything has been this last four days of how she was killed," Walker said.

"During the trial, really, none of that was hammered or driven so hard and so deeply. So, it's far more emotional and far more exhausting," Walker said.

The hearing started Tuesday, and over 4 days the defense presented a number of expert witnesses, including forensic pathologists and medical examiners, who testified in great detail about the condition of the body of Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student.

The attorneys from the Philadelphia-based Federal Community Defender Office have contended that testimony of stabbing and sexual assault may have influenced the jury in the death penalty phase of the trial.

Because the hearing before U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson is still ongoing - testimony from one of Rodriguez's lawyers must still be obtained, which could happen in September - both Victor Abreu of the defender's office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer said they could not comment on the case.

Sjodin's body was found in April 2004, with her hands tied behind her back, in a ravine near Crookston, Minn.

After being exposed to the elements for 5 months, Sjodin's body had suffered the effects of decomposition and animal depredation, defense experts said in their testimony.

Several experts refuted assertions made at Rodriguez's trial by Ramsey County, Minn., medical examiner Michael McGee, who said Sjodin had been slashed twice on the throat with a knife, and then again on her right side. The experts said this was possible but couldn't be scientifically proven because of significant tissue loss and no signs of the type of blood loss that could have led to her death.

There was significant discussion of a cord or rope that had been found around Sjodin's throat and the remains of a plastic bag that appeared to have been placed over her head, and what sort of role they might have played in her death. The experts generally agreed that her death was likely due to some form of asphyxiation. That assertion was further bolstered by a 2016 admission by Rodriguez that he had put pressure on Sjodin's neck with his hand or arm.

Trial testimony that a rape had occurred was also debated, with defense experts saying that a test done by McGee was only an indicator for semen, not definitive. The experts testified that other tests indicated no semen, sperm or male DNA was found.

Reisenauer pointed out at several times over the four days that all of the lab results had been presented at the trial. In addition, he said McGee had said asphyxiation by the use of the ligature, suffocation due to the bag over Sjodin's head, or exposure to the November cold and damp, could have also led to her death.

Reisenauer did not call any witnesses during this week's portion of the hearing.

Allan Sjodin, Dru's father, declined to talk after the hearing.

Walker said she and other family members keep going to all of the hearings, not just for Dru, but for "all of Alfonso's past victims, and to other voiceless and nameless victims that are out there. ... I truly feel that education is key, and we need to keep this to the national forefront of the violence against women, and children, and young adults."

(source: WDAZ news)

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People keep voting in support of the death penalty. So how can we end it?

Ending the death penalty in the United States won't be easy.

After death penalty abolitionists slowly pushed toward its elimination for years, supporters of state killing have mounted a fierce effort in the courts and at the ballot box and regained some lost ground.

Perhaps their biggest victory was the presidential contest which put Donald Trump, an avid supporter of capital punishment, in the White House. But voting on ballot questions in California, Oklahoma and Nebraska also brought bad news for abolitionists.

I have spent more than 2 decades studying the death penalty and have lent my voice to those who seek its end. Looking back on 2016, I'd suggest that understanding the impact of ballot questions on the history of the death penalty may be the key to determining its future.

Slowing momentum?

In November, voters seemed to put a brake on 2 decades of accelerating momentum toward ending the death penalty.

That momentum has been felt across the entire nation: Death sentences have declined steadily from a high of 315 in 1998 to 30 in 2016. Much of this decline has come from states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Carolina which still have capital punishment on the books but impose it much less frequently than in the past.

Actual executions have also declined dramatically, dropping from 98 in 1999 to 20 in 2016.

In the last decade, seven states - Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York - have abolished the death penalty by legislative or judicial action. Governors have imposed moratoria on executions in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

A majority of the American public continues to support the death penalty, although the number of people favoring it is lower than it has been since the 1970s.

But even with support for death penalties and executions waning, referenda in 2016 leaned in the opposite direction.

November's decisions

Consider California, a state that currently has 749 inmates on death row, but where no one has been executed since 2006.

Proposition 66, passed by voters last November, seeks to change that. It designates special courts to hear challenges to death penalty convictions, limits successive appeals and expands the pool of lawyers who could handle those appeals - all in an effort to speed up executions. The state Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of the law, which opponents claim strips the court system of authority.

At the same time they approved Proposition 66, California voters also defeated Proposition 62, a measure that would have ended the death penalty for murder and replaced it with life in prison without parole.

2/3 of Oklahoma voters supported State Question 776 in November. That question declared that the death penalty cannot be considered cruel and unusual under the state constitution. It added a provision that "any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution." It opened the way for Oklahoma to employ the gas chamber, electrocution or the firing squad if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional or is "otherwise unavailable."

The Nebraska electorate, by a margin of 61 % to 39 %, reinstated the death penalty just 1 year after state legislators voted to abolish it.

A history of abolitionist losses

This is nothing new.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, when states across the country first adopted ballot initiative and referenda processes, 14 of them have put the death penalty on the ballot, some more than once. From 1912 to 1968, there were 11 such direct votes. Another 23 have occurred since 1968, during the height of America's tough-on-crime, law-and-order era.

In a few of those elections, voters have been asked only to approve technical changes in their state's death penalty law. In others, like last year in Oklahoma, they had to decide whether to change their state constitutions to protect or reinstate the death penalty.

Sometimes death penalty abolitionists have led the way in pushing for a referendum. More often, especially since 1968, voters have been asked to respond to a legislative, judicial or executive action which threatened to end, or ended, the death penalty. In those circumstances, the issue generally has been put on the ballot by pro-death penalty politicians.

Yet whatever the form of the question, or the reasons for putting the death penalty to a vote, abolitionists have consistently taken an electoral beating. They lost 31 of the 34 times when voters were offered the chance to express their views.

Let's consider the 3 times opponents of capital punishment won. In Oregon, abolitionists prevailed in 1914. But, just 6 years later, another referendum brought the death penalty back - only to have it voted down again in 1964. Arizona voters rejected the death penalty in 1916, but brought it back in 1918.

Abolitionists have consistently lost in even supposedly progressive states like Massachusetts, which voted in favor of the death penalty in 1968 and 1982.

Democracy and the prospects of abolition

While we know that referenda are by no means perfect expressions of the will of the people, they tell us something important about the likely road to ending the death penalty. They suggest that in the United States, as has been the case in other democratic nations, its end will not come about as result of pressure from the populace.

Scholars like Yale law professor James Whitman say the effort to eliminate the death penalty pits elites against the will of the people. The history of death penalty referenda would seem to support that conclusion.

But democracy is not the same as government by popularity contest or by plebiscite. It is a system of government grounded in principles of respect for equality and the dignity of all citizens. Any time an electoral action violates those principles, it damages democracy.

That is what our history teaches. The United States almost certainly would not have ended slavery or given women the right to vote if those issues had been decided at the ballot box.

And neither will this country abolish the death penalty in that manner. Following the European example, it will do so only when politicians and judges conclude that democratic nations cannot put their own citizens to death and still be true to their own principles.

Recently, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who once carried out executions but now opposes capital punishment, wrote of his worry about what he called "America's isolation on this critical human rights issue." Richardson quoted a decision of the Connecticut State Supreme Court that said: "It always has been easier for us to execute those we see as inferior or less intrinsically worthy." I believe Richardson got it right when he concluded, "To effectively represent the interests of citizens, and protect our nation's role as a global leader, a new generation of policymakers and politicians must put the death penalty to rest once and for all."

Richardson's view is not antidemocratic. It is that of a citizen who knows full well the damage the death penalty does to the values that make our democracy strong.

(source: Austin Sarat; Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College ---- theconversation.com)

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Virginia man charged with giving secret documents to China

A Virginia man caught with $16,500 in cash in his carry-on luggage was charged Thursday with transmitting top-secret documents to an apparent Chinese agent.

Kevin Mallory, 60, of Leesburg was arrested Thursday and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The self-employed consultant who speaks Chinese is charged under the federal Espionage Act and could face life in prison. In fact, if certain conditions are met, the charges could make Mallory eligible for the death penalty, prosecutor John Gibbs said at Mallory's initial appearance.

Court records indicate that Mallory was an Army veteran and worked as a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service at the U.S. State Department from 1987 to 1990. Since 1990, he has worked for a variety of government agencies and defense contractors, according to the affidavit. He held Top Secret security clearance until he left government service in 2012.

According to the affidavit, Mallory traveled to Shanghai in April, and was interviewed by Customs agents at O'Hare Airport in Chicago after he failed to declare $16,500 in cash found in two carry-on bags.

The FBI interviewed him the next month, and he admitted that he met with two people from a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, that he now believed were Chinese intelligence agents. He said they had given him a special communications device for transmitting documents.

According to the affidavit, Mallory told the FBI agents that the only documents he transferred were 2 unclassified "white papers" he had written on U.S. policy matters, for which he said he was paid $25,000.

But FBI agents searched the device and found other documents and messages that Mallory thought had been deleted, according to the affidavit. In one message, Mallory wrote to the suspected Chinese agent, "your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid."

The agent responded, "my current object is to make sure your security and to try to reimburse you."

According to the affidavit, the Chinese officers were encouraging Mallory to resume working for the government so that he could obtain "a position of access."

An analysis of the documents on the device found four classified documents, including 2 with a Top Secret classification.

Indeed, according to the affidavit, the Chinese agent asked Mallory in one of the messages found on the device why there was blacked-out information on the top and bottom of certain pages. Mallory responded that the black was to cross out the Top Secret designations on the page. But he assured the agent that the information was valuable. "Unless read in detail, it appeared like a simple note," he wrote.

Mallory, wearing a gray tank top and black Army athletic shorts, requested a court-appointed lawyer at his initial appearance. He was ordered held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon. The FBI was at his suburban Leesburg home, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Washington, much of Thursday executing a search warrant.

Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the case will be prosecuted, said in a statement that the charges "should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public's trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information."

Geremy Kamens, the federal public defender appointed to represent Mallory, declined to comment Thursday night.

(source: Associated Press)

NEW ZEALAND:

Execute Chinese drug dealers - Harawira

Mana leader Hone Harawira has called for capital punishment for Chinese people who import methamphetamine into New Zealand.

Appearing on The Nation on Saturday, the former MP said it's time to take the fight against meth seriously by targeting what he says is its source - China.

"We can pass a law to say any Chinese who bring meth or its precursors into this country is either going to jail forever, is going to get sent back and never be allowed here again, or is going to get executed," he told host Lisa Owen.

"We need to send a message this is unacceptable."

Asked if his execution policy extended to gangs, Mr Harawira said "even the police will admit the gangs don't actually do all the meth here".

He said the policy could eventually cover other nationalities, but "you've got to start somewhere".

He denied the policy was racist.

"You want to know what's racist? Maori are in the bottom of New Zealand society in terms of housing, employment, education, health and justice. Now that's what I call racist, in this country."

Labour MP Chris Hipkins wasted no time, slamming Mr Harawira on Twitter as the interview was still on air.

"Even Donald Trump at the height of his anti-China narrative didn't suggest an ethnically targeted death penalty," Mr Hipkins said.

(source: newshub.co.nz)

IRAN:

Iranian Metal Band Confess No Longer Facing Execution for Blasphemy, Attempting to Appeal Current Sentence

You may remember the story of Iranian metal band Confess from 2016. The musicians were arrested the previous year for blasphemy and other reasons, and were potentially facing execution. Thankfully, Confess have confirmed they're safe from the death penalty in a new interview with Metal Injection.

The formal charges against Confess included "blasphemy; advertising against the system; forming and running an illegal and underground label in the satanic metal and rock style; writing anti-religious, atheistic, political and anarchistic lyrics; and interviewing with forbidden radio stations." The 2 members of Confess, Nikan 'Siyanor' Khosravi and Arash 'Chemical' Ilkhani, paid approximately $30,000 each to make bail and laid low since.

When Khosravi was asked by Metal Injection if he was safe, the Confess member replied, "If by being safe you mean not worried about losing your life, yes we are safe. We are with our families and our loved ones living day by day. But if being safe is having peace of mind, then no, we are not. We don't know what is going to happen to us, as human beings and as artists."

After going to district court on 2 occasions, Khosravi and Ilkhani were sentenced for the apparent crimes and the result sounds disturbing. "The sentence is not good at all," Khosravi says. "We objected and are waiting for an appeals court date. We still have hope that everything will be resolved with our new lawyers."

Once again, Confess are not facing execution, but Khosravi declined to elaborate on the sentence, fearful it would affect the appeals process.

Adding some levity to the conversation, Khosravi spoke of the various metal musicians who've reached out during this difficult time. They include Corey Taylor, Marty Friedman, Alissa White-Gluz, Randy Blythe, Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga, All That Remains' Phil Labonte and Gojira's Mario Duplantier. Khosravi says he's even talked with Eminem since Confess' story was made public.

If you'd like to keep up with Confess, you can follow the Instagram accounts of the band, Khosravi and Arash.

(source: louodwire.com)

INDIA:

Orissa HC commutes death penalty to 35 years of imprisonment

Orissa high court on Friday provided relief to 5 persons, who were convicted in rape and murder of a minor girl in Keonjhar, by commuting death penalty of 2 of the convicts to 35 years of imprisonment and acquitting the remaining 3.

As per the case details, a minor girl in Beklundi village in Keonjhar district was allegedly raped and murdered in 2012. The deceased, a class VIII student, had gone for her tuitions and did not return home following which her family members launched a frantic search and found her body with injury marks about one kilometer from the village.

A case was registered against Mata Munda Mangul Purti and Harjit Singh and investigation was made. Subsequently, the trial court additional district and sessions court at Champua had awarded death sentence to the 5 accused in 2015.

As all the 5 accused were poor they had filed criminal appeal against the death sentence from jail and accordingly high court had engaged 2 lawyers to deal their cases.

While Mata and Jiten have been awarded 35 years of rigorous imprisonment in jail for the crime, the remaining 3 Biswanath, Mangul and Harjit have been acquitted on ground that there was no concrete evidence against them.

"There was absolutely no evidence against my 3 clients in the case.

"Police had no material against them to prove them guilty. Even in the trial court, the lawyers had not cross examined the witnesses properly. Taking all this into consideration, the high court acquitted them," said lawyer Debi Prasad Dhal, who was representing Biswanath, Mangul and Harjit in the case.

(source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

EGYPT:

UN EXPERTS URGE EGYPT TO HALT EXECUTIONS AFTER 'FLAWED TRIALS'

A group of U.N. human rights experts demanded that Egypt halt the planned executions of 6 men sentenced to death on the basis of forced confessions.

The 6 men, who were convicted in 2015 of terrorism-related charges linked to the killing of a police officer a year earlier, saw their death sentences upheld by Egypt's highest criminal court on June 7.

The men -- Basem Mohsen Elkhorieby, Khaled Askar, Mahmoud Mamhouh Wahba, Ibrahim Yahia Azab, Abd Elrahman Attia and Ahmed al-Waleed al-Shal -- have all reported being tortured and forced to confess, the U.N. rights office said in a statement.

3 of the men were forced to confess on national television, it added.

"To proceed with the executions of the 6 men on the basis of these flawed trials would violate international human rights law and constitute arbitrary executions," the experts said.

"It is extremely worrying that while all 6 men recanted their forced confessions in court and indicated that they had been obtained under torture, these were still used as the basis for their convictions."

The experts also stressed that evidence used against the men, including testimonies from members of the state security forces showed "major inconsistencies".

Some witness statements for instance did not match video footage of the alleged crime scene, they said.

The experts pointed out that capital punishment is only permitted under international law if there is "full respect for stringent due process guarantees."

"The government must halt these executions and ensure a retrial in compliance with international law and standards," they insisted.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

JUNE 23, 2017:

TEXAS:

A Texas Death Row Inmate's Fight for Basic Justice Is Finally Heading to the Supreme Court----Carlos Ayestas' case is about "the right to be fairly charged and defended."

A man on Texas' death row has what seems like a fairly simple request: he wants his lawyers to do an investigation into his background - something his counsel says he's legally entitled to before being put to death.

Carlos Ayestas, a mentally ill undocumented immigrant from Honduras, is arguing that a series of missteps by his trial lawyers led him to be sentenced to death in 1997 at the age of 28, without the jury hearing any mitigating evidence that could spare his life. Even after appealing to a federal court in 2009, there has been no investigation into his personal history, nor have any of the courts given weight to his mental health, and therefore there has been no way bring up the kind of personal details that could spare Ayestas his sentence.

Now, in his last chance for justice, the US Supreme Court will hear Ayestas' case this fall. According to the brief filed in June, the defendant will ask the high court to enforce the statutes that are supposed to protect poor defendants facing the death penalty. Specifically under consideration are the state resources that should be made available to pay for experts or investigators, but have been denied throughout Ayestas' appeals process.

In 1995, Ayestas, who'd come to the United States seven years prior, and 2 accomplices fatally strangled 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque in the course of a robbery in her home in Harris County, Texas. Police quickly identified the perpetrators but did not yet have them in their custody when, 2 weeks after the crime, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler wrote a memo recommending that Ayestas receive the death penalty based on 2 aggravating factors: 1, because the victim was elderly and murdered in her own home and, 2, because Ayestas "is not a citizen."

"It's intolerable that a person's nationality would play a role in seeking the death penalty," says Sheri Johnson, one of Ayestas' current lawyers. "In Texas, there are at least a handful of [undocumented people on death row]." (Foreign nationals on death row have a right to consular notice, but they don't always receive it, Johnson explains. Right now she says that this issue is on hold while the team litigates the funding issue.)

Lawyers appointed to indigent defendants are frequently undertrained, underpaid, and overworked, placing defendants at an immediate disadvantage. But, making matters worse, Harris County is notorious for its poor handling of death penalty cases for indigent defendants. According to a 2016 report from the Fair Punishment Project that focused on the counties still applying the death penalty, Harris County was plagued by subpar lawyering, overzealous prosecutors, and racial bias - all of which disproportionately impact poor defendants. And in 2015, a state court found that Siegler herself committed 36 instances of misconduct in just one murder case.

2 days after the Siegler wrote the memo, Ayestas was captured in Kenner, Louisiana, and charged with capital murder.

For the trial, the state court appointed 2 lawyers, Diana Olvera and Connie Williams, to represent Ayestas. Olvera and Williams then asked the state court to appoint an investigator to look into Ayestas' background, a routine part of capital murder trials. But the investigator, John Castillo, didn't actually start his investigation until 15 months after it was assigned - and just 1 month before jury selection was slated to start.

As part of his investigation, Castillo had Ayestas fill out a questionnaire. His responses, according to his current lawyers, indicated that he suffered multiple head traumas, had been drinking since he was a teenager, regularly used cocaine, and was under the influence of the drug and alcohol on the day he murdered Paneque. But, according to Johnson, his lawyers did little with that information at trial.

Ayestas' trial lawyers did not look into his past either, which would also be typical in capital trials to supplement the work of the state-appointed investigator. They did not meet with any friends or family or with anyone who knew him in any of the places that he lived as an adult. Although Olvera says that Ayestas originally asked not to have his family contacted, about 2 weeks before jury selection began in June 1997, they reached out to his family members in Honduras and asked them to come testify at trial. Ayestas' mother, though, believed she was going to receive a letter from her son's lawyers that she could use to obtain a visa. It's unclear whether there was miscommunication about the letter, but no such letter arrived; Ayestas' family members' visas were denied and no one showed up to his trial.

The guilt phase of the trial began in July 1997 and lasted 2 days. The defense lawyers presented no witnesses and Ayestas was quickly convicted.

The following sentencing phase, during which jurors were tasked with deciding if Ayestas should be put to death, was even shorter. Prosecutors presented jurors with evidence of the defendant's past criminal offenses and testimony from Paneque's son. Meanwhile, Ayestas' lawyers again presented no witnesses. Instead, they offered the jury 3 letters from a prison instructor who was teaching Ayestas English.

"His lawyers presented virtually no mitigation evidence at all," says Johnson. "The jury had no sense of anything that could weigh against death."

The sentencing phase lasted less than a day. It took jurors 12 minutes to deliberate and sentence Ayestas to death.

During his appeals process, Ayestas' court-appointed lawyer continued to leave information on his substance abuse buried and to ignore his mental health issues.

If anyone had done a mental health evaluation, they likely would have discovered that the defendant was suffering from schizophrenia. The onset of the disease is typically in one's early-to-mid 20s, around the time Ayestas committed the murder. While his application appealing to the state court was pending in 2003, Ayestas suffered a serious psychotic episode and was subsequently diagnosed with the illness.

It was not until 2009, when his appeal was in federal court, did his newly-appointed lawyers finally sought to do a background investigation into his mental health and substance abuse issues. But the court denied the funds the team needed to do a thorough investigation.

The Criminal Justice Act provides indigent defendants with a right to representation and any other services the accused might need to prove his or her case in federal court. The law also comes with a capital provision which allows defendants facing the death penalty access to higher-quality lawyers and investigators and experts that are "reasonably necessary" in the post-conviction phase. Ayestas' lawyers argue that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was next in line to hear Ayestas' case, also applies a "substantial need" test that requires a "higher showing" than the "reasonably necessary" requirements of the federal law.

So after Ayestas appealed to the Fifth Circuit, it ruled in March 2016 that he didn't have a "substantial need" because he should've been able to prove he didn't have adequate counsel at the time he requested assistance. The court also believed that the potential mitigating evidence would not have made a difference.

Now, Ayestas' lawyers are arguing that he doesn't need to prove that his trial lawyers failed to properly investigate his case because that's what the funding request was supposed to accomplish. "It's something of a circular standard," Johnson says. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, they'll try to prove that the Fifth Circuit's "substantial need" test is "incompatible" with the goal of Criminal Justice Act: to provide quality legal representation for indigent defendants. "Mr. Ayestas's case is about the right to be fairly charged and defended," Lee Kovarsky and Callie Heller, 2 attorneys for Ayestas, said in a joint statement after the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. "Mr. Ayestas had been denied his constitutional right to nondiscriminatory treatment and effective representation." His attorneys say they want the high court to reverse the Fifth Circuit decision, get the funds to conduct an investigation, and finally give Ayestas a chance to be heard.

In an amicus brief, the American Bar Association strongly urged the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Ayestas, saying that the Fifth Circuit ruling jeopardizes the criminal justice system. "It threatens," the Association writes, "the integrity, fairness, and reliability of the habeas process, of capital sentences, and ultimately of our criminal justice system."

(source: Mother Jones)

PENNSYLVANIA:

DA will seek death penalty in Palmer Township homicide

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against an Easton man charged with homicide in Palmer Township.

Dekota Baptiste allegedly killed Terrance R. "Lex" Ferguson because of a dispute over Baptiste's girlfriend at the time, Theresa Duarte.

Police say the 24-year-old Easton man followed Ferguson into the parking lot of the Auto Zone store on 25th Street on Feb. 23. Police say Duarte and an unidentified man were crouched down in the back seat of Ferguson's car.

Baptiste allegedly argued with Ferguson, then emptied six bullets in a stolen revolver into Ferguson's car. Ferguson, 36, of Bangor, was killed.

Court papers filed Thursday in Northampton County by Assistant District Attorneys Erika Farkas and Abraham Kassis say they plan to seek the death penalty against Baptiste because he committed murder while attempting to kill or seriously injure Duarte and while putting Duarte in grave risk for her life.

He committed murder while in possession of a stolen gun, the filing says. Even if the gun were legally purchased, Baptiste didn't have permission to own a gun, the papers say.

He was expected to be arraigned Friday morning in the shooting death outside the Auto Zone in Palmer Township.

Farkas and Kassis say they plan to call Ferguson's family and friends to testify during the death penalty phase of Baptiste's trial.

Police captured Baptiste in the 1400 block of Lehigh Street in Easton after the shooting, police said. His discarded gun was found in Wilson Borough, police said.

(source: lehighvalleylive.com)

GEORGIA:

DA to seek death penalty against Georgia fugitives

A Georgia prosecutor said Wednesday he will seek the death penalty against a pair of inmates accused of killing 2 correctional officers while escaping from a prison transport bus.

District Attorney Stephen Bradley, of the 8-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, made the announcement at a Putnam County court appearance for Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe.

The 2 were back in Georgia after being apprehended Thursday night in Tennessee following a massive 3-day manhunt.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills and a plethora of law enforcement officers returned the 2 to Georgia overnight. They had been held in a Rutherford County, Tenn. jail since they surrendered to a 35-year-old Mufreesboro father.

Dubose and Rowe are being charged with 2 counts of murder and one count each of escape and hijacking a motor vehicle.

They were denied bond on Wednesday.

In response to a reporter's shouted question, Rowe said Wednesday he would plead not guilty. He and Dubose were then hustled out of the courtroom. They were wearing waist chains and leg irons.

Their court appearance Wednesday morning came the day after the funeral for the 2nd of 2 correctional officers shot dead just before dawn June 13.

Sgt. Christopher Monica's funeral was Tuesday afternoon in Milledgeville. The service for Sgt. Curtis Billue was on Saturday in McIntyre, his hometown.

Both were veteran officers working at Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville when they were killed as they were transporting 33 inmates from one prison to another. The other 31 prisoners on the bus at the time of the shooting stayed in place.

Rowe and Dubose managed to escape from their waist chains and leg irons and get through the metal door separating the inmates from he guards. Police said they got the officers' 9 mm Glocks, fired multiple times, carjacked a Honda that had stopped behind the bus on Georgia 16 between Sparta and Eatonton and disappeared, setting off a huge manhunt.

A $130,000 award was offered for their capture.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

Prosecutors will again seek death against Bunnell man in deadly kidnapping

Prosecutors will again seek the death penalty against a Bunnell man who kidnapped, robbed and shot to death a Daytona Beach woman.

Cornelius O. Baker, 29, gunned down Elizabeth Uptagrafft on Jan. 7, 2007, after abducting her from her living room then driving her in her own car to Flagler County. A jury recommended death for Baker by 9-3 vote in 2009 and Circuit Judge Kim C. Hammond imposed the sentence.

But the Florida Supreme Court in March vacated the sentence against Baker citing a ruling that jury recommendations for death must be unanimous.

The 7th Circuit State Attorney's Office on Thursday released a notice to seek the death penalty against Baker. It is the 1st case in Volusia and Flagler counties in which prosecutors seek to reimpose a death sentence that was vacated due to the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in 2016 that a jury's death penalty recommendation must be unanimous.

Assistant State Attorney Chris Miller's notice listed 4 aggravators which he said supported the death penalty: Uptagrafft was killed while Baker was committing or trying to commit a burglary, robbery or kidnapping; the killing was committed for monetary gain; it was "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" and it was committed in a "cold, calculated, and premeditated manner."

A hearing for Baker is scheduled for Aug. 17 before Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson at the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center in Bunnell.

Baker pistol-whipped the 56-year-old Uptagrafft when he and his girlfriend burst into her Michigan Avenue home. When Baker struck her, the gun fired, its bullet burning a bloody gash along Uptagrafft's head.

Baker also beat and choked Uptagrafft's elderly mother, Charlene Burns, who was on oxygen, and then pistol-whipped and beat Uptagrafft's son, Joel Uptagrafft, then 40. After stealing jewelry and an ATM card, Baker eventually drove Uptagrafft in her car to some brush in remote western Flagler County where he shot her twice.

Baker's then-girlfriend, Patricia Roosa, helped him in the robbery and kidnapping but she remained in the car when Baker shot and killed the grandmother. Roosa was sentenced to life in prison.

Uptagrafft's family has not been unanimous on their views of trying to send Baker back to death row. Some family members said they will not attend the sentencing hearing and would be OK with allowing Baker to spend the rest of his life in prison. But others want to see Baker returned to death row, that includes Uptagrafft's granddaughter, Kerri Uptagrafft, 20, of Green Cove Springs.

She said her father, Brian Scott Uptagrafft, and her uncle Joel Uptagrafft, also want to see Baker returned to death row.

She said her grandmother would have continued seeking the death penalty against a killer of one of her family.

"If it was the other way around my grandmother would not have given up on me," Kerri Uptagrafft said.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)

OHIO----new death sentence

Man Sentenced to Death Penalty in Girlfriend's Ohio Slaying

An Illinois man convicted of abducting his estranged girlfriend from Kentucky and killing her along an Ohio interstate has been sentenced to receive the death penalty.

A judge in southwest Ohio's Warren County sentenced Brookport, Illinois, resident Terry Froman on Thursday. The judge followed the recommendation of jurors who this month found Froman guilty of aggravated murder and kidnapping in the September 2014 slaying of Kimberly Thomas.

A message left at Froman's attorney's office hasn't been returned.

Froman's attorney said during the trial evidence would show "mitigating factors."

Prosecutors say Froman became vengeful when Thomas ordered him out of her Mayfield, Kentucky, home. They say Froman abducted Thomas from Kentucky after fatally shooting Thomas' 17-year-old son, Michael E. Mohney.

Froman faces charges in Kentucky for Mohney's death.

(source: Associated Press)

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Future Of Ohio's Death Penalty Hangs On Legality Of Midazolam

In 2014, Dennis McGuire of Montgomery County was executed. The process did not go as planned.

Witnesses reported McGuire struggled against his restraints and made choking noises before finally dying after 26 minutes, an unusually long time for that process.

No executions have happened in Ohio since, and the state has been caught in a protracted legal battle over which drugs can be used in executions.

The latest chapter in that battle happened last week in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The court heard arguments from the state and from Mark Haddad, a lawyer representing three death row inmates.

A previous injunction from a lower court judge, halting the state's execution process, questioned the use of the drug midazolam. A 3-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court upheld the injunction.

But in light of 1 judge's vehement dissent and an urging from Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine's office, the full bench of the Sixth Circuit Court agreed to void the panel's decision and take up the case.

Doug Berman, professor at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University, says that the question at the heart of the case has a lot of historical precedent.

"Whether it's firing squad, hanging, electrocution, guillotine ... though it's possible to make that painless, it seems like there's a chance if done improperly that there would be excruciating pain in the execution process," Berman says. "Lethal injection emerged and was adopted by every state including Ohio because of the belief, the hope, the desire to have a method that would be painless in carrying out a death sentence."

Whether midazolam ensures a painless death, though, is up for debate. Haddad argues that midazolam puts the prisoners at risk of cruel and unusual punishment, and the state could return to using a single overdose of pentobarbital.

Ohio is not the only one struggling with the legality of midazolam. Arkansas has also faced legal setbacks, including one in April from the U.S. Supreme Court, to carrying out its own executions.

And that means this case could have nationwide implications.

(source: WOSU news)

ILLINOIS:

Mattoon man once on death row dies in prison

Patrick Wright, who was once on death row for killing a Mattoon woman 34 years ago, died in prison last month.

Wright, who was 74, died of heart failure and other natural causes while housed at the Pontiac Correctional Center on May 5, according the Livingston County coroner.

He was imprisoned for the June 1983 killing of Carol Specht and attacking her daughter Connie at their apartment on South Sixth Street in Mattoon in June 1983.

Wright was accused of stabbing Carol Specht several times after slashing her daughter's throat as well as trying to sexually assault both women. The attacks occurred when Wright found the women home during a burglary attempt.

He received the death penalty after his conviction and years of appeals didn't change that until a federal court ordered a new sentence.

Former Gov. George Ryan's commutation of death sentences for Illinois prisoners in 2004 meant the death penalty was not possible, and Wright was was re-sentenced to a life prison term later that year.

Wright was found unresponsive in his prison cell, Livingston County Coroner Danny Watson said. He was then taken to the prison's infirmary and died there, the coroner said.

The main cause of death was bleeding from a vascular condition in Wright's stomach that caused blood vessels to burst, Watson said. Wright also was experiencing heart failure and had emphysema, he said.

Wright's time on death row ended when a federal court ruled that then-Coles County Circuit Judge Paul Komada should have given more consideration to his troubled childhood before deciding on the death sentence.

Ryan's commuting the state's death sentences ended Wright's eligibility for that when he was re-sentenced.

Wright was returned to Coles County in May 2004, when then-Circuit Judge Dale Cini ordered a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Wright then ended his appeals.

The main contention at the re-sentencing was whether Wright would receive a life term or, as his attorneys requested, be sentenced to a specific number of years then be required to live in a mental facility after his release.

At the time of his 1983 trial, Wright pleaded not guilty by insanity, claiming he was driven to break into Specht's home and attack the two women because of a sexual obsession with women's shoes.

Specht, who was 44 at the time of her death, was the founder of what was then known as the Coles County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and was also involved in other, similar organizations

(source: Herald & Review)

MISSOURI:

Haley Owens' accused killer wants death penalty off the table

The Springfield man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing10-year-old Hailey Owens wants the death penalty taken off the table.

Craig Wood's lawyers filed the paperwork with the Greene County Circuit Court this week. The defense lays out its case to remove the death penalty in almost 50 pages of documents.

Wood is charged with kidnapping, raping, and killing Owens in Springfield in February 2014. He's been in jail ever since, only going back and forth to court appearances..

In court, prosecutors have pushed for the death penalty.

However, the families of Wood and Owens have both said they don't want him to see him executed if he's convicted.

Hailey's mother said if Wood gets life in prison instead, it would avoid him and the family having to go through the pain of a trial.

In the documents just filed, Woods argues that the death penalty should be excluded from the case because of concerns about how the jury will be selected when the case goes to trial later this year.

KSPR News reached out to Wood's defense attorney but he would not comment on the filing.

The judge will have the final say on the issue. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for next week.

(source: KSPR news)

NEBRASKA:

Lawyers contest constitutionality of Nebraska death penalty

Attorneys for an inmate accused of strangling his cellmate have asked a judge to declare Nebraska's death penalty unconstitutional.

Concerns over the recently reinstated capital punishment that was repealed in 2015 are among the 11 arguments in a motion filed Monday by Todd Lancaster and Sarah Newell, attorneys for Patrick Schroeder.

The move prompted a delay in Schroeder's arraignment that was set for Tuesday. Instead, District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled a July 28 hearing on Schroeder's motion.

"Our society can no longer kill to show that killing is wrong," the motion stated.

Schroeder has been serving a life sentence for murder but now also faces a potential death sentence for allegedly choking cellmate Terry Berry Jr. to death in April at the Tecumseh State Prison.

Lancaster said the state's death penalty is racially and geographically discriminatory. He alleged that of the 9 men sent to death row in Nebraska since 2002, only one was white. The rest were black or Hispanic.

Nebraska's capital punishment law was repealed in 2015 but recently reinstated by voters. In an effort to create a viable death penalty procedure in the wake of that vote, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services changed the lethal injection protocol earlier this year.

Under the former protocol, inmates on death row were given lethal injections of 3 substances in a specific order. The new protocol gives the prisons director more authority in deciding the types and quantities of drugs to be used.

Lancaster said the decision to seek the death penalty is arbitrary because it's left to individual county attorneys.

"The decision to file aggravating circumstances can be affected by the legal experience of the prosecutor, the size and resources of the particular county, any prejudice or bias of the prosecutor, the political ambition of the prosecutor or other political circumstances," the motion stated.

(source: Associated Press)

IDAHO:

When I witnessed death by appointment

TV kliegs lit up live shots in one corner of the parking lot, where protesters prayed, preached and crowded onto the scene. Midnight, January 5, 1994, was coming fast.

I rushed to clear the first gate and head down the empty, well-lit walkway past B Block, a close supervision wing at the Idaho State Penitentiary. Prisoners screamed and banged on the steel security panels over their windows, and 1 voice howled. "You're going to see him die every night the rest of your life!"

Inside, I lined up with other reporters in the press pool to cover the execution of Keith Wells. The 31-year-old had beaten barmaid Brandi Rains and her friend John Justad to death with a baseball bat in 1990 while robbing the Rose Bar in Boise. Wells pleaded innocent at trial, was convicted and, a month before the execution, called a newspaper to confess. He ordered his attorneys to stop fighting the execution, and the state granted his wish to die. America continues to grapple with the death penalty, most recently the controversy over Arkansas' trying to rush the executions of eight prisoners because the state's supply of a lethal injection drug was expiring.

As someone who has served as an official witness to an execution, the death penalty is no abstraction, but it's also no horror. My response, or lack thereof, makes me suspect we lack the moral acumen to carry out the death penalty.

The witness lottery

There is no smaller talk than the mumblings of reporters waiting to be picked to witness an execution. We shuffle around on the buffed linoleum floor of the family visitation room where a few plastic chairs are unstacked for us.

But when the predator has already struck, what is gained by methodical state extermination?

Our guide, a Department of Correction staffer, reviews the rules: Four reporters will join the families, lawyers and state officials in the death chamber. When Wells is dead, the lottery winners will come back to the cafeteria to conduct a press conference before filing their own stories.

Idaho hadn't executed anyone in 36 years, so the process and protocol are new to everyone there.

The first name is drawn.

"Yessss!" anchorman Bob Holland pumps his fist. Big ratings for KTVB, the local NBC affiliate, tonight. But as I'm sneering at his unseemly display, I am leaning forward, listening intently to see if the next name is mine.

On choosing to bear witness

I'm here to watch because I can, not because my editor insisted. I told myself I volunteered because I think attorneys and trial courts are fallible, while death is permanent. Also, it seemed, and still does, that if the state is going to kill killers, the public has an obligation to test its commitment to the law by personally observing and absorbing the moral impact: Do we like the reality as much as we like the theory?

It ought to be televised, I've said, playing devil's advocate with true-believer friends. Shut off all other programs and make everyone watch, I argued.

This drama of ethics, orchestrated by Wells and celebrated by hardline crime fighters, had begun to confirm my most comfortable prejudice: that we all lack the seriousness to make defensible life-and-death decisions in noncombat situations. It's one thing to see a threat and save a life by taking the life of an attacker. That's instinctual. But when the predator has already struck, what is gained by methodical state extermination?

In the industrialized world, only the United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan still execute criminals. The rest of the First World is retreating from it, according to data compiled by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

I also told myself I was there to bear witness just like Nellie Bly, who secretly took notes while guards abused women in the insane asylum where she went undercover in the 1880s as a patient. I'll be no different than Eddie Adams, I thought, who got the photo by not grabbing Gen. Nguyen Ng?c Loan's gun arm as he shot an un-tried Viet Cong prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem, in the streets of Saigon in 1968.

My job is to help voters test their commitment to the death penalty by witnessing Idaho's 1st execution in several decades. I can only do that if I watch and write about this execution.

"Bill Scott" the prison staffer reads from a lottery slip. Scott is a serious journalist. He covered the Kent State shootings by National Guardsmen and is a fixture around the Statehouse. Without a word or even a change of expression, the bespectacled radio man unslings his portable tape recorder and joins AP correspondent Bob Fick, who has an automatic seat by virtue of The Associated Press' service to newsrooms worldwide.

Fick, whose name we say is just a typo of his favorite word, isn't smiling, either. The chain-smoking Missouri Mule is not a fashionable cynic, but the real thing: a disappointed idealist.

I could withdraw with full confidence in the seriousness and competence of the press witnesses. But I don't.

Elsewhere in the prison, Keith Wells eats his last meal, we're told. Another tic on the to-do list death house staff have developed.

"Dean Miller."

I the witness

Learning from Holland's too-honest fist-pump, I play it cool and try not to show the thrill. This is big. This will set me apart as one of a tiny handful of reporters who knew the moment someone was to die and set about to watch it happen. So, the first thing I witness is that even a self-righteous snob like me can lose clarity about the seriousness of an execution. I'm not thinking about morality or the first draft of history, the rule of law or justice for the victims or punishment of the killer. I'm thinking about my career.

Our guide reviews the ground rules and leads us out.

Behind the prison, we crunch across the gravel prison yard under searchlights to the kind of cheap trailer often parked around overcrowded schools. Plastic chairs are arranged in two rows in front of a picture window in the wall that bisects the trailer. Bright fluorescent light leaks through the cracks in the vertical shades. A deputy Idaho attorney general waits by a phone in case of a last-minute pardon.

No bleeding heart, County Prosecutor Greg Bower chomps his gum like a coach at the tip-off. The coroner, a funeral director named Erwin Sonnenburg, is red-faced and sweaty in the front row. He'll have to touch the guy when it's over.

He's dressed well for this big moment, as am I, in a blue shirt and red tie, the uniform TV producers tell us to wear for the best on-camera look.

One of Wells' lawyers, whom the murderer ordered not to file appeals, stands around, just in case. This loss won't go on his record, but it's all over his face, which is gray with something that looks like fear.

When it's over, I'll tell my colleagues what time everything happened. What it looked like. I won't say what strikes me most: that it is as sterile as closed-circuit TV. And just as unreal, except Wells isn't acting and we're doing more than just watching. We're participants.

At 12:40 a.m. a shadow moves, and then the vertical blinds snap open. It's like a large-screen TV has been turned on, showing a doughy young man strapped down to a gurney in jeans and a short-sleeve chambray shirt, feet to the witnesses' left, head to the right. He had lain there for more than a half hour while the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and US Supreme Court rejected last-minute appeals filed by death penalty opponents.

Now Wells turns his head toward the window and smiles, appearing to make eye contact with Amil Myshin and Gus Cahill, the attorneys he ordered to drop appeals. He attempts a thumbs-up gesture with his left hand. The IV tubes run from his arm to a screen, behind which 3 anonymous workers wait to push the buttons. There are always more volunteers than are needed, we have learned.

The mechanism will randomly select which of their buttons deliver the lethal combination. It's a device designed by a non-doctor, who is not bound by the Hippocratic Oath.

Bower's gum is still cracking. At the time, I thought he could see himself in the big time among prosecutors. Not many have sat in the death house, and he seemed to be making sure he remembered it all. It's the kind of story that needs to be told well.

Maximum Security Warden Arvon Arave stands at the foot of the injection table and reads the death warrant. His voice, coming to us via a low-fidelity intercom in the death chamber, sounds distant and scratchy, though he stands less than 10 feet away.

Wells stares at the ceiling and declines to say anything when asked if he has any last words.

About then, the spare liturgy of my Congregationalist childhood comes to me. "He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace..." How is it that I sit there as indifferent as I would be while waiting for the state senate to tally votes on the turn signal exemption for wheat combines?

"Thou shalt not kill," tolls in my head. What was I thinking all those years when I solemnly assented to the Ten Commandments, or sang "We shall live in peace..." with the easy virtue of a safe church pew? Did I think I'd never be tested when I raised my right hand to swear that as a Boy Scout I would "...help other people at all times ... keep myself morally straight."

They're killing a man right in front of me, and all I'm going to do is watch, and on purpose? I know the law of self-defense protects those who kill to rescue others from harm. Doesn't that mean there's a concomitant obligation to defend those in harm's way? I sit there, taking notes instead of taking action.

Someone tells us the dose has been administered.

And I don't observe in humans the moral muscle or judicial skill to appreciate the seriousness of the act of killing. Wells' eyes blink three times and then close. His chest rises once, as if he were taking a deep breath. The hand and spiderweb-tattooed arm closest to us seems to clench and relax. Then, nothing.

It's like he fell asleep.

No jerks, twitches or shouts. It's hard for me to tell if he has stopped breathing. The window into the death chamber is like a frozen TV picture, with the frame focusing attention on the last image.

I had braced for worse. Sometimes the drugs don't work correctly, and the spasms and death throes give rise to the cruelty argument against lethal injection. But that didn't happen, and I feel less emotion than I do at the death of a favorite character in a novel.

The coroner gets up and, by doing so, kind of changes the channel, waking us up. He is let in the door through the wall, goes to Wells and peels back an eyelid to check the pupil. Then he uses a stethoscope to listen for a pulse. He declares the time of death, signs the death certificate and stands by as a witness signs. It had taken 9 minutes to kill Wells. It had taken hours for his bludgeoned victims to die.

All of which I scribble into a notebook. We, the journalists, shuffle out, raising our eyebrows at people we know, searching the eyes of the prosecutor, attorney general and defense attorney for doubt or any sign of impact. Nothing. People grieve harder when Boise State's football teams loses.

We are marched back through the labyrinth to the room usually reserved for prisoners hugging their wives and children. The TV lights click on, we straighten our ties and conduct a news conference, an odd reversal of our typical roles, taking turns reading from our notes, making observations and answering the pack's questions.

'Most people don't have to watch'

It was my 33rd birthday, so a reporter friend took me out for breakfast at a truck stop on the way home from the state penitentiary. Over bacon and eggs, we talked about my experience watching an execution, but there was no cathartic release at the end of it. And that struck me as wrong.

Driving home, I thought that one day the execution of Keith Wells might come up, and one of my as-yet unborn children would be surprised to learn that I volunteered to watch. What, I wondered, would they think of me?

Today, my daughter is 20, my son 16, and while we've talked about the Wells execution, they seem to see it as just one of those things a journalist does, like friends of ours who cover war and revolution overseas.

But when I look back on that night, what I find most disturbing of all is that those prisoners, who cursed at us as we filed in to witness and report on the execution, were wrong. I have never dreamed of Wells' death, even as I've been writing and revising this piece.

And I don't observe in humans the moral muscle or judicial skill to appreciate the seriousness of the act of killing. Perhaps that is why there has not been the political will to bring the United States into line with the rest of the First World, where the death penalty has been all but eliminated: Most people don't have to watch, and even those who do are often unmoved -- like me.

Do we hold life sacred? I don't think so.

(source: Dean Miller is a career journalist, former director of the Stony Brook University Center for News Literacy and currently at work on several manuscripts, including a citizen's guide to finding reliable news. The views expressed in this commentary are his own---CNN)

ARIZONA:

Judge Accepts Sweeping Reforms of Arizona Death Penalty Protocols

A U.S. judge accepted on Thursday major revisions to Arizona's death penalty procedures, such as eliminating paralytic drugs in lethal injections and giving witnesses more access to watch prisoners inside the death chamber, a lawyer for the death row inmates said.

The changes were part of a settlement reached in a 2014 lawsuit brought by seven death row inmates who argued Arizona's lethal injection practices were experimental, secretive and caused inmates prolonged suffering.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake in Phoenix signed an order that in effect authorized a deal reached between the state and the lawyers for death row inmates, according to Dale Baich, a lawyer for the death row litigants.

The agreement was announced last week in federal court in Phoenix.

The deal marked the 1st time a state had agreed to such major changes in its drug protocol and execution procedures because of prisoners' complaints, Baich said.

Representatives for Arizona's attorney general and Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers for the inmates called on the state to drop the use of paralytic agents used to halt breathing, arguing the chemicals hid signs of consciousness and suffering during executions.

The state also agreed to limit the authority of the director of the department of corrections to change execution drugs, and allow a prisoner time to challenge any drug changes, Baich said.

States have been scrambling to find chemicals for lethal injection mixes after U.S. and European pharmaceutical makers placed a sales ban in recent years on drugs for executions because of ethical concerns.

In December, Arizona also agreed in the same case to stop using the valium-like sedative midazolam, or related products.

Midazolam has been used in troubled executions in Arizona, Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma. In some instances, witnesses said convicted murderers twisted on gurneys before dying.

It also was used along with a narcotic in Arizona's last execution - that of murderer Joseph Wood in 2014. Wood was seen gasping for air during a nearly two-hour procedure in which he received 15 rounds of drug injections. Lethal injections typically result in death in a matter of minutes.

Arizona also agreed under the settlement to allow greater transparency by letting witnesses view more of the execution process, including the moment the executioner administers the drugs intravenously, Baich said.

(source: Reuters)

CALIFORNIA:

Civilized, Constitution-loving Californians will continue capital punishment fight

The biggest lie about Proposition ("Prop") 66, California's poorly drafted new death penalty law - only missing another "6" in numbering to be properly identified as the devil’s spawn - is speed.

Pro-death penalty zealots, special interest groups, and prosecutors hell-bent on political gain - including a prosecutor accused of lying under oath during a murder prosecution, another profiled by the BBC because of his infatuation with the death penalty, and of course, Mark Peterson, the Contra Costa district attorney forced to resign this month after pleading no contest to felony perjury - promised voters that under Prop 66, death row inmates would have just 5 years to appeal their convictions.

"Hogwash," I wrote, and still maintain; "Prop 66 won't fool Californians." Because, as many of our regretful, "woke" citizens are realizing post-election, unlike carpenter James Wilson Marshall's historic discovery of gold at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1848, Prop 66's promised turbo-charging of California's machinery of death is 24 carat "fool's gold."

But this is not strictly an "I told you so" column despite the fact that several judges on California's highest court recently indicated that they too believe Prop 66 usurps the judiciary's authority to decide the complex, life and death issues at stake in death penalty litigation. And there's no need to rehash the indisputable truth that: there are not enough willing and qualified death penalty lawyers in California - and they don't grow on trees; Prop 66, and the death penalty generally, exact a horribly inhumane and unjust toll on the children of the condemned; Prop 66's death penalty deterrence argument is pure shibboleth; unacceptable racial bias persists in capital punishment as illustrated by the environmental disaster in Flint, Michigan; Prop 62, the opposing ballot initiative that would have ended capital punishment forever in our state, appeals to the better nature of our angels and could have marked the progress of a maturing society for conscientious Californians; or, finally, that California could have tipped the balance in the national debate on the death penalty.

Instead, this column affirms that despite last fall's bamboozled vote approving Prop 66 by the barest margin, on human rights, California is still better than Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Texas! We understand executions are hardly an exact science. That's a major reason they've been stalled so long in the Golden State. And it's also why, in addition to the substantive legal challenges jeopardizing Prop 66, they're not slated to start again anytime soon.

Californians simply aren't quick to torture citizens to death and cover it up - like in North Korea or in other parts of the United States even. Yup, that's right, I'm talking about you Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, and you abominable others too (as alluded to above, when it comes to the death penalty, as with mostly everything else, "don't mess with Texas!").

Civilized, peaceful, fiscally savvy, state and federal constitution-loving Californians know we can't afford 18 executions all at once, which is, at a minimum, the number of inmates out of appeals and immediately eligible to be put to death. Californians don't want our courts paralyzed and rendered completely dysfunctional due to Prop 66 and the emotionally draining, morally bankrupt, money-sucking demands necessitated by the death penalty. Rather, we need every scarce resource available to fund the entirety of California's justice system - civil, criminal, administrative, etcetera - not to mention our state government, our health care system, our school system, and many other things affecting large swaths of the population.

In fact, here in California, we need every penny of the millions of dollars we routinely chuck out chasing lethal vengeance. We need that money, manpower, and precious moral credibility that is lost through state-sanctioned murder. We need it to invest in our children, our fragile economy, and our threatened environment.

It's long past time we ended capital punishment in California. We should have done it on November 8, but we can't give up the fight. For as the incomparable civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., counseled, "the time is always right to do what is right."

(source: Los Angeles Post-Examiner)

USA:

It's time to put death penalty to rest in U.S.----1 innocent executed is 1 too many - and that's just 1 reason to abolish capital punishment.

Now that the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that juries must vote unanimously for the death penalty in order to validate a sentence, we can anticipate many new appeals and/or commutations of sentences for over 200 death row inmates to whom this will apply. Such appeals, or new trials, would be an extreme cost to the taxpayer.

Thus, we re-examine the death penalty once more. As a 30-year career cop and former Miami-Dade homicide detective, I've seen the worst of criminal behavior. I'm no bleeding heart.

I propose 10 valid reasons why capital punishment should be abolished, not only in Florida, but throughout the entire nation.

Too many risks of executing the innocent: In Brevard County, we've been witness to at least three life terms in which human beings have wrongfully served 27 years, 22 years and 4 years as innocent men. Had they been given a death sentence, two would probably be dead by now at the hands of an imperfect justice system.

A recent Newsweek study has determined that 4 percent of death row inmates are most probably innocent. Since 1973, 144 convicts nationwide have been exonerated as innocent. One innocent executed is one too many.

Costs: Numerous studies have been conducted which clearly show that maintaining the death penalty consumes at least double, or triple, the cost of imposing life sentences.

No deterrent: Many more studies have determined that the death penalty does not deter violent crime.

Violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Death row inmates in Florida are confined to solitary confinement in a concrete and steel cell, 24 hours a day, with no A/C and no social interaction. Of the 13 executed in the U.S. thus far in 2017, 8 rotted on death row for more than 20 years and then were executed. Gary Alvord, age 66, died of natural causes on death row, where he spent almost 40 years. It's serving a life sentence plus a death sentence.

Economic inequities: Some court-appointed attorneys have been known to be over the hill, less than enthusiastic and/or do not have the resources (investigations) to present a 1st-class defense. In contrast, consider a defendant like O.J. Simpson, or others steeped in wealth, who can hire the Dream Team. It's simply unfair.

Barbarism: The U.S. is seventh-highest in executions in the world, among such company as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. All countries in the Americas have banned executions, except Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad. Worldwide, 141 countries have abandoned capital punishment. Among nations that extol human rights, we have the worst record in executing people.

18 states have banned the death penalty: Of 32 states still on the books, only 5 have been active in carrying out executions, including Florida. California has the largest death row population with 750 condemned inmates, but haven't carried out an execution since 2006.

Execution by injection is not punishment: The real punishment is suffering death row for 10 to 40 years. Eternal sleep is hardly punishment. That's how we carry out "humane" acts for sick pets.

It can be argued that perpetuating capital punishment basically endorses state sponsored murder: Regardless of jury verdicts which are occasionally wrong, we cannot and should not be killing other human beings. Why? Because killing is fundamentally wrong.

People change: Often, we are not executing the same person who committed the crime. Consider the word of Napoleon Beazley, a 17-year-old Texas boy who joined up with 2 hoods to rob and shoot a man for his car in 1994. At his execution in May of 2002, Beazley was given an opportunity to speak his final thoughts:

"The act I committed to put me here was not just heinous, it was senseless," he said. "But the person that committed that act is no longer here - I am."

It's time.

(source: Commentary; Marshall Frank is a retired Miami-Dade police detective and frequent contributor to FLORIDA TODAY)

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Evangelical leaders push for criminal justice reform

Evangelical Christian leaders are spearheading a campaign for criminal justice reform, calling for equitable punishment, alternatives to incarceration and a different take on the "tough on crime" language of the Trump administration.

"Our country's overreliance on incarceration fails to make us safer or to restore people and communities who have been harmed," said James Ackerman, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, at a Tuesday (June 20) news conference at the National Press Club.

Joined by black, white and Hispanic officials of evangelical organizations, he introduced the "Justice Declaration" that has been signed by close to 100 religious leaders from a wide range of Christian denominations.

"The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America," the declaration reads, "and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime."

The leaders later presented their declaration to Republican leaders, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, in hopes of gaining bipartisan support for changes in federal law.

In a May memorandum to federal prosecutors, Attorney General Jeff Sessions established a stricter policy on charges and sentencing, saying they "should charge and pursue the most serious readily provable offense," and consider using mandatory minimum sentences.

Ackerman said Prison Fellowship supports sentencing guidelines but thinks mandatory sentences are "a big mistake."

He was joined at the news conference by leaders with testimonies of how churches helped formerly incarcerated people rehabilitate themselves and become productive citizens.

Dimas Salaberrios, president of the Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, told of how church members once vouched to a judge about his transformation after he escaped from authorities when he was a drug dealer. The judge pardoned him.

"I'm living proof that when you grab somebody out of the pits of hell and you turn their life around that they can be great contributors to society," he said.

National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson challenged churches to do more than sign the declaration but also take action steps to address racial inequities and work for alternatives such as drug courts and mental health courts to keep people out of prison.

13 % of Americans are African-American but close to 40 % of U.S. prisoners are black.

"What if all of our churches were to adopt one incarcerated person?" he asked. "What if all of our churches would service one family where a family member is incarcerated? What if all of our churches would care for one victim?"

The declaration, and a related 11-page paper on how the church can respond to crime and incarceration, were spearheaded by evangelical organizations: Prison Fellowship, the NAE, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

But signatories on the declaration include a wider range of Christian leaders, such as Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bread for the World President David Beckmann and Bishop Frank Dewane, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Despite the unified voices, a new Barna Group poll commissioned by Prison Fellowship found that 53 % of practicing Christians - Christians who have attended a church service at least once in the past month and describe their faith as very important - agree with the statement: "It's important to make an example out of someone for certain crimes, even if it means giving them a more severe punishment than their crime deserves."

Restorative justice proponents said the finding indicates they have more work to do.

"We as a church are not recognizing that disproportional punishment - that is, giving someone more than they deserve - is not consistent with our values and certainly will not help us advance the hope of a restorative justice system we all seek," said Ackerman.

(source: Religion News Service)

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Our view: For Rodriguez, death is fitting

"An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

That quote is attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, an advocate of peace and human rights. Ghandi, of course, led a movement that eventually helped his native country of India gain independence from British rule.

So how would Ghandi feel about the saga of Alfonso Rodriguez, who continually fights for his life in a federal prison? We suppose Ghandi would plead for Rodriguez to live.

We believe Rodriguez should die, as determined by a federal judge following his 2006 trial for the death of UND student Dru Sjodin.

Sjodin was abducted at Columbia Mall in November 2003; her body was found near Crookston the following spring. She died a tragic, horrifying death. According to authorities, she was raped, stabbed and asphyxiated.

Evidence against Rodriguez was strong. He also had a history of violence, and had been recently released from prison for crimes including rape and attempted kidnapping. He showed no remorse.

Neither Minnesota nor North Dakota has the death penalty, but Rodriguez was eligible for federal capital punishment because he took Sjodin across state lines. He still awaits execution, but - like so many on death row - he is temporarily spared via appeals. At present, a lawyer for Rodriguez is arguing in court that evidence presented at his 2006 trial inappropriately influenced the jury and led to the death sentence.

Each time his name surfaces, it spurs discussion about the death penalty.

We agree with the death penalty for those convicted of the most heinous and dastardly crimes, although we know it comes with controversy.

The United States is among a shrinking number of countries with capital punishment. Countries politically and socially close to the U.S. - Canada and Great Britain, for instance - have abolished the death penalty, perhaps because many see the practice as uncivilized. The American Civil Liberties Union calls it a "brutal institution" and says it is applied in an "unfair and unjust manner against people largely dependent on much money they have, the skill of their attorneys, the race of the victim and where the crime took place."

But what about the terrible cases? What about Rodriguez, who brutally murdered that young girl and who had a past of violent crime? Meanwhile, his incarceration - complete with full health care and repeated appeals - is costly to taxpayers.

What about maintenance of moral order?

And what about the Sjodin family?

Maybe the death sentence will someday be banned in the U.S., but for now, it's a legal alternative for degenerates like Rodriguez. It should continue, but only for those who most deserve it and in cases that absolutely are proven.

That's the case with Rodriguez. A long prison sentence paid by taxpayers doesn't do justice for what he did.

With deference to Ghandi, we ask: What good comes from keeping Rodriguez alive?

(source: Editorial, Grand Forks Herald)

CHINA:

Chinese courts call for death penalty for researchers who commit fraud

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth - a life for a lab book?

In the past few months, China has announced two new crackdowns on research misconduct - one of which could lead to executions for scientists who doctor their data.

Scientists have been sounding alarms for years about the integrity of research in China. One recent survey estimated that 40 % of biomedical papers by Chinese scholars were tainted by misconduct. Funding bodies there have in the past announced efforts to crack down on fraud, including clawing back money from scientists who cheat on their grants.

This month, in the wake of a fake peer review scandal that claimed 107 papers by Chinese scholars, the country's Ministry of Science and Technology proclaimed a "no tolerance" policy for research misconduct - although it's not clear what that might look like. According to the Financial Times, the ministry said the mass retractions "seriously harmed the international reputation of our country's scientific research and the dignity of Chinese scientists at large."

But a prior court decision in the country threatened the equivalent of the nuclear option. In April courts approved a new policy calling for stiff prison sentences for researchers who fabricate data in studies that lead to drug approvals. If the misconduct ends up harming people, then the punishment on the table even includes the death penalty. The move, as Nature explained, groups clinical trial data fraud with counterfeiting so that "if the approved drug causes health problems, it can result in a 10-year prison term or the death penalty, in the case of severe or fatal consequences."

Phony peer review: The more we look, the more we find

We've long called for sterner treatment of science cheats, including the possibility of jail time - which, by the way, most Americans agree is appropriate. But we can't support the Chinese solution. Even if we didn't abhor the death penalty (which we do), the punishment here far outweighs the crime.

Yet if extremity in the name of virtue can be vice, it serves as reminder that science fraud is, simply put, fraud. And when it involves funding - taxpayer or otherwise - that fraud becomes theft. Think about it the same way as you would running a bogus investment fund or kiting checks. So, jail for major offenders - yes. Execution - no.

One objection to our position here might be that financial criminals typically don't kill anyone - directly, at least. If you drain my bank account or steal my 401(k), I'm still alive. A scientist who cheats on a drug study could, at least in theory, jeopardize the health of the people who take that medication, with potentially fatal consequences.

But the reality is quite different. In the United States, at least, drug approvals hinge on data generated from many scientists or groups of researchers. They never rest on a single person. So unless everyone involved in a study is cheating, a fraudster's data would stick out if they strayed too much from the aggregate. Ironically, then, to succeed, a would-be fraudster would be most successful if they made their bogus results look like everyone else's - thus diluting their influence on the outcome of the trial.

Should science fraudsters have to serve jail time?

And stopping short of capital punishment, jail time for fraud would itself be a big change. According to our own research, only 39 scientists worldwide between 1975 and 2015 received criminal penalties for misdeeds somehow related to their work. However, some of those cases didn't involve research directly but instead related to incidental infractions, such as misusing funds, bribery, and even murder facilitated by access to cyanide.

And in the United States, fewer than 2 % of the 250-plus cases of misconduct over the same period reported by the Office of Research Integrity resulted in criminal sanctions. Most of the time, fraudsters earn temporary bans on federal research funding, with some dusting themselves off after a timeout and getting back in the game.

So there's room to strengthen penalties without taking the draconian step of invoking the death penalty. Some of that may requiring rewriting relevant statutes, to give agencies overseeing research funds more authority. And we acknowledge that not everyone thinks criminal sanctions are a good idea; some have said that such sanctions would only encourage fraudsters to double down on attempts at denial through lawyers, and might even dissuade colleagues from blowing the whistle. That's certainly possible, but it's not as though investigators' close rate is so high at this point anyway.

(source: Ivan Oranksy; statnews.com)

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

Woman dealer gets death reprieve

A woman has been sentenced to death - with a 2-year reprieve - for selling and transporting drugs.

Shanghai No.3 Intermediate People's Court said yesterday that the woman, a 26-year-old mother of 2 children, had previously been sentenced to prison for the same crime but had avoided serving out her terms.

From June 1 last year, the woman surnamed Zhang, a native of Anhui Province, sold 400 grams of crystal meth to a man surnamed Chen and bought about 2,000 grams from another man surnamed Li.

Li was sentenced to life, while Chen was sentenced for his involvement in another case.

According to China's Criminal Law, smuggling, selling, transporting and producing drugs amounting to over 50 grams of heroin or crystal meth face a life sentence or the death penalty.

In another case, a woman who is an Indonesian citizen, was sentenced to life for smuggling about 1,500 grams of cocaine into China, the court said.

She arrived at Pudong airport from Cambodia on May 4 last year with a backpack, and an X-ray machine detected a suspicious substance in the backpack, later confirmed to be cocaine.

The woman had previously traveled between China, Vietnam and Cambodia on several occasions, transporting drugs for others in exchange for thousands of dollars in return, the court said.

In the past 12 months, the court has closed 13 drug cases and handed down sentences to 19 people with 15 of them sentenced to at least 5 years in prison.

(source: Shanghai Daily)

BANGLADESH:

CHRI: Bangladesh's votes contradict human rights pledges----The report said that Bangladesh either abstained from voting or voted against multiple resolutions that drew attention to the deteriorating human rights situations

According to a report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Bangladesh's voting record at the Human Rights Council (HRC) contradicts the country's pledge and stance against human rights violations.

The report said that Bangladesh either abstained from voting or voted against multiple resolutions that drew attention to the deteriorating human rights situations and matters of technical assistance in Belarus, Burundi, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

The CHRI report, titled "The Commonwealth at the Human Rights Council: A decade of voting (2006-2016)," was launched in Geneva on June 19.

Bangladesh's abstention on a torture resolution is not consistent with their Constitution or CAT

The report considers the voting patterns of Commonwealth members at the HRC and provides a basis to determine whether their voting behaviour is consistent with HRC pledges, repeated commitments to Commonwealth values, votes of other Commonwealth countries, and their own past votes.

Bangladesh served at the Human Rights Council (HRC) from June 2006 to June 2012 and is currently serving a term that began in January 2015 and ends in December 2017.

The voting pattern of Bangladesh

The report found that Bangladesh abstained from voting on 6 resolutions concerning religious discrimination, peaceful protest, drones, torture, and transitional justice.

Furthermore, the country was against 3 resolutions concerning sexual orientation, gender identity and the death penalty.

Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a decision that said death penalty verdicts had to be reported to the secretary general of the HRC, but the country subsequently voted against a resolution that sought to abolish the death penalty altogether.

In 2011, Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a decision on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. A year later, the country maintained the same position while joining the consensus to support a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests.

However, in 2016, Bangladesh abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the exact same issue.

Regarding issues of religious discrimination, Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a resolution in 2007, but then abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the matter.

In 2009, the country again abstained from voting on a resolution concerning discrimination based on religion.

Bangladesh also abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones while countering terrorism in 2015. The resolution was sponsored by Pakistan.

In addition, the report said that Bangladesh voted against resolutions concerning protection from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2011 and in 2015.

In 2007, Bangladesh once again joined the consensus, this time regarding a statement on the 20th anniversary of the Convention against torture, only to abstain from voting on a resolution concerning torture and the responsibility of medical personnel in 2009.

The country has also joined the consensus to support resolutions regarding torture and the role and responsibility of judges, torture and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and torture while in police custody in 2010, 2011 and 2016 respectively.

Bangladesh has also joined the consensus to support resolutions on transitional justice in every year that it was in the HRC from 2007, but the country abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the issue in 2016.

Bangladesh abstained from voting on twenty resolutions concerning accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan. It also voted against 7 resolutions concerning human rights crisis in Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Burundi, and Ukraine.

The report said that during its candidacy for a second HRC term, Bangladesh stated that the country's constitution provides fundamental rights that guarantee, inter alia, equality before law and equal protection of law, protection of life and liberty and prohibition from discriminatory treatment. It said that discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste or sex is prohibited.

However, the country voted against 2 Sexual orientation and gender identity resolutions. Same-sex conduct is criminalised in Bangladesh and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It moreover rejected Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations to repeal the law twice.

During its HRC candidacy, Bangladesh stated that the "protection of life and liberty" is guaranteed by the Constitution and that Bangladesh is party to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

"Bangladesh's abstention on a torture resolution is not consistent with their Constitution or CAT," the report observed.

After voting against a resolution on the death penalty, Bangladesh noted that "a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to its abolition, required a comprehensive appraisal of the international justice system that had not been undertaken."

During the UPR II, Bangladesh claimed that it used the death penalty only as exemplary punishment for heinous crimes and maintains an extremely low rate of executions.

In the same UPR, Amnesty International reported that "over 1,000 people are on death row" and that "very few are likely to be pardoned or have their death sentence commuted."

On the issue of religious discrimination, Bangladesh abstained from voting, and stated that it could not vote in favour as the ongoing international intolerance of Islam had not been satisfactorily addressed.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

BAHRAIN:

Death sentence for fatal car explosion suspect in Bahrain

A court in Bahrain on Monday sentenced to death a defendant accused of planting a bomb that killed a Bahraini woman and injured 3 children in June last year.

The court sentenced a 2nd suspect to life in prison for his role in the explosion that shocked the nation.

The woman was killed and the children were injured when their car was hit by a bomb blast in East Eker, south of the capital Manama.

"A terrorist act claimed the life of a woman and injured 3 children who were with her in a car that was hit by shrapnel after a bomb exploded," the director general of Manama's police directorate said.

Ahmad Al Hammadi, the head of the anti-terrorism public prosecution, on Monday said that 10 suspects were involved in the case.

The investigation launched immediately after the attack led to the identification of a suspect currently a fugitive in Iran and working for Iran's Revolutionary Guard who tasked the 2 defendants with carrying out an explosion attack against police patrols.

The 2 agreed, obtained the explosive device from the fugitive and planted on the road side.

However, they exploded it as a private car was passing by, resulting in the death of the woman and the injuries of the children accompanying her.

The 2 perpetrators were eventually identified and arrested, Al Hammadi said.

They can challenge the verdict by taking the case to the Court of Appeals and eventually to the Court of Cassation, he added.

(source: Gulf News)

IRAN----executions

2 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

Around the end of May, 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged on drug related charges - 1 at Maragheh Prison (East Azerbaijan province) and the other at Minab Prison (Hormozgan province).

According to close sources, the execution in Maragheh Prison was carried out on Friday May 26. The prisoner has been identified as Fakhroldin Roshani. Mr. Roshani was reportedly arrested in 2012 at the age of 34. The execution in Minab Prison was reportedly carried out on Saturday May 27. The prisoner has been identified as Afshar Beiglou, 21 years of age.

A source who asked to be annonymous told Iran Human Rights: Afshar was a driver of a moving truck. In 2010, when he was delivering furniture from Urmia to Minab, approximately 2 kilograms and 700 grams of opium and crystal meth were planted in his truck. He never confessed at any point and always insisted that he was innocent. Nonetheless, in 2011, he was sentenced to death by a court in Minab and was executed on the 1st day of Ramadan."

Iranian official sources, including the media and Judiciary, have not announced these 2 executions.

Iranian parliament members had formerly requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5,000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

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

110 Death Row Prisoners in Zanjan Prison / 17 in Imminent Danger of Execution

Approximately 1/2 of the prisoners in Zanjan Prison are held on drug related charges. There are about 2,500 prisoners in Zanjan Prison, and about 110 of them are sentenced to death. This prison has a ward for juvenile offenders, and among the prisoners in this ward are 11 teenagers under the age of 18.

Among the 110 death row prisoners, at least 17 of them have had their death sentences confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court and sent for implementation.

A close source tells Iran Human Rights: "It is highly likely that the execution sentences of these 17 prisoners will be carried out right after Ramadan."

The identities of the 17 prisoners:

1) Hamza Rahimpour, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

2) Najaf Sidi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2011.

3) Mohammad Ali Yari, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2013.

4) Bahman Pirouzi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

5) Jamshid Allah Verdi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2011.

6) Jalil Dadyarvand, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2012.

7) Mostafa Hassanzadeh, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2010.

8) Ali Kashefi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

9) Abbas Savaghi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2015.

10) Mohammad Feyzabadi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

11) Hossein Ali Mahdavi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

12) Yassin Abedi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

There are 5 Afghan citizens who are in imminent danger of execution. These 5 prisoners have been detained since 6 years ago.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

EGYPT:

UN experts urge Egypt to halt executions after 'flawed trials'----A group of UN human rights experts on Thursday demanded that Egypt halt the planned executions of 6 men sentenced to death on the basis of forced confessions.

The 6 men, who were convicted in 2015 of terrorism-related charges linked to the killing of a police officer a year earlier, saw their death sentences upheld by Egypt's highest criminal court on June 7.

The men -- Basem Mohsen Elkhorieby, Khaled Askar, Mahmoud Mamhouh Wahba, Ibrahim Yahia Azab, Abd Elrahman Attia and Ahmed al-Waleed al-Shal -- have all reported being tortured and forced to confess, the UN rights office said in a statement.

3 of the men were forced to confess on national television, it added.

"To proceed with the executions of the 6 men on the basis of these flawed trials would violate international human rights law and constitute arbitrary executions," the experts said.

"It is extremely worrying that while all 6 men recanted their forced confessions in court and indicated that they had been obtained under torture, these were still used as the basis for their convictions."

The experts also stressed that evidence used against the men, including testimonies from members of the state security forces showed "major inconsistencies".

Some witness statements for instance did not match video footage of the alleged crime scene, they said.

The experts pointed out that capital punishment is only permitted under international law if there is "full respect for stringent due process guarantees."

"The government must halt these executions and ensure a retrial in compliance with international law and standards," they insisted.

(source: al-monitor.com)

BOTSWANA:

Death sentence lingers over Gantsi horror murder

2 Gantsi men who robbed, murdered and burnt their former employer in a horror case that shook the region, today face the death penalty before High Court judge, Abednego Tafa.

Tshiamo Kgalalelo, 31, and Mmika Mpe, 27, in January 2014 attacked Reinette Vorster, stealing her Toyota Hilux valued at P300,000, two cellphones and cash amounting to P11,000. The former employer had been driving from her farm to Gantsi at the time of the attack. The two then murdered Vorster and burnt her in the vehicle.

Kgalalelo was arrested on February 3, 2014 at Vorster's farm and Mpe the day after in connection with a separate incident. The duo had also been charged with sexual assault, but the court acquitted them of those charges due to insufficient evidence.

The case was tried last year on July 26, 27 and 28 with Tafa handing down the guilty verdict on May 18 this year. The state called a total of 18 witnesses including the Ghanzi District detective superintendent, independent witnesses, a forensic pathologist and the investigating officer.

The case, already a high profile matter due to the nature of the crime and the prominence of the victim involved, gained further renown when President Ian Khama fired Gantsi principal magistrate, Thabo Malambane for reasons related indirectly to the 2 defendants.

Malambane told the media after his dismissal that his downfall was due to granting the 2 bail and questioning why their case had subsequently been moved to Lobatse. On the defence team, Gijima Archibald represents Kgalalelo whilst Themba Joina is representing Mpe. Lezibo Emang is for the prosecution.

(source: mmegi.bw)

NIGERIA:

Aisha Buhari's aide calls for death penalty for child molesters

Child molestation is becoming a major issue in Nigeria and beyond.

There have been calls for stiffer punishment for those who engage in the act.

Zaynab Ikaz-Kassim, an aide to Nigeria's first lady, has added her voice to the calls Mrs Zaynab Ikaz-Kassim has called for stiffer punishment for those who molest children and subject them to abuse. Mrs Ikaz-Kassim who is the personal assistant to Nigeria's first lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, made the call via her Twitter page on Thursday, June 22.

She canvassed that people who engage in the act should be shot and castrated.

(source: naij.com)

INDIA:

Mumbai 1993 blasts: Abu Salem to escape noose?

A special TADA court convicted extradited gangster Abu Salem for his alleged role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts on Friday, on charges including murder. However, Salem cannot get a death term or any jail-term over 25 years as per the terms of his extradition agreed upon by India and Portugal.

CBI's lawyer Deepak Salvi said, "Due to the extradition terms, wherein Salem cannot be punished with death, we will request the court to give him life-term, instead of death penalty, even though he deserved death penalty." Another CBI source said, "Salem's extradition, which was made on the basis of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings of which India and Portugal are signatories, included a few key conditions - if extradited for trial in India, he would neither be conferred with death penalty nor be subjected to imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years.

According to Advocate Sujay Kantawala, the awarding of death penalty to 1993 blast accused Abu Salem would not be violating the extradition treaty signed by India as the crime by Salem was "a crime against humanity and involved terrorist activity" and so giving him the death penalty would not violate any extradition treaty.

(source: The Asian Age)

JUNE 22, 2017:

GEORGIA:

Death penalty is 'expressed intention' for Georgia inmates accused of killing correctional officers

A Georgia judge said today the death penalty is the "expressed intention" for inmates Donnie Russell Rowe and Ricky Dubose, who were on the run for over 48 hours after 1 of them shot and killed 2 correctional officers.

A Putnam County judge did not grant bond for the men. Their next court date was set for Sept. 18.

Rowe and Dubose were on a transport bus on June 13 when they allegedly breached a protective gate, reaching Baldwin State Prison officers Christopher Monica, 42, and Curtis Billue, 58, at the front of the bus. The inmates allegedly disarmed and killed them both, officials said. It was unclear which inmate shot and killed the 2 officers.

The prisoners, armed with the officers' weapons, then allegedly carjacked a nearby vehicle and spent over 48 hours on the run.

They were captured in Tennessee on June 15 after leading police on a high-speed chase.

Couple's dramatic 911 call after being held hostage by escaped Georgia inmates: 'Get the police out here'

Rowe and Dubose were cellmates and friends in prison, and may have planned their escape; however, the bus ride on June 13 was unscheduled, officials said.

At the time of the shooting, 31 other inmates were on board the bus, which was en route to a diagnostic facility when the escape took place. Those inmates provided assistance to investigators, officials said.

Rowe was serving life without parole for armed robbery, the department of corrections said, and Dubose was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement that the slain officers "were known for their unwavering commitment to their job and their love of family."

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Gregory Dozier said, "Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of 2 of our officers, who are our family."

(source: go.com)

FLORIDA:

With new death penalty rules on the books, judge vacates sentences in 2 old cases

2 men, long ago convicted of murder in separate cases in St. Johns County and sentenced to death, have had their sentences vacated and been given an opportunity to have the penalty portion of their trials heard again.

The recent orders from Circuit Court Judge Howard Maltz came in response to motions filed on behalf of James Daniel Turner and Norman Blake McKenzie that sought to have the sentences thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's old sentencing scheme for death penalty cases.

Their convictions stand but each shall be granted a new penalty phase "if the State still desires to seek the death penalty," the orders say.

A jury convicted Turner of 1st-degree murder in 2007 for the 2005 stabbing death of Renee Boling Howard of Crescent Beach after he escaped from a South Carolina prison. Then-Circuit Court Judge Wendy Berger sentenced him to death in 2008 after a 10-2 jury recommendation for the sentence during the penalty phase of his trial.

Berger, who now serves on the 5th District Court of Appeal, also handed down two death sentences for McKenzie after two 10-2 recommendations from a jury in 2007. Months earlier, jurors had convicted him of 1st-degree murder for killing Randy Wayne Peacock and Charles Frank Johnston with a hatchet. Peacock was also stabbed.

It was those 10-2 juror recommendations that were at the heart of Maltz's orders in response to what are now often referred to as "Hurst motions."

The name is a reference to the January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case Hurst v. Florida that found Florida's sentencing procedures were unconstitutional.

The court found that the procedures violated the defendant’s right to a trial by jury by allowing the judge to make the final decision after considering the jury's recommendation. It also took issue with those recommendations having to come from only a majority of jurors rather than a unanimous decision.

Legislators responded that same year by passing a new law that required a 10-2 vote from jurors for a death sentence, but that was quickly shot down by the Florida Supreme Court, which found that the Hurst decision, and its predecessor - a 2002 decision in Ring v. Arizona in which the U.S. Supreme Court examined many of the same issues - meant that a unanimous decision from jurors was needed for a death sentence.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a new law in March requiring just that.

Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis told The Record on Wednesday that the new law, in conjunction with the "guidance" from the Florida Supreme Court, means that any death sentence that was made final after the Ring decision can be challenged.

Lewis said that in the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties, there are around 30 death penalty cases and about 1/2 of them appear eligible for a challenge.

"From what we've looked at so far, we have about 15," he said, adding that, right now, judges seem to be vacating only those sentences in cases in which the jury recommendation was not unanimous.

For instance, Lewis said, the Florida Supreme Court recently upheld the death sentence for Quentin Marcus Truehill that was based on a unanimous recommendation, saying that what constitutes a "Hurst error" is rendered "harmless" if all the jurors agreed when they sent their recommendation to the judge.

A jury in 2014 convicted Truehill, a prison escapee from Louisiana, of murder for killing Vincent Binder, a 29-year-old Florida State University graduate student, and dumping his body in St. Johns County.

Maltz applied similar reasoning as the Florida Supreme Court in March when he declined to vacate a death sentence for John Christopher Marquard, who, in 1993 was sentenced to death for 1st-degree murder.

Because the sentence predated the Ring decision, Maltz wrote, Marquard was not "entitled to retroactive Hurst relief."

Even if he were to apply Hurst to the case, he added, Marquard still would not be entitled to the relief "because the jury's unanimous recommendation of death rendered any error harmless."

For the sentences that do get overturned, Lewis said he and his colleagues deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

Prosecutors consult with the victims' families to see if there is still desire to seek a death penalty and then make a decision as to how they will proceed, he said.

That is what has been set in motion now with Monday's orders in the Turner and McKenzie cases.

"Once those orders come out we have 45 days," Lewis said.

(source: St. Augustine Record)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska inmate facing death penalty for allegedly killing cellmate files motion contesting its constitutionality

A recent change in lethal injection procedure intended to enable Nebraska to carry out executions has been challenged by an inmate facing a potential death sentence.

Concerns over the new drug protocol are among the 11 arguments in a motion filed this week by attorneys for Patrick Schroeder, who seeks to have Nebraska's death penalty law declared unconstitutional.

Schroeder, who is already serving a life sentence for murder, now faces the death penalty for allegedly choking to death his cellmate, Terry Berry Jr., on April 15 inside a special management unit cell at the Tecumseh State Prison.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Johnson County District Court and enter a plea.

Instead, District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled a July 28 hearing on Schroeder's motion to overturn the death penalty.

"Our society can no longer kill to show that killing is wrong,' stated the motion to quash, filed by defense attorneys Todd Lancaster and Sarah Newell with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy.

Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith, who is prosecuting the case with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office, declined to comment.

"We will argue it at the hearing," he said.

Among issues raised by Schroeder in the 32-page motion:

-- The death penalty in Nebraska is racially discriminatory, considering that only 1 of the 9 men sent to death row since the law was amended in 2002 is white. 5 are Hispanic and 3 are black.

-- The death penalty is applied unevenly based upon geography. Since 2002, all death penalty cases have originated in 4 of Nebraska's 93 counties: Douglas, Madison, Scotts Bluff and Hall.

-- Nebraska's death penalty procedure requires juries to decide the aggravating factors necessary to impose death, but it requires a 3-judge panel to weigh the mitigating factors in a defendant's favor. Such a 2-step process that limits the jury's role is similar to one used in Florida that was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.

-- Evolving standards of decency in a "mature society" have made the carrying out of executions increasingly rare in the U.S. Just 10 states are responsible for 83 % of the 1,442 executions since 1976, the motion stated. Last year, the 20 total executions carried out were in 5 of the 31 states with capital punishment. Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, when the method was the electric chair.

The highest courts in the states and the nation have previously banned the execution of juveniles, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. They also have prohibited methods once commonly used as cruel and unusual punishment.

"The rejection of the nooses, bullets, gas and electricity signaled not only the discomfort with the method of execution, but with the death penalty itself," the motion stated.

Though Schroeder has not been convicted of the prison homicide, let alone sentenced, the motion was filed at this early stage to properly preserve the issues for appeal.

The death penalty challenge comes several months after voters reinstated capital punishment. More than 60 % of those who cast ballots in November voted to reverse the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty in 2015.

In an effort to create a viable death penalty procedure in the wake of that vote, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services changed the lethal injection protocol earlier this year. That change is under attack by Schroeder.

Under the former protocol, inmates were to be put to death with injections of three substances in a specific order. But obtaining some of the drugs specified in the protocol became increasingly difficult for prison officials.

The new protocol gives the prisons director wide latitude in deciding the types and quantities of drugs to be used. He also may opt to use a single drug, as long as it first causes the inmate to lose consciousness.

Schroeder's motion argues that the Legislature has unlawfully delegated its lawmaking authority to the prisons director to decide what drugs to use.

The motion also challenges the death penalty statutes for giving too little guidance as to when the penalty should be sought and applied. As a result, individual county attorneys decide who will be put to death in a manner that is "arbitrary and capricious" in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"The decision to file aggravating circumstances can be affected by the legal experience of the prosecutor, the size and resources of the particular county, any prejudice or bias of the prosecutor, the political ambition of the prosecutor or other political circumstances," the motion stated.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

USA:

The Supreme Court's Mixed Year on Capital Punishment

The U.S. Supreme Court's latest term, which ended this week as the justices began their summer recess, saw death-penalty opponents achieve some notable victories even as the Court moved further away from abolishing capital punishment.

In one of those wins Monday, the justices vacated an Alabama death-row inmate's sentence after ruling the state had not given him adequate professional assistance to evaluate his mental health during his trial more than 3 decades ago. The Court said the state's failure to provide James McWilliams with the experts required under one of its 1985 rulings made his sentence unconstitutional.

"Since Alabama's provision of mental-health assistance fell so dramatically short of what Ake [v. Oklahoma] requires," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority, "we must conclude that the Alabama court decision affirming McWilliams's conviction and sentence was 'contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.'" He quoted from a federal statute governing certain appeals from state courts.

In Ake, the Court ruled that states must provide impoverished defendants with access to "sufficiently independent" mental-health experts for help during trials. Shortly after that ruling came down, McWilliams was charged with the rape and murder of a convenience-store clerk. The trial court appointed John Goff, a neuropsychologist who worked for the state's Department of Mental Health, to evaluate McWilliams as a neutral party. After he filed his report, the court denied the defense's request for an independent expert to help them understand the report and its implications.

The ruling fell along the traditional ideological divide, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the Court's liberal wing. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for himself and 3 conservative colleagues, sharply criticized the majority for disregarding the question the justices had been asked to resolve when they took the case. Instead of deciding whether Ake required a mental-health expert for the defense, and not simply a neutral one for both sides, the majority held that Alabama's assistance to McWilliams fell short of the Court's current standards for indigent defendants with signs of mental-health issues.

"Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense evaluate Goff's report or McWilliams' extensive medical records and translate these data into a legal strategy," Breyer wrote. "Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare direct or cross-examination of any witnesses, or testified at the judicial sentencing hearing himself."

Monday's ruling was the 3rd of 4 capital-punishment cases the Court heard this term. Their ruling on one final case could come as soon as Thursday morning. In February, the justices vacated the death sentence of Texas inmate Duane Buck in a long-running racial-bias case. At the center of the dispute was testimony from psychologist Walter Quijano, who was called to the stand by Buck's lawyer during the sentencing phase of his trial in 1995. Quijano told the jury about his statistical model for evaluating "future dangerousness," 1 of the thresholds Texas uses to determine whether a defendant receives life imprisonment without parole or a death sentence. 1 of the factors in Quijano's model was race.

"It's a sad commentary that minorities, Hispanics, and black people, are over-represented in the criminal-justice system," Quijano told jurors at one point. When Buck appealed his sentence, Texas countered that the statements were only a minor part of days of testimony. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court in a 6-2 majority, said it was enough to toss out the sentence. "Some toxins are deadly in small doses," he wrote.

"What does this case tell us about a capital-punishment system that, in my view, works in random, virtually arbitrary ways?"

Kennedy and the Court's liberal justices also sided with the inmate in Moore v. Texas, an intellectual-disability case, in March. A Texas jury gave Bobby Moore a death sentence in 1980 for killing a convenience-store clerk during an armed robbery. After the Court banned the execution of people with intellectual disabilities in 2002's Atkins v. Virginia, Moore appealed his sentence on those grounds. A state court gathered a wealth of evidence from doctors and psychologists, concluding Moore should receive life imprisonment without parole and be retried.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the lower court's decision and instead relied upon an outdated set of seven factors from one of its earlier cases to make its decision. The factors were not grounded in medical authority. Instead, they focused on the subjective perceptions of laypersons and family members to determine a defendant's mental disability. All 8 justices agreed the factors were unacceptable for capital cases, but Roberts, Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented from the means by which the majority reached its decision.

The Court has yet to hand down a ruling in its fourth death-penalty case, Davila v. Davis. At issue in that dispute is an arcane but important procedural question about when a death-row inmate can claim his or her lawyer was unconstitutionally ineffective during the appeals process. At oral arguments in April, the justices appeared to be leaning toward a ruling in favor of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

But this term the justices did not take up any cases on a question frequently pushed by one of their colleagues: whether the death penalty itself violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2015, Breyer dissented from a major case on botched lethal injections and said it was time for the Court to reconsider the constitutionality of capital punishment. His dissent, which was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reopened a battle over the death penalty that had once faded from the court.

Some observers - myself included - speculated at the time that Breyer's dissent signaled the justices could actually abolish the practice for a second and likely final time. (The Court struck down all death-penalty statutes nationwide in 1972, then approved a raft of revised state laws 4 years later.) Assuming all four justices on the Court's liberal wing would agree to strike down the death penalty, only the vote of Kennedy - an intermittent voice in reducing the punishment's scope - and the proper case would be needed.

After 2 years, the Court has yet to consider the question despite multiple petitions asking the justices to do so. Kennedy's opinions on capital punishment have not noticeably changed in tone or tenor since Breyer's dissent in the lethal-injection ruling. And Donald Trump's electoral victory in November increased the likelihood that Kennedy or 1 of the 4 liberals could be replaced by a conservative stalwart, which would likely foreclose abolition for a generation.

Breyer has still continued to urge his colleagues to take up the issue. When Arkansas attempted to execute 8 inmates in 10 days in April, he sharply criticized the state for putting them to death only because its lethal-injection drug supply was about to expire. "In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random," he wrote when his colleagues denied a request from 1 of the inmates for a stay of execution.

A few days later, when the Court rejected the petition of an Arizona prisoner who had spent almost 4 decades in solitary confinement awaiting execution, Breyer said it underscored the need for the Court to revisit the death penalty. "What legitimate purpose does it serve to hold any human being in solitary confinement for 40 years awaiting execution?" he asked. "What does this case tell us about a capital-punishment system that, in my view, works in random, virtually arbitrary ways?" None of his colleagues joined either of his writings.

(source: theatlantic.com)

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

Rodriguez death penalty appeal: Defense experts say asphyxiation likely cause of Sjodin's death

The defense presented 2 more witnesses Wednesday, June 21, in an evidentiary hearing in the death penalty appeal of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

Testimony from Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist and owner of Arden Forensics, and Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic, the chief medical examiner for Oakland County, Mich., filled the 2nd day of the hearing in U.S. District Court, and mirrored that of the 2 experts who testified Tuesday.

Rodriguez was convicted of the November 2003 kidnapping and murder of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin.

As with Tuesday's testimony, the defense experts disagreed with the conclusions of Dr. Michael McGee, the Ramsey County, Minn., medical examiner who autopsied Sjodin's body after it was found in a ravine near Crookston, Minn., in April 2004.

McGee had said it appeared Sjodin's throat had been slashed and that she had suffered a stab wound on her right side. He also said that while no semen had been found, acid phosphatase levels found on Sjodin's body indicated she had likely been sexually assaulted.

Attorneys from the Federal Community Defender Office contend that the testimony of stabbing and sexual assault may have influenced the jury in the 2006 death penalty phase of Rodriguez's trial.

Arden said he could find no evidence that a sharp knife or object had been used to slash or stab Sjodin's neck or right side. He said decomposition and other factors tied to the body having been left exposed to the elements for 5 months left little tissue to be examined.

"There's no stab wounds" or anything else that "indicates the use of a knife at all," Arden said.

Arden said other areas on Sjodin's body showed similar damage to that seen on her right flank, but were not described as being caused by a knife. In addition, there was no description of internal organ damage from a knife thrust or hemorrhaging of blood that would result.

His original opinion was that Sjodin died of asphyxiation and strangulation with a cord, though he revised that in 2016 to include possible force to the neck after Rodriguez said in an interview that he pressed on the front of Sjodin's neck.

Arden also said the acid phosphatase levels found on Sjodin's body are not automatic indicators that she had been raped and that using them to say so "is incorrect and inappropriate" and that he "strongly" disagreed with McGee's conclusions. He said none of the testing done found evidence of semen or male DNA on Sjodin's body.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer repeatedly tried to get Arden to agree that a slash wound to the neck was possible.

"Is there a possibility? Sure. Is there any evidence for it? No," said Arden, who added that the damage to Sjodin's right side could also have been caused by a knife, "though that is not supported by the evidence."

Dragovic was part of a three-person panel who also looked at the autopsy findings and test results.

Dragovic said the circumstances surrounding Sjodin's death indicate that a sexual assault took place, but that it may not have involved sexual intercourse.

He also disagreed with Dr. McGee's conclusions that Sjodin had been stabbed, noting that there would have been blood on her clothes and body. He said she likely died of asphyxiation due to force being applied to her neck. "That's the only reasonable determination," he said.

Reisenauer reminded Dragovic that McGee had said Sjodin could have died of a slash to her neck, choking with a cord, asphyxiation or from exposure.

Rodriguez has waived his right to be present at the hearing. The hearing resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 22.

(source: The Globe)

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

The Death Penalty and Mental Illness: An Evolving Standard?

The use of the death penalty in the Americas dates to the 15th century when European settlers brought with them the practice of capital punishment. Because nowhere in the US Constitution is capital punishment explicitly addressed, the death penalty was imbued with intrinsic constitutionality by the Founding Fathers. The Fifth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment (due process clause) of the Bill of Rights have attempted to provide guidelines on how capital punishment should be handled. The Fifth Amendment states that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital [crime], unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury," while the Eighth Amendment states that "nor cruel and unusual punishments [be] inflicted."

Although the death penalty was viewed as an acceptable form of punishment at the time the US Constitution was created, it did not take long for various states to begin to limit or even ban such practices. The 1st state to do so was Michigan in 1846. Today, 31 states still permit capital punishment. Although this number may represent a majority of the states, it may not represent the true national mood regarding capital punishment because many of these states have not had an execution in more than 10 years.

Evolving standards

Over the years, the US Supreme Court has ruled on many cases that have addressed the topic of evolving standards of decency in regards to the Eighth Amendment. The 1910 Supreme Court case Weems v US helped define the notion of evolving standards as a basis to view historically accepted punishments as no longer acceptable in modern society. In the Weems case, a man was sentenced to multiple years of "hard and painful labor [in chains]" for the crime of falsifying documents.

Although the use of "irons" was common in the 1700s, the Court found that its use was not appropriate for a sentence in the 1900s. The term "evolving standards of decency" was coined by Chief Justice Earl Warren in Trop v Dulles (1958) when he noted that, when determining what punishment the Eighth Amendment prohibits, "evolving standards of decency . . . mark the progress of a maturing society."1,2

The 1972 case of Furman v Georgia (1972) resulted in a brief national moratorium on the death penalty because of a 5 to 4 ruling that "[the death penalty] could not be imposed under sentencing procedures that created a substantial risk that it would be inflicted in an arbitrary and capricious manner."3 In an unusual scenario, each justice wrote his own opinion, with Justices Brennan and Marshall citing evolving standards of decency to explain why they believed the death penalty was unconstitutional.

The landmark cases of Atkins v Virginia (2002) and Roper v Simmons (2005) determined that because of evolving standards of decency, certain definable groups such as individuals with intellectual disability and minors could not be sentenced to death.4,5 In both instances, the Court, within a relatively short period, revisited the issue of an evolving standard after already having ruled on the issue, ie, execution of people with intellectual deficiencies previously addressed in Penry v Lynaugh (1989) and certain youths in Stanford v Kentucky (1989).6,7 The majority opinion for Atkins v Virginia, written by Justice Stevens, noted that the "consistency of the direction of change," but "not so much the number of these States [prohibiting the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities]," was important in determining an evolving standard.4

The cases of Atkins v Virginia and Roper v Simmons are particularly interesting because the opinions were based on legal as well as scientific and medical principles. The legal principles that were discussed included whether the death penalty had a deterrent effect for these populations and whether these populations were at a fundamental disadvantage in defending themselves in the court system against the ultimate irreversible punishment. In Atkins v Virginia, Justice Stevens wrote, ". . . frequently [individuals with intellectual disability] know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial . . . [but] because of their impairments . . . by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others."4

(source: Psychiatric Times)

NIGERIA:

Evans may get death penalty or life imprisonment as Ambode signs bill to law

The Lagos state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has signed into law, the state kidnapping prohibition bill, 2016 which prescribes Life Imprisonment or death penalty for the offence of Kidnapping and forceful extortion in Lagos State, meaning that the recently arrested kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans may get a life imprisonment or death penalty sentence.

The law provides for death penalty for kidnappers whose victims die in their custody, and life imprisonment for the act of kidnapping.

The Lagos State House of Assembly passed the bill on January 5.

The governor said that the law was enacted to address key issues bordering on security.

He said that kidnapping had become a major threat to the safety of residents and, therefore, required decisive action by the government.

"This law imposes a penalty of life imprisonment for kidnapping for ransom.

"The law stipulates that, where a victim dies in the course of kidnapping, the suspect is liable on conviction to death.

"Security is of utmost importance to our administration, and we are confident that this law will serve as a deterrent to anybody who may desire to engage in this wicked act within the boundaries of Lagos State.

"Our justice system will be required to execute this law in absolute and make sure that any criminal caught faces the full wrath of the law," he said.

Recall that Evans himself had advised kidnappers or intending ones to desist from the act, saying it does not pay any longer.

He had said that if he can be caught, then nobody can escape the police being that the force has improved greatly in her anti-crime fight.

Evans, a billionaire kidnap kingpin had successfully coordinated and masterminded several high profile kidnappings and armed robberies within Lagos, Anambra and Enugu States.

According to him, "My advise to them is that as they are watching me standing here with policemen, they should stop everything about that, it doesn't pay."

He gave the advise to other kidnappers while leading police operatives to 2 houses in Ejigbo and Igando areas of Lagos state where he keeps his victims until huge ransoms are paid.

According to him, he keeps most of his victims in the 2 houses for months. He said he even pays up to 700,000 Naira, yearly for a 3 bedroom flat çells' where the victims are kept. Upon departure from Igando area Evans had opined, "The Nigeria Police is not what it is used to be. They are far more advanced than they were. If they could arrest me, there is no criminal they can't arrest."

(source: nigeriatoday.ng)

EGYPT:

Rights groups urge Egypt's Sisi to spare 6 men on death row

Human rights groups urged Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to intervene by a Thursday deadline to commute the death sentences of 6 men convicted of killing a policeman, saying they had been kidnapped and tortured into confessing the crime.

The 6 have been convicted of murdering Sergeant Abdallah al-Motweli, who guarded the house of a judge who helped to sentence Egypt's former president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood to 20 years in prison.

Sisi, who in 2013 headed the military that ousted Mursi after mass protests against his rule, has until Thursday to commute the death sentence of the 6. Their sentence can no longer be appealed after Egypt's top court this month upheld their conviction.

"The most important recommendation is protecting the 6 young men's right to life, which only the president can currently do through commuting the sentences," the Geneva-based Committee for Justice (CFJ) said on Wednesday.

In a detailed 30-page report based on a review of court records and interviews with their families and lawyers, the CFJ highlighted what it said were several violations faced by the defendants, who have come to be known as the "Mansoura 6", a reference to the Nile Delta city where they were tried.

The report focused on several violations: the defendants were forcibly disappeared, not legally arrested, and were tortured into confessing. Their confessions were taped and aired by the police before prosecutors questioned them, the report also said, in violation of Egypt's penal code.

Egyptian authorities do not comment on cases after a court has issued a verdict. The Interior Ministry denies all allegations of abuse.

The Mansoura 6 were kept in illegal detention centers, denied access to lawyers, and were kept in inhumane conditions, CFJ's report also said. Court records seen by Reuters show the judge based his verdict on police investigations that cite "secret" sources which officers refused to reveal in court.

Amnesty International also urged Sisi to intervene to prevent the execution of the 6 men.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No one should be deprived of their right to life, no matter how horrific the crimes they have been accused of are," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa Campaigns Director.

"Time is running out to save these men's lives, they can be executed at any time. The Egyptian authorities must immediately halt these executions."

(source: Reuters)

PAKISTAN:

2 murder accused get death penalty

Additional District and Sessions Judge Amjad Ali Bajwa Wednesday awarded death sentence to two murder accused. According to the prosecution, accused Fahad Ghumman and Gulfam Masih had killed Shahid Butt and Amir Bashir over a property dispute on Kutchery Road in the limits of Kotwali police. The court delivered the verdict in the district jail Sialkot. The judge also ordered the convicts to pay Rs 200,000 each to heirs of the dead, failing which the both would be imprisoned for 6 months on 2 counts.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

JUNE 21, 2017:

TEXAS:

Suspect charged with capital murder in slaying of Houston 10-month-old----Before he was accused of killing a 10-month-old, Jared Balogun had been arrested repeatedly.

6 days after a 10-month-old was shot in his father's arms, a Houston man was charged with capital murder in the shocking southwest Houston slaying that authorities say may be gang-related.

Jared Balogun, a 24-year-old with a long history of minor arrests, was already behind bars when authorities Tuesday afternoon accused him in the shooting death of baby Messiah Marshall.

Although the mayor praised the Houston Police Department for "working feverishly" for justice, authorities believe there are 2 other assailants who may still be at large.

"No murder in the City of Houston is acceptable, but let it be very, very clear when there is a child or a kid murdered in this city we are going to expend every and all available resources in order to find these people and bring them to justice," Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters at a Tuesday press conference.

The exact events of June 14 are still unclear, but police now say the gunfire may have been in retaliation for a previous altercation with the boy's father.

The tragedy unfolded around 1:30 p.m., when Nigel Marshall was out walking with his son near the Nob Hill Apartments on North Braeswood.

3 men approached the pair and began firing multiple rounds "indiscriminately," police said.

Marshall fled across the complex parking lot, seeking to shield his son from the gunfire.

But at least one bullet hit the baby, who died at a nearby Valero gas station.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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

US Supreme Court Refuses Appeal From Dallas Man on Death Row

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from a Dallas man on death row for fatally shooting his cousin during a November 2000 robbery where a 2nd person also was killed.

The high court had no comment Monday in its decision in the appeal from 44-year-old inmate Ivan Cantu. He argues his legal help at his 2001 trial was deficient for failing to investigate and present evidence that he's innocent.

Cantu was convicted of killing 27-year-old James Mosqueda and was indicted for the death of Mosqueda's girlfriend, 22-year-old Amy Kitchen. The 2 were shot at Mosqueda's Collin County home in north Dallas.

Mosqueda's Corvette was taken and found outside Cantu's apartment. Evidence showed he took Kitchen's engagement ring and gave it to his own girlfriend.

(source: Associated Press)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Morva attorneys ask governor to stop execution

William Charles Morva's attorneys are asking that the convicted murderer's execution - scheduled for July 6 - be halted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In a petition filed Tuesday, the Virginia Capital Representation Center says that Morva has mental illness that was never adequately taken into account during his 2008 trial, and that life imprisonment would be a more appropriate punishment for him. The attorneys group also asked that McAuliffe order mental health care for Morva.

"For more than a decade, William Morva has suffered from a serious psychotic disorder similar to schizophrenia," a statement from the attorney group said.

"Mr. Morva has never received treatment for his mental illness, although administration of anti-psychotic medications has proven successful in controlling symptoms of people similarly affected."

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy wrote in an email Tuesday that the governor, who is presently in Europe on a trade mission set to run through June 30, and a team will review the petition.

"We'll make an announcement when that review is complete," Coy wrote.

The attorneys' statement said Morva believes local law enforcement and the administration of former President George Bush conspired to harass and unfairly arrest him, that he had a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition that required him to spend hours on the toilet every day and "adhere to a diet of raw meat, berries, and pinecones."

The statement said Morva felt called "to lead indigenous tribes on an unexplained quest" and that "remote tribes would recognize his leadership status from his facial features."

In 2006, Morva, then a 24-year-old Blacksburg resident, was jailed and awaiting trial on theft-related charges when he complained of falling from his bunk and was taken to what was then called Montgomery Regional Hospital.

There, Morva knocked out a sheriff's deputy who was guarding him, took his gun and killed hospital security officer Derrick McFarland. The next day Morva killed Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin.

In 2008, Morva was convicted of 3 counts of capital murder, 1 for each victim and a 3rd for killing 2 people in less than 3 years, which is a capital offense in Virginia.

In the appeal to McAuliffe, the attorneys wrote that the jury that recommended the death penalty for Morva was not given accurate information about his mental condition.

Jurors were told Morva had a "schizotypal personality disorder”"that included odd beliefs and attitudes but was not treatable, the attorneys' statement read.

But a fuller evaluation conducted later, during Morva's appeals, determined that he had a more serious diagnosis of delusional disorder, a condition that would make him unable to tell reality from delusion, the attorneys wrote.

"I hope that Governor McAuliffe will be able to put himself in William Morva's shoes and feel what it must be like to live in a reality that no one else does and to worry every day that the people who are supposed to care the most about you are conspiring to hurt you," Dawn Davison, one of Morva's attorneys, said in the statement.

Morva's appeals ran for years after his conviction, until the U.S. Supreme Court in February declined to consider his case.

The most recent execution in Virginia was Ricky Javon Gray's in January. He died by lethal injection for the 2006 murders of 2 sisters in Richmond during a rampage that included killing their parents.

In April, McAuliffe commuted Ivan Teleguz's sentence from death to life in prison in a murder-for-hire case. The governor said then that he did not think Teleguz was innocent but acted because the sentencing phase of Teleguz's trial had been unfair, with jurors given false information.

(source: roanoke.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Anderson death row inmate eligible for parole

William Bell has spent more than 1/2 his life behind bars after killing Dennis Hepler at West Franklin Elementary School. But in a post conviction relief hearing last fall, a judge deemed Bell intellectually disabled and by federal ruling, the state cannot enforce the death penalty on someone who is mentally disabled.

The murder happened just a week before school in 1988 when this tragedy rocked the Anderson community. Friends of Hepler said it was his dream to become a principal and he had been working late the night he was murdered. Three men jumped him, taking his wallet with $67 and shooting him right in front of the school. But Hepler's legacy lives on with a park in his name and the memories of the passion he had for education.

"I have gone to that school several times for meetings and such and walk up the steps knowing that where I'm standing Dennis was killed. That's heartbreaking, but knowing at the same time that school is a community center serving that community makes it a little bit easier," said Jacky Stamps, former coworker of Hepler.

Sometime in the next month, Bell's death sentence will be changed to a life sentence and he could be eligible for parole depending on a decision by the parole board.

(source: WSPA news)

FLORIDA:

Florida prosecutors seek death penalty for Naomi Jones accused killer

Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins has decided to indict 38-year-old Robert Latroy Howard, of Brewton, on a capital murder charge in the death of 12-year-old Naomi Jones.

A grand jury came to the decision prior to the press conference held by Eddins on Tuesday afternoon.

"We determined that it was appropriate to seek the death penalty and as a result we will be seeking the death penalty," said Eddins.

Eddins said before Howard has an arraignment hearing on the charges his office plans to file a written notice. It will detail the aggravating circumstances that led to the decision to seek the death penalty for Howard.

Under Florida state law, to convict someone for capital murder, without the chance of life in prison or parole, requires proof that the act was premeditated or it was done during the commission of a statutory enumerated felony.

In this instance, Howard has also been charged with kidnapping, which falls under the statutory felony category.

"So the indictment charges either that the death occurred during the kidnapping and/or during fully formed conscience intent to take her life," said Eddins.

Howard was arrested on June 8 ending the Escambia County Sheriff's Office nationwide manhunt for a suspect in Jones' homicide investigation. ECSO investigators said that video surveillance showed Howard in the area where Jones disappeared on May 31.

She was last seen near home at the Aspen Village Apartments in Pensacola.

The Escambia County Sheriff's Office in Florida arrested Robert Howard, 38, of Brewton in connection with the disappearance and death of Naomi Jones, 12.

During questioning Howard told investigators he was not in Florida at the time.

But, the surveillance video showed a vehicle matching Howard's in the area of Eight Mile Creek where Jones' body was found on June 5, which was five days after she was reported missing.

Eddins said Jones' family was pleased with the prosecutors decision to seek the death penalty in this case.

"We received input from them in this matter and we feel like it's very important," said Eddins. "This is the appropriate decision. It's my understanding she's (Jones' mother) pleased with the proceedings to this point."

A preliminary autopsy report from authorities in Florida revealed that Jones died of asphyxiation, which is a form of suffocation. Eddins said at this time they can not say whether Jones was raped prior to her death. But, he says more results from the autopsy are pending at this time.

"There is additional testing to be done," said Eddins. "So there may be additional information that will come out in the coming weeks."

He said that there will be some forensic evidence presented in the case as it progresses, but at this time no DNA evidence has been presented.

Eddins said their investigation has revealed that Howard had been previously convicted on sexual assault charges twice in Alabama prior to this arrest. He said those 2 cases involved individuals under the age of 18.

He is currently charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender in the state of Florida.

He said the failure to register as a sex offender charge will be tried separately from the 1st-degree murder and kidnapping charges. The time period, which the failure to register as a sex offender charge stemmed from was prior to Jones' disappearance.

Eddins stated that Howard does not face any additional charges at this time.

He said due to the amount of attention Jones' death has received, the case has become a bit emotional. But, he wanted to reassure the public that when Howard goes to trial it will still be a fair trial.

"In the past we've had other emotional case and we've always been able to obtain a fair and impartial verdict in homicide case and I'm pleased about that," said Eddins.

Howard will have an arraignment at a court hearing in Escambia County on June 30 for the indictment on the capital murder charge.

He currently remain in the Escambia County Jail being held with no bond at this time.

(source: al.com)

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

Robert Howard Indicted for Murder of Naomi Jones, Faces Death Penalty

Florida prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the man accused of murdering 12-year-old Naomi Jones.

Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins says Robert Howard faces capital murder in the death of Jones, who Eddins confirmed died of asphyxiation.

Howard is a convicted sex offender who reportedly lied to authorities about his whereabouts at the time of Jones' disappearance. Authorities say he was in the area when Jones disappeared, though more indisputable evidence has not been made public as the investigation has continued to develop.

Eddins says an additional tests are being conducted on Jones' body to determine any further charges. He won't confirm whether or not Jones was sexually abused before or after her death.

(source: WKRG news)

ALABAMA:

Supreme Court ruling in capital case mandates psychiatric assistance for indigent defendants

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday in favor of a man who has been sentenced to death in Alabama, holding that he had not received "the psychiatric examination and assistance necessary to prepare an effective defense based on his mental condition" as required after the 1985 case Ake v. Oklahoma. James McWilliams was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in 1984. At trial, the defense counsel repeatedly moved to continue the court proceedings so they could have an "expert" evaluate McWilliams' psychiatric report. The judge denied the requests, telling the defense they could have until 2 p.m. on the day of sentencing to look over the report, which the defense had only acquired 2 days earlier. The judge, taking the position that McWilliams was faking and exaggerating his mental illness, sentenced him to death.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that the precedent set in Ake goes beyond simply examining an indigent defendant, but also requires assistance:

We are willing to assume that Alabama met the examination portion of this requirement by providing for Dr. Goff's examination of McWilliams. But what about the other 3 parts? Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense evaluate Goff's report or McWilliams' extensive medical records and translate these data into a legal strategy. Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare and present arguments that might, for example, have explained that McWilliams' purported malingering was not necessarily inconsistent with mental illness. Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare direct or cross-examination of any witnesses, or testified at the judicial sentencing hearing himself.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, issued a strongly-worded dissent, claiming the Ake decision was intentionally ambiguous, and that more deference should have been granted to Alabama's Supreme Court ruling.

The death penalty continues to be a point of contention across the US. Earlier this month the Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for Robert Melson, who challenged the use of midazolam in the 3-drug cocktail used in Alabama executions, arguing that it does not properly insensate prisoners to the pain of lethal injection. In May the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill that would reinstate the death penalty. In April the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sued the Food and Drug Administration for banning a shipment of lethal injection drugs to prison officials. Earlier in April Amnesty International released an annual report revealing the US to not be among the world's top 5 executioners since 2006. However, in March the Mississippi house approved a bill allowing firing squad executions. In March, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new bill which stated that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury. In January Ohio's lethal injection protocol was deemed unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

(soruce: jurist.org)

OHIO:

Ohio Supreme Court Presses Prosecutor on Reasons to Withold Complete DNA Report

The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments today over whether a northeast Ohio man is entitled to the full report on DNA testing and other evidence. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the arguments in a death-penalty case that has stretched on for nearly 3 decades.

Tyrone Noling was convicted of killing an elderly Portage County couple in 1990. But since his conviction, he's been pushing for the DNA evidence he maintains would clear him and implicate someone else. Last year, he won access to the state's DNA report on a cigarette butt found at the scene. But now the Supreme Court is trying to define just what makes up a "report."

Vigluicci say the DNA questions could be used to further delay Noling's execution.

Portage County Prosecutor Vic Vigluicci says the 1-page summary from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation is all Noling is entitled to. Supreme Court Justice Judith French pressed him.

FRENCH: 'What's the harm in giving all of the results of everything that was produced at BCI? What's the harm in that?

VIGLUICCI: "Because we're not here to question the methodology and the process of the BCI lab. I'm sure that I could find a DNA lab somewhere in the country that will criticize what BCI did. We will be here forever, your honor."

But Noling's attorney, Brian Howe, says courts throughout the state have regularly supplied complete BCI reports that include important DNA details - and that's especially crucial in a death-penalty case.

Brian Howe says transparency and specificity are especially crucial in death-penalty cases.

"The practice in the state -- and I believe the state admits this in its brief -- is to disclose the full results including electropherograms. And it has not resulted in endless delay or appeal or chaos."

During his arguments, Howe also pointed to other cases in which DNA evidence that the state originally said was too degraded to be tested ended up exonerating people who had been convicted.

(source: WKSU news)

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

Supreme Court reverses Sixth Circuit in criminal case

The US Supreme Court on Monday reversed a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, finding that the circuit court did not have authority to review the trial court's decision where the trial court had not violated defendant's due process rights during the penalty phase of his criminal trial. In Jenkins v. Hutton, the circuit court had relied on the miscarriage-of-justice exception, which permits the habeas petitioner "to review a defaulted claim when there is clear and convincing evidence that, but for the constitutional error no reasonable jury would have found [him] eligible for the death penalty under the applicable state law." The Sixth Circuit gave two reasons for which it had the authority to review the case: (1) "the jury had not [found] the existence of aggravating circumstances"; and (2) "a court may review a procedurally defaulted claim if, 'but for a constitutional error, no reasonable jury would have found the petitioner eligible for the death penalty.'" In a summary reversal, the Supreme Court found the Sixth Circuit erred for 2 reasons: (1) "the jury had found existence of mitigating circumstances in the guilt phase of the trial"; and (2) instead of considering "whether, given the (alleged) improper instructions, the jury might have been relying on invalid aggravating circumstances when it recommended a death sentence ... the Sixth Circuit should have considered the following: Whether, given proper instructions about the 2 aggravating circumstances, a reasonable jury could have decided that those aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances." The case was reversed and remanded.

Percy Hutton was convicted of aggravated murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in an Ohio court in 1985. During his trial, the jury found: (1) "that Hutton engaged in 'a course of conduct involving the ... attempt to kill 2 or more persons"; and (2) "that Hutton murdered [1 of the 2 men] while 'committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing immediately after ... kidnapping.'" Following a finding of guilt in the 1st jury trial, Hutton underwent a trial for sentencing and was sentenced to the death penalty. The jury instructions during the second trial were at issue and the Supreme Court found those jury instructions to be independent from the jury's finding of guilt in the 1st trial.

(source: jurist.org)

INDIANA:

'Is it justice or is it vengeance?' Indiana can't execute offenders right now. Does it need to?

The state of Indiana hasn't executed an offender on death row in more than 7 years. Between a court injunction and declining public support for capital punishment, it may never conduct an execution again.

Matthew Eric Wrinkles was the last man to be executed in the death chamber at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Wrinkles was put on trial in 1995 for the murders of his estranged wife Debra Jean Wrinkles, and her brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Natalie Fulkerson.

Angry over their crumbling marriage and his inability to see his children - and displaying "erratic behavior" that saw him committed to a psychiatric facility for 3 days beforehand - Wrinkles dressed in camouflage and face paint on the night of July 21, 1994, and drove to his brother-in-law's home, in Evansville, Indiana, where his wife was staying.

Wrinkles cut the telephone wires and kicked in the back door. By the time he left, his wife and in-laws were dead - each shot multiple times.

He was convicted on June 14, 1995, and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That sentence was carried out Dec. 12, 2009, at 12:39 a.m.

(source: WRTV news)

KENTUCKY:

Judge Denies Motion To Exclude Death Penalty

A judge has denied the motion to exclude the death penalty as a sentencing option for a man accused of killing a teen.

According to the Herald Leader, Terry Farrell was back in court on Monday.

He is accused of killing 18-year-old Jamaal Gossett in November of 2015.

The paper reports a judge denied attempt to exclude the death penalty as a sentencing option before his August 7 trial.

Farrell is charged with robbery and murder.

(source: lex18.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Man charged in fatal shooting at Lake Elsinore Circle K is eligible for death penalty

Charges filed against the suspect in last week's fatal shooting of a Circle K cashier in Lake Elsinore make him eligible for a death penalty prosecution, but the Riverside County district attorney is still weighing whether to seek that punishment.

James Curtis Coon, 26, of Lake Elsinore, was charged Friday with murder, attempted murder armed robbery and burglary, court records show. He remained incarcerated Tuesday with no option to post bail, and has not yet entered a plea, jail and court records show.

His arraignment was postponed to June 28 at the request of the Public Defender's Office. Court records show a mental evaluation has been ordered.

Coon is accused of killing 47-year-old Eric Whitcomb the morning of June 14. The victim of the attempted murder was another Circle K employee who was not injured, according to a sheriff's spokesman, who declined to provide other details about what happened to that person.

The special circumstances attached to the murder charge - acting in the commission of a burglary and a robbery and using a firearm in the commission of a felony - could warrant the death penalty if Coon is found guilty, said District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall.

Hall said District Attorney Mike Hestrin has not yet decided whether to pursue that option.

About 5:20 a.m. June 14, Whitcomb was shot multiple times at the Lakeshore Drive convenience store where he'd worked for the past 12 years, in what Circle K corporate officials called "a senseless act of violence."

Court documents provided some details that sheriff's officials would not, including that the shooting happened during a robbery and that there was a 2nd victim.

Hours after the shooting, Coon was arrested at his home on Driftwood Lane about a mile from the convenience store.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

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

Divided California Supreme Court upholds death sentence

In an unusual outcome, the California Supreme Court split Monday over whether to uphold the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a jewelry store owner during a 1996 robbery in Fresno.

The court generally reaches unanimous decisions in death penalty cases.

With Associate Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Goodwin Liu dissenting, the court ruled that defendant Vaene Sivongxxay chose not to have a jury decide his case at the outset of his trial and had no right to be advised specifically that a judge would also decide the allegation that he committed murder during the course of a robbery.

That allegation made Sivongxxay eligible for the death penalty.

The trial court did not ask Sivongxxay separately whether he waived his right to a jury trial on the robbery and murder allegation. But the 5 justices in the majority said the error did not taint the trial since there was no evidence Sivongxxay would have chosen to have a jury decide the allegation.

The ruling upheld Sivongxxay's death sentence.

Kirk Jenkins, an appellate lawyer who studies the California Supreme Court, said it reached unanimous decisions on death penalty cases more than 75 % of the time in 2015 and an even higher percentage last year.

Still, Jenkins said there was evidence that the court was scrutinizing death penalty cases more closely in the past few years.

Cuellar and Liu said the trial court failed to explain to Sivongxxay that he was entitled to have a jury decide the allegation that he committed murder in the course of a robbery.

Cuellar and Liu also said the trial court failed to ask Sivongxxay separately whether he waived his right to a jury trial on the allegation.

Liu said the majority opinion "undermines an important safeguard of California's death penalty scheme."

Cuellar and Liu are relative newcomers to the court. Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Liu to the court in 2011. Cuellar joined in 2015.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Previous Evidence Questioned in ND Death Penalty Appeal Hearing----Alfonso Rodriquez has been on death row for 11 years

A federal inmate from Crookston convicted of killing UND student Dru Sjodin is appealing his death sentence.

2 forensic experts took the stand in the start of what could be Rodriguez's last appeal.

It's been more than 12 years since 64-year-old Alfonso Rodriguez was federally indicted for the kidnapping, murder and rape of Dru Sjodin.

After the body of Sjodin was found, this became North Daktoa's 1st death penalty case.

But years after his death sentence in 2006, attorneys for Rodriguez said a previous medical examiner could have been wrong.

In previous court cases, Dr. Michael McGee told attorneys they found male DNA on Sjodin's body and clothes.

This ultimately led to a rape conviction.

Prosecutors said rape evidence largely influenced the jury in the death sentence trial.

Forensic scientist Alan Keel took the stand.

He said the positive male DNA tests when the body was first found is presumptive evidence, meaning it was not confirmed.

Later tests did not confirm if male DNA was on the body.

It was only found on Rodriguez's jeans.

Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, the Chief Medical Examiner of Maine, told attorneys he did a new autopsy on the body and firmly believes she was killed with a rope around her neck.

He said marks which appeared to be knife wounds could have come from animals while the body was decomposing in the elements.

Rodriguez has been on death row for 11 years.

Of the 76 federal inmates on death row, only 3 were executed since the death sentence was reinstated in 1988.

The appeals trial could last up to 7 days.

Rodriguez waived his right to appear in court.

(source: KVRR news)

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

No Matter How You Try to Do It, The Death Penalty is Garbage

Back when I was a teenager, I used to write essays about why I hated Newt Gingrich and why I hated the death penalty. Now it's 20 years later and I'm still writing essays about why I hate Newt Gingrich and why I hate the death penalty. "Time is a flat circle," as Rust Cohle said.

Earlier this year, the state of Arkansas executed 4 men in 8 days, because the state's supply of lethal injection drugs was about to expire. Arkansas had originally scheduled 8 executions in 11 days, but this legal bloodbath was limited somewhat by the courts, which halted four of the executions on appeal.

Despite the recent publicity for Arkansas' bloodlust, the imposition of the death penalty in America as a whole seems to be entering a possibly permanent decline. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions in America has been decreasing year after year, with only 20 executions in 2016 - the lowest number since 1991. According to Gallup polls, 61% of Americans support the death penalty, but that number is also at a 40-year low, and among younger Americans age 18-29, only 51% support the death penalty. Although 31 states and the federal government still have the death penalty, most states do not use it, or use it sparingly - most executions are carried out by just a few states, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Florida. Shortages of lethal injection drugs have made it increasingly difficult for states to carry out executions; drug companies (often based in Europe or other countries that do not have the death penalty) do not want their drugs to be used to end human lives. The Supreme Court has shown a growing impatience with the death penalty, having already limited its use for juvenile offenders and for crimes other than murder. It's not too far-fetched to imagine that the Supreme Court could abolish the death penalty within our lifetimes; the death penalty may soon become a relic of history - a regional curiosity founded in Southern-style racist religiosity and "eye-for-an-eye" Old Testament vengeance.

Good. I'm glad that the death penalty is in decline. Because there is no "good way" to do the death penalty. No matter how you try to define it, the death penalty is garbage.

Here's why:

Innocent People Get Executed

America's criminal justice system has lots and lots of problems, and the death penalty is the most vivid example of what happens when we allow an imperfect system to make life-and-death decisions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, "since 1973, more than 155 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence." And during 2000-2011, there were an average of 5 people exonerated from death row per year. This is a sign that innocent people truly do get convicted and sentenced to die. There's no "safe" or "accurate" or "fair" way to kill people without making horrible irrevocable mistakes.

Cameron Todd Willingham was a man who was executed by the state of Texas in 2004 for murdering his 3 daughters by committing arson to the family home. Willingham always claimed that he was innocent, and went to his death saying that he had been persecuted for a crime that he did not commit. In the years since Willingham was killed by Texas, evidence has emerged that suggests that he did not commit arson, that the fire could have been accidental, that the fire investigators presented by the state during Willingham's trial got the story wrong.

Forensic science is an ever-evolving field. Sometimes the "can't miss" evidence that prosecutors and investigators bring to trial turns out to be based on flawed science; for example, the FBI announced in 2015 that, for 2 decades prior to the year 2000, its forensic experts had given flawed testimony in more than 200 trials where they claimed that "forensic hair analysis" of human hairs found at crime scenes indicated the guilt of defendants, even though we now know that the analysis was based on bogus science. These trials included 32 death penalty trials where defendants were sentenced to death; 14 of those people have been executed or died in prison. Even well intentioned investigations can lead to fatal errors.

The death penalty is also rife with prosecutor misconduct and miscarriages of justice. Ledell Lee was 1 of the inmates executed by Arkansas in April: his defense team at trial had never hired any experts to test him for intellectual disabilities, and no appeals court ever objected to the fact that one of Lee's prosecutors was having an affair with the trial judge. No forensic evidence from the crime scene matched Lee, and he asked for DNA testing for decades but Arkansas never allowed it (DNA testing costs a lot of money). Ledell Lee went to his death still proclaiming his innocence; the same thing could have happened to Damien Echols (one of the famous West Memphis 3 who were released from prison after being wrongly convicted as teenagers of murdering three boys) but he was able to get DNA testing and further judicial review of his case.

Even when death penalty defendants aren't getting railroaded by bad evidence, crooked judges, or unscrupulous prosecutors, they're getting sentenced to death because of their own incompetent lawyers. Most people on death row are poor. Poor people in America tend to not get very good legal representation, especially in America's most bloodthirsty death penalty jurisdictions. If you can't afford your own lawyer and you are accused of capital murder, most American death penalty states are going to assign your case to the most hapless, low-paid, overworked, desperately alcoholic defense lawyers available. There are countless stories from death row of incompetent defense lawyers falling asleep during their client's trial, showing up to court drunk, failing to call any witnesses, failing to present "mitigation" evidence to make the jury want to show mercy, and otherwise botching their jobs. A disturbingly high percentage of death row inmates were represented at trial or on appeal by attorneys who were later disbarred or disciplined for failing to uphold the standards of the legal profession.

America's criminal justice system is supposed to be an adversarial process where criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and where every defendant has a lawyer who is there to zealously advocate for their client's life and legal rights and force the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Adequate legal representation against the power of the government is supposed to be 1 of the fundamental rights that we all have as Americans. But especially in death penalty hellholes like Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas, it doesn't happen. The rich get good lawyers and the poor get lethal injections.

The Death Penalty is Racist

The death penalty cannot be separated from America's legacy of racism. It's the new form of lynching. Instead of being practiced by angry mobs, it's carried out by judges and juries and given a sheen of respectability. Black people are more likely to be executed than white people, and the states that are most enthusiastic about the death penalty also tend to have the worst histories of racist violence against black people. Yes, white people get executed too, but in general, the death penalty disproportionately values white life. In a country that has barely begun to face up to its historical legacy of mass murder and racist violence against black people, the death penalty is an indulgence that we cannot afford.

It's hilarious to me that so many Christians are in favor of the death penalty - because their entire religion is based on a wrongful execution. If you love Jesus, you should hate the death penalty. If you love the teachings of a man who hung out with beggars and prostitutes and outcasts, who was condemned to die in bloody agony on a cross of shame next to a couple of common thieves, who said to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" to those who harm you and practice radical forgiveness and mercy, then you should be protesting outside of America's prisons every single day. Christians who support the death penalty are clueless moral hypocrites of the highest order. I'm not a Christian- I never want to set foot in a church again - but I feel like I'm still a better Christian than Christians who support the death penalty. Sure, the Old Testament says "eye for an eye." Big deal. The Old Testament also says we're not supposed to eat pork and shellfish and wear multiple types of fabric or whatever. Most of you Christians can't even read Ancient Hebrew, so don't act like you're experts in the Jewish scriptures. I can't believe I have to sit here and try to educate Christians about the basic fundamental tenets of their own faith. Christ!

The Death Penalty Degrades the State

The death penalty diminishes us all. I'm opposed to the death penalty for all criminals, even the worst of the worst, even the most obviously guilty, even the most despised and devilish people on Earth. Why? Because if killing is wrong, then it's wrong for the state to kill in our names. Period. The way to show people that killing is wrong is to make killing so rare, so forbidden, such an anathema, that people shudder to contemplate it. And I'm not saying this because I love criminals and because I'm a bleeding heart liberal; murderers are awful. They deserve to suffer forever. But we don't have to kill them: there are ways to immobilize and incapacitate even the worst killers with solitary confinement to make sure that they never harm anyone again. Have you ever read about the long-term effects of solitary confinement? It's awful - it's a profound sort of living hell. Instead of giving the worst murderers a glorious public death, let's put them in a cell the size of a parking space and let them rot, alone and forgotten, forever.

Even if the death penalty wasn't racist and unjust and otherwise incompetently administered, even if the death penalty could somehow be limited to only the worst offenders who were unquestionably 100% guilty, and could be carried out in a humane, painless, instantaneous-death sort of way, I would still oppose the death penalty. Because I don't want anyone to be ever be killed anywhere. The older I get, I'm becoming more of a radical pacifist: no human being deserves to be killed. I want humanity to strive toward a world where the death penalty doesn't exist, where war doesn't exist, where killing for political purposes (whether that's terrorism or Republicans running for re-election by bragging about how "tough on crime" they are) doesn’t happen.

Human beings are flawed, fallen creatures. But our great advantage as a species is that we keep trying to fix our flaws and improve our societies and get better over time. People used to carry out executions in public, with horrifyingly gruesome methods like burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, and crucifixion. Compared to that blood-soaked history, 20 executions per year, carried out in sanitized conditions behind prison walls, represents massive progress. Executions are becoming more rare and less popular, and I believe that within my lifetime the death penalty in America will be abolished, by court ruling if not by popular vote. In the long run, I'm an optimist; I don't believe that the world is going to hell. If you look at the long arc of human history, there is such a thing as an evolving standard of decency. Despite the latest headlines about terrorism and war in Syria and the many damnable atrocities that are still too common in too many places, in many important ways, the world is becoming less violent, less divided, more peaceful, more humane, and more merciful. If we can change the way our society treats our most despised and broken people, that will be a sign of greater hope for us all.

(source: Ben Gran, pastemagazine.com)

EGYPT:

Cancel Alexandria Death Penalty----Risk of Imminent Execution After Flawed Trial

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should cancel a death sentence confirmed by the country's highest appeals court on April 25, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The sentence followed a trial that violated the defendant's due process rights. If carried out, it would be the 9th execution related to an incident of political violence since the military removed the former president in 2013.

An Alexandria criminal court originally sentenced Fadl al-Mawla, an employee of the Engineers' Club in Alexandria and a preacher affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, to death in 2016 in connection with the killing of a taxi driver during a protest 3 years earlier. During the trial, the court denied defense lawyers' requests to hear exonerating testimony from witnesses.

"Egypt's justice system remains highly politicized, characterized by rampant due process violations," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The last thing the authorities should be doing in this period of extreme political polarization is to put people to death following unfair trials."

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch called on Egyptian authorities to place a moratorium on the death penalty in view of the sharp rise in the number of death sentences, turbulent political upheaval, and failure to pass a comprehensive transitional justice law in Egypt since the military removed former President Mohamed Morsy in 2013.

The case stemmed from an August 15, 2013, march in Alexandria organized by the Muslim Brotherhood to protest the brutal dispersals of mass sit-ins opposing the military's removal of Morsy the day before. The dispersals on August 14, 2013, resulted in the deaths of at least 904 people at 2 protest sites in Cairo.

The Alexandria march blocked traffic on the seaside corniche road, and some of the protesters carried weapons, according pictures posted by residents on social media. Protesters clashed with the police and government supporters. By the end of the day, at least 7 people had been killed. At some point during the march, an altercation began between protesters and a taxi driver.

In a video filmed from a balcony, a yellow-and-black Alexandria taxi can be seen maneuvering quickly from one end of the crowd to the other. It accelerates through marchers, possibly hitting some, before it runs into the rear of another car and becomes stuck in traffic. Scores of marchers quickly swarm the taxi, and a sound resembling a gunshot is audible. The person filming the video says, "They shot him?" In another video that begins shortly after the apparent gunshot, the crowd of marchers can be seen attacking the taxi while the person filming screams, "They're killing him!" The videos do not clearly show the identities of those in the crowd.

In the hours after the march, police set up checkpoints and arrested more than a dozen alleged participants at locations around Alexandria, according to the verdict handed down in June 2016. Police arrested 12 men on Abu Qir Street in the Fleming neighborhood, allegedly confiscating a 9mm pistol, and 5 other men, including al-Mawla, on Army Road, in front of Alexandria's Engineers Club as "they tried to escape," the verdict stated.

Prosecutors alleged that al-Mawla beat the taxi driver, a Christian named Mina Raafat Aziz, and fatally shot him with a birdshot pistol to spread "sectarian strife" in the country. But problems with the state's case arose from the beginning.

The key witness, Aziz's passenger, a man named Amr Ahmed Ghanem, told an interviewer on video immediately following the incident that 2 "thugs" he recognized from his neighborhood killed Aziz. Later, he changed his story, telling prosecutors that al-Mawla stopped the taxi after seeing a cross hanging in Aziz's car, beat Aziz, and shot him with the pistol.

A defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the court allowed him to question Ghanem in court but did not address Ghanem's contradictions in the judgment.

The defense lawyer said that the court refused to let any defense witnesses testify, including a neighbor of al-Mawla who rode to work with him on the day of the march and an acquaintance of al-Mawla who was present during the attack on the taxi driver and said he did not see al-Mawla there.

Egypt's criminal procedure code gives judges the discretion to deny defense requests to call witnesses during trial if the defense has not submitted their testimony in advance or presented them for interrogation at the beginning of a trial. Al-Mawla's legal team had not done so. Egyptian defense lawyers involved in political cases like al-Mawla's often decline to present witnesses in advance out of fear that National Security agents will arrest or otherwise intimidate them.

The defense lawyer said that the defense team submitted footage captured by Engineers' Club security cameras showing security forces raiding the club and conducting arrests. A video posted by the club on YouTube showed the damage caused by the raid and included interviews with 2 witnesses. The lawyer also said that the defense submitted an official statement from the club saying that al-Mawla had been at his workplace during the protest. Police did not recover the birdshot pistol allegedly used to kill Aziz.

In its judgment, the court wrote that it had heard the defense arguments but was satisfied with the prosecution's evidence and did not need to hear from the defense witnesses.

Prosecutors used Egypt's colonial-era Assembly Law, passed in 1914, to charge all 17 defendants collectively with the killing of Aziz and 6 other people who they said had died during clashes between marchers and residents involving firearms, knives, and Molotov cocktails. The Assembly Law bans any gathering larger than 5 people that endangers "public peace" and allows courts to convict anyone who participated in the gathering for acts, including murder, committed by other participants. It is the subject of a lawsuit filed in administrative court by Egyptian human rights activists, who contend that parliament voted to repeal the law in 1928 and that it should no longer be in effect.

Prosecutors also charged the defendants with stealing Ghanem's property, destroying Aziz's car, endangering a public roadway, possessing unlicensed weapons, and belonging to a banned group.

In its ruling, the court stated that the evidence supported a verdict of "intentional murder" against al-Mawla, but not the other defendants, for allegedly shooting Aziz in the chest from a range of approximately one meter. The other defendants, the court stated, had committed the lesser crime of "wounding or beating until death," which implies unintentional murder.

The court sentenced al-Mawla to death. It sentenced a former Muslim Brotherhood official and member of parliament, al-Mohamedi Sayed Ahmed, to 15 years in prison, and the 14 other defendants to 5 years in prison.

In March and April, Human Rights Watch sent letters to 6 Egyptian institutions, including the presidency and Defense Ministry, expressing serious concerns about death sentences handed down in both military and regular courts. Human Rights Watch urged President al-Sisi and Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi not to approve any further death sentences. Egypt should move quickly toward abolishing the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a punishment that is not only unique in its cruelty and finality, but also inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. At least 10 other people currently face execution in connection with alleged political violence, 6 of them sentenced in a regular court and four in a military court, after appeals courts confirmed their death penalties earlier in June.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

INDIA:

Kerala HC sets aside death penalty in murder case

The Kerala High Court commuted the death penalty awarded to the convict in a 2010 murder case to rigorous imprisonment for life. The court said the accused, Rasheed,35, hailing from Meenangadi in Wayanad, should not be released from prison till he completed the actual prison term of 40 years.

The case

According to the prosecution, Rasheed landed in Kochi to raise funds for going abroad as he was broke. On November 16, 2010, he approached a woman named Bindu, of Pachalam, seeking a room on the 3rd floor of her residence for rent. Rasheed murdered Bindu and stole her ornaments when she took him to the 3rd floor.

The court observed the facts and circumstances in the case clearly showed all the material prosecution witnesses had definitely put forward a consistent case.

"On applying the principles in the case of award of death penalty, We (the court) found this as not a fit case to be classified as the 'rarest of rare cases' warranting a death penalty," the court stated.

Counsel for the accused submitted a case within the category of rarest of rare cases only deserved the extreme punishment. According to him, the sentence and the fine imposed on the accused are extremely harsh and not commensurate to the socio-economic status of the accused.

Fine amount

The trial court had imposed a fine of `11,10,000 on the accused for various offences. The court observed it was paradoxical to impose such a huge amount as fine when the prosecution itself cited extreme poverty of the accused as a predominant motive for committing the crime. "Considering the allegations against the accused and over all circumstances brought out in evidence, the fine imposed on the accused is highly excessive and the default imprisonment is also unjustifiably long," the court said.

Quantum and severity of punishment, especially capital punishment, directly depend on the nature of the crime, brutality with which it was done, nature of the weapon used, the condition or situation of the victim, the manner in which it was committed, the societal impact of the crime, the antecedents of the offender and the like factors. In this case, the material aspects revealed from the prosecution evidence show the accused was in dire financial constraints and he was struggling to support a family. The prosecution has no case he is a hardcore criminal involved in any other offence. The young age of the accused is also a favourable factor.

The court held the prosecution succeeded in establishing beyond reasonable doubt the accused committed murder of Bindu after confining her in room on the 2nd floor of her residential building with an intention to rob her gold ornaments.

(source: The New Indian Express)

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

Father gets death penalty for killing pregnant daughter

A father, who murdered his pregnant teenage daughter on the day of her delivery in 2013, as he was against her inter-caste marriage, was sentenced to death by Nashik's District and Sessions court on Monday, terming it the rarest of rare cases.

After the murder, Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar (47) is said to have stated that his daughter Pramila had disgraced him and so he had killed her.

The victim's mother stated that her husband was a good for nothing fellow, and demanded that he should be hanged.

It may be recalled that, Pramila had married Deepak Kamble, who belonged to a different caste, in 2012 in Saptashrungi temple. She was nine months pregnant and was due on 28 June 2013.

Kisan visited his daughter in Mahatmanagar in an autorickshaw and told her that her mother was ill and admitted to Savarkar Hospital. Hearing the news, Pramilla accompanied her father in the auto. When they reached Chopda Lawns, Eknath took out a nylon rope and strangled Pramilla.

The auto driver Pramod Mangal Ahire (35) tried to intervene but was unable to stop Eknath. But he informed the police and took the unconscious woman to Nashik Civil hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. The cops arrested Kisan and produced him in court the next day. He is a resident of More Mala, Hanumanwadi in Panchavati area. The police had also charged him under section 316.

(source: The Asian Age)

TAIWAN:

Prosecutors seeking death penalty for model's killing: The crime was premeditated, as the suspect lured the victim to a building under the pretext of a photography shoot, prosecutors said

The Taipei Shilin District Prosecutors' Office yesterday announced it is seeking the death penalty for Cheng Yu 23, who was charged with the rape and strangulation of a female model, surnamed Chen, at a building in Taipei's Nangang District in March.

Prosecutors completed nearly 4 months of investigations before arriving at yesterday's indictment.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Liang Ssu-hui, Cheng's girlfriend at the time.

Cheng had claimed that Liang took part in the crime.

Cheng was also charged with forgery and fraud as well as one one count of theft and one count of robbery.

Prosecutors allege he made purchases with her credit cards and used her mobile phone in an attempt to make it appear that Chen was still alive.

Cheng has previous convictions for sexual assault, fraud, forcible confinement and causing bodily harm, prosecutors said.

"Based on his criminal record, it has been determined that jail time has not had the desired effect of rehabilitation, and that Cheng has a low possibility of ever being rehabilitated. Cheng should be removed from society. Therefore we request the most severe penalty available for this crime," the office's Deputy Chief Prosecutor Chen Hsi-chu said.

Prosecutors said the murder was premeditated, adding that Cheng used the pretext of a commercial photography shoot and promised the victim payment to lure her to the building.

"Cheng raped the victim and killed her for his own sexual gratification then seized the victim's possessions," prosecutors said.

"After killing the victim, Cheng tried to cover up the crime by falsely accusing Liang of involvement, which misled the police and the judiciary in the course of the investigation," prosecutors said.

(source: Taipei Times)

JUNE 20, 2017:

TEXAS:

Thousands in jury pool for Zoe Hastings murder trial

Work has started on finding a jury for the trial of a man accused of killing an 18-year-old Dallas woman in 2015.

About 3,000 Dallas County residents will be called in and fill out questionnaires so prosecutors and lawyers can find 12 people in the death penalty case of Antonio Cochran. He's accused of stabbing Zoe Hastings to death and dumping her body in the minivan she was driving in a creek after kidnapping her from an East Dallas Walgreens in Oct. 2015.

The trial is set to start in late October, but to get there the jury selection process is starting 4 months out.

The goal of the 19 page, 200-plus question document is to help prosecutors and defense attorneys know who the jurors are. Nearly 1/4 of the questions are about potential jurors' views on capital punishment.

Jury consultant Kacy Miller analyzed the questionnaire.

"The state is looking for jurors who are willing to give the death penalty," Miller said. "The defense also needs jurors who are willing to give the death penalty -- but maybe just not as frequently."

Recent Dallas County juryies have said no to the death penalty for quadruple murderer defendant Erbie Bowser and another convicted killer, Juan Andrade. Both juries in those cases opted for life in prison without parole.

When there is a guilty verdict in a death penalty case jurors must then answer 2 questions: Is the person a continuing threat to society? Is there no reason worth saving their life?

Heath Harris, former First Assistant Dallas County D.A. who is now in private practice, has tried death penalty cases from both the prosecution and defense table.

"Seems like there's an increase in whether people feel like the death penalty is a deterrent," Harris said.

But the death penalty and how it's administered has also itself, seemingly, been on trial of late.

Some courts are debating whether its practice is humane. Plus, several exonerations across the country - including death row inmates – are also impacting potential jurors and making it more difficult to get a unanimous death penalty verdict.

"It's absolutely more difficult today," said attorney Robert Udashen. "When I first started practicing law police and prosecutors always wore the white hats and juries trusted anything prosecutors and police officers said."

Udashen says the overall climate change towards police grand juries and prosecutors has caused jurors to think long and hard before voting yes to the ultimate punishment - death.

(source: Fox News)

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

HCSO: Mom charged with capital murder in daughter's death

A mother has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing death of her 4-year-old daughter in west Harris County.

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, 34-year-old Laquita Lewis was charged with capital murder Monday morning. The single mother of 4 has been denied bail and faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors said that Lewis allegedly stabbed her child, Fredricka Allen, multiple times in the chest and left her on the floor of the master bedroom.

Neighbor Burim Hoax is having a tough time dealing with the news.

"I couldn't believe that happened. Bad news. I didn't have any idea what happened last night and I still don’t believe," he said.

Hoax says 4-year-old Fredricka would greet him in the apartment complex parking lot almost every morning. "She would say to me, good morning."

Family members say they got some text messages from the Lewis. She basically told them she hurt Fredricka.

Those family members called 911 and urged deputies to come check on the girl at the Timberwalk Apartment Homes located in the 5600 block of Timber Creek Place.

Deputies found that little girl dead inside her home just before 9 p.m., but investigators think she was stabbed to death earlier in the day.

Investigators said the mother was in a car accident and rushed to a hospital around 6 p.m. It was there at the hospital that deputies say the mother started texting family, apologizing for what she had done.

Deputies also say, earlier in the day, the woman got into a fight with her boyfriend.

"We don't really know what the catalyst of that argument was," said Thomas Gilliland, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Obviously it was some sort of, enough to escalate to where she killed the 4-year old.

Now, Lewis is in custody.

The scene was so bad that chaplains were out here to console family members of the little girl, as well as the deputies who discovered her body.

"There's not enough words to describe the horrible death of this child," said Gilliland.

According to the Harris County DA's office, Lewis was charged in November for making a terroristic threat during a Thanksgiving incident in which she brandished a knife at her 16-year-old son. Lewis, who at the time had no prior criminal record, was sentenced in February to 15 months of deferred adjudication in that case.

The DA's office says that as part of her probation requirements, she was required to take a Texas Risk Assessment System evaluation, which ranked her with a score of zero (the lowest score) for her risk for recidivism.

(source: KHOU news)

ALABAMA:

Death-Row Inmate Wins High Court Battle Over Experts

A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Alabama death-row inmate was denied his constitutional right to an independent mental health expert to help the defense team in his murder trial.

James Edmund McWilliams Jr. challenges his death sentence for robbing, raping and killing convenience store clerk Patricia Reynolds in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1984.

Months before he murdered Reynolds, McWilliams attended couple's therapy with his pregnant wife and underwent psychological testing, which found that he is "extremely disturbed" and "has much internal anxiety."

While three doctors nevertheless concluded he was competent to stand trial, his defense counsel portrayed McWilliams during the penalty phase of his trial as someone who grew up with significant psychological problems. McWilliams and his mother testified that he sustained head injuries as a child and had a history of blacking out and hallucinating.

An expert appointed by the trial judge reported his findings simultaneously to the court, the prosecution and the defense 2 days before McWilliams' sentencing hearing.

The expert diagnosed McWilliams with organic personality syndrome, but defense counsel did not have a chance to discuss the findings with the expert or learn what the diagnosis meant for the purposes of mitigation.

Last year, McWilliams petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing he was "precluded from meaningfully participating in the judicial sentencing hearing and did not receive a fair opportunity to rebut the state's psychiatric experts."

His case is nested inside the high court's 1984 decision in Ake v. Oklahoma, which held that poor criminal defendants using a defense of insanity are entitled to an expert to help support their claim.

McWilliams was charged by Alabama just a month after Ake was decided. His appeals over the years have been unsuccessful, with the 11th Circuit affirming the lower courts' denial of relief.

5 months after agreeing to take up the case, the Supreme Court reversed the 11th Circuit and ruled 5-4 Monday that McWilliams did not receive the assistance he was entitled to under Ake.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that Ake does not require just an examination, but also requires the state to provide the defense access to a competent psychiatrist who will also help in evaluation, preparation and presentation.

"We are willing to assume that Alabama met the examination portion of this requirement by providing for Dr. [John] Goff's examination of McWilliams. But what about the other 3 parts?" Breyer wrote. "The dissent emphasizes that Dr. Goff was never ordered to do any of these things by the trial court. But that is precisely the point. The relevant court order did not ask Dr. Goff or anyone else to provide the defense with help in evaluating, preparing, and presenting its case."

McWilliams' requests for additional assistance under Ake were rejected by the judge in his case, according to the ruling.

"Since Alabama's provision of mental health assistance fell so dramatically short of what Ake requires, we must conclude that the Alabama court decision affirming McWilliams's conviction and sentence was 'contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,'" Breyer said.

The Supreme Court said the 11th Circuit should determine on remand "whether access to the type of meaningful assistance in evaluating, preparing, and presenting the defense that Ake requires could have made a difference" in McWilliams' trial.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonio Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer in the majority.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Alito said Ake "did not clearly establish that a defendant is entitled to an expert who is a member of the defense team."

"In Ake, we held that a defendant must be provided 'access to a competent psychiatrist' in 2 circumstances: 1st, 'when [the] defendant demonstrates to the trial judge that his sanity at the time of the offense is to be a significant factor at trial,' and, 2nd, at the sentencing phase of a capital trial, 'when the State presents psychiatric evidence of the defendant's future dangerousness,'" Alito wrote.

"The question that we agreed to review concerns the type of expert that must be provided. Did Ake clearly establish that a defendant in the 2 situations just noted must be provided with the services of an expert who functions solely as a dedicated member of the defense team as opposed to a neutral expert who examines the defendant, reports his or her conclusions to the court and the parties, and is available to assist and testify for both sides? Did Ake speak with such clarity that it ruled out 'any possibility for fairminded disagreement'? The answer is 'no.' Ake provides no clear guidance one way or the other."

(source: courthousenews.com)

OHIO:

U.S. Supreme Court reinstates convicted Cleveland killer's death sentence

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a lower court's ruling that vacated a convicted Cleveland killer's 1986 death sentence.

Judges at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati erred last year when they found a Cuyahoga County judge gave faulty jury instructions and ordered Percy Hutton re-sentenced, the Court found in a per curium decision released Monday morning.

The decision reinstates Hutton's death sentence, and allowed him to continue the appeals process on other grounds.

Hutton was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986 in a case stemming from an argument over a missing sewing machine.

Hutton had hidden $750 inside the machine, which he then accused 2 men of stealing, according to court records.

Hutton lured the men into his car and drove them around at gunpoint, demanding the machine's return. Hutton was convicted of shooting 1 man twice and killing the other, whose body was found more than a week later.

The same jury found Hutton guilty of specifications that made him eligible for the death penalty, and recommended it during the penalty phase of the trial. The judge then imposed and sentenced Hutton to death.

After losing appeals through state courts, Hutton took his case to federal court on the grounds that the judge overseeing his trial gave the jurors improper instructions about what to consider during the penalty phase.

Judges at U.S. District Court declined to consider the argument because Hutton's lawyers did not object to the jury instructions during the trial, and he did not raise the issue on his initial appeals.

But Sixth Circuit judges took up the argument and held that the jury did not make the necessary findings of aggravating circumstances that would have made Hutton eligible for the death penalty, and their decision to recommend death was based on faulty instructions that violated Hutton's constitutional rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and reversed that decision, holding that, not only should the lower court not have entertained the argument in the first place, but the jury did find proper aggravating circumstances and that another jury that had been given proper instructions would have likely reached the same decision.

(source: cleveland.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Adelanto man sentenced to death for 2009 double murder

An Adelanto man with gang ties has been sentenced to death in connection to the 2009 double murder of 28-year-old Ealy Davis, Jr. and 26-year-old Shameka Reliford perpetrated during a drug deal.

A jury found James Ellis, 28, guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and criminal street gang activity last October, according to a previous Daily Press report.

A statement released Monday by the San Bernardino County District Attorney said jurors found true multiple special circumstances - lying in wait, murder during a robbery, murder while an active participant in a criminal street gang and multiple murders - that "made Ellis eligible for the death penalty."

On Friday, based on the jury's recommendation and evidence presented during the penalty phase of the trial, Judge Eric M. Nakata sentenced Ellis to death, the statement shows.

Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes, who prosecuted the case, described seeking "the ultimate punishment" as "a tough decision for all," adding he was "pleased" the jury provided victims with "some sense of justice."

"(Ellis) has demonstrated a desire to continue a life of violent gang behavior up to and through the prosecution of this case," Imes said.

Attorney George Wright, who defended Ellis, described Imes' contention as "not at all" accurate.

"Mr. Ellis has been remorseful about the whole situation," Wright told the Daily Press. "At the sentencing hearing, he gave a statement in which he expressed an apology to the Reliford family. Not a day goes by where he doesn't think about that ... I had to keep him from crying at times during the trial."

Neither the DA's office or Wright disclosed the name of the gang with which Ellis was affiliated; however, Wright described it as a "neighborhood gang from Compton."

On Nov. 23, 2009, Ellis, Forrest Taylor, William Jacobs, Joseph Bowen and Sandra Smith were gathered at Smith's residence in Adelanto where a discussion was had on how to acquire drugs and money.

The DA's statement said Ellis plotted with the others to rob Davis, a drug dealer from Long Beach. During the planning, Ellis produced a handgun and showed it to the others. Smith then suggested they rob Davis, who she knew because he was dating Reliford, her half-sister.

Wright, however, said Ellis was "not privy to the conversation" that hatched the plan.

"Our position was Ellis was with a young lady at the house," Wright said. "Taylor and Smith planned to rob Davis, and then they brought Ellis in and, because of certain pressures, he went with them."

According to Imes, Smith provided Taylor with Davis' cellphone number. Several phone calls were made to lure Davis to a secluded area near Westside Park Elementary School. At the meeting place, Ellis approached Davis' car. Reliford was in the passenger seat. 2 other passengers were in the backseat.

After a short exchange, Ellis stepped back, pulled a handgun and fired 4 to 5 rounds into the vehicle. Davis was killed immediately. Reliford was taken to Victor Valley Community Hospital where she later died.

Prior to Ellis' sentencing, Wright said he introduced 2 motions before Nakata and argued for life without the possibility of parole.

"There were 2 murders, but the intent was to only shoot one," he said. "The facts showed there was no actual intent to kill 2 people. 1 of the bullets went through (Davis) and struck (Reliford)."

Wright said Ellis' age at the time of the murders - he was 21 - played a role, as well.

"He was not an old person with a criminal personality that was solidified," Wright said. "He was born in a hotbed of gangs in Compton. Nobody has a choice where they're born. Gangs was the lifestyle there. I believe if you would have put him in a different environment this would have never occurred."

Both motions were denied. Wright said the case will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"We're hopeful that he'll be given a new trial," he said.

Ellis, Taylor, 30, of Los Angeles, and Jacobs, 30, of Adelanto, were all arrested in December 2009, according to a previous Daily Press report.

Taylor was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2013. Jacobs received 13 years, 8 months in 2016.

Smith, 37, of Adelanto, was sentenced to 18 years in 2012, and Bowen, 22, of Victorville, received probation in 2012 for being an accessory.

Some 749 inmates awaited execution on California's death row as of December 2016, according to a Los Angeles Times report. 13 men have been put to death since the death penalty was restored here in 1978.

The state has not executed a prisoner since 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen, who received a lethal injection in 2006, according to an Associated Press report.

(source: Daily Press)

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

Divided California Supreme Court upholds death sentence

In an unusual outcome, the California Supreme Court split Monday over whether to uphold the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a jewelry store owner during a 1996 robbery in Fresno

The court generally reaches unanimous decisions in death penalty cases.

With Associate Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Goodwin Liu dissenting, the court ruled that defendant Vaene Sivongxxay chose not to have a jury decide his case at the outset of his trial and had no right to be advised specifically that a judge would also decide the allegation that he committed murder during the course of a robbery.

That allegation made Sivongxxay eligible for the death penalty.

The trial court did not ask Sivongxxay separately whether he waived his right to a jury trial on the robbery and murder allegation. But the 5 justices in the majority said the error did not taint the trial since there was no evidence Sivongxxay would have chosen to have a jury decide the allegation.

The ruling upheld Sivongxxay's death sentence.

Kirk Jenkins, an appellate lawyer who studies the California Supreme Court, said it reached unanimous decisions on death penalty cases more than 75 % of the time in 2015 and an even higher % last year.

Still, Jenkins said there was evidence that the court was scrutinizing death penalty cases more closely in the past few years.

Cuellar and Liu said the trial court failed to explain to Sivongxxay that he was entitled to have a jury decide the allegation that he committed murder in the course of a robbery.

Cuellar and Liu also said the trial court failed to ask Sivongxxay separately whether he waived his right to a jury trial on the allegation.

Liu said the majority opinion "undermines an important safeguard of California's death penalty scheme."

Cuellar and Liu are relative newcomers to the court. Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Liu to the court in 2011. Cuellar joined in 2015.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Why plummeting public support for the death penalty doesn't mean it's going away

Support for the death penalty is at a 4-decade low among the American public, but that may be of little consequence in the struggle over the future of capital punishment. That's because the death penalty is the practice not of the nation, but rather of a handful of states.

The federal government is a minor player in criminal justice, housing just 1 in 8 inmates. The federal government executed 2 prisoners on the same day in 1957, but implemented capital punishment only four times in the 60 years since. It's states that charge and sentence almost all the individuals who commit the crimes that lead to capital sentences (e.g., murder). And, more specifically, it's just 5 of those states that are the true force behind capital punishment, accounting for 90 % of the 122 executions carried out in the past 3 years.

[source: Bureau of Justice Statistics]

Texas stands out for its particularly outsized role, accounting for over 1/3 of capital punishment. Florida, Georgia and Missouri each account for about 1 in 7 executions, and Oklahoma accounts for about 1 in 12. The other 45 states collectively account for only 10 % of prisoner executions, even though the law in 30 of those states allows capital punishment.

Rather than ask "why does the United States have capital punishment," it makes more sense to ask why these particular 5 states apply it so often. Obviously, all are politically conservative states within or bordering the South. But this is also true of Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, none of which has put a prisoner to death in recent years (indeed, Louisiana came close to abolishing the death penalty in this year's legislative cycle.)

Stanford Law School Professor Robert Weisberg points to state-specific processes and incentives as drivers of the death penalty in a subset of conservative states. Most notably, he says, "Texas has elected judges. It is also located in the prosecutor-friendly 5th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Although the Supreme Court occasionally slaps down the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and its federal accomplice, the Fifth Circuit, for allowing egregiously unfair capital trials, on the whole those lower courts have been happy to give Texas prosecutors a generously wide berth."

Most states have abandoned the death penalty de jure or de facto. But in the absence of change in the handful of states that combine punitive views on crime with legal processes that facilitate capital punishment, the practice will remain a part of the criminal justice system.

(source: Opinion; Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and is an affiliated faculty member at Stanford Law School and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute----Washington Post)

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

US Supreme Court death penalty decision could be victory for due process

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a defendant has a right to a mental health evaluation independent of the prosecution, which could have wide-ranging implications for the justice system.

"This is a very important decision," Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told CNA of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in McWilliams v. Dunn.

"A mental health expert helps the defense investigate mental health defenses in the case," he explained June 19. "Although most states already routinely provide independent mental health experts for the defense, this decision makes clear that this type of expert has always been required by due process," he said.

The defendant in the case, James Edmond McWilliams, was convicted in 1985 in Alabama of robbing, raping, and murdering a store clerk. He was sentenced to death the following year.

A 3-member "lunacy commission" was organized by the state to evaluate his condition, and they concluded that McWilliams had not been significantly impaired by mental illness at the time of his crime. McWilliams was convicted of capital murder.

Before his sentencing hearing, his defense had requested a mental health expert to conduct neurological and neuropsychological tests, as he had previously suffered serious head trauma.

However, the mental health expert was provided by the state. The neuropsychologist Dr. John Goff concluded that McWilliams had exaggerated his condition but nevertheless showed signs of neuropsychological problems.

However, the results of McWilliams' evaluation were not given to his lawyers until two days before the sentencing hearing. They reportedly did not receive his mental health records until the day of the hearing.

At the hearing, his lawyers requested more time to review the report and the records, as well as a mental health expert to help interpret those records, but their request was denied by the judge, who promptly sentenced McWilliams to death.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the decision did not manifest the "substantial and injurious effect or influence" required for relief in the case, and denied McWilliams' request for relief.

On Monday, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling and sent it back to the circuit court. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion, wrote that Ake v. Oklahoma, a 1985 Supreme Court decision, "does not require just an examination" of a defendant's competency.

"Rather, it requires the State to provide the defense with 'access to a competent psychiatrist who will conduct an appropriate [1] examination and assist in [2] evaluation, [3] preparation, and [4] presentation of the defense'," he continued.

Alabama failed to meet this standard in McWilliams' case, he said, as "petitioner in this case did not receive that assistance."

The availability of a mental health expert independent of the prosecution was critical to the case, Dunham argued.

"An independent mental health expert would have been able to explain that McWilliams had brain damage and other serious mental health impairments," Dunham said, "but without an independent mental health expert, the Alabama trial judge who imposed the sentence found no mitigating evidence at all."

"It's not unusual that the prosecution will present a mental health expert or a forensic expert who offers unscientific or even junk science testimony," he added. "We've had dozens of cases where prosecutors have presented junk science testimony about bite marks" or "microscopic hair comparison."

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Neil Gorsuch. The question at hand, he argued, was whether the defense is entitled to a mental health expert that it can select.

"We granted review in this case to decide a straightforward legal question on which the lower courts are divided: whether our decision in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U. S. 68 (1985), clearly established that an indigent defendant whose mental health will be a significant factor at trial is entitled to the assistance of a psychiatric expert who is a member of the defense team instead of a neutral expert who is available to assist both the prosecution and the defense," he wrote.

"The answer to that question is plain: Ake did not clearly establish that a defendant is entitled to an expert who is a member of the defense team," he stated.

Ultimately, the decision will have wide-ranging effects in the justice system, Dunham said, affecting more inmates than McWilliams.

2 inmates in Arkansas, Bruce Ward and Don Davis, recently received stays of execution based on the outcome of the McWilliams case. Their scheduled executions were 2 of 8 that were planned by the state in the span of 10 days in April, and because of Monday's decision they now have "an opportunity to get relief," Dunham said.

Monday's decision is also significant because the Supreme Court found precedent in the case. Thus, it was able to apply the 1985 Ake decision to McWilliams' case, which began shortly after that decision was issued.

Dozens of inmates have been executed, Dunham said, because "the courts have not applied the Constitution to their cases." Now, this precedent can apply to all cases dating back to 1985.

McWilliams' counsel of record Stephen Bright stated that the decision is ultimately "about fairness."

"The adversarial process cannot function properly if the prosecution can retain mental health experts, but the defense is not even allowed to consult with an expert," he stated. "James McWilliams could not have a fair trial without a mental health expert to assess his brain damage and other mental impairments and to help his counsel present that information to the sentencing court. He was denied such assistance."

(source: Catholic News Agency)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Filipina on death row in Al Ain spared----Filipina maid has been acquitted from the murder charge, sentenced to 5 years

The Filipina domestic worker sentenced to death in Al Ain for killing her employer has been saved from death row, a Philippine envoy said.

Jennifer Dalquez, 30, a domestic worker, was given the death penalty by the Al Ain Court of First Instance in May 2015 after she was found guilty of killing her employer in December 2014. She claimed it was self-defence because her employer tried to rape her.

Philippine Ambassador Constancio Vingno Jr said the hearing for the case of Jennifer Dalquez was held on Monday.

"Ms Dalquez was acquitted for the murder charge. She will not be paying diyyah or blood money. However, she was sentenced for 5 years for theft for stealing the mobile phone of the person who was killed, less the number of years she had spent in jail," Vingno told Gulf News.

Vingno said Dalquez was arrested about a week after the incident on December 7, 2014. This means she has been serving time for 2 1/2 years since.

"We are still waiting for the official report from our lawyer to ascertain the details of the case, but this is definitely good news for her family and the Filipino people."

Dalquez' parents visited her in Al Ain in October 2015 and in March 2017, through the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

(source: Gulf News)

MYANMAR:

'Exorcist' who pled guilty to murdering 3 children sentenced to death by hanging

The self-proclaimed 'exorcist' who beat 3 children to death has been handed the death sentence, a court ruled earlier today.

After pleading guilty to the murder charges last November, the perpetrator, Tun Naing, was tried under Sections 302 and 325 for committing grievous harm and murder. Today, the Yangon Southern District Court sentenced him to 7 years in jail under Section 325, and to death by hanging under Section 302, Mizzima reports.

Tun Naing was arrested last October for beating 3 children - aged 3 years, 2 years, and 8 months - to death in an attempt to rid their bodies of evil spirits. He also reportedly gave the children's families and other villagers 'blessed' water and put them in a 'trance', and killed the children as they watched. Police reports noted that the bodies showed signs of being kicked, punched, and stamped on.

While the death penalty still exists in Myanmar, it is rarely carried out. The most recent death sentence was handed out in the case of Uruma, the man who was found guilty of leading the October attacks on the Maungdaw border posts. According to official records, the last known execution under the death sentence took place in 1988.

In January 2014, then-President Thein Sein commuted all outstanding death sentences to life in prison.

Today, those handed the death penalty can make an appeal to the Chief Justice within a week to commute the verdict to a life sentence. If their appeal is rejected, a similar appeal can be made to the President.

(source: coconuts.co)

INDIA:

Man gets death penalty for daughters honour killing

A Nashik court today sentenced a 47 -year-old man to death for killing his daughter four years ago for marrying a man outside their caste.

District and Sessions Judge Suchitra Ghodake awarded death penalty to Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar for committing the penal offence of murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

Since the victim was pregnant at the time of her murder, the court also sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 5,000 for causing death of unborn child (under section 316 of IPC) and life imprisonment for kidnapping in order to murder (under section 364 of the IPC).

Kumbharkars daughter Pramila had tied the knot with a man, who belonged to a different caste and he was not happy with her decision.

On June 28, 2013, Kumbharkar, a resident of More Mala Bhadange Baba chawl in Panchavati, went to Pramilas house in the city and told her that her mother wanted to meet her. He hired an autorickshaw and on the way strangulated her to death using a rope. The incident took place near KTHM College, Sarkarwada police had said.

Kumbharkar was arrested by the police immediately after the incident.

According to the police, this was the 1st honour- killing case in the city.

(source: intoday.com)

BANGLADESH:

Death sentence in honour killing

In a landmark verdict vis-a-vis honour killing and khap panchayats, a sessions court in Nashik has awarded capital punishment to a man who had killed his pregnant doctor in 2013 for marrying outside the caste.

District and Sessions Judge Suchitra Ghodake awarded death penalty to Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar to Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar after prosecution proved the charges of murder and satisfied the court that it was a rarest of the rare case.

Kumbharkar's daughter Pramila had tied the knot with a man, outside the caste.

"This is a landmark judgement and would be a deterrent," said social activist Krishna Chandgude, who had been pursuing the case.

There were 10 witnesses in the case.

(source: Deccan Herald)

GHANA:

I Support Putting Criminals To Death - Kabila

Sentencing criminals to death has over the years become a controversial issue as Ghanaians are divided on whether the government should scrap death penalties or not.

Some section of Ghanaians have argued that death penalties are archaic and an infringement on the people's right to life, while another section seem to go by the proverb "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword" meaning those who commit violent acts must expect to suffer violence themselves.

James Kwabena Bomfeh, popularly called Kabila delivered his submissions on the issue of death sentence in the country.

Speaking to host Kwami Sefa Kayi on Peace FM's flagship programme, the CPP stalwart supported the idea for death penalties to be meted out to criminals in the nation.

He explained that until death penalties are excluded from the laws of the country, he would have it being exercised.

He wondered how an armed robber, for instance, will attack a family mercilessly resulting in the loss of lives and when found guilty of crimes punishable by death, should receive a lesser sentence.

"From the Christian point of view, an advocate of Christ principles and so forth; you'll say we shouldn't kill the person. We should give him/her opportunity to repent but our laws point out that in order not for it to be a trend, we should punish the culprit. And the punishment is death penalty and if we haven't changed that law, I am not against it".

(source: peacefmonline.com)

SOMALIA:

Naval officer sentenced to death over Somali minister's murder

A Somali military court sentenced a naval officer to death Monday for shooting dead the minister of public works in what the defense argued was an accident.

A young minister seen as an inspiration to many in the conflict-torn nation, Abbas Abdullahi Siraji, 31, was killed last month when armed guards shot at his vehicle outside the presidential palace.

The naval officer, Ahmed Abdullahi Abdi, 29, a bodyguard to the auditor-general -- who was fired after the incident -- was arrested and charged with the minister's murder.

"After considering the evidence brought in front of the court, including the testimonies of the witnesses, pictures of the vehicles used, evaluations of the crime scene and the gun used for the murder, the court is convinced that the accused is guilty as charged," said Colonel Hassan Ali Nur Shute, head of the military court.

"The court sentenced him to the death penalty for the killing of Abas Abdullahi Siraji."

The verdict was handed down after only 3 court appearances, with government under pressure to bring a culprit to book.

The defense had argued that the accused opened fire when a vehicle carrying Siraji drove up behind that of the auditor-general, seeing it as suspicious in a country that faces regular such attacks by Shabaab Islamists.

Many government officials, wealthy individuals and foreigners drive around Mogadishu with squads of armed bodyguards who are frequently nervy and trigger-happy. Many civilians have been killed in similar shootings.

Shabaab militants linked to Al-Qaeda carry out regular bombings and assassinations targeting government officials, and it is rare for a government minister to drive himself, making mistaken identity a strong possibility.

Somalia still actively carries out the death penalty by squad shooting.

(source: Gulf News)

JUNE 19, 2017:

OHIO:

Rutledge apparently won't testify in his death-penalty case

Jurors in the trial of suspected cop killer Lincoln S. Rutledge have been told not to return to court until Tuesday, apparently signaling that Rutledge will not testify in the death-penalty case.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott had given defense attorneys a deadline of 11 a.m. Sunday to decide whether they will put any witnesses, including their client, on the stand. Jurors were told to call the judge's bailiff in the afternoon to find out if they were to report on Monday.

Defense attorney Jefferson Liston did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The reason for the uncertain schedule wasn't explained to the jury, but was discussed by the judge and attorneys when the jurors were out of the courtroom. The attorneys were told that they will present closing arguments on Tuesday, leaving Monday for defense witnesses.

Serrott did tell jurors on Friday to bring overnight bags on Tuesday in anticipation of being sequestered at an undisclosed hotel during their deliberations.

Assistant Prosecutors Daniel Hogan and Warren Edwards rested their case Friday afternoon after calling 22 witnesses over parts of 5 days.

Rutledge, 45, is charged with 11 counts, including aggravated murder, in the fatal shooting of Columbus police Officer Steven Smith on April 10, 2016. Smith was in the turret of an armored SWAT vehicle providing cover for other officers during a standoff at Rutledge's Clintonville apartment when he was struck in the head by a shot fired from inside a rear bedroom.

If the jury decides that Rutledge purposely killed a police officer, tried to kill 2 or more people or purposely killed someone to escape apprehension he would be eligible for the death penalty. Such a verdict would require the jurors to participate in a sentencing phase during which they would hear mitigating factors from the defense before recommending a death sentence or life in prison.

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)

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

Facing Death, Tyrone Noling Pushes Ohio Supreme Court for More Access to DNA

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear a new round of arguments Tuesday in a Northeast Ohio death-penalty case that has stretched on for more than a quarter century.

Tyrone Noling has always maintained he didn't kill an elderly Portage County couple in 1990. No fingerprints or physical evidence links him to the crime, and his co-defendants in separate robbery cases long-ago recanted, saying police coerced them into implicating Noling.

The latest appeal is focused on DNA testing. Noling wants the state high court to order that he gets access to the full results of the DNA testing of a cigarette butt and other evidence that the state has done - not just the summary. Noling also wants shell casings found at the scene to be compared to a federal database. And he wants the evidence to be retested using the latest DNA technology, saying all that would be in keeping with state law and court practice.

But in their written arguments, Portage County prosecutors say Noling already got what he's entitled to under state law and that he has no further right to 'scrutinize, review, or analyze' the data. They also say there's no DNA evidence left for more testing.

Noling is now 45. The victims, Cora and Bernhardt Hartig, were 81.

(source: WKSU news)

ARKANSAS:

Religious objections law factors in Arkansas judge's case

Wendell Griffen spoke out against a religious objections measure critics called discriminatory when it was debated by the Arkansas Legislature two years ago. Facing an investigation and impeachment threats over his involvement in an anti-death penalty demonstration, the Pulaski County circuit judge is now relying on that same law as he fights for his job and an opportunity to again hear capital punishment cases.

A group of religious leaders defended Griffen on the steps of the state Capitol earlier this month against the criticism from lawmakers and the ethics investigation he's faced since he lay on a cot outside of the governor's mansion the same day he effectively blocked executions in the state. Griffen, who is also a Baptist pastor, says he was portraying Jesus as part of a Good Friday vigil with his church, but the scene evoked the image of an inmate awaiting lethal injection. The judge wore an anti-death penalty button while surrounded by people holding signs objecting to the state's execution plans.

Days later, the state Supreme Court lifted Griffen's order prohibiting Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug a company said it didn't intend to be used for executions and disqualified the judge from hearing any cases involving the death penalty. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission is now investigating Griffen, as well as the judge's complaint against the court. Griffen argued the court's decision to disqualify him from death penalty cases was a violation of the state's religious objections law.

"Unless I'm mistaken, it's not illegal to pray. And unless I'm mistaken, it's not illegal to pray silently," Griffen told reporters. "If that is not fundamentally true, then none of us is free."

Griffen invoking the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act adds a new wrinkle to what is shaping up to be a politically charged fight over judges' First Amendment rights and the relationship between the judicial and legislative branches. It also puts a new spotlight on the law that dominated the final days of the legislative session 2 years ago.

The measure, which prohibits state and local government from infringing on someone's religious beliefs without proving a compelling interest, was revamped at Gov. Asa Hutchinson's request after facing widespread criticism from LGBT rights groups and Bentonville-based Walmart that it was discriminatory and would hurt Arkansas' image. Griffen had appeared before a legislative panel to testify against the measure.

The sponsor of the law says he doesn't think the judge's actions would be protected by the measure. Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger said the 2-prong test under the law is whether there's a compelling government interest and whether the action was taken in the least restrictive way possible. Ballinger said he believes there's a compelling government interest in this case and that the action taken - removing Griffen from death penalty cases - was the least restrictive.

"It would floor me if he was successful," Ballinger said.

Griffen is using the law to challenge Republican lawmakers who have floated the possibility of his impeachment, saying his case represents the kind of religious freedom that conservatives said they were trying to protect. With Griffen raising the possibility of taking action under the religious objections law, the measure could be tested in a way that legislators didn't envision when it was enacted.

"I will fight this as long as there is fire in my body and breath in my spirit," Griffen said.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

What Happened To The Death Penalty In Colorado?

Colorado is 1 of 32 U.S. states where the death penalty is legal, but it has executed only 1 person in the last half century. It's possible the state will never use the death penalty again, according to Michael Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, in his new book, "The History of the Death Penalty in Colorado."

Radelet recounts the 1st execution in 1859, as well as the most notorious cases since then, like the 1939 execution of Joe Arridy, an intellectually disabled man with an IQ of 46. Arridy was posthumously pardoned in 2011 by then-Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, after a public campaign to exonerate him. M

Radelet also looks at Governor John Hickenlooper's 2013 decision to grant Chuck-E-Cheese murderer Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve from the death penalty. Dunlap killed 4 people and injured another at the Aurora restaurant in 1993 and was sentenced to death. Critics say the governor punted on his decision, which will postpone any action until Hickenlooper leaves office.

Radelet spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis.

Read an excerpt:

At the time of this writing..., Colorado's death penalty had become such a trivial component of the state's criminal justice system that it is now quite possible that we will never see another execution in the state. After all, [today] there [are] only 3 inmates on death row in Canon City, and the only one who is anywhere close to being put to death is Nathan Dunlap, convicted of killing 4 people in an Aurora restaurant in 1993. In 2013 his execution was indefinitely halted by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a move that effectively imposed a moratorium on all executions in the state. For murders committed between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2015, prosecutors sought the death penalty against 18 men and 1 woman (plus against one of those men a 2nd time). In both 2009 and again in 2013, the Colorado General Assembly came close to passing abolition bills. Its members may do so again in the near future, a current or future governor may commute all the death sentences to prison terms with a stroke of the pen, or the courts could easily tinker with these sentences, rendering Colorado's executioner permanently unemployed. This book [covers] the history of Colorado's struggles with the death penalty, but with the death penalty still legally permissible, the final chapter of this history has not yet been written. (pages 3-4).

(source: cpr.org)

CALIFORNIA:

On Death Row, but Is He Innocent?

One June day in 1983, a California professor drove over to a neighbor's house to pick up his 11-year-old son from a sleepover. Nobody answered the door, so the professor peered through a window - and saw a ghastly panorama of blood.

The professor found his son stabbed to death, along with the bodies of Peggy and Doug Ryen, the homeowners. The Ryens' 10-year-old daughter was also dead, with 46 wounds, but their 8-year-old son was still breathing.

This quadruple murder began a travesty that is still unfolding and underscores just how broken the American justice system is. A man named Kevin Cooper is on San Quentin's death row awaiting execution for the murders, even though a federal judge says he probably is innocent.

"He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department framed him," the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a searing 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series.

Fletcher was in the minority in 2009 when his court refused to rehear the case. His dissent, over 100 pages long, points to Cooper's possible innocence and to systematic police misconduct. It's a modern equivalent of Emile Zola's "J'accuse."

At least 10 other federal judges have also expressed concerns about Cooper's conviction. Many other eminent legal experts, including the then-president of the American Bar Association, have also called on Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene.

The evidence of police tampering is overwhelming. When lawyers working on Cooper's appeal asked for DNA testing on a T-shirt believed to belong to the killer, the lab found Cooper's blood on the shirt - but also something astonishing: The blood had test tube preservative in it! In other words, it appeared to have come from the supply of Cooper's blood drawn by the police and kept in a test tube.

Kevin Cooper was sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison after his conviction for a quadruple murder. Judges and others question the reliability of the evidence.

When the test tube was later examined, it had the DNA of at least 2 people in it. It appeared that someone had removed some of Cooper's blood and then topped off the test tube with the blood of one or more other people to hide the deception.

What's extraordinary about the case is that not only is it likely that Cooper is innocent, but that we also have a good idea who committed the murders.

The 10-year-old victim, Jessica Ryen, died with a clump of light hair in her hands, and the 8-year-old survivor, her brother, Joshua, repeatedly told investigators that the attackers had been three or four white men. Mr. Cooper is black.

Meanwhile, a woman told the police (and her statements were later backed up by her sister) that a housemate, a convicted murderer, had shown up with others late on the night of the murders in blood-spattered overalls and driving a station wagon resembling one stolen from the Ryens' home. The women said the housemate was no longer wearing the T-shirt he had on earlier in the evening - the same kind as found near the murders.

A hatchet like one of the murder weapons was missing from the man's tool chest, and a friend of his confessed to a fellow prisoner that he had participated in the killings. The women gave the bloody overalls to the police - who threw them out, apparently because they didn't fit their narrative that Cooper was the killer.

There was no reliable evidence against Cooper. But he had escaped from a minimum-security prison (he walked away) where he was serving a burglary sentence and had holed up in an empty house near the Ryens' home. A court suggested that he had killed the Ryens to steal their station wagon - although it is thought to have been parked in front of the house with the keys in it. And when the car was found, it appeared that 3 people with bloody clothing had sat in it.

One fundamental factor in this case is Cooper's race, and this case is a microcosm of racial injustice in the United States. The police seemed predisposed to believe the worst of a black man; Cooper was subjected to racist taunts as his case unfolded; and Democratic and Republican politicians alike have shown themselves inclined to avert their eyes, even if this leaves an innocent man on death row.

As governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to act. Kamala Harris, who was state attorney general and is now a U.S. senator, was unhelpful. Governor Brown is reviewing the case, but previously as attorney general exhibited little interest.

Cooper and his lawyers are not asking for a pardon right now, or even for a commutation to life imprisonment. They're simply asking Governor Brown to order a review of the case with new DNA testing (critical testing has never been done) to indicate whether Cooper is likely guilty or innocent. They will even pay for the testing, because they believe it will both exonerate Cooper and implicate the real killers.

"We're not saying let Kevin out of jail now, we're not saying pardon him," noted one of his pro bono lawyers, Norman Hile. "We're saying, let's find out if he's innocent."

This case is a national embarrassment. It appears that an innocent man was railroaded, in part because he is black, and the government won't even allow crucial DNA testing.

Governor Brown, will you act?

I invite you to sign up for my free, twice-weekly email newsletter. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter (@NickKristof). (source: Opinion, Nicholas Kristof----New York Times)

USA:

Hearing in North Dakota death penalty case could last 7 days

Linda Walker and Allan Sjodin have attended a handful of mostly procedural court hearings in the more than 5 years since the man who kidnapped and killed their daughter filed an appeal to spare his life. The next one will delve into painful details.

Attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., who has been on death row at a federal prison in Indiana since 2003, are disputing whether Rodriguez raped University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin and whether she died from having her throat cut. The defense says both points were used to unduly influence the jury in the death penalty phase. Prosecutors say the arguments have no merit.

Walker, who has grappled with seeing her daughter linked to Rodriguez over the years, particularly when newspapers run photos of the two side by side, said her daughter "fought like a Marine" after she was abducted from a Grand Forks shopping mall. Walker, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, said she plans to "fight for her now as much as possible."

That means attending hearings that are difficult, as well as speaking out for other victims.

She dismisses Rodriguez's new arguments.

"At the end of the day Dru didn't walk away from the grips of him," Walker said. "To get down to the nitty gritty of it all ... did she die from a knife to her throat or did she die from the cold? She didn't go there willingly."

Rodriguez, of Crookston, Minnesota, is the only person in North Dakota who has been sentenced to death under federal law. Until this point, most of the hearings in the case have been wrapped up in one day. This hearing, scheduled to start Tuesday, could last up to 7 days.

It will focus on the testimony of Dr. Michael McGee, the Ramsey County, Minnesota, medical examiner who performed the autopsy. Defense attorneys say the centerpiece of the government's case was "the horrific testimony" by McGee that Sjodin was raped and died from 2 slash wounds to her neck.

Rodriguez's lawyers say McGee failed to properly test whether Sjodin was raped, and whether the neck wounds might have been from animals and decomposition after she died. The appeal says the government used that information to convince the jury that a death sentence was justified.

Prosecutors say the evidence of a sexual assault was overwhelming, including not only McGee's testimony but the fact that Sjodin was found naked from the waist down; her remaining clothing was ripped; she had been beaten; and her hands were bound behind her back. Beyond that, the government says it was unnecessary to prove sexual assault in order for the jury to find for the death penalty.

As for cause of death, prosecutors say that McGee never pinpointed the neck wounds as the definitive reason.

"From the United States' position, it mattered not whether a neck slash, asphyxiation, or brutal cold weather caused the death: all indicated that Rodriguez killed her in a heinous, cruel, or depraved manner," the response says.

Walker said that while the pace of the appeal has been disheartening, she said it's important to "keep Dru's name out there" in her quest to help victims of sexual abuse. She has lobbied the Minnesota Legislature and other governing bodies to close loopholes on laws regarding sexual violence.

"There are other victims out there who are voiceless and nameless," she said. "From that aspect, if it just compels legislators and people who can make a difference for our citizens, I think it's truly important."

(source: Associated Press)

SUDAN:

Sudanese human rights defenders face death sentence

Sudan's authorities are under pressure to release prominent human rights defenders facing the death penalty or life imprisonment for allegedly inciting an uprising against the state.

Ibrahim Adam Mudawi and his colleague Idris Eldoma Hafiz face 6 charges such as "undermining the constitutional system' and "waging war against the state". Rights groups have denounced the allegations as trumped up and linked to their human rights advocacy.

The trial is underway in the capital Khartoum.

"Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's regional director.

"Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple."

Mudawi has continuously been harassed for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade.

"Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty," said Wanyeki.

Intelligence agents arrested engineering professor Mudawi in December 2016. He is the former director of the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) and won several human rights awards.

Hafiz, a refugee from Darfur, was arrested in November at Mudawi's house.

(source: African News Agency)

KUWAIT:

Kuwait commutes death sentence of -pro-Iran cell leader'----Hasan Abdulhadi Ali, convicted of being the mastermind behind a Shiite terror cell, given life behind bars instead

Kuwait's supreme court on Sunday reduced the death sentence of a Shiite citizen convicted of forming a pro-Iranian cell and of plotting attacks, changing it to life in prison.

Hasan Abdulhadi Ali was sentenced to death by the lower and appeals courts last year after he was convicted of being "the mastermind of a cell" of 26 Shiites accused of link to Iran and of plotting attacks in the Sunni-ruled emirate.

Members of the cell had been charged with spying for Iran and hiding large quantities of arms, explosives and ammunition in underground warehouses.

Ali was also found guilty of having been an operative of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement since 1996 and of smuggling significant amounts of arms and explosives from Iran into Kuwait.

The supreme court judges, whose rulings are final, sentenced 20 other members of the cell to between 5 and 15 years in jail and acquitted 2.

The cases of the remaining three members were not taken up by the supreme court because they remain fugitives.

They include the only Iranian member of the cell, Abdulredha Haider, who was handed the death penalty in absentia by the lower court in January last year.

The court had accused Haider of ties to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and of recruiting the Kuwaiti Shiites and facilitating their travel to Lebanon, where they received military training from Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The 23 defendants present at the trial have denied the charges and said that their confessions were extracted under torture.

Iran has denied any links to the group.

(source: timesofisrael.com)

JUNE 18, 2017:

NEBRASKA:

Nikko Jenkins is the reason Nebraska has a death penalty

Killers like Nikko Jenkins are the reason for the death penalty. As soon as Jenkins was released from prison, he committed murder, and as soon as he would be released into general prison population, I think he would kill again. Prison officials do not know what to do with him even on death row because he has threatened to attack another death row inmate.

When people are sent to prison, the public owes them a safe time while in prison.

All those who think Jenkins should not be executed should spend some time with him. My heart goes out to the prison guards tasked with guarding Jenkins. Each time they come into contact with him, they're in danger.

I'm so glad Nebraska has the death penalty, not like Iowa.

Leonard White, Fort Calhoun, Neb.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Omaha World-Herald)

BARBADOS:

Tough task to end hanging

THE MAN LEADING the charge to have the mandatory death penalty removed from Barbados' statute books isn't expecting it to happen without plenty of resistance.

In fact, he isn't sure it could happen at all, but he will give it a try.

Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has admitted he doesn't believe the Freundel Stuart administration would be able to secure the 2/3 majority needed to pass the necessary amendment of the Offences Against the Person Act through the House of Assembly.

"We have made the commitment to the Inter-American Court that we will abolish the mandatory death penalty, and I intend to ensure that it is done. Unfortunately, part of the amendment requires a 2/3 majority in the House, and we aren't sure that will happen," Brathwaite told the SUNDAY SUN.

(source: nationnews.com)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan concerned over EU resolution blocking death penalty

India is using every trick in the book to help out its RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistani on April 10 this year over spying and stoking violence in Balochistan and Karachi.

After exhausting nearly all its resources in doing so, New Delhi approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the end of April and got a stay over the execution of the death penalty in the 3rd week of May.

Now in June, a resolution has been passed by the European Parliament against the execution of convicted persons in Pakistan, and India is being seen as instigator of the move.

Man gets death penalty in murder case

"A lot of disinformation has been spread by India to hurt the standing of Pakistan in the international community," said Attorney-General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali while talking to The Express Tribune.

"Pakistan is a frontline state suffering from the onslaught of terror and disruptive elements from across the borders," said the AGP, adding that the human rights action plan was being implemented with full speed.

In response to the European Parliament's resolution, he said, "The law of Pakistan on death penalty should be respected by all countries, including the European Union."

Bahawalpur court hands down death sentence to man for blasphemous Facebook posts

Recently, the European Parliament had expressed 'deep concern' over the 'alarming rate of executions' based on 'flawed trials' in Pakistan, and strongly called on the government to restore the moratorium on the death penalty, "with the longer-term objective of full abolition of the death penalty."

In its resolution, the European Parliament issued a strong statement calling for a ban on the execution of minors and persons with mental disorders. It urged the Government of Pakistan to bring the provisions on death penalty in national legislation in line with the international law and standards, including "a halt to executions for any offence other than intentional killing."

Currently, there are 27 crimes that are punishable by death in Pakistan, including non-lethal acts such as narcotics and adultery.

Man gets death penalty for killing cousin, niece

Moreover, the EU expressed its dismay over cases of executions reportedly being carried out "while appeal mechanisms were still underway."

Last year, 2 brothers on death row were acquitted by the Supreme Court only to find out that they had been executed the year before, while their appeals were still pending.

It is learnt that the European Parliament's resolution came under discussion in the government circles. The AGP, as head of Treaty Implementation Cell, will be holding debriefing sessions with the Pakistani ambassador at Brussels in Belgium and with envoys in other EU-member countries. Later, the AGP will submit a report to the prime minister and cabinet members for consideration.

LHC refuses to hear blasphemy convict's appeal

Meanwhile, Pakistan ratified a number of international human rights treaties - including the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - to qualify for its GSP Plus status, a preferential trade status that had seen Pakistan's exports rise by 22 % to 5.5 billion euros in 2014, making it one of the largest countries to reap benefits from the GSP Plus status granted to it.

In fact, Pakistani exports under the GSP Plus scheme increased to 6.2 billion euros from January to December 2016.

The resolution stated that "the granting of GSP Plus status is conditional and that the effective implementation of international conventions is an essential requirement under the scheme."

Murder convict gets life term

Failing to comply with these requirements can put these economic advantages at risk, and deprive Pakistan’s business community of lucrative trading opportunities.

However, it is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court on April 21, 2015 had heard a similar case challenging the award of death sentence in 27 different offences.

The 3-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, had dismissed the petition filed by a representative of the Qaumi Watan Party, Barrister Zafarullah.

"Regarding the argument that the criminal justice system is unfair and unreasonable, and convicts and death punishments lack due process, it is suffice to say that this by itself is not a threshold or touchstone for striking down any law, rather if there is deficiency in the relevant law, it is the duty of parliament to provide for it or correct the law by making the necessary amendment."

The court had cited the passage of Article 10-A of the Constitution before dismissing the case.

(source: The Express Tribune)

INDIA:

Indian court convicts 6 over deadly Mumbai blasts

An Indian court on Friday convicted 6 men over serial bomb blasts in the commercial capital Mumbai more than 2 decades ago that killed hundreds, the nation's deadliest attack.

They were found guilty of involvement in a series of coordinated bomb attacks that targeted the Mumbai stock exchange, the headquarters of the state airline and a popular shopping centre in March 1993, killing 257 people and injuring hundreds more.

The attacks were believed to have been staged by Mumbai's Muslim-dominated underworld in retaliation for anti-Muslim violence that had killed more than 1,000 people a few months earlier.

A specially designated court in Mumbai on Friday convicted the 6 for a range of offences.

Abu Salem, 1 of the key figures in the attacks, was found guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat to Mumbai ahead of the blasts.

But Judge GA Sanap acquitted all 6 on the most serious charge of waging war against the nation.

All 6 were found guilty of offences under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act and 5 were also convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder.

A 7th defendant, Abdul Qayyam, was acquitted of all charges.

Those convicted will be sentenced at a later date.

They could face the death penalty under the terrorism act, although Salem is expected to be spared execution.

He went on the run after the 1993 attacks and was only extradited from Portugal in 2005 after India assured Lisbon that he would not face the death penalty.

Salem is a former associate of Dawood Ibrahim, India's most wanted criminal, who allegedly masterminded the 1993 blasts.

These are the latest convictions in a long-running case that at its outset involved 189 defendants.

One of the most high profile, Yakub Memon, was executed in 2015 -- a decade after he was convicted under controversial anti-terror legislation that is no longer on the statute books.

The attack also embroiled Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who served time for buying weapons from gangsters accused of orchestrating the bombings before walking free last year.

(source: dailytimes.com.pk)

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

Before demitting office, President Mukherjee rejects 2 more mercy pleas----A month before his tenure comes to an end, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected mercy petitions in 2 cases, bringing the total number of mercy pleas turned down by him to 30, says a Times of India report

A month before his tenure comes to an end, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected mercy petitions in 2 cases, bringing the total number of mercy pleas turned down by him to 30, says a Times of India report.

The petitions, in cases of rape and murder, were rejected by him in the last week of May.

The 1st case was of rape and murder of a 4-year-old girl in Indore by 3 men in 2012. The other one pertained to the gangrape and murder of a techie in Pune by a cab driver and his compliance. Both the cases were forwarded to the President in April and May.

In the Indore case, the 3 convicts were found guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing a 4-year-old while she was watching a wedding procession.

In the Pune case, the 2 convicts were awarded death penalty for raping and killing a 22-year-old Wipro employee in 2007.

Mukherjee's predecessor Pratibha Patil had granted a record of 30 pardons, over 90 % of India's total death sentences pardoned ever. Shockingly, 22 of those related to brutal multiple murders and gruesome crimes on children.

Article 72 of the Constitution gives the president absolute and unfettered power to grant pardon, suspend, remit or commute sentences, even in death penalty.

The President is however required to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers. Under the existing rules, the view of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is taken as the view of the Cabinet and is later forwarded to the President in writing. The President can then make a decision.

(source: indiatvnews.com)

JUNE 17, 2017:

TEXAS:

Larry Fitzgerald, face for Texas death row, dies at 79

Larry Fitzgerald, former Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, sits on the sofa in his living room in what had been his quarters in Huntsville. He witnessed more than 200 executions during his 8 years as the face of the nation's busiest death chamber. He died June 12.

As prison system spokesman, Fitzgerald was the face of the nation's busiest death chamber for 8 years.

Friends and relatives remember his wit, empathy with death-row inmates and his notorious gallows humor.

Larry Fitzgerald, who for years was the Texas prison system's spokesman, working as the public face of the busiest death chamber in the nation, died June 12 at his Austin home, according to his family.

Fitzgerald was the Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman for 8 years during which Texas was building new prisons and dealing with the attention drawn by then Gov. George W. Bush's run for the presidency. He was inevitably drawn into stories about the death penalty and Texas' approach to it, fielding inquiries from American media he said were generally cordial and foreign outlets that he said treated him as if he personally sharpened the executioner's axe.

A hard-drinking, chain-smoking archetype of a public relations era now past, Fitzgerald, according to a 2014 Texas Monthly article, once showed his mischievous streak by taking a newly hired spokeswoman to a prison on the pretense of educating her about the business - only to lead her "past dozens of newly shorn arrivals who had been divested of not just their hair but all their clothes."

Fitzgerald's obituary - most of which he wrote himself - notes that as a prison system spokesman he "witnessed 219 executions, allowing him to meet many state, national and international media types. Big whoop."

But as the public face of a notorious prison system, "If Larry said it, you could take it to the bank," said Michelle Lyons, the co-worker Fitzgerald had led past the cluster of nude inmates. "He was, quite simply, the face of TDCJ and he always will be."

Fitzgerald is survived by his wife, Marianne Cook Fitzgerald; daughter, Kelly Anne Fitzgerald; and son, Kevin Lane Fitzgerald. He died from what his wife said was a serious internal disease, for which he had been in hospice care. The family is planning a public memorial, though they are still working out the details, Marianne Fitzgerald said.

Clyde Larry Fitzgerald was born Oct. 12, 1937, in Austin, according to his obituary. He was the son of a government land man and a schoolteacher, according to an article by Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Ward, one of the many Texas journalists Fitzgerald grew to know over the years. Fitzgerald graduated from McCallum High School and attended the University of Texas. He worked for years at radio stations around Texas as a disc jockey, reporter and news director, developing the authoritative voice he would employ before the cameras. He worked in political campaigns for Bill Hobby, who was then the lieutenant governor, and Ann Richards during her run for governor. His obituary notes that he "was proud that he kept one particular promise he had made to himself: never vote Republican."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Convicted killer 'should go to the very top' of execution list, judge says

A Lancaster County man has been formally sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a woman and her 16-year-old daughter because they were going to testify against him in a child sexual assault trial.

Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker ordered the sentence Friday for 40-year-old Leeton Thomas and said if Pennsylvania lifts a moratorium on the death penalty, Thomas "should go to the very top of the list."

Thomas, 40, was found guilty by a jury Tuesday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the June 2015 killings of 44-year-old Lisa Scheetz and her daughter.

The Quarryville man was also convicted of attempted homicide for severely wounding Scheetz's then-15-year-old daughter after breaking into the family's East Drumore Township home. She testified at trial and identified Thomas as the killer.

The jury decided on the death sentence Wednesday night.

(source: WHTM news)

GEORGIA:

Prison bus was 'tank of piranhas' as guards slain; death penalty sought for escapees

Convicts on a Georgia prison bus appeared to laugh and jump around as 2 corrections officers were shot to death earlier this week in an escape that prompted a nationwide manhunt.

The callousness of the crime has authorities preparing to seek the death penalty for accused killers Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell "Whiskey" Rowe.

"We've got too many of these savages out here. We need to keep them caged up and send those to hell that we can," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Friday, a day after Rowe and Dubose were caught south of Nashville, Tennessee.

The sheriff has seen surveillance video from the bus that shows Tuesday's attack on guards Curtis Billue and Chris Monica.

Sills suspects some of the prisoners knew something was afoot by the way they moved to the back of the bus. They may not have known the guards were about to be killed, but their behavior was unsettling.

"They're no different than a tank full of piranhas," Sills said. "They're purposely jumping around and laughing and going on."

The killings happened along on Ga. 16 between Sparta and Eatonton.

Billue and Monica were taking 33 inmates to the prison at Jackson when Dubose and Rowe, former cellmates, somehow got through a metal barrier on the bus.

"I can see them do it (on the video), but I don't know how they did it," Sills said. "You can see them mess with (the lock) a little before they go in. But it was not locked when I got on the bus, and I was the first person on the bus."

Rowe and Dubose fought the officer who wasn't driving and somehow got their hands on an officer's pistol.

"The bus driver gets shot and the guy riding shotgun gets shot and his body collapses down the stairwell of the bus door," Sills said.

A tracking device on the bus showed that it stopped on the highway south of Lake Oconee at 6:44 a.m.

The accused killers were initially trapped on the bus by the mortally wounded guard lying in front of the door.

After busting a window on the folding exit door and squeezing through, Rowe and Dubose began their 3-day flight by commandeering a passerby’s Honda Civic. The car had stopped behind the bus, which was blocking the road.

Video footage shows other prisoners possibly trying to make a break for it, but apparently thinking better of it and returning to the bus.

"I think they were concerned that their walk might lead to a ride on that needle," Sills said, referring to execution by lethal injection.

By Thursday, the fugitives believed they were dead men walking.

Having eluded the dragnet for 2 days, they took an elderly couple hostage in their home near Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Bedford County Sheriff Austin Swing said the husband and wife were "extremely traumatized" and feared for their lives.

Dubose and Rowe told the couple the men didn't have anything to lose, that "they would probably be dead in 24 hours."

Earlier Thursday in Moore County near Lynchburg, Tennessee, the escapees stole a sedan after ditching the Ford F-250 pickup taken from Madison late Tuesday.

They got as far as Bedford County before abandoning the vehicle on the side of the road.

"I'm assuming and think it broke down on 'em, but they may have decided just to ditch it," Swing said.

The escapees walked a little ways up the road, barged into the couple's house and put guns to both of their heads.

Rowe and Dubose tied them up, ate some beef stew, grabbed some clothes, boots and jewelry.

Sills said they hid in the house for about 3 hours as Bedford County deputies were down the street with the abandoned car.

Once the scene cleared, the accused killers left in the couple's Jeep Cherokee and threatened the husband and wife that they would come back for them if the couple told on them.

About 15 minutes later, the man was able to break free and called authorities.

A new lookout on the Jeep was posted and deputies spotted the car on Interstate 24, about 50 miles southeast of Nashville.

The chase reached speeds of over 100 mph, Sgt. Dan Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office told reporters.

"A highly dangerous situation, 2 extremely dangerous people, well-armed and traveling high-speed through our community was a grave concern," Goodwin said.

Shots were fired at the pursuing officers, but deputies did not return fire, Rutherford County Sheriff Michael Fitzhugh said.

Rowe and Dubose crashed the car and ran into the woods and came upon a house at the end of a long driveway in Christiana, Tennessee.

The homeowner saw them trying to steal his car and came out with an AR-15 rifle pointed at them.

He and a neighbor held them at gunpoint until officers arrived.

Seeing the men face down on the concrete driveway with their hands bound behind their back was a relief to law enforcement officers across the Southeast.

The GBI will reward the "bravery of Tennessee civilians" who helped apprehend the fugitives by distributing the $141,000 in reward money.

Rowe and Dubose will be held in Tennessee awaiting extradition to Middle Georgia to face murder charges.

Putnam District Attorney Stephen Bradley plans to review the evidence and move forward "quickly," he said.

"I cannot imagine a case being more serious than this."

(source: macon.com)

FLORIDA:

Miami Man Who Fed 5-Year-Old Girl to Alligators Gets Death Sentence Overturned

In 2007, a jury convicted Liberty City native Harrel Braddy of kidnapping a 5-year-old and leaving her to die on the side of Interstate 75, where she was eaten alive by alligators. Eleven jurors believed Braddy should be put to death, but one disagreed.

It was an important holdout: The split decision means that ten years later, Braddy will be granted 1 more chance to avoid the death penalty.

Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court vacated Braddy's death sentence, calling it unconstitutional under a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated the state's sentencing practices. Although it's possible that Braddy could be resentenced to death, he is now entitled to return to court so his sentence can be reconsidered.

The 40-page ruling recalls gruesome details of Quatisha Maycock's murder and the attempted murder of her 22-year-old mother, who survived the attack and later testified against Braddy. On November 6, 1998, Braddy put the mother and daughter in his rented Lincoln Town Car and took them on a horrifying ride to Broward County, where Shandelle Maycock was thrown out of the car and choked unconscious, prosecutors say. Quatisha's body was found 3 days later in a canal off Interstate 75 near mile marker 34.

Though the official cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the head consistent with being thrown onto rocks near the canal, the medical examiner said she was still alive when an alligator bit her head and torso. At the time the girl's body was recovered, her left arm had also been ripped off by alligators.

Questioned by detectives, Braddy gave inconsistent stories about why he left the girl in the Everglades in the middle of the night, but admitted he "knew she would probably die." At one point, he told investigators he was worried Quatisha would tell people what he had done to her mother.

Following a 2-week trial in 2007, Circuit Judge Leonard E. Glick agreed with the jury's recommendation to send Braddy, a dangerous felon with previous convictions for armed burglary and attempted 1st-degree murder of a correctional officer, to death row.

"The defendant... caused this 5-year-old to die, alone in the wilderness, and to be mutilated by monsters of the swamp," Glick wrote in his sentencing order. "Adults are supposed to protect children from monsters; they are not supposed to be the monsters themselves."

Braddy appealed his case from prison, but Florida Supreme Court justices denied his petition in 2012.

The decision to vacate Braddy's death sentence was supported by all but one justice, Charles Canady, who says he does not believe the 2016 Supreme Court decision should be applied retroactively. A 2nd justice, Alan Lawson, says he does not agree with the Supreme Court ruling but will uphold it as the current law of the land.

(source: Miami New Times)

ALABAMA:

Alabama Supreme Court denies appeals of 2 death row inmates

The Alabama Supreme Court has denied hearing 2 death row inmates' appeals.

Jason Michael Sharp and James Osgood both filed for a writ of certiorari to the state's highest court-- a petition that asks the court to hear their separate cases. Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court announced they will not hear the cases of either inmate.

No opinion was written for either case.

Jason Sharp

Sharp, 40, was moved to Alabama's death row in 2006 after being convicted of murder in Madison County. He was found guilty that year of the 1999 rape and stabbing death of Huntsville nurse Tracy Morris. Due to procedural issues, the case took 7 years to go to trial.

Sharp's attorneys filed an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court after an appeals court denied his request for post conviction relief earlier this year. Sharp claimed he had ineffective counsel throughout his trial, and his counsel did not object to the police's "inadequate" investigating of the case.

Sharp's murder conviction has been appealed several times in the past. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that prosecutors improperly struck 11 of 13 African American jurors in the jury pool. Sharp is white, Tracy Morris was also white. A Madison County circuit judge ruled in 2010 prosecutors did not discriminate during jury selection, but the state Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 1 year later that it appeared jurors were improperly struck from the jury. They ordered a new trial for Sharp.

The Alabama Attorney General's office asked the court to reconsider the opinion and in 2012, the court reversed itself, finding no discrimination by prosecutors. The state Supreme Court later upheld that ruling.

A law enacted in 2012, named "Tracy's Law," criminalizes some of the behaviors stalkers use and increases penalties for stalking. The victim's brother, Brian Morris, said Sharp "bothered his sister for about 18 months" before she was killed.

James Osgood

Osgood, 48, was sent to death row in 2014 after being convicted of 2 capital murder charges in Chilton County. He was found guilty killing 44-year-old Tracy Brown in 2010 after sexually abusing her. Osgood's girlfriend Tonya Vandyke was also convicted in Brown's death. She was sentenced to life without parole.

She and Brown were cousins.

Brown was attacked in her mobile home and forced to perform sexual acts at gunpoint. She was beaten, stabbed, and had slit her throat, court documents show.

Osgood's appeal to the state Supreme Court is based on several claims including that his confession to police should have seen suppressed, crime scene photos should have not been shown in court, and that the state's penalty phase instructions were improper.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Jury Recommends Death Penalty In Slaying Of Ex-girlfriend

An Ohio jury has recommended that a man be put to death for abducting his estranged girlfriend from Kentucky and killing her along an Ohio interstate.

A jury in southwest Ohio's Warren County deliberated several hours Thursday before making the death penalty recommendation for 43-year-old Terry Froman, of Brookport, Illinois. The same jury found Froman guilty of aggravated murder and kidnapping Tuesday in the September 2014 slaying of 34-year-old Kimberly Thomas.

A judge will decide whether to impose the death penalty or a prison sentence.

Froman's attorney declined to comment Friday.

Prosecutors said Froman became vengeful when Thomas ordered him out of her Mayfield, Kentucky, home. Prosecutors say Froman abducted Thomas from Kentucky after fatally shooting Thomas' 17-year-old son, Eli Mohney.

Froman faces charges in Kentucky for Mohney's death.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Juan Martinez Gets More Time to Mull Death Penalty for Serial Street Shooter Suspect

Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez has been granted more time to decide whether to seek the death penalty for suspect Aaron Juan Saucedo for the first murder that police say kicked off the Serial Street Shooter slayings, according to court filings reviewed this week.

More than a month has passed since the Phoenix Police Department named Saucedo, 23, as the man responsible for a dozen shootings and nine deaths in 2015 and 2016.

So far, Saucedo has only been charged with the murder of his mother's boyfriend, Raul Romero. County prosecutors are biding their time before seeking charges in the other 8 deaths.

If convicted of all 9 murders, Saucedo would share the distinction with Baseline Killer Mark Goudeau as the deadliest serial killer in Arizona history.

Typically, the team of prosecutors reviewing a case gives itself 30 days to file charges, Martinez's boss, County Attorney Bill Montgomery told reporters the day after Saucedo was named. That arbitrary and informal deadline came and went last week, to much media musing.

The reporting pack paid less attention to Martinez's motion on May 30, when he asked a judge to give him 60 more days to declare if he would seek the death penalty. The judge granted the request.

Martinez has a courtroom reputation for being brash, sarcastic, and aggressive. Some defense attorneys would add sneaky to that list, but Martinez is unapologetic. He's trying to win and take a brutal killer off the streets, he often says.

He earned an international reputation and legions of critics and admirers for putting boyfriend-killer Jodi Arias away for life in a sensational 2013 trial.

In the Saucedo case, his legal filing did not explain his thinking.

What comes closer to explaining the case against Saucedo is another recent court record outlining the possible witnesses.

In the motion filed June 5, prosecutors say they could call any of 3 dozen Phoenix cops, detectives, and crime-scene specialists.

In addition, prosecutors listed employees of 2 pawnshops on Indian School Road in Phoenix. One was Mo Money Pawn, where police said they traced a 9 mm Hi-Point pistol used in Romero's shooting.

But authorities revealed for the 1st time publicly that Windy City Pawn Shop, just over a mile to the west, also played some role in the case.

Nothing hints at the possible significance of the 2nd pawn shop. In court documents filed to establish that police had sufficient evidence to hold Saucedo for the other 11 shootings, police said their suspect used 3 guns. They did not say where he bought them.

Also June 5, authorities listed an employee at First Transit. Saucedo worked there as a city bus driver in 2015 and received a traffic ticket after being caught on camera running a red light.

Police said unidentified coworkers recognized Saucedo from the artist's sketch they released a year ago. He apparently left that job around the time police first questioned him in December. Court records at the time of his April arrest showed he was a laborer since around the new year.

Prosecutors disclosed as possible witnesses a man who lives about three miles east of most of the killings, and another who lives near Interstate 17 and Camelback Road.

2 men living near the crime scene at 920 East Montebello Avenue in central Phoenix also likely will be called as witnesses. Saucedo's mother, Maria Saucedo-Ramos and two women with her dead boyfriend's surname were also listed.

In filings earlier this week, Saucedo's lawyers began mounting a defense for the only crime he's been formally charged with, Romero's murder.

Saucedo's team says that the state lacks evidence, that he didn't do it, and that he was mistakenly identified. They also say he has good character and lacked motive.

So that lone case against Saucedo churns slowly toward trial.

(source: Phoenix New Times)

NEVADA:

Man on trial for 2008 double murder sang song about killing wife

In the late 1980s, Thomas Randolph would walk around singing the lyrics to "Foolish Behaviour" by Rod Stewart, a former friend testified Friday during the Las Vegas man's double murder trial.

"Or should I act quite cold and deliberate," the lyrics go. "Or maybe blow out her brains with a bullet?/They'll think suicide, they won't know who done it/I'm gonna kill my wife, I'm really gonna take her life."

Prosecutors launched the evidence portion of Randolph's trial on charges that he hired a hitman to kill his wife in 2008 before fatally shooting the hitman by telling jurors about the 1986 death of Randolph's 2nd wife, Becky Gault.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth pointed to similarities in Gault's death and the killings of Randolph's 6th wife, Sharon Clausse, and Michael James Miller, a man authorities said Randolph groomed to kill Clausse. He is facing the death penalty.

Gault's body was found tucked in her waterbed inside the couple's Clearfield, Utah, home with a bullet to the right side of her head, and a coroner ruled that she died by suicide. But prosecutors thought the positioning of the gun in her right hand was unusual for a self-inflicted gunshot, and Randolph stood to gain more than $530,000 from the death, so they tried him for murder.

Randolph ultimately was acquitted, but he pleaded guilty to tampering with a witness for offering an undercover cop a car title and cash to kill Eric Tarantino, the star witness in the Utah case.

Tarantino told authorities about a year after Gault's death that Randolph had asked him to kill her. After Tarantino refused, he warned Gault and fled town.

Defense attorneys said Randolph was angry because he knew Tarantino had slept with Gault.

The lyrics to the tune Randolph would hum end with the words: "It was all a very nasty dream."

But prosecutors said Randolph had the same motive to kill in 2008. He would receive upward of $360,000 after Clausse's death. A week before she died, Randolph received a letter responding to an inquiry he made about his wife's life insurance policy.

Bluth pointed to "2 stories of 2 men 20 years apart who never even met each other, yet their stories are the exact same ... Their friendship and their job was to kill 2 women, the wives of Thomas Randolph. And the only reason Mike Miller is dead is because Eric Tarantino lived to tell the story, and Thomas Randolph was not going to make that mistake again."

Deputy Special Public Defender Randall Pike told jurors that Randolph knew nothing of Miller's home invasion or plan to kill Clausse. Randolph's marriage was steady, money wasn't a problem and the couple talked of buying property in Utah, while fixing up their northwest Las Vegas home before the killings. Randolph married Clausse in 2006, and the couple renewed their vows a year later.

"Things were going good, but they weren't going good for Mr. Miller," Pike said. "They had started moving toward the marriage they hoped this was going to be."

A man who finds wife shot dead has a "right, an obligation" to make sure the threat is gone, Pike said.

Prosecutors plan to tell jurors 2 of Randolph's other wives are dead from apparent illness. Should he be convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 2008 killings, his 2 living ex-wives are expected to testify at a penalty phase that he threatened to kill them.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Kern County jurors describe turmoil of deliberations during death penalty trial

Accusations were made and frustrations shown, tears fell and tempers rose, and in the end further progress in reaching a unanimous decision was deemed impossible.M

It was an emotional, grueling week for the jury that sat on the trial of convicted killer Dennis Bratton.

While it convicted Bratton of an assault charge in the stomping death of cellmate Andrew Keel, it deadlocked 10-2 Thursday after three days of grueling deliberations on whether Bratton should get death or life without parole.

5 jurors who voted for death spoke with The Californian on Friday about the 4 1/2-month trial and the discussions that occurred. They asked not to be identified by name given the sensitivity of the issues involved, instead asking to be identified by juror number.

The biggest reason they decided to speak out? They wanted to deny allegations made by defense counsel that they bullied the two dissenting jurors.

Juror No. 3 said the two dissenting jurors entered the jury room with their minds already made up when it was time for deliberations. They felt Bratton could change and didn't deserve to die.

One of the dissenting jurors, juror No. 12 said, told the rest of the jury she was stubborn and had her own reasons for not voting for death. This juror said she could sentence someone to death only for "certain cases," and did not elaborate what those cases were, juror No. 12 said.

The jurors said the 2 dissenting jurors barely participated as the others deliberated. Juror No. 11 said one of them spent the entire time drawing and just went along with everything the other dissenting juror said.

Juror No. 12 said the rest of them weren't bothered the 2 jurors were voting for life without parole, they just wanted them to participate. She said she wanted to hear their opinions.

"We were trying to have open and honest discussions," juror No. 7 said.

Multiple jurors told the court they didn't believe the 2 dissenting jurors were participating as required by law and as they'd sworn to do. The judge questioned several jurors individually but found no evidence of a juror refusing to participate.

The 5 said they never cursed at or disparaged the 2 dissenting jurors, or otherwise treated them badly.

"We don't like being looked at as bullies," juror No. 4 said.

Once the mistrial was declared, a couple jurors shed tears. The 5 said the trial, which they've been involved in since February, was an intense experience that left them exhausted. And disappointed.

"I feel like we failed Andrew Keel and there's no justice for his family," juror No. 11 said.

Keel's sister, Jessica McCoy, sent an email to jurors thanking the 10 who voted for death. She said she knows they "gave their all" in the trial and looked at her brother as a human being, not just another inmate.

The 5 said a number of factors convinced them Bratton deserved death.

While defense counsel argued Bratton killed Keel in self-defense, there were no wounds on Bratton's body with the exception of bruising on his heels and knees. His past convictions also swayed them, the jurors said, as did his continuing to get into trouble up to shortly before the trial began.

"My biggest concern is he's going to do this again and affect another family," juror No. 7 said.

Just 6 months before trial, Bratton knocked another inmate unconscious for beating him at handball, prosecutor Andi Bridges told the jurors during her closing argument.

The 5 jurors commended Bridges' work. Juror No. 7 said she was "fantastic" and did a "great job."

McCoy, in an email to The Californian, echoed that sentiment.

"Andi never treated this like just another case and another inmate," she wrote. "She has laughed with me and cried with me. She put in endless hours taking time away from her family to fight for mine.

"She is one of a kind and I could not have asked for a better prosecutor fighting for us."

The 5 jurors took issue with some remarks made by Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, particularly when he told the jury the prosecution was going to ask them to become "killers" and turn the jury room into a "death chamber."

In response, Cadman said the following:

"The mob mentality of jurors whipped into a frenzy to kill a person who had been convicted of no sex offenses and no crimes against children spread like a virus.

"I personally spoke to the 2 jurors who did not know each other before this trial began and they were shaking, crying and very emotional at the terrible treatment they received from the other 10 jurors."

Cadman added 1 of the dissenting jurors was questioned by the judge and said, under oath, she deliberated and participated in the proceedings.

The attorney said he remains "nonplussed" at the idea of some jurors wanting to replace others who held the value of life to a higher standard.

As for his "killers" comment, Cadman said, "When you vote for death in a death penalty case you vote for homicide. That means you vote to kill, and thank goodness there were 2 non-killers out of the bunch who saw that Dennis Bratton isn't even close to the worst of the worst."

On May 16, 2013, Bratton stomped and strangled Keel, crushing his skull.

Bridges said the killing was planned and Bratton bragged about it afterward. In 2010, Bratton stomped another inmate who required lifesaving brain surgery.

The jury convicted Bratton May 17 of assault by a life prisoner with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was serving a life term for a 1996 bank robbery in San Diego County at the time he killed Keel.

(source: bakersfield.com)

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

Killer who shot his ex-wife and 7 others he dubbed 'collateral damage' at a Californian salon utters courtroom apology as he fights the death penalty

A man who killed 8 people in a shooting rampage 6 years ago at a California hair salon uttered a courtroom apology as victims' relatives voiced outrage over sentencing delays.

Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty in 2014 to killing his hairstylist ex-wife and 7 others at the Seal Beach salon in 2011. His lawyer wants him spared the death penalty.

'I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry,' Dekraai said in his first public sign of remorse on Thursday's hearing.

Dekraai spoke and wiped his eyes moments after Bethany Webb, the sister of victim Laura Webb Elody, criticized him for referring to those killed as 'collateral damage.'

'You can't give me back what you took,' Webb replied. 'I'm sorry, you can't apologize for this. . You will never give me back what was stolen from me,' reported the Orange County Register.

Dekraai, the ex-husband of one of the victims, went on the shooting spree at Salon Meritage, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in the seaside resort of Seal Beach, California, after losing custody of his child.

Those who were killed in the massacre included young mothers, a newlywed woman doing her elderly mother's hair and a hard-working business owner, all of whom simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Victims' relatives are upset by sentencing delays. A decision on whether Dekraai should face death or life in prison has been postponed because of allegations that jailhouse informants were improperly used to secretly elicit information from Dekraai and suspects in other cases.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals has been holding hearings on whether the Sheriff's Department withheld information about the use of informants in the murder case.

Paul Wilson, whose wife Christy Lynn Wilson was killed, said his father and father-in-law are suffering from advanced cancers.

'It is awful and pathetic to know they may not live to see the coward that took Christy's life brought to justice,' Wilson told the judge.

A county grand jury report released blamed problems on rogue jail deputies and said there was no evidence of a conspiracy involving key law enforcement officials.

The allegations also have prompted state and federal investigations.

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

USA:

ABA asks Supreme Court to require adequate funding for post-conviction investigations

The Supreme Court should reject a decision from the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals making it harder to investigate post-conviction legal claims, the ABA said in an amicus brief filed Friday.

The brief (PDF) was filed in Ayestas v. Davis, in which Carlos Manuel Ayestas asked the courts for funds to hire a specialist he believes should have been employed by his original attorneys. Federal law permits that funding when a court finds that it's "reasonably necessary" for the representation of the defendant. In 2016, the 5th Circuit found that those like Ayestas must show a "substantial need" - a standard he says is virtually impossible to meet without the funding needed to develop the case.

The ABA's amicus brief supports that argument, calling the appeals court's rule "restrictive and circular."

"The 'substantial need' rule effectively requires counsel to establish a viable claim on the merits before the Circuit will authorize the funding needed to investigate the merits," the amicus brief says.

Ayestas is arguing his original counsel was ineffective, and effective assistance requires attorneys to "conduct an independent and adequate investigation of the facts," the brief notes. That's supported by the ABA's Death Penalty Guidelines and Criminal Justice Standards. In fact, the brief says, an ineffective assistance claim is particularly likely to need some extra investigation, since the record from prior court proceedings is unlikely to contain the required information if the prior attorney was ineffective. And the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project has found that when assistance was ineffective, it's often due to failure to fund investigators or experts.

That's a problem, the brief says, because the 5th Circuit's ruling sets up a Catch-22 for defendants like Ayestas: He can't get the funding he needs to hire an investigator without showing a court the facts that the investigator would be hired to uncover. This is a higher standard than the federal statute at issue, which requires that the funds be "reasonably necessary" for the defense, the brief says. Effectively, it closes the door to criminal defendants, functioning as a preliminary ruling on the merits.

"Such an outcome threatens more than attorneys' ability to act consistent with professional standards," the brief says. "It threatens also the integrity, fairness, and reliability of the habeas process, of capital sentences, and ultimately of our criminal justice system."

(source; abajournal.com)

PHILIPPINES/MALAYSIA:

Philippines to appeal Malaysia death sentence on 9 Filipinos----The 9 Filipinos face Malaysia's death row over the Sabah standoff that killed at least 70 people in 2013

The Philippines will appeal the death sentence imposed by the Malaysian Court of Appeal on 9 Filipinos over the Sabah standoff that killed at least 70 people in 2013.

"What's gonna happen there is, of course, we're going to appeal," Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in an interview with reporters Friday, June 16.

Cayetano said the Office of Public Diplomacy of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will later give reporters the details.

The Sabah standoff refers to the bloody incursion by some 200 armed Moro rebels from the southern Philippines. Their move was inspired by a self-proclaimed Filipino sultanate's claims of historical dominion over Sabah, which is claimed by the Philippine government.

The assault, the most serious security crisis faced by Malaysia in years, led to a siege between the Moro rebels and Malaysian armed forces sent to root them out.

The Kota Kinabalu High Court in 2016 imposed life imprisonment on 9 Filipinos over the Sabah standoff, but the Malaysian Court of Appeal reversed this decision on June 8 of this year.

Bernama, the national news agency of Malaysia, said the following Filipinos face the death sentence in Malaysia over the Sabah standoff: "Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, 54, the son of the late self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram; Julham Rashid, 70; Virgilio Nemar Patulada @ Mohamad Alam Patulada, 53; Salib Akhmad Emali, 64; Tani Lahad Dahi, 64; Basad H. Manuel, 42; Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, 46; Al-Wazir Osman, 62; and Ismail Yasin, 77."

On other Filipinos on death row around the world, Cayetano said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the DFA to adopt a "pro-active" approach, which will ensure "100% effort" in assisting them.

To achieve this goal, he said the DFA "is also studying to have more retainer agreements with law offices around the world" to help overseas Filipino workers on death row.

(sources: Agence France-Presse & rappler.com)

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

Trial of Vietnamese suspect in N Korean's murder set to open

2 suspects, one of whom is a Vietnamese national, will appear before the Shah Alam high court in Selangor state on July 28 in the case of the murder of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) citizen Kim Chol .

The decision was made during the 4th court hearing on the case at the Kajang female prison in Selangor yesterday.

The 2 suspects are Vietnamese national Doan The Huong and Indonesian national Siti Aisyah.

During the 30-minute hearing, the prosecutor handed over 44 documents to lawyers. Some documents, including the CCTV footage relating to the death will be handed over in 1 month.

The Embassy of Vit Nam in Malaysia will continue co-ordinating closely with Vietnamese relevant authorities and Huong's lawyers in Malaysia to ensure the fair trial and to protect the legitimate rights of the Vietnamese national.

Kim Chol, as named in his passport, died at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. Malaysia said he was poisoned, but the DPRK insisted that he died of a heart attack, plus high blood pressure and diabetes.

At the court hearing on March 1, the 2 women were charged with murder but they denied and said that they were cheated to take part in an innocuous prank.

According to the Malaysian law, they will face the death penalty if found guilty.

(source: vietnamnews.vn)

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

Maid arrested over alleged murder of employer

Police have arrested a maid who is suspected of killing her employer by holding a pillow over her face.

Kajang OCPD Asst Comm Othman Nayan said police received information about a 65-year-old woman who was lying unconscious in bed with a pillow covering her face early last month.

"We found the woman in the master bedroom and neighbours claimed to not have heard any noise. The deceased's sister also said that the front door was locked from the inside," ACP Othman said.

He said the woman, a retiree, lived in the house with her 25-year-old Indonesian maid. Her husband had passed away 15 years ago.

"The couple were childless and the woman had a congenital heart condition," he said, adding that she made frequent trips to the hospital because of it.

ACP Othman said the maid is believed to have run away after her employer's death.

A post-mortem on the victim revealed that she had died of asphyxiation and there were bite marks on her right nipple.

Following investigations, police arrested the suspect on Thursday afternoon near Negri Sembilan.

They also arrested a 29-year-old Indonesian man in connection to the crime.

Both suspects have been remanded until June 21 and the case is being investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the death penalty upon conviction.

(source: thestar.com.my)

IRAN:

Abusive behavior of authorities after Tehran attack / Fears of mass executions

Following the attack last week in Tehran there have been multiple reports of a fresh round of suppressive measures against Sunnis in Iran. Iran Human Rights is especially concerned about the group of Sunni prisoners in Zabol Central Prison who are in imminent danger of execution.

Iran Human Rights condemns the terrorist operation in Tehran last week, which, according to official Iranian sources, resulted in the deaths of 17 people. IHR warns against any unlawful acts - including torture, forced confessions, and executions - and calls for the persons accused of terrorism to be afforded fair and public trials.

Iran Human Rights warns that arbitrary executions and the unlawful and suppressive actions of security forces in the ethnic regions of Iran can result in an increase of violence and extremism. Most of the prisoners in Iran who are charged with Moharebeh (enmity against God) and Corruption on Earth are from the ethnic regions in Iran. Last summer, 25 Sunni Kurdish prisoners were mass executed at Rajai Shahr Prison after trials that lasted only a few minutes. Following the attack on Wednesday June 7, there have been multiple reports about the systematic and arbitrary actions againt the Sunni communities across Iran.

On Friday, Iran's Ministry of Intelligence issued an announcement on their official website regarding the arrest of 42 individuals in the provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan and Tehran who they claim belong to elements of the Wahabbi groups affiliated with ISIL and who were identified and arrested before they were allegedly able to carry out any type of operation.

In a separate report, Mizan News, the Iranian Judiciary's official news site, claimed 16 people were arrested in relation to Wednesday's attack: a non-Iranian individual was arrested in Bandar-e Mahshahr (Khuzestan province) on June 7, 7 people were arrested in Larestan (Fars province) on June 8, a person was arrested on June 9 in the Kianmehr district (Alborz province), and 7 people were arrested on June 10 in another city in the Alborz province.

Unofficial sources have reported that 80 arrests were made in Irans' ethnic regions for suspected links to ISIL.

The human rights news agency HRANA reports on the mistreatment of religious minority prisoners by prison authorities at Sanandaj Central Prison. These authorities have reportedly abused the prisoners, regardless of the nature of their charges. HRANA cites the example of numerous prisoners, whose cases are related to murder charges and are non-political, who were beaten up, punished and faced unreasonable restrictions by prison authorities.

In the Sistan and Baluchestan province, there have been worrying reports about the mistreatment of citizens by IRGC forces. Habibollah Sarbazi, a Baluch civil rights defender, tells Iran Human Rights: "After the attack in Tehran, the IRGC closed the borders without explanation and harassed passersby. This happened, even though ISIL does not have any base among the Baluch people and, except for some rare cases, were unable to gain influence in Baluchestan."

On the day of the attack in Tehran, Iranian state-run news sites published a photo of a man who they claimed was of a suspect of the attack after he was arrested. However, Iranian authorities have only confirmed the arrest of a woman suspect who was not shot dead. Since the publication of this photo, there has been no mention by Iranian official sources about this man.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

LEBANON:

Mashnouq: Berri, Hariri Support Reactivating Death Penalty, Aoun Mulling Issue

Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri support the reactivation of the death penalty law and President Michel Aoun has promised to mull the issue, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced on Thursday.

The minister voiced his remarks during a meeting at the ministry with families of victims of "intentional homicide."

Mashnouq called on the families to "raise their voice high to mobilize the Lebanese society to press for fulfilling justice and stand in the face of external and international pressures aimed at preventing the reactivation of the capital punishment law."

And expressing his sympathy with the relatives, the minister promised them that he will follow up on the issue until the end.

"My efforts towards the reactivation of the death penalty law stem from my keenness on protecting the rest of the youths" from murders, Mashnouq noted, citing the recent killing of 24-year-old man Roy Hamoush that has shocked the Lebanese society.

The minister also pointed out that there is a study that revealed that "intentional homicides stopped completely for several months after executions were carried out during the tenure of president Elias Hrawi, martyr premier Rafik Hariri and justice minister Bahij Tabbara."

Human Rights Watch had on Monday urged Lebanon to respect its moratorium on the death penalty after the latest calls for its reinstatement.

Capital punishment is legal in Lebanon, but there has been an effective moratorium in place since 2004, without any executions carried out despite judgments to that effect.

"Ending its moratorium on executions would only serve to tarnish Lebanon's human rights record," HRW said in a statement.

Roy Hamoush's recent murder was the latest in a growing number of people killed on the street or in broad daylight in Lebanon, often for minor reasons.

"Once again, political pressure is growing for Lebanon to resume executions," said Human Rights Watch.

"A resumption of executions would constitute a troubling setback for Lebanon, without making the country safer or deterring crime," the London-based watchdog said.

Instead of resuming executions, "parliament should solidify Lebanon's position as a leader on this issue in the Middle East, and abolish the death penalty outright," HRW urged.

(source: neharnet.com)

EGYPT:

Egyptian court recommends death penalty for 30 over assassination of prosecutor

A Cairo criminal court on Saturday recommended the death penalty for 30 people convicted of involvement in the 2015 assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor, the most senior state official killed by militants in recent years.

The court set a verdict session for July 22, after referring its recommendation to the country's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding legally-required opinion. The July 22 verdict can be appealed against.

Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was killed in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo, an operation for which Egypt blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza-based Hamas militants, though both groups have denied it.

"The brutal conspiracy by hired hands to target the public prosecutor Hisham Barakat and assassinate him, where the corrupt and weak-willed forces of evil and tyranny conspired, could only be carried out by an unjust group that has shed innocent blood," said Judge Hassan Farid.

Farid initially read out 31 names but 2 of them referred to the same person and the judge then corrected himself.

Only 1/2 of the defendants are in custody, with 15 on the run.

The Interior Ministry released a video last year showing clips of several young men confessing and admitting going to Gaza for training from Hamas, though some of them later denied the accusations in court.

The defendants said they were forced to confess under torture and their lawyers asked that they be medically examined. Farid said he granted the request to a majority, but not all, and that doctors in a prison hospital had found no signs of torture.

Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by Islamic State in North Sinai, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed.

The group has also increasingly carried out attacks in Egypt targeting Christians in a spate of church bombings and shootings that have killed some 100 since December.

Barakat was the highest-ranking state official to die in a militant attack since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief, ousted President Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood leader, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

(source: Reuters)

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

Death sentence recommended for 31 convicted of assassinating Egypt's top prosecutor

31 people face execution for the assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo 2 years ago.

Egypt has consistently blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas militants from Gaza for the bombing, although both groups have denied the charge.

This morning, a Cairo criminal court recommended the death penalty for the 31 convicted of involvement. The sentence will be considered by the Grand Mufti, the country's top religious authority, and the final verdict delivered on 22 July.

Mr Barakat, 64, the prosecutor-general who was responsible for sending thousands of Islamists to trial, was Egypt's most senior state official to be targeted for assassination in 25 years.

(source: The Times)

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

7 men facing imminent execution after being tortured in custody

The Egyptian authorities must immediately stop the imminent executions of 7 men sentenced to death in two grossly unfair trials, said Amnesty International calling on them to refer the case to the senior judges at Egypt's highest appeals court, the Court of Cassation. The organization had recently warned that legal amendments passed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi limiting the appeal process before the court could contribute to an spike in death sentences and executions in the country.

At least 6 of the men were forcibly disappeared and tortured to obtain "confessions" that were later used by a criminal court in Mansoura to convict them of murdering a police officer and setting up a "terrorist" organization. The verdict was upheld by the Court of Cassation last week. In a separate case, another man is facing imminent execution after losing his final appeal before the same court. He was convicted, following a grossly unfair trial, of killing a man during a protest in Alexandria.

"Regardless of what the men may have been involved in, forcibly disappearing suspects and torturing them into confessing is not justice. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No one should be deprived of their right to life, no matter how horrific the crimes they have been accused of are," said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

"Time is running out to save these men's lives, they can be executed at any time. The Egyptian authorities must immediately halt these executions and order a fair re-trial for the seven men, without resorting to the death penalty or relying on torture-tainted evidence."

On 7 June Egypt's Court of Cassation, upheld death sentences against Bassem el-Khereby, Ahmed Meshaly, Ibrahim Azab, Mahmoud Wahba, Khaled Askar, and Abd el-Rahman Atteia after a deeply flawed trial. The man they are accused of murdering was a police guard of 1 of the judges sitting on a panel on a trial of President Mohamed Morsi. The President has 14 days to reduce the sentence before a final execution date is set.

The men's lawyers submitted a final appeal to the Public Prosecution on 15 June requesting a retrial, based on the due process errors in the trial. If it is accepted, the case will be examined by the most senior judges at the Court of Cassation.

According to their families and lawyers, they were arrested by the National Security Agency (NSA) in March 2014 and forcibly disappeared for periods of between 3 days and 3 months cutting off their access to their relatives, lawyers and the outside world while being tortured to obtain videotaped "confessions". They were held in different locations across the country including the NSA headquarters in Cairo.

At least 3 of the families told Amnesty International that they only learnt their sons had been detained when they saw them "confessing" on TV with bruised faces. When the families were finally allowed to visit their sons in prison they told them that they had been tortured by being anally raped repeatedly using a wooden stick, given electric shocks on the genitals and other parts of the body, suspended in stress positions for periods of up to 4 days. They said that NSA officers had burned them in the neck with cigarette butts and threatened to rape their mothers and sisters in order to pressure them to confess.

The men later retracted their confessions before a state security prosecutor in Cairo, explaining they had been tortured. But they were then returned to the NSA where they were tortured again as punishment for withdrawing their statements and sent back to the prosecutor for a second time where they "confessed" fearing further reprisals.

The men's lawyers also told Amnesty International that they were denied access to legal representation during interrogation and the verdicts relied entirely on evidence extracted through torture and flawed investigations by the NSA. The court also ignored forensic evidence indicating that at least 2 of the men had bruises and burns on their bodies inflicted during their detention and repeatedly refused to refer defendants to the Forensic Medical Authority to investigate their torture allegations.

Although the Court of Cassation accepted the appeal and reviewed the case incidents, it did not set a trial date to allow the lawyers to present their defence in court. In addition, the court applied recently adopted draconian legal amendments to the appeal system before the court which abolished the defendant's right to a retrial and reduced the appeals to one stage instead of 2 paving the way for more death sentences and executions.

Alexandria case

The Court of Cassation also upheld a death sentence against Fadl Abdel Mawla in April 2017 in a separate case. He had been convicted after, a grossly unfair trial, of killing a Coptic man during a protest in Alexandria on 15 August 2013 and is also at risk of execution at any time. His lawyer said he was ill-treated by the NSA in the Alexandria security directorate in a failed attempt to force him to confess.

Lawyers told Amnesty International that to convict him the court relied entirely on the testimony of one witness, whom lawyers and local rights groups say was pressured into testifying by an NSA officer. His lawyers also presented to the court official documents stating that Fadl Abdel Mawla had been at work during the time of the protest. They have appealed to the public prosecutor, requesting a retrial. If their appeal is accepted, the case will be looked into by the most senior judges of the Court of Cassation.

Background

Egypt's use of the death penalty has increased sharply since 2013, when no executions were recorded and 109 people were sentenced to death. The number of executions increased from 15 in 2014 to 22 in 2015 and doubled to reach 44 in 2016. The number of people sentenced to death rose to 509 in 2014 and 538 in 2015 before falling to 237 in 2016.

(source: Amnesty International)

JUNE 16, 2017:

GEORGIA:

Once again, Georgia jury declines to give death sentence

For the 2nd time this year, a defendant accused of killing a Georgia law enforcement officer faced a capital trial and did not receive a death sentence.

On Wednesday, after just 30 minutes of deliberation, a jury sentenced Christopher Calmer to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Sept. 14, 2014, fatal shooting of Monroe County sheriff's deputy Michael Norris.

No Georgia jury has imposed a death sentence in more than 3 years. The last capital sentence was handed down in March 2014 by a Richmond County jury.

In the only other death-penalty trial this year, Michael Bowman was convicted of killing off-duty Griffin police officer Kevin Jordan in May 2014. But after jurors found Bowman to be guilty but mentally ill, prosecutors chose to no longer pursue a death sentence and allowed Bowman to be sentenced to life without parole.

There were 3 death-penalty trials - 2 in Fulton County and 1 in Newton County - in 2016, but in all cases the defendants received sentences of life without parole.

In the Monroe County case, Norris, 24, and another deputy went to Calmer's home in response to a suicide call. After the deputies arrived, they exchanged gunfire with Calmer. Norris, who was shot, was later taken off life support after being declared brain dead.

On Tuesday, the jury, comprised of residents of neighboring Upson County, found Calmer guilty of Norris's murder. They reached their sentence after hearing mitigation testimony presented by his legal team, led by state capital defender Amber Pittman.

Jerry Word, who heads Georgia's capital defender office, said jurors were told Calmer suffered from depression and chronic back pain.

"It was a combination of his mental illness and the fact Mr. Calmer had been a model citizen up to that point and was described as a model inmate after his arrest," Word said, when asked why he thought the jury declined to impose a death sentence.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

New death penalty rules mean new sentences for 5 Volusia-Flagler killers

Shock, anger, acceptance and a determination to continue to seek justice for their slain loved ones.

Those are some of the reactions from victims' families after learning that the death sentences against Ray Jackson, Cornelius Baker, David Snelgrove, Jerone Hunter and Troy Victorino have been struck down.

Jackson killed a woman in Daytona Beach. Baker kidnapped a woman from Daytona Beach and killed her in Flagler County. Snelgrove robbed and killed a Palm Coast couple. Hunter and Victorino, who beat and clubbed 6 people to death in what is known as the Deltona mass murder, had their death sentences vacated on Wednesday.

Pam Norko, 67, of Long Beach, California, said her and her brother are ready to testify at a new penalty phase for Snelgrove.

"We made a vow to each other that we would fight to see this man put to death. I guess it would be pretty easy to say let's just leave this at life in prison but that would be way too easy after what he did to them," Norko said.

Proceed with death?

The reactions are more deliberative from prosecutors who must now decide whether to try to send the convicted murderers back to death row or allow them to live the rest of their lives behind bars.

Seventh Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza said that his office will consult with the victims' families on whether to seek the death penalty again before reaching a decision.

Some local death sentences without unanimous jury recommendations

On Death Row

Here are inmates with non-unanimous jury death recommendations since 2002 from Volusia and Flagler County. Some remain on death row at Florida State Prison near Starke while others have had sentences vacated.

Volusia County Cases

--James Guzman, 51, sentenced to die for murdering a Virginia businessman, David Colvin, with a samurai sword at a U.S. 1 motel in August 1991. Jury vote: 10-2 at 1st trial. Guzman won a 2nd trial. But Guzman waived a jury for his 2nd trial and Judge William C. Johnson Jr. convicted him and sentenced him to death. Federal court overturned conviction and sentence. Guzman was sentenced again in 2016 to death. Jury vote 11-1 in 2016.

--Richard England, 44, convicted in the murder of Daytona Beach Planning Board member Howard Wetherell. Jury vote in 2004: 8-4.

--Jerone Hunter, 29, received 4 death sentences in the Aug. 5, 2004, bludgeoning deaths of 6 people and a dog at a Deltona home. The jury recommended death in the killing of Michelle Ann Nathan by a vote of 10-2, Anthony Vega, vote of 9-1, Roberto "Tito" Gonzalez, vote of 9-1 and Jonathan Gleason vote of 10-1. Hunter received life for: Erin Belanger, Francisco Ayo-Roman. Sentenced in 2006. Death sentence vacated.

--Troy Victorino, 39, convicted on six counts of first-degree murder in the Deltona bludgeoning case. The jury recommended death in the killing of Erin Belanger by a vote of 10-2, Francisco Ayo-Roman, vote of 10-2, Roberto "Tito" Gonzalez, vote of 9-1, Jonathan Gleason, vote of 7-1. Victorino received life recommendations for Michelle Ann Nathan, Anthony Vega. Sentenced in 2006. Death sentence vacated.

-- Ray Jackson , 40, kidnapped and killed Pallis Paulk, found dead in Daytona Beach April 17, 2005. Jury vote: 9-3 in 2007. Death sentence vacated.

--Douglas Matthews, 34, fatally stabbed Kirk Zoeller and Donna Trujillo in a Daytona Beach apartment on Feb. 20, 2008. Jury recommended death in 2010 by 10-2 vote.

--Joseph Jordan, 45, left Keith Cope hogtied for days in his Edgewater home after a June 2009 robbery. Cope died as a result of his injuries even though doctor's amputated his left arm to try to save him. Jury recommended death by vote of 10-2 in 2013.

Flagler County cases

--William Gregory, 31, used a shotgun to kill Skyler Meekins, his teenage ex-girlfriend, and her boyfriend Daniel Dyer in Meekins' grandparents' home in Flagler County on Aug. 21, 2007. Jury recommended death by vote of 7-5 in 2007.

--Cornelius O. Baker, 29, killed a Daytona Beach woman Elizabeth Uptagrafft on Jan. 7, 2007, after a home invasion robbery and kidnapping. Jury recommended death by 9-3 vote in 2009. Death sentence vacated.

--David B. Snelgrove, 43, convicted of murder in the deaths of an elderly Palm Coast couple, his neighbors, Glyn and Vivian Fowler, on June 23, 2000, to rob them. Jury recommended death by 8-4 in 2008. Death sentenced vacated.

[source: Florida Department of Corrections]

"They deserve to have that conversation with us and they deserve to be heard on what they want to see happen," Larizza said.

While Larizza's office won't comment, 2 family members have said prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty again against Victorino and Hunter.

The death sentences have been vacated due to a case known as Hurst, in which the Florida Supreme Court held that juries must unanimously recommend death before a judge can sentence someone to death. The decision means that death sentences without a unanimous jury recommendation will likely be overthrown dating back to another 2002 court ruling in an Arizona case known as Ring.

The return of death penalty cases won't strain either personnel or the budget at the State Attorney's Office, Larizza said.

The prosecutor's office has approximately $450,000 for its "due process fund" to cover the 4 counties it serves: Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam. Those funds cover trial expenses, including travel and lodging expenses for expert witnesses.

Larizza said unanimous jury recommendations for death were not prevalent when Florida required only a simple majority of 7 to 5 before a judge could impose death. The state Legislature changed that to 10 to 2 which lasted only briefly before the state Supreme Court ruled it must be unanimous.

"It's hard to say whether it will be more difficult. I think a lot of people assume that and they may be right," Larizza said. "But the jury will be instructed that they have to be unanimous for it, the death penalty, to be a possibility. They were never told that before."

Seventh Circuit Public Defender Jim Purdy said the Supreme Court will likely overturn all death sentences going back to Ring in which the jury recommendation was not unanimous.

"It's long overdue. It should have always been unanimous. The most significant sentence that a person can get should absolutely require a unanimous vote," Purdy said.

Death sentence opposition

Purdy, who is part of a group known as Florida Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, is hoping that the state eventually does away with the death penalty.

"The death penalty process is far too costly, cumbersome, and error-prone to continue," Purdy said in a press release from the group. "Given that Florida has wrongly convicted and eventually released more people from their death row (27) than any other state, the stakes are far too high."

The state Legislature was warned by the Florida Supreme Court in a 2005 decision that the death penalty needed revision. But legislators did not make changes, including requiring the unanimous vote, until this year and only after court decisions forced the issue.

The law and the politics have left families of victims frustrated with the justice system which keeps coughing up cases to be fought all over again.

Cornelius Baker and his girlfriend burst into the home of Elizabeth Uptagrafft in Daytona Beach and terrorized the family. Then they kidnapped Uptagrafft, stole her car, made her withdraw money from an ATM and then drove her to a dirt road in western Flagler County where Baker let her out of the car and then shot her to death on Jan. 7, 2007. The jury voted for death for Baker by 9 to 3 in 2009. The girlfriend, Patricia Roosa, was sentenced to life without parole.

Uptagrafft's daughter and sister said that they don't want to go through the pain of reliving their loved one's murder by way of painful testimony and crime scene photos. So they will not attend a penalty hearing if prosecutors try to send Baker back to death row.

"The trial was worse for us than the funeral. That trial was hell on us," said Uptagrafft's daughter, Stacey Rodocker.

She said Baker does not deserve another minute of the family's time.

"Whether he's in prison or he’s on death row it's not going to make any difference to us in our lives," Rodocker said.

Uptagrafft's sister, Brenda Gillespie, 64, of Daytona Beach, said she met with prosecutors but is not pushing for a death sentence, although she likes that Baker is more isolated on death row.

"They have to make their decision independent of us," she said.

Death, he 'deserves that'

Jackson kidnapped and killed Pallis Paulk, 23, on Nov. 9, 2004 because she stole money and cocaine from him after they spent the night together, according to testimony. Her bones were found in a shallow grave in April 2005 near Williamson Boulevard. The jury recommended death for Jackson by vote of 9-3 in 2007.

Paulk's cousin Tyshoan Wllcox of Daytona Beach said she would like to see Jackson sentenced to death.

"He deserves to be on death row. He deserves that," she said.

Paulk's oldest sister, Amanda Paulk, said Jackson took someone precious from her family and she thinks the most severe punishment is to keep him alive and locked up.

"I would prefer that he sat in jail and suffered for the rest of his life. Honestly, I thought the death penalty was the easy way out for him," Amanda Paulk said.

Snelgrove beat and stabbed Glyn Fowler, 84, and his wife, Vivian, 79, to death in 2000 after breaking into their home to rob them to pay for his cocaine habit. He stabbed the couple 38 times. Snelgrove was sentenced to death in 2002 on a jury recommendation vote of 7-5. That was overturned and Snelgrove was again sentenced to death after another jury vote of 8-4 in 2008.

The couple's daughter, Norko, said her own daughter was turning 12 at the time. She knew that her grandparents had died. But for the next year or so out of habit she would still check the mail for what had been her grandparent's customary packages of books, clothes and jewelry.

"He took our parents and my daughter's grandparents and they adored her," Norko said her voice breaking.

Victorino and Hunter, along with Michael Salas and Robert Cannon, broke into a home on Telford Lane in Deltona and beat and stabbed 6 people to death. Salas and Cannon were sentenced to life without parole. Killed in the massacre were Erin Belanger, 22; Michelle Nathan, 19; Roberto "Tito" Gonzalez, 28; Jonathan Gleason, 17; Francisco "Flaco' Ayo-Roman, 30; and Anthony Vega, 34. Victorino, a Latin Kings gang member who stood at 6 feet 6 inches tall, was the ringleader.

Belanger's father, Bill Belanger, said he is focused on Victorino. It was Victorino who killed Belanger's daughter.

"I hope another jury is unanimous in giving him the death penalty," he said.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)

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

Death row inmate convicted in 1990s asks for re-sentencing

A death row inmate who was convicted in the 1990s of killing a Pensacola woman is asking the state to vacate his sentence.

Eric Branch, 46, was found guilty of killing University of West Florida student Susan Morris after she left an evening class in January 1993. Morris' body was found in nearby woods, and she appeared to have been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted, according to News Journal archives.

Branch has been on death row since 1994, when an Escambia County jury convicted him of murder and sexual battery and recommended death in a vote of 10-2, according to state Supreme Court's records.

Now, Branch has asked to be re-sentenced under Florida's revised death penalty law.

In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that mandates a jury unanimously recommend the death penalty in capital punishment cases. The revised legislation came after a local case, Hurst v. State, in which defendant Timothy Hurst claimed the 10-2 jury split in his case was unconstitutional. Since that ruling, several local death row inmates have pushed for new penalty phases.

Branch's case has been reopened and was heard in Escambia County Court on Wednesday. Assistant State Attorney John Molchan said the state argued Branch does not fall under the new law because his case was decided so long ago.

"(Branch's counsel) had filed an amended motion thinking he should get relief under the Hurst ruling," Molchan said. "We took the position that based upon prior decisions that the court has made, he's not eligible for that ... . The Hurst case is not retroactive for him."

Court records list the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel as Branch's representative in the case. Representatives at the office could not be reached for comment.

If a re-sentencing is granted, Branch would face a minimum sentence of life in prison. His conviction would not go away, and a new jury would not hear the entirety of the case. Rather, a new jury would hear the case's penalty phase.

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille has previously said death penalty cases require several more steps than other proceedings. The state needs to prove aggravating factors on the defendant's part that would warrant a death sentence, while the defense needs to outline mitigating factors. The jury makes its decision after hearing those factors in the penalty phase.

Molchan said Circuit Judge E.P. Nickinson has taken the motion under advisement. There is no deadline or proposed date for when Nickinson will make a decision on the motion.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

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

State attorney expects to seek death penalty in jail cell killing

State Attorney Bill Eddins' office has announced it will likely have a 2nd go at seeing Shawn Rogers sentenced to die for the 2012 murder of Ricky Martin.

The First Judicial Circuit had been pursuing a death sentence in its case against Rogers since 2015, when he pleaded guilty to the headline-grabbing murder. Eddins' office abandoned the effort in January, though, after court rulings nullified the death penalty in Florida.

Eddins said at the time that Rogers' case was "rather unique" in that the inmate was already serving a life sentence in prison without possibility of parole for a 2002 Volusia County armed robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The state had the luxury in Rogers' case of waiting for death penalty sentencing procedures to be straightened out through legislation rather than seeking a new indictment against him.

"There is no downside to dismissing the case and waiting to file it again," Eddins said at the time the original indictment was nullified. "We did this in this death penalty case because the sentencing procedure is muddled, and we want it to be crystal clear."

The Florida Legislature this year voted to change a law that had required at least a 10-2 jury majority in order to impose the death penalty. Juries must now be unanimous in favor of death for the sentence to be handed down.

The new standard meets requirements established by rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court levels.

New indictments charging Rogers with murder and kidnapping in the Martin case were handed down in May, according to State Attorney's Office spokesman Greg Marcille. He was booked on the charges June 12.

"He's been reindicted and now we'll go through the process of reviewing the case to see if the death penalty is appropriate," Marcille said. "We do expect we will seek the death penalty."

Rogers pleaded guilty in September 2015 to murdering Martin, who was his cell mate at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.

Martin was found March 20, 2012, inside his cell, tied down with bedding material and stripped of his clothing. He had been bludgeoned with a sock full of batteries and died 3 weeks later at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.

Martin's killing occurred after word had filtered into the prison about the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Rogers was reported to have made comments along the lines of "this is for Trayvon Martin" as he beat Martin, a white man, unconscious.

The Miami Herald wrote an in-depth article about Martin's death as part of a series that called into question a Florida correctional system that allowed the much smaller Martin, a non-violent offender, to be placed in a cell with Rogers, who had a history of committing acts of violence on other inmates.

(source: Santa Rosa Press Gazette)

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

State attorney expects to seek death penalty in jail cell killing

State Attorney Bill Eddins' office has announced it will likely have a 2nd go at seeing Shawn Rogers sentenced to die for the 2012 murder of Ricky Martin.

The First Judicial Circuit had been pursuing a death sentence in its case against Rogers since 2015, when he pleaded guilty to the headline-grabbing murder. Eddins' office abandoned the effort in January, though, after court rulings nullified the death penalty in Florida.

Eddins said at the time that Rogers' case was "rather unique" in that the inmate was already serving a life sentence in prison without possibility of parole for a 2002 Volusia County armed robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The state had the luxury in Rogers' case of waiting for death penalty sentencing procedures to be straightened out through legislation rather than seeking a new indictment against him.

"There is no downside to dismissing the case and waiting to file it again," Eddins said at the time the original indictment was nullified. "We did this in this death penalty case because the sentencing procedure is muddled, and we want it to be crystal clear."

The Florida Legislature this year voted to change a law that had required at least a 10-2 jury majority in order to impose the death penalty. Juries must now be unanimous in favor of death for the sentence to be handed down.

The new standard meets requirements established by rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court levels.

New indictments charging Rogers with murder and kidnapping in the Martin case were handed down in May, according to State Attorney's Office spokesman Greg Marcille. He was booked on the charges June 12.

(source: nwfdailynews.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Court upholds death sentence for convicted murderer

The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a Hancock County man convicted of capital murder in the death of his 70-year-old landlord.

In 2013 Timothy Evans was sentenced to death after confessing to the January 2010 murder of Wenda Lafern Holling.

Holling was strangled in her Hancock County home where Evans rented a room. According to his statement to police, Evans admitted he first tried to smother the victim, then strangled her and disposed of the body.

Holling's was found on the side of a Harrison County road, after being missing for 3 weeks.

In appealing the death sentence, Evans lawyers argued 10 points; including failing to determine Evans' competency, whether the jury selection was constitutional, and prosecutorial misconduct.

However, the court found no error and upheld the death penalty.

(source: WLOX news)

OHIO:

Commonwealth attorney to seek death penalty in Terry Froman murder trial

An Ohio jury on Thursday recommended the death penalty for Terry Froman for the murder of local mother Kim Thomas. The formal sentencing from the court will be on June 22.

Froman is also charged in Kentucky with the murder of Thomas' 17-year-old son, Eli Mohney. That case will be heard in Graves County, Kentucky, where Mohney was shot in his mother's home.

Commonwealth Attorney David Hargrove tells Local 6 he will also seek the death penalty against Froman. Hargrove explained what makes the case a capital offense.

"There's a burglary, first and foremost, for breaking in the house and committing that. So, that'll qualify," he said. "Plus, there is a kidnapping that goes along with that, as he kidnapped Ms. Thomas. Ultimately, he murdered Ms. Thomas in Ohio, but he kidnapped her from Kentucky. So, those things are aggravating circumstances that qualify the case for the death penalty."

He said he will discuss the option of a plea deal with the family of the victims to see what they want.

"I am ready to try the case and move forward, but I want to be sensitive to the family. It's been tough on them," Hargrove explained. "This was about as bad as it gets in terms of crime. It is the most heinous one I've seen in a long time. The family had to live it at that time. They have to relive it now through Ohio. We bring it back here, they'll have to live it again."

Hargrove said he hopes the trial will start early next year.

If Froman gets another death penalty in Kentucky, it is unknown where he will be executed. Hargrove said there is always a chance of an appeal, so the possibility exists for the execution to be pushed back.

Hargrove explained that Kentucky has a moratorium on executions at the moment, so it seems more likely that Froman would be executed in Ohio.

(source: WPSD news)

NEVADA:

Arizona lawyer's sleuthing frees Nevada death row inmate----A man who spent 29 years on Nevada's death row was released in June 2017 after an attorney from the Federal Public Defender's Office offered evidence that the victim, an infant, might have died from infantile scurvy, not abuse.

When he was arrested for murder in 1988, he was just 19 years old, and his name was Charles Robins. A Clark County, Nevada, jury sent him to death row for allegedly beating to death his girlfriend’s 6-month-old baby girl.

On June 7, his cell door opened and he walked out of the prison in Ely, Nevada, 2 months shy of his 49th birthday, answering to the name Ha'im Al Matin Sharif.

According to Sharif, a devout Muslim, Al Matin means "steadfast" in Arabic, and Sharif means "truthful and virtuous."

Ha'im, he says, is an Arabic variant of the Hebrew word chaim, which means "life." It was suggested to him by an aunt who introduced him to Islam as a child.

So after 29 years in prison, Robins/Sharif gets to live the rest of his life freely - and hopefully steadfast and virtuously - because of a legal miracle performed by a Tucson-based attorney.

Sharif had been accused of torturing the infant. Her autopsy showed broken bones and multiple hemorrhages. Sharif denied the abuse, and although his then-girlfriend initially told police that Sharif was not abusive, she changed her story and testified against him in court.

"I was confused as to the nature of the injuries they described, because I had done nothing," Sharif told The Arizona Republic.

The jury found him guilty of 1st-degree murder, however, and he thought that was the end of it.

"I pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I was going to be put to death," he said.

But Cary Sandman, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Tucson, unearthed a forgotten caveat for "battered child syndrome" investigations: Once-common childhood diseases like rickets and scurvy can mimic symptoms of child abuse and must be ruled out first.

Sandman found medical experts to review the dead child's X-rays. They agreed that the child probably had scurvy. Sandman also got the girlfriend to recant her testimony. She claimed she was coerced by law enforcement into blaming Sharif for the death when they threatened to take her other children away.

The Nevada Supreme Court considered the "compelling nature of the new medical evidence," ruled that Sharif had "a colorable claim," and sent the case back to trial court.

Rather than go back to trial, the Clark County District Attorney's Office grudgingly amended the charges against Sharif. It agreed to ask the court to pronounce Sharif guilty of 2nd-degree murder and sentence him to time served.

The office refused to dismiss the case altogether and exonerate Sharif.

"I think he absolutely committed the crime," said Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steven Owens. "I don't think there was evidence to prove he didn't do it."

But the American judicial system requires that prosecutors gather sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did do it, and prosecutors decided that might be difficult.

"He's done (nearly) 30 years in prison," Owens said, which is more than the standard 20-25 years of a life sentence for murder.

"Is it worth the cost of continuing (legal) proceedings?" he asked.

Nor were Sharif and his attorneys willing to spend 5 or more years of incarceration and trial, only to run the risk that a jury could send Sharif back to death row.

They all signed the deal, and Sharif last week walked out of prison into a car headed for Phoenix, where he would spend the next several days in a detox of sorts before flying to Washington state to live with a relative.

"I was in a dreamlike state," he told The Republic, "and still questioning whether it was real or not."

'It looked like rosacea'

Charles Robins was born in Los Angeles. As a child, he lived with an aunt in New York, who introduced him to Islam, through which he changed his name to Ha'im Sharif.

In January 1988, he was livingin Vegas with a girlfriend named Lovell McDowell and her children. The youngest, Brittany, was 6 months old. Late that month, McDowell’s brother called the Nevada child protective services to report that Brittany appeared to have bruises.

Investigators came to the home and examined the child. They found tiny hemorrhages, but could not definitively say it was abuse.

"It looked like rosacea," Sharif told The Republic. "We weren't concerned."

Then when the child had swelling in her leg, Sharif and McDowell treated it with Epsom salts.

On Feb. 28, 1988 - Sharif has a keen memory for dates - the baby seemed fine during the day, but began screaming at night and could not move her leg. They took her to the emergency room.

X-rays showed the child had a fractured femur, and because there was callous around the fracture, doctors theorized that there had been earlier breaks that had already healed. She spent several days in the hospital and was examined twice more before the end of that March without any allegations of physical abuse, according to the court record.

Then on April 19, 1988, Sharif was alone with the child while McDowell was visiting with neighbors. Brittany stopped breathing.

"I took her to the bathroom, put her head on the basin and splashed water on her face," he told The Republic.

He and McDowell and other neighbors attempted CPR, he said, but the child died.

An autopsy showed that Brittany had a hematoma in her brain, fibroids in her ureter, and a hairline fracture in a vertebra. The medical examiner attributed the injuries to blunt-force trauma. Sharif was arrested within hours and charged with murder. And before he had even turned 20 years old, he was on death row in a prison in Carson City, Nevada.

Life on death row 'a lot of reflection'

Sharif speaks like a man with far more education than the GED he claims to have. He is calm and philosophical. Unlike certain other former death-row inmates, he does not seem cagey - or nervously uncaged.

He attributes this in part to the difference between Arizona death row and Nevada death row. In Arizona, death-row inmates are locked down 23 hours of the day, taken out only to shower or for recreation alone in another cell. The only contact they have with other people is with correctional officers and the inmates they can speak to through walls and vents.

"You have to be straight up with yourself and accept what you see."

In Nevada, Sharif says, the death-row prisoners are locked down only at night and can freely associate during the day, playing basketball and lifting weights in the yards.

But Sharif also found comfort in Islam.

"It was instrumental in helping me calm down," he told The Republic.

"People think religion will be the vehicle to obtain some kind of identity and become righteous," he said. "Now I look at it as pointing to something, showing you who you really are."

Life on death row, he said, is "a lot of reflection, a lot of talking to yourself. You have to be straight up with yourself and accept what you see."

He believes in the death penalty, says it fits in with his religious beliefs. "But," he said, "from what I've seen, it seems so random."

He professes innocence, though he lived for 29 years among convicted and condemned murderers. He recalled one prisoner serving a life sentence and thought, "You pleaded guilty to that, and I'm on death row?"

Like all defendants sentenced to death, Sharif's case bounced from state court to federal court and back again.

Once he was transported to the death house because of a paper mix-up. Always, he said, he felt like he was living on borrowed time.

He fought for a new trial, claiming, among other things, that his trial attorney was ineffective. In 2011, a U.S. District Court judge assigned the case to the Federal Public Defender in Nevada, who declared a conflict of interest and referred the case to the Arizona Public Defender.

It landed with Sandman and his co-counsel, Karen Smith.

Sandman went back to the beginning.

He consulted a 1962 landmark study in TheJournal of the American Medical Association that bore the title, "The Battered Child Syndrome." There he discovered that the syndrome had symptoms that "mimic" those of infantile scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency also called Barlow's disease. Though in earlier times scurvy was more common - among 18th century trans-Atlantic sailors, for example, who ate citrus fruit to stave it off - it is uncommon in developed nations in modern times.

The hemorrhaging, bone breaks and callous formation were all symptoms of scurvy, Sandman discovered. So he obtained Brittany's 1988 X-rays and took them to medical experts, who confirmed his suspicions. It could have been scurvy all along, and if so, the condition began before Sharif began living with McDowell.

"Scurvy in infancy results in unique, diagnostically determinative deformations in a child's bones that are visible on x-Ray," Sandman wrote in one of his court pleadings. "And scurvy frequently results in fractures in a child's long bones, like Brittany's femur. Moreover, as more particularly described below, scurvy results in hemorrhaging throughout the body, not uncommonly resulting in fractured bones, bleeding under the skin that resembles bruising, bleeding under the scalp, bleeding throughout the abdominal area, and subdural bleeding of the brain. All of these conditions were ultimately seen in Brittany at the time of her death as revealed on autopsy, and all are symptomatic of scurvy."

In 2013, a U.S. District Court judge thought Sandman had a point. But new evidence in a criminal case cannot be introduced in federal-court appeals if the case originated in state court. The federal judge sent it back to Nevada state court for an evidentiary hearing.

The Nevada trial judge rejected the case outright, so Sandman took it up to the Nevada Supreme Court the next year.

The justices wrote: "We are satisfied that Robins has presented specific factual allegations that, if true, would show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him of 1st-degree murder and child abuse beyond a reasonable doubt or found the single aggravating circumstance used to make him death eligible."

The court ordered the evidentiary hearing, and given the strong language, that would likely lead to a new trial.

Neither side wanted to go there.

In March of this year, Smith took Brittany's X-rays to state prosecutors. Prosecutors took them to their own expert, and then they started to negotiate.

Sandman says the Clark County DA's Office first offered a plea agreement to life without parole, then softened to life with chance of parole. When they finally offered a plea to 2nd-degree murder and time served, Sandman cut the deal.

'Cautiously optimistic'

Sharif was hopeful, but he was still in prison, uncertain what would happen.

On June 6, prison officials told him he was leaving. The next day, they walked him out the door into a prison van and drove him out to the prison parking lot.

Smith and Jeremy Voas, an investigator for the Federal Public Defender in Phoenix, were waiting for him there. When Sharif got in their car, Voas drove straight for the Utah border, partly to get Sharif out of Nevada before someone changed their mind, and partly to avoid driving past the building in Las Vegas where Brittany died.

Voas snapped photos of Sharif when they passed by Vermilion Cliffs in Utah. The sudden freedom shows in Sharif's face. He holds his arms outstretched and mugs for the camera, his mouth wide open.

They stopped for gas, and Sharif asked to pump. He used the restroom at the gas station and came out laughing. There were automatic flush toilets, automatic soap dispensers and faucets, an automatic paper-towel dispenser, things that didn't exist when he went away to prison.

"Why didn't you tell me about that?" he asked Voas.

Once in Phoenix, Sandman took him to Durant's restaurant. He ordered a Sprite. He spent the night at the downtown Westin Hotel and slept motionless in a foot-wide swath of a giant bed, unused to the luxury of space.

Over the next 3 days, staff at the Federal Public Defender's Office paraded in other former death-row denizens to counsel Sharif on the pitfalls of life on the outside after so many years on the inside.

Staff taught him how to use email, about smart phones. They held a luncheon for him in an office conference room. It was still the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and he decided to break the proscribed dawn-to-sunset fasting because the meal was in his honor.

Then, they put him on a flight to Washington.

Sharif doesn't know what lies ahead. He'd like to get job training in construction or welding or computer programming.

"I have a level of optimism," he said. "But I'm cautiously optimistic."

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Homeless Man Faces Capital Murder In Hollywood Stabbing----A 23-year-old homeless man faces the death penalty if convicted in Monday's stabbing death of a man in Hollywood

A homeless man was charged Thursday with capital murder for the stabbing death of a man in Hollywood. Alex Conn Vasquez, 23, was ordered to be held without bail while awaiting arraignment Friday in connection with the killing of Jimmy Bradford, 47, about 8 a.m. Monday near Hollywood Boulevard and Bronson Avenue.

Vasquez allegedly stabbed Bradford multiple times in the back after getting into an altercation with him, according to prosecutors.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with a knife use allegation.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office will decide later if it will seek the death penalty against Vasquez, arrested Tuesday by Los Angeles police.

(source: patch.com)

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

Sheriff's Department Believed It Had a Legal Right to Withhold Documents From The Court

The Sheriff's Department withheld documents from court disclosure, believing a section of the California penal code didn't require the department to turn them over, retired Sheriff's Lt. Catherine Irons testified Wednesday.

Judge Thomas Goethals has called for the ongoing hearing to determine whether or not he can trust the Sheriff's Department to turn over all the materials he subpoenaed in 2013, as part of his court's look into the Sheriff's use of jailhouse informants.

Irons, who retired from the department in 2015, said withholding documents was to protect the "safety and security" of the jail.

"In your experience, when a request was made for classification records like the TREDs, a unilateral decision was made, we don't give those out," said Goethals, questioning Irons.

"That's my understanding," Irons responded.

The hearing is an outgrowth of the case of Scott Evans Dekraai, a mass murderer who has admitted shooting to death 8 people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011. Goethals will determine if Dekraai's rights were so seriously violated by the use of informants that he can't receive the death penalty.

The involvement of an informant in Dekraai's case spawned a broad inquiry into what's known as the jailhouse snitch scandal, or how deputies moved and worked informants in the jail to gain confessions without the knowledge of defense attorneys and in violation of inmates’ constitutional rights.

Many insights into the use of informants has come from 2 sources, an electronic database on inmate movements known as TRED and the Special Handling log. The log is a trove of deputies' notes on their daily work, including their work with informants.

Although the defense subpoenaed those records in January 2013, it wasn't until late 2014 that the TRED system was disclosed and in 2016 that the 1,157 page Special Handling log - most of which remains under seal - was turned over to the court. Why it took so long for those documents to be disclosed, and whether there was an effort to hide them, is at the center of this court hearing.

2 Sheriff's deputies - who have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination - were admonished by Goethals for their testimony in previous hearings, where they avoided mentioning the TRED system when asked about them. Goethals said the deputies, Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia, "either intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence from this court."

Irons testified that when a subpoena was received, Sheriff's Department officials might exclude certain jail files on the basis that those documents are privileged under the penal code. Those documents were not turned over to County Counsel or the court.

That changed in 2014, Irons said.

"At some point...that penal code wasn't going to keep them out anymore. And so the change of direction was county counsel needed to have everything and they would discuss in court what was actually going to be disclosed or not," said Irons.

The Sheriff's Department has stated publicly that TRED records were never a secret and have always been discoverable in court.

While county counsel always objects to the release of TRED files on security and confidentiality grounds, "they've been discovered on numerous occasions," former Sheriff's spokesman Jeff Hallock told the ABA Journal in 2016.

Irons was also the 1st member of the Sheriff's command staff to say that she had reviewed the special handling log while a supervisor at the jail.

Both the lieutenant who started the Special Handling Log and the Sergeant who ended it have testified they never read the log until much later.

Although a version of the special handling log was ended in 2013, Irons said she started it again in 2014, unaware that one had existed before.

There was no mention Wednesday of an Orange County Grand Jury report released Tuesday which called the notion of a jailhouse snitch program in Orange County a "myth" exaggerated by the media.

The report said while there is legal use of informants in the jails, there's no systemic misuse of informants and any misconduct is largely confined to "a few rogue deputies" without the approval of officials up the chain of command.

Irons testified informant operations were common when she was a lieutenant and she decided to formalize the process in 2012 for outside agencies to request an operation.

Before the process was formalized, Irons said the captain of the facility was involved in approving most informant operations.

"I personally did not approve an operation in the jail without running it up the chain of command," Irons said.

In response to questions from Goethals, Irons said she never received any specific legal training about court cases that govern the use of informants in jails and protect defendants’ rights, such as Massiah vs. United States, Brady vs Maryland, and Illinois vs. Perkins.

Meanwhile, the families of Dekraai's victims have continued to attend the court hearings.

The outcome of the hearing could affect whether Goethals decides to throw out the death penalty or sentence Dekraai to 8 consecutive terms of life in prison.

The family of Michelle Daschbach Fast, 47, said they were opposed to the death penalty and were critical of how the case has been handled so far.

"Never did we imagine that the blunders that tainted this case would be created by the prosecution team themselves, on a case that was supposed to be a slam dunk," said Laura Daschbach, Michelle's sister, reading from a letter from the family.

"A life of appeals for everyone involved is the antithesis of justice," she added.

The family of another victim, Lucia Kondas, 65, wrote in a letter to the court that they supported the death penalty for Dekraai.

"I do not believe a self-confessed mass murder's [sic] rights should outweigh the rights of the victims and their families," wrote Mary Bianchi, Kondas' sister.

(source: voiceofoc.org)

RUSSIA:

Kremlin does not discuss cancellation of freeze on capital punishment

The Kremlin does not discuss the possibility Russia might lift the freeze on the capital punishment, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in reply to a question from TASS.

"No, there are no such discussions in the Kremlin," he said.

Earlier on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin twice mentioned the theme of the death penalty during his annual question-and-answer call-in. The question if a referendum should be called to find out the public's attitude to the restoration of the capital punishment was picked by the president himself.

"I imagine what the referendum's outcome will be. The question was if the death penalty should be applied to murderers, though," Putin said, avoiding to disclose his own attitude to this issue.

Also, Putin mentioned the death penalty in the context of reforms launched in the last years of the Russian Empire by its prime minister, Pyotr Stolypin, who is remembered not only for his positive role, but also for the 'Stolypin train cars' that were used for the forcible resettlement of peasants and the so-called 'Stolypin necktie', in other words, the noose."

"We do not use the capital punishment as you know, although sometimes ... You know what I mean," Putin said.

When it joined the Council of Europe in February 1996, Russia pledged to stop enforcing death penalties and to adopt a law cancelling the capital punishment altogether. In May 1996 a presidential decree was signed on step-by-step reduction of executions. A freeze on the enforcement of death sentences followed in August same year.

A new Criminal Code took effect on January 1, 1997 to establish the death penalty as an exceptional measure only grave crimes against other people's lives might entail, such as murder in aggravating circumstances, attempt on the life of a statesman or public figure, of a person who administers justice or carries out preliminary investigation, and of a law enforcement officer and genocide. In April 1997 Russia signed Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights to pledge to cancel the death penalty altogether. Russia is the sole member-country of the Council of Europe that has not ratified this Convention yet.

On February 2, 1999 the Constitutional Court declared a freeze on the capital punishment until the introduction of trial by jury in the whole of the country's territory. On November 19, 2009 the Constitutional Court prolonged the moratorium till Russia’s ratification of Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

(source: tass.com)

PAKISTAN:

EU Parliament slams Pakistan's human rights, slams capital punishment for for blasphemy

The European Parliament has criticised Pakistan's human rights record, and squarely reminded Islamabad that it has grossly erred in handing down capital punishment for those allegedly violating the nation's blasphemy law, in the excessive of military courts and in denying India consular access to former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on multiple occasions.

European Union Parliament members unanimously endorsed a resolution that criticised the abuse of capital punishment by Pakistan for fulfilling its political aims in trials related to civilians.

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty, the European Parliament members reiterated their strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances and called on Pakistan to reintroduce a moratorium on executions and commute all death sentences to various terms of imprisonment.

"Death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment and a miscarriage of justice," said one the members of the European Parliament.

Referring specifically to the Jadhav case, wherein he has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in April on charges of espionage and sabotage, the EU Parliament deplored the use of military courts for holding hearings in camera and sought an assurance from the Government of Pakistan to reverse the decision to the extent military courts should apply their jurisdiction only on breaches of military discipline, and that too, only those committed by military personnel.

The European Parliament resolution also insisted that authorities in Pakistan should grant access to international observers and human rights organisations for purposes of monitoring the use of military courts and strengthen the civilian judiciary in line with international standards on judicial proceedings.

As India was denied consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistan, the resolution underscored that "third country nationals brought to trial, must be allowed access to consular services and protection."

The European Parliament reminded Islamabad of its obligation to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of thought and freedom of expression and other international and regional human rights instruments.

Expressing its grave concern about the recent mass trials leading to a vast number of death sentences, the resolution sought an immediate and definitive end to such practices, which violate international human rights standards.

Stressing about the prevailing situation regarding human rights violation in Pakistan, the resolution said ,"Several minority people have been killed and persecuted because they are not being protected by the government and death penalty are the tools for setting personal vendetta or to suppress minorities."

The European Parliament said that the death penalty is incompatible with values such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, on which the Union is founded, and that any member state reintroducing the death penalty would, therefore, be in violation of the Treaties and of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The European Parliament then instructed its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Commission Vice-President, EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Government and Parliament of Pakistan and the Secretary-General of the United Nations for further deliberation and action.

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

Concerned over alarming rate of execution in Pak after flawed

The European Parliament (EP) has expressed "deep concern" over the "alarming rate of executions" based on "flawed trials" in Pakistan and deplored the use of its military courts that hold secret hearings and have civilian jurisdiction.

Significantly, the EP resolution came today, days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stayed the death sentence given to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, by a Pakistan army court for alleged "involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan".

India moved the ICJ, describing the charges against Jadhav as "concocted" and his trial as "farcical".

"Parliament is deeply concerned at the alarming rate of executions in Pakistan following flawed trials, including of minors and persons with mental disabilities, some of which are carried out while appeals are still under way," the resolution said.

The European Parliament during its meeting in Brussels also called on Pakistan to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty, with the ultimate goal of full abolition.

"The EP deplores the use in Pakistan of military courts that hold hearing in secret and have civilian jurisdiction; insists that the Pakistani authorities grant access to international observers and human rights organisations for purposes of monitoring the use of military courts," the resolution said.

It also called for an "immediate and transparent transition to independent civilian courts in line with international standards on judicial proceedings; underscores that third-country nationals brought to trial must be allowed access to consular services and protection".

The EP resolution also mentioned Jadhav's case and said he was convicted by a military court in April 2017 and sentenced to death and the case was currently before the ICJ on the grounds that he was denied consular access rights.

It also noted that Pakistan entered the "Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)", which provides it with benefits from generous tariff preferences, and it should provide a strong incentive to respect core human and labour rights, the environment and good governance principles.

The resolution also made it clear that the GSP status was "conditional and the effective implementation of international conventions is an essential requirement under the scheme."

(source for both dnaindia.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Reimposing death penalty is the red line to EU, warns Ed Angara

The reimposition of the death penalty may cost the Philippines the duty-free privileges it enjoys from European Union (EU) member-states, the country's special envoy to the regional group said Friday.

"I think the most damaging to us is the reimposition of the death penalty. To me, that's the red line to them," former Senator Edgardo Angara, special envoy to the European Union, said in an interview on ANC.

The Generalized System of Preferences+ (GSP+) is based on ratification and compliance with international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and good governance.

"We will automatically lose our trade preferences with Europe, and that's damaging to coastal and countryside development, especially in Mindanao," Angara added.

The Philippines is among the countries that benefit from the EU's GSP+.

The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of some 6,000 eligible products to the EU market.

In the 1st 6 months of 2015, Philippine exports to the EU under GSP+ increased by 27 %, from 584 million euros to 743 million euros.

The possibility of the Philippines losing this economic privilege was brought up in January when several European leaders echoed international concern over President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Last May, Duterte said Manila would rather snub aid from EU amounting to P13.8 billion than allow EU members from interfering with his administration's domestic affairs.

Malacanang later on clarified that the government will only refuse to accept grants that come with conditions amounting to interference.

EU reviews Philippine trade perks tied to human rights

WITHDRAW DEATH PENALTY PROMISE?

Angara, who was tasked to "trouble shoot" the friction between the Philippines and the EU, said Duterte will likely change his mind about the reimposition of the death penalty should its repercussions be explained to him thoroughly.

"When a subject is thoroughly explained to him, he changes his mind, he changes his objectionable remarks," Angara said.

"In the case of the Speaker and the House, they follow the instruction and the inclination of the president. If the president requests..., his political allies will follow suit," Angara, a veteran lawmaker, said.

He said the declaration of martial law in Mindanao after fighting in Marawi City is not expected to trigger the halting of economic benefits from the EU as Europeans "understand" why military rule is needed to combat terror threats.

"The whole of EU, from London to Paris, Belgium, Netherlands, are terrorized and intimidated by this new extremism. They will understand that (martial law is needed)," he said.

But Angara said the police and military should be "careful about the enforcement of peace and order" in order to ensure the international community that human rights will not be violated while the southern part of the country is under martial law.

(source: ABS-CBN News)

MALAYSIA:

Man charged with murder of his estranged wife

A man who caused the death of his estranged wife by torching her last month, was charged with the murder at the magistrate's court here today.

However, no plea was recorded from accused V. Mathiyalagan, 46, when the charge was read to him before magistrate Adibah Husna Zainal Abidin.

He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Mathiyalagan committed the offence at a house No 626, Lorong Fairuz 3, Taman Arked here about noon on May 26.

Deputy public prosecutor Nurul Faraheen Yahya prosecuted and the accused was unrepresented.

The court set Aug 10, for mention pending an autopsy report.

It was reported that in the incident, Mathiyalagan had allegedly hurled Molotov cocktails at his wife R. Ratna, 44, who was cooking at her house.

The mother of 3 was rushed to Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital for burn but died 2 weeks later.

(source: New Straits Times)

JUNE 15, 2017:

TEXAS:

Execution halted for man who murders lady realtor in model home

A Texas man facing the death penalty for the stabbing murder of a real estate agent saw his own life spared, at least temporarily.

Kosul Chanthakoummane, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 19 after 9 years on death row, was granted a stay of execution last week. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order and sent the man's case back to the Collin County trial court to review discredited forensic science claims, reported the Texas Tribune.

Chanthakoummane, 36, was convicted in 2007 in the stabbing death of Dallas-area real estate agent Sarah Walker. Walker's body was discovered in a model home by a couple coming to view the property on July 8, 2006. Walker had been stabbed 33 times and had a bite mark on her neck.

Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails linked Chanthakoummane to the scene of the crime and he was arrested nearly 2 months later.

Chanthakoummane reportedly claimed his car had broken down nearby and cuts on his hand had bled, explaining his blood at the murder scene.

A jury convicted him of murder after 30 minutes of deliberation, based largely on the DNA evidence, according to the Dallas News. During the trial, state prosecutors presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker's neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.

However, in 2016, a White House report concluded that forensic bite-mark evidence was not scientifically valid, reports the Texas Tribune.

An extremely successful real estate agent and mother of 2, the 40-year-old Walker was showing the high-end model home alone when she was attacked. Chanthakoummane was living with relatives in Dallas after being released on parole in North Carolina. He had been convicted of aggravated robbery and kidnapping after he and a friend held 2 women at gunpoint before stealing a car and leading police on a chase when he was 16, reported the Dallas News.

The Rolex watch Walker had purchased the night before and a ring she was wearing had been stolen. The Dallas News reported that, at his murder trial, Chanthakoummane's attorneys admitted he stabbed Walker but that he didn't deserve the death penalty because it was a robbery that "didn't go the right way."

(source: crimeonline.com)

PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Jury sentences Leeton Thomas to death for stabbing deaths of a mother and her teen daughter

Leeton Thomas, 40, should pay with his life for the vicious murders of a mother and her teen daughter who accused him of sexual molestation, a jury ruled Wednesday night.

At the verdict, Thomas nodded slightly but looked straight ahead.

Lisa Scheetz, 44, and her daughter, Hailey, 16, died of severe stab wounds in the early hours of June 11, 2015 as they were watching a Netflix movie in their basement apartment in East Drumore Township.

The death sentence came a day after the jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted Thomas of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and a count of attempted homicide for severely stabbing a younger daughter who survived the attack.

The girl, now 17, testified at the trial that Thomas, who was a neighbor and a former family friend, was the attacker.

The prosecution alleged that Thomas entered through a window and sprang upon the unsuspecting family, stabbing forcefully. The defense contended he was at home in bed at the time of the attack.

After the jury announced the verdict, Kim Scheetz, who lost his daughter and former wife, said, "I'm totally happy."

"It's what I wanted," he added. "It's not going to bring my family back, but he got what he deserved."

The verdict came after a day of testimony by family members and friends seeking to spare Thomas' life.

"I gave him life," said Thomas' mother, Sharon Frances Campbell, 58, her voice quavering on the witness stand earlier Wednesday. "I'm begging you, please save him. Please."

The jury also heard from other family members, friends and neighbors who described Thomas, a father of 4, as a helpful, hard-working, self-sacrificing and church-going family man.

The jury returned with the death sentence at 7:50 p.m. after deliberating for about 3 3/4 hours.

Family members of the victim and defendant filled the gallery, but they abided by President Judge Dennis Reinaker's warning not to react.

9 deputy sheriffs stood at various spots around Courtroom 8 where the 6-day trial took place.

Jury polled

Defense counsel asked that the jury members be polled.

The judge had each of the 12 jurors to stand individually and say whether they agreed with the verdict.

Each rose and answered, "Yes, I do."

After being handcuffed, Thomas looked back at his family and, smiling, said, "See you guys. It's not over."

Thomas becomes the 8th Lancaster County resident on death row and the 1st since Jakeem Towles was sentenced to death in May 2012 for the 2010 slaying of a hip-hop musician in Columbia.

No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999. 2 years ago, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a moratorium on the death penalty, calling the system "error prone, expensive and anything but infallible."

In his closing argument Wednesday, a prosecutor said Thomas deserves to die because of 5 so-called aggravating circumstances that made the slayings especially heinous, including murdering the Scheetzes to prevent them from testifying against him in a sexual molestation case.

"Everyone can sympathize with the defendant's" family and friends, First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen said.

Testimony: 'Shoot me in the head,' double-homicide suspect Leeton Thomas told trooper after arrest

"That, however, is the one who caused all of this," Larsen said, pointing at Thomas. "Any tears that are shed are a result of his actions."

The defense argued that mitigating circumstances, including the poverty and abuse Thomas endured growing up in Jamaica, are reasons Thomas deserves a sentence of life in prison instead of death. He also had no significant previous convictions.

In addition, Thomas as a lifer can continue to be a source of love and support for his children and others, defense attorney Samuel Encarnacion said.

"Don't punish his children," Encarnacion implored the jury.

'Rage, vengeance' fueled East Drumore double slaying, prosecutor tells jury as Leeton Thomas trial opens

In morning testimony, Campbell, Thomas' mother, said her son often went hungry while being raised by his grandfather and aunts in a remote corner of Jamaica. She said the short time Thomas lived with her in Kingston, Jamaica's capital, he was beaten by his stepfather and saw him batter her.

She said her son, while a baby, developed a droopy eyelid that doctors couldn't correct. He was mocked at school, she said, because of the defect.

Years later, after she left her abusive husband, Thomas paid her rent, Campbell said. She said his generosity surprised her.

"I wasn't a mother to him," she explained. "I didn't take care of him. I wasn't there for him."

But Thomas was there for her, she said, "when I needed him the most."

Dr. Jerome Gottlieb, a psychiatrist, testified that Thomas suffered from depression after a ruptured pituitary gland in June 2013 left him blind in 1 eye and with half vision in the other.

Gottlieb said Thomas was no longer allowed to drive and had a harder time supporting his family as a construction worker.

Thomas' mother-in-law, Elizabeth Absher of Cleveland, Tennessee, described Thomas, who everyone knew as Pie, as a "deeply spiritual man" who shared his Christian faith with others and never hesitated to reach out to someone who was struggling.

Absher's 20-year-old twin sons, Christopher and Ben, students at Lee College, described happy vacations twice a year visiting Thomas and his family in Pennsylvania.

"He's that person I know who enriches people's lives when he's around them," Christopher Absher said.

Also Wednesday, Frankie Thomas, 18, said Thomas adopted him when he was in 4th grade, and he became the caring father figure that had been missing in his life.

Encarnacion showed the jury photos of Thomas' other children, ages 16, 6 and 5.

And Samantha Fusco, 26, said she lived with the Thomases off and on since she was 12 because her parents failed to care for her.

"He's my dad," Fusco said of Thomas. "He's been there for me ever since he got married to Donna."

"He was always so happy and welcoming and warm," she added, tearing up.

Legal protections

In his closing, prosecutor Larsen said Thomas as a defendant had the advantages of a legal system that protected his rights, including the right to present witnesses who had good things to say about him.

But nobody was able to go into the Scheetzes' living room before they were stabbed to death, Larsen said, "and say, 'Lisa is my mom, and she's been an excellent mom, and I don't want you to kill her.'"

"The defendant can still see his family," Larsen said. The Scheetz family "can never see Lisa or Hailey again."

Larsen stressed the significance of a deterrence to those who would kill witnesses to escape justice.

"Allowing that to happen dismantles the entire criminal justice system," Larsen said.

One juror dabbed her eyes as Encarnacion reviewed the testimony of Thomas' family members. They had described him as a positive and generous force in their lives.

"The one big fact in this case," Encrnacion said, "is that tumor," causing Thomas to suffer significant vision loss.

Encarnacion suggested that the tumor changed Thomas. Witnesses said he had been an easy-going, nonviolent person, and they could not believe he was charged with murder.

"As flawed as he is," Encarnacion said of Thomas, he is made "of flesh and blood, with a beating heart."

He said jurors will think back about the case and say to themselves, "I chose life because that is what I was taught as a human being."

(source: lancasteronline.com)

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

York City double murderer's death sentence overturned

A York City man convicted more than 2 decades ago of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her current beau in a jealous rage has succeeded in having his death sentence overturned by a York County judge.

Milton Matos Montalvo, 54, and his brother, 52-year-old Noel Matos Montalvo, were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the April 19, 1998, slayings of Milton Montalvo's ex, Miriam Asencio, and her friend, Manuel Santana. At the time, Santana was using the name Nelson Lugo.

But last month, a York County judge threw out Milton Montalvo's death sentence.

A date for a new penalty-phase hearing has not yet been set, according to online court records.

Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn, in a May 22 order, ruled Milton Montalvo didn't receive a fair penalty phase during his 2000 trial and therefore deserves a new one.

Renn dismissed many of the murderer's claims, including those that argued he deserved a new trial altogether.

Mitigation case at issue: But the judge was swayed by several arguments, according to his order, which states that Milton Montalvo's defense attorney failed to present an effective mitigation case.

In Pennsylvania death-penalty cases, the prosecution cites aggravating factors to warrant a capital sentence, while the defense cites mitigating circumstances to argue for a life sentence. Jurors must then determine which of the factors they will consider and weigh the aggravators against the mitigators.

Specifically, Renn wrote that the court's denial of a defense request for funds to hire a mental-health expert - coupled with the defense attorney's failure to "properly explore" the issue of Milton Montalvo's possible emotional distress - deprived the defendant of a fair sentencing.

Renn also listed a 3rd reason for granting a new penalty phase. He noted in his order that the prosecution made "pervasive" references to the jury that their punishment determination was merely a "recommendation."

Renn noted the trial judge reinforced that erroneous notion to jurors, and defense counsel failed to object to those references.

Daniel Rendine was the defense attorney at Milton Montalvo's trial, and Common Pleas Judge Sheryl Ann Dorney, now deceased, presided.

After the murders, the Montalvo brothers fled to Florida and were eventually captured. At their separate trials, they blamed each other for the killings.

The murders: The Montalvos broke into Asencio's apartment at 233 E. Philadelphia St. and attacked her and Santana.

Asencio suffered multiple skull fractures. Her neck was slashed down to the spine, nearly decapitating her, and she was stabbed in the eye.

Her panties were pulled over her face and a high-heeled shoe was jammed into her crotch area, according to trial testimony.

Santana was killed by a single stab wound to the chest. A tube of lipstick had been jammed down his throat - forcefully enough that it cut the back of his throat, a forensic pathologist testified at trial.

(source: York Dispatch)

FLORIDA:

Judge orders new sentence for "Xbox murders" ringleader

2 men sentenced to death for one of the Daytona Beach area's grizzliest massacres have been ordered to have new sentencing hearings.

7th Judicial Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III, on Wednesday, ordered new hearings for Troy Victorino and Jerone Lamar Hunter because none of the 4 death sentences they each received were based on unanimous recommendations from jurors.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last year that death sentences from juries have to be unanimous, and anyone sentenced after a 2002 ruling could be eligible for a new sentence.

That ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court, in January 2016, struck down Florida's sentencing scheme for death penalty cases because, among other things, sentencing was left up to a judge after a jury delievered a recommendation in the penalty phase of the trial.

Victorino and Hunter were both convicted of 6 counts of 1st-degree murder in 2006 for their parts in what were called "the Xbox murders."

They each received 2 life sentences for the murders of 4 separate victims and the death penalty for killing the other victims.

Victorino and Hunter, and their 2 co-defendants, Michael Anthony Sala and Robert Anthony Cannon broke into a home in Deltona and beat 4 men and 2 women to death with baseball bats. Many of the victims were also stabbed.

Victorino was portrayed by prosecutors as the ringleader in the attacks.

(source: St. Augustine Record)

PHILIPPINES/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Parents of Filipina on UAE death row hope for acquittal

Their dreams for a good life dashed, the parents of Jennifer Dalquez, the Filipina on death row in the United Arab Emirates, are just hoping their daughter returns alive and able to start life anew at their impoverished community in General Santos City, Philippines.

"All she really wants now is to go back home to be with her children and us her parents," Rajima, Dalquez's mother, told Asian Correspondent at their house, located just a stone's throw away from a mosque where family members and friends often offer prayers for her freedom.

Dalquez left her 2 children - Mohajid, 8, and Abdurahim, 5 - to seek greener pastures for her family in the Gulf country when they were just 2-years-old and 7-months-old, respectively.

She hasn't come home since and the 2 children were left to the care of her parents. Her father drives a passenger tricycle (motorcycle with a cab) while her mother is a housewife. Her husband is also a tricycle driver.

Dalquez works as a helper at a clinic in Al Ain, an inland oasis city on the eastern border with Oman, her parents said.

In December 2014, a month before she was due home, she decided to find an extra job to earn some extra bucks. But fate changed things. At her new workplace, her male employer allegedly tried to rape her at knife-point. The 30-year-old woman managed to fight and kill him with a knife in what she claimed in court was an act of self-defence.

Dalquez was jailed and eventually sentenced to death by the United Arab Emirates Court of First Instance in April 2015.

"Save Jennifer Dalquez' Life," a social media group pushing for her acquittal, reported that the deceased employer's 2 sons did not attend court hearings to swear in the name of Allah that Dalquez murdered their father.

On May 31, Dalquez swore before the court in the name of Allah that she killed her employer in self-defence.

The UAE court will decide this June 19 on Dalquez’s appeal for an acquittal.

Dalquez's parents were able to see her twice in prison with the help of the Philippine government and non-government organisations, including Migrante International.

Her parents have also sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte to appeal for her clemency.

She's being treated well inside the prison, her parents said, noting that Dalquez has become closer to Allah while serving time there. They showed Asian Correspondent prizes that Dalquez had won in Quran-reading competitions inside the jail.

"We are looking forward to see her. We have faith in Allah that she will be acquitted so that she can return home and take care of her children," Abdulhamid, Dalquez's father, told Asian Correspondent.

"It's no longer important if we will remain poor as long as we can be together again," he added.

Dalquez is the family's breadwinner. Before she was jailed, she regularly sent money to her parents for their needs as well as for her children's. She also extended financial assistance to her siblings, who are all mostly poor. Dalquez is the third in a brood of 7.

Rajima was almost in tears when she recounted what Dalquez's youngest son told her, which was:

"I hope to see my mother and for her to bring and fetch me at school like my classmates who have their mothers at their side."

Dalquez had many dreams for her children, including for her parents who had sacrificed a lot so she could go abroad, before she left the country 6 years ago. One of her dreams is to buy a house at a subdivision so they could live away from the slums.

"We had to sell our chickens and ducks in the farm so we can send money while she stayed in Manila while waiting to work abroad," her mother said.

Her parents, both 53, no longer till the farm in another province planted with various crops as it was pawned to somebody rich due to their financial necessities.

What awaits Dalquez, should she win the acquittal and gain passage home, is her parents' small pop-and-mom store in their poor neighborhood, which barely sustains their daily needs.

"We put everything to Allah's will," Abdulhamid said.

(source: asiancorrespondent.com)

IRAN:

Parliamentary Committee Blocks Security Agencies' Attempts to Significantly Delay Death Penalty Amendment

A Parliamentary committee in Iran has blocked an attempt by security agencies to delay for a year a parliamentary vote on an amendment that could drastically reduce death penalty sentences for drug-related crimes.

"Unfortunately, some security and government agencies wrote a letter requesting that the final vote be delayed for a year," Hassan Norouzi, a member of Parliament and spokesman for the Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee, told the Shargh newspaper on June 13, 2017.

"We explained to Parliament's secretariat that there was no reason to put this bill on hold," he said. "The committee worked on it with legal experts for 6 months. It is a good, solid plan."

"If (opponents) have something to say, they should say it on the parliamentary floor as government representatives and we will give our replies," added Norouzi.

When asked where the letter originated from, Norouzi said it was written by authorities "involved in (fighting) drugs."

Legislators were scheduled to deliberate an amendment to the Law Against Drug Trafficking on June 7, but the letter by the security authorities resulted in the final vote being delayed until mid-July, when members of Parliament (MPs) return from their summer break.

If approved by Parliament and the Guardian Council, the amendment could spare the lives of 4,000 out of the 5,000 prisoners currently on death row in Iran for drug-trafficking related crimes by making the death penalty only applicable for "organized drug lords," "armed traffickers," "repeat offenders" and "bulk drug distributors."

"Those who wanted the vote to be postponed for a year argued that the committee had not worked hard enough on the amendment," Norouzi told Shargh on June 7.

He continued: "In fact, we drafted it after discussions with the prosecutor's office, with authorities fighting against illicit drugs, the police and the Interior Ministry. If they have something to say, they should join the deliberations and tell legislators why they oppose the proposal. Then it will be up to the people's representatives to decide. It was wrong to stop the proposal from being voted on, but we held some talks and it was decided to put it back on the voting track."

Norouzi refused to identify any agencies by name, but the Iran Drug Control Headquarters (IDCH) has been a strong opponent of removing the death penalty as a punishment for low-level drug crimes.

Earlier this year, the IDCH's Legal Affairs director Ali Alizadeh said stopping the amendment from being ratified was a "top priority" and called on the judiciary to intervene.

"Organized crime and drug enforcement experts believe if these unbalanced and unscientific reforms are implemented under the guise of human rights, society will be struck by a great wave of drug and other related crimes," said Alizadeh on February 5, 2017.

Proponents of limiting the death penalty have pointed out the political and social costs of maintaining one of the highest per-capita execution rates in the world.

At least 567 people were executed in Iran in 2016, down 42 % from the 977 who were in executed in 2015.

"The majority of executions are for drug-trafficking crimes and the Western countries and international organizations are taking political advantage of (the situation)," said MP Ezatollah Yousefian, in a parliamentary debate on November 23, 2016.

"This is extremely costly for our country," he added. "Those who are being condemned to death are not traffickers in the true sense. The real traffickers are those who are managing the drug trade from hotels rooms in Ankara and Istanbul."

In September 2016, the deputy director of the judiciary's Human Rights Headquarters, Kazem Gharibabadi, said "About 93 % of the executions in Iran are related to drugs."

A staunch opponent of limiting executions, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani has advocated for the death penalty to be carried out at a faster pace.

"We don't think that the laws concerning drug trafficking are revelations from God. They are man-made laws that have not had perfect results. But it's wrong to say that executions have had no effect," said Larijani on September 29, 2016. "If the Judiciary had not been strict, we would have been in a far worse situation."

However, some hardliners have begun admitting that the death penalty has failed as a preventative measure against drug trafficking.

"We are looking to see what punishments can replace executions with greater effectiveness for certain criminals," said Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi on October 29, 2016.

"Of course, the death penalty will still be enforced, but not to the extent we have today," he added.

(source: iranhumanrights.org)

EGYPT:

pproves death penalty for human organ traffickers

Health Minister Ahmed Emad al-Din said on Tuesday that the Parliament has approved the draft law introduced from his ministry that aims to stricken punitive measures against human organ traffickers.

The new law will enforce strict punitive measures against human organ traffickers, including aggravated imprisonment and the death penalty.

In his speech at a press conference, Emad al-Din clarified that Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Esmail approved to reestablish a specialized committee that will be assigned to activate the new law.

"We have changed 6 articles in the law," al-Din said. "The doctor's assistant who is supervising the transplantation of stolen human organs will be imprisoned and fined LE2 million."

In 2016, the Egyptian Administrative Control Authority (EACA) detected the largest international network for human organ trafficking, which consists of university professors, doctors, nurses and workers at medical centers and hospitals, as well as intermediaries and brokers.

The network takes advantage of the poor economic conditions of some Egyptians by 'buying' organs for a small price, while profiting exorbitantly.

The EACA stated that millions of dollars and Egyptian pounds have been seized from defendants generated from their trafficking of human organs.

(source: Egypt Independent)

JUNE 14, 2017:

FLORIDA:

Florida conservatives are rethinking the death penalty

A network of conservatives who are questioning the alignment of capital punishment with their conservative principles are holding a news conference to officially announce the group's formation.

The press conference will take place in front of the Orange County Courthouse on Wednesday, June 14, at 11:00 AM.

The announcement comes after hundreds of death row cases will be returning to Florida courts for resentencing because Florida's death penalty had been ruled unconstitutional. These returning cases could overwhelm Florida courts and cost the state millions of dollars. Speakers at the press conference will call on Florida state attorneys to settle these cases and avoid the costly process of seeking death, as well as call for the ultimate repeal of Florida's death penalty.

"The death penalty process is far too costly, cumbersome, and error-prone to continue," said James Purdy, 7th Judicial Circuit Public Defender. "Given that Florida has wrongly convicted and eventually released more people from their death row (27) than any other state, the stakes are far too high."

Florida is part of a nationwide trend of conservatives re-thinking capital punishment.

"A growing number of conservative Floridians have concluded that the death penalty violates our core conservative tenets of valuing life, fiscal responsibility, and limited

(source: WOFL news)

OHIO:

I-75 shooter Terry Froman found guilty; could face death penalty

An Illinois man has been found guilty of kidnapping his former girlfriend and then shooting her to death in 2014 in the back of his SUV as he drove along Interstate 75 near Middletown. The Warren County jury returned the verdict minutes ago against Terry Froman, 43, and found him guilty of aggravated murder with special specifications, meaning he can face the death penalty for 34-year-old Kim Thomas's death.

The verdict comes after 3 days of testimony in Judge Joseph Kirby's courtroom.

The jury deliberated 2 hours before returning the verdict, according to court officials.

Sentencing phase for Froman, who could receive the death penalty, will begin Thursday morning.

Froman's killing of Thomas came after he shot and killed her son, Eli, in her Mayfield, Ky. home, then forced her into his SUV. It ended with Froman shooting himself in the leg and shooting Thomas 3 times as police closed in on the vehicle on Sept. 12, 2014.

(source: Journal-News)

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

Guilty verdict in Warren County kidnapping, murder trial----Terry Froman convicted of killing ex-girlfriend

A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her teenage son was found guilty Tuesday on aggravated murder and kidnapping charges.

Terry Froman was convicted of killing Kim Thomas, 34. He's also accused of killing Michael Mohney, 17, in September 2014.

Authorities said after Froman shot the teenager multiple times, he drove nearly 400 miles north into Ohio, killing his ex-girlfriend, Thomas, along the way.

Prosecutors said Thomas was killed when state troopers pulled over Froman's SUV in Warren County.

The sentencing phase begins Thursday morning. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Froman is eligible for the death penalty.

(source: WLWT news)

INDIANA:

Experts say Court of Appeals ruling leaves death penalty in limbo

The death penalty in Indiana cannot be carried out as of June 1. That's the day a Court of Appeals panel declared the lethal injection cocktail adopted by the Department of Correction "void and without effect" because the agency enacted its execution protocol without hearings or public input.

Legal experts from Indiana's law schools said the decision casts uncertainty on the death penalty going forward, though they said by no means is the court's ruling a moratorium on future executions.

"We're at least 18 months to 2 years before anything happens" in terms of the state adopting a new execution protocol, predicted Valparaiso University Law School Dean Andrea D. Lyon, who's written several books and scholarly articles on the death penalty. She explained that for the DOC to continue to carry out executions, it's left with 2 options - seek to appeal the decision to the Indiana Supreme Court or begin the administrative rulemaking process. Neither of those processes would quickly resolve how Indiana executes death row inmates.

"I would be surprised if the Indiana Supreme Court took the case," Lyon said. "It's a pretty clear administrative ruling that follows a lot of precedent and a lot of common sense ... even though it's on a volatile subject."

"We are disappointed with the Court of Appeals' decision," said Corey Elliot, spokesman for Attorney General Curtis Hill, after the panel ruled in Roy Lee Ward v. Robert E. Carter, Jr., Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, and Ron Neal, Superintendent of the Indiana State Prison, in their official capacities, 46A03-1607-PL-1685. "At this point, we are closely reviewing the case, consulting with our client agency and considering all possible options, one of which is to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to review the case."

The COA reversed LaPorte Circuit Judge Thomas J. Alevizos' dismissal of a death row inmate's civil case. Judge John Baker wrote for the court that the Legislature did not explicitly exempt the DOC from the Administrative Rules and Procedure Act, so it must conduct public hearings and accept public comments in formulating an agency rule on how the state will carry out executions.

Administrative review could present the DOC with more political than practical problems, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor David Orentlicher and other experts said. An administrative rules procedure would compel DOC to propose its execution protocol, which would then be subject to public hearings, public comment, and heightened scrutiny.

"Part of the reason it's become difficult to execute is public sentiment has shifted so much," Orentlicher said. He and others noted Americans are no longer solidly in favor of capital punishment, and some surveys have shown an even divide or a majority who disfavor the death penalty. Botched executions and wrongful convictions in the news in recent months are part of the reason support for lethal injection has declined, he said.

Meanwhile, Orentlicher said companies don't want to be known as manufacturers of drugs used as part of the lethal-injection cocktail, and fewer physicians are willing to assist in administering a fatal dose.

Racial bias and other factors also play a role in declining support for the death penalty, he said, and studies show executions are not always reserved for those cases deemed "the worst of the worst."

Among other things, "It depends on the prosecutor, the jury, and how good your defense lawyer is," he said. "What we're finding is, it turns on inappropriate factors, who gets the death penalty."

Notre Dame Law School professor Rick Garnett also noted the ruling came against the backdrop of ongoing debate about the death penalty generally, and lethal injection in particular. Nevertheless, he said the DOC could adopt the same lethal injection protocol that the COA voided, which includes a drug never used in a U.S. execution, as long as it does so in accordance with ARPA.

"Even if the ruling stands, it does not directly limit Indiana's ability to impose capital punishment but instead only requires the development of rules," Garnett said.

Still, he said, "Several high-profile cases have reminded the public that the mere fact lethal injections appear clinical and 'modern' does not mean they are humane. Many have argued that far greater care is needed by state officials and prison administrators to make sure that, assuming capital punishment continues, condemned criminals do not suffer painfully and unconstitutionally."

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Joseph Hoffmann doubts the ruling will have long-term implications for the death penalty in Indiana. "The Indiana Court of Appeals basically said if the Department of Correction wants to make a new protocol for a lethal injection drug, it needs to be treated as an agency rule" rather than as a policy, as the state had argued. "It doesn't say anything at all about the merits. ... The agency is free in the end to make whatever decision it thinks is the right decision."

Even so, he noted, "Right now, obviously, nationwide, these drug protocols are getting all kinds of scrutiny."

Indiana's voided formulation - a never-before-tried drug called methohexital (known by the brand name Brevital), along with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - was adopted internally by DOC and disclosed some time later.

Before Steve Creason, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General's chief counsel of appeals, could begin his defense of the DOC's protocol during oral arguments last month, he faced a hypothetical about the state's means of execution from presiding Judge Baker.

"So, you have a press conference tomorrow and you say, 'You know what we're going to use? We're going to use water.' Is that OK?"

"Yes," Creason said, before clarifying, "That probably wouldn't meet legal requirements related to cruel and unusual punishment."

Roy Lee Ward, the plaintiff in this case, was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County. According to the DOC's website, there are 12 men on Indiana's death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. One of the men, Wayne Kubsch, had his conviction and sentence tossed out last year by the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and is awaiting retrial. A woman on Indiana death row is housed in Ohio.

Representing Ward, Fort Wayne attorney David Frank said the state sought to characterize Ward's suit as an attempt to bar the death penalty, which he said wasn't the case. No executions are currently scheduled.

The DOC "was trying to issue a new lethal injection protocol by themselves that has never been used," Frank said. "Before we execute a human being in manner that's never been done before in the history of country, maybe we should have some public discussion on it."

Lyon noted more states have abandoned the death penalty, and there isn't the political danger there once was for politicians to oppose capital punishment. "Indiana," she noted, "is alone in the 7th Circuit with the death penalty."

(source: The Indiana Lawyer)

OKLAHOMA:

Death penalty not a contradiction

A recent letter listed reasons against the death penalty ("Opposes death penalty," May 27). The reasons given, and a lot more, have been considered over and over in every state that has the death penalty. But it is not a "direct contradiction of Christianity."

"Thou shalt not kill" does not take the authority away from the state. It refers to the criminal act of murder. Yes, Christ's death for all sin, past, present and future does cover the sin of murder, but not the consequences.

Tragically, innocent people have been sentenced to death. No one found guilty of murder ought to be sentenced to die if there is even a slight possibility, a reasonable doubt, regarding mistaken identity.

The cost to taxpayers due to appeals procedures is ridiculous.

Many of lifers have killed innocent prison guards and inmates. Yes, they can pose a threat to society.

In a capital crime, any prosecuting attorney who in closing arguments says, "He that is without sin, case the first stone" would deserve a complaint to the bar association. Forgiveness is up to the victim's family, not the jury.

States provide public defenders to those who can't afford a lawyer. They offer every reason possible to spare the life of the person convicted, giving no regard to the wishes of the victim's family.

The few who are sentenced to die are usually better off dead than alive.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Cliff Hjelm----Tulsa World)

ARIZONA:

Murder Trail Begins for Woman in Abuse Death of Young Cousin

A trial has started for an Arizona woman charged with murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl who was locked in a small plastic storage box that was left outside overnight in the middle of summer.

Opening statements began Monday in the death penalty case against Sammantha Allen, a cousin of victim Ame Deal.

Allen is accused of helping her husband, John Allen, lock Deal in the box in July 2011. Deal suffocated and was found dead the next day as temperatures surpassed 100 degrees.

Authorities say the couple forced Deal to stand outside and do exercises against a wall then forced her into the bin with a lid that was closed and locked by John Allen.

The bin only had small holes near the handles for air, Maricopa County Deputy County Attorney Jeannette Gallagher told jurors.

In her opening statement, Gallagher also quoted Sammantha Allen as telling police, "'I didn't even wake up to go unlock it, and I thought about it.'"

Allen's attorney argued the form of punishment was commonplace in the household and was done at the request of Deal's aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, her legal guardian.

The defense argued that Sammantha Allen was almost certainly guilty of child abuse but not murder.

Authorities allege Deal's death came after a long history of abuse at the hands of multiple relatives. When she died. Deal lived with at least 10 adults and children in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home.

Witnesses on Monday described the Phoenix house as dirty and unkempt, smelling of urine with trash and bugs on the floor.

Retired Phoenix Police Officer Albert Salaiz, who was the first officer on the scene after Deal's family found her dead and called 911, testified that he saw Deal laid on her back, with her knees pulled up to her chest and her hands in a claw-like position.

"She was very dirty, soiled it looked like, and it appeared to me that her lips were yellow," he said.

In opening statements, both sides referred to a question about whether Sammantha Allen told John Allen to let Ame out of the bin before she fell asleep.

Both defendants are charged with 1st-degree murder and child abuse. 3 other relatives were convicted of abusing Ame and are currently in prison.

The girl's father, David Deal, previously pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse and was sentenced to jail. Stoltzmann was sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempted child abuse.

John Allen's trial is expected to start Aug. 7.

(source: Associated Press)

MALAYSIA:

5 charged with murder of navy cadet, another for abetting

No plea was recorded from them by the magistrate as offences that carry the death penalty have to be tried before a High Court judge.

5 National Defence University (UPNM) students were charged with the murder of navy cadet Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain today while another was charged with abetment.

Those charged with murder are Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal, Azamuddin Md Sofi, Muhammad Najib Mohd Razi, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat and Mohamad Shobirin Sabri.

Abdoul Hakeem Mohd Ali was charged with abetting the 5.

The 6, all aged 21, are charged with jointly committing the offence in a room at Jebat hostel block in the university in Cheras on May 22.

No plea was taken when they were produced before magistrate Siti Radziah Kamarudin. The courtroom was packed with family members of the accused.

Offences that carry the death penalty are heard before a High Court judge.

Siti Radziah, however, fixed Aug 14 for the case to be mentioned before her.

In the same court, 19, including the 6 charged with murder and abetting, claimed trial to assaulting the deceased to obtain a confession over a period of 2 days.

Siti Radziah offered them bail at RM7,000 and fixed mention of their cases on July 17.

Government lawyer Nordin Ismail said 13 other suspects would be freed today but would turn prosecution witnesses.

Initially, police arrested 36 students in connection with the death of Zulfarhan on June 2. They were arrested at the UPNM campus at the Sungai Besi army camp.

32 of them are from UPNM while four are from Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten). All are aged between 20 and 21.

The Uniten students were subsequently freed, after being held under remand for 5 days.

Zulfarhan was found with burn marks and bruises in an apartment in Sepang by his friends around 8pm on June 1.

He was reported to have been still alive when his friends called an ambulance to rush him to hospital.

Zulfarhan is believed to have been a victim of bullying. He had been bound, beaten and burnt with an iron.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had said that the perpetrators would not be spared.

"I have ordered the armed forces and UPNM to conduct an urgent investigation. No one will be spared legal action if found guilty," he had said on Twitter.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

INDIA:

Why can't capital punishment stop rape in India?

On May 29th, in Manesar at Gurgaon, a 19-year-old woman was gang-raped and her 9-month-old daughter was killed by throwing her to the ground. Yesterday, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Director General of Police, Haryana and the Gurugram Police Commission stating, "the night patrolling on the road by the police was not being done". The NHRC requested the Police Commissioners of Delhi, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad to come up with constructive suggestions and a joint action programme is expected by the law enforcement agencies of the National Capital Region (NCR). Though this came as a positive measure to ensure women's safety, yet we are a long way to go.

The situation is particularly difficult to address as many Indian politicians across partylines often place the onus on the victims themselves. For instance, Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party remarked after 2 girls were raped by 14 men at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh that "girls should avoid places where molesters roam free". The incident and bizarre assertion make us question if we women have a safe space to dwell in this country. Another leader Babulal Gaur on another gang rape case of 2 teenagers said, "this is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong." Such remarks by leaders clearly do not reflect us in a respectable position, hence we do not want your sympathy.

The Nirbhaya verdict (5th May 2017) stirred clamour around capital punishment against the perpetrators of rape. Many believed, the perpetrators deserved 'justice served' and some opposed the idea of capital punishment. Unfortunately, after the most celebrated verdict by the Apex court, a series of rape cases has been reported so far. Death penalty is commonly seen as a deterrent but so far it has failed in the prevention of rape against women. In the month of May alone, 3 very heinous instances of rape have made the headlines in the country.

Frequently, police officials encourages the victim to settle the matter out of court, thereby, dissuading them from pursuing the case

The dark figure of crime: Unreported Rape

The Indian Penal Code largely understands gender specific crime as an assault on women with the intent to outrage the modesty, cruelty by husband or relatives as well as kidnapping, abduction and rape. As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 327,394 cases of crimes against women were reported in 2015. In 95 % of these cases the offender knew the rape victim. One of the most frightening facts reported by NCRB is 1 rape occurs every 20 minutes in India.

Despite all the facts and figures reported by the NCRB, experts are unanimous that it is extremely to difficult to accurately calculate the number of rapes in any country, particularly in India. Victims often fail to report, more so, if family members are involved or in cases where the victim was found to be drunk or intoxicated. In the latter case, it is difficult to ascertain whether consent was given or not. Frequently, police officials encourages the victim to settle the matter out of court, thereby, dissuading them from pursuing the case.

Rape: Theories and Beliefs

If we evaluate why a woman is always the victim, it is pertinent to understand the various theories and studies done by scholars, psychologist and feminist over a period of time on rape culture. The early proponents of the Evolutionary Theory believed man rapes to enforce their sexual desires on a woman so that the offsprings bear their qualities. Whereas, the Feminist theory believed rape is "violent and not just a sexual act", ideally generate fear and intimidate a woman.

The early proponents of feminism suggested, "rape is about power and control and not sex". Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sandy through her research on tribal societies presented "rape varies cross-culturally" and it includes, "interpersonal violence, male dominance and sexual separation". Her study showcases the attitude towards women in "rape free" and "rape prone" zones. The "rape free" zones are ideal communities that 'respect female authority and power' but, "rape-prone" are communities with male dominant societies. Her deviation from the common understanding provided a fresh perspective in understanding how certain positive attitude and behaviour in society tend to benefit women at large.

"Rape is a political matter" and can be stopped only with the end patriarchy

The New York Radical Feminists in their Manifesto categorically states that rape is not a "personal" problem. Rather, their argument is "rape is a political matter" and can be stopped only with the end patriarchy. The position taken by the Radical feminists complicates the common perception that capital punishment of the culprit will root out rape.

Capital punishment or not: The big debate

It is evident death penalty hasn't acted deterrent for our society. Moreover, the experts are not even sure whether the judiciary should see death penalty as a deterrent, reformation or retribution. Retribution is the common practice preferred however, it has failed to prove beneficial for neither our society nor criminals. This aspect is forcefully brought out by Professor John Braithwaite of The Australian National University who believes that "crime hurts and justice should heal". The restorative justice cuts crime, it is noticed that after meeting their victims and engaging in a dialogue, criminals are less likely to re-offend. The survivor too gets a pivotal role in the "justice process".

Joanne Nodding, a rape survivor, a few years ago wanted to confront the man who raped her. As part of restorative justice programme, she decided to meet him five years after the incident. The program allows victims to initiate a conversation with the person responsible. During the session, Nodding described the harrowing abuse she had to undergo. The perpetrator apologised and Nodding ended the meeting by forgiving him. She added she felt "on top of the world, she had to release the burden so that he could look towards his future. It may stop him from doing it again". It is difficult to analyse the punishment that would fit the bill for the rapist.

Also, there exists unpredictability in awarding death sentence in rape cases, as most of the perpetrators are from underprivileged background. Raju Ramachandran, one of the amicus curie in the historic Nirbhaya's case, was a strong opponent of a death penalty. Ramachandran argued that a whole set of reasons, particularly one related to individual backgrounds should be considered rather than advocating that "one penalty fits all". A blanket judgment "hits at the very root of Article 14 which prohibits similar treatment of differently situated individuals". Despite a culture of "shame and silence", we have to resort to progressive measures to deal with rape.

In spite of making necessary amendments in rape laws and better provisions adopted for women in India, nevertheless, we are not safe. The measures should be aimed at substantially reducing harm against women. Initiatives should be undertaken for collective actions, such as engaging bystanders, better policing, educate youth about healthy relationships and implement better prevention programs. Most of the initiatives undertaken in India have failed to achieve the desired result. It includes utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund-- 'One Stop Centre', 'Universalisation of Women Helpline', 'Mahila Police Volunteer' and schemes of other Ministries/Departments under Nirbhaya Fund are yet to highlight their success stories.

To sum up, the unequal power dynamics between man and woman should be reduced; it will reduce the "domination" and "discrimination" attitude against women. Sexual violence is a public health issue, hence, collective action, implementing laws and generating interest are required to transform communities.

(source: wionews.com)

SUDAN:

Sudan begins trial of top activist accused of spying

The trial of a prominent Sudanese human rights activist accused of spying for foreign embassies opened on Wednesday in Khartoum, as Amnesty International called for his immediate release.

Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, an engineering professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested in December by security forces as part of a crackdown on opposition leaders and activists.

Prosecutors have accused him and some others of carrying out spying and intelligence activities for foreign embassies in return for money.

He is also accused of publishing lies about government forces using chemical weapons, and distorting the image of the state.

Under Sudanese criminal law, the charges against Ibrahim Adam -- winner of several human rights awards -- are punishable by death.

In September, rights group Amnesty International said Sudanese forces had carried out dozens of suspected chemical weapons attacks in a mountainous area of war-torn Darfur that killed up to 250 people, including many children.

Officials including President Omar al-Bashir have steadfastly denied Amnesty's report.

On Wednesday, a court in Khartoum held a short opening session in his trial at which the activist appeared before a judge, an AFP correspondent reported.

The session was attended by several Western diplomats and Sudanese activists. The next session in the trial has been scheduled for July 20.

Ibrahim Adam, who has worked extensively on human rights causes in Sudan and in particular in Darfur, has been arrested several times before for his work.

The government shut down a development organisation he headed in 2009.

Ahead of the start of his trial, Amnesty International called for the immediate release of Ibrahim Adam and his colleague Hafiz Idris Eldoma, who also has been detained.

Amnesty said Ibrahim Adam has been "continuously harassed" by the Sudanese authorities for his human rights work.

"Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty," Amnesty said in a statement.

"Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple."

Ibrahim Adam and several opposition leaders and activists were detained in December by security forces in an attempt to crush widespread protests against a government decision to raise fuel prices.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

End the miscarriage of justice against Dr Mudawi and his colleague

The Sudanese authorities must immediately release prominent human rights defender Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his colleague Hafiz Idris Eldoma, and halt its misguided assault on dissenting voices in the country, said Amnesty International as their trial begins in the capital Khartoum today.

Dr Mudawi and Hafiz are facing 6 trumped-up charges, including 'undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state', both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment.

"Dr Mudawi has continuously been harassed by the Sudanese government for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

"Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released. Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple."

Dr Mudawi, an engineering professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested by intelligence agents on 7 December 2016. He founded and is the former director of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), and has won several human rights awards.

Hafiz Edris Eldoma, an internally displaced person from Darfur, was arrested on 24 November 2016 at Dr Mudawi's house.

Amnesty International is campaigning for Dr Mudawi's release as part of its Brave campaign.

(source: Amnesty Internatnional)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Youth call for return of death penalty at Aids conference

Delegates at the start of the 8th South African Aids Conference on Tuesday heard that government had 6 months to respond to several demands made by the country's youth at the Higher Education Aids conference (HEAids).

HEAids, also held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban on the weekend, was a precursor to the national conference, and saw some youth representatives calling for the return of the death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder.

At an emotionally-charged session on Tuesday, youth participants took part in a plenary session that included singing and prose to illustrate the plight of adolescents living with HIV/Aids and to highlight gender-based violence.

Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, speaking at the Aids conference at the Durban ICC at the weekend.

Reading an "Open letter to HIV", Saidy Brown took to the stage to share that she lost both her parents to the virus and although she had tried to live her life "to the book", she still contracted HIV.

"I hate you for taking my happiness away. Because of you, there goes my relationship with God ... my life has spiralled out of control...my confidence is tainted," said Brown in her presentation.

Delegates were told that "the youth are rising" and would be holding government and society to account in addressing HIV/Aids and gender-based violence.

Last year, it was announced that almost 2 000 young women were infected with HIV on a weekly basis in South Africa, with those between the ages of 15 to 24 having the highest infection rates.

According to UNAIDS, South Africa has the largest population of adolescents aged 10-19 years living with HIV of any country in the world, with many young patients not effectively linked to care after receiving a positive HIV diagnosis.

(source: iol.co.za)

JUNE 13, 2017:

TEXAS:----new execution date

William Rayford has received an execution date for January 30, 2018; it should be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543

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

25---------July 27-----------------Taichin Preyor---------544

26---------Aug. 30-----------------Steven Long------------545

27---------Sept.7------------------Juan Castillo----------546

28---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------547

29---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Forced to Endure Extreme Heat, Prisoners Are Casualties of Texas' Climate Denial, Documents Show

On a spring day in May, temperatures in Dallas, Texas, were already in the 90s. Sunlight glinted off the barbed wire perimeter outside the Hutchins State Jail, located just a mile down down the road from Hutchins High School. The 1st blooms of Castilleja, colloquially known here as "prairie fire," seemed to set a field across from the prison ablaze.

It was hot outside, but it's nothing compared to the temperatures inside the Hutchins Unit, one of 79 state-run prison units still lacking air-conditioning in its cellblocks in 2017. Even those temperatures, though, still pale further in comparison with the extreme summer heat wave that broiled the jail on July 28, 2011, pushing the heat index up to about 150 degrees in the cellblocks, according to the state's own records, and transforming the jail into an oven that slowly baked Hutchins prisoner Larry McCollum alive.

Truthout and Earth Island Journal Investigate America's Toxic PrisonsMcCollum, a 58-year-old cab driver from the Waco area, was found having convulsions in his top bunk. He was taken to Dallas' Parkland Hospital, where his body temperature was measured at 109.4 degrees. McCollum, who was incarcerated for writing a bad check, had recently begun serving his 11-month sentence, and was eager to get through his time and reunite with his wife and 2 children.

"He was taken from us. He was supposed to go in for 11 months, and he wound up with a death sentence," McCollum's daughter, Stephanie Kingrey, said. "It was very heartbreaking that he had to sit there and suffer as long as he did before they got any help for him or got him to emergency room."

Kingrey said that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) even tried to deny her access to her father during the 7 days he spent on life support at Parkland Hospital, eventually relenting as Kingrey and other relatives were forced to make the devastating decision to take McCollum off of life support.

"They had guards on him 24 hours, like he was just going to jump up and go somewhere, and he was handcuffed to the bed the whole time," Kingrey says. "He was literally brain dead, and there was nothing he could do. He didn't regain consciousness or anything. He wasn't there. He died back in the prison cell."

McCollum is one of 22 heat-related deaths that TDCJ has been forced to acknowledge in its prison units after litigation -- 10 of those deaths occurring during that same 2011 summer heat wave. But these deaths are likely the first few indications of what may be a much larger heat problem.

"[TDCJ] has acknowledged the deaths because we proved we knew about them," said Attorney Jeff Edwards, who is representing the McCollum family in an ongoing lawsuit against TDCJ, during an interview in his Austin office. "In fact, there are far more than [22] deaths because the only deaths that they count are confirmed autopsies with a diagnosis of hyperthermia. In order to get that diagnosis, you have to have a temperature north of 105 or 106 degrees. So unless you find the body and do an autopsy quickly, you're not going to have that diagnosis. [TDCJ] also doesn't count the probably 100 or more people who suffered heart attacks in the summertime where heat was a contributing factor, or people who suffered asthmatic deaths because heat contributed to that."

The medical risk of heat stroke increases significantly when the temperature rises to more than 90 degrees, and can lead to other causes of death like heart attacks. This is especially true for people with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues, as well as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The risk rises further still for people on medications that inhibit their ability to shed heat or sweat, or certain psychiatric medications. There aren't yet full statistics on how many prison deaths have involved heat as a significant contributing factor, but the number is likely to be much higher than deaths directly attributable to hyperthermia.

"1 death is enough to cause concern -- 2, 3, you need to be reacting immediately," Edwards says. "What is so frustrating about this is ... you can solve the problem of death by heat stroke in the Texas prison system instantaneously. All you need to do is lower the temperature and you eliminate it.... [TDCJ is] making a choice to have people die in the same way a car company makes a choice not to fix a defective product and have some people die. It's the exact same cost-benefit analysis."

Internal TDCJ emails obtained by Truthout and Earth Island Journal reveal that a database within TDCJ's Health Services Division was developed to track not only heat-related deaths in TDCJ prison units, but also the number of instances of heat-related illness occurring across particular units. The datasets also track other factors contributing to the occurrence of heat-related illness, including how many of the prisoners experiencing these illnesses were on antipsychotic medications.

According to the records, staffers within the Health Services Division tracked a total of 46 heat-related illnesses in TDCJ units in 2010, 48 such illnesses between the months of June and July of 2011 alone, and another 59 illnesses between August 1 and August 16 of 2011. Health Services Division staffers tracked a total of 110 illnesses in 2011 through August 16 of that year, across scores of units. The records indicate that in 2011, a majority of prisoners were located in their cellblocks at the onset of the heat-related illness, and that several of the illnesses involved prisoners taking antipsychotic and other medications that make them more vulnerable to heat conditions.

While TDCJ Director of Public Information Jason Clark didn't respond to Truthout and Earth Island Journal's request for the total number of instances of heat-related illness within TDCJ units tracked by its Health Services Division, the records from 2010 and 2011 point to a pervasive heat problem within TDCJ cellblock areas. They also reveal that prison officials neglected to act: Despite tracking more than 100 instances of heat-related illness, they have yet to introduce climate controls in TDCJ cellblocks that currently lack them.

Edwards is litigating several other federal lawsuits over heat-related deaths inside Texas prisons. He is also working on cases that confront the desperate conditions for elderly and other medically vulnerable prisoners who are increasingly susceptible to extreme temperatures, including an ongoing class-action lawsuit in Houston challenging conditions in the Wallace Pack Unit near Navasota, a geriatric prison incarcerating predominantly elderly and disabled prisoners who require continuous medical care.

TDCJ officials are currently appealing US District Judge Keith Ellison's certification of class status to all current and future prisoners at the Pack Unit subjected to extreme temperatures in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Outside the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas, Texas, where, during a summer heat wave in July of 2011, prisoner Larry McCollum died of heat stroke. (Photo: Candice Bernd) The Hutchins State Jail in Dallas, Texas, still lacks air-conditioning in 2017. (Photo: Candice Bernd)"To give you an idea of the heat we are talking about: When was the last time you jumped in your car after it has set in the sun with windows rolled up on a 90 degree day? Now try to sit in it for 20 minutes!!!," writes 63-year-old prisoner John Ford, who is serving a 70-year sentence, from the Pack Unit. "The beds and cubicle wall are metal. They are hot and can't be laid on or touched, like touching the hood of a car that has sit in the sun on a 130-degree day. Most of us try to wet our sheets and the cement floor. We lay in the water, put the sheet over us while blowing the fan under the sheet, to keep the body temps down."

TDCJ's solution during periods of extreme heat was to tell Pack Unit prisoners to simply drink more water, recommending up to two gallons of water a day on extremely hot days. There was just one problem: The water at the Pack Unit contained between 2.5 to 4.5 times the level of arsenic, a carcinogen, permitted by the EPA, according to court documents. Many of the prisoners drank thousands of gallons of this arsenic-tainted water for more than 10 years before Judge Ellison ordered TDCJ to truck in clean water for the prisoners last year. TDCJ installed a modern filtration system in January.

See Truthout and Earth Island Journal's special investigation into pervasive water contamination at prisons across the US, including the Pack Unit, in our first feature story in this series.

"It used to be where you could take a white wash rag and put it in the sink and water would run on it about 10 or 15 minutes, and it would actually turn brown," says Keith Cole, 63, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit who is serving a life sentence at the Pack Unit.

It's something the prisoners and their attorney say TDCJ knew about for years. "Inmates were breaking out with all kinds of skin issues, and skin cancers that still have been denied that it was caused by the water," Ford writes.

Both Ford and Cole, who arrived at the unit in 2015 and 2011, respectively, worry about how their prolonged exposure to arsenic may have affected their health over the long term, including their specific medical issues. Cole has been diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease, type II diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, and has had two stent implants. Ford has seven stent implants in his heart, high blood pressure, and "serious issues" with his bladder and kidney that he suspects are "from the chemicals."

They also worry about how their prolonged stress during exposure to periods of extreme heat for years may have impacted them long term. Ford says he suffers respiratory problems he believes are exacerbated not only by the extreme heat in the unit during the summer months, but also by the black mold he alleges to be present inside the prison.

A spokesperson with the University of Texas Medical Branch, which manages medical care at TDCJ units through its Correctional Managed Care division, declined to comment on the heat exposure, citing ongoing lawsuits.

"TDCJ takes precautions to help reduce heat-related illnesses such as providing water and ice to staff and offenders in work and housing areas, restricting offender activity during the hottest parts of the day, and training staff to identify those with heat related illnesses and refer them to medical staff for treatment," TDCJ Public Information Director Clark said. He also cited "access to respite areas" that are air-conditioned as a system-wide protocol that is utilized during periods of extreme heat.

Cole says that while he, personally, is being granted regular access to a respite area at the Pack Unit, he believes this is only because he is the primary plaintiff in a major ongoing class-action lawsuit. For other prisoners at the unit, he says, it is a protocol that exists only on paper.

"Even though [TDCJ] claims they have enough space to put every offender on this unit into respite at the same time, if offenders starting using respite on a large scale, let's say ... 20 % of the inmates wanted to go to respite, that would pretty much shut down the day-to-day operations of this unit," Cole says. "So what they do is they find low-visibility ways to discourage offenders from using respite."

Cole says that prison officials regularly take Pack Unit prisoners to the infirmary, where nurses perform an internal core temperature check by inserting a thermometer into prisoners' rectums. "That's the first procedure they do before they do anything for you at all," he says. So many prisoners avoid asking for respite in the first place.

The Wallace Pack Unit is not the only unit in Texas that lacks air-conditioning in its cellblocks. According to Clark, only 29 of 108 TDCJ units have air-conditioning in all "offender housing areas," with all units having at least some areas that are air-conditioned.

Among the areas that TDCJ chooses to air-condition in its units are its prison armories and areas for livestock.

Guidelines from both the American Bar Association and the American Correctional Association (ACA) suggest that prison officials should provide adequate temperature control in cellblocks, but the ACA continues to accredit units lacking climate controls.

At this point, even unions representing prison guards, many of who have also experienced heat-related illnesses and injuries while on duty, have been supportive of lawsuits over extreme heat in TDCJ units.

Truthout and Earth Island Journal didn't receive any responsive records after requesting potential documents outlining TDCJ officials' plans to adapt their protocols and procedures in light of ongoing anthropogenic climate disruption and expectations for intensifying heat waves across the state in the coming decades. The lack of documents indicates that the state's prison officials may have no plans, outside TDCJ's current existing heat policies, for mitigating temperatures as more heat waves sweep Texas in years to come.

Indeed, periods of intense heat are expected to accelerate in the state, according to climate scientists like Linda Mearns.

Mearns is a senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and conducted a climate study on the region around Navasota, Texas, where the Wallace Pack Unit is located. Analyzing datasets from nearby weather stations in the area in order to predict future extremes, she not only found that both maximum and minimum average temperatures from all six weather stations analyzed are steadily increasing, but that the likelihood of extreme summer heat waves is expected to increase dramatically.

"We looked at the likelihood of the recurrence of extreme summer temperatures at the level of that summer of 2011 ... and essentially, going out into a period, let's say to 2035, we found that there's a 8-fold increase in the likelihood of that kind of extreme event repeating itself," Mearns says. "It's very clear that temperatures are increasing, that extremes of temperatures are increasing [in the region]."

Mearns also looked at trends in the number of days per summer that have exceeded certain temperature thresholds that can be dangerous to certain risk groups if left exposed. She looked at thresholds of 88, 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and found that days exceeding those temperatures have been steadily increasing since 1970.

"In terms of the heat index, the major factor is still the temperature, so we see very distinct increases in the heat index, which is actually used to determine dangerous conditions for human health, and we see increases in those thresholds as well, for example, a heat index above 88 or above 95 for a particular length of time," Mearns says. According to her research, the median value of days with a heat index above 95 or 100 degrees lasting more than four hours per day increases to more than 20 days by 2035, and 55 days by 2055 in the area around Navasota.

It's the extremes that pose the greatest danger to vulnerable populations such as the elderly, or people with health conditions that render them at risk. According to Mearns, people for the most part become somewhat adapted to the climate that they live in, even as average temperatures increase. Extreme temperature changes, however, don't allow enough time for the body to properly acclimate -- one reason why nearly half of TDCJ's confirmed hyperthermia deaths all occurred during the same 2011 heat wave.

According to Edwards, experts testifying on behalf of TDCJ have acknowledged the reality of climate disruption, but, "Internally, they are loathe to answer [the climate] question because they are appointees of [the governor], and that question is fraught with danger in an oil state like Texas," he says. "They want to be looked at as tough on crime, and don't view air-conditioning or costs associated with air-conditioning as priorities until the courts tell them they have to."

Many of the state's prisons were constructed during the "tough-on-crime" prison boom of the 1990s, which hit particularly hard in Texas. "It wasn't as if [air-conditioning] was discussed," Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, says. "The prisons were just built."

According to Clark, many of TDCJ's units that were built in the 1980s and 1990s didn't include air-conditioning because of the added construction, maintenance and utility costs. This lack of air-conditioning persisted, despite the far-reaching 1980 court ruling Ruiz v. Estelle, which found that conditions of imprisonment within the TDCJ prison system constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Although the decision was the result of one of the most far-reaching lawsuits on incarceration conditions in US history, it didn't include conditions relating to extreme heat. Therefore, TDCJ units lacking air-conditioning in cellblocks continued to be approved by federal courts.

"One-hundred-thousand prison beds were constructed in a very crisis-oriented atmosphere where the goal was to build them very quickly and as cheaply as possible, to get these inmates out of the [county] jails [and into state prisons]," Deitch said. "When [the prisons] were constructed, the [state] legislature was never inclined to provide money, and the legislature help fund the construction of these facilities. They're expensive enough to build, and the legislature was not going to give any money to cover the cost of air-conditioning. That was just seen as treating prisoners too well."

The harsh sentencing practices of the '90s have left the state with a prison population that is now rapidly aging behind bars, and increasingly requiring extensive medical care. "In Texas with its super-long sentences ... the fastest-growing population is the geriatric population. With all of these inmates in un-air-conditioned facilities, I think we're going to be seeing a lot more deaths in custody from people who can't handle the heat," Deitch says.

In Texas, the price of politicians and prison officials' climate denial is human lives. Not only are the state's aging prisoners being rendered casualties of climate change, they are held captive to changing climate conditions, unable to adapt to the increasing heat waves, and, in the case of Wallace Pack, forced to endure other environmental degradations and injustices -- such as drinking arsenic-tainted water for more than 10 years -- to cope.

"Our tough-on-crime mentality about sentencing is bumping up against our-tough-on crime mentality in terms of extreme conditions for prisoners, and I think it's going to lead to some very tragic consequences, particularly as climate change makes the situation even worse," Deitch says.

Indeed, over his 23 years in the TDCJ system, Cole says the summers have become more extreme. "It seems to be getting more hotter now. I don't know if I can attribute that to the fact that temperatures are worse, or maybe the fact that I'm getting older and my diseases are progressing, but I know that the summers now are more intense to me than they were 10 years ago when I was in the system."

(source: truth-out.org)

PENNSYLVANIA:

PA Supreme Court denies appeal from convicted killer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the death sentence imposed on a Bristol Township man convicted of killing a 4-year-old girl and her pregnant mother in 2013.

Marcel Johnson, 24, was appealing his 2015 1st-degree murder convictions in the deaths of Ebony Talley, 22, who was 5 months pregnant, and R'Mani Rankins, 4, who witnessed her mother's death on Nov. 25, 2013, at the Avalon Court apartments on Bristol-Oxford Valley Road in Bristol Township.

Talley suffered 35 stab wounds and was found with a plastic bag tied around her head. Rankins was found bleeding from a stab wound to the chest and was pronounced dead a short time later. A jury found Johnson guilty of 3rd-degree murder for killing the fetus.

He was also convicted of arson for setting the bodies on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub on Monday called the murders brutal and said his office felt vindicated by the court's decision to uphold the convictions and the sentence.

"The jury found that Marcel Johnson should be subject to the death penalty and I have no quarrel with that," Weintraub added. "The state Supreme Court affirmed that decision was correct and just."

In his appeal filing, which was denied May 25, Johnson argued that several areas of the case should have led to his convictions being thrown out and his sentence vacated.

Johnson was also initially charged with drug possession before that charge was withdrawn. In his appeal, Johnson argued that other people involved in the drug trade could have wanted to harm Talley. While he initially confessed to the crimes during interviews with police, he claimed in his appeal that he arrived at the apartment after it was already set on fire.

He also argued that his statements to police should have been suppressed during his trial because he agreed to waive his Miranda rights under the assumption that police wanted to question him regarding an arrest warrant for unpaid traffic offenses.

But the Supreme Court, in its opinion, sided with Bucks County Court in allowing the confession into evidence, arguing that it was clear why Johnson was being questioned due to several factors. One of which, the court said, was the fact that Johnson was apprehended by several officers with guns drawn as he entered Talley's vehicle parked at a nearby apartment complex shortly after the crimes.

When reached for comment Monday, Johnson's attorney, John Fiorvanti Jr., said he intends to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes of sending the case to the federal level.

Fiorvanti said he was disappointed that certain rulings made during the trial - such as evidence of drug abuse, physical abuse, mental illness and neglect through several generations of Johnson's family being deemed inadmissible - were upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Fiorvanti also said he asked the trial court to instruct the jury to each mitigating factor of his "horribly abused and neglected" client separately during the penalty phase and listed each one separately on the verdict slip rather than grouping several together. That request was denied by the trial court - a decision that was upheld in the appeal.

Regarding the overall decision to deny the appeal, Fiorvanti said he was not surprised.

"I would frankly have to say that I expected the ruling," he added. "It's just the way the cases are and the way our Supreme Court is going. I was hopeful. You always hope for the best."

(source: buckscountycouriertimes.com)

FLORIDA:

Trial date set for Markeith Loyd in death of Orlando police officer

A trial date has been set for a Florida man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police officer.

Orange County Chief Judge Fred Lauten said Monday that the trial for Markeith Loyd will begin Sept. 10 in Orlando.

Loyd is accused of gunning down 42-year-old Lt. Debra Clayton in January weeks after authorities say he fatally shot 24-year-old Sade Dixon. Loyd eluded police for more than a week.

He faces multiple charges, including 1st-degree murder.

The case prompted a legal skirmish between the state attorney in Orlando and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced in March she wouldn't seek the death penalty in Loyd's case or any others. Scott responded by transferring almost 2 dozen death penalty cases, including Loyd's, to another prosecutor.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Death-penalty trial to begin after tricky process of selecting Franklin County jury

When attorneys questioned a 72-year-old man during jury selection for Franklin County's 1st death-penalty trial in 3 years, he said there was a time when he found himself at odds with his strong opposition to taking a human life.

"When I was a young man, I had some pretty idealistic beliefs," the Northwest Side man said. "I told myself I could never take a life under any circumstances and so on, and then I was drafted.

"The day I stepped off the airplane on the Vietnamese soil, I said, 'I'll do whatever it takes to get back home.' ... I sort of had a letdown of my own viewpoint of myself, I guess."

But under no circumstances, he said, could he sign a verdict form to recommend a death sentence.

The man was excused from being part of the jury pool.

In all, 17 people were excused during the 1st phase of jury selection for the trial of Lincoln S. Rutledge, who is accused of fatally shooting a Columbus police officer during a SWAT standoff at his Clintonville apartment 14 months ago.

On Friday, the 52 people who made it through the 1st phase were narrowed to 12 jurors (7 men and 5 women) and 4 alternates.

The trial, which could take as long as 2 weeks, is scheduled to begin with opening statements this morning.

Jury selection for a death-penalty case is unique because it requires potential jurors to discuss their views on the ultimate punishment before hearing any evidence, at a time when the defendant is presumed innocent.

Jefferson Liston, one of Rutledge's attorneys, told potential jurors that the process puts the defense in "an uncomfortable position."

The process is necessary to eliminate jurors whose position on the death penalty, whether for or against, is so strong that they can't follow Ohio law regarding the appropriate use of the penalty.

Under the law, if the jurors convict Rutledge of aggravated murder with death specifications in the slaying of Officer Steven Smith, they must participate in a sentencing phase during which the defense will present what are called mitigating factors.

If the jurors decide that the mitigating factors - such as mental illness or a traumatic childhood - outweigh the crime's aggravating circumstances, the law instructs them that a death sentence is off the table. At that point, they must recommend a life sentence either without the chance of parole or with the possibility of parole after 25 or 30 years.

If the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors, the law says the jurors must recommend death.

A decision must be unanimous.

Assistant Prosecutors Daniel Hogan and Warren Edwards used a chart to explain the death-penalty law and the weighing process to prospective jurors, who were brought into the courtroom in groups of 6.

"There are people who have strong feelings against the taking of another life," said Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott, who is presiding over the trial, his 1st death-penalty case. "You also don't want someone on the jury who would automatically impose death for anyone convicted of murder."

Nearly all of the people who were eliminated in the 1st phase were strong death-penalty opponents. They included an ordained minister who wrote on a questionnaire supplied to the panelists that only God should decide when someone dies.

Others, however, were retained after telling the judge and attorneys that, despite their strong feelings about the death penalty, they could follow the law in deciding whether to impose it. They included a woman who said she is so uncomfortable with the death penalty that she probably would be forever tormented if she signed a verdict for death.

The judge also allowed a current Columbus police officer and a former Ohio state trooper to be retained after the 1st phase, although neither ultimately was seated on the jury.

"I think I've been pretty even-handed," Serrott said.

Douglas Berman, a professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and an expert on capital punishment, said there are plenty of concerns about finding jurors who truly will follow the death-penalty sentencing process and about whether discussing possible punishments in advance is fair to the defendant.

"But I struggle to figure out how you can do it any other way," he said.

The act of weighing mitigating factors against aggravating circumstances in deciding life or death "doesn't lend itself to an easy or predictable adjudication process," Berman said. "It becomes a moral rather than a legal judgment."

The potential jurors who sat in Serrott's courtroom last week for questioning about the process impressed the judge with what they were willing to share, particularly the Vietnam veteran.

"It's what's great about our jury system," the judge said. "You bring strangers together from all walks of life to talk about weighty, serious matters that all of us should think about.

"I was so impressed with their openness, their candor, their thoughtfulness and the seriousness with which they're approaching this."

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)

ARIZONA:

Arizona, prisoners reach deal to settle death penalty suit

Lawyers for a group of condemned prisoners who sued over how Arizona conducts executions told a federal judge Monday that they have reached a tentative settlement with the state.

The agreement between the state and the prisoners contains a series of provisions to address the prisoners' arguments that the state's execution procedures violate their constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and have due process.

The agreement limits the power of the Department of Corrections' director to change execution drugs at the last minute, requires that drugs be tested before use and bars the state from using expired drugs. It also increases transparency in the execution process.

The Department of Corrections officially published the new execution rules late last month, and the settlement would make those provisions binding.

The agreement still needs approval by the prisoners. But 1 of their attorneys, Josh Anderson, told U.S. District Judge Neil Wake he expects that to happen as soon as next week. If the settlement falls through for some reason, Wake has set a bench trial for September.

"That trial will not move - there is no place to move it," Wake told the attorneys. "I'm inclined to hold my breath for 10 days."

The state already settled another part of the lawsuit, agreeing not to again use a sedative called midazolam.

That drug was used in July 2014 execution of convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given 15 doses of midazolam and a painkiller and who took nearly 2 hours to die. His attorney says the execution was botched.

Wake has blocked executions until the case is finished, and he asked an attorney for the state if it had the drugs to restart executions rapidly if the case is settled.

"It won't come to a head quickly," Assistant Attorney General Jeff Sparks told Wake. "The state doesn't have drugs right now and has no intention of seeking a warrant."

States are struggling to obtain execution drugs because European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections. Death penalty states refuse to disclose the sources of their drugs, though the sources are widely believed - to be compounding pharmacies - organizations that make drugs tailored to the needs of a specific client. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies.

The state's new execution rules replace a 3-drug mixture with a 1-drug injection using 1 of 2 barbiturates, pentobarbital or sodium pentothal.

There remains a potential appeal of an earlier ruling by Wake that dismissed prisoners' some of the prisoners' claims. Those dismissed claims include a request for witnesses and defense lawyers to be able to see and hear the entire execution process and to have more information about the source of execution drugs.

"We believe that there is under the 9th Circuit precedent, so that would be the basis for our appeal," Anderson said.

Separately, a group of news organizations including The Associated Press is suing the state to force it to reveal the source of execution drugs and qualifications of executioners. The state says releasing those details would jeopardize the confidentiality of executioners and would lead suppliers to stop providing the drugs if their names were made public. A trial is set next month in federal court in Phoenix.

A judge in December ruled in favor of the groups' argument for more access to executions, saying the state must allow witnesses to view the entirety of an execution.

The lawsuit discussed Monday was filed in 2014 by prisoners that included Wood, but was amended after his problematic execution.

Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender who represents the prisoners, said Arizona has an "unfortunate history" of problematic executions and said the state is now "taking appropriate steps to decrease the risk that prisoners will be tortured to death."

A Department of Corrections spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Is accused cop killer sleeping through his hearing?

A judge on Monday denied an effort to close a hearing for accused cop killer Luis Bracamontes to the press and public, saying the proceedings must remain open.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White rejected the latest motion by public defenders for Bracamontes, who argued that pretrial publicity was endangering their client's right to a fair trial.

The lawyers are trying to get White to move the trial out of Sacramento because of the publicity, and are expected to argue over the next 2 to 3 days that coverage of the October 2014 slayings means the trial must be moved.

They also hope to win permission to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Bracamontes has not been of much help in their quest. He has at various times said he wants to plead guilty, wants to face execution and would like to kill his lawyers.

For almost the entire hearing Monday morning, until White called a 15-minute recess at 10:30, Bracamontes sat with his head drooped down on his chest or cocked backward with his eyes closed.

The only times he opened his eyes through midmorning came when his lawyer got up to approach a witness or when the witness accidentally hit the microphone.

Granted, much of the testimony from marketing and public opinion expert Jennifer Franz Monday focused on survey techniques, methods for calling potential jurors and the like.

But Bracamontes' behavior was markedly different from past hearings, where he has seemed alert and, at times, aggressive and profane.

His head has been shaved since his last court appearance, and this marks the 1st hearing in memory during which he has not made wisecracks or other comments.

His demeanor changed somewhat when prosecutor Rod Norgaard, who is trying to march him to San Quentin's death chamber, began questioning Franz about a survey she conducted for the defense measuring potential jurors' knowledge of the case.

Bracamontes began watching Norgaard intently as the prosecutor, who opposes moving the case out of Sacramento, began asking Franz about her survey.

Franz said her survey found that 75.7 % of the respondents who were aware of the case already had decided Bracamontes is either definitely guilty or probably guilty, and 51.5 % think the death penalty is a proper punishment.

Bracamontes, 36, did not speak during the hearing until the lunchtime break, when he walked by White and appeared to say, "You're doing good."

Much of Monday's testimony involved questions about the survey of Sacramento residents' knowledge of the case, and that topic is expected to continue into Tuesday.

Defense attorneys also are expected to push for permission to enter an insanity plea on their client's behalf, despite Bracamontes' past insistence that he be allowed to plead guilty.

He faces trial in October and could be sentenced to death if convicted in the slayings of Sacramento Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer Deputy Michael Davis Jr.

A Mexican citizen who had been deported at least twice and had returned to the country illegally, Bracamontes was passing through Sacramento with his wife when they allegedly began a daylong rampage at the Motel 6 near Arden Fair Mall.

The 2 were arrested in Auburn later that day. Bracamontes faces the death penalty; she faces life.

(source: sacbee.com)

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

Prop. 66, which speeds up state death penalty process, is challenged in CA Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the California Supreme Court heard arguments over whether a voter-approved initiative passed last November to speed up the death penalty process is constitutional.

Proposition 66, a ballot initiative titled "Death Penalty Procedures Initiatives Statutes," expedites the death penalty process by setting a 5-year deadline for death penalty appeals to be heard.

Elisabeth Semel, a professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law and director of Boalt's Death Penalty Clinic, said she does not believe the initiative is a good solution for dealing with the backlog of death row appeals the state supreme court has yet to hear. Semel said it takes an average of 15 years for a direct death row appeal to be decided by the California Supreme Court.

"The State Supreme Court currently has a backlog of about 380 death row cases," Semel said. "Under the terms of this proposition, the court would have to hear these cases about 3 times faster. There's nothing in this initiative (with) a game plan to make it possible."

Prop. 66 was 1 of 2 initiatives on state ballots related to the death penalty in November 2016 - the 1st, Proposition 62, called for a repeal of the death penalty. Prop. 66 passed by a narrow margin of 51.1 % to 48.9 %, whereas Prop. 62 failed to pass.

Ron Briggs, whose father, former State Sen. John Briggs, authored a 1978 ballot initiative to expand the death penalty, and former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp filed the petition which challenges the constitutionality of Prop. 66. The California Supreme Court has 90 days to decide the case.

According to Semel, during oral arguments, the plaintiffs contended the new time limits infringe upon the court's authority to manage its own cases - this would undermine the state court's authority and violate the separation of powers. Semel said plaintiffs also argued the expedited death penalty process denies equal protection to death row inmates.

Terry Martin, an attorney for intervenor Californians To Mend, Not End, The Death Penalty - No on Prop. 62, Yes on Prop. 66, said the proposition was "absolutely constitutional." According to Martin, the 5-year time limit did not restrict the court's authority because they were "aspirational" rather than "mandatory."

"I'm confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of the measure," Martin said. "I expect the court to rule with the people of California."

Semel maintained skepticism about both the constitutionality and efficacy of Prop. 66.

A both faster and more reliable state death penalty system would "require many millions of dollars" to reform, according to Semel - the reforms being proposed in Prop. 66 would result in a death penalty system that is only "faster and cheaper."

"The system is stuck because we don't have the necessary resources," Semel said. "You can have a system that is either faster, cheaper and less accurate, or faster, more expensive and more reliable.

(source: The Daily Californian)

USA:

I carried out the death penalty as a governor. I hope others put it to rest.; Capital punishment is unfair, ineffective and hurts the states that continue the practice.

I've always viewed it a sign of wisdom to demonstrate the ability to change your mind - that goes double if you're an elected official. As New Mexico's governor in 2009, I changed my mind regarding the death penalty and signed a bill to abolish it after having supported it for decades. Empirical evidence and common sense convinced me that the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent, is unfairly applied and has become increasingly costly for states.

Since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of wrongly sentenced men and women freed from death row has climbed to 159.

A DPIC study found 88 % of criminologists don't believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. Numerous studies suggest the same.

In its 2015 ruling outlawing capital punishment in Connecticut, that state's supreme court explained why the death penalty is unfair: "the death penalty has been imposed disproportionately on those whom society has marginalized socially, politically, and economically: people of color, the poor and uneducated, and unpopular immigrant and ethnic groups. It always has been easier for us to execute those we see as inferior or less intrinsically worthy."

The practice is wrong and I hope it isn't long for this world.

More recently, one method of execution, lethal injection - once seen as "more humane" than others - has made the debate not just one about the morality of the death penalty, but one about the way that it can lead to a failure of governance and damage to a state's reputation.

As the 2nd-poorest state in our nation, Arkansas sorely needs private investment to boost growth and employment. It's recent initiative, "Arkansas Inc", exists to present the state as a "pro-business environment operating leaner, faster and more focused through a streamlined state government." But at the same time Arkansas is trying to bolster its image as a well-run state, officials rushed to carry out a flurry of executions in April to beat the expiration date of Arkansas's supply of 1 of its lethal injection drugs.

Arkansas carried out these lethal injections even though more than 20 firms worldwide now oppose the sale of their products for this use, and have taken steps to effectively close the market for these drugs. This string of executions followed the passage of a law in the state legislature (upheld in the state's supreme court) giving officials cover to secretly obtain these drugs, whether or not drug makers want to sell them for use in executions.

Several court challenges briefly delayed several of the executions, including 1 ultimately unsuccessful suit that contended Arkansas purchased the drugs and sought to conceal their intended use.

Pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc., a subsidiary of the country's 5th most successful company, according to Fortune - the type of firm Arkansas should be courting, not battling - sued the state for using "false pretense, trickery, and bad faith." 2 other companies filed supporting legal briefs, arguing the state's actions were not only anti-business but created "a public-health risk by undermining the safety and supply of lifesaving medicines" that could otherwise be used "to treat 1,800 patients in life-saving operations." In their effort to push through these executions, state officials needlessly hastened the application of an unjust policy while senselessly placing Arkansas at odds with the private sector.

Delaware hasn't seen a similar spate of executions, and last year its supreme court struck down the state's death penalty statute as unconstitutional. But last month, the state's House of Representatives voted to reinstitute it. As a state that has worked successfully for decades to build an international brand as America's leading incorporation venue, a major source of its revenue, Delaware could lose if the globally disfavored death penalty once again becomes law.

In the same way that the private sector responded to anti-LGBT laws passed in states such as Indiana and North Carolina, death-penalty states have to recognize that our increasingly small world is watching, and organizing against wrong-headed public policy by redirecting investment dollars.

Escalating costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases also means a higher burden on governments. A report produced for lawmakers in my home state showed it would cost as much as $7.2 million to reintroduce capital punishment. Arkansas, Delaware and other death-penalty states have a choice. They can pursue a just and prudent course, or they can cling to this failed policy even though it hurts their citizens.

As a former ambassador to the United Nations and the sole United States commissioner on the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, I worry about America's isolation on this critical human rights issue. States that continue to employ the death penalty will remain isolated from the growing international consensus.

The death penalty won't be abolished by a single judicial decision, legislative act or election cycle, but there are signs that the tide is turning to end it for good. In local elections, notably for district attorney, anti-death penalty candidates - Charles Todd Henderson in Jefferson County, Alabama and Jason Krasner in Philadelphia - are showing they can win. The results coincide with changing public opinion: Last year, Pew Research found public support for the death penalty at a 4-decade low.

To effectively represent the interests of citizens, and protect our nation's role as a global leader, a new generation of policymakers and politicians must put the death penalty to rest once and for all.

(source: Commentary; Bill Richardson is a former governor of New Mexico and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is the founder of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement----Washington Post)

CZECH REPUBLIC:

Poll: Opposition to death penalty rising among Czechs

Some 38 % of Czechs are against the capital punishment, the biggest proportion over the past 25 years, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM polling institute in May and released on Monday.

However, over 1/2 of Czechs are still for the death penalty.

Capital punishment was cancelled after the ousting of the Communist regime in 1990.

The CVVM has been finding out since 1992 what part of the population is for the reintroduction of the capital punishment or against it.

The proportion of the former has been steadily bigger than the latter, but the difference has been diminishing.

In 1992, capital punishment was favoured by 76 % of Czechs, while only 13 % were against it.

This year, capital punishment was only approved of by 53 % of Czechs, while 38 % were against it.

People with higher education and church-goers tend to be opposed to the death penalty, while it is mostly preferred by the elderly and the voters of extremist parties.

The CVVM was also finding out what arguments are mostly used in the debate.

Roughly 2/3 of the advocates of death penalty agreed with 3 arguments.

First, it brings satisfaction to the victims and their families.

Second, without the death penalty, the state uselessly provides livelihood to habitual criminals from the taxpayers' money. Third, the execution is an adequate punishment for the worst crimes.

On the other hand, almost 3/4 agree with 2 arguments against the death penalty. These are the risk of a judiciary error and the idea that it can be abused.

The poll was conducted on a sample of 1,019 Czechs over 15 between May 8 and 18.

(source: Czech News Agency)

KUWAIT:

Death sentence in child murder overturned----Kuwait court overturns death sentence for father and mother who tortured their child to death

Kuwait's Court of Appeals has overturned the death sentence for father and a mother who tortured their 4-year-old daughter to death and kept her body in a freezer.

The court in its new ruling sentenced the father to 10 years in jail and acquitted the mother.

The reasons that made the appeals court abolish on Monday the verdicts pronounced by a lower court were not reported.

According to the case documents, the 26-year-old father in May last year beat his daughter Isra with an electrical wire and poured hot water on her in front of her mother, 23, and 3 younger siblings.

Security sources said that the investigation department received a tip about a suspicious murder in a flat in the Salmiya area in the capital Kuwait City.

Investigators searched the flat and found a bag in the freezer in which they found the frozen body of a young girl, the sources said

Forensic doctors reported that the body had burns on the shoulders and feet and traces of torture.

During his questioning, the father, reportedly a drug addict, said that his daughter took 1 of his pills and died.

However, he later admitted that he tortured her with hot water and beat her up with an electrical wire for her negligence in the flat. He added that when he saw her condition, he went down to a pharmacy and bought her medicines, but she passed away.

The father then went to the market and bought a freezer and placed Isra's body inside it.

His wife, a foreigner, refused to stay in the flat where the body was hidden, and he was forced to take her and their 3 children to another location.

However, they complained that the place was unbearably hot and that they could not stay there.

He took them to the flat of his mother and asked her to accommodate them for a few days, the sources added.

The father told his mother that the eldest daughter had been hospitalized and that he would stay with her at the hospital.

Upon hearing the details, investigators headed to the flat where they arrested Isra's mother for her complicity in the murder of her daughter.

Further investigations revealed that the father and mother consumed drugs and that the father had been fired from work for showing up in an abnormal state.

The parents were also found to be extremely negligent in the upbringing of their children and that their flat was disorganized and dirty.

In its statement, the interior ministry said the parents were on drugs at the time of the murder.

The investigations indicated that the father bought the freezer on the same day he killed his daughter and that he was the one to put her in a bag.

The statement confirmed that the girl's body had traces of torture.

(source: Gulf News)

LEBANON:

NGO condemns calls to reinstate death penalty

Calls to reinstate the death penalty in Lebanon were condemned by Human Rights Watch Monday. The rebuttal came after Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk called Friday for the "reintroduction of the death penalty," in particular for "intentional crimes," following the murder of 24-year-old student Roy Hamoush, reportedly shot dead last week. The death penalty is technically legal in Lebanon but has not been carried out since 2004. "Ending [the] moratorium on executions would only serve to tarnish Lebanon's human rights record," HRW said in a statement. "Parliament should solidify Lebanon's position as a leader on this issue in the Middle East and abolish the death penalty outright."

(source: Daily Star)

PAKISTAN:

Quash conviction and death sentence for alleged blasphemy in Facebook post

Responding to an Anti-Terrorism court's decision to convict and sentence to death a man for allegedly posting content on Facebook deemed to be 'blasphemous', Amnesty International's Pakistan campaigner, Nadia Rahman, said:

"Convicting and sentencing someone to death for allegedly posting blasphemous material online is a violation of international human rights law and sets a dangerous precedent. The authorities are using vague and broad laws to criminalize freedom of expression. He and all others accused of 'blasphemy' must be released immediately.

"Instead of holding people accountable for mob violence that has killed at least three people and injured several more in recent months, the authorities are becoming part of the problem by enforcing laws that lack safeguards and are open to abuse.

"No one should be hauled before an anti-terrorism court or any other court solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief online. It is also horrific that they are prepared to use the death penalty in such cases, a cruel and irreversible punishment that most of the world has had the good sense to abandon."

Background

The conviction and sentence, imposed by an Anti-Terrorism Court, came after the Facebook user was accused under Section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code (using derogatory remarks...in respect of the Holy Prophet) and Sections 9 and 11(w) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which criminalize incitement to sectarian hatred.

The sentence is the harshest handed down yet for a cyber-crime related offence. Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy.

An Amnesty International report published in December 2016 documented how Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often used against religious minorities and others who are the target of false accusations, while emboldening vigilantes who are prepared to threaten or kill the accused.

"As good as dead": The impact of blasphemy laws in Pakistan shows how once a person is accused, they become ensnared in a system that offers them few protections, presumes them guilty, and fails to safeguard them against people willing to use violence.

People accused of blasphemy, the report documents, face a gruelling struggle to establish their innocence. Even if a person is acquitted of the charges against them and released, usually after long delays, they can still face threats to their life.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally in all cases - regardless of who is the accused, the crime, guilt or innocence, or method of execution.

(source: Amnesty Internantional)

ZIMBABWE:

Mnangagwa blocks hangman's appointment

VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has blocked recruitment of the country's hangman although at least 5 people have applied for the post which fell vacant more than 10 years ago, Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza has said.

Mabhiza told NewsDay yesterday that Mnangagwa, who doubles as Justice minister, was not keen on filling the hangman's post because he was against the death penalty.

"The hangman's post is yet to be filled and we continue to receive applications. From 2013, when I joined the ministry, we have received more than 5 applications. I have not checked how many applied before I came," she said.

"The Constitution still allows the death penalty. It did not outlaw the death penalty," she said, adding no females had expressed interest in the job yet. "So far, we have not received applications from females, only men have applied. The post has been vacant for in excess of 10 years

"It is because our current Justice minister, who is VP Emmerson Mnangagwa, is opposed to the death penalty such that anything in the direction of execution, he does not entertain it," she said.

Mnangagwa himself missed the hangman's noose by a whisker after he was convicted of sabotage by the colonial regime during the liberation struggle.

After being jailed by the regime after his Crocodile Gang bombed a train in Masvingo during the struggle, Mnangagwa, then 17, was sentenced to death, but spared the hangman's noose because of his young age.

(source: newsday.co.zw)

INDONESIA:

East Java woman arrested at Bali airport with nearly 10,000 ecstasy pills, tried to tell airport security it was headache medication

Security was not fooled by a woman stopped at Bali's airport last Thursday with nearly 10,000 pills in her hand luggage.

East Java woman, Stefani Anindia Hadi, tried to say she was carrying medicine for headaches when officers in the airport's domestic terminal pulled out the suspicious quantity of pills packed in to 4 large plastic bags from her carry-on.

After some prodding, the 25-year-old, who had been flying in from Palembang, Sumatra, apparently confessed that the pills were actually ecstasy.

Head of the Bali division of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), Brig. Gen. I Putu Gede Suastawa explained that Hadi was arrested after a tip from BNN South Sumatra, that there was a passenger on Garuda Indonesia flight GA 266 flying from Palembang to Denpasar with a huge quantity of drugs in hand.

"After searching, the evidence was obtained from a carry-on bag. Based on calculations from there, there were 9,675 ecstasy pills," Suastawa said on Friday, as quoted by Tribun Bali.

Following Hadi's arrest, BNN officers moved to track down the recipient of the smuggled drugs, eventually arresting Sukron Wardana, 27, at a hotel in Kuta.

Both Hadi and Wardana are originally from Banyuwangi, East Java, Suastawa told reporters.

After searching Wardana's home in Kerobokan, officers did not find any narcotics and say they are still hunting the person who ordered Sukron to take the pills brought in by Hadi.

This was not Hadi's 1st time playing the mule in a drug operation, says Suastawa.

Last March, the woman was given Rp 40 million to carry drugs into Bali, which apparently went through without a hitch.

But it only takes getting caught once for the blossoming career of a courier to get derailed. Police have not yet publicly announced if Hadi has been charged, but those caught trafficking class I narcotics in Indonesia, such as ecstasy, could get a life sentence in prison with a hefty fine - or more extreme, the death penalty.

Hadi's arrest comes after popular Denpasar nightclub Akasaka was raided earlier this month. Police found Rp 10 billion worth of ecstasy pills on the premises.

(source: coconuts.co)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysian rights group attacks death penalty for 9 Filipinos

A Malaysian human rights organization has condemned the country's Court of Appeals for sentencing 9 Muslim Filipinos to death.

The 9 were among around 100 gunmen from the southern Philippine province of Sulu who tried to reclaim parts of Borneo they claimed were part of the Sultanate of Sulu 4 years ago.

"The death penalty has been shown to have no deterrent value on crimes," said Charles Hector of the group Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture on June 12.

Hector denounced the decision of the 3-member bench of the Court of Appeals that reversed an earlier decision by the Kota Kinabalu High Court, which sentenced the Filipinos to life imprisonment in 2016.

Judge Stephen Chung of the Kota Kinabalu High Court earlier said there was no evidence that the accused were directly involved in skirmishes that occurred during the unrest.

In a statement, the Philippine's Foreign Affairs department said the "death sentence is still not final," adding that the case will still to be heard by the Federal Court of Malaysia.

The month-long Lahad Datu standoff in February 2013, killed 68 people, 56 of whom were gunmen from Sulu while the rest were either Malaysian security forces or civilians.

Hector said the severity of the incident "should never be sufficient to justify the imposition of an unjust sentence, especially the death penalty."

(source: heraldmalaysia.com)

GLOBAL:

5 deadliest among 14 nations with death penalty for gay sex

14 nations and regions with large Muslim populations have laws providing for the death penalty for same-sex activity or otherwise allow such executions. Many fewer countries actually impose the death sentence - by this blog's count, probably 5 of them.

That's a summary of this blog's updated tally of countries that impose the death penalty for same-sex intimacy. This latest tally incorporates information contained in the 2017 edition of the State-Sponsored Homophobia report from ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

For details, see the blog page "14 nations have death penalty for gay sex; 5 carry it out."

(The 5 - 4 nations and 1 would-be nation - where the death penalty is actually imposed for same-sex intimacy are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.)

(source: 76crimes.com)

JUNE 12, 2017:

TEXAS:

Rodney Reed's mother hopes finding of false testimony leads to 'justice'

The mother of death row inmate Rodney Reed said Saturday she is guardedly optimistic about her son's chances for freedom after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled prosecutors presented "false and misleading" testimony in his 1998 capital murder conviction.

"I'm hoping for justice," Sandra Reed told the American-Statesman. "But we have presented so many other pieces of evidence before this that should have at least opened up a new trial. How can you bring a case to justice without the truth?"

She and other family members held a news conference late Saturday at the Bastrop County Courthouse.

"We want to keep it in the air that there is an innocent man on death row and that he's suffered enough," she said. "We're ready for him to come home."

Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings resident with whom he claimed he was having a secret affair. Prosecutors argued Reed abducted, raped and strangled Stiles on her way to work.

But defense attorneys have argued that Stites was was killed by her fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former Georgetown police officer who is now serving a 10-year sentence for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in his custody in 2007.

Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet has said that the state's key expert witness at the trial, then-Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo, has since disavowed his testimony implicating Reed, saying that the sperm found in Stites' body was likely deposited more than 24 hours before her death.

Benjet said a new analysis of medical and forensic evidence by a pair of forensic pathologists shows that Stites was likely killed hours before she was supposed to have left for work and that her body was moved to a rural Bastrop County road after her death.

The court of appeals last month rejected the defense claim that the new evidence established Reed's innocence, but sent the case back to a Bastrop County court to consider the claims of false testimony during the original trial.

Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said at the time: "It's just another legal hurdle that needs to be dealt with."

Reed was 10 days from his execution date in February 2015, when the court ordered a closer look at his request for modern DNA testing of items linked to the murder. But in April the appeals court denied Reed's request for additional DNA testing, citing the possibility of "cross-contamination" of evidence that had mingled in boxes after repeated handling by court employees.

Sandra Reed said though she's hopeful the finding of false testimony will lead to a new trial and her son's exoneration, she remains somewhat skeptical. "You're sending him back to the same county that convicted him in the first place," she said. "We will keep fighting and demanding justice for as long as it takes."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

USA:

Why America still executes people----The legal reasoning behind the continued use of the death penalty

America is 1 of only a few countries in the Western world that still puts criminals to death. Even there, executions are on the wane: just 20 were carried out in 2016, down from a peak of 98 in 1999. Popular support is declining, too. Just 60% of Americans approve of the death penalty for murder, down from 80% in the 1990s. Only 8 states have carried out an execution since 2015, and around 2/3 either have abolished capital punishment or have a moratorium on its use. But it has not disappeared altogether: during an eight-day stretch in April, Arkansas executed 4 people, so as not to waste its expiring supply of a lethal-injection drug. And last month in Alabama, a man who spent 35 years on death row - and eluded 7 execution dates - was finally put to death. Why does America continue to execute people?

Following the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Furman v Georgia, capital punishment was put on hold. The penalty was applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner, violating the Eighth Amendment bar on "cruel and unusual punishments", the justices held. If any factor explains why some criminals get death sentences while most do not, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "it is the constitutionally impermissible basis of race". 4 years later the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v Georgia by a 7-2 majority, finding that states had mended their death-penalty laws to address the concerns in Furman.

One way to understand why America still executes people is to look at the Fifth Amendment, which provides that nobody will "be deprived of life...without due process of law". How could the framers of the constitution have banned capital punishment in the Eighth Amendment when, in the Fifth, they specifically contemplated its existence? In Gregg, the court cited 2 justifications for the death penalty: retributive justice and deterrence. Retribution, “an expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct", Justice Stewart wrote, is "essential in an ordered society that asks its citizens to rely on legal processes, rather than self-help, to vindicate their wrongs". In other words, an abhorrent crime deserves an equally grave penalty. He acknowledged that scholars disagree about how well capital punishment discourages crime, but insisted that "the death penalty undoubtedly is a significant deterrent" for some potential criminals.

Since Gregg, the Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the pool of miscreants eligible for the death penalty. Rape was nixed as a capital crime in 1977. People with intellectual disabilities and juveniles were spared the ultimate punishment in 2002 and 2005, respectively. But any prospects for the oft-curbed penalty being killed off completely are dim - despite a crusade led by Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented sharply in Glossip v Gross, a 2015 case asking whether a drug used in lethal injections entailed the risk of torturing prisoners to death. Rather than "try[ing] to patch up the death penalty's legal wounds 1 at a time", he wrote, it is time for a "full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the constitution". It was 23 years ago that the late Justice Harry Blackmun predicted in Callins v Collins that America's system of capital punishment was "doomed to failure" and that while he "may not live to see that day", he had "faith that eventually it will arrive". With the Supreme Court's recently reinforced 5-justice conservative majority, that day of reckoning seems far off still.

(soource: economist.com)

TANZANIA:

Ethics - Abolish Capital Punishment

Disregarding or snubbing this echo of death penalty in the house is not the best alternative. Instead of closing our eyes to, or taking no notice of , MP Ally Mohamed Keissy (Nkasi North - CCM) called for the application of the death penalty to all fellow citizens who contributed to the suffering and death of Tanzanians, due to lack of resources, following gross misconduct in signing extractive industry contracts, we should seek to reflect on the matter.

While there is a worldwide firm trend towards abolishing the death penalty, with progress in some countries in Africa as well as other regions of the world, death penalty has rebounded in the ongoing parliamentary sitting in Dodoma. Disregarding or snubbing this echo of death penalty in the house is not the best alternative.

Instead of closing our eyes to, or taking no notice of , MP Ally Mohamed Keissy (Nkasi North -- CCM) called for the application of the death penalty to all fellow citizens who contributed to the suffering and death of Tanzanians, due to lack of resources, following gross misconduct in signing extractive industry contracts, we should seek to reflect on the matter.

The lawmaker has a reason to recommend that these people should be identified and get hanged to death even though the use of death penalty appears to be confined to an ever-narrowing minority not only Tanzanians but also countries in the world.

Obviously, Keissy is in distress. He is quite clearly in agony as he sees unfairness as a result of allowing these people to live freely while they have cause suffering to fellow humans and for a long time. In other words, he knows and would like the Tanzanian laws which stipulate that death penalty is a mandatory sentence for cases of murder and treason under the Penal Code sections 39 and 197 to be extended to and applied to the people who he is concerned about.

This we say because, when examined closely, the practice of the death penalty in Tanzania, is not clustered in a few jurisdiction. It may sound that a few would advocate it, but the challenge is that, like Hon Keissy, the public and especially those who have tested the pain inflicted on them would go for the same option.

From what I know, our country has always been well represented by a variety of legal systems, our traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds and the current public tone suggest that all of these have taken a position in favour of abolition of the death penalty.

But why is the lawmaker calling his colleagues not to move away from the death penalty? Or put this question this way; is the death penalty reverberating in the House while the right to life is clearly provided for under Article 14 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania 1977? Is it because the protection of this right is not absolute, as this right under article 14 can be subjected to other laws?

(source: Opinion; Alfred Sebahene----allafrica.com)

LEBANON:

Don't Resume Executions----Resumption of Executions Would be a Step in the Wrong Direction

Once again, political pressure is growing for Lebanon to resume executions.

Most recently, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk called last Friday for the application of the death penalty. Lebanon has an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty and has not carried out an execution since 2004, although courts continue to hand down death sentences. Any move to resume executions should be resisted.

Lebanon's moratorium is a bright spot on its human rights record and is in line with a global trend to abolish the death penalty. Just 23 countries are known to have carried out executions in 2016. A resumption of executions would constitute a troubling setback for Lebanon, without making the country safer or deterring crime. Studies have consistently found there is no clear evidence that the death penalty deters crime. Lebanon in 2010 resisted similar calls from politicians to resume executions.

A resumption of executions would be particularly troubling given concerns about a lack of due process guarantees in Lebanese courts. Human Rights Watch found in 2017 that military courts, which have broad jurisdiction over civilians and retain the death penalty, do not guarantee due process rights. Those who have stood trial in military court describe the use of confessions extracted under torture, decisions issued without an explanation, seemingly arbitrary sentences, and a limited ability to appeal.

On October 10, 2008, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar submitted to the Council of Ministers a draft law abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with life imprisonment with hard labor.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and is plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. Most countries have abolished the practice outright, while dozens have adopted a de facto moratorium. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on all countries to establish a moratorium on the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition.

Ending its moratorium on executions would only serve to tarnish Lebanon's human rights record. Instead, parliament should solidify Lebanon's position as a leader on this issue in the Middle East, and abolish the death penalty outright.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

PHILIPPINES:

'An argument against death penalty'

The case of 2 young men jailed for 11 years here for a crime they did not commit could be another argument against restoring the death penalty, a human rights lawyer who watched the case closely said.

Melvin Dizon, now 35, and Rodel Tiglao, now 32, were arrested on Feb. 9, 2006, in a bar in Angeles City for the killing of Roy Aquino.

The slain man's brother, Christopher, had linked Dizon and Tiglao to his brother's death.

At the time of his arrest, Dizon, son of a tailor and then 24, was a 4th year agricultural engineering student at then Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC) in Magalang town.

Tiglao, who was 21 at the time of his arrest, was then helping an aunt manage a dormitory outside PAC and in his 2nd year in a vocational course.

Paraded in a lineup of suspects at Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police headquarters, they found themselves in more trouble when they were also linked to 28 counts of rape, murder and frustrated murder in Tarlac province, the City of San Fernando and Batangas City.

"Their predicament reveals our flawed criminal justice system," said human rights lawyer and former Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez.

"It's an argument against the reimposition of death penalty," he added.

Justice had been served after 11 years. Judge Eda Dizon-Era, of the Regional Trial Court in Angeles City, ordered their release on May 8.

The order reached the 2 on May 22.

Era's decision stipulated that "the prosecution was not able to establish the identity of the accused and the elements of the offense charged for robbery with homicide."

Era cited instances of sloppy work by the prosecution. "It appearing that Christopher Aquino's positive identification [of Dizon and Tiglao] is contaminated, it cannot be used to establish the identity of the accused or of the elements of the offense."

"What is so baffling [in] this case is that after more than 10 years of litigation, the arresting officers never showed up to testify despite due notice. No other evidence was presented, not even the death certificate of Roy Aquino," the judge said.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

PAKISTAN:

Facebook blasphemy: Pakistani man sentenced to death for insulting Prophet Muhammad

A 30-year-old Pakistani man has been sentenced to death by a counterterrorism court, following the conviction on charges he insulted the Prophet Muhammed and his wives on Facebook, officials said Sunday.

Taimoor Raza, who belongs to the minority Shia sect in the Sunni-dominant country, was arrested last year following an online argument about Islam with someone who turned out to be a counterterrorism agent.

Raza's defense lawyer, Fida Hussain Rana, stated that his client was initially charged only for insulting remarks about other religious personalities, which carries a maximum 2-year punishment, but charges of "derogatory acts against Prophet Muhammad" were later added to ensure the ultimate penalty during the trial in Bahawalpur, 300 miles south of Lahore.

It marks the country's 1st ever death sentence in a case pertaining to social media, but as Raza's trial was handled by the counterterrorism court, he is eligible to appeal the ruling in the High Court and then the Supreme Court.

However, human rights activists have expressed deep concerns that Raza's case is the beginning of a wider social media crackdown that will continue, particularly because nobody is ever held accountable for making fictitious accusations.

Raza's verdict comes at a time when officials are increasingly pounding down on blasphemy claims across the country. At least 15 Pakistanis are said to have been arrested by the counterterrorism department under the umbrella of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. 4 other people were sentenced to death for the crime in 2016 alone.

Scores of others in Pakistan remain on death row for alleged blasphemy, including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who remains in solitary confinement after being convicted in 2010 following a debate with 2 Muslim women in a Punjab village.

The notion of blasphemy is especially sensitive in Pakistan, often igniting violence and outcry even before cases have had the chance to be heard in the house of law. In April, 23-year-old student Mashal Khan was accosted by an angry mob accusing him of such a felony at the Abdul Wali Khan University in northwest Mardan. He was then stripped, beaten, shot and tossed to his death from the 2nd floor.

Weeks later, a crowd attacked a mentally ill man vowing to be the prophet at a local mosque, and in May a 10-year-old boy was killed and 5 others injured after an upset clan launched an assault on a police station in a quest to lynch a Hindu man accused of posting a blasphemous image on social media.

(source: Fox News)

AUSTRALIA:

Julian McMahon and Paris Aristotle honoured for defence of human rights----Barrister who works pro bono for people on death row and refugee advocate among those recognised in Queen's birthday list; Julian McMahon at an appeal by Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran----The abolitionist lawyer Julian McMahon and the refugee advocate Paris Aristotle have been recognised in this year's Queen's birthday honours list.

Julian McMahon, a Melbourne barrister, has been appointed a companion of the Order of Australia for his dedication to defending human rights, in particular advocating for defendants facing the death penalty.

The president of Reprieve Australia since 2015, McMahon has worked pro bono for death-row defendants including: Van Tuong Nguyen, hanged in Singapore in 2005; George Forbes, wrongly accused, then exonerated of murder in Sudan in 2007; and the Bali 9 members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were executed by firing squad in Indonesia in 2015.

His work has raised public awareness globally of the death penalty, as more and more countries abolish capital punishment.

In the wake of Chan and Sukumaran's executions, McMahon said the killing of Australian citizens overseas for non-violent drug offences had solidified public opposition in Australia to capital punishment.

"I think it's been a developing idea basically since the execution of Van Nguyen, which many people rightly thought was an appalling outcome," McMahon told Fairfax Media.

"The public consciousness was awakened to the reality of executions, which hadn’t really featured in public life for a long time. It was on a slow burn until the lead-up to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran. Their case led to such intense analysis, discussion and political input, it is now beyond dispute that we simply understand as a nation the death penalty is unacceptable."

McMahon, the Victorian Australian of the Year in 2016, has been cited in the Queen's birthday honours "for eminent service to the law and the legal profession, through pro bono representation of defendants in capital punishment cases overseas, as an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, and to human rights and social justice reform".

Aristotle has made an officer of the Order of Australia. He founded the Victoria Foundation of Survivors of Torture in 1987 and has been its chief executive since then. He was a member of the prime minister's expert panel on asylum seekers in 2012.

Aristotle's citation as the 2017 Victorian Australian of the Year reads: "A tireless advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, Paris Aristotle has made an enormous contribution by helping countless people rebuild their lives in Australia after surviving torture and trauma in their countries of origin."

Aristotle has worked with state and federal governments of all political affiliations over decades as well as with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.

In an address in March, he said the issue of forced displacement will be one of the great challenges of the 21st century for Australia, the region and the world:

Protecting people fleeing war, conflict and persecution is both a moral and legal obligation for a country like ours. Every person should know that they have a right to protection under the refugee convention - every refugee should be confident that as a part of that they will be properly cared for and every persecutor should fear that they will be brought to justice.

(source: The Guardian)

JUNE 11, 2017:

TEXAS:

Don't execute people with intellectual disabilities

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the opportunity in the case of Bobby James Moore, a death row inmate with severe intellectual disability, to bring the state's capital punishment standards in line with those established by the U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked Moore's case back to the appeals court.

The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented lifelong intellectual disability who has spent the past 37 years on Texas' death row.

While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "no legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct."

While the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been reticent to heed this message, it has both the legal and moral duty to do so now. And it should take an important 1st step here by reforming Moore's death sentence to life imprisonment.

As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, telling time and the concept that subtraction is the reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. At age 14, his father - after subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived largely due to the kindness of strangers.

Then, at age 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, in which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years on death row for that crime, which we all condemn.

In 2014, a Harris County district court judge held a two-day hearing. After carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social difficulties were very clear from early childhood.

The judge's determination that Moore is intellectually disabled and exempt from the death penalty should have been the end of the matter. Instead, in 2015, the Court of Criminal Appeals said that the lower court erred in applying current medical standards in making its determination that Moore was intellectually disabled. Applying nonclinical and outdated medical standards, it decided that Moore was not intellectually disabled and could be executed.

In March, in Moore vs. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reversed the appeals court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court carefully reviewed the record. It emphasized that Moore's IQ score is clearly within the range of intellectually disabled and that the evidence just as clearly supported that he had significant mental and social difficulties from an early age. The U.S. Supreme Court also strongly endorsed Brown's application of current medical standards in concluding that Moore is intellectually disabled. Moore's case is back before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

This case presents not only a legal issue but also a moral one. In Moore's case, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned why Texas applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, "yet clings to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake." The appeals court now has the opportunity to chart a new course for how Texas handles intellectual disability claims and ensure that no person with intellectually disability is executed.

Moore is not the worst of the worst, but due to his significant intellectual deficits, he is certainly among the most vulnerable. He is worthy of God's love and our fair and humane treatment. There is a path forward that affirms Moore's innate dignity as a human being, while still ensuring that justice is done. The Court of Criminal Appeals should follow this path and reform Moore's death sentence to life imprisonment.

(source: Commentary; Steve Wells is pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston----San Antonio Express-News)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge tosses death sentence in double murder, orders new hearing

A Pennsylvania judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed on 1 of 2 brothers convicted in a 1998 double murder and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

The York Daily Record reports that the York County judge denied a new trial to 54-year-old Milton Montalvo but found flaws in the penalty phase, citing ineffective counsel and remarks by the prosecutor and judge.

Montalvo was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the April 1998 slayings of his former girlfriend, 44-year-old Miriam Asencio, and 37-year-old Manual Ramirez Santana.

Montalvo's brother, Noel, was convicted in a separate trial and also sentenced to death. His appeal was revived in 2015.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

SAO discusses rationale in former death row case----After a hearing for Emilia Carr's appeal of her sentence, the State Attorney's Office announced it would not continue to seek the death penalty.

The inmate who once held the title of Marion County's only female death row resident was resentenced to life because the State Attorney's Office did not believe it could get the proper vote for the death penalty a 2nd time around.

Emilia Carr, 32, was found guilty in 2010 of kidnapping and murdering 26-year-old Heather Strong. Carr and her boyfriend, co-defendant Joshua Fulgham, 35, lured his estranged wife, Strong, to a storage trailer in Boardman in north Marion County. There they suffocated Strong and left her body to be found 4 days later.

A Marion County jury recommended the death sentence for Carr with a vote of 7-5.

Last month, after an evidentiary hearing for Carr's appeal of her sentence due to ineffectiveness of her lawyers, the State Attorney's Office announced it would not continue to seek the death penalty.

"Given the original jury vote was 7-5, and the other circumstances of the case, I did not believe it likely to achieve a unanimous recommendation for death,' 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King wrote in an email.

Carr's resentencing places her on the same level of her co-defendant Fulgham, who was sentenced to life in 2012 with a vote of 8-4.

"We are relieved that the state decided not to seek death and that Emilia’s punishment is no longer disparate" of Fulgham's, said Maria DeLiberato, with Capital Collateral Regional Counsel's Middle district.

Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Willard Pope denied Carr's appeal, but her attorneys still have some time to appeal his decision. DeLiberato said the attorneys are discussing their next course of action.

Carr spent a little more than 6 years on death row. She fought her sentence from the start.

Her 1st appeal raised issues including possible errors by the trial judge and proportionality of the death sentence. But the Florida Supreme Court affirmed her death sentence in 2015.

"This case involves a love triangle between the victim, Heather Strong, her estranged husband, Joshua Fulgham, and the defendant, Emilia Carr, that ended when Carr and Fulgham carried out their plan to murder Strong," the high court wrote in its decision.

She then restarted the appeal process claiming ineffective counsel.

King did not respond to a question about whether Carr's situation would influence the state in other appeals from death row inmates. Of the 7 convicted Marion County murderers on death row, 1 is arguing for a reduced sentence of life on an intellectual disability claim, 2 were granted resentencing by the Florida Supreme Court, the other 4 are still fighting their sentences with various appeals.

Dates for the 2 resentencings have not yet been set, according to court records.

Florida now requires a unanimous jury vote to impose the death sentence.

8 Marion County defendants await sentencing in death penalty-eligible cases. Kelvin Coleman is scheduled to be the 1st local defendant to put the state's new death penalty ruling to the test. Jury selection for the penalty phase of his trial starts Aug. 21. Coleman was convicted in October 2016 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

(source: ocala.com)

OHIO:

Not the worst of the worst, or why Ohio should spare from execution those with severe mental illness

Evelyn Lundberg Stratton recently reminded state lawmakers about the "evolving standards of decency" when it comes to the death penalty. The former Ohio Supreme Court justice noted that the execution of juveniles has been barred. The same applies to those with intellectual disabilities. She supports House Bill 81 that would exempt from the death penalty those diagnosed with severe mental illness at the time of the capital offense.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Seitz, reflects the work of a task force formed by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. The panel of highly regarded and representative stakeholders looked for ways to improve the conduct of capital punishment. 3 years have passed since it put forward 56 recommendations. Some have been enacted. Too many have not.

One that received strong panel approval was the exemption for severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

In testimony before the House Criminal Justice Committee last month, Evelyn Stratton stressed the absence of a deterrent value when an offender has "diminished impulse control and planning abilities." In that way, the offender hardly qualifies as the worst of the worst, the common measure of deserving death.

On Tuesday, John Murphy, the executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, presented a rebuttal. He argued the system already protects against a death sentence falling on those with mental illness. He cited standards for competence to stand trial and the option to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Murphy added that jurors may see mental illness as a mitigating factor in weighing whether to apply the death penalty.

The problem, as discussed at the hearing by state Rep. Seitz, is that such protections do not go precisely to the state of mind when the crime is committed. In addition, David Niven of the University of Cincinnati explained that jurors often view severe mental illness as an aggravating factor. Thus, without the exemption, such defendants remain more likely to receive a death sentence.

Seitz and the task force recognized the need to define carefully what qualifies as a severe mental illness. That is especially so in view of the bill rightly following precedent and permitting those currently on death row to seek to resentencing and life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors warn about a flood of requests, even suggesting the effective end of the death penalty. Actually, as Evelyn Stratton pointed out, just 10 % to 15 % would qualify to make an application. The bill places the burden on the defense to show that the defendant suffered from severe mental illness.

The worry about abuse of the exemption is curious, the hard line suggesting: Better to execute an offender who was ill at the time than open the door to another somehow gaming the system. The legislation isn't about leniency. The punishment remains most tough. Rather, the bill goes to how Ohioans define capital punishment, and what it says about our sense of decency.

The task force examined fully the death penalty and recommended it would be improved by the exemption for severe mental illness. Now the Ohio House should do its part and move quickly to approve the legislation.

(source: Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board)

MISSOURI:

A chance to talk about the death penalty

How would you react to the rape and killing of a young girl across the width of a driveway from your home by a neighbor? What would you do after learning of this horror and tragedy? This is the situation Caryn Saxon faced in the aftermath of the abduction and murder of Hailey Owens in 2014. Saxon was the neighbor to Craig Wood, charged in the death. She teaches in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program at Missouri State University.

Linda Taylor has a unique view on punishment, having seen the justice system from 2 very different sides. She was the sister of a murder victim and the mother of a son who received the death penalty. He was executed by Missouri in 2014.

Both of these women will share their experiences with you at 1:30 p.m. June 24 at the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, 627 N. Glenstone Ave. The program is titled "The Death Penalty - A Public Program on Victimization."

This is a portion of an annual meeting of Missourians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty. For more information, visit www.madpmo.org. In considering the suffering of 10-year-old Hailey, Saxon also reflected on the man who had been her neighbor: "All the things I saw in Craig even from a neighbor distance - his ideas, beliefs, smile, friendliness and kindness to his puppy - were real. I am not willing to believe those things no longer exist because this horrible act tipped the scales so dramatically as to erase them. Even though it might make sense to kill the person who killed Hailey, we would be killing all the good along with the bad."

And Taylor on the murder of her brother: "The pain is real serious of losing someone you love through murder. I know that pain. I know that scream that my Mama let out when we viewed Ronnie's body. It went through me. It stabbed me. I can feel it today." She also experienced being harassed and shunned by co-workers and members of her church after her son Michael's arrest. Taylor realized she was being punished, too.

These are just 2 of the voices collected by Kate Siska, a mitigation specialist who has worked on state and federal capital defense teams. She has advocated for sentences other than death by understanding the client's story from life records, lay witnesses and expert evaluations. Siska worked on the Voices project, a booklet featuring people whose lives have felt the impact of violence and the death penalty but oppose this extreme punishment.

If you have concerns about Missouri's use of the death penalty, if you question its effectiveness as a deterrent or whether the excessive costs involved are funds well spent, then join us for this program. You will have an opportunity to listen, question and consider.

(source: Don Underwood is a member of the Springfield chapter of Missourians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty----Springfield News-Leader)

ARKANSAS:

Board finds no Arkansas doctors aided execution-drug purchase, ends inquiry

The Arkansas State Medical Board on Thursday ended its investigation into how lethal-injection drugs were acquired by the state prison system, after determining no licensed doctors in Arkansas were involved.

The monthlong look into the procurement of execution drugs began after one supplier, the McKesson Corp., argued in court that its salesman had been duped into providing drugs without knowing their intended purpose.

The board's attorney, Kevin O'Dwyer, said he examined records of sales between the Department of Correction and drug suppliers and spoke with attorneys for involved parties to determine whether any of the board's licensees had "fraudulently" obtained execution drugs.

O'Dwyer told a reporter Thursday that he found no such misconduct or any doctors who were involved.

Without receiving a written report, the Medical Board voted to take O'Dwyer's conclusions "as information," effectively halting the investigation.

"Unless we receive additional information, our investigation is finished," O'Dwyer said.

Had evidence of violations been found, O'Dwyer said, the board would have held a hearing to determine whether to issue a reprimand, strip or suspend a doctor's license, or drop the case.

The board does not have the authority to investigate the Department of Correction or its officials, only licensed doctors, O'Dwyer said.

Among McKesson's claims were that prison officials used the medical license of an Arkansas physician who had a contract with the department.

"The information that we saw, in not just documents but speaking to several people that were involved, he did not have any involvement in procuring [drugs]," O'Dwyer said.

Those drugs were used in the execution of 4 inmates at the Cummins prison in April. Another four condemned prisoners were spared by court stays.

McKesson had tried to halt all the executions, and its drug from being used, by requesting a restraining order in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The order was issued, but ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Officials with the Department of Correction, in turn, denied invoking the doctor's license to purchase the drugs.

A spokesman with the Department of Correction declined to comment on the Medical Board's decision Thursday.

Court records submitted in April identified the licensee on a purchase order for vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in state executions, as Dr. Robert Allen Floss, an assistant regional medical director for Correct Care Solutions.

The Nashville, Tenn., company is the private provider of the Department of Correction's health care services. The company has denied that Floss or any of its workers were involved in the purchase of execution drugs.

On Thursday, Correct Care spokesman Jim Cheney declined to comment in an email, saying he would let the board's decision "speak for itself."

O'Dwyer said he did not talk to Floss directly, but spoke with his lawyers. The Medical Board attorney declined to say who else he spoke with during his investigation.

A representative for McKesson Corp. could not be reached Thursday for comment.

According to years of purchase orders obtained from the Department of Correction through the Freedom of Information Act, Floss' medical license was used to purchase drugs for prisons dating back to at least 2013.

Citing exemptions from public-disclosure laws written into the state's Method of Execution Act, the department has declined requests to release purchase orders for its execution drugs.

In addition to McKesson, the pharmaceutical companies Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals have in court briefs accused Arkansas' prison system of skirting company rules to obtain execution drugs.

Drugmakers and suppliers across the U.S. and Europe have enacted such controls to prevent their drugs from being used in executions, making it difficult for states, including Arkansas, to maintain supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

April's executions were the 1st time the state had carried out its highest punishment in more than a decade.

They were scheduled to be carried out in quick succession, in part, because the state's supply of midazolam, a sedative used in executions, expired at the end of April.

The state has not announced the acquisition of a new supply.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

NORTH DAKOTA:

North Dakota's history with the death penalty

A recent letter to the editor from Shaun Moser published June 7 questions why Ashley Hunter isn't facing a death sentence. I would like to try and explain a few things about North Dakota's history with the death penalty.

First of all, no one has been executed in North Dakota since a murderer by the name of John Rooney was hanged here in Cass County on Oct. 17, 1905. From my perspective, North Dakota doesn't have the death penalty, most likely because of both the costs involved, and the fact that there hasn't been a murder case that would be considered eligible for the death penalty tried under state law since at least 1914.

North Dakota has only carried out eight judicially-ordered executions between statehood in 1889 and 1905. All eight of the executions were the hangings of condemned murderers. The executions took place in the county in which the inmates were convicted, with the county sheriff presiding over the hangings. If I understand the history correctly, each of these hangings were public spectacles.

However, the Rooney execution was the only execution in state history that was carried out inside of a state prison. Not in public. I wasn't aware that at one time, Cass County had a state prison, but the execution is mentioned on the North Dakota state courts website as having taken place at the Cass County Prison.

North Dakota had a death penalty on the books until it was struck down with all death penalty laws across the country in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Accordingly, the North Dakota Legislature repealed the last vestiges of the death penalty during its 1973 regular session.

At the time, the only death penalty eligible crime was when a prisoner either killed another person while in the custody of the state penitentiary, or when a prisoner escaped from the penitentiary and killed someone outside of the prison. This was a law under which no one had been sentenced to death.

There have been bills to reinstate the death penalty introduced on a number of occasions since the death penalty was repealed in 1973. All of them failed to pass.

Yes, North Dakota is regarded as a "red" or ultra-conservative, Republican-dominated state; yet it does not have the death penalty. It doesn't seem there is any hurry to reinstate capital punishment in this state.

(source: Rick Olson, inforum.com)

EGYPT:

Cancel Military Court Death Sentences----Convicted Civilians Alleged Torture, Forcible Disappearances

The case of 8 men who could face imminent execution following a military trial shows why Egyptian authorities should place a moratorium on the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today.

The 8 civilians, 6 of whom are in custody, were sentenced to death on May 29, 2016, after a trial on terrorism charges that denied them basic due process rights and relied on confessions that the defendants said were obtained under torture. If the Supreme Military Court for Appeals denies the defendants' appeal, the 6 men in custody could be executed as soon as Defense Minister Sedky Sobhi and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratify their death sentences.

"Egyptian authorities have been using military trials to dodge the already threadbare due process protections in regular courts, and we fear these trials may become rubber stamps for the death penalty," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Military courts should never be used against civilians, and they should certainly not be allowed to condemn civilians to death."

Sobhi should cancel the death sentences and order military prosecutors to drop the case, and if there is evidence against the men or their co-defendants, Egypt's prosecutor general should charge them in a regular court, Human Rights Watch said.

Since 2013, military courts have sentenced at least 60 defendants to death in at least 10 cases. 6 of these sentences have been approved and carried out. While military courts have handed down far fewer death sentences than the hundreds issued by regular courts since 2013, they do not provide even the limited due process protections available in those courts. Egyptian authorities have tried more than 7,400 civilians in military courts since al-Sisi decreed a law in October 2014 that vastly expanded military court jurisdiction.

The 8 men were among 28 tried together on terrorism charges. Only 1 of the 28 was a member of the military. The court sentenced 12 to life in prison, 6 to 15 years, and acquitted 2.

Military prosecutors alleged that the men had supported or belonged to a group tied to the Muslim Brotherhood that obtained explosives and weapons and plotted to carry out surveillance and attacks on government and security officials.

Human Rights Watch reviewed the military prosecution's 20-page indictment, a 149-page defense memo, and the 37-page military court verdict. Human Rights Watch also interviewed two defense lawyers, one defendant who was sentenced to death but lives outside Egypt, and relatives of 5 other defendants.

The relatives said that the authorities arrested the 5 men between May 28 and June 2, 2015, and did not provide information about their whereabouts for weeks. The families inquired in local police stations and sent telegrams to various government offices but received no response. Some learned of their relatives' whereabouts weeks later, when they received calls from people who saw the men in detention. The authorities did not officially acknowledge that the men were being accused of crimes until July 10, 2015, when some of the men appeared in a video released by the Defense Ministry that accused them of belonging to "the biggest terrorist cell threatening national security."

5 of the men told their relatives that interrogators had tortured them, including with beatings, electric shocks, and hanging in painful stress positions. 3 said they were then forced to read confessions written for them. 2 told their relatives that the Defense Ministry's Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance Department had held them in Cairo's Nasr City neighborhood, in a facility that Human Rights Watch independently confirmed belonged to military intelligence. None of the men were allowed access to lawyers during their detention, interrogation, or initial questioning by military prosecutors.

The men's trial, known as Case 174 of 2015, began on September 17, 2015. Military prosecutors charged the defendants with manufacturing explosives, acquiring defense secrets, possessing firearms, and violating article 86 of the penal code - Egypt's primary anti-terrorism statute. The law provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone who helps lead a group that uses terrorism to "disrupt the provisions of the constitution or laws, prevent state institutions or public authorities from carrying out their work, assault citizens' personal freedoms or general rights, or harm national unity or social peace." Under article 86, anyone who supplies such a group with money, weapons, or explosives can also receive the death penalty.

The indictment Human Rights Watch reviewed relied entirely on the testimony of Major Hani Soltan, an officer with military intelligence Group 77. Soltan testified that on May 24, 2015, during a routine inspection of troops returning from leave, military personnel discovered a concealed camera pen in the possession of a conscript assigned to the Defense Ministry's general secretariat. After interrogating the man, Soltan testified, he was able to uncover the plot and identify the members of the "terrorist cell."

Prosecutors did not charge any of the 28 defendants with an act of violence but said the men were preparing for attacks by stockpiling weapons and conducting surveillance on security officials, including Gen. Medhat al-Menshawy, the head of the Interior Ministry's Central Security Forces, who commanded the brutal 2013 dispersal of a mass sit-in in Cairo that left at least 817 protesters dead in one day.

In March and April 2017, Human Rights Watch sent letters to six Egyptian institutions including the presidency and Defense Ministry, expressing serious concerns about death sentences handed down in military courts and urging al-Sisi and Sobhi not to approve the death sentences in this case or another case in which 7 men were sentenced to death by a military court in connection with a deadly explosion at a stadium in Kafr al-Sheikh. Human Rights Watch also said that Egyptian authorities should place a moratorium on the death penalty in all regular and military courts in view of the sharp rise in the number of death sentences, turbulent political upheaval, and failure to pass a comprehensive transitional justice law in Egypt since the military removed the country's 1st freely elected president in July 2013.

In 2015, 6 men were executed following an unfair military trial in which they were accused of participating in attacks on security forces, including a gunfight that killed army officers. In that case, Human Rights Watch determined that three of the men could not have participated in the attacks because authorities had arrested them months earlier and they were in detention at the time. Nevertheless, they were sentenced to death and executed by hanging after Sobhi and al-Sisi ratified their sentences.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a punishment that is not only unique in its cruelty and finality, but also inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

Egypt's military courts violate several key elements of due process, including the defendants' right to be informed of the charges against them, to access a lawyer, to have a lawyer present during interrogations, and to be brought promptly before a judge. Judges in the military justice system are military officers subject to a chain of command, without the independence to ignore instructions by superiors.

The use of military courts to try civilians violates international law. The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt ratified in 1982, has stated that civilians should be tried by military courts only under exceptional circumstances and only under conditions that genuinely afford full due process. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which interprets the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, ratified by Egypt in 1984, has stated that civilians should never face military trial and that military courts should not have the power to impose the death penalty. The African Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance, adopted in 2003, prohibit military trial of civilians under all circumstances.

The Case Against the 28 Men

According to the indictment in Case 174 of 2015, the investigation began when guards found a concealed camera pen and flash memory in the possession of Ahmed Magdi Nagi, a conscript assigned to the Defense Ministry general secretariat, during an inspection on May 24, 2015.

Major Soltan, the military intelligence officer, interrogated Nagi and said that Nagi told him a man named Khaled Ahmed al-Sagheer had recruited Nagi into a terrorist cell tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Sagheer met Nagi through Nagi's neighbor, Mohamed Hamdi, on May 19, and the 2 met again 4 days later, when al-Sagheer gave Nagi the camera pen and instructions for conducting surveillance on military officers and facilities.

Soltan testified that after arresting Nagi, he made Nagi contact al-Sagheer and arrange a meeting near the Qobba Bridge Hospital in Cairo's Nasr City district, where he promised to give al-Sagheer the camera pen containing photos of his surveillance. After obtaining permission from prosecutors, Soltan testified, he arrested al-Sagheer following the meeting and found him in possession of the pen and a 2nd camera concealed in a watch.

Afterward, Soltan said, al-Sagheer confessed to leading a group within the cell responsible for surveillance, and identified a man named Ahmed Amin Ghazali as the cell’s leader. Soltan instructed al-Sagheer to arrange a similar meeting with Ghazali in the nearby Qobba Gardens neighborhood and arrested Ghazali as well.

Through these arrests, Soltan testified, he was able identify 25 other people who had either been members of the cell's 3 groups - for surveillance, weapons manufacturing, and carrying out operations - or who had assisted the cell. Soltan testified that the cell had plotted to target General al-Shennawy, the Central Security Forces commander; army Gen. Mohamed al-Assar, the minister of military production; and Cairo University President Gaber Nassar.

According to military intelligence Group 77 inspection reports marked "secret" but included in the court files, intelligence officers seized 2 concealed camera pens, 2 flash memory drives, and a concealed camera watch. 1 camera pen contained "unimportant" photos and videos, while the other had 3 photos meant to "study and observe the objectives" and 4 videos "filmed in the streets possibly to observe the road to the target."

An inspection report prepared by crime scene investigators with the Interior Ministry's Public Security Agency, also included in the files, documented the seizure of numerous weapons from the home of one of the defendants, Abd al-Basir Abd al-Raouf, including 1 FAL and 1 Kalashnikov assault rifle, 2 types of shotguns, and 3 pistols. The report also stated that the authorities had seized a Kalashnikov assault rifle from Ghazali's home.

A military engineers' report included in the court files documented the controlled destruction of what the authorities alleged were homemade explosive devices and other equipment seized from some of the defendants. Defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch that military prosecutors did not present any of the seized weapons at trial, but that they also had not asked them to do so.

Soltan testified that 2 men living outside Egypt, Ahmed Abd al-Basit, a former Cairo University doctoral student, and Abdullah Nour al-Din, had founded and funded the cell. He also said that the group was involved in vandalizing police cars and electricity and telecommunications towers but gave no details about these operations or where, when, and how they were carried out. In May 2016, the military court sentenced Abd al-Basit, Nour al-Din, and Ghazali to death and sentenced Nagi and al-Sagheer to life in prison.

The relatives who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that only 2 of the defendants, Souhaib Sa'ad and Omar Ali, had known each other before the case. Military prosecutors did not charge Hamdi, the neighbor who allegedly introduced al-Sagheer to Nagi, and the presiding judge rejected the defense team's request to call Hamdi as a witness.

All 5 families said they had received no response to their telegrams to the prosecutor general inquiring about their relatives' whereabouts. Human Rights Watch examined several of the telegrams. In court, defense lawyers requested that the prosecution present official documents stating where the defendants had been held after they disappeared, but prosecutors refused. The presiding judge "was just like a silent watcher," said 1 relative, who was allowed to attend 3 court sessions because he is a lawyer. Military judges also did not respond to requests from defense lawyers to investigate the defendants' allegations of enforced disappearance and torture, nor did the judges allow the defendants to be examined by the Justice Ministry's Forensic Medical Authority, the lawyer said.

The families said they never received warrants from the police authorizing their relatives' arrests, either during the arrest or afterward.

Abd al-Basit, 1 of the cell's 2 alleged founders, is mentioned only once in the indictment, in a section that summarizes the confession of Ghazali, the cell's purported leader, and states that Ghazali admitted to receiving an unidentified amount of money from Abd al-Basit. The prosecution's file contains no evidence of this money transfer. Defense lawyers stated in court that all the defendants renounced their confessions and said they had been obtained under torture. Abd al-Basit, who was expelled from Cairo University in 2015 for organizing peaceful protests against the military's removal of former President Mohamed Morsy and human rights abuses by the security forces, and who lives abroad, told Human Rights Watch that he believed Ghazali had mentioned his name under torture because they knew each other from the university.

Disappearances

Ghazali, 27, disappeared on the night of May 28, 2015, his brother Ammar said. He said that a woman saw a group of men pull Ghazali into a car near the Maadi metro station in Cairo. When Ghazali resisted, his mobile phone fell under a car parked in the street. The woman picked up the phone after they left, called the last number dialed and reached Ghazali's family. She told them what she saw and that she was going to get rid of the phone because she did not want to get in trouble, Ghazali's brother said.

The next day, security forces in uniform and others wearing civilian clothes came to their home with Ghazali, who was blindfolded and handcuffed behind his back, said his brother, whose family was there at the time. The uniformed men broke into the apartment and searched it, saying they said they were looking for guns, but found nothing. They left and did not tell the family where they were taking Ghazali.

His brother said that the family visited every police station in the Maadi neighborhood, as well as other Interior Ministry facilities in Cairo, but none admitted to having any information about Ghazali. The family sent a telegram to the prosecutor general on May 30, but received no response. After seeing the Defense Ministry video on July 10, Ammar Ghazali visited military prosecutors, who told him to look for his brother in Cairo's Tora Prison compound. When Ammar went there, he discovered that the authorities were holding Ghazali in the "Scorpion" Maximum Security Prison inside the Tora compound.

Security forces arrested Mohamed Fawzy Abd al-Gawwad, 24, an electrical engineer who had recently graduated from Cairo University, on May 29, 2015, at his apartment in the Helwan neighborhood of Cairo, his father said. Several neighbors witnessed the arrest and called Abd al-Gawwad's father, who was traveling with his wife to visit family in another city.

The father said that when they returned hours later, they found that security forces had broken into their building, destroying the metal door downstairs and their apartment door. They had confiscated their son's laptop, mobile phone, and tablet, which the family received later during the trial. The father began inquiring about Abd al-Gawwad in local police stations, where officers denied knowing anything about him. The next day, the family sent a telegram inquiring about his whereabouts, a copy of which Human Rights Watch reviewed, to the prosecutor general, who did not respond.

On June 17, the father received a phone call from an unknown person who said that he had seen Abd al-Gawwad in Istikbal Prison inside Tora. When the father went to Tora, officers told him he could visit his son in 15 days.

Mahmoud al-Sherif Mahmoud, 30, a mechanical engineer, disappeared on June 1, 2015, his father said. Though the father did not witness the arrest, Mahmoud told his father later that a group of men had taken him from the street close to Cairo's Helwan metro station. His father said that security forces - including police, Central Security Forces, and a man whom he believed was an intelligence officer in civilian clothes - came to search their home the day after Mahmoud's disappearance, without a warrant. The intelligence officer told his group to search the house without destroying any property.

"He was more polite than others," the father said.

The next day, the family sent a telegram inquiring about Mahmoud's whereabouts, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, to the prosecutor general but did not receive a response.

Like Abd al-Gawwad's family, Mahmoud's family received a call on June 17 from an unknown person who said he had seen Mahmoud in the Tora prisons compound.

On June 2, 2015, the day after Mahmoud's disappearance, police arrested Abd al-Basir Abd al-Raouf, 20, then a 1st-year student at the Maritime Academy, on the street near a department store in Helwan, his mother said. She said that he was studying for final exams at the time and had been going to a friend's house so they could study together. When his mother tried to call him several times the next day, his phone was off. Later that day, he called back and said he had finished the exam but would stay with his friend for a few days. There was no need to worry, he told her.

On June 7, after Abd al-Raouf did not call or return home, his mother sent a telegram to the prosecutor general saying that her son had disappeared, but she received no response. On June 15, a woman called the family and said that she had seen Abd al-Raouf while visiting her husband in Istikbal Prison inside Tora and that he wanted them to bring him clean white clothes instead of the prison's standard white uniform. Later, Abd al-Raouf told his mother that when he had called her on June 3 and claimed to be with his friend, he was actually in the custody of security officers, who allowed him to make only that call.

Abd al-Raouf told his mother that 2 men in civilian clothes had carried him into a civilian car and taken him to Helwan Police Station where they held him for a night before moving him to a place he could not identify. His mother said that a few days after her son's arrest, someone came and searched their home while the family was gone. When her other son went home to retrieve some belongings, he found that the door was broken and the apartment appeared to have been searched.

Notes made by the military prosecutor in the file reviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that prosecutors had ordered Abd al-Raouf arrested and detained pending investigation on June 3, but his father obtained a document from the Interior Ministry's Prison Administration Authority, which Human Rights Watch also reviewed, stating that Abd al-Raouf had not been in any of its prisons before June 13, the day when he and other defendants said they saw military prosecutors for the 1st time. The authorities were unable to account for the 10 days in between, the period of Abd al-Raouf's forced disappearance.

Ahmed Mustafa Ahmed, 42, the owner of a small workshop who lived in Cairo's Manshiyat Nasr neighborhood with his wife and 4 children, disappeared around the end of May 2015, his brother, Walid, told Human Rights Watch. Walid Mustafa said that the family did not know his brother's whereabouts for several weeks, and that he sent telegrams to the prosecutor general and the Interior Ministry inquiring about his brother but did not receive a response.

Later, Ahmed Mustafa told his brother that security forces had taken him from his home, put him in his car, and made him drive to work. The building guard told Walid that the security forces had beaten his brother severely during the arrest. Police searched his workshop and destroyed many items, Walid Ahmed said. He said that the police had confiscated a large amount of money that Mustafa Ahmed had saved for his business and did not take anything else from the home or the workplace, except Mustafa Ahmed's car, which they did not return to the family.

Several weeks later, Walid Ahmed said, he was "surprised one day when an unknown man called me and said that my brother was in Tora Prison and that the 1st visit would be in 11 days."

In June 2015, Human Rights Watch documented the enforced disappearance of Ali and Sa'ad, whom security forces arrested on June 1, 2015, along with a 3rd friend, Esraa al-Taweel, outside a restaurant in the Maadi neighborhood. Interior Ministry officials repeatedly denied arresting them, but more than 2 weeks later, relatives found Sa'ad and Ali in Tora Prison and al-Taweel in al-Qanater Women's Prison. Prosecutors held al-Taweel in pretrial detention on accusations of belonging to a terrorist group, but after widespread public pressure, a court ordered her release 6 months later on medical grounds. Al-Taweel was not charged in case 174, but military prosecutors alleged that Sa'ad and Ali belonged to the cell’s surveillance group.

Most of the relatives who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that security forces kept the men blindfolded and stripped to their underwear during their entire time in custody, leaving them unable to identify their detention site. But relatives of Abd al-Raouf and Mahmoud said the men claimed they had been held in the Nasr City military intelligence headquarters. Human Rights Watch has independently confirmed that military intelligence Group 77, to which Major Soltan belonged, is located there.

Torture

The 5 families who spoke with Human Rights Watch alleged that security forces tortured their relatives while they were forcibly disappeared to make them sign dictated confessions and read them out loud while being videotaped. The Interior Ministry does not allow human rights groups to interview prisoners, and the military judges presiding over the case denied the defense team's request for the defendants to receive medical examinations, so Human Rights Watch was unable to independently confirm these accounts.

Abd al-Raouf's mother said that when she first saw her son, it was a "big shock," and that he appeared exhausted.

"I was crying and holding him and saying, 'What happened to you, what did they do to you, my son,'" she said. Abd al-Raouf pointed at Ali, she said, whose mother was visiting him, and indicated that Ali's wrist was almost broken. Abd al-Raouf told his mother "not to worry." During another visit, he told her that his interrogators beat him severely while he was blindfolded for 12 days and once kept him hanging from his wrists for 3 days.

Abd al-Raouf's father said that his son told him his interrogators shocked him with electricity and tortured him psychologically by driving him into the desert on 1 occasion and threatening to kill him. Abd al-Raouf's mother said he told her that his only desire during his detention was for the torture to stop. He told her that his interrogators eventually took him, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a man he was told was a military prosecutor.

The man asked Abd al-Raouf questions but wrote down fabricated answers without waiting for Abd al-Raouf to respond. He then asked Abd al-Raouf to sign a document. Abd al-Raouf's mother said he told her that at one point, when he denied the prosecutor's accusations that he had possessed weapons, someone hit him in the back with a gun and told him that nobody knew where he was and that they could make him "another Islam Atito." The man was referring to a student who disappeared from Ain Shams University in May 2015 and was later said by the Interior Ministry to have died in a shootout with security forces.

Abd al-Raouf's mother said that when he arrived at Istikbal Prison, the prison doctor, inspecting him and other detainees, refused to admit them without hospital reports documenting their injuries, but that the prison warden pressured him not to insist on this.

Ghazali's brother Ammar said that when the family saw him for the 1st time in prison, "he still didn't understand what was happening to him."

"He was tortured in many different ways: Hanging from hands and tying weights to his legs. When he was [let down] he got immense pain. [They hit him] with a piece of cloth soaked in a flammable liquid, and when he tried to sleep later he couldn't, because his back was so inflamed," his brother said.

The day before recording the confession video, the interrogators brought a paper to Ghazali and told him: "You will read what is written on it [in] order to get out of here, or you will stay with us," Ammar Ghazali said.

Abd al-Gawwad was held completely naked, his father said. "Anything you can think of happened to him. When he fainted, they used to wake him up and torture him again," he said. "He was beaten and humiliated verbally in all ways. When I saw him, he had dark skin on his hands and wounds from ties and hanging."

The father said that his son was forced to read his confession from a piece of paper while the interrogators videotaped him. He said that they recorded the confession about 10 times, until they obtained a recording that made it seem as if Abd al-Gawwad were speaking naturally and not reading. He said Abd al-Gawwad told him that he was so badly tortured he could not raise his arms or legs to put clothes on and that the interrogators had to dress him in a shirt and pants to be filmed.

Walid Ahmed, the brother of Mustafa Ahmed, said his brother told him that interrogators hanged him from his wrists, gave him electric shocks on his genitals, deprived him of sleep, and held him naked while pouring water on him. When Walid saw his brother for the 1st time, he seemed to have lost weight and have torture marks on his hands.

"He wasn't the brother I knew," Walid Ahmed said of his appearance. He said that when his brother tried to carry his 6-month-old daughter in 1 of the prison visits, his hands were shaking so severely that he nearly dropped her. He told his family that his interrogators beat him severely when he asked to remove his blindfold to identify a man his interrogators said was a prosecutor. The interrogators filmed his pre-written confession between 10 and 15 times because his eyes kept dropping down to read the confession paper, his brother said.

"I asked him how can you sign such confessions," Walid Ahmed said.

His brother responded: "I was dying ... I was going to die."

He also told his brother that the interrogators threatened to bring his wife and other family members and rape them if he did not confess.

Mahmoud's father said that Mahmoud told him that the worst torture was the threat to arrest his family. But Mahmoud also told his father the interrogators had dragged him on the floor, handcuffed his hands behind him and hanged him painfully from a door, beat him with hoses, and shocked him with electricity repeatedly. After Mahmoud's arrest, intelligence forces arrested 2 of his younger brothers separately, without charges, the father said.

He said that the older of the 2 arrested brothers, Moataz, disappeared for more than four months after the military unit in which he served as an unenlisted civilian laborer called him back from leave. The family only discovered his whereabouts after they submitted a special request to the commander of the air force. The father said that authorities took Moataz to a military intelligence office for a month and half and that intelligence officers brought him to see Mahmoud while both were in custody.

"When he saw Mahmoud, he was shocked, he thought he was burned, his face looked like it was burned," the father said. He said that officers tortured both brothers, including with beatings and cigarette burns. They then sent Moataz back to his unit, where he spent two and half months in custody and was later released after he was discharged without any compensation, his father said.

Several days after Mahmoud's disappearance, security forces raided their home for the 2nd time, at about 11 p.m., breaking the door and taking away Mahmoud's youngest brother, who had secondary school exams at that time.

"They threatened [Mahmoud] that they wouldn't allow his brother to take exams," his father said. Around dawn the next day, they released the brother. The father said that a man from the local police station called him on the phone and told him to come take his son, saying, "We don’t need him anymore." A few days later, they received a phone call from an unknown individual informing them that Mahmoud was being held in Tora Prison.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

GHANA:

'Major Mahama's killers must be executed by firing squad' - Retired soldier

A retired army officer is advocating death penalty for the killers of slain military officer, Major Maxwell Mahama.

Captain Budu Koomson (rdt) is convinced execution of the perpetrators will deter others from engaging in mob injustice.

52 suspects of which eight are women have been remanded in police custody following the gruesome murder of then Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama.

The late soldier was lynched by a group of people at Denkyira Obuasi in the Central Region where he was on official duty to combat illegal small-scale mining, popularly known as galamsey.

The angry mob mistook Major Mahama for an armed robber after a snail seller spotted a pistol on him when he was reaching for his pocket to pay for snails he had bought from her while jogging on Monday 29 May.

He was given a state burial on Friday June 9, 2017 at the forcourt of the State House in Accra.

Government has also promised a Trust Fund to help the family of the deceased with a seed fund of GHS500, 000 with President Akufo-Addo also pledging some GHS 50,000 from his personal coffers to the bereaved family.

But Captain Budu Koomson (rdt) in an interview on Adom News said the ceremony to honour the fallen soldier will be a faze if those involved don't face the full rigorous of the law.

"We've atoned ourselves; we've told God, Maxwell and ourselves that we are sorry so a swift investigations investigation of what happened, trial and the consequences applied.

"If they are found guilty, the extreme punishment allowed should be given and if the death penalty is still in our status books and they [suspects] qualify for death, let us execute them by firing squad.

This punishment, Captain Budu Koomson (rdt) stressed will send a shock wave for others to sit up.

(source: ghanaweb.com)

BANGLADESH:

No female prisoner executed in Bangladesh----Currently there are 37 convicted death row female prisoners. The only known execution of a woman in this region took place in 1937 in Sylhet

Since independence, Bangladesh has not carried out the death sentence of any woman convict, prisons officials say. Even if a woman is sentenced to death, her punishment is later commuted.

The latest example is Oishee Rahman, who killed her father, Special Branch inspector Mahfuzur Rahman, and mother Swapna Rahman on August 16, 2013 at their Malibagh residence.

A Dhaka court found her guilty in 2015 and handed down maximum penalty for the cold-blooded killing. But the High Court on June 5 revised the punishment to life imprisonment.

The court cited 5 reasons for commuting her sentence: lack of motive, medical report (on her physical and mental state), mental disorder, lack of prior criminal records and surrender within 2 days of committing the crime.

According to Prisons Headquarters, there are 75,935 prisoners at various jails as of June 7 - and 1,456 of them are death row convicts.

Altogether 2,899 women are behind bars - 2,369 of them are under trial while the 533 are serving various sentences. Only 37 of them are carrying death sentences.

There are 267 children below the age of 6 with the female prisoners and detainees.

Prisons sources say the only known execution of a woman in this region took place in 1937 in Sylhet, when one Karimunnesa was hanged for murdering her husband. Although many countries execute women prisoners, there is no such known incident in Bangladesh.

Assistant Inspector General of Prisons (administration) Md Abdullah Al-Mamun told the Bangla Tribune: "We have no information on executing female prisoners in Bangladesh. I am not aware of any such incident that might have taken place before the independence."

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

PAKISTAN:

Bahawalpur court hands down death sentence to man for blasphemous Facebook posts

A man was handed down the death penalty by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Bahawalpur on Friday over charges of committing blasphemy.

The Counter-Terrorism Department Multan had registered a case against Taimoor Raza over accusations of posting blasphemous material on Facebook.

He was arrested and presented before the ATC in Bahawalpur. During trial, he was found guilty of committing blasphemy and was sentenced to death.

On Wednesday, an ATC in Islamabad had dismissed the bail plea of a suspect who is facing charges of committing blasphemy through social media.

The petitioner, who is said to be a college professor, wrote in the bail application that he had no connection with spreading any blasphemous content through the social media. In the petition, he claimed that he was innocent and urged the court to grant his bail.

(source: The Express Tribune)

JUNE 10, 2017:

TEXAS:

Death penalty sought for alleged hitman accused of killing Uptown dentist

The Dallas County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against the man accused of shooting a dentist in a murder-for-hire plot.

Authorities say a love triangle may have led to the 2015 slaying of 35-year-old Kendra Hatcher in her Uptown apartment parking garage.

Kristopher Love, 33, is one of three people charged with capital murder in the case. Investigators believe Brenda Delgado, who used to date Hatcher's boyfriend, hired Love to be the triggerman.

Prosecutors filed a motion Friday to seek the death penalty against Love.

Police said Delgado, 34, was jealous of Hatcher's relationship with Ricardo Paniagua, whom Delgado had dated for 2 years. She's accused of hiring 23-year-old Crystal Cortes to help rob Hatcher.

Cortes told police Delgado paid her $500, and she drove Love to Hatcher's parking garage. Before the slaying, Cortes asked Love how much he was being paid to rob Hatcher. He told her it was "none of her business."

Cortes said she waited in the getaway car while Love attacked Hatcher. She heard 1 gunshot, and then Love got back into the Jeep with 2 purses. He told Cortes that if she told police, she and her son "would be next," police records show.

But their getaway car, a Jeep Cherokee belonging to Delgado, was captured on surveillance cameras.

Initially, police questioned and released Delgado about her role in Hatcher's slaying. She told police that she loaned the Jeep to Cortes, who was arrested shortly after the killing.

About a month later, police issued arrest warrants for Love and Delgado, but by then Delgado had fled to Mexico.

Delgado was extradited to the United States a year after the killing. Though authorities believe she was the mastermind behind Hatcher's killing, she isn't eligible for the death penalty as part of the extradition agreement with Mexico.

Trial dates for Love, Cortes and Delgado have not been set.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

FLORIDA:

State could seek death penalty for Naomi Jones' alleged killer

The man accused of murdering 12-year-old Pensacola girl Naomi Jones has been denied bond.

Robert Letroy Howard, 38, made his first appearance in court Friday morning via video conferencing. At the hearing, Judge Joyce H. Williams determined there was probable cause for the State Attorney's Office to charge Howard with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender.

In a press conference following the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said the state will present to a grand jury within the next 2 weeks its reasons for charging Howard. If the grand jury indicts Howard on the charges, the state will then decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty.

Marcille said he anticipates that decision will be made before Howard's arraignment June 30.

Marcille added the state is still investigating and reviewing the facts of the case, but at this point, "the factors of the case do indicate there are circumstances that would justify the death sentence."

A few of the factors under consideration are Naomi's age and whether her death was heinous, atrocious or cruel. Another factor will be Howard's previous criminal history.

Howard, of Brewton, Alabama, is a convicted felon who served 15 years in prison for 2 counts of rape. According to Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Community Information Center, Howard was arrested Dec. 8, 1998, and convicted Sept. 1, 1999, in Escambia County, Alabama. Howard's address in Brewton was last verified the day after Naomi's murder.

Marcille said the state is reviewing the information on Howard's previous convictions.

"If the prior cases do constitute a violent felony, then we could consider those in seeking a sentence," Marcille said.

Howard was given a $600,000 bond for his failure to register charge, but was denied bond on the murder and kidnapping charges. Procedurally, the no bond takes priority, meaning Howard will remain in jail until his trial unless a judge orders otherwise.

Howard developed as a person of interest in Naomi's disappearance June 2, two days after the 12-year-old went missing, according to his arrest report.

Naomi lived in Aspen Village Apartments on East Johnson Avenue, the same complex where Howard's girlfriend resides. During a neighborhood canvas, Howard reportedly gave investigators inconsistent statements about his whereabouts at the time of Naomi's disappearance.

Naomi was found deceased in a creek bed near Ashland Avenue and Detroit Boulevard June 5.

On June 7, investigators recovered surveillance video from a business in the area. It allegedly showed Howard's silver Nissan Altima traveling around the intersection and bridge near the creek bed around 2:35 a.m. June 1, approximately 14 hours after Naomi disappeared.

Investigators re-interviewed Howard later in the day on June 7. According to the report, he told them he had been in Brewton when Naomi disappeared and had nothing to do with the case. He reportedly also said he had never been in the area of Detroit Boulevard and Ashland Avenue.

Howard was ultimately arrested early the morning of June 8 while he was still in interviews with investigators.

During the process, he reportedly told investigators he stayed at his girlfriend's apartment 3 nights a week, but was not required to register as a sex offender in Florida if he did not stay more than 3 days at a time.

According to the arrest report, Howard was required to register with Florida as a sex offender if he spent more than 5 days at 1 address in the state during any calendar year.

Howard will be formally charged at his arraignment June 30, when he will have the opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. He was assigned a pubic defender Friday.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

MISSISSIPPI:

Interview: The Aftershocks of Sentencing a Man to Death----Film Shows Impact of Mississippi Death Penalty Trial on Jurors

In 1982 Bobby Wilcher stabbed to death 2 women he met at a Mississippi bar. 12 years later Lindy Lou Wells served on the jury that sentenced him to die - a decision that unexpectedly upended her life. The documentary Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2, featured in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, takes a nuanced look at the death penalty in the US while it follows Lindy on her journey to reconnect with the trial's other jurors. Amy Braunschweiger talks with her about the trial and her search for forgiveness.

The trial was in 1994. What was your take on the death penalty before this trial?

They asked me if I could deliver the death penalty without problems. And I said, sure, he killed somebody, I can do it.

Being in the conservative South, being a Baptist, a person of faith, and a Republican, you're brought up here with the notion that if someone murders somebody the death penalty is a just punishment. It's eye for an eye. It's just the way that you come up, you don't question it, you don't think about it.

What changed?

As I sat there in that jury box, and I watched him and everyone else in that courtroom, I'm thinking, oh my gosh. This guy had no one. His sister was his only defense, and the only thing she said was, "Please don't kill my brother." I just got this overwhelming compassion toward this young man. I can't even tell you what it was about him - he scared some of the other women on the jury.

When we went into the deliberation room, a panic attack or anxiety came over me. I remember walking to the window the day before we were supposed to give the sentence, and I looked outside and everyone is just shopping and going to stores, and I wanted to scream, “You're down there acting like everything is wonderful and we're fixing to kill a man." There's something wrong with this picture.

Why did you feel death was the only option?

In Mississippi at that time, there was no life without parole. And I didn't want him back out, so we had no choice.

What did you think of the trial itself?

Those lawyers did a roughshod job. It was like they didn't care. They never objected to anything the prosecutor said. They never brought up his childhood or his background.

How did your life change after the trial?

I lost my temper really quick. Anxiety. I really didn't know it was the trial that was causing it. I knew I needed to talk to someone about what I'd been through, that I needed comfort, and I knew I wasn't acting right, either. I was not my usual self. I avoided people. I avoided social situations. I'd even gone to doctors - I thought it was hormonal. They couldn't find anything wrong. I wanted my life back, and I didn't have it. Nothing was the same.

In the film, you say that your changing views on the death penalty cost you people in your life. How did that happen?

Some people really did just stop being my friend, although most of them now talk to me. But that's never a topic of conversation. Even me doing this film, it's not discussed. I don't bring it up with anyone around here, just close friends.

I talked mostly to my husband about the trial. My sister, who I'm really close to, is one of those eye-for-an-eye people. I talked to my pastor, and he didn't help. He just showed me the "eye for an eye" passage in the Bible. And I said, "I can't accept that." I really had nowhere to turn.

You met Bobby after the trial. What was that like?

About the time Bobby was to be executed, I told his lawyers that I wanted to meet him. I said I need to ask for his forgiveness, and I want to do it face-to-face.

I went to visit him on July 6, 2006. I was the only visitor that he'd had in 15 years. And I was scared to death. But Bobby put me at ease. He asked me about my trip to Parchman [the Mississippi state penitentiary]. We got to talking, he asked me about my family, how many kids I had. He wasn't at all what I expected.

I left at 4:30, and they were going to execute him at 6 that evening. I was with my mom and sister at a Mexican place in my hometown, having a margarita, when Bobby's attorney called me and said there had been a stay of execution. I thought, 'God has given me more time to befriend this guy.'

I visited him on the 3rd Tuesday in August and September. He asked if he could call, and he'd call 2-3 times a week, and we talked for 5 minutes. He said he loved me. He knew I was married. I'd say I love you too, but I felt like I was lying. My love was not a romantic love, it was the love of a friend or for people. I just didn't have the heart to tell him.

Why did you do that?

I thought, why does it matter? He's going to die, and I didn't want him to die thinking nobody cared about him because his mother and no one visited him.

But when he was executed in October, the commissioner of prisoners said on national TV that Bobby and I were having a love affair. That was absolutely not true. When I went to see him I was 55 years old. Bobby was 42. I was married. My mother heard, and called me freaking out. But the damage was done. People I knew asked why I was going up there and seeing him.

I gave people around here something to talk about for quite a while.

Do you like the movie?

Florent [the filmmaker] portrayed me the way I am, and the way I think. He gave me a voice. People don't think about the jurors. We see all these pictures of dead bodies and other evidence, and people expect us to just go home and resume our lives?

Are you glad you did it?

What really made me glad I did this was that I found out I'm not by myself. There were still some jurors who felt he deserved what he got, but I just don't think we're in the judgment business. But other jurors were suffering inside like I was. Seeing that made me realize there's nothing wrong with me. What I'm feeling is a normal reaction to a terrible situation. And 4 of those jurors said they would never serve on a death penalty case again.

In watching the film, I noticed you were very good at talking to jurors who held different views on Bobby's sentencing than you did. What was that like for you?

I can't sit and judge. Florent and I are just opposites on everything, and he's one of my best friends. He's a progressive. I'm a conservative. When it comes to faith, he's not a believer, I am. And he is one of the most gentle, sweetest, kindest, thoughtful persons I've ever met. And he feels about me the same way I feel about him. It makes life interesting.

I think that's what's wrong with the world today. People just can't sit down and get past their own feelings or thoughts. We don't even take the time to listen to people. We don't have to agree on everything, nobody is alike. But why would that upset people?

It's like the political stuff today. This to me was absolutely crazy. I think everybody just wants to overreact. Why have so much drama in your life? Life's just too short. I just don't have time for it.

Did you find any closure in making this film?

I did. Florent helped me put things into perspective. I had all this angst and I couldn't talk about it with anybody. My brain was on a carousel.

The 1st time Florent was here, I didn't say I was against the death penalty. Because when people would ask me, "What if something happened to one of your granddaughters?" I'd say that I'd probably kill the person who did it myself. Florent told me he'd feel the same way if something happened to his kid. But then he said, that's not justice. You're looking for revenge, not for justice.

I couldn't have those conversations in my life before.

The film ends shortly after another juror's daughter says she could never sentence anyone to death. What did that mean to you?

It was enlightening. It just lifted my spirits. It dawned on me that's what I wanted to do. I had started talking with my granddaughter about the death penalty. The younger people that are here in this state, I don't want them to grow up with that mentality that this is the answer. I want them to think about each individual circumstance. If they're ever put in that position to sentence someone to death, I want them to think about it, and not just assume that because someone killed someone, they deserve the death penalty.

And if they're going to continue the death penalty - I don't see it to be done away with - there needs to be some changes. There's no way you can take the average person off the street, put them on a death penalty case, and expect them to decide of the lawyers had proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. They need insight into the judicial system.

Also, they should have a counselor who could offer assistance if a juror needs it. You can't kill someone and then go home and wash dishes. It changes you from the inside out.

[Tickets for the film, part of Human Rights Watch's International Film Festival in New York, are on sale now at bit.ly/HRWlindylou. The movie will screen the evenings of Friday June 16 and June 17.]

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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

Capital cases are complex, costly

The man accused of killing 8 people in a shooting spree Memorial Day weekend is facing a capital murder charge. If he is indicted and the case proceeds to trial, it will be a lengthy and expensive process that may not take place in Lincoln County.

Willie Cory Godbolt was charged with 1 count of capital murder and 7 counts of 1st degree murder. The capital murder charge is for the death of sheriff's deputy William Durr. The 1st degree murder charges are for the deaths of Barbara Mitchell, her daughter, Toccara May and Mitchell's sister Brenda May, all of Bogue Chitto; Austin Edwards, his cousin, Jordan Blackwell, of Brookhaven; and Ferral and Shelia Burage, of Brookhaven.

The court documents detailing the charges against Godbolt state that he knew Durr was a law enforcement officer when he killed him.

Joel Smith, district attorney of Hancock, Harrison and Stone counties, whose grandfather was the founder of Brookhaven Funeral Home, said the potential death penalty case would be expensive and could take years.

Up next for Godbolt will be a preliminary hearing in Justice Court. He is being represented by court-appointed public defenders Paul Luckett of Pike County and Gus Sermos of Lawrence County. The court will review probable cause and facts of the case. From that point forward, a file will be put together for an investigative agency. Whether it be witness statements, recordings, written statements, any kind of identification procedures - an investigative team will put all of the information together.

The investigative team will also gather any forensic testing items. Whether it's DNA testing, fingerprints or ballistics testing, those types of things would be submitted to the Mississippi Crime Lab or to a private lab for analysis.

"One they get all of that information put together, they will turn that completed file over to the prosecutor's office and at that point, the prosecutor would then present their case to the next available grand jury," Smith said. "The formal charging comes after you present the information in front of the grand jury. The timing of that can vary depending on the complexity of the investigation and the complexity of any testing. Prosecutors want the evidence to be completed prior to presenting the case to the grand jury."

It could be as late as the end of the year before a Lincoln County grand jury potentially hears the case.

"The crime lab in Mississippi has a significant case load, which can make it difficult as far as timing goes," said Smith. "It can cause a delay in moving forward with the case."

If the grand jury were to indict Godbolt, the accused would be brought before the court for a formal arraignment.

Whether there would be one trial or eight different trials for each victim if the case reaches that point is still to be determined.

"There is a statutory procedure in Mississippi that allows cases to be tried together if they arise out of a common scheme or plan," said Smith. "The court will consider a lot of factors in determining whether or not the case arose out of common scheme or plan, then they would make the decision whether to try every count together, separately, or some combination thereof."

If there is a trial, it could take place outside of Lincoln County. A motion filed for change of venue is often associated with someone believing that they could not get a fair trial in the home county of the case.

"Most capital cases have tremendous pre-trial publicity and because of that, the question for the trial judge is whether or not the defendant can receive a fair and impartial trial in a county where the crime allegedly occurred," Smith said. "There are 2 options for changing the venue for the trial. The court at the change of venue hearing would allow both parties and the court to interview a sampling of jurors from the home county. They would be able to ask them about their knowledge of the case and their in-depth knowledge of the cases and then determine whether or not their knowledge of the case would affect them to be a fair juror."

Based on those sample jurors statements, the court would make the decision on whether or not to keep the case in the home county or change venues. If the judge decides to change venues, they have a couple of different options.

"They can change venues to a similarly situated county in the state of Mississippi, where they would have less knowledge of the case," Smith said. "The 2nd option would be to select jurors from a new county, bring the jury back to the home county and try the case. What comes into play is what is the most efficient way to try the case."

In all capital murder trials, the jurors are sequestered. Whether the jury is picked and brought back to the home county or whether it's tried in another county, the jury would stay in hotel rooms and have no contact with the public for the duration of the court proceedings.

"Death penalty cases are expensive," Smith said. "They have significant cost attached to them, primarily because what is at stake in the case."

A death penalty case is a unique case to try because it is what you call a bifurcated proceeding," Smith said. "A bifurcated proceeding means you have 2 phases of a case. The 1st phase of the case is the guilty or innocent phase. Where the jury hears all of the facts of the case and they decide whether or not the accused in guilty or innocent of that particular crime. The jury will have the option of deciding whether or not the accused is guilty of capital murder or not in this case," Smith said.

"The 2nd phase of the case, if he's found guilty of capital murder, is the sentencing phase," said Smith. "The same jury typically will hear the sentencing phase of the trial. The state will give reasons of why the accused should receive the death penalty and the defense will give reasons not to give the death penalty and ultimately it's up to the jury to decide that."

Death penalty sentences are typically appealed at several levels. The appeals process can take years, meaning Godbolt, if indicted and convicted and sentenced to death, could spend years in jail awaiting a sentence that may never be carried out. Mississippi hasn't executed someone since 2012, according to an online database.

There are currently 47 people on death row in the state.

(source: dailyjournal.com)

KENTUCKY:

Are 18-year-olds too immature to face the death penalty? Lexington attorney says yes.

Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone will soon decide whether to exclude the death penalty for a murder defendant who was 18 when he was charged with murder and robbery.

In a 2005 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people who were younger 18 at the time of their crimes violated the federal constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments.

The defense team for Travis Bredhold wants Scorsone to extend that exclusion to people 21 and younger. Bredhold, 21, was 18 when he was charged Dec. 13 with murder and robbery in the fatal shooting of Marathon gas station attendant Mukheshbhai Patel.

Police said surveillance camera footage indicates that Patel, 51, was trying to comply with a robber's demand for cash when he was shot. He died later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Bredhold was "only 5 months and 13 days older than the limitation" established by the U.S. Supreme Court, public defender Joanne Lynch said.

More importantly, Lynch said, research indicates that people's brains don't mature until they are in their mid-20s. The Supreme Court ruled that people who are young and immature and who are likely to be more impulsive are not as culpable as a group and shouldn't be up for the death penalty.

Bredhold's defense team is asking to extend the exclusion "because people under the age of 21 are almost completely like people under the age of 18. You really don't mature until you are in your mid-20s," Lynch said.

Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn argued during a hearing Friday that there isn't a "national consensus" on whether to extend the death-penalty exclusion to defendants 21 and younger.

In its 2005 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that states were reducing the frequency by which they applied capital punishment to juvenile offenders. At the time of the decision, 20 states had the juvenile death penalty on the books, but only 6 states had executed prisoners since 1989 for crimes committed as juveniles. Only 3 states had done so since 1994.

If the judge rules against the commonwealth, the appeal would be taken up by the Kentucky Attorney General's Office.

Bredhold's trial is scheduled to start Sept. 5.

(source: kentucky.com)

ARKANSAS:

2015 state law protects actions, judge says----Griffen says AG, justices violated religious rights

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen stood on the steps of the state Capitol on Friday and took aim at lawmakers and the Arkansas Supreme Court, accusing them of breaking the state's 2015 religious freedom law by scrutinizing his public displays of faith.

Backed by a cadre of supporters who appeared at a rally on his behalf, Griffen told reporters that he planned to take his case to court if sanctions against him are not lifted.

The circuit judge has been stripped of his power to hear death penalty cases since he appeared at a death-penalty protest at the Governor's Mansion in April, the same day he issued an order that temporarily halted the state's efforts to begin a series of executions.

Griffen later said his decision to lie prostrate on a cot at that April rally -- which fell on Good Friday -- was meant to portray the crucifixion of Jesus.

On Friday, donning his Panama hat like he did at the rally (though he took it off when he lay on the cot), Griffen said his actions fell under the protection of the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The law says the government cannot "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," unless it is "the least restrictive means of furthering" a compelling government interest.

Griffen is under investigation for his conduct by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, and some Republican lawmakers have floated the idea of impeachment.

That's in addition to the Supreme Court justices removing Griffen from cases involving the death penalty.

"It has already happened. The violation [of the religious act] has already happened," Griffen told reporters Friday.

In response to the complaints filed against him with the judicial discipline commission, Griffen filed his own ethics complaint against the justices and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for not offering him a hearing before delivering sanctions.

2 of the top officials at the commission later recused from the competing cases, citing potential conflicts of interest.

David Sachar, the executive director of the commission, said Friday that the staff was looking to recruit 2 independent attorneys and 2 investigators to handle the cases.

Griffen told reporters that he had not yet been contacted by the commission and has not spoken to investigators.

Griffen did not speak at the rally that preceded his talking to reporters. At the rally, supporters from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the NAACP and local Baptist churches came to his defense.

A series of more than a dozen speakers from several states -- and one who said she was a missionary in Indonesia -- accused lawmakers of trumpeting their own brand of Christianity while chastising others.

Rizelle Aaron, the president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, read a list of other judges who had run into trouble with the law or been accused of breaking judicial rules without facing similar scrutiny from the courts or lawmakers. (One of the judges he mentioned, former District Judge Joseph Boeckmann, stepped down amid an investigation into sexual misconduct.)

"Where were you, Supreme Court? Where were you, impeachment legislators?" Aaron repeated several times.

Multiple speakers mentioned the religious freedom law, Act 975, which passed after an earlier version sparked heated debate over protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The bill was pulled and rewritten to more closely match language in federal law.

Asked Friday to comment on Griffen's remarks, the sponsor of Act 975, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, said in a text message that he would need to study the judge's argument more closely to give a full response.

However, Hutchinson said the argument would appear to carry more weight under the earlier, failed version of the religious freedom law, which he voted against.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

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

Religious Leaders Defend Arkansas Judge's Death Penalty Protest----"We need more moral leadership in America, not less."

Religious leaders rallied on the state capitol steps Friday in defense of an Arkansas judge's 1st amendment rights, after he was barred from hearing capital murder cases in April.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen joined about 15 religious leaders and scholars from different faiths and states in calling the actions against him a "direct attack on religious liberty."

"I rise to say, 'Shame on you!,' to those in Arkansas government, law enforcement and judicial branches who have falsely accused Judge Wendell Griffen of being biased," said Valerie Bridgeman, the dean of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, as a crowd of 50 people cheered. "Do the right thing, Arkansas. Do the constitutional thing."

Griffen, a Baptist preacher, came under fire on Good Friday when he lay strapped to a cot as part of a death penalty protest organized by his church in front of the Governor's Mansion, the same day he issued a ruling that blocked the state's upcoming executions.

"When Pastor Griffen silently prayed while lying on a cot in solidarity with Jesus on Good Friday, he did not impose his religious beliefs on others," said Ray Higgins, the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas, which is the organization that sponsored the rally.

The president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, Rizelle Aaron, asked the crowd why Griffen, not other judges who have been criminally prosecuted, was targeted for impeachment with "Guinness World Record lightning speed." Then Aaron answered his own question: "His race."

"There's a great irony when a judge of justice is punished with injustice for exercising his legal right," Aaron said.

After the Arkansas Supreme Court stripped Griffen of his authority to hear death penalty cases, he sued the court and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

"It's not illegal to pray," Griffen said. "I've been targeted because I have acted consistent with my ethics and my faith and that's wrong."

Griffen argues he hasn't done anything unethical. However, the state's Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDC) is investigating misconduct complaints against him.

Griffen said he has not been involved in the JDDC proceedings and plans to take legal action under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

"I do not misunderstand what freedom means," Griffen said. "I am not a slave. I am a free man... I will fight this as long as there is fire in my body and breath in my spirit."

Several state lawmakers have called for Griffen's impeachment, including Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado.

"He's trying to use his religion to justify his mistake," Garner said. "While I think RFRA was an excellent piece of legislation, there's a distinct difference between what it was meant for and what Griffen did."

Garner doesn't believe Griffen's actions had anything to do with religious expression, classifying them as gross misconduct that would justify impeachment.

"You can't use religion as an excuse for violating the code of ethics," Garner said.

When asked if there was ever a moment he regretted his decision to lay on the cot that day, Griffen responded, "Never a moment."

"I will go to my death with 2 things in my mind," he continued. "There was 1 right place for me that day. I was there. And if I had to do it a thousand times, I'd be right back there doing that. I'll go to my maker and say, 'I'll take whatever that means.'"

The religious leaders at Friday's rally would continue to stand beside him.

"We applaud the many ways Judge Griffen serves this state and this community. Amen."

(source: KARK news)

OKLAHOMA:

Gang member headed to death row for Oklahoma City shooting

A gang member accused of killing an Oklahoma City man to gain some street cred is headed to death row.

Oklahoma County jurors on Thursday chose the punishment for Ronnie Eugene Fuston after learning he also killed another man in Enid. Fuston was given life in prison without the possibility of parole in that case.

Fuston, a 107 Hoover Crip gang member, was convicted this month of 1st-degree murder in the Oct. 20, 2012, shooting death of Michael Donnell Rhodes, 58.

Prosecutors called Fuston a hit man from Enid looking to gain some street cred. Defense attorneys said Fuston wasn't there for the shooting.

Fuston, now 24, drove to Oklahoma City the day of the shooting to help some female gang members with an ongoing dispute with Rhodes' niece, prosecutors alleged. That night, Fuston and others went to Rhodes' house in northwest Oklahoma City to confront the niece, according to prosecutors.

After the door was kicked in, Fuston fired 5 shots into the house, striking Rhodes 3 times as he laid on the couch with his 3-year-old daughter, prosecutors said.

During closing arguments Thursday, First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland told jurors he didn't know how the girl escaped the "hail of gunfire," but was glad she did. He said the girl was found splattered in her father's blood.

Prosecutors said Fuston was connected to the crime through cellphone and ballistic evidence. Fuston also bragged about the shooting afterward, police reported.

Defense attorneys contended there was no evidence Fuston pulled the trigger.

During the trial's punishment stage, his defense asked jurors not to choose the death penalty because Fuston came from an abusive home and was a "low-functioning" individual.

Rowland, though, told the jurors Fuston's siblings didn't become criminals. The prosecutor also said Fuston wasn't low-functioning but didn't want to function as a law-abiding citizen.

He also said Fuston would be a continuing threat to society.

"He has wreaked havoc on so many innocent people," Rowland said.

Jurors in Garfield County found Fuston guilty of 1st-degree murder in November 2016. In that case, Fuston was accused of shooting Heath Crites, 24, multiple times during a home invasion in Enid about two months after the Oklahoma City shooting.

Prosecutors told jurors Fuston has been involved in multiple drive-by shootings and robberies. Fuston also assaulted at least 5 people during his time in jail, according to prosecutors.

(source: The Oklahoman)

KANSAS:

Kansas man accused of hate crime in death of Indian citizen

A man accused in a bar shooting in suburban Kansas City that left one Indian national dead and another wounded was indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime charges, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

The indictment against Adam Purinton, 52, of Olathe, Kansas, comes after a Feb. 22 shooting at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Witnesses have said Purinton, who is white, yelled "get out of my country" at 2 32-year-old Indian nationals, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, before he began shooting. Kuchibhotla died and Madasani was injured. A 3rd man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he tried to intervene.

The shooting raised fears of more attacks on immigrants following President Donald Trump's election and his call for a ban on immigrants from some countries. Officials in India also expressed concern about their citizens' safety in the U.S., where many work in technology and other industries.

Kuchibhotla and Madasani had come to the U.S. from India to study and worked as engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.

An affidavit released in March said Madasani told detectives that the gunman asked if their "status was legal" before he opened fire.

The indictment announced Friday alleges Purinton shot the 2 Indian men because of their "actual and perceived" race, color, religion and national origin. The indictment also alleges Purinton committed the crimes after premeditation and planning, attempted to kill more than 1 person and created a grave risk of death to others at the scene. The indictment also accuses Purinton of violating federal firearms laws.

After the shooting, Purinton drove 70 miles east to an Applebee's restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, where he allegedly admitted the shootings to a bartender, who called police.

The Justice Department said in a news release Friday that it would determine later whether Purinton should face the death penalty.

Purinton was a Navy veteran who was a regular customer at Austin's. Neighbors in the quiet Olathe cul-de-sac where he lived told The Associated Press that Purinton had become "a drunken mess" after his father's death about two years ago and had physically and mentally deteriorated before the shooting.

Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland said in a statement that the hate crime charge was appropriate.

"The intent of this one act was to spread hate. It failed miserably," Copeland said. "It has spread love, and it has brought this community even closer together."

Police Chief Steve Menke said he hoped the charges would bring some comfort to Kuchibhotla' loved ones and friends and to the survivors of the shooting.

Purinton is jailed in Johnson County, Kansas, on $2 million bond on murder and attempted murder charges.

His public defender, Michael McCulloch, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Grillot, who was hospitalized for 10 days after the shooting, was honored by Indian dignitaries for his efforts to stop the shooting. 3 officials from the Consulate General of India in Houston traveled to Kansas City to meet Grillot in the days after the shooting. Consul General Anupam Ray told Grillot that his bravery was more representative of America than the violence at Austins, the hospital said.

In March, Grillot received a $100,000 check at a gala in Houston from The India House and 3 donors, with the money to be used toward buying a house.

A message left Friday with the Consul General's office was not immediately returned. A message to the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. also was not immediately returned.

(source: Fox News)

NEBRASKA:

Johnson County attorney: Tecumseh inmate who killed cellmate deserves death penalty

A prison inmate charged with killing his cellmate deserves the death penalty because he had committed a prior murder and has a history of violence, Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith says in a new court filing.

Smith and prosecutors with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office had previously announced that they would seek the death penalty against Patrick Schroeder, who is accused of choking Terry Berry Jr. to death on April 15 inside their cell at the Tecumseh State Prison.

By law, the state must declare which aggravating circumstances exist that warrant a death penalty in a 1st-degree murder case.

On Friday, Smith filed a court document stating that he intends to prove that 2 aggravating circumstances existed in the crime: Schroeder had previously committed a murder (he's serving a life sentence for the 2006 murder of a Pawnee County farmer); and he has a substantial history of serious assaultive or terrorizing criminal activity.

If Schroeder, 39, is found guilty of 1st-degree murder in Berry's death, a 2nd sentencing trial would be held to weigh whether he deserves the death penalty. Part of the process involves weighing the alleged aggravating circumstances against any mitigating circumstances that might have existed.

Schroeder is next scheduled to appear in Johnson County District Court on June 20.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

CALIFORNIA:

California should not speed up death penalty

Arkansas recently became an international spectacle by executing 4 men in 8 days, having planned to kill twice as many in a rush to lethally inject prisoners with an expiring supply of an increasingly scarce drug. Now it's California's turn to consider a wrongheaded scheme to speed up the death penalty.

Voters last fall narrowly approved Proposition 66, which sets a deadline for court review of capital-punishment appeals and takes other steps to restart a capital punishment machine that ground to a halt a decade ago. Fortunately, the state's Supreme Court justices, who are considering a challenge to the initiative, have expressed appropriate doubts.

Efforts to prevent wrongful or torturous executions have slowed or stopped executions in many states as attorneys wrangle over challenges to convictions, court procedures and killing methods. The delays inevitably suggest 1 of 2 diametrically opposed political solutions: ending executions or expediting them. California voters rejected death penalty abolition and supported acceleration.

The constitutional amendment they approved sets a 5-year deadline for each of 2 stages of death penalty appeals, which would shorten the average appeal by several years. With some 750 prisoners on death row and a backlog of more than 300 appeals, the justices noted, that would substantially shift court resources toward capital punishment and away from all other cases.

Prop. 66 also attempts to force more defense attorneys to take on capital cases, raising questions about how many of them would be qualified and eager to do so. Another provision would curtail review of lethal-injection procedures; California stopped executions in 2006 amid claims that its drug cocktail caused cruel and unusual punishment, and the state has yet to devise a new protocol.

The trouble with all these execution-efficiency measures is that they add up to an assault on the level of due process the death penalty requires, which is at least extraordinary and arguably impossible. Barriers to carrying out the death penalty have their roots in serious questions about its irreversibility, arbitrariness and immorality. Executing prisoners more quickly is exactly the wrong answer to those questions.

(source: Editorial, San francisco Chronicle)

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California Death Penalty Referendum Held Up For 7 Months By 1 Man's Lawsuit

Californians voted 7 months ago to keep the death penalty and speed the appeals process for executions, but a lawsuit being considered by the California Supreme Court is holding up the entire process.

California's November referendums approved both the death penalty and Proposition 66, which put a 5-year time limit on execution proceedings. But the state's former attorney general, John Van de Kamp, filed a lawsuit challenging the voters' decision, arguing that 5 years was not enough time to consider "complex cases," CBS reported.

Execution proceedings are notoriously tedious across the country, often taking decades to conclude. In Alabama, a man known as the "Death Row Houdini" survived more than 30 years on death row and 7 execution dates by filing a slew of appeals.

As of December, California had 749 inmates waiting on death row, and the state has only executed 13 people since the death penalty was re-instituted in 1978. Today, the state has 300 appeals waiting to be heard. As a result, the Supreme Court expressed concern Tuesday about the 5 year limit, with several justices calling it unrealistic.

"We all realize when we wrote it we aren't going to fix it overnight, but we've got to have time limits," Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told CBS. Schubert went on to say the 5 year limit was closer to a target than a hard cap.

De Kamp disagrees, however, arguing Prop. 66 should be thrown out because of the law's language that proceedings "shall" be limited to 5 years, which he says makes hard limit.

"They sold the voters on 'shall' and gave them 'may'...so you may never speed the system up cause there's no consequence to it," Ron Briggs, another Prop. 66 opponent told CBS.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case within 90 days.

(source: dailycaller.com)

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Closing arguments in Dennis Bratton death penalty case to be heard Monday

After a trial lasting more than 2 months, jurors are expected to begin deliberations Monday regarding the fate of a Kern Valley State Prison inmate who stomped his cellmate to death.

Last month, Dennis Bratton, 47, was convicted of assault by a life prisoner with force likely to produce great bodily injury. Jurors will make a recommendation as to whether Bratton should be sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole.

Attorneys on Friday went over jury instructions with Judge Michael E. Dellostritto, at times striking portions of the instructions that were deemed unnecessary and potentially confusing.

The instructions will include a list of Bratton's convictions, many stemming from his 1996 arrest after robbing a bank and wounding someone in a shooting.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman told the court he plans to talk about the impact Bratton's death would have on his mother and cousin. Prosecutor Andi Bridges said she'll object as the law is clear an attorney can't argue sympathy for the defendant as part of the jury's considerations in deciding on a verdict.

In examining the pertinent jury instruction, Dellostritto interpreted it as meaning an argument can be made regarding a defendant's death as it ties in with the loss of some positive quality in the defendant's background or character.

The judge said he didn't have a problem with Cadman stating what is in the jury instruction during his closing argument.

Bratton stomped on and strangled 27-year-old Andrew Keel on May 16, 2013, in the prison cell they shared. Bratton's public defenders argued self-defense, but Bridges said Bratton planned and later bragged about the killing.

Both Bratton and Keel were members of white racist prison gangs, and both were serving life sentences.

In asking jurors for a recommendation of death, Bridges has said they should consider the circumstances of Keel's death, the impact it had on his friends and family and Bratton's other violent conduct.

(source: bakersfield.com)

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California's Supreme Court should put Proposition 66 out of its misery

California voters faced a binary choice in November's election over the state's death penalty system. Proposition 62 aimed to end capital punishment and convert all existing death sentences to life in prison without parole. Proposition 66, on the other hand, sought to speed up the system so that more people could be executed faster.

Both campaigns acknowledged that the state's death penalty system is dysfunctional. Thanks to underfunding and legal challenges to the system, no one has been executed in a decade, even as the death row population has grown to 747 people. In fact, only 13 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978.

Of the 2 propositions, voters opted for the speed-it-up measure. That was a bad choice. It would trample defendants' rights to due process and increase the chances that an innocent person will be executed. But first, it has to go into effect, which is not a sure thing. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday that Proposition 66 violates the state constitution by usurping the court's authority and independence. Plaintiffs argued that it violates the separation of powers doctrine by requiring courts to finish hearing death penalty appeals within 5 years and that it contravenes a ban on overly broad and multi-pronged initiatives. Proposition 66 does all of those things, and more - and would not serve justice or the public interest.

More broadly, the death penalty is a stain on the United States, one of the few countries in the developed world that still allows it. The European Union even bars European pharmaceutical companies from exporting drugs to the U.S. for executions. Many American pharmaceutical companies similarly balk at having their products, designed to aid the ill, used to kill the condemned. Beyond its inherent immorality, the death penalty disproportionately affects the poor and minorities through a process in which human failure - including lies, innocently relayed untruths, evidentiary errors, mistaken identities, and malevolent prosecutors and police - can determine whether someone lives or dies. Since 1973, at least 159 death row inmates have been exonerated, and a National Academy of Sciences study estimates that at least 4% of people now on death row are innocent.

The reality is that innocent people have already been put to death. That is an outrage, and the only way to ensure it doesn't happen again is to end the practice.

Even if the Supreme Court lets Proposition 66 stand, the measure still faces other likely challenges. So an already-expensive death penalty system will cost taxpayers even more as the state is forced to defend it in court. The irony here is that the effort to speed up the death penalty by shortening appeals could very well suffer through a prolonged appeals process itself before ultimately being struck down. It should be put out of its misery now.

(source: Los Angeles Times Editorial Board)

MALAYSIA:

Kenyan woman sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Malaysia

A Kenyan woman was sentenced to death by a Malaysian court after she was found guilty of trafficking in methamphetamine 4 years ago.

According to Malaysian Daily Express, Rose Achieng Ojala had stuffed 3 capsules of the drug into her private parts and swallowed another 68 capsules, all weighing about 400gm.

She was arrested on November 30, 2013 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport after arriving from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The mother of three, who allegedly suffered from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), had fainted before the proceedings and had to be taken into the court room in a wheelchair.

On the day she was arrested, an Immigration officer noticed that she was behaving suspiciously during the regular luggage inspection.

Upon searching her, 3 capsules of methamphetamine weighing more than 20g were found in her underwear.

She admitted that her boyfriend had stuffed the capsules into her private parts before she boarded the flight.

The woman, who claimed she was pregnant, was later taken to the Serdang Hospital, where an x-ray examination revealed that she had swallowed 68 capsules of the drug weighing more than 380gm.

In convicting Ojala, the judge said the prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

"You are found guilty and there is no other punishment under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1962 except the death sentence," he said.

Ojala was also sentenced to 3 years' jail for possessing 20.7g of methamphetamine in her underwear.

She was a single mother of children aged between 4 and 15.

(source: the-star.co.ke)

LEBANON:

Rise in Crime Rate Spurs Calls for Death Penalty

A rise in cold-blooded murders in Lebanon has been met with demands for re-enacting the death penalty which has been frozen since 2004.

The latest crime was the killing of a 23-year-old man by a gunman north of Beirut earlier this week.

The gunman killed Roy Hamouche after their cars collided on a highway.

His murder led to widespread condemnation and demands to re-enact the death penalty despite the rejection of several civil society and human rights organizations that said limiting such crimes should come through the restraint of guns.

On Friday, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq called for the implementation of the death penalty during a speech celebrating the 156th anniversary of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon.

He called for stricter punishment for criminals, saying that Lebanon should "re-enact the death penalty, especially in cases of deliberate murder."

Lebanon's last execution took place in 2004, former Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Despite the significant time since the last execution, capital punishment continues to be legal in Lebanon, he said.

Following a judge's verdict, carrying out the death penalty requires a decision from the justice minister, which is later sent to the prime minister and the president to issue a special decree, Qortbawi told the newspaper.

But no justice minister has done that since 2009, he said.

While rejecting capital punishment, the former minister said that the real problem lies in the proliferation of arms in addition to the high rate of drug use among all communities in the country.

"The solution should come by abolishing all arms licenses," Qortbawi said.

Abdel Salam Sidahmed, the Regional Representative of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, told Asharq Al-Awsat the OHCHR encourages countries to abolish the death penalty in line with international conventions and a resolution issued by the UN calling for the abolishment of capital punishment.

A criminal can be punished through other verdicts such as life in prison, he said.

The OHCHR is in continuous contact with the Lebanese authorities on human rights issues and encourages officials to hold onto the moratorium of the death penalty, he added.

(source: aawsat.com)

IRAN:

Under the Shadow of Death: List of 30 Death Row Prisoners in One of the Poorest Cities in Iran

30 prisoners in Zabol Central Prison are reportedly in imminent danger of execution after their death sentences were confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.

Zabol, located in the province of Sistan & Baluchestan, is one of the poorest cities in Iran. Zabol Central Prison is located in the southern part of the city and hundreds of prisoners are held here.

There are multiple worrying reports from the prison of the ill-treatment of prisoners by the prison officials, frequent water outages, overcrowdedness, lack of air conditioning, and poor-quality and lack of food. On May 16, 2017, a prisoner by the name of Ramezan Koohkan reportedly died in Zabol Central Prison after receiving rough treatment by the head of prison security and suffering a concussion.

"About 80% of the prisoners in this prison are Sunni, but all the prison guards and authorities are Shia. This has caused numerous problems in the prison," a prisoner in Zabol Central Prison tells Iran Human Rights.

About 60% of the prisoners in Zabol Central Prison are held on drug related charges, and many of them are on death row. At the current time, the death sentences of 30 prisoners in this prison have been confirmed by the Supreme Court. These prisoners are on death row for various charges, including murder, drug trafficking, or kidnapping. According to unconfirmed reports, three of these prisoners were under the age of 18 at the time of their arrest. The 30 prisoners may be executed at any moment.

The names and identities of the 30 prisoners in imminent danger of execution:

Karim Ashtarak, 43 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 3 1/2 years on drug related charges.

Gholam-Mohammad Nourzehi, 50 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 9 years on drug related charges.

Hashem Sanchouli, 25 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 4 years on the charge of Moharebeh (enmity against God) through armed drug trafficking.

Ahmad-Ali Chopoulzehi, 25 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 4 years on drug related charges.

Amir Reigi, 60 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 8 years on drug related charges.

Abdolnabi Alizehi, 45 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on drug related charges.

Nouraloddin Teymouri, 28 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on drug related charges.

Nessar-Ahmad Golebacheh, 29 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 18 months on drug related charges.

Shahghassem Golebacheh, 19 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 18 months on drug related charges.

Heydar Golebacheh, 25 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 18 months on drug related charges.

Khodadad Narouie, 55 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 20 years on murder charges.

Javid Karim Koshteh. 21 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 3 years on murder charges.

Hossein Karim Koshteh, 20 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 4 years on murder charges.

Jomeh Rakhshani, 55 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 9 years on drug related charges.

Nour-Ahmad Gavkhoreh, 26 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 3 years on drug related charges.

Adel Shiranzehi, 25 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 3 years and 4 months on murder charges.

Mohammmad Saravandi, 45 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on drug related charges.

Yousef Reigi, 30 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 4 years on drug related charges.

Nematollah Barahouie, 32 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 2 1/2 years on drug related charges.

Parviz Mirbaluchzehi, 36 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 4 years on murder charges.

Javad Ghassemi, 34 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 11 years on murder charges.

Mehdi Eyrouzaie, 34 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 6 years on murder charges.

Mojtaba Ansari, 34 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Vali Yousefzehi, 23 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 6 years on drug related charges.

Min Mirzaie, 26 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Hamed Sanchouli, 26 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Eghbal Shahvezehi, 24 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Ma'aloddin Shahvezehi, 36 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Mehdi Dousti, 33 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

Mojtaba Sarani, 23 years of age. Imprisoned for the past 5 years on kidnapping charges.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

JUNE 9, 2017:

FLORIDA:

State Attorney's Office will seek death penalty for Russell Tillis

The State Attorney's Office will seek the death penalty for Russell Tillis, the Jacksonville man charged with murder in the death of a homeless woman whose remains were buried in his booby-trapped yard, a spokesman confirmed Thursday.

The Tillis case marks the 1st time State Attorney Melissa Nelson will pursue the death sentence for a defendant since taking office in January.

The news comes the same day that a grand jury indicted Tillis on charges of 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, human trafficking and abuse of a dead human body in the death of 30-year-old Joni Lynn Gunter.

"We are finalizing paperwork and will be filing a notice to seek the death penalty," spokesman David Chapman wrote in a statement provided to the Times-Union.

Tillis, 55, was originally charged with murder in December 2016 after Gunter's remains were identified through forensic analysis, which determined she died of blunt-force trauma, according to his arrest report. She died sometime from February 2014 through May 2015.

Police found Gunter's remains in February 2016 after obtaining a warrant to search a property off Belfort Road that belonged to Tillis. The arrest report said police were acting on a tip from an inmate, who said Tillis had told him that a woman was restrained, given drugs and sexually exploited before she was killed and buried.

Tillis has been behind bars since May 2015 after police said he drew knives during a confrontation with officers attempting to serve warrants at the East Bowden Circle residence where he lived. He was initially booked on a list of offenses including aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

Court records show Tillis is set to be arraigned on the charges contained in the indictment June 16. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

(source: Florida Times-Union)

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Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence for Bessman Okafor

Convicted killer Bessman Okafor is no longer on death row.

Okafor was sentenced to death by a jury and judge in November 2015 for the killing of Alex Zaldivar, 19, and wounding 2 others during an Ocoee home invasion in 2012. The 3 were set to testify against Okafor in a separate home invasion case before the killing.

However, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the death sentence on Thursday because the jury did not come to an unanimous verdict.

"Actually, it was something that I expected all the way," said Rafael Zaldivar, Alex's father. "Those are the new laws in Florida and it has to be a 12-0 and unfortunately, his case was 11 to 1, and we have to follow whatever the law says."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that Florida's death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to the judges and not enough power to the jurors. The state Legislature has since passed a law that requires jurors to reach a unanimous decision in death penalty cases.

Thursday's decision by the Florida Supreme Court means Okafor's attorneys can ask for new sentencing proceedings, and a new jury will have to decide if he'll be sentenced to life in prison or death.

However Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala has said she doesn't plan to seek the death penalty in any cases while she's in office. That decision forced Gov. Rick Scott to assign 23 death penalty cases to State Attorney Brad King.

Following the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Scott issued an executive order assigning the Okafor case to King.

"Here we are and it's something that we have to deal with right now and we just want to get it over with, bring him back and give him another death penalty phase and get that 12-0 and send him back to death row," Zaldivar said.

State Attorney Ayala said in a statement: "I am very pleased that Bessman Okafor's conviction for his horrific crimes was upheld today by the Supreme Court of Florida.

"Florida's High Court was tasked with attempting to resolve the chaos surrounding Florida's death penalty statute after being stricken down by the United States Supreme Court early last year.

"I am not surprised by the Florida Supreme Court's ruling nor the Governors' hasty reaction."

(source: WFTV news)

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Florida Governor Removes Prosecutor From Death Row Case

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing for a death row inmate on Thursday and Gov. Rick Scott immediately took the case away from an Orlando prosecutor who is opposed to the death penalty.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered the new hearing for Bessman Okafor because the sentence handed out in 2015 came after an 11-1 jury recommendation, and the court now requires unanimous jury votes to allow the death penalty. That handed the case back to State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who has said she won't seek the death penalty in cases she prosecutes.

Shortly after the ruling was issued, Scott issued an executive order handing the case to State Attorney Brad King, who serves a neighboring judicial district.

Ayala was elected last year and wasn't involved in the prosecution and sentencing of Okafor. He was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar, who was scheduled to testify against him in a home invasion robbery trial. Two other witnesses were shot in the head, but survived.

Republican Rep. Bob Cortes of Orlando also wanted the case removed from Ayala and wrote to Scott urging the action.

Cortes said in an interview that prosecutors should consider the wishes of the victims' families in deciding whether to seek the death penalty. He said he spoke to Zaldivar's father, Rafael, and was told the family wants Okafor executed.

"He's willing to go through this again in hopes of seeking justice for his son," Cortes said. "(Ayala) continues to make the statement that she's against the death penalty and will not seek it, which is I believe a dereliction of duty."

Scott has already removed Ayala from any ongoing murder cases where they death penalty can be applied. Ayala is challenging his action and the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the dispute June 28.

Ayala said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman that she was pleased Okafor's conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, which has ordered new sentence hearings in dozens of death penalty cases since last fall because jury recommendations were not unanimous.

"I am not surprised by the Florida Supreme Court's ruling nor the governors' hasty reaction," Ayala said.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA----execution

Alabama executes man for '94 killing of fast-food workers

A man convicted of killing 3 people during the 1994 robbery of an Alabama fast-food restaurant was put to death Thursday by lethal injection.

Robert Melson, 46, was pronounced dead at 10:27 p.m. CDT Thursday at a southwest Alabama prison, authorities said. The execution was the state's 2nd of the year.

State prosecutors said Melson and another man who used to work at the restaurant, robbed a Popeye's in Gadsden, 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Birmingham, and Melson opened fire on 4 employees in the restaurant's freezer. Nathaniel Baker, Tamika Collins and Darrell Collier were killed. The surviving employee, Bryant Archer, crawled for help and was able to identify 1 of the robbers as the former worker which led police to Melson.

Collins' family members wore a badge with her photograph and the phrase "In Our Hearts Forever." Her family issued a statement saying that 3 young people lost their lives for "a few hundred dollars" and criticized court filings on behalf of Melson that challenged the state's execution procedure as inhumane. Collins' mother and 2 sisters witnessed the execution.

"He has been on death row for over 21 years being supported by the state of Alabama and feels he should not suffer a little pain during the execution. What does he think those 3 people suffered after he shot them, leaving them in a freezer?" the statement said.

Melson shook his head no when the prison warden asked if he had a final statement. A prison chaplain knelt with him. Melson's hands quivered at the start of the procedure and his breathing was labored, with his chest moving up and down quickly, before slowing until it was no longer perceptible.

Melson's attorneys had filed a flurry of last-minute appeals seeking to stay the execution. The filings centered on Alabama's use of the sedative midazolam which some states have turned to as other lethal injection drugs became difficult to obtain.

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily delayed the execution to consider Melson's stay request, but ruled after 9 p.m. that the execution could go forward.

Midazolam is supposed to prevent inmates from feeling pain before other drugs are given to stop their lungs and heart, but several executions in which inmates lurched or coughed have raised questions about its use. An inmate in Alabama coughed and heaved for the first 13 minutes of an execution held in December.

Melson's attorney argued that midazolam does not anesthetize an inmate, but they might look still, because a 2nd drug, a paralytic, prevents them from moving.

"Alabama's execution protocol is an illusion. It creates the illusion of a peaceful death when in truth, it is anything but," Melson's attorneys wrote in the filing to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Alabama attorney general's office argued midazolam's use has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and it has allowed multiple executions to proceed using the drug, including the execution of an Alabama inmate last month.

"Robert Melson's decades-long avoidance of justice is over. For 23 years, the families of the 3 young people whose lives he took, as well as a survivor, have waited for closure and healing. That process can finally begin tonight," Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement after the execution.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Attorneys want death sentence for Ohio woman reconsidered

Attorneys for Ohio's only condemned female killer are asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider a ruling upholding her death sentence for the 3rd time.

Lawyers for death row inmate Donna Roberts said Thursday that allowing a judge who didn't oversee the original trial to sentence her was unconstitutional.

The court again upheld Roberts' death sentence last month.

Justice Terrence O'Donnell wrote for the court majority in that decision, rejecting constitutional arguments about the new judge.

The 73-year-old Roberts was accused of planning her ex-husband's murder with a boyfriend in hopes of collecting insurance money.

The boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson, also was sentenced to death in the 2001 slaying.

(source: dailyjournal.net)

CALIFORNIA:

Prop. 66 unfair to death row inmates and bad for California

The California Supreme Court has to strike down key elements of Proposition 66 if it wants to ensure that justice prevails on death penalty cases.

That became clear Tuesday when the justices heard arguments on the legality of the proposition, which voters narrowly passed last fall to more quickly kill criminals who are sentenced to death.

Ron Briggs, whose father wrote the ballot measure expanding California's death penalty in 1978, and the late John Van de Kamp, a former state attorney general, mounted the legal challenge. They argued that the proposition does not give people sentenced to die a fair chance to mount proper appeals. They're right.

Proposition 66 accelerates capital punishment by setting five-year deadlines for appeals. For those who believe in the death penalty, wanting to expedite the sentence is understandable. Since 1978, the state has executed only 13 of the 749 inmates on death row.

But there is ample evidence that 5 years is not enough time for inmates to prove their innocence. For every 10 prisoners executed in the United States since 1976, 1 has been set free because of advances in DNA and other forensics. The evidence can take time to discover and develop.

And the defenders' argument that the 5-year limit in the proposition can't really be enforced is outrageous. So some inmates will be held to the deadline, and others will get a pass?

Appeals in capital punishment cases in California now take 15 years. But the remedies proposed in Proposition 66 only raise new problems.

For example, instead of having the California Supreme Court hear the appeals, Proposition 66 would allow the Superior Court judge who heard the original criminal trial to hear it.

This would further clog the state's already overcrowded Superior Courts with nearly 400 cases, delaying justice for many others awaiting court action without providing any extra resources to ease the extra load. It also ignores the state Constitution's well reasoned requirement that the Supreme Court hear all direct death penalty appeals because of their gravity.

Another provision would force lawyers to accept capital punishment cases if they already accept other kinds of court-appointed work. This will likely discourage many lawyers from accepting any clients under a court appointment, again slowing justice for many. More frightening, it could mean the cases will go to attorneys who lack the experience, expertise or huge amount of time needed to responsibly take on a life-and-death appeal under tremendous deadline pressures.

California should do away with the death penalty. It's barbaric, unfairly applied and has been shown to be no more effective as a deterrent than life in prison without the possibility of parole. It costs a fortune that instead could go to schools and to other positive programs that prevent crime or help victims.

If voters want to keep capital punishment in California, as the 2016 vote indicates, then the Supreme Court has an obligation to ensure that death row inmates retain their full legal rights to appeal before the state kills them.

(source: Editorial, Mercury News)

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