and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

NOVEMBER 25, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Delusional inmate loses at top Texas appeals court

The state's top criminal court has refused to halt next week's scheduled execution of a convicted killer whose lawyers contend is severely delusional.

A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals voted 5-4 Tuesday to reject an appeal from lawyers for 56-year-old Scott Panetti. He's scheduled for lethal injection Dec. 3 for fatally shooting his in-laws 22 years ago at their Fredericksburg home.

Gillespie County prosecutors argued the appeal was improper and that the court had no jurisdiction. Attorneys want additional time and experts to examine Panetti's mental competence for execution.

Judge Elsa Alcala, in a dissenting opinion joined by 3 other judges, said the court needed to more liberally consider the appeal because it involved constitutional issues about executing the mentally ill.

Panetti's lawyers say they'll contest the ruling.

(source: Associated Press)


Cruel, Unusual, Wrong -- Executing mentally ill inmate is savage, inhumane

The state of Texas should not execute severely mentally ill people. It's barbaric and unbecoming of a civilized society.

Yet that is what's scheduled to happen in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville on Dec. 3, the scheduled execution date for Scott Panetti, 56.

There is no dispute who killed Panetti's parents-in-law in Fredericksburg in 1992. It was Panetti, with a hunting rifle, after he shaved his head and dressed up in military camouflage garb. After a standoff, he surrendered to police and said the "Sarge," an alter ego, was responsible for the slayings.

At the time, Panetti had a 14-year documented history of psychosis and involuntary commitments. His diagnoses included chronic schizophrenia, paranoia and fragmented personality. He was termed manic and delusioal. He heard voices and thought he was controlled by an unseen power. Panetti once nailed the curtains shut in his house to seal out the devil.

Still, Panetti was found competent to stand trial for the 2 murders. Even more bizarre, he was allowed to act as his own attorney while on trial for his life. He did so wearing a purple cowboy outfit and mimicking the Ringo Kid, a John Wayne movie character. Panetti picked 1 juror with the flip of a coin and trid to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy.

Taking the stand, Panetti assumed the "Sarge" identity and blurted out such things as, "Boom, boom, blood, blood."

A jury convicted Panetti and sentenced him to death, but he escaped the executioner's needle in 2004, when the courts agreed to hear arguments that he was too mentally ill to be executed. Later, the Supreme Court set a new standard in a 2007 decision, Panetti vs. Quarterman. It says a defendant must have a "rational unerstanding" of the reasons for his imminent execution and the chance to make a case of incompetency in court.

It's within those bounds that the state is now locked in a legal chess match with Panetti's lawyers. The issues also involve deadlines, proper notice, access to records and timely filing of motions. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been asked to stay the execution so Panetti's legal team can present its case.

Meanwhile, Panetti's lawyers assert that his delsuions continue unabated and untreated and that he believes the state wants to kill him so he'll stop preaching the Gospel in prison. Indeed, death row inmates have said the Bible-toting Panetti gets on people's nerves. The legal debate over Panetti's fate hinges on Eighth Amendment questions of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. In a 1986 decision, the Supreme Court said that executing the insane served no purpose and woudl be "savage and inhumane."

Today, no words could better describe the state's plans to strap Panetti to a gurney and end his tortured life.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Clemency hearing set in Baldwin death-penalty case

A Dec. 8 clemency hearing is scheduled for the man accused of killing a Baldwin County sheriff's deputy.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is scheduled to decided whether Robert Wayne Holsey should be executed the following evening, as scheduled.

A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey in the December 1995 slaying of Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

Prosecutors said Holsey robbed a Milledgeville convenience store and the clerk immediately called police with a description of Holsey and his car. Minutes later, Robinson stopped a red Ford Probe at a motel. Prosecutors say Holsey shot Robinson as the deputy approached his car. Robinson died of a head wound.

The Georgia attorney general's office said Holsey is scheduled be executed at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles says it will review the case file on Holsey inmate, which includes his criminal history, circumstances of the crime,his prison record and a comprehensive history of his life.

That meeting is closed to the public.

(source: WMAZ news)


Flack appears in court on capital murder and 1st degree murder charges

A man who faces the death penalty for a quadruple murder last year appeared in Franklin County Court Tuesday.

Kyle Flack is charged with capital murder in the death of a mother and her 18-month-old daughter.

Flack also faces 2 counts of 1st degree murder. He's accused of also killing Andrew Stout and Steven White.

In court Tuesday, Flack was represented by Tim Frieden of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit.

The 28-year-old man is accused of murdering and raping Kaylie Bailey and killing 2 other men, whose bodies were found on an Ottawa farm in the spring of 2013. Investigators also found the body of Bailey's baby, Lana, nearby.

Lawyers argued about whether statements concerning the crimes that Flack allegedly made to people other than law enforcement could be used against him.

Flack has previously been convicted and served time in prison for attempted murder.

In addition to the capital charges, Flack faces the so-called "Hard 50" sentence if convicted on each of the 2 1st degree murder counts. He also faces a charge of being a criminal in possession of a firearm.

He scheduled to be back in court in February 2015.



Lawsuit over Arizona's execution secrecy on hold

A lawsuit challenging the secrecy of execution protocols in Arizona has been put on hold pending the investigation of the nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

A judge on Monday granted a joint request by the state of Arizona and defense attorneys to put the lawsuit on hold until an independent agency reviews a Department of Corrections investigation.

The agreement stipulates that the department will not seek any death warrants for death row inmates. Officials had already suspended executions pending the Wood investigation.

The mutual agreement also states that Arizona officials will consider changing execution protocols and make any possible changes public.

The July 23 execution of Wood, who was convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped repeatedly before taking his final breath.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched, which state officials adamantly deny. The agency has said it is not commenting on pending litigation.

The lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of Wood and other death row inmates. It claims the inmates have a First Amendment right to know about specific execution protocols such as the types of drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that supply them.

The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona later joined the lawsuit, saying the information should be released to the public.

The secrecy that surrounds executions has been a source of contention since officials in states that have the death penalty stopped making public details such as the drug manufacturers and drug combinations in 2010. European drug companies had stopped supplying lethal injection drugs, and states said they were protecting the privacy of local suppliers.

A group of media organizations including The Associated Press has filed a separate lawsuit contending that the information is of public interest.

Wood was given 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller before he died.

(source: Associated Press)

IDAHO----female may face death penalty

Crawford ordered held without bail

Heather Crawford, charged with 1st-degree murder of a 22-month-old child, was held without bail Monday morning at her arraignment hearing in magistrate court before Judge Daniel McGee.

After being read her rights, Crawford asked McGee to hold the application for a public defender, because she wants to get her own attorney. McGee made sure to emphasize the need for Crawford to contact the court if she is unable to find her own attorney.

Keisha Oxendine, Shoshone County prosecutor, said although 1st-degree murder is punishable by death, the state has not determined whether to seek the death penalty. She said the circumstances of the case do support premeditation.

Oxendine said based on the representation of Crawford's prior criminal history, she has shown compliance to court orders. The bigger issue, however, is Crawford could be a flight risk and a danger to herself and others with the death penalty as a possible outcome, Oxendine said. She said a previous comment made by Crawford indicated these risks.

Crawford ended the hearing with no questions and was remanded to custody.

A motion was granted by Judge McGee to seal the affidavit of the case until after the preliminary hearing. The order states the affidavit will be kept sealed to "prevent the disclosure of investigative techniques and procedures, and to allow the officers to conduct follow-up investigation."

It also states that the affidavit contains the names of juveniles and medical information adding to the justification of sealing the document.

The official written complaint, made by Oxendine, states Crawford killed "E.W., ... by suffocation and/or another manner resulting in the deprivation of oxygen to the child."

Crawford's next hearing has not yet been scheduled, but will be set within 14 days of Monday's arraignment.

(source: Coeur d'Alene Press)


The Cost of the Death Penalty

A favorite tactic of the anti-death penalty crowd is to reach out to fiscal conservatives and other fiscally-minded people and regurgitate outrageous dollar amounts as evidence that the death penalty "costs" millions of dollars.

The problem - like most claims by the anti-death penalty crowd - is they know most readers won't have the time or inclination to think through and investigate their claims, and will fill in the gaps and innuendos in a way that leads them to the politically-correct conclusion. Let's take a look at the "cost" of the death penalty, the true cost.

As a recent example, look at how anti-death penalty advocates report of the so-called "10 million dollar prosecution" of 3 people in King County, in Washington State. Characteristically of modern journalism, this number is often repeated unquestioned by the AP and the like. The local media in the Seattle Times gets the story a little better, crashing the number down to $4.3 million.

A closer look at the Times article, however, reveals that - excluding fixed costs such as the courthouse, the prison, etc., that have little to do with the case being capital) - these numbers are overwhelmingly driven by the defense, not the prosecution. And while I have not independently checked the costs of the prosecution, the $200,000 and $470,000 numbers the article cites for the State are ridiculous and suspect.

Having been a prosecutor for 15 years in one of the largest jurisdictions in the United States who has prosecuted approximately 20 death penalty cases - with 4 of them having gone to trial recently - I haven't spent $200,000 on them combined (again, excluding my $40/hour salary with benefits). I doubt the office that I work for has spent $470,000 on all of their death penalty prosecutions in five years, excluding fixed costs.

The largest amount I have spent on a single case was about $20,000 to ensure a man who tortured and killed someone got the only just punishment. That's $20,000 for a case that took about 3 years to bring to trial through the death verdict of the jury. That $20,000 was spent primarily on a psychologist who was, essentially, on call whenever we had a question, for over 3 years, doing research for us to rebut the claims of 3 defense experts.

Take a look at that $470,000 number from just a common sense stand point: the state brings a prosecution, any prosecution, using a number of resources that already exist. The crimes are investigated by the police. The police and their salaries are already there, and are decidedly a fixed cost. Most people like having cops. Additional minor investigation, usually used to rebut defense claims, can be shared with the prosecutorial agency's own investigators who again are a fixed cost. The prosecution office's investigators are there already, and factored into our budgets regardless of what they are investigating or doing. As such the additional cost of our investigating a death penalty crime is negligible. Minor fees for obtaining copies or transcripts might be incurred, which I would argue are already the cost of any prosecution, but that amount is marginal, usually less than $50-100. Civilians testify for free and are lucky to get their parking reimbursed.

So that leaves expert witnesses. For the prosecutor, there is a massive difference between the costs of proving the case, and rebutting the defense. Proving the case - which usually relies on State experts - has few marginal costs, again the additional cost is going to be zero or very close. DNA, fingerprints, handwriting experts, ballistics, all of these scientific experts come from state crime labs most of the time. Some forensics can be farmed out, but usually this is to federal crime labs, not private ones; even the private ones are less than $1,000 most often. Murder cases are no different: medical examiners/coroners/pathologists are all State/County employees. If you accept the need for these services - which have nothing to do with the nature of the punishment - the marginal cost of using them to gain a death penalty is typically zero, or close enough to count. However, rebutting defense experts in the penalty phase of the trial - i.e., after guilt and death eligibility factors have been proven - can be expensive; I would imagine this is 99% of any prosecutor's budget. But even here, the vast majority of State experts are going to be drawn from State employees or frequently used experts where the State can/will negotiate a lower fee. Common defense experts in a capital case are nuero-psychologists who will talk about the "risk factors" the defendant had growing up (i.e., the "I had a bad childhood" mitigation) or some type of organic brain dysfunction ("I whacked my head as a 10 year old"). Most states have mental health professionals/psychologists who determine competency and often charge about $50 an hour, substantially less than the $600-$1,000 an hour charged by the defense industry.

Simply put: the cost of prosecution is largely a fixed cost that could be created for any prosecution. If prosecutors are indeed spending $470,000 on experts they are way over-thinking their case and their constituents should cap their budgets (though I doubt the figures).

So why is it that we see these million dollar numbers? Let's look at the defense of the murderer, collectively people who have every incentive to make the costs of the death penalty as high as possible.

Unlike the prosecution, the person who defends the murderer may not be paid the same amount if they are defending a drunk driver or a serial killer. There are generally two types of capital defense lawyers: the public defenders, and conflict/contract counsel. The public defenders - and no that is not pejorative, they are usually better trial attorneys than private lawyers - are basically just like prosecutors in that they charged a fixed rate, with adjustments for experience and (possibly) a bonus in capital cases. Contract counsel gets appointed if there are any witnesses on the prosecution that create a conflict because they were once represented by the public defender. This is actually a very common situation and I would guess a substantial number of death penalty defense lawyers fall into this category. Now the numbers get interesting.

Many county boards - who usually include a few abolitionists - want to attract "good" private defense lawyers to represent the worst of the worst. As such, they want those lawyers to focus on their capital cases so they offer ridiculously high contracts. In my jurisdiction, defense attorneys are typically making about $120-$150 an hour on a single death case. This is about 3 times the salary of the prosecutor, regardless of the quality of the evidence against the defendant (DNA, confession and all on video are paid the same as 1 snitch witness) and has no budget cap. The amount spent is often overseen by the defense community or organizations, which usually include death penalty opponents.

Now, the contract defense attorney can't possibly compete against all of the cops and crime labs that the state has access to - that's another post for another day - so he needs a "mitigation specialist," a 2nd chair and an investigator or 2. Think that comes out of his pocket? Not when lawyers set the rules, thank you Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. Again, these are assigned regardless of the quality of evidence against the defendant. Typically a 2nd chair is paid less, a paltry $90 an hour, as is the "mitigation specialist" whose job is to gather information in the defendant's past that make him sympathetic.

Now the defense would not be complete without experts. This is where is it gets really expensive. Peruse the defense witness lists for any death penalty case in any state and you will see a definite pattern: the same psychologists, neuro-psychs, PET scan doctors, sociologists, and former prison wardens testifying over and over again. I always laugh when I get a CV disclosed to me where the psychologist/PhD just so happens to be licensed to practice only in death penalty states, particularly when they don't actually treat clients. These experts typically charge between $300-$600 an hour - I've seen as much $1,200 an hour - 5 to 10 times the rate of state experts, who don't make a living being a professional anti-death penalty witness. Now you see where the "millions" come from: defense lawyers and anti-death penalty doctors.

Does it seem that a system like that is woefully inefficient, generating artificially high costs and open to corruption? It absolutely is, and this article will blow you away. In a shocking investigation from a decidedly left-wing newspaper that typically opposes the death penalty, the abuse of the system by defense attorneys and anti-death experts is made clear. It's not that it's illegal, it's that the system is designed to be costly. Put lawyers in charge of budgets - and sprinkle in hysterical ideological drive - and you've got yourself a million-dollar budget-buster.

Imagine if we put a cap on the salaries defense attorneys could earn on a death case, say a mere $500,000? I know it will be hard to feed a family on such a paltry number, but what if? Or, God-forbid, an independent panel of citizens who apportion the budgets of defense attorneys. Or even crazier, abolish lucrative contracts altogether and have lawyers bid on a case, like we have engineers bid on bridges that thousands of people trust with their lives every day?

The costs of the death penalty easily lays at the feet of the defense community that has every incentive to run up the cost as high as possible. Legislative reforms would be met with resistance from the lawyers and doctors who profit at the expense of taxpayers, but that only underscores the need.



Pakistani court rules that Christian woman will be put to death; Charge of blasphemy will cause Asia Bibi to hang

A high court in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore has confirmed the death sentence of a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy, destroying the hopes of her family that the conviction would be overturned or lessened to jail time.

Asia Bibi has been on death row since November of 2010, after she was convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with several Muslim women when she drank from the same bowl of water as they.

"On behalf of Asia Bibi I have today filed an appeal in the Supreme Court," said Saifu Malook, a defense attorney. "We expect an early hearing of the appeal and hope that the proceedings will be over in 1 year."

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for an unproven allegation of blasphemy.

Malook claims that the court should look at allegedly manipulated evidence and a significant delay between the time of the incident and its investigation by Pakistani police.

He also said that the blasphemy charge was concocted by enemies of Bibi, and it has no basis in fact.

Bibi's husband has also written to Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, asking that she be pardoned and allowed to move to France.

"We are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water," said Ashiq Masih-Bibi's husband-in an open letter published in the New York Times.

Blasphemy is a major crime in Pakistan, and even an unproven allegation can cause mob violence by Muslims mad for blood. Earlier this month, a Christian couple were murdered by a mob of dozens for apparently mocking the Quran, they were beaten to death and had their bodies burned in a brick kiln where they worked.

While Pakistan does have the death penalty on the books for blasphemy, it has never executed anyone for this crime.

(source: Catholic Online)


Is China Rethinking the Death Penalty? Proposed reforms could continue the trend of decreasing executions in China.

In October, the long-awaited Fourth Plenum in China dedicated itself to fostering the "rule of law." Since then, there's been a wealth of analysis on the topic, including here at The Diplomat. But one area for potential reform went largely overlooked. Signs at the Fourth Plenum (and since) indicate that Chinese leaders are serious about combating something human rights activists have long decried: heavy use of the death penalty.

According to the Dui Hua Foundation, China executed 2,400 people in 2013 - more than the rest of the world combined. However, according to Dui Hua's estimates, that figure also represents a 20 % decline in executions since 2012 and a 75 % drop since 2002. The Chinese government does not issue official statistics on the number of executions, so ironically the massive drop-off in execution rates has been kept fairly quiet.

China reserves the death penalty for "extremely serious crimes," but as Gady Epstein of The Economist notes, China has historically had a fairly broad interpretation of what this means. Drug trafficking, financial crimes, and corruption can all be subject to capital punishment, particularly if the central government is encouraging a crackdown on crime. This led to massive amounts of executions through the 1980s and 1990s, with roughly 15,000 executions per year in the '90s.

Epstein notes that the trend began reversing under the leadership of Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) from 1998 to 2008. Xiao recognized that China's unbridled use of the death penalty was a black mark on the country's international reputation. He began a quiet campaign to cut down on the number of executions, championing an attitude of "kill fewer, kill cautiously."

It was under Xiao that the SPC gained the power to review all death sentences. Dui Hua attributes a large part of the recent decline in executions to this change; according to their estimate, 39 % of death sentences are sent back to lower courts for reinvestigation and resentencing. The SPC's power to review death penalty cases provides a rare check on the authority of lower courts and helps prevent egregious abuses of capital sentencing.

But there's always more to be done, and Chinese leaders are still working on reforming the death penalty review system. An October 2014 Southern Weekend report revealed that the SPC may institutionalize legal representation in its review of death penalty cases. Analysis by Susan Finder of the Supreme People's Court Monitor says the idea is related to the general legal reforms mentioned at the Fourth Plenum, including the promise to "complete effective guards against unjust, false, and wrongfully decided cases." Currently, Finder notes, the death penalty review process is administrative; the proposed reforms would make such reviews a "hearing-centered procedure" where defense lawyers review cases and argue on behalf of their clients. The reforms even include some movement to provide legal aid to those who do not have their own defense lawyer, a crucial change as many people sentenced to be executed cannot afford legal representation.

Changing the review process is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to death penalty reform. The Supreme People's Court Monitor also noted the China's death penalty came under discussion at a recent conference hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and attended by SPC officials. Hu Yunteng, head of the SPC Research Office, said that reform is needed to the number of capital crimes as well as reducing judicial use of the death penalty. At the Third Plenum in 2013, the CCP promised to reduce the number of capital crimes "step by step." Currently the government is considering removing the death penalty as an option for nine crimes, including counterfeiting, certain kinds of smuggling, and "fraudulent fund-raising."

As noted above, one factor driving these reforms may be China's desire to remove a black mark from its international reputation. However, domestic opposition to the death penalty has also grown increasingly vocal. In April 2012, the SPC overturned the death sentence of Wu Ying, who had been convicted of fraud, after her sentence sparked outrage on Chinese social media outlets. Netizens were particularly upset about the harsh verdict against Wu given the perceived leniency shown to politically well-connected defendants accused of financial crimes. It should be noted, however, that Chinese netizens can be equally vocal about certain criminals not being sentenced to death, particularly when the accused are rich and politically well-connected.

Another source for popular outrage are stories of cases where the falsely accused were executed after questionable investigations. In a sign of progress on this front, Caixin reports that a 1996 murder case in Inner Mongolia will be reheard. The case in question ended in the conviction and execution of an 18-year-old man named Qoysiletu for rape and murder. In 2005, however, another man confessed to a series of rapes and murder, including the 1996 case. Official reviews suggested that the original trial of Qoysiletu was based on sparse evidence, with most of the evidence centering on a transcribed confession that may have been doctored. After nearly a decade of pleading from Qoysiletu's family, a new trial will be held. The court is expected to officially overturn the guilty verdict against Qoysiletu - cold comfort to a family who lost their son.

Given the finality of the death penalty, it's of the utmost importance that China institute reforms to ensure all convictions are solid and all sentences are justified. The use of capital punishment in China isn't going anywhere (in fact, it's being put to new purpose to punish convicted terrorists), making it all the more crucial for China's justice system to reform how the death penalty is applied and reviewed.

(source: The Diplomat)


3 Prisoners Scheduled to be Publicly Executed in 48 Hours in North-Eastern Iran

3 men are scheduled to be hanged in public in the Iranian province of Khorasan-Razavi (Northeastern Iran) said the Prosecutor of the "Public and Revolution Court" of Mashhad to the reporters today. Quoting Gholamali Sadeghi, the state run Iranian news agency Fars reported that 3 prisoners convicted of murder will be hanged publicly on Thursday 27. November. 2 of the prisoners will be hanged in Mashhad while the 3rd prisoner will be hanged in the town of Joghanai (near Mashhad). The report didn't identify the prisoners.

Iran is the country with the highest number of public executions. Iran's practice of public executions has been criticized both by the international community and the civil society inside Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Bomar is 1 step closer to death: Aimee Willard's killer loses latest bid to escape execution----Arthur Bomar Jr. was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death for the brutal murder of Aimee Willard, a 22-year-old star athlete from Brookhaven.

On the eve of returning to the North Philadelphia neighborhood where her slain 22-year-old daughter's body was found to serve an early Thanksgiving dinner to those in need, Gail Willard learned the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected the death-row killer's latest appeal.

It was about 5 p.m. Friday when Willard received a telephone call from Delaware County Assistant District Attorney William Toal III, who handled the appeal. While she was pleased to hear the news and is grateful to all who continue pursuing justice since her daughter, Aimee Willard, met a tragic end in June 1996, the straightforward mother said Monday that she has no time for Arthur Bomar. "I don't even give him a thought," Gail Willard said. "The main thing is they upheld it."

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said that with the latest opinion, Bomar has now exhausted his appeals at the state level.

Before Bomar can pursue any appeal at the federal level, which is expected, Whelan said the warrant for his death must be signed, either by Gov. Tom Corbett or the secretary of the Department of Corrections.

According to Whelan, they have 90 days within the transmission of the latest court record to the governor's office to sign the death warrant.

"I believe Arthur Bomar is pure evil and we are going to pursue the death penalty on the state level and fight any appeals on the federal level," Whelan said.

At the time of her death, Aimee Willard was a star lacrosse player at George Mason University, studying physical education and dreaming of coaching high school sports. She was the youngest of 3 children of Gail Willard, a nurse, and retired Chester Police Sgt. Paul Willard.

Based on evidence presented at trial and upheld on appeal, Bomar stalked and abducted Aimee Willard at the Springfield exit of Interstate 476 onto the Media Bypass as she was en route home to Brookhaven on June 19-20, 1996, after a night out with friends. Bomar dumped her body in a trash-strewn lot at 16th Street and Indiana Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Aimee's murder remained unsolved until June 5, 1997, when Bomar was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a parole violation from a prior 2nd-degree murder conviction in Las Vegas, Nev. During questioning about Willard, he told Pennsylvania State Police he had been at the same bar as Willard on the night of her murder; that he drove a 1993 Ford Escort until March 1997, the tires of which matched impressions from the murder scene; and that he frequently traveled Interstate 476.

Additionally, Bomar's then-girlfriend told troopers that he confessed to murdering Willard - flashing a fake police badge when he stopped her on Interstate 476. Bomar's ex-brother-in-law, who was incarcerated in federal prison for unrelated offenses at the time, offered to assist in the investigation and was transferred to the cellblock in Montgomery County where Bomar was initially incarcerated to eaves drop on Bomar, who made several incriminating statements.

Bomar was additionally tied to Willard's death by DNA evidence.

In October 1998, Bomar was convicted on charges of 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, rape and abuse of corpse, and was formally sentenced to death by legal injection. He remains in custody at SCI Greene.

Bomar's 1st post-sentence appeal, raising claims of ineffective trial counsel, was filed in January 1999, and later denied on lack of merit.

"That's the problem with a death-penalty case. It goes through so many years of appeals, on so many levels," Whelan said Monday.

Bomar's attorneys with the Federal Community Defender Office of Philadelphia filed the petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in April 2013, seeking relief under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. The appeal followed an order entered in March 2012 by Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Frank T. Hazel rejecting 22 claims by Bomar that included prosecutorial misconduct, improper testing of DNA evidence, and inappropriate jury conduct.

Similarly, 9 claims were examined and dismissed by Supreme Court Justices Thomas G. Saylor, J. Michael Eakin, Max Baer and Correale F. Stevens, with a concurring opinion filed by Chief Justice Ron Castille, according to the latest opinion, released Friday.

"We affirm the order of the PCRA court dismissing all of the appellant's claims," the 57-page opinion concludes.

Among Bomar's claims for relief: Prosecutorial misconduct; incompetency of Bomar to stand trial; ineffective counsel at both trial and penalty phase; unreliable forensic evidence; tainted jury; improper excuse of 7 potential jurors who philosophically opposed death sentence; and a violation of Bomar's Sixth Amendment rights when his ex-brother-in-law served as listening post for authorities.

For Gail Willard, returning to North Philadelphia to serve holiday dinner at the HERO community center on North 17th Street was a humbling experience. Joining Gail on Saturday was her husband, Tom Price, her sister, Sr. Nancy Bonshock, and a cousin, Eileen Evans. They helped to serve about 125 meals.

"It's almost an honor to be able to serve them. It really is," Gail Willard said. "This is a credit to Aimee and to those who reached out to her ... I continue to reach out to them."



Book might make you rethink the death penalty

Recently, my wife and I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania. The next morning at breakfast, while talking with friends from Delaware, we met a man who was taking his niece to various colleges in the region.

It turned out the man was a lawyer who had worked on death penalty cases. As you may know, Milton native and Cape Henlopen graduate Bryan Stevenson is one of the best-known death penalty lawyers in the country.

Stevenson heads the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala. He has argued before the Supreme Court. He recently appeared on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart to discuss his new book, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption."

So I said, "You must have heard of Bryan Stevenson."

He hadn't just heard of him. He knew him well. Had worked with him for 10 years, played basketball with him. He considered himself a pretty good ballplayer, but he said Bryan was better.

(I played some soccer with Bryan. He was better than me, too.)

"Well," I said, "Bryan comes back to Delaware sometimes; what's your name in case I see him? I'll tell him I met you."

"Flood," he said. "Joe Flood."

My long-lost Cousin Joe!

Flood isn't an extremely uncommon name, but I don’t recall actually meeting a Flood who wasn't a relative. (No, he's not a cousin, at least not a close one.)

As it happens, the Delaware Legislature may be revisiting the death penalty issue. Last session a death penalty repeal bill squeaked through the state Senate 11-10, with Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, voting yes.

It wasn't the party-line vote you might expect. Sen. Bob Venables, a Laurel Democrat who lost this year to Republican Bryant Richardson, voted against the bill. It never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Recent town meetings in Middletown and Dover, sponsored by groups such as the ACLU and NAACP, have attempted to draw attention to the issue. Police officers from outside Delaware who favor repeal were invited to speak.

I thought about Delaware's law recently while Helen and I listened to a recording of John Grisham's "An Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town."

Grisham - far better known for his fictional legal thrillers - does a masterful job telling the true story of Ron Williamson, a high school baseball standout whose dreams of big league stardom collide with the limits of his talent. He winds up a drunk and a ne'er-do-well, talking up his glory days at the local bars.

But after a young woman is raped and murdered, he makes a handy suspect. A horrible crime has been committed, and the community demands justice. Only in this case, it's injustice.

Despite a complete lack of physical evidence, Williamson and a friend, Dennis Fritz, are convicted of murder and sent to death row. Grisham also tells of 3 other Oklahoma men convicted of murder on the flimsiest evidence imaginable.

Williamson and Fritz are eventually exonerated, but only after 18 years on death row. Williamson once came within 5 days of his execution.

Amazingly, the 1 and only witness who testified to seeing Williamson at a bar with the murdered woman is the man later convicted of the crime.

It's hard to believe how badly police and prosecutors bungled the case. I honestly don't understand how anyone could read this book and not decide the death penalty should be repealed.

I realize not all people would be swayed. After all, this case happened in Oklahoma. We live in Delaware. We have a system of criminal justice here that doesn't allow that kind of mistake.

As if the citizens of Delaware have been granted a divine power to ascertain a man's guilt. That's not even a serious argument, but I've had someone tell me that with a straight face.

Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, a retired state trooper, was quoted in the News Journal saying the death penalty should be retained for those convicted of killing a police or correctional officer.

But that just highlights the capriciousness of the death penalty. Is killing a police officer worse than murdering a 2-year-old toddler?

Why are you more likely to get the death penalty if you murder a white person instead of a black person?

Is it fair that people with the wherewithal to hire the best lawyers effectively don't face the death penalty?

And, finally, mistakes happen. Even in Delaware.

(source: Don Flood,


Governor May Commmute Last 4 Death Row Sentences

There are reports that Governor Martin O'Malley is considering commuting death sentences for Maryland's 4 death row inmates. The governor has reached out to victims' family members in the cases. Some are begging him to leave the convicted killers on death row.

Meghan McCorkell has more from the families.

The state of Maryland repealed the death penalty last year but that did not include the 4 inmates that currently sit on death row.

On death row for nearly 20 years, Heath Burch confessed to killing Mary Francis Moore's father and stepmother.

"If you take a life, you should give your life up," she said.

But, in 2006, a Court of Appeals struck down Maryland's lethal injection procedures. Since he can't be executed, the governor is now considering commuting Burch's sentence to life in prison. Monday, Moore asked him not to.

"I said something about 'I think that I would like to see you not sign anything and let this go back to the court,'" she said.

But that's what the family of murder victim Edward Atkinson is trying to avoid. In 1997, the Wicomico County man was shot to death on the side of a road by Jody Lee Miles. Miles is now appealing his death penalty conviction. Atkinson's mother says she can't take another court battle.

"No other family should have to go through what we have been through," said Dottie Atkinson.

She wants the governor to intervene.

2 of the other death row inmates were convicted in a double murder in Baltimore County. They've sat on death row for more than 3 decades.

Drug kingpin Anthony Grandison ordered Vernon Evans to gun down two federal witnesses in the lobby of a Pikesville hotel in 1983. Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger argues death row is where they belong.

"These cases were incredibly heinous. I believe that their death sentences should remain in effect," he said.

Now the decision is in the governor's hands.

Moore says the governor did not indicate to her what he plans to do.

Miles' conviction appeal will go in front of a court next month. The attorney general is recommending the court vacate his sentence.

(source: CBS news)


Witness says he 'was in shock' after seeing Harris shot to death

An eyewitness to the killing of 19-year-old Kyle Harris testified in Cumberland County Superior Court Monday afternoon that he was in shock immediately after the murder during an armed robbery of the Cumberland Pawn Shop 4 years ago.

Sean Collins, 22, and an Army specialist, was working at the Grove Street business on the day of the murder on Nov. 6, 2010. Monday marked his 2nd day of testimony in the case, where Cedric Theodis Hobbs Jr., 33, is charged with 1st-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.

If convicted of murder, Hobbs could face the death penalty.

"I was in shock. I was really freaking out," Collins testified under the questioning of prosecutor Rita Cox.

When Cox asked him why, Collins replied, "I just watched a really good friend of mine get shot. He was unresponsive."

The questioning came as Assistant District Attorney Cox screened video footage from the afternoon of the shooting from the store's video surveillance system for jury members to watch. It was a system that Harris installed only weeks before the shooting, according to testimony.

Harris, a 2009 graduate of Cape Fear High School, had been working at the store as a clerk on the weekends to help out the family and pay his way through college.

Hobbs, 33, has admitted to Superior Court Judge Robert Floyd Jr. that he shot and killed Harris and robbed the pawn shop. And while his legal team admits that its client "committed to the acts involved," his lawyers told Floyd that he does not admit "to mental intent."

Murder by premeditation and deliberation and robbery are specific intent crimes, according to state law. Through his doctors, the defense is saying Hobbs had diminished mental capacity and did not form the specific intent required to commit the crimes of murder and robbery.

Floyd dismissed an alternate juror Monday after defense lawyers questioned whether the juror could remain objective to the evidence presented in the Harris case.

Earlier in the day, the court learned that the man had dropped by a friend's house on the way to court and discovered his friend was dead. Floyd recessed the proceedings until 2:15 p.m. Monday.

"You think you've heard everything," defense lawyer Steve Freedman quipped.

After reconvening in the courtroom, Floyd had the juror came out alone to question him. The man said investigators had already talked to him earlier in the day.

"As far as me," he told Floyd, "they're done."

Freedman wasn't satisfied.

The judge gave him permission to also question the juror. Freedman then told Floyd that he would ask the court to allow him to use one of the defense's peremptory challenges to release the juror. Freedman spoke of a potential conflict, since the death of the juror's friend was under investigation by the Fayetteville Police Department, just as the Harris case had been.

"How is that going to affect you?" Freedman asked the juror.

"Like I said," the man answered, "it's 2 separate incidents."

Floyd then asked the state for its position, and Cox said the state wanted the juror to remain on the jury.

Also Monday, a different juror told Floyd he's experiencing problems at work in conjunction with his jury duty. The man, who is a restaurant manager, said if he doesn't work "a full number of hours," the company he works for may put him on an unpaid leave of absence.

His wife is a teacher, the juror said, and it would create a financial hardship for the family if he's not paid at work.

"This is our Christmas paycheck now we're working on," he said.

Floyd told him that he understood his dilemma, but he asked the juror to stay on the jury.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

FLORIDA----new execution date

Gov. Scott Signs Death Warrant For Johnny Shane Kormondy

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a death warrant for a man found guilty of committing 2st-degree murder and sexual battery during a home-invasion robbery in 1993 in Escambia County.

Scott signed the warrant for Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, to die by lethal injection on Jan. 15.

The execution will be the 21st since Scott took office in January 2011, equaling the number overseen by former Gov. Jeb Bush, which is the most for any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Kormondy was found guilty in 1994 in the death of Gary McAdams, who was shot in the back of the head during a home-invasion robbery. McAdams and his wife, who was raped during the attack, had returned home from a high-school reunion when confronted at the front door by Kormondy and his 2 accomplices.

According to a release from the governor's office accompanying the death warrant, Kormondy was the leader of the attack, recruiting the accomplices, providing transportation and casing the McAdams' neighborhood.

Kormondy's accomplices, Curtis Buffkin and James Hazen, received life sentences. Law enforcement was able to close the case when a person to whom Kormondy confessed went to police seeking a $50,000 reward for information. The robbers reportedly left the house with $20.

Kormondy also threatened to kill witnesses who testified at his trial, including Mrs. McAdams, if he were ever released.

The execution date has been set for Thursday, January 15, 2014, at 6 p.m.

Johnny Shane Kormondy

DOB: 05/20/72

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Joseph Q. Tarbuck

Attorneys, Trial: T. Stitt & R. Davis - Assistant Public Defenders

Attorney, Trial (Resentencing): Glenn Arnold - Private

Attorney, Direct Appeal: Chet Kaufman - Assistant Public Defender

Attorney, Direct Appeals (Resentencing): Chet Kaufman - Assistant Public Defender

Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Michael Reiter - Registry

Date of Offense: 07/11/93

Date of Sentence: 10/7/94

Date of Resentencing: 07/07/99

Circumstances of Offense:

Kormondy was convicted of the murder of Gary McAdams, which occurred on 07/11/93.

In the early morning hours of 07/11/93, the victims, Gary McAdams and his wife Cecilia McAdams, had returned from a high school reunion. They heard a knock at their door.

When Mr. McAdams opened the door, Curtis Buffkin was on the other side holding a gun. Buffkin forced his way into the house and ordered the McAdams to get down on the kitchen floor and keep their heads down.

James Hazen and Johnny Kormondy then entered the house. Both Kormondy and Hazen had socks on their hands. After the 3 men took personal valuables from the McAdams, the phones were disconnected from the wall and the blinds were closed.

At this point, one of the men took Mrs. McAdams to a bedroom in the back and forced her at gunpoint to remove her dress and to perform oral sex on him.

One of the other men, described as having sandy-colored hair that hung down to his collar bone, entered the room and proceeded to rape Mrs. McAdams while the 1st man forced her to perform oral sex on him again.

After she was taken to the kitchen, naked, and placed with her husband, one of the men took her back to the bedroom and raped her again. While he was raping her, a gunshot was fired in the front of the house.

Mrs. McAdams heard one of the men yell for "Bubba" or "Buff", and the man raping her stopped and ran to the front of the house. Mrs. McAdams left the bedroom and was walking towards the front of the house when she heard a gunshot from the bedroom. When she entered the kitchen, she saw Mr. McAdams on the floor with blood coming from the back of his head.

After the murder, Kormondy's wife asked him to leave the family home. Kormondy left and moved in with Willie Long. Kormondy confessed to Long about the murder and admitted that he had shot Mr. McAdams but, explained it had gone off accidentally. Long went to the police because of the $50,000 reward for information.

During the trial, the medical examiner testified that Mr. McAdams' death was caused by a contact gunshot wound, meaning the barrel of the gun was pressed to Mr. McAdams' head.

Codefendant Information:

Curtis Buffkin (DC# 103884)

Buffkin was sentenced to life for his participation in the offense that occurred on 07/11/93 (CC# 93-3302).

James Hazen (DC# 391126)

Hazen was sentenced to life for his participation in the offense that occurred on 07/11/93 (CC# 93-3302).

Additional Information:

Kormondy, Hazen, and Buffkin were indicted on 07/27/93 and tried separately. Buffkin was offered a plea bargain by the State in return for assistance in the prosecution of Hazen and Kormondy.

The trial records are inconsistent as to the location of Hazen and Buffkin at the time of Mr. McAdams shooting. During Kormondy's trial, Mrs. McAdams testified that Buffkin was with her in the bedroom when the shot was fired.

In testimony given by Officer Hall, Kormondy told him in an unrecorded statement that Buffkin fired the fatal shot and that Hazen was in the bedroom with Mrs. McAdams. In a confession recorded for the jury, Kormondy stated again that it was Buffkin who fired the fatal shot.

During Hazen's trial, Buffkin testified that Kormondy fired the fatal shot, and that Hazen was in the bedroom with Mrs. McAdams. Hazen testified that he was not present at the scene when the crimes occurred.

Trial Summary:

07/27/93 - Indicted as follows:

Count I: Capital Murder

Count II: Sexual Battery

Count III: Sexual Battery

Count IV: Sexual Battery

Count V: Assault or Battery during Burglary

Count VI: Robbery with a Firearm or Weapon

07/07/94 - Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment.

07/09/94 - Jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4.

10/07/94 - Sentenced as follows:

Count I: Capital Murder - Death

Count II: Sexual Battery - Life

Count III: Sexual Battery - Life

Count IV: Sexual Battery - Life

Count V: Assault or Battery during Burglary - Life

Count VI: Robbery with a Firearm or Weapon - Life

10/09/97 - Florida Supreme Court remanded death sentence for new sentencing phase.

07/07/99 - At resentencing jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4.

Case Information:

On 11/15/94 Kormondy filed his Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court found that the admission of cross-examination testimony from a co-perpetrator during the penalty phase was reversible error.

On 10/09/97, the Court affirmed his conviction but remanded his sentence for resentencing.

On 08/05/99 Kormondy filed his Direct Appeal for resentencing to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court found that Kormondy's death sentence was not disproportionate to the crime.

The Court also found that the trial court did not ignore mitigating factors when imposing the death sentence, the limitation of cross-examination of Mrs. McAdams was not abuse of discretion, and that the admission of victim impact testimony was not fundamental error. On 02/13/03, the Court affirmed Kormondy's sentence.

Kormondy filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on 07/28/03, which was denied on 10/14/03.

On 08/30/04, Kormondy filed a 3.851 Motion to the Circuit Court, which was denied on 06/20/05.

On 07/06/05, Kormondy filed a 3.851 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, which is currently pending.

Kormondy filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court, which is also pending.

(source: Space Coast Daily)



Gov. Scott has ordered the "People of the State of Florida" to kill Johnny Shane Kormondy on Thursday, January 15 at 6pm ET. Kormondy was sentenced to death for the killing of Gary McAdams of Pensacola 21 years ago. This would be the 21st execution of a well-secured, captive prisoner ordered by Richard Lynn Scott.

Florida continues the premeditated, unnecessary, and experimental killing of captive prisoners. Richard Lynn Scott is responsible for 20 executions thus far and he still has 4 years left as governor.

Please contact Gov. Rick Scott and ask him to suspend ALL executions.

Governor Rick Scott:

Phone: (850) 488-7146


(source: FADP)


Ohio Could Pass the Country's Most Extreme "Secret Executions" Bill----A new law could make it almost impossible to know what really happens in the death chamber.

The execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16 of this year did not go as planned. Injected with an untested cocktail of drugs, the Ohio death row inmate gasped, choked, and writhed in his restraints. McGuire was declared dead after 26 minutes, having endured the longest execution in the state's history.

"To a degree of medical certainty, this was not a humane execution," an anesthesiologist testified in a subsequent federal lawsuit against the state's execution team. The lawsuit, filed by McGuire's children, declares the execution method used on McGuire cruel and unusual and seeks to block its further use in Ohio.

Yet state lawmakers are now rushing to pass a "secret executions" bill that would make it harder to know what really happens in the death chamber. If passed, HB663 will drop a veil of secrecy over the death penalty by exempting anyone participating in a lethal injection from public records requests that might reveal their identities or duties. It would apply to medical and nonmedical staff, companies transporting or preparing supplies or equipment used in executions, and the providers of the drugs used in the lethal injection.

Introduced just 2 weeks ago in a lame-duck session, the bill sailed through committee and was passed by the state House last Thursday, 62 to 27. The bill now moves to the Senate, which could vote on it as early as the first week of December. Most of the measure's support comes from Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature. It is not clear whether Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who supports the death penalty but has been generous in granting clemency, will sign the bill if it comes to him. The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that the bill's sponsors have claimed that they have Kasich's support.

"This is the most extreme lethal injection secrecy bill that we've seen nationwide."

After McGuire's botched execution, a federal judge issued a moratorium on capital punishment in Ohio until January 2015. The state's next execution is scheduled for February. This imminent deadline is part of what's driving the legislature's urgency to pass the execution secrecy bill. The European suppliers of the state's preferred execution drug, pentobarbital, now refuse to sell it for use in executions. Lawmakers hope that the promise of anonymity will goad local compounding pharmacies into providing the drug.

If it goes into law, the bill would make it exceedingly difficult for the public or the press to investigate executions. Under the law, participants in executions may be sued if they reveal any confidential information or identities. The law also would undermine prisoners' due process rights, according to the ACLU: By exempting the participants in lethal injections from subpoenas and discovery proceedings, the law would make it virtually impossible for inmates' lawyers or courts to depose or question anyone with knowledge of a particular execution or death-penalty protocol. A late amendment to the bill does make limited room for disclosure through private judicial hearings.

Thirteen other states have passed or tried to pass these sorts of gag rules. The bills are also growing more broad. "The trend we see in the more recent confidentiality statutes is an enhancement of both the breadth and depth of secrecy surrounding execution procedures," notes Megan McCracken, an attorney at the death penalty clinic at the University of California-Berkeley law school.

But Ohio's bill goes even further. First, it would void any contract, domestic or international, that would hinder the state's ability to obtain execution drugs. It also extends professional immunity for participants in executions, stating that licensing organizations can not "take any disciplinary action against" physicians, pharmacists, or other staff. Many professional associations' codes of conduct prohibit participation in capital punishment, and the Ohio State Medical Association has expressed concerns about the bill's "intent to statutorily void" parts of the medical ethics code. "I think this is the most extreme lethal injection secrecy bill that we've seen nationwide," says Brickner.

The original version of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville), sought to ensure permanent blanket secrecy. An amended version requires individuals and companies involved in executions to opt-in for anonymity, and would make their identities public 20 years after they finish their business with the state. "20 years later is a rather pointless exercise," says Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio. "If the company has a 10-year contract, you wouldn't see that information in your lifetime."

With 4 botched executions in the last eight years, Ohio's use of the death penalty has come under increasing scrutiny. Beyond practical considerations regarding lethal injection, the legislature's rush may also be an attempt to quiet the debate on capital punishment, notes Brickner. Yet it may have the opposite effect. "This bill is fundamentally broken," says Brickner. "There will be no shortage of lawsuits challenging it."



Sandy arraigned on murder charge; Alleged killer of 86-year-old George Martin enters plea of not guilty.

An accused killer made his 1st appearance in an Erie County courtroom Monday, entering a not guilty plea for the fatal stabbing of his relative, George Martin, nearly 1 year ago.

Joseph Sandy, 33, sat before Erie County Judge Tygh Tone Monday afternoon for a brief arraignment in the death penalty case.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges a grand jury indicted him on earlier this month - aggravated murder, arson, robbery and burglary, as well as tampering with evidence.

The benches in Tone's courtroom were completely empty at the hearing - Sandy was joined only by attorney Aaron Miller, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter and court personnel.

As Tone read aloud his indictment, Sandy intently read along on his own copy, showing no emotion - and he did not change demeanor when Tone detailed the death penalty he's potentially facing.

According to Baxter, Sandy was eligible for capital punishment because grand jurors found he allegedly killed Martin while both robbing him and burgling his home, all before setting it ablaze Dec. 3.

Shortly after the murder, he violated his parole from a DUI conviction and was shipped back to Belmont Correctional Institution. He's been behind bars there up until his return to Erie County in anticipation of this first court appearance.

There was talk in the courtroom Monday of Sandy possibly transferring prisons to make him more accessible to local proceedings, but no official decision was reached.

For now, a holder will be placed on him so that he cannot be released from custody while he's out of Erie County hands.

Sandy's next court date is slated for Dec. 22 at 11 a.m.

His co-defendant and wife, Bethany Sandy, 24, remains at the Erie County jail.

(source: Sandusky Register)


Allegation of affair between judge, victim-witness coordinator dominates Kiser hearing

Tempers flared and a judge took the stand during testimony in the post-conviction petition case of Marlon Kiser Monday.

At a hearing, Kiser's attorneys tried to draw out details of an alleged affair between a former victim-witness coordinator and retired Division 3 Judge Steve Bevil, who is now dead. On the stand, Cindy Richardson categorically denied having a sexual relationship with the judge, who at the time was trying Kiser's case.

"I think he liked me, I liked him, it was mutual, but that was it," Richardson said.

As victim-witness coordinator, Richardson worked for prosecutors between 2001 and 2003. She said she was asked to resign in 2003. She drank too much at the annual district attorney's conference, she said, and she had wanted to leave anyway.

That year, Kiser was sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy Donald Bond. He's been appealing his case ever since, although a grand jury upheld his death penalty sentence in 2009.

His execution was set for 2010, but that was delayed when his lawyers filed a motion to review evidence. A post-conviction petition for relief was filed on his behalf, and witnesses have testified at 2 previous hearings.

At Monday's hearing, Murfreesboro attorney Paul Bruno asked Richardson if she told others at the conference that she could influence Judge Bevel.

"I don't know, there was a lot of alcohol," Richardson said.

Her husband, attorney Mike Richardson, called the accusations "nonsense and lies."

"She told me Judge Bevel liked her and it became uncomfortable," Mike Richardson said.

But attorney Hank Hill testified that during a dinner that he attended with his wife, Cindy Richardson said she was having a secret affair with the judge.

"She indicated there was a sexual relationship," Hill said.

Hill is married to Times Free Press staff writer Karen Hill.

Division I Judge Barry Steelman was executive assistant district attorney general at the time of Kiser's case. He testified Monday that he remembered a meeting at the public defender's office involving Kiser's defense team, Cox and himself.

Former public defender Mary Ann Green said she, too, remembered the meeting, at which Cox informed her that Richardson had left, either because of her relationship with or comments she made about Judge Bevil. Green was one of Kiser's defense attorneys. She said the defense team did not file any motions because they trusted Judge Bevil's judgment.

To see any post-conviction relief, Kiser's attorneys will need to prove that the alleged affair, as well as other issues with the investigation and defense, affected the outcome of the trial.

"Any time there's any indication that a judge was engaged in misconduct with essentially the employee of one of the attorneys handling the case, that's absolutely concerning," Kiser's attorney, Luke Evans, said.

When he took the stand, Mike Richardson condemned the defense team for dredging up accusations.

"I hope you enjoy this public spectacle you've created," Richardson said.

"Nobody's enjoying any of it," Bruno said.

(source: Times Free Press)


Autopsy begins on Kansas woman found raped, burned

An autopsy has begun on a Kansas woman who died this weekend, days after she was sexually assaulted and set on fire in a Wichita park, a county official said Monday.

Sedgwick County spokeswoman Brittany Clampitt said coroner's office officials were investigating, but it wasn't clear when the examination would be complete.

Family members held a memorial for Letitia "Tish" Davis on Sunday evening in Wichita's Fairmount Park, where she was found Nov. 14 with burns on more than half her body and cuts on her head.

They remembered her as a loving mother of 4. Marcie Bell called Davis "truly a beautiful person."

"This is my way to tell her she will never be forgotten," Bell told The Wichita Eagle.

Cornell McNeal has been jailed and charged with attempted murder and rape. He doesn't yet have a lawyer, according to court records and the Sedgwick County Public Defender's office.

Police Lt. James Espinoza told The Eagle that charges against McNeal would be amended after Davis died Saturday. He hasn't returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. A capital charge could make McNeal eligible for the death penalty.

District attorney's office spokeswoman Georgia Cole said Monday that prosecutors would determine "what charges are appropriate based on new evidence," which would include the results of the autopsy.

(source: Associated Press)


Utah Wants to Bring Back the Firing Squad and Other Death Penalty News

The good news is that it has been nearly 4 months since there has been a botched attempt at administering the death penalty in the United States, after a slew of failed, drawn out lethal injection executions. The bad news is that there could be a nonoccurrence at any time, as the underlying roots of the issue - our country's complete disregard for the suffering of those we see as guilty and refusal to acknowledge the injustice surrounding the death penalty itself - still remain unaddressed.

Despite a number of issues with the combination of drugs that together compose the so-called "cocktail" that makes up a lethal injection, states are just as eager as they have been in the past to get a hold of the combo. Attempts to keep the lethal injection "recipe" secret hit a new height post-election, as an Ohio bill was introduced to hide who was supplying the drugs to the prison system. Ohio has been unable to execute those on death row since it had its own botched lethal injection at the beginning of the year, according to National Public Radio. Now, to move the process along and allow the state to get access to new drugs, a bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would both shield the public from being able to learn what company was supplying the drugs, but also override the requests of foreign countries who have asked that their drugs not be used in any form of executions.

Lawmakers proposing the bill also want it known that they believe it really doesn't matter how much a convicted murderer suffers during an execution, anyway, despite the fact that cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden by the constitution. "Frankly, what that man did to the lady that he murdered and raped and tortured," State Rep. Jim Buchy, a bill sponsor, told NPR, referencing the man who took 20 minutes to die during the state's last lethal injection execution. "He perpetrated more cruel and unusual punishment to his victim than the state ever did in a 20-minute execution."

In Utah, the state has come up with a novel way to avoid issues and controversy surrounding lethal injections. They want to bring back the firing squad.

Citing the inability to get lethal injection drugs from Europe, Utah's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee has recommended firing squad be the new first line of possibilities for executions in the state. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield told the Salt Lake Tribune that a firing squad armed with rifles is, "absolutely one of the most humane ways to execute someone because it's so quick and, quite honestly, one of the most painless ways," adding that, "I'm sure there's some initial pain to it, but you don't see the struggling and the trying to breathe you see on any type of lethal injection. Even on the ones that are the lethal drug cocktail, you still see the gurgling and the fighting to breathe."

Should the bill become law, 30 days prior to an execution there would be a hearing to find out if a lethal injection drug was available and if the answer is no, then the firing squad would be designated as the way to proceed. The new rules would be a throwback to the time before 2004, where those who were to be executed were allowed to pic between firing squad and lethal injection.

Both bills have opponents, of course, and those primarily consist of those who recognize that the death penalty in any form is a cruel and unusual punishment. This is especially true when it is applied against those who cannot even reasonably understand what crime it was that they committed. In Texas, the state is just a week away from executing a man who is suffering from schizophrenia, and it has brushed off any concerns from those who say that the mentally incapacitated should never be put to death.

"[Scott] Panetti, whose schizophrenia has been documented for 30 years, cannot distinguish fact from delusion," writes Boer Deng and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. "On Dec. 3, Texas plans to execute him. He believes he is being put to death because the state of Texas, in cahoots with the devil, wants to prevent him from preaching the Gospel."

"It is almost incomprehensible that Texas is about to go through with the execution," they add, "but the failures, feints, technicalities, and errors chronicled below have created a situation in which a man with 3 decades of profound mental illness will be sent to the death."

When our country has no remorse over executing a sick man, no qualms about the suffering a person could endure as his or her life is take from her by the hands of the government, and sees a handful of people with rifles as the most "humane" way of executing a criminal, there's little wonder we still legally grasp the death penalty as "justice."

(source: care2com)


Tracking led to confession in deaths of 4 prostitutes, officials say

Old-fashioned detective work and high-tech data gathering led investigators to track down the 2 men now charged with killing at least 4 female prostitutes who were swept off the streets of Orange County, according to grand jury testimony.

The body of the final victim was found on a conveyor belt at a trash sorting facility. Items found with the body pointed Anaheim police to an industrial garbage bin where they believed the woman had been dumped, the testimony revealed.

From there, police used the GPS tracking devices of registered sex offenders and the cellphone records of the missing women to help identify 2 career criminals as the possible killers.

The phone records of the men themselves - mostly rapid-fire text messages - offer a gruesome play by play leading up to the final victim's death last March, a phone records analyst told the grand jury.

"Bye-Bye, kitty," one of the suspects texts the other the night it's believed the woman was killed, according to testimony.

Franc Cano, 28, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, are now charged with raping and murdering four women and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hundreds of pages of grand jury testimony made public Monday outline the case that detectives built against the pair of convicted child molesters who police say prowled the streets of Santa Ana and Anaheim looking for women. The men are set to appear in court Jan. 16 for a pretrial hearing.

The crimes date back to the fall of 2013, when Kianna Jackson, 20, vanished shortly after speaking to her mother while taking a bus to Santa Ana to keep a court date.

20 days later, Josephine Monique Vargas, a 34-year-old mother of 3, left a relative's birthday party to walk to a market and never returned.

And 20 days after that, Martha Anaya, 27, asked her boyfriend to pick up their child from school so that she could work - which, when she was desperate for cash, sometimes meant looking for customers along East 1st Street, relative said.

Though Santa Ana police investigated the cases, the women were never found, their disappearances never explained.

It was the discovery of Jarrae Estepp's battered body at the Anaheim trash facility, identified by a tattoo of her mother's name on her bruised neck, that caused detectives to conclude the cases were related, and most likely the work of a serial killer.

"The whole thing unravels and becomes the case that we have here today," Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Yellin told jurors.

Scanning the GPS monitoring devices for all registered sex offenders in the area, detectives testified that they found only one person who was near the Beach Boulevard location when Estepp used her cellphone for the last time and at the trash bin when it's believed her body was dumped: That was Franc Cano.

His GPS data also matched the place and date of disappearance for the other 3 women, according to the grand jury testimony.

Police set up around-the-clock surveillance on Cano, according to testimony, and lured him to the police by saying he needed to do his monthly check-in, required of registered homeless sex offenders. On his way, undercover officers said they saw Cano toss out a piece of chewing gum that they quickly gathered up as possible DNA evidence. During the meeting, they also took a mouth swab. Prosecutors said there was a match with DNA found on Estepp's body.

After identifying Steven Dean Gordon as a possible second suspect, he was taken into custody and confessed during a 13-hour interview, according to testimony.

Det. Julissa Trapp said that during the interview, Gordon picked all 4 women out of a photo lineup and carefully put them in the order they disappeared. Trapp testified that he knew roughly when each had been killed and pointed out to her that a 5th victim appeared to be missing from the lineup. That person has never been identified.

At first, Gordon left Cano's involvement out of his account, Trapp said. But she said he later revised his story and described Cano as an active, aggressive participant in the killings.

Recounting his exchange with the first woman, Kianna Jackson, Gordon allegedly confessed that he picked her up on Harbor Boulevard with Cano hiding in the back seat and took her to an industrial area the two were known to frequent. Gordon said he decided to strangle her when he realized that her street name "Kayla" was the same as his daughter's, Trapp testified.

Trapp testified that Gordon told her that hearing the name "triggered him."

One by one, he continued through his account of each of the killings, according to the testimony. Vargas "was kind of crazy" and pulled on the car's steering wheel, he told Trapp. Anaya was "the one that put up the most fight."

After the men allegedly picked up Estepp in Anaheim and drove her to the industrial area, testimony showed the men exchanged a long series of text messages that seemed to show they were hesitant and tentative with what to do with the 21-year-old:

"I can't hurt this cat. I just can't," Gordon texts Cano at 10:28 p.m. on March 14 of this year.

"Then get rid of her," Cano texts Gordon at 11:55 p.m.

"How?" Gordon asks.

"Happy Hand," Cano replied, a phrase prosecutors interpreted to mean strangling.

"Bye-bye, Kitty," Gordon texts Cano at 12:13 a.m.

Trapp said that at one point Gordon asked Estepp to stay with him, to quit the life of working the streets, but she refused.

"That's when Cano grabbed her, and she pulled out mace and maced Gordon first and then maced Cano, and that's when they proceeded to assault her, assault her as Gordon is punching her, as Cano is strangling her," Trapp told jurors.

They pulled her from the car, undressed her and Gordon leaned down to kiss her and tell her he was sorry, the detective said Gordon told her.

"And then," Trapp concludes, "they discarded her in the trash can."

(source: Los Angeles Times)


If Oregon Can Give Death With Dignity, Why Can't Death Row?

This week, the Utah state legislature approved a bill that would allow the state to impose the death penalty by firing squad if the drugs approved for lethal injection are not available. Meanwhile, Ohio legislators proposed a bill that would ensure the anonymity of independent compounding pharmacies that provide lethal drugs to the state's prisons. Many pharmacies are reluctant to sell drugs to used for capital punishment, fearing public backlash.

At the same time, a forceful public debate about physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients and laws such as Oregon's Death With Dignity Act (DWDA) has developed, which I have previously weighed in on. Observers might wonder how doctors can help terminally ill patients gently, painlessly, and quickly end their lives, while prison officials seem hard-pressed to do the same for inmates sentenced to death. For example, in Arizona earlier this year, Joseph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die by lethal injection, though prison officials had previously estimated that he would die within about ten minutes. In April, Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett's execution took over 45 minutes.

Why can't prisons use the same drugs that doctors in Oregon use? The answer is: they often do. Why then don't Death With Dignity Act patients experience the same sorts of complications that some capital offenders have? The answer is: they often do.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, where active euthanasia has been legal since 2002 and 2001, respectively, the standard protocol advises injections of the barbiturate sodium thiopental, followed by pancuronium bromide (a paralytic agent). Until recently, most state executions in the United States used a standard 3-drug combination for capital punishment: sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride (which causes cardiac arrest). So, for years the drug protocol was, indeed, extremely similar.

Beginning in 2011, the European Union placed an embargo on sodium thiopental and other drugs used in the standard lethal injection protocol in U.S. prisons. The European Commission also added "short and intermediate acting barbiturate anaesthetic agents" like pentobarbital and sodium thiopental to its Regulation on Products used for Capital Punishment and Torture. In response, prisons scrambled for alternatives to commercial drug manufacturers. States began ordering pentobarbital and other lethal drugs from FDA-unregulated compounding pharmacies. 9 states have either used or intend to use compounding pharmacies to obtain their drugs for lethal injection.

14 states also began using a simpler single-drug protocol of pentobarbital. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 4 of the 6 executions carried out in various states in January 2014 used the drug by itself. Unfortunately, when Oklahoma officials used pentobarbital in the execution of Michael Lee Wilson, witnesses reported the inmate saying aloud that he could feel his "whole body burning" during the execution process. Tanya Greene of the ACLU called pentobarbital's use "basically an experiment on human beings; the risk of extended, painful death is very high."

Why don't prisons use whatever concoction doctors prescribe to terminally ill patients then? Well, according to the state of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act 2013 Annual Report, in 2013, 90.1% of patients prescribed lethal medication under the DWDA received . . . pentobarbital.

Most of us wish for ourselves and those we love a peaceful, graceful exit from life. When our final moments inevitably come, we want to see our family and friends gathered round us, letting us know that we are loved and that we won't be forgotten. Some patients' wishes may come true. Others, though, will vomit (before or after losing consciousness), seize, and gasp. Some will pass in minutes from waking, to unconsciousness, to death. Others will remain conscious for much longer and will remain alive for longer still. Some others, a small but notable minority, will regain consciousness after taking the supposedly lethal medication.

Witnesses at executions are sometimes horrified by an inmate whose execution does not proceed as quietly or smoothly, or whose death does not come as quickly, as expected. Lethal drugs don't necessarily spare patients seeking physician assisted death from similar complications, unfortunately.

Research from the Netherlands, where active euthanasia has been legal since 2001, reports patient self-administration of physician-prescribed lethal medication did not work as expected in 16% of cases. In an additional 7% of cases, patients experienced unexpected side effects. The study describes patients regaining consciousness after ingesting the drugs, vomiting, and gasping for breath, and seizures. In 6% of cases, patients either regained consciousness or took significantly longer to die than expected. In the Netherlands, times between drug administration and death varied considerably, with a median range of 3.8 hours.

In Oregon between 1998 and 2012, 5 out of 681 DWDA patients regained consciousness after ingesting the lethal DWDA medications. (Their numbers are included in the metrics for patients receiving and ingesting DWDA drugs, but they are not included in tallies for DWDA deaths.) In 2005, a patient regained consciousness 65 hours after taking the medication, subsequently dying from the underlying illness 14 days after awakening. In 2010, 1 patient regained consciousness 88 hours after ingesting the medication, subsequently dying from underlying illness 3 months later. Another patient the same year regained consciousness within 24 hours, subsequently dying from underlying illness 5 days following ingestion. In 2011, a patient regained consciousness approximately 14 hours after ingesting the medication and died about 38 hours later. Another patient briefly regained consciousness after ingestion and died from the underlying illness 30 hours later. One 2004 prescription recipient became unconscious 25 minutes after ingestion, then regained consciousness 65 hours later. Oregon Public Health reports that the patient "did not obtain a subsequent prescription and died 14 days later of the underlying illness (17 days after ingesting the medication)."

Would you ask for a refill of pentobarbital if this happened to you? Talking about an idealized version of euthanasia or physician-assisted death is comforting. Drinking prescribed poison, slipping into what you believe will be your final rest . . . then waking up? Not so comforting.

In Judge Alex Kozinski's dissent in Joseph Wood's case, Kozinski chastises the government for continuing to carry out the death penalty but insisting upon lethal drugs instead of "more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution" such as the guillotine or the firing squad. Kozinski writes, "Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."

Perhaps we need to be as clear-sighted about voluntary, physician-assisted death as Judge Kozinski urges us to be about involuntary, penal system-imposed death. The methods are similar. The complications are similar. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the thought of physicians employing more foolproof - even if more primitive - methods of aiding their patients' deaths, then perhaps we shouldn't enter this arena either. Clear vision about voluntary death need not necessarily lead to firing squads for leukemia patients and guillotines for grannies, but it would prevent us from misunderstanding the process and its consequences. The upshot for both voluntary, physician-assisted death and for capital punishment is that death is difficult. Our sentimentality may lead us to romanticize it, but our social consciences should never allow us to sanitize it.


(source: Tamara Tabo is a summa cum laude graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the school's law review. After graduation, she clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She currently heads the Center for Legal Pedagogy at Texas Southern University, an institute applying cognitive science to improvements in legal


Inside the Mind of a Killer; On the night of the Boston Marathon attacks, Tamerlan Tsarnaev watched his handiwork on television - and laughed.

It was the evening of April 15, 2013, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a happy man. At a messy, 3rd-floor apartment on Norfolk Street in Cambridge, the 26-year-old was in his living room alongside his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, watching the news on TV. Nearly every channel was running nonstop coverage of the chaos and carnage on Boylston Street: the smoke, the screaming, the severed limbs scattered in the street. Blood was everywhere. In the apartment, a laptop streaming CNN also played the endless chaos and heroic rescue efforts. Spectators used their belts, shirts, and shoelaces as tourniquets to tie off the mangled limbs of strangers; doctors who ran the marathon sprinted to operating rooms; former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi carried an injured woman to safety.

Then came a knock at the door.

"Open!" Tamerlan shouted.

In walked Khairullozhon Matanov. Tamerlan had been expecting him.

Matanov, a 23-year-old cab driver from Quincy, was a fellow Russian-speaking immigrant with a scrawny frame and floppy black hair. The 2 had met years earlier at a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, part of the Islamic Society of Boston, and became friends. They attended Friday prayers together and went to the mosque on holidays such as Id al-Fitr, the highest of Muslim holy days. Tamerlan, a New England Golden Gloves champion, gave Matanov boxing lessons, and they played weekly pickup soccer games together in Cohasset. Matanov had even met the Tsarnaev family matriarch, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who cooked chicken and salad for him at their home. One time, the 2 friends climbed Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, where Tamerlan talked about the mujahedeen.

All of these details - and many more - are contained in FBI proffer reports obtained exclusively by Boston magazine. The proffer reports are an FBI agent's written account of multiple interviews with Matanov, whom the feds have charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the Boston Marathon investigation. Agents first interviewed Matanov in May 2013 and arrested him 12 months later. According to one of the reports, Matanov and Tamerlan "did not have secrets."

On the night of the bombings, Matanov allegedly told the FBI, he was rattled. But he repeatedly insisted that he had no idea the Tsarnaev brothers were behind the bombings. It was mere coincidence, he claimed, that at 3:31 p.m., some 40 minutes after the explosions, Matanov called Tamerlan, who said he was in a store buying milk. "During this conversation they discussed the bombings in Boston," the FBI report states. "Matanov suggested that maybe something blew up in a kitchen near the finish line, to which Tamerlan responded: 'Maybe, maybe not.'" The 2 made plans for dinner.

It was sundown by the time Matanov walked into the Norfolk Street apartment. The Tamerlan that greeted him that day looked more like the old Tam. Gone was the beard he'd grown after returning from a 6-month trip to Russia in July 2012. Instead, his face was freshly shaved. Wearing sweatpants and boxing shoes, he more closely resembled the handsome party boy who once frequented Boston nightclubs and smoked pot with his friends. Neither Tamerlan's wife, Karima, nee Katherine Russell, nor their toddler daughter, Zahara, were home.

After greeting the brothers, the FBI report says, Matanov commented that the bombings were very bad and voiced his concerns that the public might direct its outrage at Muslims. He plopped down on the couch next to Dzhokhar, who was stroking the family cat. Matanov also expressed sympathy for 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the 2nd blast. According to the report, "Tamerlan responded by asking whether Matanov thought the U.S. drones that dropped bombs in Pakistan and Afghanistan did not kill any children."

"So what if a kid dies," Tamerlan said. "God will take care of him."

As Tamerlan watched the coverage on TV, he smiled. There was 1 image that every newscast replayed over and over again: 78-year-old marathoner Bill Iffrig being hurled to the ground after the 1st bomb exploded, his bright-orange tank top juxtaposed against the gray billowing smoke behind him. He lay prone on the ground, stunned, just yards away from the finish line. Half a dozen Boston Police officers sprang toward Iffrig and stood around him in a protective huddle as chaos erupted behind them. A blue-and-yellow-clad volunteer helped him to his feet.

There was something about that old man on the ground...Tamerlan loved it. When he saw the shot of Iffrig falling as the smoke rose in the background, Tamerlan laughed. Matanov told the FBI that "Tamerlan expressed glee over the bombings and called them the biggest thing since 9/11.... Specifically, Tamerlan laughed at images of an old man running from the blast."

The image of Iffrig crumpled on the ground became emblematic of the pandemonium and bloodshed near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A child was dead, along with 2 young women. In all, the bombs injured more than 260 people; 16 of them lost 1 or more limbs. And at that time no one knew why.

Except for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Inside the apartment, Tamerlan disappeared into his brother's room, and Matanov tried to engage Dzhokhar in conversation about what had happened. Matanov said that the bombings were going to be a big problem for Muslims because innocent people were killed. For the 1st time that night, according to the FBI report of Matanov's account, Dzhokhar responded; he said that for some people the bombings were a good thing, for others they were a bad thing.

Dzhokhar was always a quiet kid, Matanov told the FBI, but that night his demeanor was particularly aloof. Maybe he was concentrating on the tweet he transmitted from his account @J_Tsar at 5:04 p.m. that day: "Ain't no love in the heart of the city. stay safe people." Dzhokhar also marked another tweet, from an account called "Death," at @GMCoderGoddi. It read, "The ultimate sacrifice is within you, The battle within is defined by the word jihad."

When they were finally ready for dinner, Matanov told the FBI, he and the Tsarnaev brothers climbed into his cab and went for kebabs at a storefront eatery in Somerville called Man-O-Salwas, a little less than a mile away.

The FBI first interviewed Matanov on May 31, 2013, nine days after his former roommate Ibragim Todashev was shot dead by an FBI agent in an Orlando apartment. Agents were interviewing Todashev, 27, regarding his role in an unsolved triple homicide in Waltham, and Todashev had, according to Florida authorities, begun to write a confession. The victims were 3 young men found with their throats slashed, their heads nearly decapitated and marijuana sprinkled over their mutilated bodies - a grisly bloodbath that fell on September 11, 2011, the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. At least 1 of the victims, Brendan Mess, knew Tamerlan, who was also a suspect. The motive, Todashev had begun to explain, was robbery.

"I wanna [sic] tell the story about the robbery me and Tam did in Waltham," Todashev wrote on a legal pad. But before he could finish the confession, according to a Florida state attorney's report, Todashev, who had a long history of criminal violence, flipped over a table and lunged at a Massachusetts state trooper with a metal pole. Aaron McFarlane, an FBI agent assigned to the Boston field office, shot Todashev 7 times. The FBI later cleared McFarlane of any wrongdoing.

The horrendous unsolved murders in Waltham have been used by Dzhokhar's defense team - in conjunction with Todashev's unfinished confession - to argue that the older Tsarnaev brother was a menacing, dangerous man who acted as a "corrupting influence" on their client. In a court motion filed last fall, Dzhokhar's defense attorneys referred to an "identified witness [who] would be prepared to testify" for prosecutors that their client was well aware that his big brother had committed the Waltham atrocities - and that Dzhokhar was afraid of him.

In January, Dzhokhar is expected to go on trial in federal court, charged with using and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that prosecutors will seek the death penalty. But whether Dzhokhar lives or dies may hinge on his defense attorneys' ability to convince a jury that the younger Tsarnaev was, in some way, under the sway of his older brother.

Of course, dead men tell no tales. Todashev couldn't finish his confession from the morgue - and Tamerlan was pronounced dead at 1:35 a.m. on April 19, 2013, after a wild firefight with police in Watertown.

In response to Dzhokhar's defense team, the government denies that their alleged "identified witness" exists, saying only that there is a 3rd party who claimed that someone might say Dzhokkar was aware of Tamerlan's involvement in the Waltham murders. The government recently claimed it has no evidence linking Tamerlan to the Waltham murders, so there is nothing to produce in court - a stance that contradicts many earlier statements tying Tamerlan and Todashev to the crimes. In fact, the same FBI interviews of Matanov that detail the brothers' reactions to watching TV news coverage of the bombings on April 15 also refer to questions Matanov was asked concerning the Waltham murders and the movements of his roommate, Todashev.

Matanov told conflicting stories at first, but eventually confirmed that Todashev was at their shared home on September 11, 2011, the night of the murders. He told agents that he came home from driving his cab to find his roommate in the shower. Hours later, Todashev packed up his belongings, save for a pair of boxing gloves, and drove with another Russian-speaking immigrant to Florida.

After initially interviewing Matanov in May 2013, agents have testified, the FBI followed Matanov sporadically for a year - during which time, according to the Patriot Ledger, investigators deployed a noisy, low-flying plane to track him. They arrested him on May 30.

Despite Matanov's claims that he expressed sympathy for the child who died in the bombings, the federal indictment paints him as far more cold-hearted. It claims that after Matanov had dinner with the Tsarnaevs on April 15, he returned to his Quincy apartment and told his roommate - who is now a government witness - that the bombings were justified if they were "done in the name of Islam."

In the days following their dinner together, Matanov stayed in cell-phone contact with Tamerlan and even made 1 more visit to Tamerlan's apartment in Cambridge during the week leading up to the Watertown shootout. Matanov also tried 6 times - in vain - to call Dzhokhar. His last attempt was made at 7:17 a.m. on April 19, when, according to the indictment, the suspect "was still evading law enforcement."

After Dzhokhar's capture, Matanov desperately tried to erase the memory on his own computer, according to the indictment, and deleted photos that showed him alongside Todashev and the Tsarnaev brothers during happier times: going to the beach in Quincy, celebrating Id al-Fitr at the mosque. In 1 of the pictures, Matanov posed alongside Tamerlan in front of a black flag imprinted with a sword and the shahada phrase - often described as "the black flag of jihad" - taken, according to 1 of the FBI reports, at a Massachusetts mosque.

Federal prosecutors accuse Matanov of deleting files from his computer and of lying to investigators about his interactions with the Tsarnaev brothers in the days after the bombings. Today, Matanov is being held without bail at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility - in notorious gangster James "Whitey" Bulger's old cell. Federal prosecutors have argued that Matanov is a flight risk: a man who speaks 7 languages, has no family here, has changed jobs and residences several times, and has made multiple money transfers to parties overseas using various aliases.

Matanov's attorneys, Edward Hayden and Paul Glickman, insist that their client is innocent of any crimes, including any involvement in the Waltham murders, pointing out that he has voluntarily cooperated with investigators. "It's not a federal crime to be friends with someone," Hayden says.

On April 19, hours before Dzhokhar was captured, Matanov gave a voluntary interview to the Braintree police. When asked how he met the brothers and what he thought about them, Matanov said what any neighbor or casual acquaintance might say: "They were like so, so nice people."

(source: Boston Magazine)


Death Penalty Fast Facts

Here's a look at the death penalty in the United States.


Capital punishment is legal in 32 U.S. states.

Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico have abolished the death penalty, but it is not retroactive. Prisoners on death row in those states will still be executed.

As of October 2014 there were 3,035 inmates awaiting execution.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, 1,389 people have been executed. (as of October 2014)

Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty.

Federal Government: (source: Death Penalty Information Center)

The U.S. government and U.S. military have 69 people awaiting execution. (as of October 2014)

The U.S. government has executed 3 people since 1976.

Females: There are 57 women on death row in the United States. (as of October 2014)

15 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. (as of October 2014)


22 individuals were executed between 1985 and 2003 for crimes committed as juveniles aged 16 and 17.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juveniles is unconstitutional. This means that 16 and 17-year-olds are ineligible for execution. And reverses two 1989 cases in Kentucky and Missouri.


Clemency Processes around the Country.

275 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a pardon.


1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the first state to move executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 - Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890 - William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 - 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 per year.

June 29, 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 - A ten-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 - Oklahoma becomes the 1st state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the 1st person executed by lethal injection.

1984 - Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the 1st woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.

1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.

1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age 16 or 17.

1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.

1996 - The last execution by hanging takes place in Delaware, with the death of Billy Bailey.

January 31, 2000 - A moratorium on executions is declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan. Since 1976, Illinois is the 1st state to block executions.

2002 - Atkins v. Virginia. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 2003 - Before leaving office, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois's death row, due to the flawed process that led to the death sentences.

June 2004 - New York's death penalty law is declared unconstitutional by the state's high court.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile killers is unconstitutional. The 5-4 decision tosses out the death sentence of a Missouri man who was 17-years-old when he murdered a St. Louis area woman in 1993.

December 2, 2005 - The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd in North Carolina marks the 1,000th time the death penalty has been carried out since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Boyd, 57, is executed for the 1988 murders of his wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and father-in-law, Thomas Dillard Curry.

June 12, 2006 - The Supreme Court rules that death row inmates can challenge the use of lethal injection as a method of execution.

December 15, 2006 - Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspends the death penalty after the execution of prisoner Angel Diaz. Diaz had to be given 2 injections, and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die.

December 15, 2006 - Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose rules that lethal injection in California violates the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

December 17, 2007 - Governor Jon Corzine signs legislation banning the death penalty in New Jersey. The death sentences of 8 men are commuted to life terms.

September 2007 - The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case of Baze and Bowling v. Rees, in which 2 Kentucky death row inmates challenged Kentucky's use of a 3-drug mixture for death by lethal injection.

December 31, 2007 - Due to the de facto moratorium on executions, pending the Supreme Court's ruling, only 42 people in the U.S. are executed in 2007. It is the lowest total in more than 10 years.

April 14, 2008 - In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upholds Kentucky's use of lethal injection. Between September 2007, when the Court took on the case, and April 2008 no one was executed in the U.S.

March 18, 2009 - Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signs legislation repealing the death penalty in his state. His actions will not affect 2 prisoners currently on death row, Robert Fry, who killed a woman in 2000, and Tim Allen, who killed a 17-year-old girl in 1994.

November 13, 2009 - Ohio becomes the 1st state to switch to a method of lethal injection using a single drug, rather than the 3-drug method used by other states.

2010 - Execution by firing squad is used for the last time in Utah, with the death of Ronnie Lee Gardner.

March 9, 2011 - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announces that he has signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in his state, more than 10 years after the state halted executions.

March 16, 2011 - The Drug Enforcement Agency seizes Georgia's supply of thiopental, over questions of where the state obtained the drug. U.S. manufacturer Hospira stopped producing the drug in 2009. The countries that still produce the drug do not allow it to be exported to the U.S. for use in lethal injections.

May 20, 2011 - The Georgia Department of Corrections announces that pentobarbital will be substituted for sodium thiopental in the 3-drug lethal injection process.

July 2011 - Lundbeck Inc., the company that makes pentobarbital (brand name Nembutal), the drug used in lethal injections, announces it will restrict the use of its product from prisons carrying out capital punishment. "After much consideration, we have determined that a restricted distribution system is the most meaningful means through which we can restrict the misuse of Nembutal. While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can't make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons' access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection." Lundbeck also states that it "adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment."

July 7, 2011 - Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr., a Mexican national, is executed by lethal injection, in Texas for the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of Adra Sauceda in San Antonio. Despite pleas from the U.S. State Department and the White House, Texas Governor Rick Perry does not grant clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court does not intervene.

November 22, 2011 - Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon grants a reprieve to Gary Haugen, who was scheduled to be executed December 6. Kitzhaber, a licensed physician, also puts a moratorium on all state executions for the remainder of his term in office.

April 25, 2012 - Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signs S.B. 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, into law. The law goes into effect immediately and replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. The law is not retroactive to those already on death row.

June 22, 2012 - The Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down the state's execution law, calling the form of lethal injection the state uses unconstitutional.

August 7, 2012 - The Supreme Court allows the execution of Marvin Wilson, 54, a Texas inmate with low IQ.

November 6, 2012 - A measure to repeal the death penalty in California fails.

May 2, 2013 - Maryland's governor signs a bill repealing the death penalty. The legislation goes into effect October 1.

June 26, 2013 - Texas executes its 500th prisoner since 1982, Kimberly McCarthy, for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth. McCarthy is the first female executed in the U.S. since 2010.

November 20, 2013 - Missouri executes white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon. He was blamed for 22 killings between 1977 and 1980.

January 16, 2014 - Ohio executes inmate Dennis McGuire with a new combination of drugs, due to the unavailability of drugs such as pentobarbital. The state used a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, according to the state corrections department. According to witness Alan Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch, the whole execution process took 24 minutes, and McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes.

February 11, 2014 - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces that he is issuing a moratorium on death penalty cases during his term in office.

May 22, 2014 - Tennessee becomes the 1st state to make death by electric chair mandatory when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

May 28, 2014 - A judge in Ohio issues an order temporarily suspending executions in the state so that authorities can further study new lethal injection protocols.

July 23, 2014 - Arizona uses a new combination of drugs for the lethal injection to execute convicted murderer Joseph Woods. After he was injected it took him nearly two hours to die. Witness accounts differ as to whether he was gasping for air or snoring as he died.

September 4, 2014 - The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issues a report on the controversial April execution of inmate Clayton Lockett. Complications with the placement of an IV into Lockett played a significant role in problems with his execution, according to the report. An autopsy confirmed that Lockett died from the execution

(source: CNN)


Asian American Christian Parents Matthew, Grace Huang Facing 'Wrongful' Death Sentence in Qatar

An American Christian couple may face the death penalty due to the death of their adopted daughter, who passed unexpectedly after refusing to eat for several days.

The Associated Press reports that 8-year-old Gloria died in January 2013 when she was rushed to the hospital after falling into a coma.The Qatari government immediately arrested parents Matthew and Grace Huang, accusing them of child trafficking and of deliberately withholding food from her with the intent of killing her and selling the organs.

According to court papers, prosecution based the case partly on the suspicion that the Huangs, who are of Asian descent, could not possibly have wanted black African children as their own.

Matthew, an engineer, had agreed to work on engineering projects in Doha for the Colorado-based company MWH Global. He and his family moved to the Middle East with their two sons and a daughter, each adopted from Africa.

The Huangs revealed that Gloria had an eating disorder formed during an impoverished early childhood in Ghana in which she would binge on food and then not eat for days.

"From time to time she [Gloria] would exhibit an eating disorder - common among children with backgrounds similar to hers - where she would refuse food for days at a time and then eat more than an adult. Other times she would eat food from the garbage even when she had healthy food available. Yet most of the time she was vibrant and seemingly healthy. She then died suddenly in the midst of one of her cycles of refusing to eat."

Following her death, the Huangs were charged with murder and sentenced to 3 years in jail. They served 11 months in an Islamic prison before being granted bail last November.

Currently, the couple is kept under house arrest and are not permitted to leave Qatar. Their two remaining children are also currently held in Quatar, and are being cared for by their grandmother. A hearing will take place on November 30 and may result in the couple receiving the death penalty.

The AP reports that there is no physical evidence that Gloria suffered any starvation, and independent witnesses testified court that they had seen her eating several days before her death.

In addition, the word "starvation" was never mentioned by the medical examiner who conducted her autopsy, but rather "emaciation."

Supporters say the Huangs are not guilty, and their detention is a violation of international human rights.

"The Qatari police were fully justified in investigating Gloria's death. But facts refute the charge that the Huangs starved their daughter or that they had adopted her for illegitimate reasons," reads a statement posted on a website campaigning for the Huang's release The continued detention of American citizens Matthew and Grace Huang should end and they should be allowed to travel home to the United States immediately," a statement on the website reads.

Prayer vigils are being held by the Huangs' home church, Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, ahead of their next hearing.

Last Easter, Matthew wrote to his church: "The power of Jesus' work on the cross gives us new life. I am reminded that Easter is a time for rebirth, renewal, and restoration.

"My family needs to be restored together. My emotions are tired and weary. Jesus brings restoration, and we are reminded of that this Easter."



Death penalty for Kitwe murderer

The Kitwe High Court has imposed the death sentence on a 38-year-old man of Masala township in Ndola for murdering a taxi driver and stealing his vehicle.

High Court judge Isaac Kamwendo last Thursday imposed the death penalty on Hyven Musanshiko of house number 8075 Chinese Complex, Masala, in Ndola after convicting him of murder and aggravated robbery.

Musanshiko on June 9 this year together with other unknown people murdered Jimmy Kangwa and stole his vehicle.

Delivering judgment, Mr Justice Kamwendo convicted Musanshiko after the State managed to prove the case of murder and aggravated robbery against him.

The judge said cases of criminals beating innocent people to death are on the increase and that such offences should not be tolerated.

Mr Justice Kamwendo said the court had a duty to impose deterrent sentences to send a message to would-be offenders.

He granted Musanshiko leave to appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days.

During trial, Haggai Kayula testified that on the fateful day, he received a phone call from Mr Kangwa who informed him that he would send some money for him to use at the farm.

He testified that the following day, he tried to call Mr Kangwa but his cellphone was off.

Mr Kayula recalled that he again tried to call Mr Kangwa after a week but there was still no response.

The court heard that his relatives informed him that Mr Kangwa had gone missing and they did not know where Musanshiko had taken him after hiring his taxi.

He testified that later, Mr Kangwa's body was found while Musanshiko had the vehicle.

The matter was reported to the police and Musanshiko was charged and arrested for murder and aggravated robbery.

(source: Daily Mail)


Christian Woman on Death Row for Blaspheming Muhammad Launches Appeal

Asia Bibi, a mother of 5, was arrested and put on death row in 2010, after she was found guilty of making derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

The incident occurred in 2009, when Bibi was asked to fetch water at her workplace. Some women objected because Bibi was a non-Muslim, and as such was not allowed to touch the water bowl, let alone drink from it - which she is also accused of doing.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

"On behalf of Asia Bibi I have today filed an appeal in the supreme court," her lawyer Saiful Malook said.

"We expect an early hearing of the appeal and hope that the proceedings will be over in 1 year."

The announcement came 1 month after the Pakistani government upheld the woman's death sentence.

'No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water'.

Bibi's husband wrote a letter to Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain asking for her wife's release.

"Since Asia was sentenced to death in November 2010 for drinking a glass of water from our village well, my family has lived in constant fear and under death threats," the letter read.

"Since the court confirmed the death sentence on 16 October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance.

"We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbours are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.

"We are now trying our best to present the final case to the supreme court before 4 December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mamnoon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water."

Blasphemy in Pakistan

Pakistan's penal code states: "Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 1 year, or with fine, or with both."

In 1982, a clause prescribed life imprisonment for "wilful" desecration of the Qu'ran.

Then in 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the penalty recommended was "death, or imprisonment for life".

A British man diagnosed with schizophrenia was sentenced to capital punishment for blasphemy in March 2014. He is currently on death row.

2 high-profile politicians - then-Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti - were murdered in 2011, after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi's trial as flawed.

In October, a Christian couple were beaten and burned alive in a kiln by an angry mob following allegations of blasphemy.

(source: IB Times)


Chinese police again probe acquitted death row prisoner: lawyer

Chinese police are investigating a former death row prisoner and curbing his movements, 3 months after he was acquitted of the charge of poisoning two children, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The latest move by the police raises concerns about China's commitment to the rule of law, after the rare acquittal prompted renewed calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

Nian Bin, a former food stall owner, was freed in August after a court in the southern province of Fujian said there was insufficient evidence to back up a charge of "placing dangerous materials" against him.

But Nian "is now considered a suspect" by police in his Fujian home county of Pingtan, who "have put him under control", said his lawyer, Si Weijiang, who called the move illegal.

Police in Pingtan could not be reached for comment.

The latest step reflected a refusal by the police to accept the court's decision, Si added.

"There is no rule of law," he said. "The public security bureau did not give the reason for this. The key now is to see if they have new evidence, but I doubt there will be."

Nian was accused of poisoning his neighbors with rat poison, leading to the death of two children and injuries to four others in July 2006, rights group Amnesty International says.

Nian said he was tortured into confessing during police interrogation. He pursued his appeals for 6 years, in an effort closely watched by human rights lawyers in China and global rights groups.

In October, the ruling Communist Party said it would prevent "extorting confessions by torture" and halt miscarriages of justice with a "timely correction mechanism", after a series of corruption investigations involving torture outraged the public.

But legal scholars are skeptical about significant change under 1-party rule. The government has been silent on establishing an independent judiciary or reining in the police, a powerful agency in China.

Rights groups say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

(source: Reuters)


Senior court official says China to continue death penalty reform

China's top court said it would study ways of further reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, in an effort to reform a segment of Chinese law widely criticised by international rights groups.

Activists say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

In October, the National People's Congress, China's parliament, began reviewing a policy to trim nine crimes from the list of offences subject to the death penalty. Those reforms have yet to be finalised.

Hu Yunteng, a senior researcher at the Supreme People's Court, told a meeting of academics on Saturday that China would deepen death penalty reform.

"[Officials] must thoroughly study how to reduce death penalty crimes, and progressively limit and reduce the scope of the use of the death penalty," the People's Court Daily on Sunday cited Hu as saying.

The use of the death penalty must be "100 % accurate and guard against any false or unjust charges", Hu said, adding that the role of lawyers must be ensured and the human rights of defendants respected.

Officials have previously said China would review the use of the death penalty, which applies to 55 offences, including fraud and illegal money-lending.

China guards the number of people executed every year as state secrets.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013. By comparison, 39 people were executed in 2013 in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Last week, state media said a court in Inner Mongolia would reconsider a 1996 rape and murder case which may have led to the execution of the wrong man.

Huugjilt, 18 at the time, was put to death a month after being sentenced, the official Xinhua news agency said. Years after his execution, another man confessed to the murder.

The ruling Communist Party, worried about rising social unrest and anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution, has vowed to carry out legal reforms.

Experts, however, have said the reduction in death penalty crimes is not expected to greatly lower the number of executions per year.


SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheads 8th Pakistani since mid-October

A Pakistani on Tuesday became the 8th person from his country to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking since mid-October.

Seyfour al-Rahman Golajan is the latest of 73 people, foreigners and Saudis, to be executed in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

He "was caught trying to smuggle a large quantity of heroin hidden in his gut into the kingdom", an interior ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Golajan was executed in the Eastern Province city of Dammam.

The ministry says the government is battling narcotics "because of their great harm to individuals and society".

In September, an independent expert working on behalf of the United Nations expressed concern about the judicial process and called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

The oil-rich Gulf state saw the 3rd highest number of executions in the world last year after Iran and Iraq, according to Amnesty International whose figures did not include China.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


State may file review seeking death penalty for Sayedee

The state has hinted at seeking a review of an Appellate Division verdict commuting war crimes convict Delwar Hossain Sayedee's death sentence.

However, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam on Tuesday said they would first go through the top court's full verdict on the Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

Until now, it was unclear whether an Appellate Division verdict could be reviewed. But publication of war crimes convict Abdul Quader Molla's review verdict cleared the confusion.

Alam said both the defence and prosecution could seek a review of the top court's verdict.

The apex court rejected Jamaat leader Molla's review plea last December. He is the 1st war criminal to be executed.

An abridged version of the verdict published at the time did not mention whether the Appellate Division's sentence could be reviewed.

Most of those convicted of war crimes are former and current leaders of Jamaat, a party itself accused of committing war crimes.

The issue of a review of the top court's verdict again came to light after the death verdict of another Jamaat leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman was upheld earlier this month.

The prosecution has been saying the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act does not allow a review but the defence has been saying it is a Constitutional right applicable to everyone.

Molla's full verdict says review petitions filed by the war crimes convicts would be maintainable but it would not equate to an appeal.

However, the review plea must be filed within 15 days, since the 30-day period of limitation followed in regular cases will not apply in such cases, the full verdict said.

Although the prosecution said it was not content with Sayedee's verdict, it did not say anything about seeking a review.

But now, the attorney general has hinted at taking up the chance to get a review of Sayedee's commuted sentence.

The war criminal's family has been saying they would seek his acquittal through a review. But they will have to wait as Sayedee's full verdict is yet to be published.

Attorney General Alam said they would first analyse the war crimes convict's verdict.

"We'll seek a review if we find elements in it [that will allow the move]," he told reporters in response to a question.



Mobarak to hang for 33 murders

It must have been a muggy day on August 22 at Akhaura in 1971. The war was in full swing and the freedom fighters had a formidable presence along the other side of the border in India. The rolling hills of the area were witness to heavy battles during those months.

The village of Tanmandayl, close to the border, was most likely within the Muktibahini artillery range too. Locally known as a collaborator, razakar Mobarak Hossain and several accomplices called a meeting that afternoon at the house of one Noor Baksh.

The 130 odd villagers who gathered had little idea what was in store for them. It was all pre-planned, they found out later. The Pakistani Army surrounded them as they gathered at the appointed spot and took them away to the nearby army camp at the bank of Gangasagar lake by boats.

Mobarak and his accomplices swung into action there. They asked the villagers if any of their relatives had gone to join the Liberation War. The collaborators selected 26 from Tanmandayl and 7 from a neighbouring village. These 33 were detained at a local jailhouse overnight, while the rest were kept at the camp.

The 33 were taken out the next day and taken back to Gangasagar bank. The razakars and the Pakistani Army personnel made them dig a ditch. Those villagers were then executed and buried there. The rest were eventually released, but only after torture.

That Mobarak Hossain was sentenced to death yesterday. The war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh found him guilty for killing those 33 unarmed civilians during the war.

Also known as Mobarak Ali, he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of 1 Abdul Khaleque, whose daughter had lodged the 1st complaint against Mobarak in 2009. He was acquitted in 3 other charges.

It is the 13th case in which the 2 war tribunals have delivered judgement so far.

The 5 charges on which Mobarak was indicted on April 13 last year include abduction, confinement and torture. The case was kept for verdict on June 2 this year.

During the trial, 12 prosecution witnesses testified against Mobarak whereas the accused himself and his eldest son Asad Uddin gave depositions as defence witnesses.

The 64-year-old rose to the rank of Rokon, full member, of Jamaat-e-Islami after the war. He later joined the Awami League but was expelled in 2012 as the organising secretary of Mogra union unit under Akhaura upazila.

In his testimony on December 15 last year, Mobarak said he had not acted against the country's independence. He claimed that he still held the post of organising secretary. "My membership has not been cancelled yet. I was never sacked from the party," he said.

While the prosecutors yesterday were "satisfied," Mobarak's defence lawyers said they would appeal against the verdict since the tribunal had "failed to analyse the evidence."

Gonojagoron Moncho, a platform of activists demanding the highest punishment for war criminals, welcoming the verdict brought out a procession at Shahbagh. Sector Commanders Forum, a platform of freedom fighters who led the 1971 Liberation War, urged a swift execution of the sentence.

Mobarak's home district Brahmanbaria saw a procession come out on the streets cheering the verdict.

The International Crimes Tribunal 1 in its verdict said: "We have taken due notice of the intrinsic gravity of the said offences of crimes against humanity which are particularly shocking to the conscience of mankind."

The tribunal began reading out the 92-page verdict soon after it convened at 11:15am amid a comparatively relaxed atmosphere. Security in and around the tribunal was visibly low compared to other judgement days as was the turnout of observers, activists and lawyers.

Considering the "gravity and magnitude of the offences...we unanimously hold that the accused deserves the highest punishment...," Justice Enayetur said.

The 3 judges took turns in reading out the judgement as customary at both the war crimes tribunals. Justice Jahangir Hossain read from the verdict: "We are convinced from the evidence both oral and documentary led by the prosecution that accused Mobarak Hossain was a potential member of Razakar Bahini [force]."

Razakar, besides al-Badr and al-Shams, was a vigilante militia group mostly manned by members and supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami and other right wing parties that favoured Pakistan over Bangladesh. The Razakar units were notorious for abetting the Pakistani occupation forces across Bangladesh during the Liberation War.

The term "razakar" has since become synonymous with "collaborator" in Bengali.

Prosecutor Sahidur Rahman, who had conducted the case, said he was satisfied with the verdict. Asked about the acquittal in 3 charges, he said: "We proved that Mobarak was indeed a razakar. We are satisfied."

Sahidur, most of whose cases - Bachchu Razakar, Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan - have been tried in absentia, also noted that Mobarak had been found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mobarak's counsel Tajul Islam said: "We believe that the tribunal has failed to analyse the evidence presented before it."

Tajul and his younger brother Tariqul Islam, who represent Mobarak, are also on the defence teams of the top Jamaat leadership accused of war crimes.

He said the prosecution witnesses had contradicted each other. "His crimes were not such that he deserves the death penalty." Tajul said the defence would appeal this judgement.

Barely 10 minutes away from the tribunal premises, activists of Gonojagoron Moncho welcomed the death penalty with cheers.

Speaking to reporters at the Shahbagh intersection, its spokesperson Imran H Sarker said: "There was an uncertainty that the verdict might be influenced as Mobarak had joined the ruling party after the Liberation War."

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


India votes against UNGA resolution on death penalty

India has voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for moratorium on the use of death penalty, saying it fails to recognise each nation's "sovereign right" to determine its legal system and punish criminals according to its laws.

The draft resolution on 'Moratorium on the use of the death penalty' was approved last week in the General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

India was among the 36 nations that voted against the resolution, which got 114 votes in favour and 34 abstentions.

By the terms of the resolution, the General Assembly would urge Member States to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.

In its explanation of vote, India said the resolution seeks to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

India voted against the resolution as it goes "against our statutory law, First Secretary in the Indian Mission to the UN Mayank Joshi said.

"The resolution fails to recognise the basic principle that each State has the sovereign right to determine its legal system and to punish criminals as per its laws," he said.

Joshi said in India the death penalty is exercised in the "rarest of rare" cases, where the crime committed is "so heinous as to shock the conscience of society."

He said Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent court, the presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for the defence and the right to review by a higher court.

(source: Zee news)


Surendra Koli: Notorious Indian serial killer makes last ditch plea for clemency

A court in India will hear a last-ditch clemency plea from one of the country's worst serial killers, who has been sentenced to death.

However, human rights groups have said they are worried India's corrupt and ineffective justice system has not allowed the man a fair trial.

Domestic servant Surendra Koli and his employer Moninder Pandher were accused of killing 18 woman and children in a house in Delhi. They reportedly dismembered their victims' bodies before stuffing their remains into nearby drains.

One of Koli's victims was Anil Halder's 14-year-old daughter, Rimpa.

"There can be no bigger crime than this," he told the ABC.

"No bigger crime than this, what can be worse than this?"

Indian police said Koli confessed to killing 7 of the victims, including 10-year-old Joyti Lal.

Joyti's father, Jabbu Lal, is a laundry worker and thought Koli and Pandher were nice people.

"They'd come to us with clothes and a couple of times they had blood stains," he said.

"I asked them about it, how did that happen?

"Koli told me the clothes must have gotten accidentally stained when they went to buy freshly cut chicken."

Koli and Pandher were convicted in 2009 and sentenced to death, however Pandher was later acquitted.

The crimes shook India, but there were also concerns Koli was not given a fair trial in India's dubious justice system.

The investigation was marred by police misconduct and incompetence, and there were allegations Koli was tortured until he confessed.

Maja Daruwala from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the case was typical of the things that could go wrong in the Indian justice system.

"In India, the justice system is extremely frail, it is extremely imperfect," she said.

"It's not so much about the horrendous circumstance that the Koli case opened up and showed to the public.

"I think that overtook the case, but the frailties of the case are very, very real."

India has imposed an unofficial moratorium on executions up until 2012.

Since then 2 people have been put to death.

Death sentences are still frequently commuted, but Ms Daruwala said there were huge dangers in keeping the penalty in a country with such an imperfect justice system.

"It is not a question of numbers, it is a question of what we as a country want to be."

(source: Yahoo news)


UN chief opposes death penalty

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is opposed to the application of death penalty, his spokesman said Monday when asked about the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who is under death sentence for blasphemy.

"The Secretary-General's position on death penalty is clear and well-known," Spokesman Stephane Duharric said while acknowleging that he was not seen the latest reports on the case. But responding to a question at the regular noon briefing about confirmation of Asia's death sentence by the High Court in Lahore, he said that the U.N. was against death penalty. At the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the secretary-general said that death penalty undermines human dignity. The spokesman said that Ban also stood for tolerance towards minority communities.

(source: The Nation)

NOVEMBER 24, 2014:


O'Malley, murder victims' daughter speak about death penalty

A Western Maryland woman whose parents were killed by a man on death row said she urged Gov. Martin O'Malley in a phone conversation Monday afternoon not to commute the man's sentence.

The conversation came days after The Baltimore Sun reported that O'Malley had reached out to 2 relatives of people killed by men on death row - moves that fueled speculation that, with 2 months left in office, the governor may be poised to take action on the death penalty cases.

Mary Francis Moore, 71, whose father and his wife were killed in 1995 by Heath William Burch, said O'Malley did not say what his plans were. They discussed what might happen to Burch in light of another inmate's appeal. Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has joined the appeal, arguing Maryland no longer has the authority to execute anyone.

"I said, 'Don't touch this [case], let it go back to court, let the judges decide,'" Moore said. "He talked about the possibility that if it did go back to court, that these guys would get out, that they would only get life" rather than life without parole.

Moore said she concluded the conversation by asking O'Malley "to pray about it." She said the governor told her, "I hope we meet some day."

A spokeswoman for the governor said he would have no comment about the conversation.

O'Malley has largely refused to discuss the fate of the men who were already sentenced to death when Maryland last year repealed the death penalty for future cases. The law did not apply to the men already on death row. O'Malley has said only that he would consider each case as requests for clemency reached his desk.

A lawyer for Burch said he submitted such a petition earlier this year. Burch, 45, was sentenced to die in 1996 for killing Moore's father, Robert Davis, 72, and her step-mother, Cleo Davis, 77, in their Capitol Heights home.

There are 4 men on Maryland's death row. Their status has been up in the air since 2006 when the state's regulations for executions were thrown out by a court and never replaced.

Lawyers from the Attorney General's office are scheduled to argue before a state appellate court on Dec. 8 that the state can't issue new regulations for how to carry out executions now that capital punishment has been abolished.

The appeal by inmate Jody Lee Miles faces an uncertain outcome in the courts. But Gansler has noted that O'Malley has the ability to commute death sentences to life without parole. Governors in Illinois and New Jersey commuted the existing death sentences in their states after the repeal of capital punishment.

Dorothy Atkinson, whose son was killed by Miles in 1996, said she, too, was contacted by the governor's office about a meeting. And Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said gubernatorial aides also reached out to his office, seeking contact information for relatives of the victims of the other 2 men on death row, Vernon Evans and Anthony Grandison.

(source: Baltimore Sun)


Lethal injection drug bill clears Ohio House: How they voted

Legislation intended to help state officials obtain lethal injection drugs before executions resume in Ohio cleared the Ohio House last week.

House Bill 663 would grant 20 years of anonymity to pharmacies creating lethal injection drug combinations, protect physicians who advise the state on executions and void contracts or agreements that prohibit the sale of lethal injection drugs to the state.

The bill's sponsors, Republican Reps. Jim Buchy of Greenville and Matt Huffman of Lima, said the changes will ensure that Ohio can continue to execute convicted criminals once a federal court-imposed moratorium is lifted.

The bill was amended to allow courts to access drug pharmacy information for "just cause" in legal proceedings and requires pharmacies to apply for confidentiality.

Opponents of the bill said it granted too much secrecy to a process that is already questionable to many.

The House passed the bill in a 62-27 vote on Thursday, and it now heads to the Senate.



Mother reacts to news daughter's murderer is mentally unfit to be executed

It was not the news Shelby County resident Connie Sutton had hoped for.

A death row inmate convicted of raping and killing her daughter was found to be too mentally ill to be executed last week.

St. Joseph County Judge Jane Woodward Miller ruled that Michael Dean Overstreet, who was found guilty in the murder and rape of then 18-year-old Kelly Eckart, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which prevents him from rationally understanding why he is being executed.

"Overstreet does not have a rational understanding of the link between his punishment and his crime. This court concludes Overstreet has proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he is not presently competent to be executed," Miller wrote in a 137-page decision.

In 1997, Eckart went missing after leaving her job in Franklin. She was found strangled in a ravine in Brown County. Three years later, a jury convicted Overstreet and he was sentenced to death.

Sutton was informed of the decision last Wednesday and called those closest to her to relay the news.

"Wednesday night was rough. Thursday was very rough and it is very hard to understand and accept, but I've got to walk away from it. I have to leave him behind me. I can't live it anymore. I fought as hard as I could for Kelly. We tried hard, and I know she is resting in peace because of how hard we tried. I've made up my mind that I am moving on," Sutton told The Shelbyville News this week.

With the ruling, Overstreet will remain on death row for the rest of his life but no execution date will be set.

"I still believe in and have faith in the system in Indiana. He will pay for what he did when he dies. He will live his own hell in his mind on death row," Sutton said.

In her decision, Miller wrote that Overstreet has had mental health issues since he was 17 years old. Three psychiatrists hired by the defense found he is not competent, while one hired by the state said he was.

"Overstreet is routinely beset by voices, shadow figures and imposters. His illness dictates how he behaves, what he believes and who he trusts. This court finds those to be severe constraints on his life," Miller wrote.

Included in the decision were numerous attempts by Overstreet to establish his competency, including a 2014 letter to Miller, where he wrote, "I would like to clearly state that I'd provide no purpose for being present and that I am completely and fully competent. I believe I can and would be able, if I haven't already passed my competent test. I should NOT be treated ANY different then anyone else..."

Overstreet said he was on death row because he killed an angel and told one psychiatrist he was sentenced to death because he was "convicted of murder, rape and confinement of Kelly Eckart of Franklin, Indiana."

Sutton said Overstreet did give her one thing she never expected - an admission of guilt.

"I never expected that, and that was as close to an admission as I will get," she said.

As for whether or not she was surprised with the ruling, Sutton said not really.

"I am not as surprised as I thought I would be. I spent four days in the courtroom listening and seeing everything. I know he is very sick. I believe he knows what it means to be executed. I believe that deep in my heart," Sutton said.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller can file an appeal, but his office has not indicated whether or not that will happen.

"I'll go with whatever they decide," Sutton said.

However, for now, Sutton is ready to move on. While she doesn't call it "closure," she does admit to being ready to close the chapter on Overstreet and the horrific crimes he committed more than a decade ago.

"It's going to be hard. My life revolved around the legal system. Whenever my phone rang, it was this attorney or that TV station for an interview. Now I can ignore those calls. I've got to put him behind me and I have to do it for me and my mental health. It hurts, but since I decided to walk away from him, it feels like a hundred pounds has been removed from my shoulders," Sutton said.

(source: Shelby News)


Not guilty plea for man in Indiana teen's death

An ex-convict charged with killing a 15-year-old girl whose badly burned body was found in an Indianapolis backyard made his initial court appearance Monday before a gallery filled with the teen's relatives and friends.

A preliminary not guilty plea was entered for 46-year-old William Gholston on the murder charge he faces in Dominique Allen's Aug. 31 death. A Marion County judge granted his request for a public defender to be appointed and ordered Gholston to remain jailed without bond.

The murder charge stems from DNA found on Allen's sandals and body that matched samples from Gholston in the state inmate database, according to authorities.

Some of Allen's family members wore T-shirts to court Monday with her picture and "Justice 4 Dominique" printed on them.

Shenika Poindexter said it was important to seek justice for her younger sister's death.

"We are her family, we are her sisters and we are gonna go through this every step of the way to make sure that whomever is responsible for this gets charged and does their time," Poindexter told reporters after the hearing.

Investigators don't know of any connection between Allen and Gholston, who wasn't a suspect until the DNA tests were completed, officials said.

An autopsy determined that Allen, a Ben Davis High School freshman, died from asphyxiation. A coaxial cable was wrapped around her neck and ankles. Allen was dead before her body was burned in a backyard on the city's near northwest side, authorities said.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth declined to comment about whether authorities would seek the death penalty.

Gholston is eligible for the death penalty because he was on parole at the time of the Allen's death after serving a prison sentence for 2006 convictions for illegal gun possession and resisting arrest. Gholston had previously served prison sentences for armed robbery and drug possession, according to Indiana Department of Correction records.

(source: Associated Press)


Suspect in killings of 5 Kansas City residents pleads not guilty

A man previously charged with killing 3 residents in South Kansas City, has pleaded not guilty to all charges he faces, including five counts of 1st-degree murder.

With his public defender by his side, 34-year-old Brandon Howell entered his plea in a Jackson County courtroom Monday morning.

Howell, dressed in street clothes, showed no emotion and had no visible reaction to the charges. He also made no eye contact with the family and friends who showed up in support of the victims.

A Jackson County grand jury on Friday handed up 2 1st-degree murder indictments again Howell, according to online court records. A judge had to sign off on the indictments, and Howell was served with the indictments this weekend. Once that occurred, the public was notified about the indictments about 9 p.m. Sunday by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.

The indictments replace earlier assault charges in connection with the attacks on George and Ann Taylor in their South Kansas City home last September. The Taylors were brutally assaulted and died some days later in a Kansas City hospital. Initial assault charges were filed prior to the Taylors' passing.

The 5 residents were killed in the Woodbridge area of South Kansas City on Sept. 2.

As a result of the grand jury's actions on Friday, Howell is now facing 12 felony counts in connection with the crimes: 5 counts of murder in the 1st degree, one count each of 1st-degree burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm, and 4 counts of armed criminal action. The grand jury issued indictments that supersede the charges originally filed by the prosecutor's office.

Kansas City police found the Taylors beaten inside their home on Woodbridge Lane. Officers also found 3 other victims in their yards or driveways at nearby residences.

The horror began unfolding when Howell allegedly attempted to steal a Jaguar owned by George and Ann Taylor, who officers found badly beaten in their basement.

Lorene Hurst was killed along with her son, Darrel, who was making one of his frequent visits to his mother when the tragic events unfolded. Also killed was Susan Choucroun, 69. Prosecutors allege that some of those killed by Howell witnessed his crime spree, and he sought to silence them.

Howell was arrested later on Interstate 29 near NW 72nd Street. He is suspected of assaulting 3 motel guests.

Howell has an extensive juvenile and adult criminal record including 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, assault and animal abuse charges in both Kansas and Missouri. His 1st criminal conviction occurred when he was 12.

As an adult, he beheaded a cat named Toby during a home invasion robbery in Johnson County that involved drugs. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for those crimes.

He was previously accused of killing 2 people in 1998, but a Jackson County jury acquitted him.

Prosecutors have not said publicly whether or not they will seek the death penalty in the September killings. It typically takes Jackson County prosecutors months to determine whether to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors traditionally seek indictments by grand juries in potential death penalty cases. The indictments also mean that a preliminary hearing on the charges isn't necessary and prosecutors can hold back releasing some evidence until a later date.

Prosecutors have requested Howell be held without bond. Howell's next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 11.



Kansas man facing retrial on capital murder charge in women's deaths seeks to change name

A Kansas man whose capital murder conviction was overturned because of an ineffective attorney wants to change his name ahead of his retrial for the deaths of 2 women more than a decade ago.

Phillip Delbert Cheatham Jr., 41, is charged with capital murder and is scheduled to go to trial early next year. He was convicted by a jury of that charge in 2005 and sentenced to death, but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction last year and ordered a new trial.

The Topeka Capital-Journal ( ) reported that Cheatham is seeking to change his name to "King Phillip Amman Reu-El," according to documents he filed with the court.

The Shawnee County District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting Cheatham in the slayings, won't oppose the requested name change.

"The name he goes by doesn't matter to us," chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling said this week. Spradling is the prosecutor in the retrial of Cheatham.

The name change must be published once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper in the county where the name-change petition is filed, according to Kansas statute.

Cheatham's name change was published as a classified ad in The Capital-Journal on Nov. 5.

"The changing of my name to King Phillip Amman Reu-El represents the subjection of my will, the submitting of my will, the tuning of my will to the will of the King of Kings who dwells in the kingdom which is not far away," Cheatham wrote in court documents.

Cheatham is accused of fatally shooting Annette Roberson, 38, and Gloria A. Jones, 42, at a Topeka home on Dec. 13, 2003. He also is facing 2 alternative counts of premeditated 1st-degree murder of Roberson and Jones; attempted 1st-degree murder of Annetta D. Thomas; aggravated battery of Thomas; and criminal possession of a firearm.

Thomas survived 19 bullet wounds to identify Cheatham as 1 of 2 shooters in the deaths of Jones and Roberson.

The Supreme Court ruled Cheatham didn't get a fair trial because his attorney, Dennis Hawver of Ozawkie, spent only 200 hours preparing for the case, which the court called "appallingly low for a death penalty defense and even more stunning when all but 60 of those hours, as Hawver testified, were spent in trial."

Cheatham new defense attorneys have filed a number of motions that seek to have the retrial dismissed. His lawyers also have challenged the death penalty and other aspects of the case.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury gives death penalty again to man convicted in 1983 Garden Grove rape, murder

A convicted killer whose original death penalty sentence was overturned on appeal should return to death row, a jury decided on Monday.

In 1983, Richard Raymond Ramirez met Kimberly Gonzalez at Mr. Barry's Bar on Westminster Avenue, played pool and danced with her, kissed her and then walked with her to an alley behind the business, where he attacked her and stabbed her more than 20 times.

Ramirez's attorney's argued that he should remain behind bars for the rest of his life, not put to death. They told the jury about his dysfunctional childhood in a household dominated by a violent and alcoholic father, and his drug abuse beginning in his teen years.

Ramirez was tried as a juvenile for the rape of another woman. The rape and killing of Gonzalez occurred shortly after Ramirez was released from the California Youth Authority.

A jury in 1985 convicted Ramirez of rape, sodomy and murder, and he was sent to San Quentin. The conviction was overturned in 2008, however, when a federal judge determined that the jury foreman had lied about his job status, not telling the court that he was a candidate for a job with the FBI, a position he later attained.

Prosecutors decided to re-try the case. Ramirez was convicted for a 2nd time in 2013. But a jury that same year deadlocked on whether he should receive the death penalty, leading the judge to declare a mistrial.

(source: Orange County Register)


Death penalty recommended for man who raped, killed woman in Garden Grove

A jury on Monday recommended the death penalty for a man who raped and killed a young woman in Garden Grove 3 decades ago.

It was the 2nd penalty phase trial within a year for Richard Raymond Ramirez, 55. The panel that convicted him of 1st-degree murder and rape in a May 2013 retrial deadlocked on what punishment to recommend, splitting 7-5 in favor of a death sentence.

Ramirez was initially convicted in March 1985 of 1st-degree murder and sex counts, with jurors finding true special circumstance allegations of killing during a rape and sodomy, in the Nov. 21, 1983, killing of 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez. Ramirez was 1st sentenced to death in July 1985.

A federal judge overturned the 1st conviction because the jury foreman failed to notify the court that he had applied for a job with the FBI - a position for which he was hired months after the trial.

Before Ramirez killed Gonzalez, he was prosecuted as a juvenile for raping a single mother in her home, although he was 18 at the time of the crime. Ramirez was sent to the California Youth Authority for raping the victim multiple times in her apartment in Merced in October 1977 while her baby slept in the next room, Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said.

At knifepoint, Ramirez raped her 3 times and sexually assaulted her with a plastic bottle, Yellin said.

When he was finished, he went looking in the room where the baby was sleeping for money to steal from the victim, who told him she only had food stamps to take, Yellin said.

"She had a decision to make, so she ran, naked, hysterical, calling for help from her neighbors," Yellin told jurors.

As she waited for police, she wondered if her baby had been killed, Yellin said. The infant was unhurt.

Ramirez was caught hours later because the woman recognized him from an encounter a day or 2 earlier, when he "bummed" a cigarette from her in the apartment complex, Yellin said.

Gonzalez lived in Cerritos but enjoyed going out with her friends in Orange County at places such as Mr. Barry's in Garden Grove. On the night of her murder, she went there alone and met Ramirez, Yellin said.

The 2 spent time together dancing, playing pool and kissing until they left together, Yellin said. Her body was found the next morning "in this dirty, filthy walkway," he said, pointing to a crime-scene photograph.

"She's nearly naked, bloody and dead," he said.

The principal evidence against Ramirez in the first trial was a matching fingerprint on a Budweiser bottle left in the alley. Ramirez, in the 1st trial, testified he did not kill the victim. But in last year’s trial, his guilt was conceded by attorneys who acknowledged that new technology allowed investigators to make a DNA match between the defendant and Gonzalez.

"The story of Richard Ramirez is the story of his affinity for knives and his hatred toward women," Yellen told jurors in the penalty phase retrial.

Mick Hill of the Orange County Public Defender's Office told jurors there was no excuse for his client's crimes.

"He's spent the past 31 years in a jail cell," Hill said. "We're not telling you he deserves to be anywhere else."

But Hill asked jurors to consider Ramirez's dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his alcoholic, combat-scarred father, a Korean War veteran who saw action on the front lines as a "radio man."

Sonny Ramirez, who died in 1973, would have been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder today, Hill said, telling jurors that his client's upbringing in a violent household shaped him.

Sonny Ramirez met his son's mother when she was 15, and by her next birthday she was pregnant, Hill said, adding that the next 15 years of the marriage were "pure hell."

Jane Ramirez was regularly beaten by her husband, even while she was pregnant, Hill said. After some beatings, Sonny Ramirez would rape his wife, Hill said.

On the weekends, Sonny Ramirez would put his 4 kids in the car and drive around with a 12-pack of beer in the front seat as he downed 1 can at a time, according to Hill. He started feeding the defendant and his brother beer when they were 4 years old, and when they were older, he would subject them to "human cockfighting" with other neighborhood children. If they lost, he would beat them for shaming the family, Hill said.

Ramirez dropped out of school in the 8th grade because he could not read, got hooked on heroin at 13 and then started sniffing glue, Hill said.

He has behaved well behind bars, his attorney said. A former San Quentin prison warden is expected to testify that the defendant, who has kidney disease, has been a "model prisoner," Hill said.



Puerto Rico governor against reinstituting death penalty

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Monday that the death penalty is a "social aberration" and he came out against using capital punishment on the island, where it has been prohibited for decades.

"The death penalty is a social aberration that should be eradicated from humanity," said Garcia Padilla in response to requests that the punishment be reinstituted for the multiple murder a week ago of a family of four in their home in the upscale Guaynabo neighborhood, in the outskirts of San Juan.

Murdered in the home were the father, his wife and her daughter - both of whom were Peruvians - and the couple's 15-year-old son.

The couple's other son, 13, survived after witnessing the murderers dispatching his other family members and being stabbed, strangled and thrown off a bridge.

The boy's testimony has outraged the vast majority of Puerto Rican society, which is more accustomed to the murders of young men involved with drug trafficking or gangs.

Garcia Padilla said that using the death penalty as a punishment runs the risk of "executing innocents."

Puerto Rico carried out its last execution in 1926 and in 1929 it abolished capital punishment, a move ratified by the island's constitution in 1952 whereby, despite the fact that it is legal elsewhere on U.S. territory, it may not be used on the island, which is a U.S. commonwealth

(source: Fox news)


UNLF warns of death penalty for rape

A proscribed underground organisation in Manipur, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) has warned that rapists, murderers of women and owners of restaurants and hotels that encouraged immoral activities may have to face death penatly. Such hotels and restaurants would also be destroyed, the Front said.

The announcement was made on the occasion of the golden anniversary of the outfit on Monday.

UNLF recalled that it had declared 1975 as the international year of woman and had chalked out various programmes to uplift the status of women. It had come down heavily on rapists since 1990. It promised more drastic campaigns in the future.

(source: The Hindu)


Bring death to death penalty: Experts

Observer Research Foundation, a non-governmental organisation on Monday organised a discussion on the topic 'Why India should end death penalty'. At the discussion, legal expert advocate Yug Mohit Choudhary and persons like professor Alberto Quattrucci from Rome, Archbishop Felix Machado and chairman of ORF Sudheendra Kulkarni spoke about their experience and why the time had come to abolish death as punishment.

All the speakers were of the view that capital punishment made no sense and should be abolished. Advocate Choudhary said that the most important purpose of giving someone a punishment was to reform him/her and when the death penalty is awarded, the person is eliminated and so are the chances of reformation. He also said that often it is argued that death penalty is awarded as a deterrent so that other like-minded people refrain from committing similar crimes. He said that mostly death is awarded in crimes of murder and data shows that the crime of killing had gone down as compared to the past when there were more people sent to the gallows.

Professor Quattrucci said that it is a stupid way to send a message to others. "You do not want others to kill and you give this message by killing somebody," he said. He said there should be love for life and one should understand that living together is possible and necessary. According to him, 50 countries have abolished the death penalty since 1990.

Archbishop Machado said Jesus said that a tooth for a tooth will make the world toothless and an eye for an eye will make the world blind and the same way life for life will finish the world. "Can taking somebody's life, for whatever reason, teach our generations to respect life?" he asked.

Advocate Choudhary claimed that the punishment of death is not to control crimes or control law and order, but a political tool.

"The question here is not that the death penalty is a deterrent, but whether it is more of a deterrent than life imprisonment?" he added. He also claimed that so far 14 judges of the Supreme Court had written to different Presidents of India to commute the death sentence of some of the convicts where they found that the death sentence erroneously awarded.

(source: Asian Age)


Jammeh Declares Tougher Punishment for Child Abusers

The Gambian leader Friday evening declared that his government would adopt tougher measures to punish perpetrators of child abuse and exploitation in the country. He also declared that come September next year, his government will legislate to make it compulsory for every child in The Gambia to have access to basic education.

His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made the declarations at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi while presiding over the launching of his spouse's newest initiative dubbed "Operation Save the Children" Foundation.

"We will now make it a capital punishment for raping a child," he declared. "We will impose the sentence of death penalty for raping a child."

"Well before I even became the president, it had been my dream that no child in The Gambia suffers," Jammeh told a gathering of over 1,000 participants, including the vice president and Women Affairs minister and other Cabinet ministers, children, UN agencies' officials and parents.

He lamented that perpetrators have now moved from raping adults to children, and warned that his government will remain unrelenting to protect children. "Protecting a child goes beyond just saving him or her from violence," he said. "The best assurance to ensure that a child is protected is education."

The Gambian leader also raised concerns on the increasing incidences of baby dumping in the country, saying stringent measures will also be taken against the menace. "They have no reason for dumping their babies. The baby commits no offence to be killed. If you cannot take your babies, then take them to the SOS Children's Village or bring them to State House," he said.

The Gambia leader further reminded perpetrators of this menace that they have no right to dump their babies, warning that if they do, they will spend the rest of their lives in jail. "In addition to the launching of the First lady's Foundation, I am also going to launch Operation no Compromise in the Protection of Children. Enough is enough," he stressed.

He appealed to Gambians to take the teaching profession seriously, saying it is a noble profession. He added: "We have to understand that nation building is a sacrifice. We have to all sacrifice to make ensure that in the next 10 years, people migrate to The Gambia instead of Gambians migrating to other countries."

The Gambian leader assured the First Lady of his full support and the Foundation, saying his attendance at the launching was a show of family solidarity and the interest in the protection and the welfare of Gambian children.

(source: The Daily Observer)


Moncho demands execution of verdict

Welcoming the verdict, Gonojagoron Moncho has urged the government to execute the verdict of the tribunal that handed down death penalty to former Awami League leader Mobarak Hossain.

Moncho spokesperson Imran H Sarkar made the call at a rally in the capital's Shahbagh, immediate after the verdict was announced on Monday afternoon.

Imran said: "We welcome the verdict. There was an uncertainty that the verdict might be influenced as Mobarak had joined the ruling party after the Liberation War."

He also gave special thanks to the government as it did not influence the verdict and established that a war criminal must have to face justice wherever he belongs to.

Meanwhile, both the factions of Gonojagoron Moncho and Bangladesh Chhatra League members brought out separate joyous rallies at Shahbagh in the capital after the verdict was pronounced.

(source: The Dhaka Tribune)


China court upholds death sentence to man, life term to wife

A court in China has upheld the death penalty to a man for rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl and life term in jail to his wife for abetting the crime.

The Higher People's Court of Heilongjiang rejected the couple's appeals and upheld the penalties meted out by a lower court in June, which sentenced Bai Yunjiang to death and his wife Tan Beibei to life imprisonment.

On July 24, 2013, Tan who was pregnant at the time lured the girl, identified as Hu, to her home by pretending to have pregnancy complications.

The couple then gave the teenager a yoghurt drink spiked with a sedative and Bai attempted to rape her.

According to the court, the sexual assault was unsuccessful but the couple killed the girl anyway and buried her body.

Tan said her husband was aware that she had several extra marital affairs and the idea to acquire a young girl for her husband's pleasure had emerged out of guilt.

The court also found the couple had previously failed in 2 such assaults -- 1 was the attempted rape of 1 of their daughter's classmates in June last year and the other was the attempted robbery and murder of 1 of Bai's former classmates in mid July last year, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The higher court affirmed the facts and evidence of the 1st trial and declared the judgment and sentencing appropriate.

(source: Press Trust of India)


China high court to investigate ways to reduce death penalty crimes

China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court will investigate ways of reducing the number of crimes punishable by death according to remarks by Hu Yunteng, a senior researcher at the Supreme People's Court, published Monday. Hu told a group of academics Saturday that the government must reduce the use of the death penalty and use the death penalty with care to prevent the execution of innocent individuals, according to the Supreme People's Court official newspaper the People's Court Daily. While the Chinese government does not publish the exact number of executions each year, the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013.

The statement from the Supreme People's Court is the most recent acknowledgment of a reform movement by the Chinese government to reduce executions in the country. In October proposed legislation that would eliminate the death penalty as punishment for 9 crimes was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). The NPC has previously contemplated reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, announcing in March that various government departments were studying possible changes. In 2011 the NPC amended the national criminal law to remove 13 offenses from the list of crimes subject to the death penalty. Those removed were non-violent economic crimes, including smuggling cultural relics, precious metals and rare animals; fraudulent activities with financial bills and letters of credit; fraudulent export tax refunds; teaching of crime-committing methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.



Iranian Supreme Court Upheld a Death Sentence for Insulting the Prophet on Facebook

Branch 41 of the Iranian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of the blogger Soheil Arabi for insulting the Prophet on the Facebook.

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

Article 262 stipulates the death sentence for cursing the Prophet of Islam, any of the other grand prophets. In February 2014 the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Ruhollah Tavana for insulting the Prophet.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Jubaland Military Court Executes Soldier for Murder

Jubaland military court executed a soldier convicted of killing a 9-year-old boy in the southern port city of Kismayo, Garowe Online reports.

The convicted killer-Abdirashid Abdi-was executed by the firing squad with prosecutor-general Hassan Ishaq Yarow present.

Addressing reporters at the scene of the execution, Yarow said that soldiers who deliberately kill civilians will face death penalties.

The death sentence and the subsequent execution mark the 1st since the new state's 1st military course was set up last week.

Meanwhile, Jubaland President Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe) has jetted off to Dubai through Kenyan capital of Nairobi at official invitation.

Jubaland forces are battling Islamist insurgents in deadly offensives on fertile hinterlands along Juba River.

Following IGAD-brokered bilateral talks in Addis Ababa, Somalia's Federal Government recognized Jubaland in August 2013.

(source: Garowe Online)


Will Texas Kill an Insane Man?

On Dec. 3, Texas plans to execute an inmate named Scott Panetti, who was convicted in 1995 for murdering his in-laws with a hunting rifle. There is no question that Mr. Panetti committed the murders. There is also no question that he is severely mentally ill, and has been for decades.

During his capital murder trial, at which he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself, Mr. Panetti dressed in a cowboy suit and attempted to subpoena, among others, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. A standby lawyer said his behavior was "scary" and "trance-like," and called the trial "a judicial farce."

It was not an act. Mr. Panetti, now 56, was first diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 20, and in the years before the murders he was hospitalized several times for delusions and psychotic episodes.

In this respect, he is no different from the estimated 350,000 inmates around the country with mental illness - 10 times the number of people in state psychiatric hospitals. But Mr. Panetti is not just another insane prisoner; his name is synonymous with the Supreme Court's modern jurisprudence about mental illness on death row. In Panetti v. Quarterman, decided in 2007, the justices held that it is not enough for a defendant simply to be aware that he is going to be executed and why - the previous standard the court had used in permitting the execution of the mentally ill. Rather, he must have a "rational understanding" of why the state plans to kill him.

Noting Mr. Panetti's "well-documented history of mental illness," the court held that capital punishment serves no retributive purpose when the defendant's understanding of crime and punishment is so distorted that it "has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts shared by the community as a whole."

For example, Mr. Panetti understood that the state claimed the reason for his death sentence was the murder of his in-laws, but he believed the real reason was "spiritual warfare" between "the demons and the forces of the darkness and God and the angels and the forces of light."

But the justices refused to set precise guidelines for determining whether someone is competent enough to be executed, and they did not overturn Mr. Panetti's sentence. Instead, they sent the case back to the lower courts for a fuller reconsideration of his current mental state.

By any reasonable standard - not to mention the findings of multiple mental-health experts over the years - Mr. Panetti is mentally incompetent. But Texas, along with several other stubborn states, has a long history of finding the loopholes in Supreme Court rulings restricting the death penalty. The state has continued to argue that Mr. Panetti is exaggerating the extent of his illness, and that he understands enough to be put to death - a position a federal appeals court accepted last year, even though it agreed that he was "seriously mentally ill."

Mr. Panetti has not had a mental-health evaluation since 2007. In a motion hastily filed this month, his volunteer lawyers requested that his execution be stayed, that a lawyer be appointed for him, and that he receive funding for a new mental-health assessment, saying his functioning has only gotten worse. For instance, he now claims that a prison dentist implanted a transmitter in his tooth.

The lawyers would have made this motion weeks earlier, immediately after a Texas judge set Mr. Panetti's execution date. But since no one - not the judge, not the district attorney, not the attorney general - notified them (or even Mr. Panetti himself), they had no idea their client was scheduled to be killed until they read about it in a newspaper. State officials explained that the law did not require them to provide notification.

On Nov. 19, a Texas court denied the lawyers' motion. A civilized society should not be in the business of executing anybody. But it certainly cannot pretend to be adhering to any morally acceptable standard of culpability if it kills someone like Scott Panetti.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Show your support for Rodney

Monday and Tuesday of this week will be national call-in days in solidarity with Rodney Reed, who is facing death in two month's time in the Texas execution chamber for a crime he didn't commit. Reed's supporters have called for a phone, fax and e-mail jam to the office of the Bastrop County District Attorney. On Tuesday, activists will be on hand at the Bastrop County courthouse for an important hearing.

In this edited version of a statement for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Lily Hughes explains the facts of Reed's case--and the urgent need to stand with him.

Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed has been given an execution date of January 14, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal from Reed, although his case has attracted widespread attention because of shocking evidence that suggests he was framed.

What you can do

With Rodney Reed facing an important hearing, his family and supporters are calling for a phone, e-mail and fax jam to the office of Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz.

Please ask that all the DNA testing in Rodney's case be completed and that the execution date be dropped. Call 512-581-7125, fax 512-581-7133 and e-mail

At the same time, please take to social media especially on Monday and Tuesday to spread the word about Rodney's case. Tweet and post articles on Facebook about Rodney's case using the hashtag #Justice4Rodney. You could also include other hashtags like #evidencematters, #nodeathpenalty.

Instagram users should take solidarity pictures on the day of action to post on the Justice4Rodney Instagram page and in the album at the Free Rodney Reed Facebook page. Post them with hashtag #justice4rodney and let us know where you're from.

For the hearing on November 25, supporters want to pack the courthouse to show that we stand with Rodney and that we won't allow for the state of Texas to get away with murdering him. The hearing begins at 9 a.m.

Anti-death penalty activists will car pool from Austin--meet at 8 a.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Angelina and 12th Street. E-mail about joining the carpool. For more information, contact the Austin Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The state agreed to limited DNA testing which is ongoing, and Reed's lawyers have made a motion for more expansive DNA testing, which will be decided on at hearing on Tuesday, November 25th. These DNA tests could be the basis for a new appeal.

Rodney's supporters were appalled and dismayed by the latest denial in the courts, this time by the highest court in the land. The sheer bulk of evidence collected over the years merits a reversal of Reed's conviction--or at least the opportunity for another trial where all the evidence can be presented.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rodney Reed was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. At the time, Stites was engaged to Jimmy Fennell Jr., a police officer in the nearby town of Giddings. At the same time, she was having an affair with Reed. Both Stites and Fennell are white; Reed is Black. Rodney was tried by an all-white jury in a small Texas town.

The only evidence linking Reed to the crime was semen DNA. But no evidence of rape was found--and Reed admitted to having sexual relations with Stites days before. Today, the medical examiner who testified for the prosecution in the original trial, Robert Bayardo, has said publicly that the state misconstrued his statements, using Reed's DNA to place him at the scene of the murder. But the state has refused to listen to their former witness.

Meanwhile, substantial evidence points to another killer: Jimmy Fennell Jr. Fennell is currently serving time after being convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman he detained while on duty in Georgetown, Texas. The evidence linking Fennell, not Reed, to the murder is troubling:

-- At new hearings for Reed in 2006, a witness testified to seeing Stites and Fennell together in the early morning hours of the day of her murder.

-- Another witness testified that Fennell once said he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if he found her cheating on him--the exact manner in which Stites was killed.

-- Fennell was an original suspect and failed multiple lie detector tests when asked if he had strangled Stites.

-- DNA found at the crime scene was linked to 2 police officers who Fennell worked with. Prosecutors failed to give this evidence to the defense during the original trial.

-- The original investigation found no fingerprints of Reed's in the truck that investigators say was used to dump Stites' body, only those fingerprints of Stites and Fennell.

-- Before the defense could have access to the truck or request further testing of any of this forensic evidence, police returned the truck to Fennell. He sold it the very next day.

Since the time of Reed's last evidentiary hearing, still more new facts have come to light, including the affidavit about the forensic evidence provided by the former medical examiner. Yet this crucial evidence has been dismissed by the state courts, most recently by the federal 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the fact that a life hangs on the line.

Because of the troubling evidence that he was framed and railroaded, Rodney Reed's case has been the subject of national media attention, attracting articles in The Nation and elsewhere. More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition supporting him, and he is the subject of a documentary State vs. Reed: A Question of Justice on Texas' Death Row (you can watch it on YouTube). The Intercept website recently published an-depth investigation titled "Is Texas Getting Ready to Kill an Innocent Man?"

The backdrop to this case is the epidemic of wrongful convictions in Texas. The example of Cameron Todd Willingham--who was proven to be innocent of the 1991 murder of his family, but only after he was executed--shows that the rush to execution has left a trail of broken lives in its wake.

With all the evidence pointing to a police officer as the real murderer, Reed's case paints a particularly troubling picture about a rigged system. Will Texas execute another innocent man?



Death penalty expresses 'society's outrage' over heinous crimes: John Murphy, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association

The death penalty is needed to fulfill 2 fundamental objectives of the criminal law: deterrence and retribution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly found that the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual punishment. The Court also found that the death penalty "is undoubtedly a significant deterrent."

Various studies in recent years at Emory University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Colorado, and Pepperdine University, have concluded that the death penalty does deter. The studies found that each execution, on average, is associated with 3 to 5 fewer murders.

Beware the argument that the death penalty is not a deterrent because it has been on the books for over 30 years and we still have a lot of murders. We can write anything on the books, but it will not deter if it is not effectively enforced, and taking 15-plus years to enforce it, which is common in Ohio, seriously undermines the deterrent effect. We could realize so much more benefit from the full deterrent effect if it were more expeditiously enforced.

Nor do I believe that life without parole has the same deterrent effect as a properly enforced death penalty. Further, there really is no such thing as life without parole because the legislature could repeal it tomorrow and decide to reduce all of the prisoners' sentences retroactively. And there is always the Governor's powers to pardon offenders and to commute sentences. There is only one way to insure that a prisoner will not be released at some time in the future.

In Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court concluded that "[i]n part, capital punishment is an expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct. This function may be unappealing to many, but it is essential in an ordered society that asks its citizens to rely on legal processes rather than self-help to vindicate their wrongs."

This rationale remains valid today. The fact is that citizens who obey the law need to see that our criminal justice system can and will deal effectively with those who do not, and that includes an element of retribution, or "just desserts". This is a legitimate function of our criminal justice system.

Some have argued that the death penalty should be repealed because it could be mistakenly applied to an innocent person. Theoretically that is true, of course, and is true of any penalty. But when we look at real cases it becomes clear pretty quickly that in Ohio, at least in this respect, our system is working. In almost all cases there really is no question that we have the right person.

We have an elaborate system of "super due process" applicable to death cases that is designed to ensure as much as humanly possible that we do not execute the wrong person. But to repeal the death penalty would be to lose its deterrent effect. Therefore, by acting to avoid any possibility of wrongful conviction we would in effect be condemning a much larger number of innocent persons to "wrongful execution" by those who were not deterred. And those victims would not get any due process.

We need the death penalty to express society's outrage at especially horrible crimes and also to save innocent lives.

(source: Guest columnist John Murphy is a former assistant prosecutor in Franklin County, Ohio, and is currently the executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He writes in support of Ohio's death


Accused spree killer indicted in deaths of retired couple

A Jackson County grand jury on Friday handed down 2 1st-degree murder indictments again Howell, 34, according to online court records. A judge had to sign off on the indictments, and Howell was served with the indictments this weekend. Once that occurred, the public was notified about the indictments about 9 p.m. Sunday by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.

The indictments replace earlier assault charges in connection with the attacks on George and Ann Taylor in their South Kansas City home last September. The Taylors were brutally assaulted and died some days later in a Kansas City hospital. Initial assault charges were filed prior to the Taylors' passing.

The 5 residents were killed in the Woodbridge area of South Kansas City on Sept. 2.

As a result of the grand jury's actions on Friday, Howell is now facing 12 felony counts in connection with the crimes: 5 counts of murder in the 1st degree, 1 count each of 1st degree burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm, and 4 counts of armed criminal action. The grand jury issued indictments that supersede the charges originally filed by the prosecutor's office.

Kansas City police found the Taylors beaten inside their home on Woodbridge Lane. Officers also found 3 other victims in their yards or driveways at nearby residences.

The horror began unfolding when Howell allegedly attempted to steal a Jaguar owned by George and Ann Taylor, who officers found badly beaten in their basement.

Lorene Hurst was killed along with her son, Darrel, who was making one of his frequent visits to his mother when the tragic events unfolded. Also killed was Susan Choucroun, 69. Prosecutors allege that some of those killed by Howell witnessed his crime spree, and he sought to silence them.

Howell was arrested later on Interstate 29 near NW 72nd Street. He is suspected of assaulting 3 motel guests.

Howell has an extensive juvenile and adult criminal record including 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, assault and animal abuse charges in both Kansas and Missouri. His 1st criminal conviction occurred when he was 12.

As an adult, he beheaded a cat named Toby during a home invasion robbery in Johnson County that involved drugs. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for those crimes.

He was previously accused of killing 2 people in 1998, but a Jackson County jury acquitted him.

Prosecutors have not said publicly whether or not they will seek the death penalty in the September killings. It typically takes Jackson County prosecutors months to determine whether to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors traditionally seek indictments by grand juries in potential death penalty cases. The indictments also mean that a preliminary hearing on the charges isn't necessary and prosecutors can hold back releasing some evidence until a later date.

Prosecutors have requested Howell be held without bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday at 10 a.m on the indictments.

(source: KCTV news)


Repealing death penalty would make us 'smart on crime'

As a retired captain of the Lincoln Police Department with more 25 years of law enforcement experience, I pay close attention to policy discussions concerning public safety.

An issue that will surely emerge in the coming legislative session is whether or not Nebraska should repeal its death penalty. Some might be surprised to learn a veteran police officer supports repealing the death penalty; but my professional experience has shown me that our state's death penalty doesn't keep us any safer. Its exorbitant cost actually detracts from programs that would promote the overall health, safety and welfare of our communities.

I've spent my adult life working around and thinking about violent criminals. I assure you, the death penalty does not affect a criminal's thought process. Very few consider the consequences of their actions and believe they will never be caught. I have never met a criminal who expected to be caught, or was deterred by the slight possibility he would be sentenced to death instead of spending the rest of his life in prison.

I am not alone in this thinking. In 1995 and again in 2008, national surveys were conducted among police chiefs. They were asked to rank the effectiveness of crime prevention programs in decreasing violent crime. In both surveys, they ranked the death penalty dead last. A full 99% of the police chiefs said initiatives such as more officers or better lighting in high crime areas would make a more significant contribution than the death penalty in keeping their communities safe.

These rankings and priorities are important. Reality dictates that we can't have every crime-fighting tool we'd like. We have to make smart, informed choices with our limited resources. The death penalty, while being virtually no deterrent to crime, is tremendously expensive. Nebraska has balked at conducting a cost study of our system, but every state that has researched the numbers has shown the death penalty is far more expensive than life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

The United States Supreme Court has dictated capital cases must be handled differently, so they are especially complicated and time consuming. The vast majority of defendants in capital cases have appointed counsel. That means when seeking the death penalty, the state bears the significant expense of prosecuting and defending the accused.

The millions of dollars we've spent on the death penalty would have been much better invested in more police officers, additional resources or training for our current officers. The cheaper, more intelligent alternative for our state is life without the possibility of parole. Repealing the death penalty does not mean we are 'soft' on crime. It means we are smart on crime.

Although the death penalty is on the books in Nebraska, we cannot use it. Lethal injection is our only legal method to carry out an execution but one of the required drugs is not available. Concerns about wrongful convictions and the difficulty (or perhaps the impossibility) of finding a legal execution method means we pay a premium to prosecute capital cases, but the few criminals who receive death sentences will not be executed. Our most tenured inmate has been on death row for more than 34 years. We haven't had an execution in more than 15 years. We've already stopped using the death penalty in Nebraska, now we should stop paying for it. Let's invest in tools our law enforcement officers really need.

(source: Letter to the Editor; Former Lincoln Police Capt. Jim Davidsaver in July was named the emergency management director of Lancaster County----Lincoln Journal Star)


7 years after Shelby's Law passes, no Utah death penalty trials in child-abuse homicides

7 years ago, Utah lawmakers passed a law allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty if a child dies during an act of abuse, sexual assault or kidnapping - even if the defendant does not intend to kill the victim.

Since then, the accused killers of 5 Utah children have been charged under "Shelby's Law," but none have gone to trial, which leaves the statute as yet unproven before a jury and untested by an appellate court.

However, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, said the law is doing exactly what it is supposed to by giving prosecutors a "bargaining chip" when bringing charges against someone accused of killing a child.

"I think it is serving its purpose," said Ray, who sponsored the 2007 bill. "Nobody has said, 'This is not effective' or 'There's a flaw and we can't use it.'"

Some have been critical of the law, saying it is unconstitutional for a defendant to be condemned to death if they never intended to kill the child. The attorneys for Nathan Sloop, who earlier this year admitted that he caused the death of his 4-year-old stepson, Ethan Stacy, had said they had planned to challenge the law had the case gone to trial, however, Sloop ultimately took a plea deal.

Of the 5 charged under the 2007 statute, two people - Stephanie and Nathan Sloop - took plea deals and pleaded guilty to aggravated murder under the Shelby's Law statute, while 2 others - Victor Gardea in 2009, and Jeremy Marshall in 2014 - resolved their cases by pleading guilty to 1st-degree felony murder, admitting that they "knowingly or intentionally" caused the children's deaths.

All 4 defendants were sentenced to spend up to life in the Utah State Prison.

The 5th defendant, Sun Cha Warhola, a Layton mother accused of killing her 2 children in 2010, is also charged under Shelby's Law, but her case stalled after a judge ruled she is not competent to stand trial. A competency review hearing is set for June 2015.

Shelby's Law is named after 10-year-old Shelby Andrews, who died in 2006 in Syracuse after a year of abuse at the hands of her parents.

In an effort to control and discipline the girl, her father and stepmother beat her, forced her to eat her own feces and shut her inside a cramped linen closet.

Ryan and Angela Andrews did not face a potential death sentence because existing law did not allow prosecutors to file aggravated murder charges unless they could prove the parents intended for the girl to die. The Andrewses pleaded guilty to 1st-degree felony murder and were sentenced to spend 15 years to life in prison.

Paul Boyden, executive director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, has said that there was public outrage over Shelby's death, and people questioned why the parents could not be charged with a capital crime. That public outrage spurred Utah lawmakers to craft Shelby's Law, which was signed into law by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

With the Shelby's Law amendment to Utah's homicide statute, the death penalty can now be sought without prosecutors having to prove a killing was intentional.

When filing a traditional 1st-degree felony aggravated murder charge, state law says prosecutors must show that the defendant "intentionally or knowingly" caused someone's death. With Shelby's Law, it must only be proven that the defendant was a "major participant" in a death, and that he or she acted with "reckless indifference to human life."

"For any other death penalty case, it has to be an intentional kill," Boyden said in an interview with The Tribune last year. "You have to intentionally kill them. In this classification, it is ‘reckless indifference to human life,' and there has to be causation. They have to cause the death and the person has to be a major participant in the commission of the crime."

Last July, Nathan Sloop's attorney Richard Mauro attacked Shelby's Law during oral arguments at his client's preliminary hearing, saying the law was too broad, "very poorly written," and that the term "reckless indifference to human life" is never defined in the statute.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Jodi Arias trial update: Arguments about tampered evidence, porn deleted from victim's computer; The trial is in the hub of the supposed alteration and deletion of pornographic material in Travis Alexander's computer.

In the latest news about the Jodi Arias trial, the court gets more in-depth on the alleged deletion of pornography material from the computer hard drive of Arias's lover and murder victim, Travis Alexander.

According to USA Today, Arias's defense lawyers filed a response motion to the prosecutor's counter claims earlier this week, after prosecutor Juan Martinez argued that he was, at first, given a different, a tampered one even, of the hard drive. Martinez believes that the hard drive sent to them was of an individual named Tony, who is of no relevance to the case.

In response, defense attorney Jennifer Willmott explained that Tony is a computer technician tasked to make a copy of the original hard drive for the prosecution. The process of duplicating the data is, as USA Today explains, done to prevent any alteration powering the computer up may bring. Furthermore, Willmott asserted that the computer was full of porn, which did not come from viruses, as Martinez claimed. Computer forensic expert Bryan Neumeister also countered Martinez's assertion of the absence of porn in the hard drive, claiming that there were 70,000 modified files on the computer that experts have overlooked.

"There were thousands of pornography site hits found on Mr. Alexander's computer," Willmott wrote in her response. "Some were caused by viruses and some were accessed prior to viruses being downloaded onto his computer. The type of viruses found on Mr. Alexander's computer are severe, and typically associated with the computer user visiting pornography sites."

Martinez retorted that the deletion and alteration were made by Arias's legal team, Maria Schaffer and Greg Parzych. Schaffer strongly and angrily denied the accusation, iterating that Martinez was there with them when they were checking the hard drive. She added that case agent Mesa police detective Esteban Flores was even the one who turned the computer on for them, countering Martinez's claim that she was the one insisting to turn it on and access it.

Nevertheless, Martinez prompted the immediate availability of the original hard drive in his response motion, while he remained in full conviction that Willmott and her co-counsel Kirk Nurmi should be sanctioned for damaging the evidence. He also demanded that the motion to dismiss the death penalty requested by the 2 be scrapped.

As her rejoinder, Willmott remained resolute in her claim.

"Moreover, the state has now admitted that many viruses were found on Mr. Alexander's computer," Willmott wrote.

"Besides mishandling, tampering and destroying evidence on June 19, 2009, the state now admits that it proffered false testimony when (the forensics expert) testified to looking for viruses and finding none," she continued (via USA Today). "This testimony was solicited knowing that Ms. Arias asserted that Mr. Alexander's computer was infected with a virus. The state used (the) false testimony to argue that Ms. Arias was lying."

On Thursday, sex expert Dr. Miccio Fonseca returned to the witness stand. The discussions on the sexual relationship of Arias and Alexander, including erotic messages, provoked discussions between attorneys.

Arias was convicted of 1st-degree murder on May 8 last year, but the jury was unable to determine the sentence to be pressed upon her. Her then-lover Alexander was found lifeless in his apartment in Mesa with multiple stab wounds, a gunshot to the forehead, and a slit throat. Arias said it was all self-defense, but the jury did not believe it.

Her "fight for her life" is expected to last until December, according to KPHO.



Man Who Shot And Set His Girlfriend On Fire In Front Of Her Children Gets Death Penalty

A jury has decided that a California man who shot his girlfriend and lit her on fire in front of her children should be sentenced to death for the gruesome murder.

Back in February 2011, 41-year-old Tyrone Harts brutally murdered his girlfriend in front of her children. According to reports, Brandi Morales's 6 children lived in the home with her and Harts, but on the night in question, Harts hadn't been living there for weeks after the couple separated.

The man allegedly called the house and spoke to one of Morales' sons, asking them to leave the door open for him. Late in the night, 2 of the children awoke to their mother screaming, and when one of the older boys went to grab a knife to protect her, Harts fired at him to get him out of the room.

Disgustingly, the 4 youngest children were then forced to watch Harts light their mother on fire after he had already shot her. Police say that the children attempted to put the fire out with cups of water, but it was too late. When police arrived, Morales was pronounced dead at the scene.

Harts was convicted of 1 count of murder, 1 count of attempted murder, 5 count of child endangerment, and 1 count of being a felon in possession of a handgun. Now, the same jury has recommended that Harts receive the death penalty, and on January 30, Harts will be back in court to be formally sentenced.



Police: Man charged with killing informant confessed

A Charleston man charged with killing a police informant made a lengthy confession, according to an affidavit written last week to obtain a search warrant. Marlon Dewayne "Ice" Dixon, 38, is accused of killing Branda Mae Delight Basham, 21, in July in retaliation for her cooperation with police.

Dixon could face the death penalty after a federal grand jury indicted him on a murder charge. Federal prosecutors haven't decided whether they will seek the death penalty.

In order to gain access to Dixon's cell phone, police wrote in an affidavit filed Thursday, that, in addition to a lengthy confession made by Dixon, they recovered Basham's blood from Dixon's shoes. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley granted the warrant for a search of Dixon's phone.

Dixon has been appointed two attorneys: Claire Cardwell, an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, and David Schles, a Charleston attorney. Cardwell was appointed for "death penalty proceedings," according to court filings. Schles said Friday that when the death penalty is a possibility in a case, a defendant is assigned 2 attorneys - 1 of whom should be experienced with handling those types of cases.

"I am not," Schles said. "West Virginia doesn't have the death penalty; that's why the other lawyer is from Virginia." West Virginia abolished capital punishment at the state level in 1965, but the federal government can still ask for it. Dixon is also charged with 3 counts of distributing heroin, 2 counts of tampering with a witness by killing her, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had previously been charged with Basham's slaying in Kanawha Circuit Court, but federal prosecutors decided to take the case.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has said one reason is his focus on eradicating Southern West Virginia's heroin epidemic. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Hanks is prosecuting Dixon. Because Dixon is still in the custody of the state of West Virginia, an arraignment hasn't yet been set for Dixon in federal court, Schles said. Dixon has been held in South Central Regional Jail since July 17.

Schles said it's too early to comment on any factual parts of the case.According to federal prosecutors, Dixon shot and killed Basham to prevent her from testifying or continuing to provide information against him. Basham was working as an informant for the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team, according to the affidavit unsealed Thursday.

At least 3 times in May, Basham made controlled purchases of heroin from Dixon, according to the statement made by police.

Basham's cell phone records reveal communication with a number believed to be Dixon's in the moments leading up to her death.

It was the same number Basham used to set up drug buys from Dixon, according to police.

Basham is believed to have been killed between 3 and 4:30 a.m. on July 12. Between 2:28 and 3:50 a.m., Charleston Police Det. Canden Sharp wrote in the affidavit, that Basham and Dixon exchanged text messages and arranged to meet on the West Side.

A woman Dixon stayed with the night of the alleged slaying had the number saved under "Marlon D" in her phone, according to the affidavit. Basham was shot 3 times July 12. Her body was found on railroad tracks near Breece and Madison streets on Charleston's West Side.



Has the United States Run Out of Ways to Make the Death Penalty More Humane?

In the summer of 2011, Hospira - the only company in America still producing sodium thiopental, the painless lethal injection drug - moved their facilities to Italy under the condition that the company would stop producing the drug because it violated a European Union law. Since then, state legislators in death penalty states have been struggling to find humane alternatives in some sort of bizarre, primitive regression to electric chairs, gas chambers, hangings, and firing squads.

This week, Utah House Representatives on the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee endors?e?d bringing back firing squads as a method of execution, with a 9 to 2 vote supporting a bill sponsored by Republican Representative Paul Ray. While his phone has been going straight to voicemail for the past 2 days, he told reporters on Wednesday, "We have to have an option, if we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you're still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?" It's worth noting that Utah was also briefly the only state to allow execution by behe?adin?gs in the mid-1800s, although none occurred as a form of "blood atonement." It was also the 1st state to execute a death row inmate after capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, and he was executed by firing squad.

Utah banned execution by firing squads in 2004, but not retroactively. Death row inmates who had chosen the method pre-ban were still allowed the option, and on June 18, 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner became the 1st of 3 eligible inmates to die by state-sponsored gunshot. The day of the execution, Gardner was restrained and dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit with a hood covering his head. A white target was positioned over his heart. 25 feet away, at the other end of the execution chamber, 5 anonymous volunteer police officers behind a gunport were handed 4 Winchester rifles loaded with .30 caliber rounds, and 1 was loaded with a non-lethal wax bullet, to create uncertainty as to which officer fired the fatal shot. Counting down from 5, the officers simultaneously fired before "2," and upon being shot, it was reported that Ronnie clenched his hands and raised his arms in the air, then slumped lifeless, blood pooling in his dark jumpsuit.

A 1993 study entitled "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods" compared execution methods in 86 countries, including shooting, hanging, stoning, beheading, electrocution, gassing, and lethal injection. Researchers determined that only the injection had the potential to be painless, although in conclusion it notes, "Nearly all execution procedures are likely to be attended by pain to the condemned person. Nevertheless, despite the evidence presented above, it is widely asserted that executions are humane and painless (Supreme Court 1890; Purchase 1953; Berns 1980; Sawyer 1991), although no evidence to this effect appears to have been published."

In reference to firing squads it states, "The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (1953, para 710) discussed shooting as a possible alternative to hanging, but rejected it on the grounds, inter alia, that 'it does not possess even the 1st requisite of an efficient method, the certainty of causing immediate death.' Those giving evidence to the Commission frequently emphasized their belief that any method of execution that they recommended should be rapid, clean, and dignified." Since the loss of easy to source coma-inducing intravenous drugs, it's become clear that death by lethal injection has ceased to be rapid, clean, or dignified.

When Clayton Lockett was put to death earlier this year, the state of Oklahoma decided that in lieu of sodium thiopental, they would use an untested mixture of drugs, which were kept secret and purchased with petty cash. Witnesses reported that after Clayton was injected in the groin due to a lack of useable veins, and subsequently declared unconscious, he began to shiver, gritted his teeth, and tried to speak. When finally injected with potassium chloride to stop his heart, Clayton thrashed and his breathing became labored, before uttering, "Man," and trying to get up. The execution was deemed a failure as prison officials had neither the available veins, nor a sufficient supply of the drugs left over, and the execution was stayed. But Clayton suffered a massive heart attack within the hour and died. Similarly, in July, Joseph Rudolph Wood reportedly gasped 660 times "like a fish on shore gulping for air" in the 2 hours it took him to die via a similarly concocted drug cocktail.

Faced with the realities of the changing execution methods, the purpose of Ray's firing squad bill is to give the state an alternative choice when facing the potential of not obtaining the necessary drugs for a lethal injection within 30 days. Lethal injections, in fact, have a 7.1 % failure rate, which compared to the firing squad's zero % certainly makes for a stronger argument. We've reported before that dying via electric chair is a painful ordeal, yet in May the method was signed into Tennessee law as an alternative to the now-ineffective injection. Back in January, Wyoming, struggling with the same issue, proposed building a gas chamber, which was only challenged in the legislature on the basis of cost. In that case, Sen. Bruce Burns proposed firing squads, citing pre-2004 Utah as an example.

The decision to pursue efficacy over gruesome imagery (hanging) or historical discomfort (gassing) rephrases the entire question as to what makes one method more "humane" than another, or whether it even matters. On some level, killing another person, even in the context of wrongdoing, could be considered entirely inhumane, and once you take the plunge, no sugarcoated Kevorkian-esque methods are really going to redeem the value of what anti-death penalty advocates consider murder.

Of course, the heart of the death penalty debate is that it does matter, even if only by way of adhering to the constitution, which is a concern of Richard Dieter, the Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Over the phone, he told me that "first and foremost, legislators have an obligation to follow the constitution, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment," which in this case means striving for the least painful method of execution. But he agreed that there is "some dispute" as to which method that would currently be. "There may not be a single answer, but [being humane] should be the goal, rather than 'How do we keep executing people without a delay.' The intent is important here."

Ray's intentions are certainly geared towards that latter mindset. One of the two no votes by Representative Mark Wheatley asked, "What problem does this solve?" Ray replied, "A long, drawn out legal battle." The inherent problem is that urgency sidesteps a more important question, which is, How do we keep our prisoners from suffering when we kill them? Dieter also pointed out that "Utah isn't saying the firing squad is the best, least painful, most humane method. I mean, they got rid of it! They banned it! They didn't have to. Now they're going back solely because of the practicalities of it, not the humanity of it all." Before ending the call, he told me, "It's a gruesome business to be experimenting in, but at least it should be within the goal of being most humane, along with the question of whether we should be doing it at all. But that might be further down the road."



Ang Mo Kio murder case: Family of Vietnamese woman to arrive here on Tuesday

The sister of a Vietnamese national who was found dead last week in an Ang Mo Kio flat is expected to arrive in Singapore from Vietnam on Tuesday to collect her body.

Ms Dinah, who works in Malaysia, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that she would be going back to Vietnam to bring their mother here.

"We wanted to go to Singapore sooner, but we can only arrive on Tuesday," she said.

Ms Tran Cam Ny, 32, was allegedly murdered in a flat at Block 406, Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 last Thursday. Lim Hou Peng Jackson, 40, was arrested the same day and charged with the murder 2 days later.

Ms Tran was said to have made a living here singing and dancing in a club.

Following his charge, Lim was remanded for psychiatric evaluation and is expected to appear in court again in December. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.



Christian woman given death sentence under blasphemy law appeals in SC

A Pakistani Christian woman and a mother of 5, convicted under the controversial blasphemy law in 2010, on Monday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging a High Court's ruling upholding her death penalty.

"We filed an appeal today in the Supreme Court (Lahore registry) against the Lahore High Court's verdict in the Asia Bibi case," Asia's counsel advocate Saiful Malook said. He said Asia Bibi, 47, had been implicated in a false blasphemy case and she would prove this in the Supreme Court.

"Supreme Court is the highest forum and Asia Bibi has not given up hope of getting justice," he said. Malook said there had been legal defects in the judgement of the High Court in the case. Last month, a 2-member Lahore High Court bench dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi after her lawyers failed to prove her innocence in the court.

"We have raised various points in the appeal. The FIR has been registered against Asia under blasphemy laws 5 days after the incident. While in the Ayub Masih case 2002, the Supreme Court had taken notice of a 3-hour delay in registration of FIR and given relief to the accused on this ground.

"The complainant, cleric Muhammad Salam, reported the matter to police 5 days after the incident which is itself a testimony of his being a lair," Malook said while sharing the contents of the appeal.

He said 2 Muslim women who gave statement to police against Asia did not testify in the court. Asia Bibi, a mother of 5, is a resident of Ittan Wali village district Sheikhupura, some 60 kilometers from Lahore. She was arrested in 2009 under blasphemy charges - Section 295 B and C of Pakistan Penal Code, subject to capital punishment - while working in a farm with Muslim women.

Her 2 fellow Muslim women - Asma and her sister - accused her of making drinking water unclean by touching the pot. Christians are prohibited to touch eating or drinking utensils used by Muslims in Pakistan. The Muslim women reported the matter to a local cleric Muhammad Salam who filed a blasphemy complaint against Asia with the police. Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010.

Her case shot to prominence when Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in January 2011. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Taseer, in his statement to police said he killed Taseer for calling blasphemy laws "black" and pursuing the case of Asia Bibi.

Saiful Malook was a prosecution lawyer in the Taseer assassination case. During the proceedings, the trial judge left the country because of threats from extremists. Asia's husband has also submitted a plea for clemency to the President Mamnoon Hussain.



CUF, CCM want IPTL scandal suspects axed

CUF National Chairman Professor Ibrahim LipumbaBoth the ruling party and major opposition Civic United Front (CUF) are calling on all officials implicated in the Tegeta 306bn/- escrow account scandal to voluntarily resign before they are publicly kicked out of office.

Additionally, CUF wants all accounts that have so far received funds from the Tegeta escrow account frozen and also on the remaining amount in the escrow account.

Speaking to journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday, CUF National Chairman Professor Ibrahim Lipumba advised the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau to start investigating all officials implicated in the scandal.

"For the investigation to be free and fair, first, the culprits should resign," he said.

"In case they are directly linked, other procedures including dragging them to court will is important that PCCB takes action immediately before some of the culprits leave the country," he urged.

In a related development, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has also called for 'strict legal action' on all persons implicated in the scandal.

CCM Ideology and Publicity secretary, Nape Nnauye, maintain that the party's stance is, 'everyone should carry his/her own cross and leave the party untainted and strong.'

Addressing a public rally yesterday at the Ilulu grounds in Lindi at the close of an 8 day official visit of CCM’s Secretary General Abdulrahman Kinana to the region, he said 'the party's stance is that all those involved should leave the party.'

"Our party is strong and follows procedures when taking action against wrong doers within the party," he added.

"We are dealing with all corruption scandals including the Tegeta escrow account...if you are trusted with a leadership position it is a must to adhere to leadership ethics and if one fails the party will take action against them," he said.

In a related development, Methodist Bishop for the Dodoma Diocese, Joseph Bundala, proposed the death penalty or life imprisonment for all found guilty in the Tegeta escrow account scandal.

Speaking to The Guardian yesterday in the capital, the Bishop maintained that the country needs harsh laws 'especially on public leaders who are sworn in by the President' the cleric urged.

"They vowed to be at the service of the country in a trustworthy manner but they have gone against their vows by embezzling public funds for their own benefits while the wananchi are dying for lack of medicines," the bishop decried.

(source: IPP Media)


Senior court official says China to continue death penalty reform

China's top court said it would study ways of further reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, in an effort to reform a segment of Chinese law widely criticised by international rights groups.

Activists say China uses capital punishment more than any other country, raising public concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

In October, the National People's Congress, China's parliament, began reviewing a policy to trim nine crimes from the list of offences subject to the death penalty. Those reforms have yet to be finalised.

Hu Yunteng, a senior researcher at the Supreme People's Court, told a meeting of academics on Saturday that China would deepen death penalty reform.

"[Officials] must thoroughly study how to reduce death penalty crimes, and progressively limit and reduce the scope of the use of the death penalty," the People's Court Daily on Sunday cited Hu as saying.

The use of the death penalty must be "100 percent accurate and guard against any false or unjust charges", Hu said, adding that the role of lawyers must be ensured and the human rights of defendants respected.

Officials have previously said China would review the use of the death penalty, which applies to 55 offences, including fraud and illegal money-lending.

China guards the number of people executed every year as state secrets.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013. By comparison, 39 people were executed in 2013 in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Last week, state media said a court in Inner Mongolia would reconsider a 1996 rape and murder case which may have led to the execution of the wrong man.

Huugjilt, 18 at the time, was put to death a month after being sentenced, the official Xinhua news agency said. Years after his execution, another man confessed to the murder.

The ruling Communist Party, worried about rising social unrest and anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution, has vowed to carry out legal reforms.

Experts, however, have said the reduction in death penalty crimes is not expected to greatly lower the number of executions per year.

(source: Reuters)


Nizami appeals to SC against death penalty

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami yesterday challenged the death penalty awarded to him by a war crimes tribunal for his crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War.

In his appeal filed with the Supreme Court, Nizami claimed himself innocent and sought acquittal on the eight charges he was found guilty.

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

Citing from the appeal, Shishir Manir, a lawyer for Nizami, told The Daily Star that the tribunal had failed to consider that Nizami was never associated with any auxiliary force controlled by Pakistan army in 1971.

Findings of the tribunal about Nizami were manifestly perverse and therefore the conviction and sentence given to him were liable to be set aside and the appellant was liable to be acquitted, he said, quoting the appeal.

Shishir said Nizami in his 121-page appeal mentioned 168 grounds to establish his innocence.

Total 6,252 pages of documents were annexed with the appeal, he said, adding that the Supreme Court would now fix a date for hearing the appeal.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam yesterday told reporters that the government would not file any appeal with the Supreme Court against the tribunal verdict on Nizami, as it was satisfied with the verdict.

He also said his office would place arguments before the apex court to defend the tribunal verdict.

Tribunal-1 in the verdict said it was well-proved that the accused being the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha and Al-Badr force whole-heartedly resisted the War of Liberation and also actively participated in the crimes against humanity in 1971.


ICT hailed for handing death to AL brass Mobarak

Star file phto shows a Gonojagoron Mancha faction marching from Shahbagh following the verdict Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami's death penalty for war crimes.

The death penalty for Brahmanbaria Awami League leader Mobarak Hossain clears issues that war criminals will be brought to trial and justice beyond their respective political identity, a faction of Gonojagoron Mancha said today.

Imran H Sarker, spokesperson for a Gonojagoron Mancha faction, said he was happy with the special war crimes tribunal awarding death for Mobarak's war crimes in 1971.

"Mobarak was a very sly person. He joined a progressive party after independence to hide away his war crimes committed in 1971," he told a television reporter.

"We were concerned that he might use his political identity to evade justice. But, this verdict proves that if this goes on, war criminals who took shelter in several political parties will be brought to trial and face justice," he added.

Gonojagoron Mancha wanted trial for war criminals beyond of respective political identity, Imran added.

The Mancha faction brought out a joyous procession from Dhaka's Shahbagh and paraded through Dhaka University campus after hearing the verdict.

Mobarak, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader who later joined the Awami League after 1971, was handed death today in 1 charge of crimes committed against humanity in 1971.

(source for both: The Daily Star)


Former Awami League official to be hanged for war crimes in Bangladesh

Bangladesh's war crimes court Monday sentenced a former ruling party official to death for mass murder, the 14th person convicted of atrocities during the 1971 war, a prosecutor said.

Mobarak Hossain, who was expelled from the Awami League after he was charged with war crimes in 2012, was found guilty of heading a militia that rounded up and killed scores during the nine-month conflict.

"He was sentenced to death for the murder of 33 people and given (a) life term for the abduction and murder of another person," prosecutor Shahidur Rahman told AFP.

The 64-year-old Hossain is the 1st person connected with the ruling party to be given the death penalty by the controversial tribunal, which has mostly focused on trials of officials of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Hossain, who was in court to hear the verdict, had previously been an official of Jamaat-e-Islami.

During the war he was a local commander of a notorious militia in the eastern border town of Akhaura which carried out murders, abductions and torture, Rahman said.

In one of the worst episodes of the war, "Hossain and his associates abducted 132 people and then murdered 33 of them on the bank of a pond", he said.

After Bangladesh gained independence, Jamaat was banned for some years. Hossain eventually switched to the Awami League, serving as a low-level official for 16 years until he was charged.

Jamaat's leader and its top lieutenants were sentenced to death last year for their roles in the war, triggering the country's deadliest political violence.

Thousands of activists clashed with police in various protests that left some 500 people dead.

An ex-minister of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has also been sentenced to hang.

The BNP and Jamaat have called the court's trials politically motivated and aimed at eliminating opposition leaders rather than rendering justice.

Rights groups have said the trials fall short of international standards and lack any foreign oversight.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina maintains the hearings are needed to heal the wounds of the conflict, which it says left 3 million people dead.

Independent researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people died in the 1971 war.

(source: The Express Tribune)

NOVEMBER 23, 2014:


Clemency sought for schizophrenic man set for execution

As Texas prepares to execute its 11th inmate - in a year with the fewest executions in nearly 2 decades - legal and mental health groups across the state and the nation are scrambling to spare Scott Panetti from the death chamber.

Panetti, a schizophrenic who is scheduled for lethal injection Dec. 3, was convicted of fatally shooting his in-laws in front of his estranged wife and children more than 2 decades ago in their Fredericksburg home.

A new clemency petition has been filed to try to block the execution of Panetti, who acted as his own attorney and appeared in court wearing a purple cowboy suit and a 10-gallon hat. Some worry he is so mentally ill that he won't understand why he is being put to death.

"The case of Scott Louis Panetti is a judicial disaster that has attracted national and international outrage - and for good reason," according to the latest clemency petition. "Evidence of his incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case - from arraignment to execution.

"The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line."

The move comes as Texas, which has long led the nation in executions, is on track to put the fewest inmates to death since 1996 and some believe the death penalty may be fading away.

The state has 273 inmates on death row, including 19 convicted in Tarrant County, state records show.

9 executions are scheduled for the first 4 months of 2015.

"Texas has a deep commitment to the death penalty," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "In this state's political culture, crime is to be treated very seriously, and the threat of the death penalty is 1 device that can be held over the head of criminals.

"The decrease in executions shows there is a very serious alternative to the death penalty."

In 2005, legislators changed the law to give juries an alternative to the death penalty: life in prison without parole.

Since then, jurors have overwhelmingly chosen that option, giving 687 people life without parole, compared with 84 death sentences, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Of the 10 people executed this year, 1 was from Tarrant County - Lisa Coleman, an Arlington woman convicted of starving and torturing her girlfriend's 9-year-old son to death a decade ago.

Last execution of the year

A Gillespie County judge recently scheduled Panetti's execution for Dec. 3.

But Panetti's case has been in and out of the courts for years because of the 56-year-old's history of mental illness.

Through the years, justices have tried to determine whether Panetti, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, can understand that he has been sentenced to die and why.

"Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly 7 years," according to 1 letter calling for clemency. "He has a fixed delusion that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

During his trial in 1995, when he was convicted of killing his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado, Panetti tried to call President John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ as witnesses.

When Panetti refused to take his antipsychotic drugs, the judge allowed him to represent himself. Notes taken by Panetti's standby counsel described his behavior as "trance-like," "bizarre" and "scary."

A group of officials including former Gov. Mark White has also written a clemency letter.

"We are deeply troubled that a capital sentence was the result of a trial where a man with schizophrenia represented himself, dressed in a costume," the letter stated. "We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution."

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, has sent a letter as well.

Life without parole

Barring last-minute court action, Panetti's execution will be the 11th in Texas this year.

That's the fewest since 1996, when there were 3, state data show. But it's still more than any other state this year: Florida and Missouri have had eight each, Oklahoma three, and Georgia, Ohio and Arizona one each, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

"Texas is the capital of capital punishment," said Richard Dieter, the center's executive director. "Clearly, people see it as the most likely place to have an execution."

But 2014 is a far cry from some of Texas' busiest years for executions, when some said the state was home to the "conveyor belt of death." There were 40 in 2000, 35 in 1999 and 37 in 1997.

"Things are changing in Texas," Dieter said, adding that it's not just demographics but also new laws and new elected officials. "Texas is not the dominant state in the death penalty that it has been."

On average, an inmate spends 11 years on death row before being executed, state data show. A decline in executions was expected as the number of people sentenced to life without parole rose, Dieter said.

Before that option was added in 2005, Texas juries had 2 choices - the death penalty and life in prison with the possibility of parole, meaning that some inmates convicted at a young age could be released back into the community after serving 40 years.

When Gov. Rick Perry signed the life-without-parole measure into law, he said, "I believe this bill will improve our criminal justice system because it gives jurors a new option to protect the public with the certainty a convicted killer will never roam our streets again."

The 1st year the option was available, only 17 people were sentenced to life without parole. That rose through the years, peaking at 109 in 2012. Through August this year, 69 people had been sentenced to life without parole, state records show.

Since the law changed, the number of people sentenced to death has hit double digits only 3 times - 10 in 2006, 15 in 2007 and 11 in 2009. This year, 4 people have been sent to death row, according to state records.

"With less death sentences coming in, it was bound to be true that the number of executions would go down as well," Dieter said. "The whole system is receding."

Exonerated inmates

At the same time, efforts have grown to exonerate innocent death row inmates.

Since 1973, Texas has had the 3rd-most inmates exonerated - 12 - behind Florida, with 25, and Illinois, with 20, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

1 Texas case - the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham - has long energized death penalty opponents in their calls for an end to capital punishment in Texas.

Years after Willingham's death, a Texas Forensic Science Commission determined that his conviction was based on bad science, and arson experts have said the 1991 fire, which killed his 3 young daughters, was likely an accident.


How executions are carried out

For years, Texas inmates were given 3 drugs during executions - sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - to make them unconscious, stop their movement and stop their heart, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

But those drugs became costlier and harder to obtain, so the department took out sodium thiopental in 2011 and substituted pentobarbital, a powerful sedative that has been found to put inmates to death quickly and without complications.

Within a year, Texas officials eliminated the 3-drug combination and instead went with one lethal dose of pentobarbital.

Some states have had problems during executions. In Oklahoma, the execution of Clayton Lockett was botched, and he ultimately died of a heart attack nearly 45 minutes after the execution began. Lockett had been convicted of shooting a woman and watching as 2 others buried her alive.

Officials in Kentucky just dropped their proposed use of a 2-drug combination after inmates executed in Ohio and Arizona had prolonged deaths. In Arizona this summer, it took 2 hours and multiple doses of drugs for inmate Joseph Wood to die.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Menino, the mayor who welcomed Sacco and Vanzetti ---- It took a special Bostonian to put a sculpture of anarchists in the Boston Public Library

Since his death last month, longtime Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been memorialized for any number of qualities: his genuine comfort among constituents; his firm control of City Hall; his enthusiasm for the problem-solving side of the job. He's also seen as a bridge-builder, one who helped to smooth over some of Boston's old divisions.

But there is one illuminating episode that has gone all but unmentioned in the various tributes to Menino. In 1997, the city's 1st Italian-American mayor officially accepted on behalf of the city a sculpture of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Italian immigrant anarchists executed 70 years earlier after a trial that many have long held was a travesty of American justice.

The sculpture is still on public display now, though barely. As intriguing as it is obscure, it has a complicated pedigree: created by the same man who designed Mount Rushmore, it was repeatedly offered to the city for public installation - and just as often rejected by politicians scared of engaging the raw politics of the Sacco-Vanzetti story.

Menino's decision to finally accept the sculpture was barely covered in the media. But it went a long way toward resolving one of the most divisive stories in Boston's long and fractured history. In one small act, Menino gave Bostonians and all Americans - or at least those who know where to find it - a bracing lesson about the deeper meanings of patriotism.

A century ago, Americans feared anarchists much as they fear terrorists today. Anarchism, with socialism and communism, had become popular among recent immigrants frustrated by the lack of opportunity they found on American shores, and some of them resorted to violence to gin up publicity for the cause. Followers of the anarchist Luigi Galleani targeted dozens of elected officials across the country, including US Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, whose home was bombed in April 1919. Urged on by xenophobic groups like the American Legion, the federal government waged a widespread campaign to suppress radical organizations.

The notorious case and its verdict are still debated today.

By April 15, 1920, when robbers killed 2 workers outside a factory in Braintree, escaping with $30,000, the storm clouds had gathered and were ready to break. Acting on flimsy evidence, the police arrested Nicola Sacco, a Stoughton shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a Plymouth fishmonger, both immigrant followers of Galleani.

Their trial was a mockery of justice: The prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence and misled the jury, and the judge, Webster Thayer, was overheard boasting about his treatment of "those anarchist bastards." In 1925, another prisoner confessed to the murders, claiming Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent. But Thayer denied the defense's request for a new trial.

The perception that Massachusetts was about to execute 2 innocent men, essentially for their political beliefs, convinced many that the American system of justice was blatantly skewed against the powerless. Support for Sacco and Vanzetti spread far beyond radical circles: During the trial, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis hosted Sacco's wife at his home; Harvard Law professor and future justice Felix Frankfurter assisted the defense team; and Gardner Jackson, a wealthy former Globe editor, coordinated publicity for the campaign. Nonetheless, most of the city's establishment was convinced of the pair's guilt or uninterested in their fate, and despite a chorus of outrage around the world, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed shortly after midnight on Aug. 23, 1927.

Among those moved by the case was the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. The son of Danish immigrants, he is now best known for sculpting presidential faces onto Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, a project he was just beginning in the summer of 1927. It is not clear why he became interested in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti. According to one account, Borglum became furious when Calvin Coolidge refused to grant a stay of execution requested while the president was attending the Mount Rushmore dedication ceremony in early August. Other versions indicate that the nationalistic Borglum - a former member of the Ku Klux Klan - only became involved after the execution, when Gardner Jackson wrote to the artist asking him to create a sculpture of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Either way, Borglum embraced the mission. Working without pay, he created a plaster mold and sent it to Boston in time for the 1st anniversary of the execution. 7 feet long and 3 1/2 feet high, it showed the men in profile next to a quote from Vanzetti's final prison letter. The sculpture - technically, a bas-relief - was supposed to adorn a building dedicated to their legacy. Those plans fell through, but not before Borglum had a New York foundry create a bronze version specifically designed to withstand attack by bullet or by ax.

The sculpture was offered to the city, and rejected, numerous times. In 1937, on the 10th anniversary of the execution, veterans of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, which had led the campaign to exonerate the men, offered it for installation on the Common; Governor Charles Hurley called it "a patently absurd gesture," while Mayor Frederick Mansfield said the proposal "has no possible chance of acceptance."

Borglum died in 1941. On the 20th anniversary of the executions, a group of esteemed citizens including Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein published a demand that the state publicly display the Borglum sculpture. Governor Robert Bradford replied there was "no useful purpose in stirring up the bitter passions and prejudices of 20 years ago." In 1957, officials again declined the memorial.

The original bronze sculpture disappeared, but in 1960, an "anonymous junkman" showed up at the home of former Defense Committee treasurer Aldino Felicani and sold him the plaster mold for $50. Felicani donated the piece to the Community Church of Boston, off Copley Square, which had been active in the Sacco-Vanzetti campaign.

Over time, American officialdom began to acknowledge that there had been a miscarriage of justice. In 1977, on the 50th anniversary of the execution, Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed that "the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti should serve to remind all civilized people of the constant need to guard against our susceptibility to prejudice, our intolerance of unorthodox ideas, and our failure to defend the rights of persons who are looked upon as strangers in our midst."

Finally, in 1997, to mark the 70th anniversary, Thomas Menino, the 1st Italian-American mayor of Boston, and Paul Cellucci, acting governor at the time, formally accepted the plaster mold of Borglum's sculpture from the Community Church. 3 metal copies were made - an aluminum relief now hangs in the church, another aluminum one is at the Gardner Jackson Library at Brandeis University, and a bronze can be found at the Gutzon Borglum Historical Center near Mount Rushmore. The plaster was installed in the Special Collections lobby of the Boston Public Library.

Yet despite these gestures, the Boston area has done its best to forget the whole affair. The site of the execution in Charlestown is now occupied by Bunker Hill Community College. In Braintree, a plaque on a corner next to a parking lot commemorates the original victims of the robbery, whom, it says, "history has forgotten." The old Norfolk County Jail in Dedham, where Sacco was imprisoned for nearly 7 years and Vanzetti for part of that time, was converted a decade ago into - what else? - luxury condominiums

. Accepting the plaster at the library in 1997, Menino announced that a new bronze casting would be installed somewhere outside in public by the year 2000. Since then, a group called the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society has periodically tried to raise money to finish the job. Suggestions for a location have included tiny DeFilippo Park in the North End and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The original idea of the Boston Common apparently remains too politically hot to touch.

Millions of Americans every year flock to Mount Rushmore, one of the great symbols of the United States and a ready-to-hand signifier for that easy, riskless patriotism which considers obedience to government as the beginning and the end of civic virtue.

But there was another side to the patriotism of Mount Rushmore's creator, one arguably more in keeping with the legacy of Boston revolutionaries and abolitionists. In agreeing to create a memorial to Sacco and Vanzetti, Gutzon Borglum wrote to Gardner Jackson: "If 2 innocent men have been electrocuted under order of the American courts, much as I love my country and always shall...I will do anything I can to make the martyrdom of these men a burning, living protest against the injustice practiced in the name of modern jurisprudence!"

Thomas Menino was no radical. His acceptance of the Borglum sculpture in 1997 was a statesmanlike act, in the interest of the public good. "The city's acceptance of this piece of artwork is not intended to reopen the debate about guilt or innocence," Menino said at the ceremony. "It is intended to remind us of the dangers of miscarried justice, and the right we all have to a fair trial."

Today, this "burning, living protest" can be found on the third floor of the Boston Public Library, down a series of corridors and through several rooms, behind a door that, 1 out-of-town visitor was recently saddened and surprised to find, is locked on weekends.

(source: Boston Globe)


Community sets up trust fund to benefit abuse victim Ryan McMillan

The Chester County Crime Victims Center and the District Attorney's Office on Thursday announced details about a trust fund that was recently set up to benefit the older brother of 3-year-old murder victim Scotty McMillan.

Officials said it was the only officially established trust to benefit Ryan McMillan, a 6-year-old who also suffered abuse inside a West Caln mobile home where his younger brother was tortured and beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of the boys' mother and her boyfriend.

"The news of Scotty's death rocked our community to the core. In addition to being a board member of the CVC of CC, I am also a mom to 2 young, beautiful boys. It is heartbreaking to know that Scotty suffered such horrific pain," said crime victim center board member Laura Sweeney. "It is heartbreaking to know that Ryan will have to grow up without his brother by his side. It is our hope that through the creation of this trust, Scotty's memory will live on and help Ryan on his journey to healing. Through this trust, Ryan will know he is not alone; he has a community surrounding him."

Scotty McMillan was pronounced dead at Brandywine Hospital on Nov. 4 after he was finally brought to the hospital after enduring 3 days of beatings and torture, the details of which shocked both law enforcement and the local community. Jillian Tait, the boys' mother, and Gary Lee Fellenbaum, her boyfriend, were arrested on charges of 1st degree murder and related charges following McMillan's death. Both are currently held without bail at Chester County Prison.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against the couple.

According to law enforcement officials, Ryan McMillan was also a victim of the abuse that allegedly took place in the weeks prior to Scotty McMillan's death. Tait had moved herself and her sons into Fellenbaum's trailer in mid-October, police said. The beatings began almost immediately, according to court documents.

"This child has been exposed to some things that no child should ever see or hear," said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan. "He has lost his little brother. He was betrayed by the people who were supposed to care for him. The good people of this community cannot do anything to help Scotty except shed a tear and say a prayer, but we all can join together to help Ryan McMillan rebuild his life."

The brutality of the murder instantly gained national headlines, and immediately local law enforcement and media outlets began to hear from people and businesses around the country that wanted to reach out and help. Ryan McMillan received treatment for his injuries and is now living with family members.

Hogan praised the outreach from many in the local community, noting that the James J. Terry Funeral Home arranged and covered all costs for Scotty McMillan's funeral. Attorneys Jim McErlane, Skip Persick and Stacey Willits McConnell from West Chester law firm Lamb McErlane PC volunteered to establish the trust, and the DNB First volunteered to work with the attorneys to handle the details of the trust account. All of these companies have donated time and efforts to help these children, Hogan said.

Attorney Skip Persick and DNB First will act as trustees, making sure that all donations are used for the direct benefit of Ryan McMillan. Any questions can be directed to Persick at (610) 430-8000. Donations should be sent to:

Chester County Angel Trust

DNB First Wealth Management

410 Exton Square Parkway

Exton, PA 19341



Golden Era Rapper Cool C Set To Be Executed On January 8----Philly-based rapper faces death penalty for 1996 murder of female police officer

In the late 80s, Christopher Roney aka Cool C had a hit record called "The Glamourous Life", a recording contract with Atlantic Records, and a crew named C.E.B.(Countin' Endless Bank), but that was then.

Today, Roney sits on death row as he awaits the death penalty by lethal injection in Pennsylvania's Correctional Institute At Greene awaiting his execution, whic his scheduled for January 8, 2015.

Cool C, 44, was convicted of the 1st degree murder of Officer Lauretha Vaird, when the 43 year old, 9 year veteran responded to a bank robbery call in 1996 when Roney, his mentor Steady B aka Warren McClone ,and Philly rapper Mark Canty attempted to rob a PNC almost 19 years ago. Canty and McClone both received life in prison for their roles in the crime.

(source: The Source)


Ohio's death penalty system in need of scrutiny, justice: Kevin Werner, Ohioans to Stop Executions

Kevin Werner is executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Guest columnist Kevin Werner is executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, a non-profit organization in Columbus. He and his family live in Columbus. He writes in opposition to Ohio's death penalty system.

The clear reality at this moment is that Ohio's death penalty system is fundamentally broken. This is essentially settled fact that has found widespread, growing and bipartisan agreement.

Because of serious legal challenges about the state's death penalty procedures, Ohio cannot currently conduct executions. For many of us, this is welcome news. However, we can all agree that Ohio's laws should reflect both the preferences of Ohioans and the settled law of America, and that's not currently the case.

Fortunately, there is a clear road map Ohio must take to ensure its capital system is fair and accurate. This guide comes in the form of 56 recommendations made by Ohio's own death penalty experts, mostly judges and prosecutors, who served on a task force commissioned by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Some state leaders pledged to pass some of those reform measures, and for that they should be commended.

Unfortunately, some legislative leaders also indicated that they would introduce the "secret executions" bill, which is among the most extreme in the country and which will put Ohio's most important practices in the dark and away from public scrutiny.

The slate of reforms is critically necessary. They include obvious recommendations like increasing funding for crime labs and death row defense counsel, and more far-reaching measures like narrowing the felony murder law and the prohibiting the execution of those suffering from serious mental illnesses.

In all, these reform recommendations, produced by a serious, studious bipartisan group of experts, will achieve what every one of conscience wants, if we are to have the death penalty: an assurance that it's application is fair, accurate and only used where appropriate.

This goal is the complete opposite of what will be produced by the "secret executions" bill, being pushed by the Ohio's prosecutors and apparently to be quietly slid through the lame duck session between Election Day and the New Year, a time when few are looking and the legislature appear less accountable.

Simply put, the "secret executions" bill will ensure that Ohioans have no idea how our state is conducting executions on our behalf. It provides anonymity and immunity for pharmacies and physicians who the state finds to participate in executions.

This would be completely against the ethical codes of both doctors and pharmacists, and it would be a recipe for abuse, since we won't know who is participating in executions, or what methods are being used.

This is not how we should allow our government to act in our name.

In the next General Assembly session, state legislative leaders should take up the common sense reforms recommended by the Supreme Court Task Force. But they should immediately put aside the "secret executions" bill that will inevitably make Ohio's death penalty system more flawed than it is already.

If Ohio is going to have the death penalty, it ought to be fair and accurate – and transparent. People on both sides know that right now the death penalty is neither of those things.



Sacrificing transparency a bad option in lethal-injection bill

After Ohio botched its last execution Jan. 17, leaving convicted killer Dennis McGuire gasping and choking for about 20 minutes before succumbing, we would hope our area lawmakers would join the fight for more transparency involving the process of how to carry out death sentences.

Instead, state Reps. Matt Huffman and Jim Buchy's solution to ensure executions cannot be labeled as "cruel and unusual punishment" is to put the wants of pharmaceutical companies above the public's right for information. The 2 are the sponsors of House Bill 663, a piece of misguided legislation that could be rushed into law by year's end.

The bill stems from the difficulties in getting the right drugs for lethal injections.

State officials have claimed Ohio's inability to obtain the preferred lethal-injection drug, pentobarbital, was a factor in the problems with McGuire's execution. The drug was unavailable from European pharmaceutical companies, which refused to continue selling it for executions after being tirelessly harassed by anti-death-penalty protesters.

The alternative, the state has found, is to obtain different drug compounds from small-scale drug manufacturers. However, these so-called compounding pharmacies also are reluctant to make lethal-injection drugs unless they can remain anonymous, again for fear of public reprisal.

The problem with the Huffman-Buchy bill is that as written, its provisions curtail meaningful scrutiny of how the death penalty is implemented. Any records that could lead to the identification of pharmacists, drug companies or physicians involved with the executions would be confidential. In short, there would be no accountability should something go wrong.

As many people who testified during the House hearings pointed out in detail, the bill also remains problematic on multiple levels and may have significant Constitutional problems that go beyond the concerns we have about shielding the execution process in greater secrecy.

The bill deserves more thoughtful consideration outside a fast-moving, lame-duck legislative session. It was proposed just weeks ago and pushed through the House on Friday. It's now in the hands of another local legislator, Senate President Keith Faber, who will decide if the Senate will debate the measure before adjourning for the year in early December. If the Senate fails to take up the bill, it would then die and have to be reintroduced next year.

The power of the state to carry out the death penalty must be exercised in the open. Transparency is necessary to ensure public oversight of a punishment that is unique in its finality.

As Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman told the Associated Press, "If the only way we can preserve this method of execution is by making it more secret, that, to me, is something of a sign that we shouldn't be trying to preserve this method of execution."

(source: Editorial, The Lima News)


Few exonerees receive payment for wrongful convictions

State compensation laws differ widely

Nationwide, more than 240 people have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing. The National Exoneration Registry lists these among nearly 1,500 total cases in which people were exonerated due to new evidence of innocence. Laws to compensate people exonerated in such cases vary widely.

-- Oklahoma is one of 27 states that have a law allowing compensation for wrongful convictions.

-- The state's law provides up to $175,000 to people if their convictions were overturned due to actual innocence. The person must not have pled guilty to receive compensation.

-- 12 states cap the amount exonerees can receive, including Oklahoma. 3 states pay less to exonerees than Oklahoma.

-- 10 states provide for social services such as job training, health care and counseling. Oklahoma does not.

-- Texas is among states with the most generous compensation laws. The state pays exonerees $80,000 per year of imprisonment and provides many social services including medical treatment.

-- The Innocence Project recommends states provide exonerated people $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, social services and health insurance as well as an "official acknowledgment" of the wrongful conviction.

What Greg Wilhoit really wanted after 5 years on death row was an apology from the state of Oklahoma.

Sure, the money would have made a huge difference in Wilhoit's life after being convicted of murdering his wife, losing his freedom and missing the chance to raise his 2 daughters.

After 12 forensic experts said Wilhoit's teeth did not match a bite mark used to convict him in 1987, an appeals court threw out his conviction. 2 years later, a judge halted Osage County prosecutors' efforts to retry him, telling Wilhoit: "You're free to go."

But after nearly 10 years of fighting to get some compensation following his release, Wilhoit had not seen a dime from the state under its 2003 law providing compensation for wrongful convictions.

A review by the Tulsa World shows Wilhoit's difficulty collecting compensation under the law is not unusual. Few Oklahomans receive any money after their convictions are overturned due to evidence indicating innocence.

Even when Oklahoma passed the law to compensate people like Wilhoit, he was doubtful he'd get any help.

"He never allowed himself to have hope because hope just destroys you," said his sister, Nancy Vollertsen, of Edmond.

The state fought Wilhoit's attempts to collect money under the law, claiming he had not received a finding of "actual innocence" as required. In 2009, the state Supreme Court ruled the law should apply retroactively to Wilhoit's case and others before 2003 because the law requiring such a finding didn't exist then.

With the help of attorney Mark Barrett, Wilhoit eventually convinced the state to pay him something in 2012.

However, it was a fraction of what he could have been paid. Terms of the settlement are confidential but the amount is about 1/3 of the state's $175,000 maximum, Vollertsen said.

The years of hard living and bad luck after his release took their toll on Wilhoit. He began to drink, was diagnosed with PTSD and was partially paralyzed after a car struck him.

Wilhoit died at age 59 on Valentine's Day 2014, about a year after receiving payment from the state.

"There's just no way to come out of an experience like that undamaged, when you sit in a windowless box for 5 years. ... I always told him how much I admired him for even being able to survive it," his sister said.

The World's review shows Wilhoit is among just 6 out of 28 Oklahomans listed on the National Exoneration Registry who collected any money for their years spent in prison. They served an average of 9 years in prison, with 1/2 serving a decade or more.

The National Exoneration Registry is a project founded by the University of Michigan law school. The website tracks cases in which a person was convicted of a crime and later cleared of all charges based on new evidence of innocence.

Of those 28 cases, 11 people were freed after DNA tests showed they were innocent.

Records show 6 people have been freed from Oklahoma's death row after they were exonerated. They include Curtis McCarty, who was sentenced to death 3 times before DNA tests in 2007 showed he was innocent.

Only 1 of those 6 people, Ron Williamson, collected payment from the state.

Like most other states, Oklahoma's wrongful conviction law requires a legal finding of "actual innocence" after convictions are overturned. In practice, the process often requires exonerated people to prove their innocence again in court.

To seek compensation under the law, exonerees must file tort claims from the state or local agency involved in the case. If the agency does not pay the claim within the time allowed by law, the claimant must then file a lawsuit in state court.

The law also allows payment to people who receive a pardon from the state. However the Pardon and Parole Board told Wilhoit the state could not pardon someone considered legally innocent, Vollertsen said.

In a few cases reviewed by the World, exonerees filed federal civil rights lawsuits and won judgments that were thrown out on appeal.

Records show at least 14 of the 28 people filed either a lawsuit or a tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit that government agencies can pay without going to court.

The World found just 1 case in which the state or a local government agency paid a tort claim without forcing the exoneree to file a lawsuit under the 2003 law. That involved Tulsan Sedrick Courtney, who served 16 years in prison for a robbery and burglary conviction.

Tulsa police told Courtney and the Innocence Project twice that hair from a ski mask and other evidence used to convict him had been destroyed.

Then in 2011, after Courtney had been paroled, the Innocence Project inquired again about the evidence. This time, Tulsa police said they found the hair evidence. A DNA test excluded Courtney as a possible donor of the hairs and in 2012, a judge ruled he had proven his innocence.

Courtney has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, claiming the city used manufactured evidence to convict him and obstructed his efforts to prove he was innocent.

Gerald Bender, litigation manager for the city's legal department, said he could not comment on Courtney's case.

In general, Bender said the city has no policy on handling claims filed under the law and "each case is evaluated on its merits."

'The lucky ones'

The city of Tulsa was ordered to pay Arvin McGee the largest judgment to any of the 28 exonerated Oklahomans.

McGee was convicted of the 1987 rape and kidnapping of a Tulsa woman and was released from prison in 2002 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. Later that year, the DNA was matched to a man already serving time for sex crimes.

McGee sued the city of Tulsa in federal court, claiming Tulsa police failed to investigate leads to other suspects adequately, failed to present a photo lineup containing other suspects and failed to present live and voice lineups.

In 2006, a Tulsa federal jury returned a $14.5 million verdict in McGee's favor. He settled with the city and received $12.2 million.

While attending a banquet for the Oklahoma Innocence Project in September, McGee told the World he remains in Tulsa and is raising 2 young children.

"I'm still amazed about the time that some of these guys have done," McGee said. "We're the lucky ones."

Cases such as McGee's illustrate what can happen when jurors hear details of a wrongful conviction. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Out of 11 cases studied by the World in which DNA evidence led to an exoneration, 6 people collected money from the state or other government agency. Besides McGee's case, payments in only 1 other DNA case exceeded $1 million, records show.

Those figures are actually higher than the national average, according to an Innocence Project report. Nationwide, DNA exonerees win lawsuits in about 28 percent of the cases.

"I think there's a false assumption that everybody gets a big payday, because that's what gets the most attention and of course it has happened," said Barrett, Wilhoit's attorney.

Barrett has represented several Oklahoma defendants in high profile cases resulting in exoneration. His clients have included Ron Williamson, whose story was the focus of John Grisham's "The Innocent Man," and Williamson's co-defendant, Dennis Fritz.

Both were convicted in the 1988 murder of a woman in Pontotoc County and exonerated in 1999 through DNA testing. Williamson came within 5 days of being put to death before his release.

Both received undisclosed settlements from the state following their exonerations.

Barrett also represented David Bryson, 1 of 4 people whose convictions were thrown out due to false testimony given by an Oklahoma City police chemist, Joyce Gilchrist.

Even with the widespread attention given to Gilchrist's false testimony and firing, 2 of those people collected nothing from Oklahoma City or the state, records show.

Barrett said the state could improve its law by increasing the amount it pays wrongfully convicted people and reviewing the standard for proving innocence.

"You almost have to be the case - which are not the majority of exonerations - that not only has DNA but has DNA which by its location could have only been placed there by the perpetrator. ... Without solving the case for the prosecution, even the most innocent person who there is absolutely no evidence against cannot prove definitively that they were not the person who did it."

'Not even a penny'

Greg and Kathy Wilhoit had been separated a few weeks when Kathy Wilhoit was found with her throat slashed in her north Tulsa apartment, where she was living with the couple's 2 young daughters.

The sole evidence used to convict Wilhoit in Osage County of his wife's 1985 death was a bite mark on her breast. Osage County District Attorney Larry Stuart found 2 dentists who said the bite mark matched Wilhoit's mouth.

Wilhoit's trial attorney, whose alcoholism was not a secret in the legal community, didn't ask any experts to look at the bite mark evidence. The jury handed Wilhoit a death sentence.

Wilhoit was assigned an appellate attorney, Barrett, who sent the bite mark evidence to 12 of the top forensic dental experts in North America. They weren't told whether the defense or prosecutors sought their opinions.

All 12 returned reports finding no evidence that Wilhoit's teeth matched the bite mark.

Use of bite-mark evidence in criminal cases has since been discredited. It has a 63 % rate of false identifications, the American Board of Odontology found in one study.

Still, it would take Wilhoit 4 years until the Court of Criminal Appeals examined the evidence and overturned his conviction.

During that time, the state carried out its 1st execution since the 1970s. Wilhoit's cell was about 100 feet from the death chamber. The experience led him to become a leading advocate of abolishing the death penalty, speaking across the nation about his experience.

In a 2003 interview posted on the Death Penalty Information Center's website, Wilhoit described the toll his wrongful conviction had on his life:

"I have been out more than 10 years. The toughest parts have been re-assimilating into society, and dealing with emotional and psychological damage from my experience. I lost the opportunity to raise my 2 daughters. I never received an apology. ... Every time I tell my story, it validates my experience. I tell what happened to me, how I feel, and let people draw their own conclusions."

(source: Tulsa World)


Mental health evaluation in Oregon bridge death

A woman accused of throwing her 6-year-old autistic son off a bridge on the Oregon coast earlier this month will undergo a mental health evaluation at the state mental hospital.

A judge ordered the evaluation on Thursday after Jillian McCabe's defense attorneys requested it.

KATU-TV reported the attorneys say McCabe had previously been committed to the hospital.

McCabe has not entered a plea on charges of aggravated murder, murder and 2 counts of manslaughter. The aggravated murder charge carries a potential death penalty, and was brought because the victim was under 14 years old.

An uncle has said she received psychiatric treatment for emotional distress from years of caring for the child, and more recently for her disabled husband.

(source: Associated Press)


Court Martial Defense Lawyer Published in American Bar Association Book

Court martial defense lawyer co-authors chapter in American Bar Association book, "The State of Criminal Justice 2014." As one of the cornerstones of the Criminal Justice Section's work, this publication serves as an invaluable resource for policy-makers, academics, and students of the criminal justice system.

Military defense attorney, Mr. Waddington, recently co-authored a chapter in the American Bar Association book, "The State of Criminal Justice 2014," along with criminal defense attorneys, Morgan Raye Sigman and William L. Summers. Their chapter was titled, "Executing the Severely Mentally Ill."

In their chapter, the authors explore the considerable gaps in the criminal justice system when it comes to protecting severely mentally ill defendants. Reviewing U.S. and state Supreme Court decisions in various death penalty cases, the authors note that under current law, persons considered severely mentally ill but not insane or mentally retarded have no exemption from capital punishment.

"The State of Criminal Justice" is an annual publication of the American Bar Association (ABA). This book describes major developments in different aspects of the criminal justice system during 2013 and suggests likely directions for the coming year. As well as covering more familiar turf, many chapters also address cutting edge topics or developing trends in criminal justice.

As one of the cornerstones of the Criminal Justice Section's work, this publication serves as an invaluable resource for policy-makers, academics, and students of the criminal justice system. The 2014 volume contains 21 chapters focusing on specific aspects of the criminal justice field, with summaries of all of the adopted official ABA policies passed in 2013-2014 that address criminal justice issues.

Michael Waddington was also a contributing author to "The State of Criminal Justice 2013."

About Michael Waddington:

Mr. Waddington defends serious criminal cases worldwide. Some of his high profile cases have been reported on by major media outlets including CNN, The Rolling Stone, The New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, Time, ABC Nightline, Good Morning America, the BBC and have been the subject of books and movies.

His practice focuses on defending military service members at court martial and administrative separation boards. He has successfully defended military personnel in Europe (Germany, Italy, England, Spain), the Middle East, the Pacific (Hawaii, Korea, Japan, Guam), and throughout the United States.

(source: Free Press Release Center)


Death sentence for ex-Sunni lawmaker

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced former Sunni lawmaker and prominent politician Ahmed al-Elwani to death on terrorism-related charges, Iraqi media reported.

The ruling could anger the Sunni minority in a country roiled by sectarian tensions.

The sentence by the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad may be appealed, judicial spokesman Abdel-Sattar al-Yarqadar told the independent website Alsumaria News.

The death penalty in Iraq is carried out by hanging.

Al-Elwani was convicted of inciting sectarian tensions by backing Sunni protests against the Shi'a-led government.

Al-Elwani was arrested last year in a raid on his home in the predominately Sunni western province of Anbar.

5 people, including his brother, were killed in the operation, which triggered clashes between security forces and al-Elwani's Sunni backers.

The verdict against al-Elwani comes at a time when Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who took office in September, is seeking to drum up the backing of the country's Sunni community in the fight to dislodge Islamic State militants from Iraq.

The radical Sunni group controls large swathes of territory in Iraqi's Sunni heartland in the west and north.

Government troops, backed by tribal fighters, are currently battling the Islamic State in Anbar.

The al-Qaeda splinter group also controls areas in neighbouring Syria.

(source: IOL news)


Killings in the name of honour

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore handed death penalty on Wednesday to four men for killing a young woman in the name of family honour because she had contracted a marriage of her choice. These men - the victim's father, brother, a cousin and former husband - bludgeoned her to death last May outside the Lahore High Court where she had gone to record her statement in favour of her husband who had been accused of abducting her. In his verdict, the ATC judge observed that the gruesome murder, reminiscent of dark ages, having taken place near the High Court created fear and outrage among people who come to courts to seek protection against oppression. It is worthwhile to note that the male relatives of the women acted the way they did because of loopholes in the law that makes so-called honour killing a compoundable offence. It has become an accepted practice for male relatives, like in the present case, to murder a woman for deciding on her own to marry somebody, even on suspicion of having a liaison. The 'honour' pretext in some instance has also been used to get rid of women - even men - to grab the victims' property. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, about 900 women fell victim to honour-related crimes during 2013 alone.

In almost all cases these horrific crimes are committed secure in the knowledge that under the Qisas and Diyat laws 'honour killing' is a compoundable offense that can be forgiven by another blood relative. The Honour Killings Act, 2004, has failed clearly to address the issue due to the same reason, providing encouragement to people to go on killing in the name of family honour. This must change. Creditably for it, the Punjab government's Women Development Department has undertaken an initiative to amend the relevant laws with a view to make the crime a non-compoundable offense. However, a committee discussing the proposed amendment is said to be apprehensive about religious circles' reaction. Instead of worrying about reaction from one or the other section of society, the government needs to show the way forward. One of the proposals under discussion that makes ample sense is to amend Section 311 of the PPC under which the courts 'may' punish a murderer if the murder is found to be an act of 'Fasad Fil Arz' even if heirs of victims agree to pardon the killer(s). As per the law 'Fasad Fil Arz' principle applies to "brutal or shocking manner in which the offense has been committed which is outrageous to the public conscience, or if the offender is considered a potential danger to the community, or if the offense has been committed in the name or on the pretext of honour." This section provides adequate rationale for amendment.

First of all there, of course, can be no civilised argument against this crime being outrageous to public conscience. Secondly, and more to the point, included in the crimes falling within the purview of 'Fasad Fil Arz' is an "offense [that] has been committed in the name or on the pretext of honour." It is also worthwhile to note that a 2011 amendment to the relevant law provided that courts "may" punish killers pardoned under an agreement to life imprisonment (25 years), 14 years, or even hand them death sentence. And that the sentence "may" not be less than ten years. The Punjab Women's Development Department is on the right track in putting forward an amendment proposal that seeks to replace the word "may" with "shall" in order to make so-called honour killing a non-compoundable offense. No one should be allowed to create mischief in society in the fair name of religion.

(source: Business Recorder)


Suspected Malaysian smuggler arrested at Woodlands checkpoint

A suspected smuggler was arrested, and about 1kg of cannabis seized by immigration officials at the Woodlands checkpoint on Saturday.

A routine check on a Malaysia-registered car had turned up a block of the suspected cannabis in the engine compartment.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) was alerted at 1.05pm, Saturday.

The driver of the car, a 37-year-old Malaysian man, was arrested, CNB said in a statement on Sunday.

Investigations are ongoing, CNB said.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of importing more than 500g of cannabis may face the death penalty.

The cannabis has an estimated street value of more than S$33,000 (RM85,000).

(source: The Star)


China arrests man for spying on aircraft carrie base - CCTV

A Chinese man has been arrested for taking photos of an aircraft carrier base and selling them to a foreigner as more young Chinese Internet users are being recruited by foreign spies to gather intelligence on military affairs, state media said.

The man, surnamed Cao and from the eastern city of Qingdao, is awaiting trial, state broadcaster CCTV said on Saturday.

He had taken photos of an aircraft carrier base in Qingdao for a man who had claimed to be the editor of a military magazine and was paid "a large sum of cash", CCTV said.

"In recent years, the number of young Internet users like Cao who look for jobs and make friends on the Internet, been subverted by foreign espionage and intelligence agencies and accepted instructions from them to collect intelligence on military targets, has been increasing," CCTV said, citing unnamed counterintelligence officials.

CCTV said Cao, a local employee of a large business, had also entered a military airport to take photos and transmitted them to the editor.

In August, state media reported that a Chinese graduate student had been arrested for selling intelligence material to foreigners.

In May, a court handed a 10-year prison term to an individual who leaked secret documents and photographs, including military journals and information about bases in the southern province of Guangdong to a foreign spy.

China's state secrets law is notoriously broad, covering everything from industry data to the exact birth dates of state leaders. Information can also be labelled a state secret retroactively.

In severe cases, the theft of state secrets is punishable with life in prison or the death penalty.

(source: Reuters)


Bangladesh Islamist party chief files appeal against death penalty

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami has challenged the death penalty awarded to him by a war crimes tribunal.

The defence lawyer on Sunday filed an appeal against the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-1) verdict against the Jamaat chief.

Advocate Md Shishir Manir, on behalf of Mujaheed, filed the appeal in the Supreme Court.

On October 29, the ICT-1 handed down capital punishment to Jamaat chief for war crimes which include the killings of intellectuals.

The ICT-1 judge panel explained the 16 charges levelled against the accused 71-year-old Jamaat President Nizami, who is now behind the bar.

Nizami was indicted in 2012 with 16 charges of crimes against humanity including looting, mass killings, arson, rape and forcefully converting people into Muslims during the war.

The indictment order, in a brief profile of the accused, said Nizami was a key organizer of the Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of then Pakistani army which planned and executed the killing of Bangalee intellectuals at the fag end of the Liberation War in 1971.

After the verdict, Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters that 8 "charges including murder against Nizami were proved beyond a reasonable doubt leading to a death sentence to the leader of Jamaat."

In his petition filed on Sunday with the Supreme Court, Nizami claimed himself innocent and sought acquittal on all the eight charges for which was given capital punishment.

After filing the appeal, Manir, a counsel for Nizami, said the Supreme Court will now fix a date for hearing the appeal.

5 top Jamaat leaders have already been punished for their 1971 crimes and Nizami is among three other top leaders now being tried in war crimes tribunals which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasian's Bangladesh Awami League-led government formed in 2010 to bring the perpetrators of 1971 to book.

Apart from Jamaat high-ups, a few leaders of ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are also facing trials.

Both BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government " show trial" and said it is a domestic set-up without the oversight or involvement of the United Nations.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said about 3 million people were killed in the war although independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.

(source: Global Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

2 men beheaded for raping 2 girls----Saudis convicted of raping, stealing cars and taking drugs

Saudi authorities beheaded 2 local men convicted of raping 2 girls, stealing cars and taking drugs, the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Sami bin Yehya Gazwani and Talal bin Mousa Gazwani were executed in the Saudi capital in Riyadh on Friday after they were sentenced to death by the higher court.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the 2 had confessed to the crimes they committed nearly seven months ago.


NOVEMBER 22, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Sister of Mentally Ill Texas Man Sentenced to Die in December Pleads to Rick Perry to Spare His Life

The sister of Scott Panetti, a paranoid schizophrenic set to be executed by the state of Texas on Dec. 3 for the murder of 2 people, has pleaded with Gov. Rick Perry to commute his sentence to life in prison. Victoria Panetti has said that her brother, who believes he's being executed for preaching the Gospel, does not understand fact from fiction, and started an online petition asking Perry to spare his life.

"Having a brother on death row is like having a terminally ill family member. But there's 1 big difference: we can't stop a terminal illness, but we can stop Texas from killing a mentally ill man," Victoria Panetti wrote in a letter alongside the petition.

"I know it's hard to see beyond the fact that Scott took 2 lives, but he suffers from a severe illness that changed the way his mind works. He doesn't understand fact from fiction. He's still my big brother, the strong and handsome sailor who served in the Navy."

On Wednesday, Texas Judge Keith Williams refused to postpone Panetti's execution, which means the mentally ill convicted killer is set to be put to death by lethal injection on Dec. 3.

The 56-year-old man was found guilty of murdering his parents-in-law in 1992. His death sentence was initially scheduled to be carried out in 2004, but a federal judge stayed the order at the time.

Panetti has suffered from schizophrenia and various other mental disorders for over 30 years, and had been hospitalized 12 times due to psychotic behavior before he committed the murders. He has indicated that he believes that he's in a battle with Satan, and has attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ while representing himself in trial.

Both mental health professionals and over 50 Evangelical leaders have opposed his execution, arguing that he does not understand why he's being put to death.

"If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he's being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife's parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served," the Texas Defender Service group warned.

Evangelical leaders who also wrote to Perry stated: "As Christians, we are called to protect the most vulnerable, and we count Mr. Panetti - a man who has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years - to be among them. If ever there was a clear case of an individual suffering from mental illness, this is it."

The case has attracted attention overseas as well, with the European Union asking Texas to grant Panetti clemency.

"The execution of persons suffering from a mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and is in contradiction to the minimum standards of human rights set forth in several international human rights instruments," the EU wrote in a separate letter.

In her online petition, Victoria Panetti argued that her brother is not a "cold-blooded killer," but a "very sick person."

"The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of severely mentally ill individuals who do not understand the reason for their punishment. Scott is not mentally competent: he would go to the execution chamber believing his fixed delusion that he's being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife's parents," she continued.

"It's not right for our country to use capital punishment on a severely mentally ill person like my brother Scott."

The petition has so far been signed by over 26,000 people.

(source: Christian Post)


Trial set for Gilmer man accused of killing his child's mother at football game

A trial date has been set in the case of a man charged with capital murder in a September 2013 shooting death that occurred at a Gilmer sub-varsity football game.

District Judge Lauren Parish on Friday set a Feb. 3 trial date for Jonathan Ray Shepherd, who was arrested in connection with the Sept. 26 shooting death of 29-year-old Cheyenne Green. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2, Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said.

The decision came during a hearing Friday in which Shepherd, 33, was seeking to have his $1 million bond reduced and in which he was requesting a change of venue for his trial.

Parish denied both requests.

According to a probable cause affidavit for Shepherd's arrest, he met Green in the parking lot of Buckeye Stadium during halftime of a football game to give their then 2-year-old child to her. A witness told police the couple was arguing about custody of the child.

Sometime after the argument, Shepherd called his wife, Suzanne Bates, and told her he had done "something bad and he couldn't take it anymore and that she was dead," according to the affidavit.

Shepherd then told Bates to go to the parking lot, where she would find the victim's car running and his son in the backseat, according to the affidavit. Bates went to the parking lot, where she found the boy in the car and saw Green lying in blood.

An autopsy showed Green was shot 3 times.

Shepherd was initially charged with murder but Byrd enhanced the charge in October 2013 to capital murder by terror threat or other felony after evidence showed he was attempting to kidnap Green when she was murdered, Byrd said.

"In the course of the investigation, we have learned he was trying to kidnap Cheyenne Green," Byrd said last year. "It's a big jump from regular murder. It changes sentencing options dramatically."

Shepherd faces up to life in prison or the death penalty on the capital murder charge.

Shepherd remains in the Upshur County Jail.

(source: Longview News-Journal)


Woman, husband indicted on capital murder in boy's death

The mother and stepfather of a 6-year-old boy who died in August were indicted this week in connection with his death.

Nancy Rae Martinez, 27, and Albert Villarreal, also 27, were indicted Thursday on 1 count each of capital murder and 1st-degree murder, according to online court records.

The couple were arrested after medics saw bruising on Xadrian Martinez's body after he was taken to Driscoll Children's Hospital on Aug. 27 for a reported seizure.

Xadrian Martinez had a head injury and bruising on his back, buttocks and chest, according to an affidavit.

Villarreal and Martinez told police the night of Xadrian Martinez's death he threw a fit and had a seizure, causing him to fall and hit his head on the kitchen floor, according to another affidavit. But the boy's 8-year-old sister told authorities at the hospital that Villarreal hit her brother and choked him after he soiled his clothing, according to the affidavit.

Medics also saw cuts to his genitalia that appeared to be either bite marks or cuts caused by "pinching with finger nails," according to the affidavit.

Nancy Martinez's mother, Cindy Martinez, told police the night of Xadrian's death that his mother admitted to "hitting Xadrian all over his body," the affidavit states.

The boy's 2 siblings, an 8-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy, were placed with Child Protective Services. A judge in September ruled they would remain in state custody pending the outcome of a home study of an aunt and uncle, according to court documents.

Capital murder carries only 2 punishment options - life in prison or the death penalty.

Martinez and Villarreal remained Friday in Nueces County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. Martinez also faces a motion to revoke her probation in an unrelated felony case, court records show.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)


Activists seek clemency for terminally ill Texas death row inmate

Activists delivered a petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry on Friday with more than 100,000 signatures seeking the release of a death row inmate they say is terminally ill and only has weeks to live.

The governor's office was not immediately available to comment on the petition launched by religious groups and activists including the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Max Soffar, convicted in the July 1980 slaying of 3 people at a Houston bowling alley.

"This is the time for mercy - let's not let him fall through the cracks of justice; let's not let him die behind bars," the petition said. It is seeking clemency so that he can die at home.

Soffar's case has been the focus of anti-death penalty campaigners for years. They have said he is an innocent man largely convicted on the basis of a confession signed after days of "oppressive interrogation" and without clear objective evidence pointing to his guilt.

The state has maintained the confession was voluntary, lawful and implicates him as the murderer.

Soffar, 58, has been on death row for more than 30 years. He was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in July 2014 and was told at that time that he only has months to live, according to court papers filed on his behalf.

The 3 people killed at the bowling alley were Arden Fisher, 17, her boyfriend Tommy Temple, 17, and Stephen Sims, 25. All 3 were shot execution-style with a handgun, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

(source: Reuters)

PENNSYLVANIA----new execution dates

Governor Corbett Signs Execution Warrants

Governor Tom Corbett today signed execution warrants for 3 men: 1 convicted of murder for the shooting death of a Philadelphia County police officer; 1 convicted for murdering a Fayette County couple and their daughter; and, 1 convicted for killing his girlfriend in Lawrence County.

Christopher Roney was convicted in Philadelphia County Court of 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Lauretha Vaird on January 2, 1996.

Mark Duane Edwards was convicted in Fayette County Court of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Larry Bobish Sr., his wife Joanna Bobish, and their 17-year-old pregnant daughter Krystal Bobish on April 14, 2002.

Dennis C. Reed was convicted in Lawrence County Court of 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of Wendy Miller, his girlfriend and mother of his son, on December 16, 2001.

All 3 men are incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene. Roney's execution has been scheduled for January 8, 2015; Edwards' execution has been scheduled for January 13, 2015; Reed's execution has been scheduled for January 15, 2015.

The execution warrants signed today for Roney, Edwards and Reed were Governor Corbett's 41st, 42nd, and 43rd warrants signed, respectively, since taking office.

Executions in Pennsylvania are carried out by lethal injection. For more information, visit the Department of Corrections online at and select "Death Penalty" from the left-side navigation bar.

Case Backgrounds:

Roney, now 44, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder, among other charges, by a jury on October 30, 1996, and the jury returned a death verdict on November 1, 1996 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

On January 2, 1996, at approximately 8:20 a.m., Roney along with 2 others, Ernest Canty and Warren McGlone, attempted to rob a PNC Bank at 4710 Rising Sun Avenue in Philadelphia. As the assistant manager arrived for work, Canty grabbed her and the bank manager and forced them into the bank at gunpoint. Moments later, Roney grabbed the head teller of the bank as she arrived.

Police were notified of the robbery attempt by a nearby business and Officer Lauretha Vaird, a 9-year veteran with the police department, was the 1st officer to arrive on scene. As she entered the bank in uniform, Roney fired a fatal shot into her abdomen. As additional officers arrived, the men fled the scene.

Based upon eyewitness statements and identifications, Roney was arrested and charged with the murder of Officer Vaird. His accomplices were arrested and subsequently confessed to their participation in the robbery.

Edwards, now 32, was found guilty of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder by a jury on May 7, 2004, and the jury returned a death verdict on May 17, 2004 in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas.

On April 12, 2002, Edwards robbed Larry Bobish Sr. during a drug sale at Bobish's residence. 2 days later, Edwards returned to the Bobish residence. Mr. Bobish let him inside and at some point while the men talked, Edwards pulled out a black automatic handgun and shot Mr. Bobish in the chest. Edwards then ran into the living room and shot Mr. Bobish's son, Larry Bobish Jr., in the neck.

Edwards then went into the bedroom and shot Mr. Bobish's wife Joanna once in the neck, killing her. The shots woke up their 17-year-old pregnant daughter Krystal, who confronted Edwards and asked him to stop shooting. Edwards then shot Krystal twice and she fell to the floor, where he proceeded to kick her in the stomach. Larry Jr. attempted to stop Edwards, but Edwards slapped him and cut him on the neck. Edwards then went upstairs and set fire to the bedroom and fled the scene. Larry Jr. was able to crawl outside to the driveway and call for help.

On April 18, 2002, Larry Bobish Jr. identified Edwards as the man who shot him and killed his family. Later that day, Edwards confessed to the shootings, although at trial 2 years later, he testified on his own behalf that he had no involvement in the shootings. Autopsies revealed that all 3 victims died before the fire began and Krystal Bobish's unborn male fetus died due to lack of oxygen resulting from his mother's death.

Reed, now 43, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder by a jury on January 31, 2008, and the jury returned a death verdict on February 1, 2008 in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.

In 2001, Reed moved into a New Castle apartment with his girlfriend, Wendy Miller, their 12-year-old son, and her 3 other children. After Ms. Miller applied for a Protection From Abuse Order against Reed, he showed up at the residence in the early morning of December 16, 2001. When he was let in by 1 of the children, Reed went upstairs to Ms. Miller's bedroom and forcibly removed her from the house, returning 10 minutes later to gather her 3 children (their son was with another family member).

They drove to a local housing project in Ms. Miller's SUV, where Ms. Miller and Reed exited the vehicle, leaving her 3 children inside. Reed returned alone 20 minutes later; when asked by Ms. Miller's eldest child where her mother was, Reed replied that their aunt had taken their mother to work.

Ms. Miller's family notified New Castle police that she and her children were missing. A search commenced, and Butler City police found Reed outside Ms. Miller's SUV on December 22, where they arrested him. The children were located inside the vehicle and sent with family members. Police seized a loaded shotgun, along with Reed's clothing which had stains that were later tested and found to have genetic markers consistent with Ms. Miller's blood.

Family members continued the search for Wendy Miller and ultimately found her body on December 23, 2001, in a desolate and secluded area of the woods. Ms. Miller had been shot at close range in the head with a shotgun.



Execution warrant signed for Phila. man

Gov. Corbett on Friday signed an execution warrant for the man convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer Lauretha Vaird in a 1996 bank robbery.

Christopher Roney's execution date was set for Jan. 8 - almost exactly 19 years to the day since Vaird was shot while responding to a robbery at a PNC Bank in Feltonville.

The death warrant is Corbett's 41st signed since he assumed office. The governor also signed warrants for two other men, according to a statement from his office.

Roney, 44, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and robbery in the early morning holdup of the PNC Bank at 4710 Rising Sun Ave. on Jan. 2, 1996. Vaird, a 9-year veteran of the force and a single mother of 2 sons, was the 1st officer on the scene. The 43-year-old officer was fatally shot once in the abdomen as she walked into the bank.

Eyewitness statements and identifications led to Roney's arrest and subsequent charges, according to a statement from the governor's office. 2 other men were convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the case.

Roney - a Philadelphia man who before his arrest was a fairly well-known local rapper known as "Cool C" - has maintained he's innocent.

At his trial, he and his mother testified that he had been at home cooking breakfast at the time of the robbery. And he has appealed his conviction and his sentence. The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 2005 and former Gov. Ed Rendell signed an execution warrant the following year.

Vaird's death shocked the city and the 25th District, where she was a well-liked officer. She was the first female officer in Philadelphia to be killed in the line of duty.

Her oldest son, Michael Caesar, has said in interviews that her death has devastated his family.

"Hurry up and lay him on the table," he said at a 2009 post-conviction hearing for Roney, who is being held at Southwestern Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution at Greene.

(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)


Men found guilty of Eden Park slayings

The 2 men accused of being the Eden Park shooters were convicted Friday night of 1st-degree murder and manslaughter, among other charges.

After 3 days of deliberation, a New Castle County jury found Otis Phillips guilty of 13 charges including 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter, and Jeffrey Phillips guilty of 11 charges including 1st-degree murder and manslaughter.

Because the panel of 12 found each defendant guilty of 1st-degree murder, Otis Phillips, 38, and Jeffrey Phillips, 23, now face a potential death sentence.

A penalty hearing, where the defense attorneys will present mitigating factors arguing against death and prosecutors will present aggravating factors in favor of death, will start on December 1.

Family members of the Eden Park victims Herman Curry, 47, and Alexander Kamara Jr. 16, were in the courtroom Friday evening and became emotional after the multiple guilty verdicts were handed down. On the way out of the courtroom family members said they were too overwhelmed to speak.

Prosecutors John Downs and Ipek Medford along with Jeffrey Phillips' attorneys Kevin O'Connell and Raymond Armstrong declined comment outside court citing the pending penalty phase of the trial.

Otis Phillips' attorney Anthony Figliola said both he and co-counsel Michael Heyden appreciated the jury's careful and thoughtful consideration of the case. "They didn't rush," he said, adding they will now move forward to the penalty phase and trust the jury will be just as thoughtful for that part of the trial.

Prosecutors charged that Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips, who are not related, were members of the Sure Shots street gang and went to a Jamaican soccer tournament in Eden Park on July 8, 2012 seeking revenge against members of the Jamaican community because a Jamaican man shot and killed a friend of their at a party hours earlier.

Prosecutors said Otis Phillips also specifically targeted Herman Curry, who had organized the soccer tournament, because in 2008 Curry had seen Otis Phillips shoot and kill Christopher Palmer.

Eyewitnesses testified at trial that Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips walked into the park together that day, around 2:30 p.m., dressed in black and with grim looks on their faces. Otis walked directly to Herman Curry and tapped Curry on his shoulder with his right hand and as Curry turned, Otis raised a gun with his left and began firing. One witness said he heard Otis tell Curry, "today you dead."

Curry then tried to run but witnesses said Otis Phillips chased after him and continued to fire.

As this was happening, witnesses testified Jeffrey Phillips pulled out a gun, turned toward the crowd and began shooting. At that moment witnesses said they saw Alexander Kamara Jr., who was waiting for his turn to play in the tournament, drop to the ground and never move again.

Curry was hit 3 times in the chest by bullets, Kamara was hit once in the head.

The jury found both men guilty of the intentional murder of Curry, holding Jeffrey Phillips as responsible as Otis Phillips under the theory of accomplice liability.

But the jury apparently also believed the defense argument that the killing of Kamara was a reckless act by Jeffrey Phillips and not an intentional one. The panel found both defendants guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter for Kamara.

Both men were also convicted of gang participation.

As for the 2008 murder of Christopher Palmer, Jeffrey Phillips was not charged in that slaying and Otis Phillips was found guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Witnesses testified that Otis Phillips and several Sure Shots attempted to push their way into Herman Curry's birthday party in January 2008 and when the bouncer, Christopher Palmer, refused to let them in because they were carrying guns a fight ensued. It ended when Otis shot and killed Palmer, according to testimony.

Manslaughter carries a potential penalty of 2 to 25 years in prison and 2nd-degree murder carries a potential penalty of 15 years to life.

And while prosecutors had argued that Jeffrey Phillips was guilty of riot and 3rd degree assault as part of a melee at a Bridgeville convenience store in Feb. 2012 involving the Sure Shots, the jury instead convicted Jeffrey Phillips of the lesser charges of disorderly conduct and offensive touching.

The jury reached its unanimous conclusion after 3, apparently contentious, days of deliberation.

At one point it appeared that the panel was going to be deadlocked when 1 juror sent out a note saying that she no longer wanted to be a part of the jury and she did not think the process was furthering the interests of justice. The jury forewoman then sent out a note saying that the lone juror was preventing the panel from having productive discussions.

But after instructions from the judge, the panel apparently worked out their differences.

Jurors will now have a week off and return on Dec. 1 to decide if Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips should face the death penalty or be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

The penalty phase could take up to 3 weeks and there are pending motions to have separate hearing for each defendant.

Typically the jury hears from both from family members of the victim and family members of the convicted along with experts at a penalty hearing.

After the conclusion of the penalty hearing, the jury will take a vote on a recommendation, which does not have to be unanimous.

Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott then will decide if a death sentence or life in prison is the appropriate punishment. Scott, however, will have to give significant consideration to the jury recommendation.

(source: The News Journal)


Howard and Black indicted for murder

2 men facing charges in the disappearance and murder of a University of Cincinnati adjunct professor were indicted by a Fleming County grand jury Friday.

Charles Black, 55, of Hillsboro, and Kevin Howard, 38, of Owingsville, were indicted on charges of murder, theft by unlawful taking, tampering with physical evidence, 1st-degree robbery and kidnapping.

Additionally, Howard was charged with being a persistent felony offender.

Both men will appear in Circuit Court on Dec. 5, at 1 p.m., for arraignment.

Commonwealth's Attorney Kelly Clarke said the minimum sentence for the charge of murder is 20 years and the maximum is the death penalty.

"The death penalty or life in prison are 2 major sentences that can be reached with a charge this severe," he said.

Clarke said he has not yet determined if he will seek the death penalty.

The charges came about after Black was arrested on Oct. 1 in connection with the disappearance of Randall Russ.

Black was arrested after officials said he led officers with the Kentucky State Police to a body buried in a shallow grave in the Hillsboro area of Fleming County. The body is believed to belong to Russ, but has not yet been positively identified, according to KSP Trooper Wes Prather.

Prather said Black was questioned after evidence emerged of him using Russ's credit card to withdraw $700 from an ATM. Black then told police Howard had killed Russ in his home while he was next door. Black said when he returned, Russ was bound and gagged and was dead.

Black said he and Howard took Russ's body to the area of Ringo Grange City Road, where they buried him in a shallow grave before cleaning Russ's vehicle and taking it to Fort Boonesborough in Richmond, according to Prather.

Howard was arrested in Lexington by the Lexington Police Department on Oct. 9.

During Howard's pretrial hearing, Prather told the court there was reason to doubt Black's story, as Black had allegedly confessed to a cellmate that he was the one who killed Russ.

A missing Bath County woman may also have ties to Howard, according to officials.

Norma Jo Brown, 33, of Salt Lick, was reported missing on Oct. 2 by her mother, who said she last saw Brown sometime in September, according to KSP Master Trooper Veeneman.

Veeneman said the family believes Brown may have last been seen with Howard.

According to Veeneman, Brown has not yet been located. She is 5 feet tall, with blonde hair and brown eyes. She also wears glasses.

Black is currently being held in the Mason County Detention Center, while Howard is being held in the Montgomery County Detention Center. Both are being held on a $1 million bond.



Contentious Debate Erupts Over Lethal Injections

A bill to help the state secure a proper supply of drugs for lethal injections turned into a debate over secrecy in the process. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports.

The Ohio House passed a bill that conceals the identity of companies and pharmacies that provide drugs used for state executions. Supporters - such as Republican Representative Jim Buchy of Greenville - say this measure is needed in order to obtain the drug that's proven successful during executions in the past.

Buchy: "This is a narrowly defined piece of legislation to provide confidentiality so that they can conduct that job that they're entrusted to do by law and by decision of courts in capital cases where the guilty has been sentenced to death."

Ohio has not carried out the death penalty since January - when the problematic execution of Dennis McGuire made headlines around the world. Reports said the convicted murderer and rapist appeared to struggle and gasp for air during the process, though the prisons department said its investigation showed he was executed humanely.

McGuire's execution was the 1st time the state used a certain drug combination. The drug the state previously used is no longer available from the manufacturer - but pharmacies can recreate it.

Dan Tierney is spokesperson for Attorney General Mike DeWine. He says extending confidentiality will encourage pharmacies that can make the drug to boost the state's supply without fearing protest or some type of retribution.

Tierney: "The drugs being used in executions are not being provided to the department. And so one possible source could be compound pharmacies, but allowing the compound pharmacies and the pharmacist that compound the drugs to remain anonymous."

Concerns about the bill on the House floor broke into 2 basic positions - those against the death penalty and those who support open records.

Curtin: "None of us should like secrecy in an open society. It should be as rare as we can make it."

That's Democratic Representative Mike Curtin of Columbus. The former journalist expressed his reservations on a bill that extends confidentiality.

Curtin: "This state used to be a model state for openness - open records - open meetings - about 15 years ago we started rolling that back. And if you look at the record we've been taking lots of things off of public record - out of the public domain and putting them behind closed doors and that should be a concern - not just to old newspaper people but I think to everybody."

While Curtin did have his hang-ups on the bill - he still voted in favor of the measure. He cited the efforts to fix parts of the legislation and also noted DeWine's thoughts on the issue.

Democratic Representative Dan Ramos of Lorain has been a staunch opponent of the death penalty. He says this recent road block is a good excuse for the state to avoid executions - a practice he says - has been used through generations.

Ramos: "What many of them did. What many states did what many nations have done - have basically made it so 'well it's still on the books, it's still there but for one reason or another we make it too complicated to use, well we can't fit it in with the rest of our constitution we keep it on the books so nobody has to vote against...but we don't have to use it anymore.' This has happened for 2,000 years."

Some members were also upset over the pace at which the bill moved through committee. The measure was introduced just 10 days ago. However it passed mostly along party lines.

The bill now heads to the Senate where it must be approved before the end of the year in order to go to the governor's desk for his signature.



OTSE Establishes Fund to Support New Exonerees

In the wake of the exoneration and release of several men wrongly convicted for a murder they had nothing to do with, Ohioans to Stop Executions and the Ohio Innocence Project have established on-line fund raising campaigns to help the men begin a new life of freedom.

"These men spent nearly 4 decades in prison," said Kevin Werner, executive director of the statewide anti-death penalty organization. "Right now they have nothing."

The Ohio Innocence Project established a "GoFundMe" campaign for Ricky Jackson on Thursday when it became clear that he was about to be released. On Friday after Wiley Bridgeman was in process to also be released, attorney Terry Gilbert, who represents Bridgeman, asked Ohioans to Stop Executions to establish a similar fund.

"We're heading into the holiday season," said Werner. "These men were wrongly sent to death row and spent decades in prison when they were completely innocent. We invite anyone who would like to help them get back on their feet to join us in this effort."

Donors who don't like to use credit cards on the internet may send a check to Ohioans to Stop Executions, clearly labeled "OTSE Exoneration Fund" in the memo line. All funds collected will go directly to Jackson, Bridgeman, and their co-defendant, Kwame Ajamu, formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman.

Links to the on-line fund campaigns are and Checks made to "OTSE" with "Exoneration Fund" in the memo line may be sent to Ohioans to Stop Executions, 9 E. Long St., Suite 202., Columbus, Ohio 43215.

(source: OTSE)



Abolish the death penalty

This past August, the Kentucky General Assembly's Interim Joint Judiciary Committee met in Paducah to hear testimony on Kentucky's death penalty. The committee chairs - Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, and Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville - and staff worked hard to provide balance, with opportunity for multiple points of view.

There was a striking asymmetry however: while several individuals spoke in support of Sen. Gerald Neal and Rep. David Floyd's bill to replace Kentucky's death sentence with life without possibility of parole, there was no alternative proposal put forth. Some speakers, such as Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey, spoke in support of retaining the death penalty, but none offered a means of addressing its serious flaws:

-- The American Bar Association's multi-year assessment - completed and presented to the members of the Judiciary Committee in 2011 - identified many judicial deficiencies, including inadequate legal counsel at trial, inadequate retention of evidence and a high rate of juror confusion. According to the ABA, these and other issues have resulted in over 60 % of death sentences being overturned on appeal. During the 2011 session, the House of Representatives passed HCR 173 to establish a death penalty reform task force, but no complementary action was ever taken on the Senate side. (Read the full assessment at:

-- The Commissioner of Criminal Justice testified to the committee that the Department of Corrections is incapable of carrying out executions due to a judicial stay in place since 2010, a lack of lethal injection drugs in their possession and lack of any lawful method of obtaining more lethal injection drugs.

-- The American Law Institute - the organization responsible for drafting the core of Kentucky's 1976 capital statute - withdrew capital punishment from its Model Legal Code in 2009, after finding it unworkable.

-- Recent examples of botched executions, caused by irresponsible experiments in lethal injection formulations and protocols in Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Ohio mock the notion that we have found a decent and humane means of putting people to death.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has written of our nation's "commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world. The States are laboratories for experimentation, but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects." This nation and this commonwealth have been struggling for 4 decades, attempting to repair the death penalty - 4 decades of futile "tinkering with the machinery of death."

At what point do we realize that refusing to kill respects life more than killing? At what point do we realize that a government with such a long history of racial bias in its criminal justice system cannot be trusted to dispassionately decide who lives and who dies? At what point do we realize that criminal justice resources are better spent on programs and techniques proven to prevent violent crime?

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth supports abolition of the death penalty as a sensible approach that will make all Kentuckians safer and teach human decency.

(source: The Richmond Register)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

'Ready' for his execution

Richard Glossip has come to terms with his death.

"I've thought about it so long, I got to a point, if it gets to that stage, I'm ready for it," said Glossip, 51, in a rare, in-person interview near his cell on death row. "You've got to be prepared. If you're not, it's not going to go well for you."

Friday marked the first day the Department of Corrections has allowed media access to death row inmates since the clumsy execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. It took Lockett 40 minutes to die after medical personnel missed his vein with the intravenous needle that was supposed to deliver the deadly drugs.

Glossip said he hopes his death won't come soon, but he didn't sound particularly optimistic that he'll live beyond Jan. 29, when he's scheduled to die by lethal injection for his role in a 1997 murder-for-hire plot. He's the 2nd inmate scheduled to die in the renovated execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, under the state's new execution procedures.

Glossip said he's already planned his last meal - an Arby's ham-and-cheese sandwich, a brisket sandwich, fries and a Coke. Other than his freedom, he's missed Arby's the most since arriving on death row in 1998.

Glossip first was convicted in a plot to kill motel owner Barry Van Treese a year earlier. The convicted hit man, Justin Sneed, is serving a life sentence.

Glossip maintains his innocence. He said Sneed acted alone in killing Van Treese, then pointed to him to avoid the death penalty. Glossip admits his actions afterwards look bad; he tried to help hide his 54-year-old employer's murder.

Despite that, Glossip said he doubts Gov. Mary Fallin will intervene "because of what happened with Lockett and the way she handled that whole thing."

"Anybody that says we need to get back to business as normal and calling executions business, that's a scary, scary thing to say," he said.

Contacted earlier this year, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, which has handled all appeals related to Glossip's case, issued a statement saying justice would be served by his execution.

A spokesperson noted a 27-page ruling by the state Court of Criminal Appeals that outlined the facts of the case and rejected Glossip's appeals.

Glossip was convicted twice - the verdict of his 1st trial was thrown out on appeal - and he twice was sentenced to death.

Earlier this fall, Glossip's execution date was fast approaching when Department of Corrections officials said they needed more time to prepare for his execution and that of Charles Warner, who is scheduled to die before him.

Glossip said in preparation for his execution, prison officials had moved him to a special cell, designed to hold inmates for the final 35 days.

A new policy requires the cell’s florescent lights to stay lit 24 hours a day for all 35 days, he said. Glossip said he wrapped a sheet around his eyes to sleep. Warner, in the cell next door, pulled a blanket over his head.

All Glossip was allowed to bring with him was a single book. He said the rock music that helped calm him for more than two decades was taken away, as was television.

Glossip said his stomach couldn't tolerate the food - he'd always purchased food from the canteen, but new regulations say a prisoner can't buy food within 35 days of his death - and he lost 14 pounds in 4 days.

A security camera watched his every move.

When his execution was delayed until January, Glossip was returned to his old cell on death row, located beneath the death chamber, and all his privileges were restored.

Glossip said inmates are angry at Lockett for his decision to make his execution difficult by resisting officers and using a razor to slice his arms. Those choices affected everyone on death row, Glossip said, because Lockett's bungled execution led to the state's new procedures.

"Lockett really did a number on us all," he said. "When they do this type of thing, they don't think about who it is going to affect. There are people not happy at all, but he's dead, so what are you going to say?"

Asked if he believes in an after-life and fears what it might hold, Glossip hesitated briefly. He admitted he had doubts until recently, when he saw a TV report in which a woman described her miraculous return from 3 1/2 hours of being dead.

"There's something out there," he said.

4 men already are scheduled to die in the 1st 3 months of 2015 - Warner on Jan. 15; Glossip, Jan. 29; John Marion Grant, Feb. 19; and Benjamin Robert Cole Jr., March 5.

(source: Enid News)


Judge in Colorado cinema rampage case allows 2nd sanity exam at trial

A judge overseeing the Colorado theater massacre case rejected a defense motion on Friday to have a 2nd sanity examination administered to accused gunman James Holmes barred from his upcoming murder trial, court records show.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a Denver-area theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July of 2012, killing 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and say they will seek the death penalty for the onetime neuroscience graduate student if he is convicted.

Holmes underwent a mandatory psychiatric examination last year after invoking the insanity defense, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a 2nd round of testing, agreeing with prosecutors who argued the 1st one was flawed.

Public defenders sought to have the 2nd evaluation excluded or to limit testimony about it, arguing that it should have not been conducted in the 1st place, and that it overlaps the findings of the 1st examiner.

Results of the 2 mental examinations have not been made public, but in his ruling Samour noted that it was "patently obvious" that the 2 evaluations reached differing conclusions about Holmes’ sanity.

"The disparate reactions by the defendant to the two examinations speak volumes about the differences between the 2 reports," Samour wrote.

The judge denied the bulk of the motion, but did order that the 2nd evaluator could not testify at trial about the 1st evaluation's deficiencies.

Samour said 9,000 jury summonses will be sent to county residents next month, and lawyers for both sides will start paring down the list in January.

The judge said he wants opening statements to begin on June 3, but said that date could be moved up if jury selection concludes sooner than he anticipates.

(source: Reuters)


Attorneys ask judge to hold off on execution suit

A lawsuit challenging the secrecy of execution protocols in Arizona will likely be put on hold pending the investigation of the nearly 2-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood last summer.

Both the state and defense attorneys have agreed to request that the lawsuit be halted temporarily until the review of an investigation by an independent agency is released. That report, by a group of former prison directors, was expected to be released in mid-November but it so far has not come out.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Wood and other death-row inmates says they and the public have a right to know about specific execution protocols such as the types of drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that supply them.

The July 23 execution of Wood, convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped repeatedly before taking his final breath.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched, a claim Arizona Department of Corrections officials adamantly deny. A spokesman for the agency could not be reached for comment late Friday evening.

State officials have agreed to not seek any death warrants while the case is pending. The mutual agreement also states that Arizona officials will consider changing execution protocols. If they do change them, they will make the new protocols public, according to the joint agreement.

"The whole purpose of this is to put the litigation on hold so the facts and issues could be better developed," Baich said.

The secrecy that surrounds executions in Arizona and other states has been a source of contention since they stopped making public details such as the drug manufacturers and drug combinations in 2010. That's when states that have the death penalty began having trouble accessing the necessary drugs because European drugmakers stopped supplying them.

A group of media organizations including The Associated Press has filed a lawsuit also contending that the information is of public interest and the public has a right to know.

Wood was given 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller before he died.

(source: Associated Press)


Jodi Arias trial paused as defense files motion to dismiss death penalty...again

Anyone that is wondering if the defense team of Jodi Arias is getting paid every time they mention the word "mistrial" or "motion to dismiss" can rest assured that yes, they are. The current costs for the defense team alone in the Jodi Arias trial are hovering over the $2.5 million dollar mark, and counting. Thanks to the good taxpayers of Arizona, the defense team who works out of the public defender's office for the Maricopa County Superior Courts, can continue collecting their paycheck. But, if their current motion is successful, not for long. What are the chances of that? This won't be the 1st motion filed to dismiss the death penalty in the Jodi Arias trial, and if history is any indication, it probably won't be the last. USA Today reports Nov. 21 that a hearing on the latest motion filed to dismiss all charges put a pause in the Jodi Arias trial Friday as Judge Sherry Stephens heard arguments over alleged pornography files on the personal computer of the victim of this murder, Travis Alexander.

Jodi Arias is on trial for the murder of her lover Travis Alexander in 2008. In 2008, she traveled from Yreka, California, to Mesa, Arizona, in a road trip where she ensured she would not be caught on a surveillance camera once. After she arrived at his home in the early morning hours of June 4, 2008, they had sex and went to bed. In the late afternoon of that same day, shortly after 5 PM, sex play in the shower turned deadly.

On June 9, 2008, Travis Alexander would be found in his home that was splattered with blood. He would be found with over 25 stab wounds, one that included a fatal 5 inch wound to his chest. His windpipe was also severed to the point of near decapitation, and he had a gunshot to the head. Jodi Arias was the only person in the home besides Travis at the time he was killed.

She was convicted of first degree murder for this crime in 2013. The jury at the time was unanimous in that decision, where the jury became deadlocked was whether or not Jodi should serve a life or a death penalty for this crime. A retrial was ordered, but the decisions on the guilt and aggravation phases remained.

Thus, Jodi is now a convicted felon facing a retrial of the sentencing phase only on her conviction. During this retrial of the penalty phase, the defense team has filed numerous motions in their efforts to have the death penalty removed, or to halt the proceedings all together. It's long been considered the "delaying the inevitable" strategy of the Jodi Arias defense team.

The most recent motion being used to halt proceedings is a motion alleging prosecutorial misconduct regarding alleged pornography files that may or may not have been on the personal computer of the victim in this case, Travis Alexander. We have previously reported on these alleged pornography files, and the opposing viewpoints on those files between the defense and the State. It seems that the computer history of Travis Alexander, 6 years after his murder, is still being widely contested by both sides.

As we previously reported, the State is furious that the computer drive they just received back from the defense was a switched hard drive. On the other hand, the defense is furious over the fact that the hard drive in question is allegedly missing some files. Not just some files. Numbers everywhere from 2500 to over 6 thousand files that are pornographic in nature are allegedly missing from this computer.

The last this debate has seen occurred in a motion filed by the prosecutor. This week defense attorney for Jodi Arias, Arizona Central reports Jennifer Wilmott filed a motion in response to the claims of Juan Martinez. But it was not just any motion. The full motion can be seen in the slideshow and contains the title, "Motion to dismiss all charges with prejudice and/or in the alternative to dismiss the state's notice of intent to seek the death penalty due to recently discovered purposeful and egregious prosecutorial misconduct."

USA Today reports that a hearing was held on Nov. 21 on this motion. This was a hearing without the jury present. Meaning, if the jury is adhering to their admonitions to not read any news or social media then, the current jury has presumably no idea that any of these arguments are even happening. The jury's last experience on this case was when they heard testimony in court on Thursday from defense witness sex expert Dr. Fonseca.

All parties were in court on Friday Nov. 21 however, minus the jury, to hear the latest arguments on the most recent motion to dismiss the death penalty, and all charges. Jennifer Wilmott's motion to dismiss all charges argues that the fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments of Jodi's constitutional rights have been violated. As a result, she claims, "The State's misconduct is of the nature that dismissal of all charges is warranted."

Jennifer Wilmott left no stone unturned in her motion. She cites misconduct on the part of the prosecution, again, and believes the facts show that all charges against Jodi Arias should be dropped.

"While the actions denoted above document only a portion of the misconduct that the State has engaged in during the pendency of this case, the facts outlined above....are certainly the most repugnant to any sense of justice found in the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution....and for the reasons mentioned above, the charges against Ms. Arias should be dismissed with prejudice. In the alternative...any sense of justice that comports with the death penalty jurisprudence detailed above would require that this Court dismiss the 'State's Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty' with prejudice."

In her motion she writes that the personal computer of Travis Alexander was originally examined in 2008. Detective Melendez with the Mesa Police previously testified on Oct. 21 that he examined this computer using a software program called Encase, and that this was the only software he used and was compliant with Mesa Police Department protocol.

Department protocol also requires the use of a technological device known as a "write blocker". This is a program put on the computer to ensure that nothing on the computer can be altered during the course of a forensic examination. This protocol is in place for obvious reasons.

The most obvious reason being the reason we are discussing at this very moment. The "write blocker" is intended to avoid any lawsuits and motions such as this. Detective Melendez testified in the retrial of the sentencing phase that he finished his investigation on the computer in November of 2008 when he transferred to the Computer Forensics division of the Mesa Police.

In addition to the hard drive being analyzed by Melendez, a Lonnie Dworkin from Compufor analyzed the hard drive and according to Jennifer Wilmott. In her motion, on the analysis of Lonnie Dworkin, the defense writes, "His analysis did not uncover the existence of any pornography on this computer."

Wilmott continues on to acknowledge that Jodi previously testified that on January 21, 2008, that she allegedly caught Travis masturbating to a picture of a young boy. Wilmott concurs that Jodi does not have any evidence of this allegation. Wilmott also contends however that on this incident, "The State claimed that Ms. Arias was lying about this incident, that she was making this incident up to disparage Mr. Alexander and that Ms. Arias was a 'liar' whose testimony should not be believed."

Wilmott also contends that, "prior to gaining a conviction on the charge of 1st degree murder", the State knew that Travis's computer did in fact contain pornography and also had evidence that suggested Travis was sexually interested in kids. Wilmott also contends, "The evidence produced at the evidentiary hearing will demonstrate it is clear that the State knew this evidence existed because, on June 19, 2009, before Ms. Arias examined Mr. Alexander's computer, the State deleted this evidence."

Wilmott goes on to make some very serious allegations, but does not provide proof. Instead she says the generic lawyer line, "the evidence will show." She is very specific in her allegations. She says, "Recent Forensic Analysis has shown that between the times of 13:56:19 and 16:51:34 on June 19, 2009, that thousands of files were deleted from Mr. Alexander's computer. To clarify further, evidence produced...will demonstrate that this was not some sort of inadvertent forensic error, but instead that someone went into the computer without a 'write blocker' and sought to alter its content, and alter they did, with such a level of success that the State's deceit was not uncovered for several years."

Wilmott alleges that whoever had the computer at this time is responsible for that, and says that it must have been the State. Wilmott then provides a list of dates that these alleged porn files were allegedly accessed. She also provides the actual porn sites in the motion, the full motion with that list of sites can be seen in the slideshow.

The dates the porn was accessed begin on May 28, 2008. Several sites were allegedly accessed on that day, several on May 31, 2008, and also several sites were accessed on June 10, 2008. Travis Alexander died on June 4, so who was looking at his computer if those files were really on it?

There is a wide body of speculation circulating that Jodi Arias could have possibly planted the porn files on Travis's computer during one of her moments in his home. Wilmott has a quippy response for that.

"The date and time they were viewed negates any valid argument that Ms. Arias put these files on Mr. Alexander's computer."

Wilmott then presents a list of XXX rated porn sites, and attempts to allege that Travis likes child porn. But even she can not definitively assert that he does, as she also says these are pages that "likely" contain child pornography. But the word "likely" isn't a word that erases reasonable doubt, is it?

Neither the defense nor the State disputes the presence of porn files. How they got there, and how they have since disappeared, is the subject of this entire debate. In fact, whether or not porn files exist is not the actual relevance of this motion. The relevance of this motion rests on the fact that the defense is making very serious allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and mishandling of evidence.

The "what" of what the porn files are in other words, doesn't matter. If the porn files in question were a basket of apples for example, what is happening here is an argument over what happened to the "basket of apples." The defense is saying Jodi has testified to things that suggest this "basket of apples" could exist.

The State has said, we can't find the basket of apples and so Jodi must be lying. The defense is now then saying, "we can prove the basket of apples existed once, but the fact that they don't exist anymore really bothers us and we think you had something to do with that. Which is wrong."

If the defense is right, and they can prove it, they are correct. Losing a "basket of apples" or, in this case, thousands of porn files, and using that to ruin Jodi's credibility is a really bad thing that could amount to prosecutorial misconduct. Does it change the fact that Jodi butchered Travis Alexander or that she is not guilty of all charges against her? No.

There are a number of theories presented by both sides on what happened to this missing basket of apples. Juan Martinez has theorized that an anti-virus program was installed on Travis's computer and would not have allowed pornography to download in the first place. He claims that viruses that were attained were the cause of the alleged pornography.

This is, oddly enough, something that Wilmott does not disagree with. She said, "There were thousands of pornography site hits found on Mr. Alexander's computer. Some were caused by viruses and some were accessed prior to viruses being downloaded onto his computer. The type of viruses found on Mr. Alexander's computer are severe, and typically associated with the computer user visiting pornography sites."

Who accessed those files? Who deleted them? How did the viruses get there? Even in this motion Jennifer Wilmott makes it clear that the answers to those questions are not clear. One thing she does concede, "It cannot be shown that any member of the Maricopa County Attorney's office was involved in these misdeeds."

Wilmott then contends that based on all that she has said thus far, the first degree murder conviction should be overturned. She says, "Dismissal of a conviction is warranted when the misconduct is of the nature that it so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process."

She also cites the Brady Rule, suggesting that Juan Martinez is guilty of a Brady violation. Wilmott feels that destruction of the evidence in question would "constitute clear Constitutional error as its destruction deprived Ms. Arias of a fair trial." According to Cornell Law, violations of the Brady Rule could for some cases actually lead to dismissal, however, the defense is on the burden to prove these serious allegations.

The Brady Rule is a legal term coined from the 1963 case Brady V. Maryland 373 U.S. 83 and requires the prosecutor in all cases to disclose to the defense material evidence that is in the State's possession. Evidence that is considered under the Brady Rule is evidence that is considered to be "favorable to the accused", or is evidence that could negate an individual's guilt.

Evidence under the Brady Rule typically is used to reduce an individual's sentence, or to help them establish credibility. If the State is found to be guilty of Brady violations, as Monica Lindstrom tweeted yesterday, this will mean consequences that stem from supression of the alleged evidence, to dismissal of all charges. It is not however up to the State to prove that they are innocent of these violations.

The burden is on the defense to show that the Brady evidence is not only material to this case. But that is not all they must prove. They must also prove that the trial outcome would have been completely different had the State disclosed this material evidence. In this case, and especially with this "basket of apples" of thousands of porn files, there appears to be more reasonable doubt than evidence and the defense seems to still have an uphill battle on this one.

The defense has already conceded that when Jennifer wrote, "It cannot be shown that any member of the Maricopa County Attorney's office was involved in these misdeeds." So it would seem then that proving a Brady violation would be difficult for the defense. But that does not mean they did not work vigorously in yesterday's hearing to establish a Brady violation. Jennifer Wilmott concluded her motion by saying, "While the actions denoted above document only a portion of the misconduct that the State has engaged in during the pendency of this case, the facts outlined above....are certainly the most repugnant to any sense of justice found in the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution....and for the reasons mentioned above, the charges against Ms. Arias should be dismissed with prejudice.

In the alternative...any sense of justice that comports with the death penalty jurisprudence detailed above would require that this Court dismiss the 'State's Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty with prejudice."

We followed William Pitts from NBC 12 who tweeted live from the courtroom yesterday to find out what really went on in yesterday's hearing. The hearing began with former defense counsel on the stand Maria Schaffer, who was one of the first individuals from the defense to have a look at the computer after it was seized from Travis Alexander. Schaffer attended a meeting at the Mesa Police Department on June 19 to do so.

This testimony ultimately turned into what is becoming a typical State versus defense argument portrayed by "he said she said." No agreements were made, the State and the witness could not even agree on who turned the computer on. This is important because turning the computer on, on this very day, could have been the very act that accidentally or allegedly deleted thousands of alleged porn files.

Schaffer said Detective Flores turned it on. Juan Martinez had previously asserted that the defense turned it on, against the advice of the State. In court yesterday however Schaffer asserted she never touched the computer.

Juan Martinez then gave Schaffer a list of evidence she previously requested on the case. He reminded her that it was her request to look at the evidence, and said that Schaffer turned on the computer because she wanted to see "how big the files were" so that she could appropriately budget time for the defense expert she was seeking funding for. Schaffer said that may have been the case, however continued to testify that Juan Martinez was the one that turned it on.

NBC 12 suggested that Maria Schaffer was getting flustered under this cross-examination, but would not concede that she had ever been left alone with the computer. She was able to concede however that if she had been told turning on the computer would destroy evidence, that the computer would never have been turned on. This sounds a little bit like a concession that she may have in fact been the one to power the machine up on that day. As William Pitts tweeted for NBC 12, "This has real ramifications....if someone screwed up here, it's a problem. If the allegations are baseless, it's a problem."

The next witness up was a Bryan Neumeister who is a computer expert that "specializes in undeleting things." He began his testimony by saying that anyone that knew anything about computers would know not to turn the machine on, to remove the drive first and use a write blocker to investigate the computer. He was questioned on activities on the computer that occurred on June 10, 2008.

This date is important because porn was allegedly accessed on this date,which was several days after Travis Alexander died. Nuemeister testified that on this date, the laptop downloaded several things such as iTunes and also some updates. This means that not only was the computer powered up at the time, but also online as William Pitts reports.

Neumeister testified that when these programs were downloaded, some of the hard drive was allegedly overwritten, thus deleting some of these alleged porn files. Neumeister also testified that 1 year later, June 19, 2009, the computer was turned on again and attempted to install the same updates that it had installed on year prior.

This would have had to have been done manually, by an actual human being. The expert testified that iTunes was also installed, which needs a human user to launch the process. Neumeister also testified that he learned from previous testimony that there were no viruses on the laptop. Thus he cloned the laptop 3 times in order to ensure it was cloned properly.

This is interesting, because most witnesses are not supposed to know what other testimony has occurred in a case as it could effect their testimony. So what testimony is Neumeister referring to here? Neumeister conceded that several of the porn files allegedly found were caused by trojans and viruses. Others however he said, were manually typed in.

Overall Neumeister testified that he found 19 viruses, a registry cleaner, and spyware removal programs on the computer of Travis Alexander. He referred to the laptop as being "loaded" with viruses. He also claimed that the history of porn on the computer of Travis Alexander dates back to 2007, and also included several visits to escort services.

Shown as evidence of this was a log that illustrated what porn was accessed when. One time stamp showed the date of June 1, 2008, and the defense alleges this was not an access by a trojan or virus, but one that was manually typed in. He also claimed that as many as 70,000 files were "scrubbed out by a program that was not installed on Travis Alexander's laptop" according to William Pitts of NBC 12.

This led the witness to claim that proper forensic protocols weren't followed, and that the evidence must have been tampered with by the mere fact that the evidence appeared changed. The expert claimed to have as many as 90 pages of porn links visited by a human being, including links that read, "Hot girl giving a public blow@#%." When it came to 90 pages of files, the expert says he stopped looking, saying, "What's the point, there were so many."

The expert also testified that there were over 6000 hits on the keyword "teen" on the laptop of Travis Alexander. This concluded his direct examination by Kirk Nurmi. Juan Martinez was up for cross examination next, and, as always, this is where things got testy.

Juan went right to the beginning to begin asking about Lonnie Dworkin. This expert had testified that he had not found any of these files on the computer. Expert Neumeister explained that away by saying the drive that Dworkin was given was "bad." He also said about the files, "It's impossible to miss it! There is so much data there Juan!"

So which is it? Was Dworkin given a bad drive? Or was he negligent in his duties and overlooked "so much data" as is being suggested?

An argument over cell phones erupted. Cell phones were turned over to the police during this electronics seizure. Some of them did not have SIM cards, and Martinez asked Neumeister about that. He said, "If the cells didn't have SIM cards then you're saying the defendant had some shenanigans with them, right?"

In this line of questioning, Martinez was working to get the witness to admit to police misconduct, however Neumeister would not admit to those serious allegations, despite what the defense spent all morning implying. Instead he said that whoever imaged the drive, did a bad job at it, and "shouldn't be working in forensics." Additionally, Neumeister kept going back to the porn, "You're trying to skip over there 160,000 hits of porn on that computer and you guys said there was none!"

Things began to get heated when Martinez then alleged that maybe Neumeister had something to do with the missing files. He suggested that Neumeister broke the machine, to which Neumeister replied, "That's just slimy. That's just slimy."

This was when court broke for lunch. After the lunch there was not much to the hearing, but it did look like there may have been some admonitions in play. All lawyers went back to chambers of Judge Sherry Stephens, after which a conference at the bench was held. William Pitts noted, "Stephens looks angry now."

In a calmer and more collected line of questioning, Juan Martinez then asked for more copies of the alleged hard drive in question. Judge Sherry Stephens then adjourned the hearing until December 4. The jury at this point is not to know that any of this even happened. Testimony in the retrial of the penalty phase will resume Monday as if that is the case.

Judge Sherry Stephens will likely rule on this on December 4. There are a number of possible things that will happen. If she believes the defense, she may find prosecutorial misconduct or a violation of discovery of evidence. Monica Lindstrom tweeted the sanctions she would then have available would range from dismissal of the case and charges to a suppression of this evidence. She may also over-rule the motion all together.

(source: The Examiner)


Death penalty overturned for Dale Wayne Eaton in murder of Denver teen Lisa Marie Kimmell

The death penalty sentence in the 1988 murder of a Denver teenager has been overturned.

Lisa Marie Kimmell, 18, was driving from Denver to Cody to visit her boyfriend when she disappeared.

According to trial testimony, Kimmell was abducted by Dale Wayne Eaton on March 25, 1988. She was held for days and raped repeatedly. The day she died, she was struck in the back of the head before she was stabbed 6 times in the chest and abdomen. Kimmell's body was then thrown over the old Government Bridge and into the North Platte River west of Casper, where she was found April 2 of that year.

No charges were filed until 2002, when Kimmell's Honda CRX was found buried on Eaton's property near Moneta in central Wyoming. Eaton was convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder in 2004 and sentenced to die by lethal injection. The investigation was called the "Lil Miss" case because of the distinctive personalized Montana license plates on Kimmell's car.

However, Thursday, the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming issued an order granting Eaton a conditional writ of habeas corpus that vacates his death sentence, but not his conviction.

The court found Kimmell's trial team and appellate counsel "failed to fulfill the then applicable prevailing professional normals" and was "constitutionally deficient."

The order requires the State of Wyoming to give Eaton a new sentencing hearing within 120 days or his sentence will become life without the possibility of parole.

"The Attorney General holds the federal district court in the highest regard but is disappointed by this decision," officials said in a statement sent to 7NEWS. "Wyoming prosecutors recognize the seriousness of capital punishment and seek it in only the most egregious cases. Mr. Eaton's kidnapping, rape, and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell is one such case."

In 2012, lawyers for Eaton filed papers criticizing both his original state court prosecutor and defense lawyer.

They claimed his defense lawyer did an inadequate job.

They also claimed that Eaton's state prosecutor failed to disclose details about how another inmate who testified against Eaton was in line to receive a lower prison sentence. The inmate testified that Eaton told him how he abducted Kimmell at a rest stop on Interstate 25 after she pulled-in to use the restroom. The inmate said that Eaton pulled a gun and forced her to drive to his home near Moneta, where he tied her up and sexually assaulted her for 6 days. Kimmell's body was found beneath the Old Government Bridge on the North Platte River near Casper, Wyo.

Eaton's property in Moneta was awarded to the Kimmell family after a wrongful-death lawsuit, and the buildings were burned to the ground on July 18, 2005, the day after what would have been Kimmell's 36th birthday.

At the time of her death, Kimmell had just been promoted to unit manager for Arby's restaurants, for whom she had worked since she was 14.



BANK OF THE WEST CASE----Ramos attorneys request to see evidence; Prosecutors say they are turning over discovery as soon as it's available

Defense attorneys for Jaime Ramos are asking the court to order prosecutors to expeditiously turn over evidence against the surviving suspect in the deadly July robbery of Bank of West that resulted in the death of hostage Misty Holt-Singh.

Defense attorneys have already received a substantial amount of "discovery," as the documents are referred to in legal terms, from prosecutors.

But they worry the remaining reports will come too close to the scheduled preliminary hearing, not allowing them enough time to prepare for countering the accusations.

A preliminary hearing is the process in which a judge hears a portion of testimony and determines if there is enough evidence to send the defendant to trial. In Ramos' case, it is expected to last 3 days and scheduled to begin Jan. 8.

On Friday, attorneys argued the discovery motion filed by the defense in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott said he already has provided 40 to 50 compact discs of witness interviews, reports from the Department of Justice and the medical examiner's office, and photographs from the scene.

Ott also argued the state says prosecutors are not required to turn over discovery until 30 days before a preliminary hearing.

He is working on providing the defense more reports, which have yet to be finalized by Stockton police, he said.

Deputy Public Defender Jonathan Fattarsi is especially interested in obtaining the ballistics reports and information related to the stolen getaway car.

The release of discovery often is a slow process in homicide cases, Fattarsi said. "But this seems like more than the usual," he said in the case filed more than 4 months ago.

Fattarsi said his client has a right to the reports so he can mount a defense.

During the hearing, Judge Bernard Garber made it clear the reports should be given to the defense "as soon as possible."

He did not rule on the motion Friday.

Garber is considering that the documents are not finalized, as well as the defense's entitlement to "most or all" of the discovery. Since much of it has been handed over, he is allowing more time for attorneys to continue coordinating the exchange.

A continuance of the motion hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Still in the air is the possibility the case will go to a criminal grand jury before the preliminary hearing takes place. If so, the grand jury - not a judge - would hear the evidence in a secret hearing without defense attorneys cross examining witnesses.

The grand jury would then make the decision on whether there is enough evidence to charge Ramos, and the preliminary hearing would be canceled.

Ramos, 19, is 1 of 3 suspected armed gunmen who took three hostages and enganged law enforcement officers and civilians alike during an hour-long pursuit marked by intermittent gunfire along the way.

Assailants Alex Martinez, 27, and Gilbert Renteria, 30, were killed during the final shootout.

2 hostages survived with injuries, but a 3rd - wife and mother Holt-Singh - was struck by police gunfire and died as a result. Police say Ramos used her as a shield.

Ramos is charged with murder in the 3 killings; the attempted murder of about 2 dozen officers and the other 2 hostages; and a slough of other charges in a 35-page complaint.

He is eligible for the death penalty based on special circumstances attached to the charges, but prosecutors have not said whether they will seek death.

(source: Stockton Record)


Charges in Willits rape, murder could carry death sentence

The registered sex offender suspected of raping and murdering Willits resident Kayla Chesser has been charged with a list of crimes that potentially carry a death penalty sentence, a punishment that is rarely sought in Mendocino County.

The Mendocino County District Attorney's Office has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty in the case against Terrell James Marshall, 44, spokesman Mike Geniella said Friday.

"It is a possibility," he said.

Marshall has been charged with murder, rape and sodomy along with special allegations that he committed the rape and sodomy in conjunction with a murder, according to Mendocino County Superior Court records. Charging documents also include allegations that he is a sex offender with a prior strike and a serious offender.

Marshall was convicted in 2000 of sexual penetration with a foreign object by force or fear in Santa Clara County. Officials from the Santa Clara County sheriff's and district attorney's offices declined to provide specifics of the case.

Records indicate Marshall also had a list of arrests in connection with less-serious offenses that include drunken driving, being under the influence of a controlled substance, failing to wear a seatbelt and assault.

The charges filed against Marshall this week have the potential to carry either a death penalty sentence or life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to handwritten notes jotted in court documents.

Marshall did not enter pleas to the charges during a videoconference arraignment Thursday.

If the District Attorney's Office seeks the death penalty, it would be the 1st time since a mid-1990s Hells Angels multiple-murder case that it was pursued, Geniella said. That bid eventually was dropped, he said.

Other than to say they were glad Marshall had been apprehended, Chesser's family has declined to comment about the case.

Marshall's cousin, who owns the Brooktrails home where Chesser was found dead, did not return phone calls.

Chesser's body was discovered in the early morning hours of Nov. 1. She had been with friends at a Halloween party, but they dropped her off at the Brooktrails house and then continued to socialize elsewhere, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

When they returned, Marshall, a Vacaville resident, was at the house. When they later checked on Chesser, they found her dead in a bedroom.

An autopsy found she had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

Marshall left the house before police arrived but was apprehended later that day after driving his vehicle over a cliff near Covelo. Sheriff's officials said at the time it may have been a suicide attempt.

Chesser was a well-liked, lifelong Willits resident who taught dance and performed in a belly dance troupe.

(source: Press Democrat)


UN vote boosts support for a global moratorium on the death penalty----114 of the UN's 193 member states today voted in favour of the UN resolution to establish a moratorium on executions.

The vast majority of the world's countries today threw their weight behind a UN General Assembly resolution to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally, Amnesty International said.

114 of the UN's 193 member states today voted in favour of the resolution which will go before the General Assembly Plenary for final adoption in December.

"Today's vote confirms that more and more countries around the world are coming around to the fact that the death penalty is a human rights violation and must end. It is also a clear message to the minority of states that still execute - you are on the wrong side of history," said Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty expert at Amnesty International.

Since 2007 there have been 4 resolutions calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, with support increasing each time. Overall, the votes in favour of this resolution increased by 3 since the last time a similar vote took place in 2012.

114 states voted in favour, 36 voted against and 34 abstained compared to 111 votes in favour, 41 against and 34 abstentions in December 2012. The draft resolution was co-sponsored by 94 UN Member States from all regions of the world, the highest number yet.

New votes in favour came from Eritrea, Fiji, Niger and Suriname. As a further positive sign, Bahrain, Myanmar and Uganda moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Papua New Guinea went from abstention to a vote against the resolution.

Today's vote in the UNGA's Third Committee, which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues, is an important indicator for the main vote on the resolution in the General Assembly Plenary next month, when the resolution is expected to be endorsed. Although not legally binding, UN General Assembly resolutions carry considerable moral and political weight.

"Governments around the world should seize the opportunity of today's vote to renew their dialogue to make this moratorium call a reality - we hope we will see even stronger support come the final vote in December," said Chiara Sangiorgio.

Amnesty International urges all UN Member States to support the resolution when it comes for adoption at the plenary session. Those countries still retaining the death penalty should immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition. Background

When the UN was founded in 1945 only 8 of the then 51 UN Member States had abolished the death penalty. Today, 95 Member States have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and in total 137 out of the 193 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

The adoption of these ground-breaking resolutions on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 2007 has generated momentum to renew the commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

(source: Amnesty Internatnional)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia beheads Turk for drug trafficking

Saudi Arabia on Nov. 20 beheaded a Turkish man convicted of drug trafficking, the interior ministry said, in the latest execution in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom.

Ali Agirdas had been convicted of receiving a "large amount of drugs" and was executed in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement.

His execution brings to 70 the number of Saudis and foreigners beheaded in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP count, despite international concern.

Rape, murder, apostasy, drug trafficking and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(soruce: Agence France-Presse)


Rights activist welcomes Lanka's pardon to Indian fishermen

Noted human rights activist Avadhash Kaushal on Friday welcomed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapkasa's pardon to 5 Indian fishermen on death row for alleged drug trafficking but urged him to give the same treatment to the 3 fishermen from his own country sentenced to death along with them for the same crime.

"Pardoning and releasing the 5 Indian fishermen is a welcome step by the President but he should also release and pardon the 3 Sri Lankan fishermen handed capital punishment along with them by the High court of Sri Lanka for the same crime," Kaushal, a Padmashree awardee, said in a statement here.

He also said he was against capital punishment and wants its abolition from all over the world.

A renowned human rights activist and a member of the International Commission to probe missing persons and war crimes done by Srilankan forces as well as LTTE, Kaushal is based in Dehradun and runs an NGO called Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra.

The 5 Indian fishermen on death row in Sri Lanka on drug-trafficking charges, walked free on Wednesday, after President Mahinda Rajapaksa used his executive powers to commute their death penalty.

(source: Zee News)


Violating the most important human right

With the Lahore High Court's decision to uphold Aasia Bibi's death penalty last month, the debate on whether capital punishment should be abolished in Pakistan has once again become a hot topic. In Pakistan, 27 different crimes, including murders of various forms, treason, blasphemy and 'sabotage of the railway system' are punishable by death. With over 8500 individuals on death row in the country, the issue of capital punishment has managed to gain a significant amount of international attention.

Despite the fact that a moratorium was imposed on executions in 2008, the new government in 2013 initially refused to renew the moratorium. Only after the government realized the adverse economic consequences of not renewing the moratorium did it suspend the implementation of the death sentence for an indefinite period of time. Despite all these measures, the execution of Shoaib Sarwar almost took place in September 2014 and was stopped only due to a last minute stay order.

While it is true that no civilian executions have taken place in Pakistan since 2008 and no military executions have taken place since 2012, the number of convicts on the death row continues to increase. With the current government's unclear stance on the moratorium, most of these convicts face a constant threat of being executed immediately.

The debate on whether Pakistan should abolish the death sentence completely arises mainly because of the fact that abolishing the death sentence is contrary to Islamic Shariah and no law that contradicts any Islamic law can be implemented in the country. While this argument can be used to support the continuation of the death sentence on Pakistan, there are a number of other factors that strongly suggest that the death sentence should be abolished.

It is no secret that the Pakistani law and order system is heavily compromised. Unfair police investigations, baseless accusations and corruption within the judicial system aren't unheard of in Pakistan. With such imperfections being present in the society, giving the judicial system the right to take away someone's life is highly unjustified.

The death sentence is in itself a violation of basic human rights. That, paired with the frailty of the Pakistani judicial system, makes the existence of the death penalty in Pakistan even more odious. In a country where the rich and powerful can get away with almost anything, it is extremely unfair to allow capital punishment to exist.

In controversial cases like that of Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy, the possibility of the presence of false accusations for individuals' personal benefits makes the death sentence a seriously flawed punishment.

In murder cases, the concept of blood money is not unheard of. Individuals can get away with murder if they have the means to pay sums of money to the family of the deceased while those who lack these means are left to rot behind bars, waiting for death. This makes the death sentence in murder cases an even worse injustice.

In many cases, the convicted individuals fail to get adequate legal representation simply because they cannot afford to do so. This almost suggests that the death penalty is only reserved for the underprivileged and that some lives are more valuable than others. It is ironic that while everyone is supposed to be equal under the law, this blatant display of discrimination still exists.

Many of the convicts on the death row have been imprisoned for long periods of time. Shoaib Sarwar, for example, has already served 18 years of his life in prison. Punishing a person twice for the same crime isn't acceptable in any court of law. Yet he was almost executed a month ago. While the government maintains its unclear stance on the moratorium on the death penalty in Pakistan, authorities very conveniently ignore the severe psychological impacts that the constant fear of death has on those who are sentenced to death.

The death row syndrome is just one of the many psychological issues that most of the death row prisoners face in which they become so worn out that they fail to understand the situation that they are really in. As a result, these convicts not only face time in prison, they also experience mental torture. The mental agony is further extended to the families of these individuals as well who not only have to deal with the possibility of a loved one getting executed but also have to deal with social issues associated with being the family member of someone on the death row.

Capital punishment is a flawed concept in itself owing to its irreversible nature. If a person is sent to prison but is later found to be innocent, they can be released. If a person is executed and is later found to be innocent, the damage done is irreversible. With such high stakes involved, is capital punishment a risk worth taking?

In a country where the court's decision can be changed if a powerful contact is used, where police reports can be manipulated and altered according to the wishes of those in power, where money has the ability to buy freedom, the presence of capital punishment cannot be justified, no matter how hard we try. Sadly, however, most Pakistani's are of the view that capital punishment should not be abolished; we have become a nation that no longer values the importance of a life.

(source: Wishal Raheel, The Nation)

NOVEMBER 21, 2014:


Woman admits plotting husband's death to get insurance money

A woman who claimed to be sleeping when her husband was shot and killed by an intruder has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and murder in his death.

Deputies were called to a Devon Court home at 3:45 a.m. Jan. 27 and found Shane A. Williams, 38, shot to death inside the home.

Investigators said Williams' wife, Crystal Williams, had let Marcus Johnson into the house. She then woke up her husband, and told him he needed to put more wood on the fire. When Shane Williams walked into the living room, Johnson fired a gun 5 times, hitting Williams 3 times, police said.

The Williamses were married for 14 years and had a 10-year-old son, who was in the home at the time his father was shot and killed.

Sheriff Rick Clark said text messages between Crystal Williams and Johnson led to their arrests. He said Williams and Johnson knew each other since they were children, but there was no indication of a romantic relationship.

Clark said the murder was arranged to gain $250,000 in life insurance to be shared by Williams and Johnson.

Williams faces up to 5 years in prison for conspiracy and life without parole for murder. She has 10 days to appeal the plea.

Shane Williams' father, Michael, addressed the judge and said, "He was a dedicated son, brother, father, husband and friend to many. God was first in Shane's life. He served as a Sunday school teacher, a deacon and he also sung in the choir. He was a hard worker and had a giving spirit. He was also an avid deer hunter.

"In the season of 2013, he carried his 10-year-old son on his 1st deer hunting trips that season and he killed 2 bucks. This deer season just hasn't been the same and Glenn will never get the same experience again. Everyday we'll remind him of the lives he touched -- his kindness and his love. His life was cut short due to an act of senseless, evil greed. His loss has left a void in our community, family and even his workplace. That we can never replace, your Honor."

The only words Williams spoke in court were, "I'm sorry."

Solicitor Walt Wilkins said Johnson was offered the same opportunity of a negotiated plea of life without parole, but he did not take it. On Friday, Wilkins served Johnson with notice that he will be seeking the death penalty.

Wilkins said this will be the 1st time he will seek the death penalty in his tenure as Pickens County solicitor.

Wilkins said, "The state had offered both defendants the same deal. If you want to avoid the death penalty, you can plead to a negotiated sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Ms. Williams decided to take that deal and plead guilty today and received that sentence. The co-defendant did not, so he was served with a notice of the state's intent to seek the death penalty and that's where we are in this stage of the litigation."

Since the plea deal has expired and the notice has been served, Johnson can't change his mind.

Wilkins said, "We just hope the family has some solace today and some resolution that Crystal Williams has accepted responsibility for her act. I think they can sleep a little better tonight, but unfortunately we still got a co-defendant that we're going to continue to prosecute."

Johnson has admitted to being the shooter, according to Wilkins

Wilkins said, "There's a young boy involved in this who lost his father and now his mother is going to be spending the rest of her life in jail. So he's the real loser in all of this."

(source: WYFF news)


Ohio Men Wrongly Convicted of Murder After 39 Years Released

2 Ohio men wrongly accused of murder four decades ago are walking free Friday morning after spending 39 years behind bars. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair's release. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman's brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 13-year-old helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict all 3. But that witness, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to court documents.

A story published in Scene Magazine in 2011 first raised new questions about the murder and whether Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers actually committed the crime. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in court Tuesday that without an eyewitness there was not much of a case. "The state is conceding the obvious," he said, according to Reuters.

Ronnie Bridgeman, now known as Kwame Ajamu, was paroled from prison in 2003. Jackson was originally sentenced to death but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. "One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional" said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.

(source: NBC news)


Jodi Arias Trial Update News 2014: Message From Travis Alexander Calling Arias a 'Whore,' 'Evil' Presented in Death Penalty Retrial

During day 12 of the Jody Arias death penalty retrial, the jury heard more testimony about explicit email and text message exchanges between Arias and her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, before he was murdered.

Earlier this week, defense witness Dr. Miccio Fonseca, a clinical psychologist who specializes in twisted sexual behavior, testified about Alexander's inner conflict between his religious conviction and sexual desires. While on the stand, Fonseca stated that Alexander had a mastery of deception and a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality. She also alluded that he communicated having sexual desires about minors, reports ABC 15 Arizona. As a result, her testimony served to build the defense's argument that Alexander was a sexual deviant who emotionally abused Arias.

On Thursday, Fonseca returned to the stand, testifying that Alexander degraded the convicted killer and made her feel like a prostitute. She also spent time reading parts of a long instant-message exchange between Alexander and Arias where he called her a "whore" and a "solid form of evil," reports AZ Central.

However, sparks flew in the courtroom when state prosecutor Juan Martinez stepped up to cross-examine the psychologist. Martinez used two documents to point out similarities and differences in her testimony. He also handed her a document of an interview with Arias' brother, Carl, whom Fonseca confused with her father, Bill.

"You seem to be having problems with your memory," Martinez said during his cross-questioning.

According to court watcher Jen Wood, the cross-examination "was really intense and really heated."

"Dr. Fonseca really challenged Martinez, saying, 'You're mischaracterizing everything I say, for every question he asked her,'" she said according to KPHO.

Debate over deleted pornography from Alexander's computer also continued on Thursday as Arias' lawyers filed a response motion to the prosecutor's counter claims made earlier this week, reports USA Today.

In May 2013, Arias, 34, was convicted of brutally murdering Alexander, 30, inside of his Phoenix, Arizona, home in June 2008. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart. She also slit his throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him and shot him in the face.

Although Arias was found guilty of 1st-degree murder charges, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, the jury in her retrial will determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

(source: Latin Post)


America brings back FIRING SQUADS as European firms refuse to supply lethal injection drugs

Firing squads could return in America to execute death-row prisoners - because EU firms are refusing to supply lethal injections.

Manufacturers in Europe oppose capital punishment and will not sell the drugs to the US.

And after a string of botched executions with jabs around the country, Utah approved a bid to bring back firing squads.

The proposal will see teams of shooters brought in if lethal injection drugs are not available 30 days before the scheduled execution.

The move was prompted after several botched executions in other states using experimental lethal injection cocktails.

Republican Paul Ray, who proposed the move, said it was the most humane way to execute someone because the inmate dies instantly. "We have to have an option," he added.

"If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you're still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it.

"So is it really going to matter?

"The European company that makes this [drug cocktail] is refusing to sell to the United States because they're opposed to the death penalty.

"Using a firing squad is absolutely one of the most humane ways to execute someone because it's so quick and, quite honestly, one of the most painless ways."

He added: "I'm sure there's some initial pain to it but you don't see the struggling and the trying to breathe you see on any type of lethal injection.

"Even on the ones that are the lethal drug cocktail, you still see the gurgling and the fighting to breathe."

In July convicted double killer Joseph Wood took almost 2 hours to die after being administered a lethal injection.

For more than an hour he writhed in agony while strapped to the gurney as his lawyers watched his "gasping and snorting" as he die.

So concerned by his state of distress his attorneys applied for an emergency stay of execution as he lay on the bed at the state prison in Florence, Arizona.

3 months earlier murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett convulsed, clenched his teeth and struggled to talk during the 43 minutes it took him to die as the state tried out a new 3-drug lethal cocktail.

After a 20-minute discussion, an interim panel of Utah's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee approved the use if firing squads on a 9-2 vote Wednesday.

Under the bill it would mean a judge would need to determine if a legal drug combination was available a minimum of 30 days before the execution.

If not, the firing squad would become the method of execution.

Historically Utah gave death row inmates the choice of execution by lethal injection or a firing squad.

However in 2004 the lawmakers made lethal injection the primary method of execution, with a firing squad available for inmates who previously had the right to choose their method of dying.

In recent months America's death row units have found it increasingly difficult to obtain the deadly injections because of a European-led boycott on such sales.

The controversy surrounding the use of such methods has recently gained momentum after European manufacturers, including the Denmark-based maker of pentobarbital, banned US prisons from using their drugs for executions.

Currently 8 inmates reside on Utah's death row with Douglas Carter, convicted of killing Eva Olesen during a 1985 robbery at her home, due next.

But Deputy Utah Attorney General Tom Brunker said the inmate still has legal actions pending and no date has been set for his execution.

The last US execution by firing squad was in 2010 in Utah when twice-convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was shot by a hail of bullets with a target had been pinned over his heart. He had requested the method of execution.

Oklahoma and Utah are the only US states with the option of death by firing squad - and Oklahoma only allows execution by firing squad if both injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional.

Famously played out in the Tom Hanks film, The Green Mile, the electric chair led to the most gruesome of deaths for condemned inmates.

Here, we look at some of the most controversial.

Frank J. Coppola, August 10, 1982, Virginia

It took 2 55-second jolts of electricity to kill the cop turned murderer. The 2nd jolt produced the odour and sizzling sound of burning flesh, and murderer Coppola's head and leg caught on fire. Smoke filled the death chamber from floor to ceiling.

William E. Vandiver, October 16, 1985, Indiana

After the 1st administration of 2,300 volts, murderer William E. Vandiver was still breathing. The execution eventually took 17 minutes and 5 jolts of electricity. The Department of Corrections admitted the execution "did not go according to plan."

Raymond Landry, December 13, 1988, Texas

Murderer Raymond Landry was declared dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the execution gurney and 24 minutes after the drugs 1st started flowing into his arms. 2 minutes after the drugs were administered, the syringe came out of Landry's vein, spraying the deadly chemicals across the room toward witnesses.

Donald Eugene Harding, April 6, 1992, Arizona

Double murderer Donald Eugene Harding's death was not pronounced until almost 11 minutes after the cyanide tablets were added to a gas chamber. During the execution, Harding thrashed and struggled violently against the restraining straps. His death prompted the use of lethal injections in some states.

Pedro Medina, March 25, 1997, Florida

Killer Pedro Medina execution saw a crown of flames shoot a foot above his head during his electrocution. Witnesses said the stench was unbearable leaving 2 dozen witnesses gagging. Like the execution in the Green Mile is was concluded the improper application of a sponge was to blame.

Angel Diaz, December 13, 2006, Florida

After the 1st injection was administered to Angel Diaz he continued to move, and was squinting and grimacing as he tried to mouth words. A 2nd dose was then administered, and 34 minutes passed before the murderer and kidnapper was declared dead. The Medical Examiner ruled the problem had been the needle had gone through his vein and out the other side, so the deadly chemicals were injected into soft tissue.

Clayton Lockett, April 29, 2014, Oklahoma

Convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett convulsed, clenched his teeth and struggled to talk during the 43 minutes it took him to die as the state tried out a new 3-drug lethal cocktail.

(source: Irish Mirror)


The Science Of Lethal Injection: How Most Capital Punishments Work

You're escorted into the small, windowless room that contains only a pale-turquoise gurney and two metal tables up against the wall. One table is neatly set with a pair of scissors, a small red bin, and strips of gauze. The stark cleanliness of the room is oddly disturbing and gives off a feeling of faux-comfort. A clock directly above the gurney hangs in the center of the white wall, its ticking an ominous premonition.

The next thing you notice is the large, cold mirror on the other wall facing the gurney. As you lie down on the gurney, you find yourself staring at this mirror, which is really a 1-way mirror. Behind it sit the witnesses of the execution - some of your relatives, possibly several of the relatives of your victims. They're able to watch you through that window, but you can only see the reflection of yourself lying there, like a specimen.

The prison officials strap you into the gurney and swab your arms with alcohol, then insert two IVs into each arm (one is the main line of execution; the other is a backup, just in case the 1st line fails). You see yourself in the mirror, lying helpless and strapped to the gurney - this is it. You're about to be "put down." They then start the saline drops, to make sure the IVs aren't blocked throughout the process. You're attached to a heart monitor so the prison officials will know when you're dead.


The intravenous injection will involve a set sequence and several different drugs, given to you step-by-step. 1st, some form of anesthesia begins to get pumped into your veins - usually sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, meant to reduce pain and significantly decrease your breathing. This drug is technically not an analgesic or something that numbs pain nerves, but rather is meant to put you into unconsciousness that would, theoretically, prevent you from feeling pain. Within seconds, you begin to feel tired and heavy and you begin to doze off - into sleep or unconsciousness, you're not sure.


Once you're unconscious, the pancuronium bromide, or paralytic agent, begins to enter the IV - inducing paralysis of your muscles and lungs, which stops your breathing. Pancuronium bromide is a neuromuscular blocker that stops a nerve messenger, acetylcholine, from reaching the muscles. This ultimately causes muscular paralysis and respiratory arrest, which could lead to death by asphyxiation if the 3rd drug isn't administered.

Cardiac Arrest

And then, with potassium chloride, a salt substance, they stop your heart. This surge of chemicals impairs the heart by messing up its electrical signaling, ultimately inducing cardiac arrest, or complete stopping of the heart. The total amount of time it should take for you to die shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes.

Lethal injection is used primarily in situations of capital punishment, when a prison inmate is sentenced to death. It began as an attempt by governments to make the death penalty slightly more "humane." The method was 1st proposed in 1888 by a New York doctor who claimed it would be cheaper than hanging, but it didn't yet became implemented in the states. Some 50 years later, the method was used in Nazi Germany as euthanasia before being re-introduced in America in 1977. In that year, Jay Chapman, Oklahoma's state medical examiner, proposed this "less painful" execution method: "An intravenous saline drip shall be started in the prisoner's arm, into which shall be introduced a lethal injection consisting of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic."

The law allowing lethal injection was passed in Oklahoma and is currently used by 35 states (though each state uses a different drug protocol). Traditionally, most states used the 3-drug combination for lethal injections, involving an anesthetic, a paralytic agent, and potassium chloride. But ever since there has been a lethal drug shortage due to the EU ban, many states have had to adopt different methods, including "1 drug," "pentobarbital," and "propofol."

Indeed, getting a lethal injection is by far better than electrocution, hanging, or decapitation, like used in the old days. But research has shown that lethal injection isn't devoid of pain. For example, a 2005 study found that 4 out of 10 prisoners might receive inadequate anesthesia, making the process far more painful than previously believed.

It seems smooth enough and should only take a few minutes, but recently several botched executions have taken place in the U.S., where it took up to 2 hours for some inmates to die. Their deaths were drawn out and often painful, involving burning sensations, convulsions, and gasping for breath. This is why some states have begun to debate whether lethal injection is truly "humane" (assisted in part by the 2011 European Union export ban on lethal drugs to the U.S., due to the fact that the EU calls for "universal abolition" of the death penalty). Other researchers have argued that not enough data or research exists on the current 3-drug protocol (anesthesia, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride) for it to be entirely safe. But it will be quite some time before the U.S. will decide whether to follow in Europe's footsteps and abolish lethal injection, or even the death penalty completely.

(source: Medical Daily)


Best-selling author of "Dead Man Walking" speaks to full house

For years there has been a battle raging behind the scenes of the death penalty. Both sides of the argument are passionate about their beliefs, but which side is standing on the right side of the fence?

Sister Helen Prejean, author of the award winning novel and movie, "Dead Man Walking," recently spoke at DMACC as part of the "Book of the Year" program, sharing some of her deep knowledge on the subject.

Sister Helen began her journey in 1982 as an advocate for abolishing the death penalty as a spiritual advisor to death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier, who had been convicted of a double murder.

Sonnier had been charged for the crime, along with his brother, though he was the only 1 of the 2 to receive the death penalty. Sister Helen would spend 2 years visiting with and advising Sonnier before his death by electric chair in 1984.

After Sonnier, she would go on to be a witness to 5 more executions. She would also become a leading advocate against the death penalty.

Upon the release of "Dead Man Walking" in 1993, the book would spend 31 weeks at the top of the New York Times best seller list.

It would go on to open the eyes of people all around the world about what is really involved in the taking of someone's life by the state.

The death penalty is still active in 32 states and as of January 2014 there are 3,070 inmates currently awaiting execution on death row.

This statistic is only from 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated after a 4-year suspension ordered by the Supreme Court, following the Furman v. Georgia case in 1972.

Since the adoption of the death penalty in 1834 there have been many different forms of execution methods: electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad, hanging, lethal injection.

Lethal injection is the current method typically used, but the days of hangings and firing squads are not that far behind us.

The last recorded hanging in the United States was in 1996 in Delaware; the last by firing squad in 2010 in Utah.

Imagine that for a second. Less than 20 years ago the United States still took part one of the most barbaric forms of execution, hanging, and just 4 years ago a death by firing squad.

Sister Helen argues for human rights in her book and her speech, asking if there is such a thing as a humane way to take someone's life.

She also talks about how inmates with money have a much lower chance of having the death penalty sought, simply because the D.A will not take the chance on losing if the defendant can afford a competent lawyer.

Instead leaning towards the cases that will most likely be open and shut cases for them.

She also asked the question, "Is the death penalty torture?" Yes, we have lethal injection now, which is said to be painless, but what about mentally?

Every day on death row the criminals are forced to play through their own death in their minds, from the walk to the death room to their last breaths.

Should this be considered cruel and unusual punishment?

Another factor in the debate of the death penalty - besides the obvious, human rights - is the cost of the entire process.

The cost of the average murder case without the death penalty being sought is $740,000 dollars, while cases where it is sought cost up to $1.2 million dollars.

Also maintaining prisoners on death row cost on average $90,000 more per year than a prisoner living out a life sentence in general population.

That's money coming out of the tax payer's pockets, simply to take the life of someone already in prison paying for their crime.

Sister Helen has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985 - 1995, and has served as Chairperson of the Board from 1993 - 1995.

She is also a member of Amnesty International and an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation.

She plans to fight for the end of the death penalty until she leaves this earth.

(source: The Campus Chronicle)

GLOBAL: see:

(source: Sant'Egidio)


Taiwan man faces death for 'inhumane' murder of ex-lover

A Taiwanese man faces the death penalty after he was indicted Thursday, accused of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend and sexually assaulting her corpse in a "brutal and inhumane" public attack, prosecutors said.

Chang Yen-wen, 29, who was charged with murder, is alleged to have knifed the woman at least 47 times in a frenzied attack in a street in Taipei on September 22 after she spurned his attempts to rekindle their romance, the district prosecutor's office confirmed.

Chang, who worked for a global accounting firm and is a graduate of the island's top university, was also indicted on the charge of "desecrating a corpse" after allegedly sexually assaulting the 22-year-old kindergarten teacher after she collapsed and died on the scene. Horrified passers-by alerted the police to the attack.

Prosecutors said they sought capital punishment for Chang as they allege the crime was premeditated because he bought a knife a week before the "brutal and inhumane" attack.

Violent crimes are relatively rare in Taiwan but in recent months there have been a number of attacks that have left the public shocked.

Last week, 60 people were indicted on murder and assault charges for allegedly beating a policeman to death outside a nightclub.

In July, prosecutors indicted and sought the death penalty for a 21-year-old college student accused of killing 4 people and wounding nearly 2 dozen others in a stabbing spree in the subway that shocked the island.

(source: Yahoo News)


Court orders to include co-accused in Musharraf's treason case

A special court trying embattled former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf today partially accepted his request to include alleged co-conspirators in a high treason case slapped on him and directed the government to resubmit its complaint against the co-accused.

The 71-year-old former president had repeatedly asked the 3-member special tribunal that he was not alone to decide the implementation of emergency in 2007 for which he is facing treason charges.

The court announced that Musharraf's request to include alleged co-conspirators was partially accepted with a majority vote. It decided to include former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, then law minister Zahid Hamid and former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar in the probe.

However, the court refused to include some senior military officers as demanded by Musharraf, former army chief.

"The court gave a majority judgement and 2 judges accepted the request," Musharraf's counsel Fasial Chaudhry told media.

The court gave the federal government 15 days to submit a report to launch probe against the three co-conspirators. It is an embarrassment for the government as Musharraf's law minister, Zahid Hamid, later joined Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Pakistan Muslim League and he is the current Minister for Science and Technology.

Geo TV reported that Hamid resigned after court verdict. But none of the officials were immediately available to confirm.

Musharraf was charged in March after the trial started in December. He is facing treason charges for suspending and abrogating the constitution and imposing emergency in 2007.

This is the 1st time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler has been put on trial for treason. If convicted, Musharraf could get life imprisonment or death penalty.

Musharraf is facing 4 major cases, including over the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and the 2006 killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti.

(source: Business Standard)

TEXAS----impending execution

Panetti Attorneys File Stay Request With CCA

Attorneys for schizophrenic death row inmate Scott Louis Panetti on Thursday asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to halt his impending Dec. 3 execution, claiming their client is too incompetent to be legally put to death.

"This is not a last-minute filing designed to delay the execution," wrote Kathryn Kase of Houston, Panetti's volunteer attorney. "Nor is his claim frivolous. He has made a colorable showing that he is not competent to be executed."

In their filing, Kase of the Texas Defender Service and co-counsel Gregory Wiercioch of the University of Wisconsin Law School, detail a Nov. 6 visit with their client and interviews with Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff. Both, they say, reveal how Panetti's mental state is deteriorating. Panetti was last assessed for competency to stand execution nearly 7 years ago.

The 56-year-old's paranoid delusions in recent years, they write, have included believing that someone is putting "Satanic graffiti" on his cell walls, and that TDCJ is watching him through pumpkin decorations at the Polunsky Unit where he is detained.

This stay request is the latest, rushed chapter in what has been a 22-year legal odyssey for Panetti, who has had seen execution dates come and go before.

In 2004, he was granted a stay the day before his scheduled execution. In 2007, 1 of his appeals made it to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that mentally ill inmates can be executed only if they understand what is about to happen and why. Because Panetti's competency has not been assessed since 2007, his attorneys claim, there's no way to know if he meets that test.

This plea to the state's highest criminal court came after state District Judge Keith Williams of the 216th District Court in Gillespie County denied a request to change Panetti's execution date so he could undergo a new competency assessment. Kase said she and her co-counsel were not even notified of the Dec. 3 execution date, and learned of it 2 weeks after it was set, on Oct. 30.

Panetti, a Wisconsin native was sentenced to death in 1995 after representing himself at trial and dressing up in a cowboy suit in court. Court documents show he has had been hospitalized a dozen times for mental illness and, at the time of the murders of Joe Gaitan Alvarado Jr. and Amanda Carrion Alvarado, was collecting federal disability checks.

A separate clemency request filed a week ago to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry bears the support of Texas lawmakers, mental health officials, Christian leaders, former federal prosecutors, judges, former Texas. Gov. Mark White and former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate, Ron Paul.

"The circumstances of this case present a situation where execution does not serve the state of Texas. Respectfully I request that you grant clemency in this case," wrote Paul.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Montco baby killer gets death penalty

A Montgomery County judge imposed death sentences Thursday to the man convicted of killing 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and her 10-month-old granddaughter, Saanvi Venna, in October 2012.

"The jury said you did it," Common Pleas Court Judge Steven O'Neill said to Raghunandan Yandamuri before imposing the jury's sentence. "You were convicted. It is you they sentenced to death. Make no mistake about it."

Yandamuri, 28, of King of Prussia, was also found guilty of one count of robbery, burglary, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.

Judge O'Neill described the crimes as "borne of a man who appears to have no conscious" and that Yandamuri used his cunning to get into he Marquis Apartments in Upper Merion and that he betrayed the trust of a family who came to the United States for a better life. For the other charges, Judge O'Neill said Yandamuri deserved nothing less than "total confinement" and handed down the longest sentences for each crime allowed by law.

For counts of robbery, kidnapping, burglary and abuse of a corpse, Yandamuri was sentenced to 31 to 62 years in prison.

Before he was sentenced, Yandamuri said he felt sorry for the family.

"I apologize to the victims. I feel sorry for them," he said.

The Venna family was not in court on Thursday.

Yandamuri further stated that during the course of the past 2 years he has met "many nice people" and appreciated the fact that the district attorney's office did everything they could to give him a fair trial.

He also stated he did not blame the detectives in the case which contradicts the arguments he made in trial. In trial he constantly stated the lead detective, Montgomery County Detective Paul Bradbury, lied about how Yandamuri was treated while being questioned at the Upper Merion police department in October of 2012. Throughout the trial he also blamed investigators for not following up on his theory that 2 other men were involved in the murders.

Yandamuri's case will automatically go to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for review. Judge O'Neill appointed Stephen Heckman, who acted as stand-by counsel during the trial, and sentencing phase attorney Henry Hilles as Yandamuri's appellate counsel.

Yandamuri was found guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder on Oct. 9 after 2 days of jury deliberation following a month and a half long trial.

The investigation began on Oct. 22, 2012, when police were called to the Marquis Apartments in Upper Merion for a report of a killing and a missing child. Police soon learned from the victim's son that his daughter was missing and he had found a ransom note at the scene of the crime demanding $50,000 for his daughter's life.

The ransom note used nicknames for the baby's parents that only a few people were familiar with. After going down a list, investigators found Yandamuri and, after several hours of questioning on Oct. 25-Oct. 26, 2012, Yandamuri admitted to the killings. He then told police he put the body of Saanvi Venna in the sauna of the Marquis Apartments after she died.

During trial however, he tried to present evidence to the jury that 2 white men, whom he ever identified only as Josh and Matt, forced him to help them into the apartment where the killed Satyavathi Venna and kidnapped Saanvi Venna.



O'Malley asks to meet with families of death row inmates' victims

With 2 months left in office, Gov. Martin O'Malley has asked to meet with at least 2 families whose loved ones were killed by men on Maryland's death row - a move that might signal the governor is poised to take action on death penalty cases..

Since the state acted last year to abolish the death penalty for future cases, advocates on both sides of the issue have been watching to see whether O'Malley would grant clemency to 4 men already on death row.

Mary Francis Moore of Boonsboro is scheduled to talk with O'Malley on Monday about one of them, Heath William Burch, who in 1995 killed Moore's father and his wife with scissors during a drug-fueled break-in of their home.

"We're very upset with this. We don't know what's happening," said Moore, 71, who said she and her family fear O'Malley might decide to grant Burch clemency. "The way they keep changing things, is this guy going to eventually get out?"

Dorothy Atkinson of Salisbury, whose son was murdered by death row inmate Jody Lee Miles in 1997, said an aide to O'Malley called her Tuesday and said the governor wanted to speak with her. A date for their meeting has not been set.

Though Atkinson believes Miles deserves to be executed, she submitted a letter to O'Malley 2 weeks ago, asking him to commute Miles' sentence to put an end to court proceedings, which she says are painful for the family.

Atkinson said she is angry the case has dragged on so long but glad O'Malley will meet with her.

"He's not been through this. He doesn't know what it's like," she said.

Meanwhile, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger - a staunch death penalty supporter - said the governor's office contacted him in an attempt to locate relatives of the victims of death row inmates Vernon Evans and Anthony Grandison.

"Unfortunately, we really do not have any family members in those cases, because so many people have passed away over the passage of time," Shellenberger said. Evans and Grandison were convicted of the contract murder of 2 people in a Pikesville hotel in 1983.

O'Malley has largely refused to discuss the fate of the men who were already sentenced to death when Maryland repealed the death penalty, saying only that he would consider each case as requests for clemency reached his desk. A lawyer for Burch said recently that he submitted such a petition earlier this year.

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment for this article.

This month, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said his office has concluded that the state no longer has the authority to execute anyone, even though the repeal legislation was not intended to be retroactive. Gansler is joining lawyers for Miles in arguing that the state can't issue new regulations for how to carry out executions now that capital punishment has been abolished. The old rules were thrown out by a court in 2006.

Though Miles' appeal faces an uncertain outcome in the courts, Gansler noted that O'Malley has the ability with the stroke of a pen to commute death sentences to life without parole. Governors in Illinois and New Jersey commuted the existing death sentences in their states after the repeal of capital punishment.

Shellenberger opposes commutation. "We believe that the convictions in Evans and Grandison have been upheld on appeal, on numerous occasions. The law passed that repealed the death penalty did nothing to change the validity of those convictions," Shellenberger said.

Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said O'Malley should commute the sentences of all 4 death row inmates and was pleased to hear he had reached out to victims' relatives.

"One of the biggest reasons [to commute the sentences] is just to end this and not put the families through more legal procedures, when everyone knows there's no way to carry out a death sentence in Maryland," Henderson said.

Burch, 45, was sentenced to die in 1996 for killing Robert Davis, 70, and Cleo Davis, 77, in their Capitol Heights home. Moore said it has been years since she heard anything about the case. She said O'Malley's aides did not specifically say why he was seeking the meeting but mentioned Burch.

O'Malley's "been in there how many years and never touched this. Now all of a sudden he's paying attention?" said Moore, who lives in Washington County. "It's like he's trying to get this resolved before he leaves."

Moore said her conversation with O'Malley on Monday will be over the phone. She declined a face-to-face meeting, not because she does not want to meet with the governor, but because she generally prefers to stay at home with her family on their farm. She said her mind has been racing about what the governor wants to speak to her about.

"I've got to get myself prepared," she said. "I've got to write things down. I want to be able to kind of go step to step with him."

Moore believes the move might be politically motivated, with O'Malley, a Democrat, preparing to leave office and with the election of a new governor, Republican Larry Hogan, who opposed the repeal of capital punishment. Hogan has been noncommittal about the remaining inmates.

Burch's attorney, Michael E. Lawlor, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Earlier this month, he said the "basic element of consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that these 4 individuals be removed from death row and given sentences of life."

Burch lived down the street from the Davises, and admitted in court that he was high on crack and intended to rob them to get money to buy more drugs.

Robert Davis, a World War II veteran and retired Washington, D.C., firefighter, confronted Burch with a gun but didn't fire after he recognized his neighbor.

Burch beat and stabbed the couple dozens of times with a pair of scissors, stole four guns and a small amount of cash, and fled in their pickup truck.

He was sentenced to 2 death sentences, one of which the state's highest court overturned. The appeal divided the 7-member Court of Appeals, with Chief Judge Robert M. Bell writing that errors in sentencing meant the court should overturn both death sentences.

A Prince George's County judge signed his death warrant in 2004, and execution dates have been set, only to be canceled.

Moore's uncle and Robert Davis' brother, Jack, said Burch should have been put to death years ago.

"He should get what he's sentenced to," Jack Davis, who now lives in Florida, said Thursday.

Davis said he initially had mixed emotions when the sentence was handed down - "I'm not a killer," he said - but he believes Burch's sentence should be upheld.

"The judge ordered to give him the death penalty. What the hell does the governor have to change that?" he said.

(source: Baltimore Sun)


5 Virginia death row inmates challenge solitary confinement

5 of Virginia's death row inmates alleged in a lawsuit Thursday that their nearly constant solitary confinement is unconstitutional and they should be give more freedom to exercise in the gym and see their immediate family members without a glass partition.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia asks that the five inmates be given the same privileges as inmate Alfredo Prieto, whose challenge to his own solitary confinement led a federal judge last year to rule that corrections officials could not impose such extreme isolation unilaterally and automatically. Prison officials have appealed that decision.

At stake in the lawsuit - as it seemed to be in Prieto's case - is just how solitary life should be for Virginia's death row inmates, and exactly what prison officials have to do in each case to justify imposing isolation. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the state has 8 inmates on death row, including Prieto and those involved in the more recent lawsuit.

The suit - filed on behalf of Thomas Porter, Anthony Juniper, Ivan Teleguz, Mark Lawlor and Ricky Gray - alleges that forcing death row inmates to spend nearly every hour of every day in small cells with "almost no contact with other human beings" is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

All of those in the suit have been convicted of heinous crimes, including murders of a police officer and children.

The lawsuit says the inmates asked for the same privileges as those given to Prieto - who was allowed to exercise in the gym and see his immediate family without a glass partition after his legal challenge - but were denied. Prieto was convicted of murder in California and of killing a man and woman near Reston in 1988.

"It's outrageous for the state to provide legally mandated relief for one of a bunch of similarly situated persons, particularly when what's at issue is having to live in such horrific conditions," said Victor M. Glasberg, 1 of the lawyers who filed the suit.

Although the lawsuit claims prison officials have relaxed the conditions under which Prieto was confined, Virginia officials have fought his case all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, arguing that restrictive, solitary confinement conditions for death row inmates are necessary to keep the prison safe from people with little to lose.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema had rejected those arguments and ordered prison officials to either determine death row inmates' confinement conditions on a case-by-case basis or to change all of their confinement conditions, "if only slightly," so that they are not so restrictive.

The appeals court has not yet ruled on the case, and the ruling certainly could undercut the more recent lawsuit.

The 5 inmates - who have been on death row from 3 to 9 years - do not suggest specific ways in which they should be given more liberties, except to say that they want to be treated like Prieto. They complain, though, that their cells are not adjacent to any others, and that they are only allowed to see family members for non-contact visits in a room with a glass partition. They also complain that the recreation room they are allowed to use for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week is a small outdoor cell without exercise equipment.

Michael Kelly, a spokesman for the Virginia attorney general's office, said he could not comment because state lawyers had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

(source: Washington Post)


Racial Justice Act decision pending in Supreme Court

Racial Justice Act Timeline

August 1994: Marcus Reymond Robinson is sentenced to death for the 1991 robbery and murder of a teenager.

May 1998: Tilmon Golphin and his younger brother, Kevin, are sentenced to death for the murder of a deputy and a state trooper. Kevin is later removed from death row because of his age at the time of the killings.

July 2000: Christina S. "Queen" Walters is sentenced to die for leading a gang that kidnaps 3 women, killing 2 and shooting the 3rd.

October 2002: Quintel Augustine gets the death penalty for murdering a Fayetteville police officer.

January 2007: Robinson is scheduled to be executed, but a a judge halts his and all other executions in North Carolina because of legal questions about the state's execution methods and practices.

August 2009: The Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Democratic governor pass the Racial Justice Act. Most death row inmates file claims in the next year.

April 2012: Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks orders Robinson removed from death row under the terms of the law.

July 2012: The legislature, now controlled by Republicans, modifies the Racial Justice Act to make it harder to use.

December 2012: Judge Weeks orders Walters, Golphin and Augustine removed from death row under both the 2009 version and the 2012 version of the Racial Justice Act.

June 2013: The Republican-controlled legislature repeals the Racial Justice Act. It also passes a law on execution protocols intended to resume executions, which have been in hiatus since 2007 because of a legal fight over the protocols.

April 2014: The N.C. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether the Racial Justice Act was correctly appplied in removing Robinson, Walters, Augustine and Golphin from death row.

November 2014: A ruling from the Supreme Court is pending. Executions have not resumed because the 2007 litigation over protocols is unresolved.


It's been 7 months since the state Supreme Court heard arguments on whether 4 convicted murderers were correctly or wrongly removed from death row based on evidence of racism in North Carolina's criminal justice system.

And it's been 8 years since North Carolina has last carried out an execution.

The state's method of carrying out the death penalty has been paralyzed in state and federal courts since January 2007.

People for and against the death penalty and the Racial Justice Act are watching for resolution to both issues.

On Nov. 10, a judge gave prisoners' lawyers until Dec. 10 to file new paperwork challenging the execution protocols.

A Supreme Court ruling on the Racial Justice Act, the controversial law that allowed the four inmates to come off death row in 2012, could come as soon as Dec. 12, when it's next expected to publish decisions.

But there is no certainty to that date.

It's to be expected that the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the Racial Justice Act cases, said lawyer Ken Rose of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham.

"It's a very difficult, huge issue for the court that affects a lot of people," Rose said. "And it doesn't surprise me that they're being very deliberative about it."

Regardless of the Racial Justice Act ruling, executions are unlikely to resume anytime soon, Rose said. The fight in state and federal court over the state's method of execution will remain unresolved. Rose predicted there will be no executions in in North Carolina in 2015.

Local inmates

The Racial Justice Act of 2009 has been the most-visible death penalty law in North Carolina in the past five years, and often was incorrectly blamed for North Carolina's unofficial moratorium on executions.

Passed when Democrats controlled state government, the law said death row inmates could ask judges to review their cases to see if racism was a factor in their prosecutions, convictions and death sentences. If a judge found racism to be a significant factor in an inmate's case, he would commute the sentence from death to life in prison without parole.

In the year after the law passed in August 2009, all but 8 of the approximately 155 people on death row at that time sought relief. These included whites as well as black and American Indian defendants.

One way the inmates attacked their death sentences was to criticize the jury selection of their trials. If they could prove that prosecutors were racist in deciding which jurors were allowed to be seated, the inmates could win commuted sentences.

It's illegal for a prosecutor to consider the race of a potential juror when deciding whether to strike him from the panel.

The initial batch of Racial Justice Act claimants alleged that the prosecutors operated on a theory that black jurors were less likely to convict or sentence a person to death than white jurors.

The 1st claimant, Marcus Reymond Robinson, had statistical data that said prosecutors struck black potential jurors more often than whites.

Robinson was on death row for robbing and killing a 17-year-old who had given him a ride in Fayetteville.

The next 3 claimants used this data, plus notes made by the prosecutors to make their claims.

Those 3 are Christina Walters, who led a gang that kidnapped and shot 3 women, killing 2; Tilmon Golphin, who with his brother killed a deputy and a state trooper; and Quintel Augustine, who was convicted of killing a Fayetteville police officer.

In spring and fall 2012, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks commuted the sentences of the 4 inmates.

Robinson's case led the legislature in summer 2012, and now controlled by Republicans, to make it harder to use statistical data to prove a Racial Justice Act claim.

Weeks' decision on the other 3 claims later that year spurred lawmakers to repeal the entire law in 2013 in an attempt to stop any other inmates from using it.

It remains in dispute whether the death row inmates who had claims pending when the law was repealed can still use it.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the 4 original cases in April and received hundreds of pages in legal briefs.

The state Attorney General Office argues that Weeks made numerous mistakes.

Among them:

--That Weeks misinterpreted the law.

--That he was wrong to conclude that the statistics proved there was racism.

--That he was wrong to conclude that racism was proven in Robinson's case.

--And that he prevented prosecution witnesses who could have rebutted some of the evidence from testifying. The inmates' lawyers contend that the Attorney General's Office is wrong and Weeks was correct in his interpretation and application of the law and the evidence presented.

When rulings come down, there are several possible outcomes, said Rose, who represents Golphin.

"Affirm the life sentence, vacate and impose the death sentence, or remand for further consideration and further hearing," Rose said.

If the cases are remanded, they would return to Cumberland County Superior Court.

Weeks has retired, so it's not certain which judge would take up the case.

Deadline nears

Separately, the court system is evaluating North Carolina's execution methods.

The dispute arose in January 2007, when Robinson was scheduled to be executed.

He and several other inmates facing imminent execution persuaded a Wake County Superior Court judge to halt all executions to consider whether North Carolina officials had obeyed state law when they set up the procedures.

There have been other related challenges over the years that further blocked executions.

In the meantime, it has become more difficult for states to obtain all three of the drugs that were used to kill the inmates - some drug makers don't want to be associated with capital punishment.

Frustrated by the delay and impediments, state lawmakers in summer 2013 changed the law on execution protocols in an effort to clear a path to resume executions.

For example, the law said that a single drug, chosen by the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, could be used to kill the condemned.

These changes were in the same bill that repealed the Racial Justice Act.

"This new legislation will start the dead men walking once again," said state Sen. Thom Goolsby of Wilmington, the bill sponsor, in March 2013.

State Rep. Paul Stam told the Associated Press that summer that he expected it would be a matter of many months instead of years before executions resumed.

But instead of spurring executions, the law change instead has given death row inmates more ammunition to delay their dates with the executioner's needle.

"The General Assembly created a new set of issues, is what I would say," Rose said. "Every time they change it, there's another, a new set of questions that they raise."

Inmates are challenging the new law and its implementation.

"That is holding up executions, I would say, for the foreseeable future, certainly through 2015," Rose said.

On Nov. 10, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Stephens gave lawyers for the death row defendants until Dec. 10 to file their latest arguments.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)


Georgia to execute man whose actively alcoholic lawyer botched his case

Mike Mechanic from Mother Jones says,

Georgia just set a date (Dec. 9) to execute a prisoner named Robert Wayne Holsey, whom Philly death penalty lawyer and essayist Marc Bookman describes as "a low-functioning man with a tortured past." Yeah, we've heard that before, but here's the thing: Andy Prince, the lawyer the court appointed to represent Holsey was a fucking unbelievable mess--a chronic, severe alcoholic who was stealing from his clients and had been arrested for threatening a black neighbor with a gun, saying, "Nigger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass." (Prince was white, and Holsey is black.)

It gets worse. Prince hired an incompetent co-counsel and gave her no direction whatsoever. He failed to hire a mitigation specialist for the sentencing. That's the person who digs up evidence to support the argument that the client, although guilty, deserves to live. The court provided money for this, but Prince was unable to account for where it went. He failed to do even the most basic gumshoe work. And then, during the trial, he knocked back a quart - a QUART - of vodka every night. He botched it badly.

In this meticulously written essay, Bookman holds our hand through Prince's downward spiral and demonstrates just how hard it is for a person to win a resentencing - even under jaw-dropping circumstances such as this.

We first published this in April, but given the update, totally worth reading.


This Man Is About to Die Because an Alcoholic Lawyer Botched His Case----What does it take for a condemned person to win a resentencing?

Georgia has set a December 9 execution date for Robert Wayne Holsey; a clemency hearing is scheduled for the morning of December 8.

When people recount their alcohol consumption after a night on the town, or even a serious bender, they usually think about it in terms of drinks. Very rarely do they calibrate their intake in quarts. So most of us don't have a good sense of just how much a quart of vodka is - a bit more than 21 shots, as it turns out. That's the amount of alcohol lawyer Andy Prince consumed every night during the death penalty trial of his client, Robert Wayne Holsey, a low-functioning man with a tortured past who now stands on the brink of execution in Georgia.

When a person drinks that heavily, there's bound to be collateral damage - and for Prince and his clients the damage was profound. Once a skilled lawyer, Prince already had dug himself a very deep hole by the time Holsey went to trial in February 1997. But the signs of his downward spiral were clear 14 months earlier, back in December 1995, when a Baldwin County judge first assigned him the case. Prince had recently defaulted on a $20,000 promissory note, and Bell South and Vanguard Financial had won separate judgments against him totaling an additional $25,000. And then there was the probate fiasco: In June 1994, a client named Margaret Collins had hired Prince to handle the estate of her deceased common-law husband, which was valued at $116,000. Within a year there was almost nothing left - Prince had spent it all. He never really considered it stealing, he later insisted. He'd always intended to pay the money back when that one big civil case came along.

In an altercation with neighbors, Holsey's white lawyer wielded a gun: "Nigger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass."

His deterioration emerged in other troubling ways. In June 1996, after 6 months as Holsey's lawyer, Prince got into an argument with neighbors at his apartment complex, cursing at them - "Nigger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass" - and threatening them with a gun. He was a white lawyer defending a black man in the high-profile murder of a white police officer, but nowhere in the Holsey case record was there ever a suggestion that he might be unfit to handle the case. He was simply charged with 2 counts of pointing a pistol at another, 2 counts of simple assault, 2 counts of disorderly conduct, and, of course, public drunkenness.

For Prince, it all came back to alcohol. Three months before he wrote the 1st of many checks against the estate, conduct that eventually put him in prison, he was hit with a complaint from the Athens Regional Medical Center for his failure to pay more than $10,000 for an inpatient substance abuse program he'd attended in 1993. But the drinking began long before that. By 14 he already had a problem with it, and by his late 30s, he'd lost his battle with alcoholism countless times.

On 1 occasion, in 1988, Prince staggered into the Athens emergency room with a blood alcohol level almost four times the driving limit, declared that he'd been drunk 2 months running, and asked to be detoxified. He'd come in before, and, as was his pattern, he signed himself out against the advice of the attending doctors. In May 1993, he upped the ante, arriving at the ER with a near-death .346 blood alcohol level. As Thomas Butcher, a doctor at the facility, noted in his psychological evaluation:

When a very intelligent man whose professional life is spent out maneuvering and out smarting other people repetitively makes a serious judgment error based on a belief that has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, he needs to consider that it may be time for him to do some serious revision of his thinking, that is, if he wants to continue to live.

Butcher added that if Prince "made the kind of mistakes in the courtroom that he makes with his drinking he wouldn't have a professional career to worry about."

3 days after the evaluation, Prince checked out of the hospital against doctors' orders, only to return a week later for 3 weeks of rehab. The treatment didn't take. After 2 months, he was back again (acute intoxication). But Prince was nothing if not resilient. When a physician brought up his struggles - family problems, his disastrous finances, his heavy work responsibilities - Prince insisted he had them "under control." Events would soon prove otherwise.

There are enough of these cases on record that most people in the legal profession no longer find them particularly shocking.

Prince was by no means the 1st drunk to handle a death penalty trial. There are plenty of well-documented examples. Also of drug-addicted lawyers, lawyers who refer to their clients by racial slurs in front of the jury, lawyers who nap through testimony, and lawyers who don't bother to be in court while a crucial witness is testifying. There are lawyers who have never read their state's death penalty statute, lawyers who file one client's brief in another client's death penalty appeal without changing the names, lawyers who miss life-or-death deadlines, and lawyers who don't even know that capital cases have separate determinations of guilt and punishment.

There are enough of these cases on record that most people in the legal profession no longer find them particularly shocking. What is more shocking, though, is how commonly courts and prosecutors are willing to overlook these situations as they occur, and how doggedly they try to defend the death sentences that result. Trial judges, of course, are often the ones who appointed the lawyers in question. And prosecutors have little motivation to demand that their courtroom adversaries be qualified and effective. It's a flawed system that often results in flawed verdicts. For a clear window into it, we need look no further than the Holsey case.

In the early hours of December 17, 1995, Robert Wayne Holsey was arrested and charged for the murder of Baldwin County Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson, who pulled over Holsey's car following the armed robbery of a Jet Food Store in the county seat of Milledgeville. As with any killing of a police officer, it was a high-profile affair. Most of the county's judges attended Robinson's funeral, and many sent flowers. To ensure an impartial hearing, the trial had to be moved two counties away.

Deputy Robinson's killing generated lots of local press.

Like the great majority of people arrested for serious crimes, Holsey could not afford a lawyer; he had to depend on the court to appoint one for him. But it is reasonable to wonder why any court would have chosen Andy Prince for the job. Beyond his chronic alcohol problem and the financial judgments piling up against him, Prince did not generally handle cases in the Milledgeville area.

As it turns out, little thought was given to his suitability. The selection process in the Holsey case conjures up the old military trope about volunteering by means of everyone else taking a step backward. "Because of who the victim was, nobody within the circuit wanted to be appointed to this case," Prince later testified. "And I told [the judge], sure, I'd take it."

On one condition: He insisted on picking his co-counsel. Prince had handled capital cases before, and with some success, but he'd only worked on the more traditional guilt/innocence part of the representation—never the crucial sentencing phase. He contacted Rob Westin, the lawyer he'd collaborated with previously. Westin said he'd do it, but then reversed himself in short order. Westin "had gone to the solicitor's office in Baldwin County," Prince later explained, "and had been told that they couldn't believe that he was representing Mr. Holsey and that if he continued to represent him he would never get another deal worked out with that office."

Trammell was likely chosen as Holsey's 2nd lawyer "based on proximity," she later testified. "I had not tried to trial a death penalty case."

His next attempt to secure co-counsel failed as well; the lawyer quit after a few months on the case and took a job with the state attorney general's office. 7 months before the trial date, Prince finally found his "2nd chair" in Brenda Trammell, a lawyer who practiced in Morgan County, where the case was to be tried: "She was about the only one that would take it."

As for Trammell, she assumed she was selected "based on proximity," as she later testified. "I had not tried to trial a death penalty case and I waited for him to tell me what to do, and there really was not a lot of direction in that way."

There was still one thing missing. What distinguishes capital murder trials from noncapital ones is the penalty phase, wherein the jury hears additional evidence and determines the appropriate punishment—usually choosing between death and life without parole. During this phase, a "mitigation specialist," whom the American Bar Association (ABA) describes as "an indispensable member of the defense team throughout all capital proceedings," gathers information that might convince jurors to spare the defendant's life. Indeed, the court provided Holsey's defense team with sufficient funds to hire a mitigation specialist, but no one was ever able to account for the money. Prince later said that he didn't remember what happened to it, only that he was certain no mitigation specialist was ever hired. Which may explain Trammell's response to this question from Holsey's appeals lawyer.

Q: When you got into the case, was there any theory with respect to mitigation in the event that he was convicted?

A: No, sir.

Mitigation theory or not, Holsey went on trial for his life in February 1997.

There is a mantra among competent capital defense lawyers: "Death is different." By this they mean that defending against the state-sanctioned execution of a human being requires extraordinary measures, and that a capital case must be handled with even greater care than a "regular" murder trial. "It is universally accepted," the ABA states, "that the responsibilities of defense counsel in a death penalty case are uniquely demanding."

The Scottsboro Boys, in 1933, with attorney Samuel Leibowitz, who represented them following the US Supreme Court ruling. Fred Hiroshige/Decatur Daily via Wikipedia This is not a new concept. More than 80 years ago, in an infamous capital rape case against nine black teenagers dubbed the Scottsboro Boys, a trial judge appointed the entire Scottsboro, Alabama, bar to represent the defendants - a showing of false magnanimity that the Supreme Court ultimately rejected, noting that it fell far short of the constitutional requirement for the appointment of counsel. An accused person "requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings," the opinion concluded.

But Holsey's lawyers did not provide that guiding hand. They were an odd couple with an awkward rapport. While Prince was a drunk, Trammell was a part-time minister who eschewed alcohol. She recalled stopping by her colleague's hotel room once during the trial to find him drinking, and never stopped by again. When he called her at home one night during the proceedings, slurring his words, she told him not to call her there anymore.

Their inability to communicate had a predictably devastating effect. In this exchange, Trammell is responding to questions from an appeals lawyer about her cross-examination of the state's DNA expert, who had testified that the victim's blood was found on Holsey's shoes:

Q: When were you told that you would cross-examine Michele?

A: Before lunch.

Q: When did she testify?

A: She was testifying. We took a break for us to do the cross, for lunch, and during lunch I had to learn about DNA.

Q: Did you know, had you had any training about DNA before that?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you know anything at all about the DNA process?

A: No, sir...I was calling during lunch the capital defense people, to ask them what am I supposed to ask about DNA?

Q: And did you learn...being thrown into that, that questioning concerning DNA is an extremely technical and complicated area?

A: Definitely.

On February 11, 1997, both sides made their closing arguments and the judge gave final instructions to the jury. 6 hours later, the jurors found Holsey guilty of armed robbery and of the deputy's murder. That was the night Prince called Trammell. Drunk. The only time he ever called her at home. He was concerned, she testified, that the sentencing "was not going to be good."

The state presented its case for death the following morning. 8 witnesses detailed Holsey's criminal background. Beyond the crimes for which he had just been convicted, he had pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated assault 5 years earlier, and an armed robbery with serious bodily injury 14 years earlier. There was considerable dispute over whether the victims in the later incident had initiated the aggravated assaults, but in the end it hardly mattered - Holsey had stabbed a guy four times and admitted to it. By the time they rested their case, the state's lawyers had painted a stark portrait of a violent man with a violent past who now had murdered a faithful public servant in the line of duty.

The defense barely challenged that portrayal. They called several witnesses to prolong the useless debate over who was at fault in the aggravated assaults. Two employees from the county jails testified that he hadn't caused any problems at their facilities. Three people from the local Pizza Hut testified that he'd been a good employee for six months or so, until he lost his job when he went to jail for the assaults. The owner of the bar where the assaults had happened said he "had heard something about" Holsey's bed wetting, and drew some vague conclusions about the mother's neglect of her children and lack of parenting skills. Angela, Holsey's younger sister, begged the jury to let him live, but provided nothing compelling about her brother or their family. Which left only one witness to convey anything of substance: his oldest sister, Regina.

Regina Holsey should have been a star defense witness. She was a deputy United States Marshal, an ex-Marine, and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm - not to mention a former employee of the Baldwin County Sheriff's Department, where the victim had worked. Yet her testimony reads like an underdeveloped roll of film: There are hints of powerful evidence that would cast her brother in a more sympathetic light, but the details never fully emerge. Essential facts are mentioned almost in passing: that their father was shot and paralyzed by the police when her mother was pregnant with Wayne. (The family called him Wayne, not Robert.) That he did poorly in school and was considered borderline mentally disabled. That their mother beat the children. That he was a stutterer, and that his sister Angela and mother, Mary, had mental-health problems.

The record reads almost as though Prince felt he was wasting the jury's time. On four separate occasions, with his most critical witness on the stand, he asked Regina to read from isolated portions of crucial documents rather than guiding her, and the jury, through them:

Q: And I'm not, again, just - I'm going to hit a few highlights. This is a juvenile complaint report dated 6-27-65. And I want you to read just the highlighted portion from that second page of that document. And the jury will be able to read it all, but I'm not going to take that much time. I'm going to hit some of the - would you read those highlighted portions, please?

A: The 1st part says Mr. Courson advised me that Robert was basically a runaway case. He has no supervision at home and refuses to return home. Says Mrs. Holsey would not go to the school, and sent a note with Robert. Robert was not allowed to return. When he tried to come back, the principal called the police to remove Robert.

Trammell's closing argument is even more cursory, perhaps because she didn't learn she was going to present it until the night before. In a 9 1/2-page speech laden with religious references - the lawyer/minister uses the word "God" 16 times and "Jesus" another 5 - she managed to condense the mitigating evidence for her client into the space of a single paragraph.

Not all of us are abused and neglected, cursed at. Not all of us grow up with no father, with no mother, in essence who are neglected and are left alone, who are beaten. You know, you have got the records of Angela Holsey. Look at those when you go out. With a foster placement plan that says, "We can't send her back to a parent that won't encourage her in anything; it in actuality encourages her violence." Who is borderline mentally retarded. Wayne is borderline mentally retarded. Does that excuse him? No, there is no excuse. Who stuttered, who wet the bed until he was 12, and no one even takes him to the doctor for it. Who grew up by himself.

She ended with a plea for mercy. As inebriated as Prince may have been when he'd called her before, he was correct in his prediction. In less than 2 hours, the jury returned with a death sentence.

Trouble caught up with Andy Prince shortly after the trial. Still facing tens of thousands of dollars in judgments, he stole the last $800 from the estate he'd already looted. He then accepted a plea deal related to his fight with the neighbors, receiving probation for disorderly conduct. 8 months after Holsey's sentencing, Prince surrendered his law license, and 6 months after that, in May 1998, he was indicted for his theft and sent to prison for 16 months. By the time he was called to testify as part of Holsey's appeal, he was out of prison, sober, and getting by as a freelance paralegal. From the appeals transcript:

Q: Did you attempt to conceal your difficulty with alcohol from [the trial judge]?

A: I didn't attempt to conceal it. I just didn't parade it around. At the time, I didn't consider I was having any trouble with alcohol.

Q: And why is that?

A: You know, I could drink a quart of liquor every night and work all day long. I thought I was doing fine.

Q: Since you have become sober, do you have a different opinion now?

A: Absolutely.

Q: And what is your opinion now?

A: Well, what I considered was doing fine at the time was just barely getting by.

Asked whether he should have resigned the Holsey appointment, Prince, who passed away in 2011, replied, "I shouldn't have been representing anybody in any case."

Just as alcoholics see things more clearly when they stop drinking, death penalty cases often come into better focus when good lawyers take over from bad ones. Holsey's case certainly did. But did it matter? The state of Georgia argued that it didn't. Sure, maybe Holsey's lawyer was plastered every night, and maybe another attorney might have handled it better. But Holsey was guilty of murder, the state's attorneys argued, and the best lawyers in the country couldn't change that fact. His appeal was little more than crying over spilled milk.

Holsey's mother doled out verbal brutality, too: "butthole," "sissy ass," "motherfucker," "dumbo," "buck teeth motherfucking monkey."

Capital cases are more than questions of guilt or innocence, though. Often the biggest question is whether the guilty should live or die. And the disturbing details of Holsey's early years only came to light as his appeals unfolded. It turned out, for instance, that his school had promoted him socially year after year despite his inability to grasp basic material. As early as 1st grade, Holsey was well behind his fellow students - his math and reading abilities never got past the 4th-grade level. As one of his junior high school teachers put it in an affidavit, he "just wasn't playing with a full deck." 2 doctors testified that Holsey was not merely borderline, but was actually mentally disabled, which by law would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

There was far more the jury never heard - riveting testimony from witnesses who would have gladly shared the information had anyone bothered to ask. Holsey's mother, Mary, it turned out, was legendary around the neighborhood for the fearsome physical abuse she inflicted on her children. If Wayne opened the refrigerator looking for food because he was hungry, he was beaten. If he crossed the street to pick blackberries, he was beaten. If he wet the bed, which he did until he was a teenager, he was beaten. He was beaten with hands, curling irons, extension cords, high-heel shoes, cooking spoons. In the house, on the corner. The physical abuse was accompanied by verbal brutality: "butthole." "Sissy ass." "Motherfucker." "Dumbo." "Buck teeth motherfucking monkey."

All of this was summed up in the affidavit of Sandra Francis, a woman who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Holsey children before going off to college and graduate school in New Jersey: "I remember saying prayers of thanks and gratitude to God that I was not one of Mary Holsey's children," Francis testified. "We called her unit in the projects the 'torture chamber.'"

That other kids called the Holsey's unit "the torture chamber" was just one detail his lawyers never raised during his sentencing - or ever bothered to find out.

By the end of the appellate hearing, a much clearer portrayal of Robert Wayne Holsey had emerged: a stuttering, bed-wetting man with very low intellectual function who was raised in poverty and terrorized by a vicious, violent, and psychotic mother. The judge concluded that Holsey's trial defense team had "failed to prepare and present any meaningful mitigation evidence as a defense to the death penalty... In light of this lack of any significant preparation or presentation of such defense, no one can seriously believe that the Petitioner received the constitutional guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.

Holsey was going to get a new sentencing hearing - or was he? The state appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which had to consider the same 2 questions that the court below had just answered "no" and "yes": Had Andy Prince mounted a competent defense? And would it have made any difference if he had?

(source: Mother Jones)


Florida man faces death penalty in 2005 waitress slaying

A South Florida man is facing the death penalty after a jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder in the savage 2005 slaying of a Miami-area waitress.

Jurors deliberated about 9 hours before convicting Rafael Andres on Wednesday in the killing of 31-year-old Yvette Farinas. The Miami Herald reported ( ) that sentencing was set for Dec. 15.

Trial testimony showed that Andres beat, stabbed and strangled Farinas with a rice cooker cord. He had been working as a handyman at a home attached to her apartment, and after the killing stole her ATM card. A neighbor saw Andres with a gas can next to the apartment before it went up in flames.

Andres was previously convicted in 1987 of another woman's slaying, but wound up serving only 1 year in prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Seth Miller Elected President of Innocence Network

On November 14, 2014, Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) was elected President of the Innocence Network. Miller has served on the Innocence Network Executive Board since 2012.

The Innocence Network is an affiliation of 69 organizations around the globe dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.

"The Innocence Network is comprised of brilliant and skilled individuals at innocence organizations in the United States and abroad, who are fighting every day to rectify miscarriages of justice in the criminal justice system. Without their collective work, hundreds of innocent individuals would still be languishing in prison and we would not have a vital window through which to identify the myriad causes of wrongful conviction. It is an honor and privilege to be chosen by my colleagues to lead the Innocence Network in the coming years," said Miller.

As executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida since 2007, Miller litigates post-conviction innocence cases, supervises the organization's internship program, and regularly lectures to students, lawyers, and community groups on issues related to wrongful convictions. He also teaches Post-Conviction Remedies and Wrongful Convictions as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law.

Seth's election to the presidency of the Innocence Network will serve to nationally highlight innocence work in Florida and provide a broader platform to the Innocence Project of Florida and its mission," said Robert Cromwell, retired FBI Special Agent and Chairman of IPF's Board of Directors.



Witnesses say death penalty defendant was neglected, abused while growing up

A man facing the death penalty for murdering a state trooper in 2007 asked on Thursday to be returned to prison rather than continuing to attend a hearing on whether he should be granted a new trial. Joshua Lee Altersberger, who was sentenced to death in 2009 for the January 2007 murder of Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Sottile along U.S. 27 near Lake Placid, wanted to return to state prison because he was unhappy over his treatment at the Highlands County jail and staying in a cell that he said had ants.

But Circuit Judge Angela Cowden decided that Altersberger should remain in court, saying he needs to hear the testimony and provide input to his attorneys.

Attorneys tried to show through testimony that Altersberger's original attorneys erred in advising him to plead guilty and only have the sentencing phase of the trial. The attorneys had witnesses who said that had Altersberger gone to trial, evidence could have been presented showing he was raised in an environment of neglect and abuse.

The hearing was scheduled to conclude Friday with one witness testifying in the morning. Another hearing on the appeal to have his guilty plea withdrawn and be granted a full trial will be held in December.

A decision isn't expected until January.

Altersberger said he was frustrated enough about his treatment at the Highlands County jail that he was concerned he might do something that would make the situation worse for him. But he sat quietly through the morning portion of the hearing.

Highlands County Chief Deputy Mark Schrader said Altersberger isn't being mistreated at the jail.

"He's receiving everything by law that he's supposed to," Schrader said. He added that the jail has pest control for ants, but that doesn't eliminate the problem totally.

"I had ants in my office and I have not been convicted of any crime," he said.

But it was the environment in which Altersberger grew up that was the focus of the court hearing.

Tiffany Cunningham, who works with attorneys in capital penalty cases and examines mitigating factors for the defendant, said nobody in the courtroom "would want their children to spend 5 minutes in the environment" in which Altersberger grew up. She said at least 18 situations he faced while being a child put him at risk for becoming a criminal offender or having problems as an adult.

"No wonder your house is going to crumble under the weight of these risk factors," she said.

Rosalie Altersberger, the mother of the defendant, testified about moving with her children several times because of being evicted, living in a neighborhood with a lot of drug dealers and having a boyfriend who sold drugs out of the home and wanted her to use cocaine so she could stay up with him at night. At times, she said, she didn't have enough food to feed her family.

She said she knew of one time her son declined to eat dinner and went to a friend's house because he knew how little food was in the house.

She said when they lived in South Carolina her son was the subject of prejudice because he's biracial. The boyfriend who sold drugs wanted to train her son to be a drug dealer, she said.

Cunningham said through her interviews that she learned that the mother spent little time with her children - a big reason for that was when she worked or when she gave most of her attention to boyfriends - and that at times "if they (the children) didn't go out and get food for themselves they didn't eat."

She suggested that the mother was excessive in punishing her son. Joshua Altersberger "basically had to socialize himself his entire life without one proper role model the entire way," she said.

Prosecutors showed through cross examination that much of that information was provided to the jury during the sentencing phase for Altersberger after he plead guilty. At the time that information didn't sway the jury, which voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty.



Talladega County jury recommends death penalty for Birmingham man

A Birmingham man convicted of 6 counts of capital murder could receive the death penalty.

10 of the 12 Talladega County jurors voted Thursday in favor of execution for 33-year-old Ocie Lee Lynch.

The jury convicted Lynch on Wednesday for shooting and stabbing attorney Robert Blake Lazenby in 2011. Lazenby died at his home in Sylacauga, in what investigators determined was a murder for hire case.

Prosecutors said Earnest James Files, Jr., and Calvin McCall Haynes contacted Lynch to kill Lazenby. Haynes previously pled guilty to conspiricy to commit murder and is serving life in prison. Files faces charges on 10 counts of capital murder.

A grand jury indicted Lynch on 8 counts of murder. Jurors convicted him for 2 counts of murder for financial gain, 2 counts of murder pursuant to a contract, and 2 counts of murder during a burglary.

Judge John Rochester can decide to accept the jury's recommendation for capital punishment, or to sentence Lynch to life in prison without parole. The formal sentencing has not been set, but Chief Deputy District Attorney Christina Kilgore said it will likely be in January.

Kilgore said Lazenby's family was satisfied with the jury's verdict and recommendation, and felt that justice was served today.

A 2nd suspect accused of being with Lynch in Lazenby's house at the time of the killing, 24-year-old Charles Andrew Joseph Hendrix of Birmingham, faces the same charges as Lynch.

(source: ABC NEWS)


State plans to seek death penalty in retrial of William Ziegler

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in 2015 when a Robertdale man is retried in a 14-year-old capital murder case.

It will be the Office of the Alabama Attorney General and not the Mobile County District Attorney's Office prosecuting William Ziegler, 39, when his trial starts Aug. 17. Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart will preside over the case.

"We just feel like it will be in the best interest of justice and for all parties involved for us to allow the Attorney General's Office to handle the case," Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman said.

A jury found Ziegler guilty in 2001 of capital murder in the Feb. 19, 2000, killing of Russell Baker Jr. Ziegler was sentenced to death.

Ziegler's attorneys won a retrial in the capital murder case after filing a post-appeal challenge. Stewart, who granted the new trial, determined the case was poorly handled by investigators, prosecutors and Ziegler's attorneys.

"We feel like Mr. Ziegler got a bad deal the last time, so he's looking forward to his new day in court... so he can finally be exonerated," said Jeff Deen, one of Ziegler's new attorneys. "He has already spent 13 years on death row."

4 other people were charged in connection with Baker's death, but they cut deals with the prosecution rather than facing trials.

Baker's body was found in a wooded area in west Mobile on Feb. 23, 2000. He was beaten and stabbed more than 100 times and his throat was slashed.

Ziegler, who is being held without bond at the Mobile County Metro Jail, appeared in court Thursday for a hearing. His attorneys tried to convince Stewart that Ziegler should have a bond set in his case.

Stewart did not make a decision on the bond issue. She plans to rule soon.

Attorney Nick Lagermain, who also is representing Ziegler, said there are several problems with the prosecution's case, including its theory of the crime, if the place where Baker's body was found is the site where he was killed and if the prosecution has the right time frame for when Baker was killed.

"The only witness offered by the state in the 1st trial to claim to have seen Mr. Ziegler kill Mr. Baker offered testimony that was scientifically impossible and directly rebutted and refuted by the scientific evidence," Lagermain said.

Alabama Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Billingslea said Ziegler should not be granted bond.

"The defendant has a very high burden and none of the things that has been mentioned or even argued to this court exculpate him," she said. "Some of them don't even have anything to do with him."



Ohio Lawmaker Tweets to Bring Back the Firing Squad for Death Penalty

A tweet on a controversial Ohio House Bill has caught the attention of many after it went viral. Ohio Representative Jay Hottinger sent a tweet Wednesday night saying "instead of shielding the identity of drug companies that make and supply drugs and supplies for lethal injections in the death penalty, bring back the firing squad."

Hottinger was referring to Ohio House Bill 663, which will make it possible to conceal the identities of drug companies that produce lethal injections for death penalties cases in the State of Ohio.

Hottinger says "I think it's cost efficient and it's humane and hope proponents of the death penalty give some consideration to it." Members of the group Ohioans to Stop Executions say the passage of HB 663 will "take Ohio down a long road of delays and more litigations."

According to state records, 139 people are currently on death row in Ohio.

(source: ABC news)


Death-penalty bill approved by Ohio House

The Ohio House on Thursday approved legislation that would shield the identities of execution-drug makers, protect physicians who testify about executions, and void contracts banning sales of lethal-injection drugs to the state.

House Bill 663 passed by a 61-25 vote, is an attempt to overcome problems that Ohio - like a number of other states - has had obtaining lethal-injection drugs. It would grant 20 years of anonymity, upon request, to small-scale drug manufacturers called compounding pharmacies when they create individual doses of lethal-injection drugs on demand.

In addition, physicians who testify about the state's execution method couldn't have their state medical license revoked, and the bill would void contracts or agreements prohibiting the sale of lethal-injection drugs to the state.

Attorney General Mike DeWine and other proponents of the reforms say they are needed if Ohio is to resume executions next February, once a court-ordered moratorium ends.

However, critics said the bill would throw a veil of secrecy over how Ohio executes people. They noted that lawsuits have been filed in 6 other states to overturn similar confidentiality laws for execution-drug manufacturers.

The provision voiding agreements to ban drug sales may also violate the U.S. and Ohio constitutions' prohibition on impairing contracts, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate, where Senate President Keith Faber, a Mercer County Republican, said there are worries about keeping secret the names of compounding pharmacies.

"My members are very concerned about making sure that we have transparency," Faber told reporters Wednesday. "There's a lot of concern about shutting out public knowledge."

Ohio ran out of its preferred lethal-injection drug, pentobarbital, last year because European pharmaceutical companies refused to continue selling it to use in executions.

The state has instead turned to a 2-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative. But executions in Ohio and Arizona using the cocktail haven't gone as planned, and Ohio's use of the drugs is being challenged in federal court.

The state could seek to obtain pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, but Rep. Jim Buchy, a Darke County Republican who's co-sponsoring HB 663, has said the companies are reluctant to make lethal-injection drugs unless they can remain anonymous, for fear of public reprisal.

Another proposed change in the bill would prevent the Ohio State Medical Board from revoking or suspending the license of any physician who provides expert testimony on the state's death penalty.

Such immunity is needed, supporters say, because the state is worried that doctors will refuse to testify in defense of Ohio's lethal-injection protocol for fear that they'll run afoul of medical ethics.

Ohio has 139 death-row inmates, though currently only 11 have an execution date scheduled.



Bill would shield names of pharmacists who mix execution drugs

Legislation that would shield the names of pharmacists who mix lethal injections for the state passed the Ohio House on Thursday.

HB 663 moved on a vote of 61-25 and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

Backers say the proposed law changes are needed so that Ohio can move ahead with already-scheduled executions.

Executions have been on hold for most of the year after a federal judge postponed scheduled lethal injections while state prison officials consider changes to the execution process.

The stay initially was implemented after the prolonged death in January of Dennis McGuire, who received a capital sentence for the rape and murder of a pregnant Preble County woman.

McGuire was the 1st inmate executed using a new 2-drug combination; the process took about 25 minutes, and witnesses described him gasping for breath.

Under execution protocols adopted last year, state prison officials could purchase lethal-injection mixtures from compounding pharmacies - a change that was made after the manufacturer of such drugs refused to sell them for use in executions.

But Attorney General Mike DeWine said last month that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has had difficulty finding pharmacies willing to provide the lethal-injection drugs because they don't want to be identified publicly.

HB 663 seeks to address the issue by blocking the public disclosure of pharmacy names and others involved in the execution process.

The bill says the identity of anyone who assists "the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in carrying out executions by lethal injection must be kept confidential to protect them from harassment and possible physical harm," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.

Related records would be kept confidential and not subject to the state's open-records laws, with limited access by judges reviewing death-penalty cases.

Businesses would have to request anonymity, via an application to state prison officials. And their names would be released after 20 years.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


Jury Sentences Kinsey To 70 Years In Machete Killings

A Sebastian County jury sentenced a Fort Smith man to 70 total years for killing 2 men with a machete last summer.

The state had sought a capital murder conviction and the death penalty in the June 26, 2013, deaths of Brandon Prince, 39, and Nathan Young, 32, both of Fort Smith. Police found the 2 men dead outside a duplex in the 1600 block of North D Street.

Wednesday evening, the jury found Gregory Aaron Kinsey, 21, guilty of 2nd-degree murder in Prince's death and 1st-degree murder in Young's death after deliberating about 3 1/2 hours. The trial began Monday.

Testimony and oral argument during the sentencing portion of the trial took up most of Thursday. The 7-woman and 5-man jury deliberated for an hour and 45 minutes before returning with the sentencing recommendation just before 5 p.m.

Jurors heard from Kinsey's siblings, Cody, Summer and Dillon Kinsey, who all testified about the drug use, violence, deprivation and instability to which they and their brother were exposed while growing up and the effect it had on him.

Dillon Kinsey, who's younger than Gregory Kinsey, said once their father went to prison and was gone for good, their mother, Kimberly LeClaire, moved in a succession of men who were violent drug addicts.

When he tried to count how many different places he lived growing up, Dillon Kinsey said he got up to 23 or 24 different residences - several without utilities - and 5 of 6 different school districts.

Dillon testified they moved any time the Arkansas Department of Human Services was called to the home, and usually went to a different city.

All of LeClaire's children went into foster care around 2010 when she was arrested and convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia when components for a methamphetamine lab were found in the home, according to the testimony of multiple witnesses.

Both Dillon Kinsey and Summer Kinsey testified that going into foster care put their lives on a better path. Gregory Kinsey was close to 18, so he was allowed to stay with Cody Kinsey, who was already over 18, while the younger 2 went into foster care.

The siblings all testified that Gregory Kinsey became more withdrawn and isolated the worse the environment got at home.

When Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Linda Ward asked the jury to sentence Kinsey to life in prison, she showed them the pictures of Prince's and Young's bloody, lifeless bodies and told them to remember "this is not all about Gregory Aaron Kinsey."

Cole Prince, Brandon Prince's 16-year-old son, took the stand and read a victim impact statement telling Kinsey he took the best thing in his life away from him.

"I can't describe how it feels to sit there with someone you love in your arms bleeding to death ... I had cried myself to sleep each night for over a month. Now my tears are all dried up," Cole told jurors.

Cole said as a result of his father's death, his younger brother, Cayne, was forced to go into foster care and he rarely gets to see him now.

Misty Smith, Cole's aunt, said Prince brought out a "creative, happy, joyous side" of Cole that his family doesn't see much now.

"I have watched him be sad, angry and strong all at the same time. I can't describe how much pain he is going through. The joy has left his eyes and he will never be a carefree child again," Smith said, reading from her impact statement.

Smith told the jury the only way to assure this "vicious" and "unrepentant" murderer never kills anyone in Sebastian County again is to sentence him to life.

Teri Chambers, court-appointed co-counsel for Kinsey, argued the reason a range exists for sentencing is because not every conviction deserves a maximum sentence. Chambers requested a sentence in the low to middle range.

Kinsey faced 10 to 40 years or life in prison for 1st-degree murder and six to 30 years in prison for 2nd-degree murder.

She pointed out Kinsey never harmed anyone before; argued that he wasn't the aggressor June 26, 2013; said he goes out of the way to avoid trouble; has caused no trouble during about 17 months in jail; was cooperative when arrested and questioned by police; and isn't the machete-wielding maniac Ward made him out to be.

"He went too far (in defending himself), but he didn't want it," Chambers said.

While he avoided a capital-murder conviction and potential death sentence, jurors rejected Kinsey's self-defense claim when they found him guilty of 2 counts of murder.

In a statement to police played for jurors on Monday, Kinsey told investigators he was walking home from shopping at Dollar General, 1620 Grand Ave., through an alley near North D and 16th streets, and he stepped into a backyard when he thought he heard the voice of a man who was abusive to his mother when she previously dated him.

The yard Kinsey stepped into was Young's, who was across the street on Nathan Maynard's front porch drinking a beer.

Young yelled at Kinsey, and Young and Prince and possibly Maynard approached him.

What happened beyond that is disputed.

Kinsey claimed he pulled the machete and warned the men to back off before he began swinging it at them, hitting Prince once and Young between 8 and 11 times.

Maynard said Young approached Kinsey about what he was doing in his yard and Prince was on the sidewalk when Kinsey announced he was Satan and started swinging the machete.

It's also undisputed that Kinsey pursued Young when he ran and hit him with the machete multiple times while Young was on the ground, before Kinsey finally quit and fled.

Kinsey will be eligible for parole after 35 1/2 years.



DA seeks death-penalty option for another defendant in Valley Center killings

Prosecutors on Thursday filed a court document that would allow them to seek the death penalty against Andrew Ellington if he is convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Valley Center couple Roger and Melissa Bluml.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said by e-mail that he had filed a Notice of Intent to Request Separate Sentencing Proceeding following Ellington's arraignment Thursday morning in Sedgwick County District Court. The document preserves prosecutors' option to request that Ellington be executed and must be filed within five days of a defendant's arraignment hearing.

Bennett said in Thursday's e-mail that he had not yet decided whether to ask for the death penalty against Ellington. In a previous interview, Bennett said he can make the final decision at any point up to jurors reaching a verdict at trial.

The other possible sentence a capital murder conviction carries is life in prison without parole.

Ellington is scheduled for jury trial Dec. 15, although the proceeding could be postponed. The court has entered a not-guilty plea to the charges on Ellington's behalf, Bennett said.

Ellington, 19, is 1 of 4 people charged with capital murder, aggravated robbery, burglary and theft in the Nov. 15, 2013, shootings of the Blumls as they sat in a car outside their rural Valley Center home.

Melissa Bluml, 53, died at a Wichita hospital the following day. Her husband, Roger, died from his injuries about 5 weeks later. He was 48.

The couple are the adoptive parents of 19-year-old Anthony Bluml, with whom Ellington is friends. Anthony Bluml, his biological mother, 36-year-old Kisha Schaberg, and another friend, 19-year-old Braden Smith, also are implicated in the slayings.

At a hearing in July, Smith testified that the couple were killed over life insurance money and resentment. He also testified that Schaberg pulled the trigger.

If convicted of capital murder, Schaberg and Bluml also could face the death penalty. Smith, however, is expected to receive a lighter sentence. This summer he struck a plea deal with prosecutors that would reduce his capital murder charge to 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder in exchange for his testimony against the other 3 defendants.

Prosecutors plan to ask a judge to sentence Smith to 24.5 years in prison. The judge, however, does not have to adhere to the terms of the plea agreement.



DA to seek death penalty for pair who allegedly beat elderly man and left him for dead

The Pontotoc County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against 2 people charged with murdering Ada resident Garry Gray.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Jim Tillison filed a bill of particulars on each of the two defendants, 46-year-old Bryan Keith Ross and 32-year-old Kendra Renee LeFors. The documents must be filed in order for a jury to consider the death penalty, should the case go to trial. Ross and LeFors were in court Thursday. They are due back in court April 3, 2015, for a preliminary hearing.

In the documents, Tillison said Ross and LeFors "...should be punished by death, due to and as a result of the aggravating circumstances..."

Tillison said Ross met 3 of those circumstances and LeFors met 2. For both, he said, "the murder was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel" and there is a probability that both Ross and LeFors would commit additional violent crimes and be a "continuing threat to society."

Tillison also listed that Ross was previously convicted of a felony involving violence or the threat of violence to a person.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Ross served 20 years of a 30-year sentence - from 1988 to 2008 - for larceny of an automobile, feloniously pointing a firearm, attempted 1st-degree burglary and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Both Ross and LeFors are charged with 1st-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony, 1st-degree robbery and larceny of an automobile.

Gray, 67, was found in his apartment Aug. 31, with severe head trauma from being beaten and had his throat cut in several places. He died at an Oklahoma City Hospital several days later. He had been on life support since he was hospitalized.

Ada Police Detective Kathi Johnston said both Ross and LeFors took part in the murder. According to a court affidavit filed by Tillison, the 2 caused Gray's death "by then and there beating and stomping the face and head of ... Gray and slashing his throat with a knife, with the deliberate intent to unlawfully take (his life)."

Although Gray wasn't found until Aug. 31, Ross and LeFors were arrested by a park ranger in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur Friday, Aug. 29. They had Gray’s 2001 Cadillac, credit and debit cards and checkbooks with them.

Johnston said Ross and LeFors used Gray's credit cards at various ATMs in the area to get cash.

Ross had a bloody knife, which has since been sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation crime lab to determine if it is Gray's blood on the knife. Officials are still waiting on the results.

Johnston said LeFors had been living with Gray for approximately 2 months before the murder, but he had asked her to leave because she was causing problems for him at his apartment. Detectives said during interviews, Ross (who said he was LeFors' boyfriend) and LeFors (whose husband is currently serving time in prison) claimed they believed Gray wasn't treating LeFors right, and that was their explanation for why they killed him.

Ada police detectives believe robbery for money and possessions was the motive. LeFors had been out on bail after being charged Aug. 4 with felony possession of methamphetamine and, Tillison said, she has criminal histories in 3 other states.

The arrest and discovery

National Park Ranger Heather Hamilton was patrolling in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area when she saw Ross and LeFors arguing near Gray's vehicle. She radioed for backup, confronted the 2 and separated them.

Ross said they had "just been playing with each other," Hamilton said in a report. "As I spoke with Ross, I could smell the strong odor of what smelled like cat urine. This odor is consistent with methamphetamine."

Hamilton detained Ross and during a search, found he had "many knives," she said. "I took several knives off Ross' person. One of the knives was a hunting knife in a sheath. I later examined the knife and observed it was covered in dried blood."

Ross also had a black bag with a glass pipe containing methamphetamine residue and a red, plastic straw containing methamphetamine residue, Hamilton said.

During a search of the vehicle, rangers found a black box containing syringe needles, scissors and a spoon containing methamphetamine residue. Rangers also found LeFors' purse which contained four credit/debit cards with the name "Garry Gray," Hamilton said. "(We also) located 2 checkbooks with Gray's name on them. (LeFors') purse contained $658 in cash and several more syringe needles."

Rangers noticed Ross had blood on his shoes. Ross told officers he had been rabbit hunting to explain the blood on his shoes and the knife. He said they were going down by a river to smoke some meth, according to the report. Hamilton said Ross was cooperative during the arrest, but LeFors fought with rangers, claiming she had defecated herself and needed to use the bathroom.

"Ranger Henderson observed LeFors reach down her underwear in between her buttocks and remove several plastic baggies and clench them in her fist," Hamilton said. "LeFors began to kick us and head butt us away while clenching her fist. Ranger Seitz was able to peel each finger back until I was able to retrieve the baggies."

Hamilton said the baggies contained substances that field-tested positive for codeine and methamphetamine. Rangers ran a check for warrants.

"They confirmed LeFors had a warrant out of Arkansas for possession of methamphetamine, but (Arkansas) would not extradite. Also found in the vehicle was a double-barreled shotgun and 2 rifles.

Ross was then arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm while committing a felony, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Lefors was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, obstruction of justice, assault on a police officer and possession of a firearm while committing a felony.

Both were taken to the Murray County jail. Hamilton continued to try and get in contact with Gray until Aug. 31. When she could not reach him by that date, she phoned Ada police, who conducted a welfare check at Gray's apartment in the 2500 block of Oakhurst Drive.

Gray was found lying on the floor of his apartment with labored breathing. Police called for medical help and secured the area as a crime scene. They said most of the trauma was to the back of his head.

(source: The Ada News)


Jodi Arias trial: Debate over deleted porn heats up

The debate over who deleted pornography from murder victim Travis Alexander's computer - if there was any porn on the computer - took another turn Thursday as Jodi Arias' defense lawyers filed a response motion to the prosecutor's counter claims made earlier this week. Attorney Jennifer Willmott answered prosecutor Juan Martinez' assertion that he had been given a copy, not of Alexander's computer hard drive, but a hard drive from "an individual named Tony (who) has nothing to do with this case."

The wrong drive was apparently sent by the technician or his company. The proper one was sent after Martinez filed his motion.

According to Willmott, "Tony" was a technician charged with making the copy of the original hard drive onto a different brand computer for the prosecution.

Martinez also claimed that the defense had damaged the computer; Willmott said that the damage was already done.

"A disturbing pattern of damaged and missing evidence is emerging after a recent review of multiple items that have been held in state custody over the past 6 years," she said in her motion.

Martinez also asserted that it would have been impossible for there to be any pornography on the computer, claiming that anti-virus programs installed by Alexander would have blocked access to the sites in the first place. Martinez said that any porn would have come from the viruses found on the computer.

Willmott responded that the anti-virus program was something downloaded free from the Internet, and that the computer owner, presumably Alexander, used it to clean up afterward, without the desired results.

"There were thousands of pornography site hits found on Mr. Alexander's computer," Willmott wrote in her response. "Some were caused by viruses and some were accessed prior to viruses being downloaded onto his computer," she wrote.

"The type of viruses found on Mr. Alexander's computer are severe, and typically associated with the computer user visiting pornography sites."

Arias is on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court to determine whether she should go to death row or spend life in prison for Alexander's 2008 murder.

During her tumultuous 2013 guilt-or-innocence trial and during the present sentencing trial, Martinez repeatedly asked Mesa Police officers under oath if there was any pornography on Alexander's computers. They repeatedly said no.

Arias had alleged, among other things, that she walked in on Alexander, her sometime, secret lover, while he was masturbating to photographs of young boys. Martinez ridiculed the allegation.

On Nov. 10, Willmott and her co-counsel Kirk Nurmi filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty or even Arias' conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct. After re-examining the computer, they alleged that thousands of pornographic images had been deleted from its hard drive on June 19, 2009, while it was in police possession.

Martinez quickly countered that the time of deletion was when Arias' original legal team, Maria Schaffer and Greg Parzych, were examining the evidence. He posited that if there was any porn on the computer, it had been deposited there by computer virus, and if it had been deleted, it must have been deleted by Schaffer and Parzych.

Schaffer immediately and angrily denied the accusation, saying they had only gone to get an overview of the evidence, that they were watched the whole time by Martinez and Mesa Police Det. Esteban Flores, the case agent on the Arias case. Schaffer said that Flores plugged in the computer and turned it on, not them.

Martinez also demanded that the defense send him a copy of the contested hard drive so he could verify the results, and one was provided to him. The wrong one at first.

Computer forensics are not performed on the actual computer in evidence, because it would alter the content just by powering it up.

Instead a device called a "Write-blocker" is supposed to be installed 1st to keep the machine from making its usual operating changes, and a mirror image is created that can be worked on without changing the hard-drive contents.

In his motion for sanctions, Martinez accused Nurmi and Willmott of stalling in turning over evidence, demanded he be given the correct computer, and asked that the motion to dismiss the death penalty be thrown out.

Martinez also said that Alexander had a computer virus-protection software program that would not have allowed Alexander to access the porn sites in question.

Willmott stuck by the assertion that Alexander's hard drive was full of porn. She referred to the testimony in the 2013 trial in which a Mesa Police forensic expert testified he looked for viruses and didn't find them.

"Moreover, the state has now admitted that many viruses were found on Mr. Alexander's computer," she wrote. "... Besides mishandling, tampering and destroying evidence on June 19, 2009, the state now admits that it proffered false testimony when (the forensics expert) testified to looking for viruses and finding none.

"This testimony was solicited knowing that Ms. Arias asserted that Mr. Alexander's computer was infected with a virus," Willmott continued. "The state used (the) false testimony to argue that Ms. Arias was lying."

Neither the prosecution nor the defense is allowed to discuss the trial beyond the motions they filed.

The Arias trial has been slowed in recent weeks, first by a Court of Appeals stay order forbidding the defense and judge from allowing witness testimony in secret until it can be argued before a panel of judges. That hearing is scheduled for Nov. 25.

The trial went on with testimony from a psychologist who was willing to testify in public about the highly sexed relationship between Alexander and Arias. But on Tuesday afternoon, the trial halted abruptly because of a personal emergency among the lawyers that is unrelated to the trial.

Testimony resumed Thursday morning.

The pornography issues will be argued in a hearing outside of the presence of the jury on Friday.

(source; USA Today)


Deliberations begin in death-penalty case----Jurors heard closing arguments in the penalty phase of a trial where an ex-boyfriend was convicted of murdering a Moreno Valley mother of 6

Tyrone L. Harts chose a gun to kill and lighter fluid to set afire his ex-girlfriend's body in the middle of the night so her children would discover her, facts that show "the depth of his evil," a prosecutor told jurors Thursday, Nov. 20.

For the pain and suffering those survivors must live with, Deputy District Attorney Jared Haringsma said Harts "deserves to die," and asked Riverside County Superior Court jurors to recommend the death penalty.

Deputy Public Defender Aimee Vierra asked jurors to consider mitigating factors of his upbringing in an extended South Los Angeles dysfunctional family. "The crime is terrible, but it's an aberration from the rest of his life," she said, and he is not beyond redemption.

The trial is in its 5th week as jurors deliberate after hearing closing arguments from both sides. In the courtroom of Judge Christian Thierbach, sniffles and muffled sobs among family and friends of victim Brandi Morales-Rael punctuated the prosecutor's presentation.

Harts, 41, of Riverside, was convicted last month of murdering his ex-girlfriend and burning her body, attempting to kill her eldest son, and endangering 5 of her 6 children in the Feb. 22, 2011, Moreno Valley incident.

The younger children in testimony described their mother's assailant as a "robber," but her eldest son recognized Harts by his clothing. Her 6 children, ages 6 to 15 at the time, accepted him as a father figure although he was not their biological dad.

Harts had moved out about two months earlier but kept in touch with the children, including a phone call hours before the incident where he asked one of the boys to leave a sliding door unlocked, telling the child there would be a surprise for them, according to testimony.

"He sentenced Izzy to a life of guilt and remorse," said the prosecutor, and for that, the agony, terror and pain he inflicted, Harts doesn't deserve leniency.

As for remorse, Haringsma reminded jurors there was testimony that Harts had sex with another woman in a motel room within hours of the murder.

Vierra reminded jurors in the penalty phase they are allowed to consider compassion and whether Harts has value as a person. "Yes he committed a terrible crime, absolutely," she said, but "killing Tyrone won't bring Brandi back."

She reminded jurors how Harts' upbringing put him "at risk" - an abusive home environment, surrounded by crack-addicted adults, prostitution and hitting the streets to hustle for food. In foster care, he excelled in football at Norco High School and was known as an adult for his caring ways and helping others get jobs.

"He wanted to be this guy," she said, showing a family portrait of Harts surrounded by Morales-Rael and her children. But the split with Morales-Rael, "was the breakup of the dream that caused him to unravel."

Harts had a misdemeanor battery involving an ex-girlfriend and served 7 years in prison for a Riverside carjacking about 20 years ago.

There are 82 inmates sentenced to death from Riverside County as of earlier this month, according to statistics kept by the California Department of Corrections.

(source: Press-Enterprise)


Man charged in random California shooting deaths could face death penalty

A man accused of going on a 5-day shooting rampage that killed 4 people was charged with new counts Thursday that could bring him the death penalty.

The district attorney's office said the amended complaint charges 34-year-old Alexander Hernandez with 4 counts of capital murder, 7 counts of attempted murder and 11 other related crimes. The new allegations bring the total number of charges against him to 22.

Most of the charges against Hernandez involved the random attacks on people in cars in the San Feranando Valley area of Los Angeles.

The 1st complaint listed 1 murder, 2 attempted murders and three counts of animal cruelty, but the additional charges had been expected. He also is accused of shooting 3 dogs.

Prosecutors added an attempted murder charge on Aug. 20, the 1st known day of the rampage in which a 42-year-old woman was shot in her car while driving to work. She survived.

Hernandez appeared in court but his arraignment was postponed to Jan. 14 because of the new charges.

The 22 charges include attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle, animal cruelty, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence.

Authorities have not been able to find any link between the victims nor a motive by Hernandez. They have called him a serial killer.

Hernandez has served prison time and has 4 prior convictions, including possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon.

(source: Associated Press)


Bryan Stevenson on Executions and Civil Rights: "Lynching Stopped But the Mindset Didn't"

Watch our extended interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He discusses pending executions, the history of lynching, and how Rosa Parks and others inspired him to "stand with the condemned and incarcerated." His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We continue with our guest, Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice initiative. His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

I want to turn to a case right now. A Texas judge on Wednesday refused to postpone the scheduled execution of a convicted killer who suffers from mental illness and is set to face lethal injection December 3rd. Scott Panetti has had schizophrenia for decades. He won support for his case from groups like Mental Health America, psychiatrists, former judges, prosecutors and evangelical Christians. At the trial, Panetti acted as his own attorney. He wore a cowboy outfit and tried to call his witnesses, the pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus.

Well, you write about many cases. Talk about what this case represents.

BRYAN STEVENSON: We have in our prisons about 2.3 million people, 1/2 of whom are believed to have mental illness. About 20 % have severe mental illness. The criminal justice system, the prisons have become the repository for people with disability that have no place else to go. And that is part of the story behind this case.

The other part of the story is that we've created a system that is much more concerned about finality than fairness. The reason why no one's prepared to look carefully at the clear evidence of mental illness that should block the state from carrying out this execution is that we seem like we're in this rush, that if we don't execute people fast, it's almost as if it loses its potency, its value, its virtue. But my view is that if we execute people unfairly or wrongly, then we do a great deal of injustice to our whole system. And so, I think it's tragic that we get caught up in this finality kind of focus. And you see that playing out in this case.

The Supreme Court has banned the execution of people with intellectual disability, people with mental retardation. And obviously, if you recognize that there are disabilities that can make you someone who should not be executed, you have to look more carefully at a case like this. And I think there are actually hundreds of people who have been sentenced to death when they are clearly very severely mentally ill. And a just society wouldn't want to execute people for their disability, because that's cruel. That's not a decent thing to do. It's not what a just community should do. But we're going to do that in Texas, if we don't take the time to think more carefully about what that case represents.

And too often, unfortunately, we don't learn the details of these tragedies until very close to the execution time, because it's very hard to get anyone's attention in the death penalty space until there's a crisis, until there's an execution date. And that undermines the fair consideration that we often need in these cases. And sadly, it doesn't happen at trial, because we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. Wealth prevents many poor people and disabled people from getting their story presented in a way that might allow us to get to a just outcome. And so then we have years of appeals and litigation where maybe that story might unfold, and that's what you're seeing in Texas today.

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan Stevenson, have you ever tried a case in Missouri?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yes, I represent people there, several young clients. We did a case, actually, in St. Louis of a 14-year-old kid who was accused of a murder that he didn't commit, was sentenced to life without parole. He was tried by an all-white jury after the prosecutor excluded African Americans from serving on the jury. And we ultimately got him released after proving illegal racial discrimination in jury service.

And that's the other backdrop. If there is no indictment in the Ferguson case, if there is no conviction, it will reveal and reflect on the way in which we select juries in this case - in this country, including in Missouri, where there's often a great deal of exclusion of people of color, which feeds that distrust of the system. But I've seen that up close and personal in cases that I've worked on in Missouri.

AMY GOODMAN: In part one, we talked about where you grew up, but just if you could tell us again your own personal life story?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Sure, sure. Yeah, so, I grew up in a poor, rural community on the Eastern Shore in southern Delaware, that's not unlike most Southern communities, where there was segregation. I started my education in the colored school. Black kids couldn't go to the public schools, even though this was 10 years after Brown. And I saw my parents humiliated on a regular basis by the racial order. And one of the things - AMY GOODMAN: What did your parents do?

BRYAN STEVENSON: My mother - my dad worked at a food factory, and my mother worked at the Air Force base up in Dover. And - AMY GOODMAN: Where the bodies come home from war.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Where the bodies come home, yeah. And my dad did domestic work, cleaning houses down at the beach. But, you know, one of the things that bothers me the way we talk about this history is that we actually celebrate civil rights in this country with great enthusiasm, and everybody gets to celebrate - you don't have to do anything to kind of establish some qualification to celebrate - and it's almost as if we are kind of ignoring what's behind the civil rights movement. We talk about the civil rights experience like it was this 3-day moment, where Rosa Parks didn't give up her seat on day 1, and Dr. King led a March on Washington on day 2, and then we passed all these laws. And now we celebrate - the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. And what we don't do is talk about all the damage we did by humiliating people of color on a daily basis by subjecting people to this racial subordination, this racial hierarchy, to the distrust we created, to the injuries we imposed on people. And what I see are those injuries expressing themselves. What I see is that burden created. And because of that, I think we're actually contributing to the legacy of racial inequality, when we just celebrate and don't tell the truth of all of the damage that was done. I think we need truth and reconciliation in this country. In South Africa, they didn't get past apartheid without truth and reconciliation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to Rosa Parks.


AMY GOODMAN: And then you tell us more about what was happening then, and also what this meant to you in your own formation.


AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Parks, December 1st, 1955, one of those few moments you talk about -


AMY GOODMAN: - that the whole country knows about and celebrates, is arrested when she refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the act of resistance leading to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would spark the civil rights movement. This is Rosa Parks in April of 1956. It's in the midst of the bus boycott, and she was speaking on a young Pacifica Radio.

ROSA PARKS: The driver said that if I refuse to leave the seat, he would have to call the police. And I told him, "Just call the police." He then called the officers of the law. They came and placed me under arrest, violation of the segregation law of the city and state of Alabama in transportation. I didn't think I was violating any. I felt that I was not being treated right, and that I had a right to retain the seat that I had taken as a passenger on the bus. The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed, I suppose. They placed me under arrest.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rosa Parks in April of 1956. I remember, when she died and we were going down to Washington, CNN said Rosa Parks was a tired seamstress, she was no troublemaker. You were a personal friend of Rosa Parks. Was she a troublemaker?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Oh, she absolutely was. She was a proud troublemaker, because there needed to be trouble when people of color were being treated the way people of color were being treated. I mean, what people don't know is that before that moment, she was organizing protests. There was a young African-American man who was executed for a crime that people in Montgomery absolutely insisted that he did not commit. And she was deeply affected by that wrongful execution. It was a young black man who was in a band, who was accused of an assault. They actually arrested him, took him to death row, put him in the electric chair and kept him there until he confessed to the crime.

AMY GOODMAN: In the electric chair.

BRYAN STEVENSON: In the electric chair, in the -

AMY GOODMAN: What was his name?

BRYAN STEVENSON: His name was - I'm going to forget it - [Jeremiah Reeves]. He stayed in that chair until they got that confession. And people in the black community, including Dr. King, were very concerned about organizing about his mistreatment. They could not get the relief, and he was ultimately executed for real. And it was deeply distressing to her.

And she was deeply committed to challenging the status quo. And I got to spend time with her, and she was an amazing person. She was the kind of person who would inspire people. I remember we went down to Tallahassee, Florida, where they were giving her an honorary degree, and they started playing "We Shall Overcome" at the beginning of the ceremony, and people just sat there. And she looked around at everybody, and she said, "Well, I'm used to standing when we sing this song." She stood up, and for a moment she stood by herself, and then everybody else stood back up. And that was Ms. Parks. She was courageous. She was determined. She was very influential.

You know, I met her for the 1st time when she came back to be with 2 of her friends, Johnnie Carr, who was the architect of the Montgomery bus boycott, and a white woman named Virginia Durr, whose husband Clifford Durr represented Dr. King. And I remember being there, and I had been told, "Just sit and listen, Bryan. Don't say a word." And I was sitting there listening to her for 2 hours, and she was so encouraging. At one point she said to me, she said, "Bryan, tell me what the Equal Justice Initiative is. Tell me what you're trying to do." And I looked at Ms. Carr to to see if I had permission to speak, and she nodded, so I gave her my rap. I said, "We're trying to do something about the death penalty. We're trying to do something about mass incarceration and the treatment of the poor and people of color in jails and prisons, and children in poverty." And I gave her my whole rap, and when I finished, she said, "Mm-mm-mm, that's going to make you tired, tired, tired." And Ms. Carr leaned forward, and she put her finger up, and she said, "That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave."

Ms. Parks was a courageous woman. What defined her was her bravery, her willingness to take personal challenges, personal risks, to advance the cause of justice. And she's really, in many ways, not fully credited for being that courageous, tenacious fighter, which I think more accurately characterized her life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how you went from Delaware to becoming this leading civil rights, human rights attorney, argued a number of times before the Supreme Court.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Well, you know, I got to go to high school as a result of lawyers coming into our community and opening up the public schools for me. But for their intervention, I wouldn't be here today. And when I was in college, I was studying philosophy. I didn't really know what to do after college and ended up going to law school by default, and was actually quite frustrated because they weren't talking about poverty and race and justice in my 1st year of law school.

But then I had an opportunity to work with a human rights group that provided legal services to people on death row, and that, for me, is what changed everything. I met people literally dying for legal assistance on death row in Georgia. And I saw in them humanity and possibility and people struggling for redemption, struggling for recovery. And it was just so impactful that I knew that that's what I wanted to do, and I went back, and I've been standing with the incarcerated and the condemned ever since.

And, you know, for me, it's been a privilege, because I get to see extraordinary things. We've been successful in getting lots of people released, which is wonderful. We haven't always been successful. I've stood next to people before they were executed, and that's been heartbreaking and devastating. But I've never doubted that standing for condemned people, pushing and advocating for people who had been discarded and rejected, makes me feel more human.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it like to go into the Supreme Court for the 1st time?


AMY GOODMAN: Not to watch it -


AMY GOODMAN: - but to argue a case. And what was that case?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yeah, well, the 1st case was actually the McMillian case. After we got Mr. McMillian released from death row, after he had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, we wanted the state to own up to it. And they weren't. There were no - there were no statutes providing money for him. They weren't going to pay him anything. They weren't going to do anything. And because they had put him on death row for 15 months before the trial, because they actually hid the evidence that would have proved his innocence, we sued them. And there was a question about whether the sheriff, who had done all kinds of horrible things, including threaten him with lynching and violence, could be held accountable. And the case went to the Supreme Court on whether the county was liable for the conduct of this sheriff.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was in Monroeville, Alabama.

BRYAN STEVENSON: This was in Monroeville, yeah, out of Monroe County, whether that county had some responsibility for what it did to Mr. McMillian. And the 1st time I went to the Supreme Court is when I started this ritual that I've followed every time I stood in front of the court, and I just read where it says on the building, "Equal Justice Under Law." And I have to believe that in order to make sense of what I do. And we went in there - I went in there and argued that case, and I've been back several times since. I sometimes worry that the court doesn't fulfill that commitment. You know, we've done cases where the court has basically accepted evidence of racial bias and said that racial bias is inevitable in the administration of the death penalty. That's McCleskey, a case that was decided in 1987. And so, we -

AMY GOODMAN: McCleskey, explain.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yeah, McCleskey was a case where there was evidence presented that the death penalty in Georgia is racially biased. The researchers proved that you're 11 times more likely to get the death penalty in the state of Georgia if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get the death penalty if the defendant is black and the victim is white. That was presented to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted that evidence, but nonetheless upheld the death penalty by saying, one, if we deal with racial bias in the death penalty, it's going to be just a matter of time before lawyers start complaining about racial bias in other parts of the criminal justice system. Justice Brennan criticized the court for its, quote, "fear of too much justice," because in some ways the court was saying, "This problem is too big for us."

The 2nd thing they said was racial bias in the administration of the death penalty is inevitable. And they use that word, and it's the reason why I think of that case as our Dred Scott of this generation, our Plessy v. Ferguson. And when I look at "Equal Justice Under the Law" and I read that decision, I realize there's a disconnect, because you can't have equal justice under the law while you're pronouncing that racial bias is inevitable in something like the death penalty. And so, even though I've gone to the court, I still expect more from the court on these issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Dred Scott is buried just 4 miles down the road, on West Florissant -

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yes, yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: - at Calvary Cemetery.


AMY GOODMAN: He went to the St. Louis court -


AMY GOODMAN: - to appeal for his freedom.


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of Dred Scott and bring it to modern-day Ferguson.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Sure. Well, that's why I think, you know, we can run from this history of racial inequality, but we cannot hide. It's ironic that here we are sitting here in 2014 where all of this attention is focused on Missouri - not a Deep South state, but a state where the history of racial inequality played out in very dramatic terms. Missouri -

AMY GOODMAN: People might even be surprised to know Missouri was a slave state.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Absolutely. And that's why the story of Dred Scott, their unwillingness to give up slavery when they wanted it for economic gain, to give up this mythology of demonizing and criminalizing and abusing people of color when it created some gain for them, becomes so important, because that story in Missouri has never really been told the way it needs to be told. Missouri has the same history of racial segregation and slavery and abuse that you find in Alabama and Mississippi. We just don't talk about it as much. Because we haven't talked about it, we now have these presumptions of guilt following young men of color in that state, in Ferguson. And so, people in Ferguson aren't protesting because of one thing that happened to 1 person. They're protesting because all their lives they've been menaced and traumatized and followed and presumed guilty and dangerous. And that history has never been confronted, because we've never held anybody accountable for that history.

And when the Supreme Court in 1987, in a death penalty case, the case where the court says, "This is the system at its best, because we're imposing these perfect punishments. If we don't do it right in the death penalty context, we just can't do it right" - and so they're presented with this evidence of racial bias, and they're asked to commit to eliminating racial bias, and they say, "No, racial bias is too pervasive, it's too insidious, it's too ever-present for us to take on. We just have to make peace with it." And the court upholds the death penalty. And now we've had all of these executions in a system that is admittedly undermined by racial bias and racial injustice. And so, today, we are talking about racially biased imposition of the death penalty. We're talking about unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. We're talking about our failure to confront this history of racial inequality. And until we confront it and deal with it more honestly, we're going to be having this conversation for another 50 years.

AMY GOODMAN: You're a lawyer who argues in the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court of the land. When Trayvon Martin was killed, the massive protests that took place on the street, right through to Ferguson, when Mike Brown is killed, what is the role of protest? What do you see it as, as a lawyer?


AMY GOODMAN: You are going into court to seek justice.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yeah, yeah. Well, I don't think there's any question that without people in the street - I mean, look at the civil rights movement. We're celebrating, you know, these legal decisions - the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act - but those acts were a response to people protesting. It was when people came back to Selma after the Bloody Sunday, after the 1st Selma-to-Montgomery March, which led up to the Voting Rights Act, was met with violent resistance, brutal resistance, but thousands of people came back to Selma to say, "No, we have got to do better in this country." And it was that protest that created the political environment that made the Voting Rights Act possible. But for people out in the streets, you would not have seen the Supreme Court strike down miscegenation laws, which made it illegal in some states for black people and white people to get married, for people of different races to get married. The protests were necessary for that. And we're going to need communities, people, ordinary people, speaking up and saying things about what is unacceptable about what's happening in Ferguson, what's unacceptable about what's happening in our jails and prisons, to create the right kind of legal environment for the court to do what it must do to protect the rights of disfavored people.

AMY GOODMAN: Your group, Equal Justice Initiative, is putting out a report on lynchings.

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yeah, yeah. We are very determined to change the narrative in this country about racial history. We put out a report last year about slavery. And we actually put up slave markers and monuments in downtown Montgomery, because if you came there a year ago, you'd find 59 markers and monuments relating to the 19th century, markers and monuments to the Confederacy. We celebrate - Jefferson Davis's birthday is a state holiday. Confederate Memorial Day is a state holiday. We name our schools after Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. All of this stuff about the Confederacy, not a word about slavery. And so we put out a report about slavery, and we put up these monuments and markers to mark the spots where the slave trade oppressed and enslaved thousands of African Americans. And we want to keep doing that in communities across this country.

Our next report is about lynching, because we have in this country states where African Americans were terrorized. People of color in America dealt with terrorism for a generation, between Reconstruction and World War II. And they, some of them, get angry when they hear people on TV say we're dealing with domestic terrorism for the 1st time after 9/11, because they grew up with terror. Lynching was horrific and terrifying. And we don't talk about it. We put markers about the Confederacy in front of these courthouses, but we don't say a word about the thousands of people that were lynched, hundreds of whom were lynched on courthouse lawns.

And so, we want to put out a report, and we want to actually confront communities to start dealing with that legacy, dealing with that history. It's only when we express some shame about our racial violence, our use of violence to intimidate and menace people of color, that we commit ourselves to policing strategies, to contemporary criminal justice strategies, that make the incident in Ferguson less likely to happen. And we won't get there until we actually create some consciousness about why it's so important.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of a woman who was born a slave, a crusading journalist, Ida B. Wells?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Ah, yes. Ida B. Wells is, again, someone - you know, if there is someone who should have a national holiday, my recommendation would be Ida Wells, because she forced this country to pay attention to lawlessness. You know, I say this often. You can't judge America by how wealthy we are, by how successful we are, by our technology. You judge a country, you judge a community, not by how you treat the rich and the powerful and the privileged, you judge a community by how you treat the poor, the incarcerated, the condemned and disfavored. And Ida B. Wells was insisting that America recognize that it is this country that is lynching people based on suspicion.

These lynchings were taking place not even because people were necessarily accused of crimes. We lynched people in America because - African Americans, because they went to the front door rather than the back door, because they laughed at the joke at the wrong time. And that racial oppression, that subordination, was something that she believed had to be exposed, if we were going to really see what kind of country we are.

And she was tormented and traumatized and terrorized herself by talking constantly about what lynching represents in American life. And eventually lynching stopped, but the mindset didn't. And that's why we think talking about lynching today is such a critically important issue for Americans and for this country, when it comes to racial justice.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most surprised by as you were researching Just Mercy?

BRYAN STEVENSON: You know, I think the thing that surprised me the most is how much of what's happened has gone unexamined. You know, most people don't know that we have a million people in jails and prisons for drug dependency - not because they've committed a crime, not because they've hurt somebody. I think what's really troubling to me is that we know so little. Even though we talk so much, we know so little about how we got here. You know, other countries dealt with drug dependency as a health issue. We dealt with it as a crime issue. And we've ruined lots of families. I don't think most people know there are 6 million people on probation and parole in this country. I don't think most people know there are -

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean?

BRYAN STEVENSON: It means that their lives are being controlled by the criminal justice system. It means that if they fail to make a monthly payment to the system, which they have to do, to pay their probation fee or their parole fee, they get put back in prison, sometimes for decades. It means that we are keeping them from re-engaging. They can't get jobs oftentimes. They can't vote. They can't do a lot of the things that make it possible for people to have successful lives. We have 60 million people in America with criminal arrests, which means that when they apply for a job, they have to reveal that, and their chance of being hired is dramatically reduced - 60 million people.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it should be illegal to ask that question?

BRYAN STEVENSON: I think we should ban the box. I think we should do the interview, make an assessment about the person. I think there are some jobs where you can ask whether the person has been formerly incarcerated, but if you do it at the end of the interview, the chance of hiring that person is dramatically higher, because if I talk to you and I think you're a great TV commentator and host, and I see all the skills that I want to see, and then you tell me at the end of it, "You know, by the way, when I was 20, I did something and went to jail for a short period of time," I'm not going to let that dissuade me from hiring you, because I know you're great. If you ask that question 1st, and I don't get to see how great you are, how skilled you are, how committed you are, you're not going to get the job. And so, that's what we're asking employers to do and asking companies to commit to, because what we find is that the rates of hiring for formerly incarcerated people go way up when you just do it at the end, if you do it at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, can you talk, Bryan, about the case you're proudest of and tell us about that case?

BRYAN STEVENSON: You know, it's a hard question for me. You know, Thurgood Marshall used to say - "What case are you most proud of?" He said, "The next case." And I think it's that way for me. I think - I take great pride in helping anybody that we've been able to help. But I think, for me, what I'm most proud of is that we're still trying. I don't think we've done our best cases yet. I want to believe that we've got important work still to do. And what energizes me is knowing that we can keep fighting, that there are challenges that haven't been fully addressed.

You know, I'll tell you this story. I was working on a case not too long ago, actually in the Midwest, where I was sitting in the courtroom waiting for the court to start, the hearing to start. I was sitting at defense table.

AMY GOODMAN: Where? What state?

BRYAN STEVENSON: It was actually in Iowa. And I was sitting there waiting for the hearing to begin, and I was sitting at defense table, and the judge walked in, followed by the prosecutor. And when the judge saw me sitting there, he said, "Hey, hey, hey! You get out of the courtroom. I don't want any defendants sitting in the courtroom without their lawyers. You go back out there in the hallway and wait until your lawyer gets here." And I stood up, and I said, "I'm sorry, Your Honor, I didn't introduce myself. My name is Bryan Stevenson. I am the lawyer." And the judge looked at me, and the judge started laughing. And the prosecutor started laughing. And I made myself laugh, too, because I didn't want to disadvantage my client. And then the client came in. It was a young white kid. And we did this hearing. And afterward, I was so exhausted and frustrated.

You know, what makes me proud right now is that we're doing this race and poverty project, because I don't think we're going to confront those kinds of problems. We're going to have judges exercising judgment and discretion in this way that is so corrupted by bias and bigotry. And we're not going to do anything about that until we start talking more broadly about this history of racial bias. And so, I'm really excited about that work.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the judge apologize?

BRYAN STEVENSON: No, no, no. He laughed. We just laughed it off, and we went through the hearing. We did well for that client, I think, because I didn't turn that into an ugly confrontation. But no, no apologies - much like what we've done in this country. We don't really - we think apologizing disempowers us. I actually think apologizing makes you more human, makes you ultimately healthier, makes you stronger. You know, I go to Germany, and I see what's going on in that country, and you can't go many places without confronting the legacy of the Holocaust. It makes me hopeful about the future Germany in ways that I wouldn't be if I went there and you couldn't see any evidence that people were talking and thinking about that history. And here we do the opposite. And I think we won't be strong and healthy until we actually begin to reflect more soberly about what we've done to one another in so many of the spaces where we have racial conflict and racial inequality.

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan Stevenson, thank you so much for joining us. Bryan Stevenson is founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative. His new book must be read. It's called Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative. His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

(source: Democracy Now!)


American Christian couple facing death sentence in Qatar

An American Christian couple could be handed the death penalty for allegedly starving their daughter to death last year.

Matthew and Grace Huang's 8-year-old adopted daughter Gloria died in their home in January 2013. The Qatari government have accused the parents, who are ethnically Asian, of killing Grace to harvest her organs.

Campaigners believe they have been wrongly accused due to suspicion regarding their bi-racial family, which is unusual in Qatar.

Gloria and her 2 brothers were originally adopted from Africa. The family moved to Qatar from LA for Matthew's work as an engineer in 2012, and insist that Gloria suffered from an eating disorder which is attributed to her being born into extreme poverty in Ghana.

According to a website campaigning for the Huangs' release, "From time to time she [Gloria] would exhibit an eating disorder - common among children with backgrounds similar to hers - where she would refuse food for days at a time and then eat more than an adult. Other times she would eat food from the garbage even when she had healthy food available. Yet most of the time she was vibrant and seemingly healthy. She then died suddenly in the midst of one of her cycles of refusing to eat."

Following her death, the Huangs were charged with murder and sentenced to 3 years in jail. They served 11 months in an Islamic prison before being granted bail last November. Now under house arrest and are not permitted to leave Qatar, a hearing is due to take place on November 30 during which they could be given the death penalty.

There is no physical evidence that Gloria suffered any starvation, and independent witnesses testifying in court that they had seen her eating several days before her death.

The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy also told the court that he had never mentioned the word "starvation" in his reports, but instead "emaciation".

Campaigners insist the Huangs are innocent, and that their continued detention is a gross violation of international human rights.

"The Qatari police were fully justified in investigating Gloria's death. But facts refute the charge that the Huangs starved their daughter or that they had adopted her for illegitimate reasons. The continued detention of American citizens Matthew and Grace Huang should end and they should be allowed to travel home to the United States immediately," a statement on the website reads.

Prayer vigils are being held by the Huangs' home church, Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, ahead of their next hearing.

In a letter to the church around Easter 2013, Matthew wrote: "The power of Jesus' work on the cross gives us new life. I am reminded that Easter is a time for rebirth, renewal, and restoration.

"My family needs to be restored together. My emotions are tired and weary. Jesus brings restoration, and we are reminded of that this Easter."

A statement from the US State Department in October calls on the Qatari government to allow the Huangs to travel back to the US, where their 2 sons are currently living, pending the completion of their trial.

(source: Christian Today)


Vanuatu MP wants death penalty for witchcraft

A Vanuatu politician is calling for witchcraft to be a crime punishable by death.

The comment from former finance minister Willie Jimmy follows an incident last week on an island near Malekula in which a community, allegedly including chiefs and church pastors, hanged 2 men for suspected sorcery.

Police are treating the men's deaths as homicide.

But opposition MP Willie Jimmy says that Melanesian people regard black magic as very real, and people who practice it should get the death penalty.

(source: Radio Australia)


50 Bangladeshi expatriates awaiting death penalties in prisons abroad ---- All of the death row inmates were convicted for committing murders

Around 50 Bangladeshi expatriates who had flown to the foreign lands in search of employments, are currently waiting for execution of their death penalties while serving in prisons across the globe.

Among them, the verdict for 29 death row inmates have been put to a halt through negotiations held in between the Bangladeshi embassies and the governments of the respective countries. Such negotiations mainly focuses on compensating the victim's families.

The numbers were revealed through a written statement issued by Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain issued to the parliament yesterday.

All of the death row inmates were convicted for committing murders.

Among the death sentence awardees, 12 Bangladeshi migrants are in Saudi Arabia, 23 in Dubai, 12 in Kuwait, 1 in Bahrain, 1 in Singapore and one in Abu Dhabi.

The Wage Earners' Welfare Board under the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, was active enough in order to free the convicts from the trial in the respective countries, said the minister.

In the statement, he informed that an "understanding" has been reached through negotiations with the concerned countries to cancel the death penalty for 29 Bangladeshi expatriate workers.

Letters seeking mercy have already been sent to the Bangladeshi Missions in those countries, according to the statement by the Expatriates' Welfare Minister.

Except for the countries mentioned above, 35 more are facing trials in different countries on murder charges – 15 in Dubai, 10 in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Oman, 3 in Qatar, 1 each in Kuwait, Egypt and Bahrain.

Khandker also highlighted that 2,759,541 people from Bangladesh received employment in different countries across the world in between January 2009 and September 2014.

"The number was 137,088 during the BNP-Jamaat regime from 2001 to 2006," he said.

The ministry had undertaken construction work of nearly 400 centres for providing technical trainings at the upazila levels, said the minister.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Death penalty for terrorism convicts okayed

The Cabinet has approved the principles for amending the 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act, including a clause highlighting a mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of terrorism.

The information minister Rose Namayanja has said the new amendments would enable the country pre-empt and respond better to the changing trends in terrorism.

The clause, stipulating a mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of terrorism, will make the sentence the only option in the law that the judge can sentence the convicted person once the Act is passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.

Uganda is one of the few countries with the death penalty.

For capital offences like murder, rape, defilement, armed robbery and treason, depending on the judges' discretion, the offender can be sentenced to death.

"Under the new Anti-Terrorism Law, once convicted, the only sentence a convict can get is death. It is going to be the punishment written in the law. The judge has no option, but to sentence the convict to death," Moses Watasa, the commissioner for information, explained.

However, the law will not go without criticism. A mandatory death penalty is already a contentious topic in Uganda.

In 2005, the Constitutional Court, in a petition by Susan Kigula and 416 others against the Attorney General, declared the death sentence unconstitutional.

Part of their argument was that the mandatory death sentence did not provide the court with the opportunity to take into account any individual mitigating circumstances that might make the death penalty an inappropriately severe punishment.

"We are including these amendments in the Act because we want to mitigate the threat of terrorism. If courts challenge the decision, it is constitutional. But, we can always appeal." Namayanja said.

"If someone is involved in terrorism acts where people are killed, then they deserve the death penalty," she added.

Uganda has had its share of the impacts of terrorism.

On July 11, 2010, 2 suicide bombings at the Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala, Kampala left over 74 soccer fans dead and close to 100 others injured.

Other amendments in the Act include definition of the term "fund", which the Cabinet wants to be harmonised with the International Convention on the Containing Financing for Terrorism, 1999, as assets of every kind, whether tangible or intangible, movable or immovable.

This component also encompasses the mode of acquisition/transfer of such assets, for instance legal documents'/instruments, whether in electronic or digital.

The documentation may include but not be limited to bank credits, travellers' cheques, money orders, shares, securities, bonds, drafts and letters of credit.

Cabinet also wants the definition of the words "terrorism" and "Acts of Terrorism" to be adjusted to include the international aspects envisaged by the UN Convention Against Terrorism.

"Since the current Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted in 2002, the methods of planning, financing and execution of terrorist activities have become more sophisticated." Namayanja said.

For instance, terrorists are increasingly taking advantage of advances in ICT to plan and communicate and execute heinous crimes.

(source: New Vision)


TDPO to seek death penalty in case of stalker stabbing murder

The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office (TDPO) yesterday said it was seeking the death penalty for stabbing suspect Chang Yen-wen, who allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death after failing to convince her to remain in their relationship on Sept. 22; prosecutors said that despite the cruel nature of the killing, Chang has not shown any regret for his actions.

According to prosecutors, Chang, who worked as an auditor for a local accounting firm, was going through a rough time with his ex-girlfriend, Lin Pen-jen. In early September, they visited Japan together in an attempt to save their relationship.

Prosecutors said the plan went badly, as they reportedly quarreled during the trip, with Chang even taking several indecent photos of Lin as he sexually assaulted her.

Lin was said to have tried to break up with Chang after they came back to Taiwan, yet Chang was opposed and threatened to release the photos of Lin if she broke off the relationship.

In the early morning of Sept. 22, Chang went to Lin's apartment to plead his case. He took a knife with him and threatened that he would commit suicide if she rejected his request. As Chang took out the knife, Lin pushed him away out of fear. Chang lost control and stabbed her 47 times in the head, neck, arms and legs.

Chang's act was witnessed by passers-by, who called the police. The suspect was arrested at the scene.

Although Chang claimed that he was insane with rage and that his original plan was to commit suicide, prosecutors deemed his actions to be premeditated murder as he bought the knife in advance and hid around Lin's apartment for 2 hours before she left for work. In addition, prosecutors also said that Chang changed his testimony several times during questioning, illustrating that he does not truly regret the crime.

Prosecutors said Chang had committed several crimes as he tried to maintain his relationship with Lin, including threats, rape and offenses against privacy. Therefore, prosecutors deemed that he should face the most severe penalty.

Responses from Lin's Family

Regarding the charges levied yesterday, the victims' family said that the death penalty is what the suspect deserves and this is the only way to deliver justice to Lin.

In addition, they said that Chang is an adult and should take responsibility for what he has done and accept the punishment that the judge hands down.

(source: The China Post)


Man hanged in public a day after UN condemns regime's "high frequency of executions"

A day after the United Nations General Assembly's 3rd committee adopted the UN's 61st resolution condemning human rights abuses in Iran and urged the regime to stop the executions, a man was hanged in public in a northern city.

The prisoner identified as H. Mirjani, 32, was hanged in Velayat Square in the city of Qaemshahr.

The execution that comes after the adoption of the resolution that expressed its "deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations" in Iran, notably the "alarming high frequency of executions and increase of the carrying-out of the death penalty in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards, including public executions," demonstrates the Iranian regime's disregard for international concerns.

Since the start of Hassan Rouhani's presidency a year ago, the executions in Iran have taken on an unprecedented scale with over 1000 executions.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Public executions continue in Iran. Another man was publicly hanged in Northern Iran today.

1 man was hanged in public in the city of Ghaemshahr (Northern Iran) today, reported the official Iranian news agency IRNA. The prisoner was identified as "R. M." (32 year old) and sentenced to death convicted of rape, said the report.

Today's public execution was the 6th so far in November 2014. A video footage from a public execution carried out 15. November in Southern Iran shows that the prisoners are slowly pulled up with a crane. It takes normally several minutes till the prisoner dies by this method.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

NOVEMBER 20, 2014:


Ohio's Ricky Jackson Becomes 5th Person Freed in 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--November 20, 2014


Washington D.C. - On November 19, 2014, Ohio Judge Richard McMonagle dismissed all charges against Ricky Jackson, who had been convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 1975. District Attorney Terrence McGinty concurred with the judge, saying, "The state is conceding the obvious." Jackson and 2 other men had been convicted on the basis of a 12-year-old's testimony that has since been recanted and discredited. The other 2 defendants are also asking for a dismissal of charges.

Jackson is the fifth person to be exonerated in 2014 after being sentenced to death and the 148th person since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center's (DPIC) innocence list. Ohio has had seven exonerations from death row.

Richard Dieter, DPIC's Executive Director, said, "If the country needed any more reminders of the risks inherent in the death penalty, the release this year of 5 more inmates who had been sentenced to death should be the final wake-up call. But for unrelated changes in the law and the conscience of one supposed witness, three innocent men might have been executed just in this most recent case. Such mistakes can and will continue as long as capital punishment is in use."

Also exonerated this year were Glenn Ford in Louisiana, Carl Dausch in Florida, and Leon Brown and Henry McCollum in North Carolina. These inmates were imprisoned an average of 26 years prior to their release, including years on death row.

Ohio halted all executions this year after the botched execution of Dennis McGuire in January. The state is currently considering legislation to make the sources of its execution drugs a secret and to hide the identity of medical personnel participating in executions. Ohio has carried out 53 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 and has scheduled seven executions for 2015.

In order to be included on DPIC's Exoneration List, defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death, and subsequently either (a) acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row, (b) had all charges related to the crime dismissed by the prosecution, or (c) granted a complete pardon based on innocence, since 1973.

The Death Penalty Information Center ( is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. DPIC was founded in 1990 and prepares in-depth reports, issues press releases, conducts briefings for the media, and serves as a resource to those working on this issue.

(source: DPIC)


Death row exoneree speaks on importance of DNA testing

"It could happen to anyone," Kirk Bloodsworth, program officer for "The Justice Project," said as he spoke at the Freed Curd Auditorium Nov. 14.

Bloodsworth became an advocate for DNA testing and abolishing the death penalty after he spent more than 8 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit.

Bloodsworth's life was just beginning in 1984. He was engaged and moved to Baltimore, Md. He had lived there less than a month when policemen came knocking on his door and arrested him for killing and sexually assaulting 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton.

"I had never thought about the death penalty much in my life," Bloodsworth said. "I was a commercial fisherman on the Eastern Shore. I had never been arrested in my life. I was an honorably discharged Marine with no record or criminal history."

He was convicted when a witness drew a photo of Hamilton's killer. The police ran the photo, plastering it on newspapers and televisions. That was when Bloodsworth's neighbor believed she recognized him in the photo. She told the police, and Bloodsworth was arrested and taken to court.

"I told anyone and everyone that I was an innocent man," Bloodsworth said. "I used to sign letters that way. I would say respectfully submitted, Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, A.I.M: An Innocent Man."

Bloodsworth said there were a significant number of suspects in the case. This was because the witnesses, two 8 to 10-year-old boys, saw Dawn's murderer in the dark. Therefore, it was difficult for them to make out any facial features or distinct characteristics.

The trial lasted several years. Finally, Bloodsworth was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death.

"When the gavel came down on my life, the sentence was death," Bloodsworth said. "The courtroom erupted in applause. 'Give him the gas and kill his ass,' is what they said."

After the sentence was announced, he was sent to a penitentiary where he would serve his time until he would be put to death.

"I was taken to one of the most notorious penitentiaries in the country, the Maryland Penitentiary, where a guard was recently disemboweled by one of the inmates."

Bloodsworth said he had to come to terms with the fact that this would be his new home, and he would have to make the most of it while he could. He made acquaintances at the prison and strengthened his faith through books.

He worked in the library at the penitentiary where he spent a lot of his day reading. 1 particular book stuck out to him. It was a book about a murderer who took a DNA test, which, in the end, proved his innocence.

DNA testing for criminals began in 1984. The phenomenon was only beginning to surface during the time that Bloodsworth was in prison.

After he read about the test, he immediately requested to call his lawyer to allow him to take the test. Bloodsworth's lawyer agreed to give him the test, and his innocence was proven.

"I was the 1st person in the United States to be freed by post-conviction DNA testing from a capital conviction. That was June 28, 1993," Bloodsworth said.

Since then, Bloodsworth has become a member of Witness to Innocence, an organization for death row survivors and their families.

The organization strives to make death row survivors leaders by telling their stories across the U.S. and encourages people to help abolish the death penalty.

Bloodsworth's story has inspired a book called "Bloodsworth: The True Story of One Man's Triumph over Injustice" and a documentary called "Bloodsworth - An Innocent Man" that will be released in the spring.

(source: Murray State news)


Death row inmates sue over who, what is going to kill them

The 1st of 11 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates in Tennessee did not meet the executioner as planned on Oct. 7. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Sept. 25 to postpone Billy Ray Irick's execution as he and the other 10 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates are in the middle of a complex lawsuit against the state.

In granting Irick's motion to postpone his execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court laid out strict rules concerning time limits for appeals and motions going forward in an effort to expedite court proceedings going through the Davidson County Chancery Court. Irick already once had his execution postponed in light of the pending lawsuit against the state. He was convicted of raping and murdering a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he was babysitting in 1985. As of press time, the court had not yet set another date for Irick.

The inmates scheduled for execution through 2016 are suing the state of Tennessee over a certain fundamental questions: What are the identities of the execution team? What method will the state use to execute them? The lawsuit also seeks to lift a veil of secrecy surrounding the mix of drugs used in lethal injections. What drugs will be used? Who manufactures them? And, have they been adequately tested? Attorneys for the inmates also challenge the use of the state's Plan B: the electric chair. The group of inmates and their lawyers are calling both methods cruel and unusual. The electric chair, the plaintiffs maintain, is barbaric. Lethal injections leave too many questions unanswered. On Aug. 22, attorneys for the inmates changed the scope of the lawsuit because of the new Tennessee law signed in by Gov. Bill Haslam that allows the state to use the electric chair as a backup if the necessary drugs for lethal injection are unavailable. Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Sept. 17 to allow an amendment to the lawsuit including objections to the constitutionality of using the electric chair.

Several pharmaceutical companies recently refused to sell their products, proven successful for use in executions in the past, if they were to be used in executions. Because of those refusals, Tennessee switched from using sodium thiopental - a deadly combo of three drugs-to just using pentobarbital. Before the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled to postpone Irick's execution, the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) said it hey had enough pentobarbital on hand to carry out the execution via lethal injection.

"We are confident that we will have the necessary chemicals when needed," said Neysa Taylor, a spokesperson for TDOC.

By ushering in the return of the electric chair, Haslam made Tennessee 1 of only 8 states in favor of using the device. The others are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. Of nearly 1,400 death sentences carried out in the United States since 1976, only 158 have been conducted by way of the electric chair, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that tracks death-penalty data. Tennessee has carried out 6 of the 1,400 executions since 1976, according to the DPIC.

"Prior to the new law, an inmate was only subject to the electric chair in Tennessee if they chose to be," said Kelley Henry, federal public defender in Nashville. "Once we reviewed all the evidence about the electric chair, we are sure it's a torture device and violates the Constitution."

Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the 32 states that still have capital punishment, but some states allow inmates the option of electrocution, hanging, firing squad or the gas chamber.

Henry, who has remained involved in the lawsuit since its inception in November 2013, points out that with the change in law Tennessee now "stands alone as the only jurisdiction in the world to involuntarily impose the electric chair on its condemned citizens."

"On behalf of our clients who face imminent execution, we have asked the Chancery Court to allow us to challenge the electric chair as a method of execution because even when the chair works exactly as it is intended, it is a torture device," Henry said.

Henry also said that the lawsuit indicates the electric chair definitively fits the description of "cruel and unusual punishment" under the U.S. Constitution. Haslam has said the exact opposite of the chair, often noting that the U.S. Supreme Court found the electric chair not to be "cruel or inhuman punishment" in 1976.

Botched lethal injections across the country have at times left inmates conscious throughout the procedure, even sometimes gasping for air for several minutes after the procedure had been performed. Daryl Holton, who was electrocuted in Tennessee in 2007 for murdering his three sons and a stepdaughter in Shelbyville in 1997, showed signs of being conscious well after the first surge of electricity went through his body. The lawsuit unveiled in August gives a grim description brought by onlookers of how Holton died:

"A loud bang sounded, Holton's body jerked violently upward and remained there. The black shroud fluttered and witnesses may have heard Holton sigh. Holton's hands gripped the electric chair's arms tightly and turned red. After approximately 20 seconds, Holton's body slumped over," the lawsuit said. "Approximately 15 seconds later, a loud bang sounded, and Holton's body jerked higher than it jerked the 1st time. Holton's hands continued to grip the electric chair, and they turned bright red. After approximately 15 seconds, Holton's body slumped."

A post-execution autopsy released with the lawsuit also found several burn marks on Holton's body. Because the method was used prior to this year's law giving the state the power to choose the execution method, Holton was given the choice of lethal injection or electrocution and chose the electric chair. The lawsuit argues that the electric chair doesn't render inmates fully unconscious, meaning they feel the effects of the electrocution. When Tennessee passed the law earlier this year to bring back the chair, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said courts should anticipate some challenges as inmates got closer to their execution dates.

"There certainly have been some gruesome electrocutions in the past, and that would weigh on courts' minds," Dieter said.



Retrial begins in China of 'convict' executed in 1996

A court in north China Thursday officially began reconsideration of a 1996 rape and murder case, which may have resulted in the conviction and execution of the wrong man.

The presiding judge with Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court, Bobatu, issued a retrial notice to the parents of Huugjilt, found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman in a public toilet in the regional capital Hohhot April 9, 1996, Xinhua reported.

Huugjilt, 18 at the time, was sentenced to death by Hohhot Intermediate People's Court in May 1996. His appeal was rejected, the death penalty was approved by the region's higher court and Huugjilt was executed June 10,1996.

After his execution, another alleged serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the murder when he was arrested in 2005. Zhao allegedly raped and killed 10 women and girls between 1996 and 2005. He stood trial in late 2006 and no verdict has yet been issued.

President of the higher court, Hu Yifeng, said earlier this month that should there be any errors in the previous ruling, they must be addressed.

"It has been so difficult to wait for the retrial decision," sobbed Shang Aiyun, 62, mother of the dead Huugjilt, in her home. She said she hoped the court would proceed carefully with the retrial and that the verdict would prove her son's innocence.

Huugjilt's parents, unwavering in their belief in their son's innocence, have been petitioning the country's supreme court and the region's higher court since 2006.

Yan Feng, a friend and colleague of Huugjilt, tells how they heard someone cry out in a women's toilet as they passed by. Huugjilt asked Yan to go with him into the toilet to see what had happened. There they saw a woman's body and immediately ran out. Huugjilt then reported it to police despite Yan's attempts to persuade him to keep quiet.

China's Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that if the evidence on which a verdict is based is found to be questionable or inadequate, a retrial should be held. The retrial will be a purely documentary one and will be completed as soon as possible, said Li Shengchen, spokesman for the Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court, at a press briefing in Hohhot Thursday.

In a similar case, Nie Shubin in north China's Hebei Province was executed in 1995 at the age of 21 for the 1994 rape and murder of a woman in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang. Later Wang Shujin was apprehended by police in 2005 for 3 unconnected rape and murder cases, and confessed to the rape and murder of the woman in Shijiazhuang. In that instance the provincial higher court did not believe Wang's claim in a retrial last year and Nie's verdict still stands.

Also last year, a man in the eastern province of Anhui was declared innocent after serving 17 years of a life sentence for the killing of his wife.

The Anhui provincial higher people's court set Yu Yingsheng free when it ruled that in the previous trial, facts about the alleged homicide were unclear and the evidence inadequate.

China's Supreme People's Court started to review all death penalty rulings on Jan 1, 2007, ending 24 years during which lower courts could issue death sentences and execute criminals without any other approval.

The Communist Party of China made a decision on major issues concerning the rule of law last month and the Huugjilt retrial is an indication of how things are changing, said Miao Li, a lawyer in Inner Mongolia.

"I hope a fair trial can reveal the truth of the case and give every citizen a sense of justice and fairness," said Miao.

(source: Business Standard)


Burmese murder accused ask British backpackers' families for help

2 Burmese men detained in Thailand for allegedly killing the British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller have told the Guardian they are innocent and have appealed to the victims' families and the UK government to help them clear their names.

In their 1st media interview since being arrested almost 8 weeks ago, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 21, stressed their sorrow over the deaths of the Britons, whose battered bodies were found on a beach on the holiday island of Koh Tao on 15 September. But they said they were not involved and asked UK authorities to share with their lawyers the results of a Metropolitan police review of the Thai investigation.

The pair described their shock at being accused, and their concerns for their parents in Burma, who were reliant on the men's earnings from bar work on Koh Tao.

The pair, who were arrested a fortnight after the double murder and face a possible death penalty, passed the Guardian an open letter addressed to the victims' parents.

Handwritten in Burmese, and with their names signed in English, it reads: "We are really distraught about the loss of your children, and we share your grief. But we want to stress to you that we didn't do anything wrong, and this crime was nothing to do with us.

"In order that the truth can be revealed, we want to ask for help from all of you to ensure that we get access to information that the British government has. We would like this information to be shared with our lawyers so the truth can come out. We really want to express our thanks for your help."

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo - the latter of whom was previously and incorrectly named by authorities as Win Zaw Htun - initially admitted to the murder of Miller, 24, who suffered head injuries and drowned in shallow water, and the rape and murder of Witheridge, 23, who died from severe head injuries. Police said they were motivated by sexual jealousy after seeing the Britons together on the beach.

However, the men then retracted their confessions, saying they had been tortured and threatened with death by their interrogators.

Thai police say they have DNA evidence linking the men to the crime. However, there have been doubts about the way this evidence was collected, especially given that a number of people walked across the murder scene before it was sealed off.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International have become involved, noting that Burmese migrant workers have previously been wrongly accused of crimes by Thai police.

The authorities had been under pressure to solve this particular murder case quickly as it threatened the country's vital tourism industry.

A month after the murders the Foreign Office in London took the rare step of summoning a senior Thai diplomat to express its concern about the way the investigation had been handled. A Metropolitan police team flew to Thailand to review the case. The Foreign Office says the report has yet to be completed.

The suspects handed the letter to the Guardian on Wednesday at a court hearing in Koh Samui, the larger island near Koh Tao which acts as the local administrative centre, during which they were remanded in custody for a further 12 days.

The pair are not permitted to have documents in jail, so they wrote the letter in court.

During breaks in the hearing the men, dressed in baggy, numbered prison tunics, with their legs manacled by heavy chains, were able to answer questions via a translator.

Wai Phyo said the pair were placing much of their hope on British interest in the case. He said: "We want the parents of the victims and the British government to come together and help us fight for justice. We're very sad at what happened and we want the people of Britain to know that we didn't do it.

"I felt very scared when we were arrested, and also very shy that all these people were looking at me. I didn't know what was happening. I am not a bad person. I'm a good person."

Zaw Lin said he was worried about his family in Burma: "My father has died and I was providing for my mother. I'm just really worried about her now. Now we just want to go back to Burma. We don't want to work here any more. I don't care about being poor, I just want to be at home with my family."

The pair said that on the night of the murder they had been drinking heavily and playing guitar on the beach, and by late evening were "so drunk we couldn't walk properly". They both said they had no idea who carried out the crime.

A number of reports have linked the killings to powerful Thai families in the region, where there has long been allegations of heavy involvement of organised crime in the tourism industry. Foreign Office advice to Britons travelling to Koh Tao and its neighbouring islands warns of regular sexual assaults and robberies.

The Burmese men remain in prison while police continue to compile a report for prosecutors, a document which has already been rejected by the lawyers several times. The men can be detained for a maximum of 84 days, meaning they must be tried or released by Christmas.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said she could not comment on the case until the Metropolitan police report was completed, after which the victims' families would meet police officers.

"Detectives from the United Kingdom, who were in Thailand reviewing the investigation into the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, have returned to the UK to compile their report and to update the families of Hannah and David on their findings," she said. "The police team wish to thank the Thai authorities for facilitating the visit. It is not possible to make any further comment about the review at this time."

(source: The Guardian)


DA to seek death penalty against man accused of killing 3

The district attorney in Morganton will seek the death penalty against Donald Kincaid.

Kincaid was indicted on 3 counts of murder by a grand jury Monday.

He was arrested in connection with a triple homicide in Morganton last month. He was previously charged with killing 1 of the victims, his former girlfriend Barbara Johnson.

(source: WSOC TV news)

GEORGIA----new execution date

Execution date set for man in killing of GA deputy

A Georgia death row inmate convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy is to be executed next month.

The Georgia attorney general's office said in a news release Robert Wayne Holsey is to be executed at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9.

A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey in the December 1995 slaying of Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

Prosecutors said Holsey robbed a Milledgeville convenience store and the clerk immediately called police with a description of Holsey and his car. Minutes later, Robinson stopped a red Ford Probe at a motel. Prosecutors say Holsey shot Robinson as the deputy approached his car. Robinson died of a head wound.

An order filed in Morgan County Superior Court Thursday set a 7-day execution window beginning Dec. 9 and ending Dec. 16.

(source: Associated Press)


Firing Squad: Death Penalty Option Advances In Utah, But Under Specific Circumstances, Reports Say

The death penalty is one of the most contentious issues in America. The ideology tends to range from whether it is moral to whether the state has the right to put a person to death. The death penalty itself used to have a range of options as to how the state, or government, could put you to death.

The guillotine, hanging, and the firing squad are among the most known, but certainly not the only means in which the death penalty has been carried out. Surprisingly, the use of a firing squad to serve out a death penalty sentence still exists today.

After 2004, Oklahoma remained the lone state that still carried out the practice. However, 1 former death penalty by firing squad state is advancing legislation that will remove its ban on the practice. Utah banned death by firing squad in 2004, but was mulling it over earlier this year, according to the Inquisitr.

The New York Post reports that Utah is in fact pushing ahead with bringing back their death penalty option of a firing squad.

"After a 20-minute discussion, an interim panel of Utah lawmakers approved the idea on a 9-2 vote Wednesday. The proposal still needs to go through the full legislative process once lawmakers convene for their annual session in January."

One Democrat and One Republican opposed the measure. Though their opinions on the death penalty itself differed, they both feel that there was no reason to advance such legislation. Currently, Utah does allow the death by firing squad for those sentenced prior to the 2004 ban on the practice.

Though Utah originally dropped the repeal due to media attention, Republican Rep. Paul Ray feels the reason to advance the measure would be if the state "cannot obtain the lethal injection drugs 30 days before the scheduled execution," according to the Daily Mail. ABC News reports that Rep. Ray feels that there at least needs to be an option.

"We have to have an option. "If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you're still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?"

The New York Post reports that the move was spurned by the lack of availability of the 3-drug cocktail they would normally use for a lethal injection form of death penalty. Though states have turned to other drugs to carry out death by lethal injection, they constantly face challenges in the courts.

Advocates for death by firing squad have suggested it is more humane because the death is much quicker. However, opponents suggest the opposite. Only one botched firing squad execution has been brought up by opponents that happened in 1879. Wallace Wilkerson took 27 minutes to die when the officers missed his heart.

The measure will be brought into a full session of Utah's legislature in January, 2015. Death by firing squad, as a form of death penalty, was last used in 2010.


TEXAS----female loses appeal

Killer of baby-sitter denied appeal by state

Texas' highest criminal court denied an appeal Wednesday from an East Texas woman who was sentenced to death for killing her developmentally disableld babysitter 4 years ago.

Prosecutors at Kimberly Cargill's 2010 trial said she was facing a child abuse investigation and killed Cherry Walker to keep her from testifying at a custody hearing. Cargill said Walker suffered a seizure and died while Cargill was driving her home. She said she panicked and set the body on fire to get rid of any of her own DNA that might have been on it.

In her appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Cargill, of Whitehouse, argued that the evidence against her wasn't sufficient to justify a capital murder charge, that the trial judge improperly allowed some testimony and that her legal cousel was insufficient. Cargill can pursue federal appeals. She is among 7 women on death row in Texas.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


2 witnesses recant in death penalty case

2 witnesses whose testimony helped send a Harris County man to death row in 2007 have recanted their statements, saying they were pressured to lie by prosecutors and investigators, the man's attorney said.

Antonio Williams, sentenced to death row for a 2006 double murder, was falsely indentified by 2 eyewitnesses who came forward earlier this month to say they were pressured to lie by prosecutors and investigators, lawyers for Williams said Wednesday. In a flurry of court records filed over the past 2 weeks appealing the conviction, attorneys for Williams say the 2 women who saw the shooting on Aug. 5 2006 were told to identify Williams despite their claim that the killer was a man named Keith with dredlocks with blonde tips.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Stay denied--death row inmate said to be delusional

A Texas judge has refused for a 2nd time to delay the next month's scheduled execution of a convicted murderer whose attorneys say is severely delusional and ineligible for the death penalty.

State District Judge N. Keith Williams in Gillespie County refused Wednesday a renewed request by attorneys for convicted killer Scott Panetti that Panetti's Dec. 3 execution date be reset or withdrawn. Williams rejected a similar appeal last week.

The 56-year-old Hayward, Wisconsin, man faces lethal injection for the fatal shootings of his in-laws 22 years ago at their home in Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country.

Panetti's lawyers contend his long-diagnosed mental illness appears to have worsened since his last evaluation seven years ago and more time is needed to determine if he's competent now for execution.


US judge approves execution of mentally ill man

A Texas judge on Wednesday refused to postpone the scheduled execution of a convicted killer who suffers from mental illness and is set to face lethal injection on 3 December.

Scott Panetti, who has had schizophrenia for 3 decades, has won support for his case of groups such as Mental Health America, psychiatrists, former judges and prosecutors, evangelical Christians.

The European Union urged Texas Governor Rick Perry to grant Panetti clemency.

"The execution of persons suffering from a mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and is in contradiction to the minimum standards of human rights set forth in several international human rights instruments", the bloc wrote in its letter.

Still, district judge Keith Williams refused to give attorneys more time to re-evaluate whether Panetti was criminally responsible for the 1995 killing of his wife.

"As an obviously severely mentally ill man with schizophrenia, Mr Panetti should never have been allowed to represent himself in his death penalty case", his attorney Kathryn Kase said.

He "should not have been allowed to reject a plea deal that would have saved his life. Now, Mr Panetti must not be executed without a competency hearing.

"This is the last chance to prevent an injustice from turning into an immoral tragedy."

Though individual US states choose whether they will implement the death penalty, in 1986 the US Supreme Court barred execution of the mentally ill as cruel and unusual punishment.



My schizophrenic brother is about to be executed in Texas even though the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of mentally ill people.

My brother Scott is a mentally ill man with schizophrenia set to be executed in Texas on December 3, 2014. Even though the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of severely mentally ill individuals who do not understand the reason for their punishment, Scott will die in just 2 weeks unless Governor Rick Perry commutes his sentence to life in prison.

Now 56, Scott still suffers severely from schizophrenia. He was diagnosed in 1978 and later began having delusions that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. Over the years he became obsessed with the idea that the devil was in his house. In 1992, he suffered a psychotic break and killed his wife's parents.

Having a brother on death row is like having a terminally ill family member. But there's one big difference: we can’t stop a terminal illness, but we can stop Texas from killing a mentally ill man. 

I started a petition asking Governor Rick Perry to spare Scott's life by commuting his sentence to life in prison. Click here to sign it:

I know it's hard to see beyond the fact that Scott took 2 lives - but he suffers from a severe illness that changed the way his mind works. He doesn't understand fact from fiction. He's still my big brother, the strong and handsome sailor who served in the Navy.

Despite his long history of mental illness, the judge did not allow Scott's medical records as evidence so jurors could not take his mental illness into account. Scott was even allowed to represent himself at trial. He wore a TV-western cowboy costume in court and called hundreds of people as witnesses - including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ. He even passed up a plea deal that would have saved his life.

Scott committed a terrible crime but he is not a cold-hearted killer. He is a very sick person who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than 30 years. In the decade leading up to the killings he was hospitalized more than a dozen times due to psychotic behavior.

Please sign my petition asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Scott's death sentence be commuted to life in prison and Governor Rick Perry to grant the commutation.

Vicki Panetti



Poconos' murder might not have been his 1st----Convicted killer tells investigators he 'might have' killed 5 women in Texas

Did a Tobyhanna man, now sentenced to death for killing and dismembering a Scranton woman, murder other women prior to this case?

That's what Texas (state) investigators are trying to verify.

Charles Hicks Jr., 40, was convicted Friday of 1st-degree murder in the January 2008 death of Deanna Null, 36, and sentenced Tuesday to death.

Hicks will be formally sentenced in January, but has the right to appeal the conviction and sentence if he chooses to do so. If he exercises his appeal rights, he won't be executed until after he has exhausted the appeal process, which could take years.

Null was last seen in January 2008 in Scranton, getting into a car driven by a male believed to be Hicks. Days later, her dismembered remains were found in trash bags dumped along Monroe County highways.

The investigation eventually led to Hicks, who was charged in March 2008 after Null's severed hands were found in his home.

Hicks said he didn't kill Null. He said they were doing drugs together when she overdosed and that he got rid of her body, instead of reporting her death, out of fear of losing his job over a drug arrest.

Prior to the trial, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso, who prosecuted Hicks, was in contact with the Rangers law enforcement agency in Texas, where Hicks lived prior to moving to the Poconos at the end of 2007.

The Texas Rangers have been investigating Hicks in connection with several other women's murders, said Mancuso. These murders, the earliest of which date back to the 1990s, involve varying degrees of beating, or other forms of torture, and dismemberment, along with one or more of the bodies being left nude, all similar to what was done to Null.

On Friday, after Hicks was convicted, Mancuso made an offer to Hicks' defense attorney, Jason LaBar.

If Hicks gave the Rangers truthful details about the other murders and agreed to waive all of his post-conviction appeal rights in the Monroe County and Texas cases, he would be spared the death penalty in the Monroe County case and in any of the Texas cases in which he would be charged, tried and convicted of 1st-degree murder, Mancuso told LaBar.

The trial's penalty phase, where the jury decides whether to sentence the convicted defendant to death or life in prison without parole, had not yet begun. If Hicks agreed to the offer and gave the Rangers truthful details about the Texas murders, Mancuso would then tell Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti Worthington the prosecution was no longer seeking the death penalty and request Worthington cancel the trial's penalty phase, dismissing the jury.

LaBar relayed Mancuso's offer to Hicks, who agreed to it.

At 8 p.m. Monday, the 1st day of the trial's penalty phase, the Rangers, having arrived in the Poconos, began what would be a 4-plus-hour interview with Hicks. The Rangers purposely withheld details about the murders they were investigating and instead had Hicks provide information to see if his details matched theirs.

Hicks ended up providing limited information about five cases which turned out to be different from the ones the Rangers were investigating, according to Mancuso and LaBar. Hicks said he assaulted and "might have" killed 5 women of whom, it turned out, the Rangers were unaware.

"He said the women were in 'pretty bad shape' when he left them," LaBar said.

Mancuso said it seemed like Hicks was playing a game with the Rangers to see what they knew.

"He would backtrack when questioned on details about particular murders and say, 'Yeah, that's my work, or 'No, that's not my work,'" Mancuso said. "Toward the end of the interview, he finally admitted to two murders the Rangers seemed more able to link him to. So, they're now investigating the cases they were looking into before, plus these 5 different cases he brought up, and trying to confirm his involvement to the point where they can officially charge him in any of them. I won't be surprised if he does get charged."

In the end, Mancuso and the Rangers were dissatisfied with what Hicks had given them and withdrew their offer to take the death penalty off the table in Null's case. The trial's penalty phase continued and the jury imposed a death sentence.

"He had his chance," Mancuso said.

Hicks' family continues to support him and is devastated that he has been sentenced to death. The family has described him as a good but troubled man whose demons led him to illegal drug use and other poor choices causing his current situation.

Overwhelmed by another relative's recent death, Hicks being sentenced to death and the resulting news publicity, the family declined to comment when contacted at their home Wednesday.

(source: Pocono Record)


Prosecutors offered Hicks a deal to avoid death penalty

The Monroe County district attorney's office considered dropping the death penalty against Charles Ray Hicks in exchange for information on murders he's suspected of committing in Texas, but he failed to provide sufficient information to seal the deal, a county detective said.

Detective Wendy Serfass on Wednesday said Mr. Hicks is a suspect in the unsolved homicides of several women in the area of Fort Worth, Texas. Following his conviction last week for the murder of Deanna Null of Scranton, prosecutors said they would consider dropping efforts to secure a death sentence for Ms. Null's murder if he provided information on the Texas cases.

Mr. Hicks met with an official with the Texas Rangers on Monday and admitted to killing five women. Prosecutors decided not to withdraw the death penalty, however, because he did not live up to the agreement that had been reached, Detective Serfass said.

"There was an offer made that, if he disclosed what happened in our case here and provided information - he's been a suspect in Texas for some time - then there would be talk of removing the death penalty from the cases," Detective Serfass said. "He didn't give complete information and believable information."

Detective Serfass said she could not discuss what information Mr. Hicks did and did not provide, but it "did not satisfy the agreement" he made with prosecutors.

Mr. Hicks, 40, of Coolbaugh Twp., lived in Burleson, Texas, prior to moving to Pennsylvania. A Monroe County jury on Friday found him guilty of 1st-degree murder and several other offenses for the 2008 death and dismemberment of Ms. Null, 36.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hicks severely beat Ms. Null, then began dismembering her body while she was still alive. The crime was discovered after parts of Ms. Null's body were found in garbage bags strewn along Interstates 80 and 380 in Monroe and Lackawanna counties.

The death penalty phase, which is separate from the trial, began Monday. Jurors had the option to sentence Mr. Hicks to life without parole or death. They deliberated for nearly 7 hours Tuesday before returning the death sentence.

Detective Serfass did not reveal the identity of the women in Texas Mr. Hicks is suspected of killing.

Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, confirmed the Texas Rangers are working with authorities in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area to investigate Mr. Hicks' statements. He said the investigation is ongoing.

Daniel Segura, spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said a member of the department's cold case unit plans to meet with authorities who interviewed Mr. Hicks to gather more details. No further information was available Wednesday.

Mr. Hicks' attorney, Monroe County Public Defender Jason Labar, did not return a phone message Wednesday seeking comment. Monroe County District Attorney David Christine and First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso, who prosecuted the case, also did not return phone messages.

Whether or not Texas authorities will be able to use the information Mr. Hicks provided to prosecute him there will be dependent upon the specific details of the agreement he reached, said attorney Al Flora Jr., the former chief public defender for Luzerne County who has handled numerous death penalty cases.

Mr. Flora, who is not involved in the Hicks case, said he suspects Mr. Hicks gave a "proffer," a statement in which a defendant offers certain information on a crime in exchange for some sort of consideration from prosecutors.

"It may be he provided information that did not rise to the level the prosecution expected. If he breached the terms of the agreement, the district attorney can take it off the table," Mr. Flora said.

If there is a dispute over whether Mr. Hicks breached the deal, that issue could be raised on appeal of his death sentence, Mr. Flora said.

"If there was a dispute if he breached the agreement or not, the lawyer could raise a challenge and ask the court to enforce the terms of the agreement," he said. "The court would have to hold a hearing, take evidence and make a ruling."

(source: The Times-Tribune)


Death penalty debate pits police versus police

John Breckinridge admits he was wracked by a need for retribution.

Breckinridge, a retired police officer from Manchester, New Hampshire, watched in October 2006 as his partner, Michael Briggs, was shot and killed after responding to an early-morning report of gunfire.

Breckinridge wanted the killer to face death for his crime.

But his anger led to depression and a strained marriage, problems punctuated by the stress of a capital murder trial.

"I was giving control of my life to that anger," Breckinridge told a small crowd at St. Joseph Parrish in Middletown on Wednesday, where he spoke out against capital punishment in Delaware. "It's not worth it."

Cops are on both sides of a renewed debate to repeal Delaware's death penalty.

Opponents of the death penalty are again gearing up ahead of a General Assembly session in January, attempting to generate support by holding town halls this week in Bear and Middletown. A 3rd and final town hall is planned at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wesley United Methodist Church in Dover.

Repeal advocates have turned to retired police officers from outside of Delaware, including Breckinridge, to headline the events, helping counter almost universal opposition from Delaware law enforcement groups that helped sink repeal legislation last year.

Senate Bill 19, which would have ended capital punishment in Delaware, passed the Senate by the narrowest of margins before languishing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Police from out of state "have frankly more freedom to speak their mind than those men or women who serve in Delaware," said Ti Hall, campaign manager for the Delaware Repeal Project, a coalition backed by the ACLU, the Delaware Center for Justice, the NAACP and other groups.

"We respect law enforcement, we respect the job they do, we respect their bravery," Hall said in an interview. "Not all police officers are for the death penalty. Delaware deserves a full dialogue."

Hall says repealing the death penalty makes sense for moral but also economic reasons, considering the cost borne by taxpayers of prosecuting and defending lengthy capital punishment cases.

Fliers advertising the repeal town halls this week read "It's true: Police support repeal."

That didn't ring true for Fred Calhoun, president of Delaware's Fraternal Order of Police, where he represents almost 2,500 officers working for local, county and state law enforcement agencies.

"None of the officers who I represent, no law enforcement officers I'm in contact with, are in favor of the repeal," Calhoun says.

Lt. Tom Brackin, president of the Delaware State Troopers Association, said law enforcement in Delaware is united against any efforts to repeal the death penalty or even make more modest changes to the system.

Last year's legislation included an amendment, attached during Senate debate, that called for Delaware to end the death penalty only after killing the 17 current members of death row.

"We are OK with the death penalty as it is now," said Brackin, who believes capital punishment provides a deterrant for violent criminals. "We don't see any need for any changes.

A new debate over capital punishment comes just weeks after Delaware voters elected a new attorney general, the state's top law enforcement officer.

Police groups supported Lt. Gov. Matt Denn's campaign for attorney general, though it's unclear what role Denn might play in any repeal in Dover.

Denn supports the death penalty in certain cases but says executions should only be carried out after a jury unanimously recommends a sentence of death.

It's a position opposed by law enforcement but one that does not go far enough for repeal advocates.

"Neither side has asked me to be involved, probably because my position doesn't fall neatly into one camp or the other," Denn said. "My position is on the record and it's pretty well known to both sides. If someone wants me to explain it, I'll certainly do that."

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said repeal advocates must be willing to compromise, or the repeal could fail again in the House.

Schwartzkopf talked about potetential amendments that would link capital punishment to the presence of DNA evidence, or apply the death penalty only in cases that involved the killing of a police or correctional officer.

"If you're not willing to talk about it," said Schwartzkopf, a former State Trooper, "we're not changing our votes."

(source: The News Journal)


New sentences for death row inmates

Maryland has 4 inmates on death row. In 2013, though, the General Assembly repealed the state's authority to carry out executions. According to a report from the Capital News Service, 2 of those 4 inmates are currently seeking to have their sentences changed, a move with which we would agree.

CNS reporter Max Bennett wrote that Heath William Burch - on death row since 1996 for a double homicide - is seeking a commutation of his death sentence from Gov. Martin O'Malley to life without the possibility of parole. Attorneys for Jody Lee Miles, on the other hand, are asking Maryland's highest court - the Court of Special Appeals - to vacate Miles' death sentence. His attorneys are seeking a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

Miles' attorneys are joined by Maryland's attorney general, Douglas Gansler, in seeking a court review of the sentence. But while Miles' attorneys are hoping to get the convicted murderer a second chance at life through a lesser sentence allowing for the possibility of parole, as well as access to work, education and rehabilitation programs, Gansler wants to ensure the rest of Miles' days are spent behind bars.

"People should understand: Life without parole is a death sentence," Bennett reported Gansler saying at a news conference, "You're dying in jail. You're coming out in a box. It might just not be as soon as it otherwise would be if you had the death penalty."

In his brief to the Court of Special Appeals, Gansler states that the repeal act clearly calls for a review of finalized death penalty cases only when the sentence can be commuted to life without parole, not, as Miles' attorneys argue, as a chance to potentially become a free man again or move to a lower-security facility.

"The legislature decided that society’s interest in retribution and punishment for Miles’ heinous crime is fulfilled by a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, when a jury previously determined that Miles should receive the maximum possible penalty of death," states Gansler's brief to the Court of Special Appeals.

According to a news release from Gansler's office, in 1998, Miles was convicted of murdering Edward Joseph Atkinson, a musical theater director, in Wicomico County. Miles was tried in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court.

Both Burch and Miles have been on death row for nearly 20 years. Their convictions and sentencing were only the start of a very lengthy legal process leaving victims' families without the closure for which they hoped.

Atkinson's family still seeks solace. According to the Daily Times' Vanessa Junkin, Atkinson's mother, Dottie Atkinson, spoke at a news conference Nov. 6 about the potential for the murderer of her son to have his sentence commuted. She reportedly talked of the ups and downs of the appeal process, as well as her disappointment in the latest twist in the case.

"It's been like a roller coaster ride to us," Junkin reported Dottie Atkinson as saying. "It's been appeal after appeal, and we get some hope each time and then all of a sudden - all these appeals have been in our favor - and then all of a sudden we get this news."

Those who say it is cheaper to execute such criminals rather than pay for them to live out their lives behind bars are generally incorrect because, as Miles' case shows, the appeals process is so long. Keeping them locked up is less costly than the mountain of legal costs associated with all those years of appeals.

"Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole. What's more, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death," O'Malley said in a statement last year after the House of Delegates fell in line with the state Senate in repealing the death penalty.

We were pleased that, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, Maryland became the 6th state in 6 years to abolish the death penalty. There is no outcome more final than death and, for us, there are too many questions - moral, ethical and other - to be comfortable with government-sanctioned executions. The sentences of Maryland's four death row inmates should be changed.

(source: Opinion;


Suspect to face death penalty

Donald Eric Kincaid will face the death penalty for the August bludgeoning deaths of 2 women and a young man.

Prosecutors in the case will proceed with a capital murder case against Kincaid, according to officials with Burke County Clerk of Courts. Kincaid's current defender is Victoria Jane. A capital case requires a defendant have 2 attorneys. A 2nd defender has yet to be appointed, according to the clerk of courts office.

Kincaid was charged in the murders of Barbara Ann Johnson, 54, Johnson's son, Freddie Charles Thompson, 21, and Zakiya El Bey, 75, who were found dead the morning of Aug. 10 in a home at 419 1/2 W. Concord St. in Morganton. Police said the victims died from blunt force trauma.

Search warrants said Burke County Emergency Services responded to a call at the home just after midnight on Aug. 10 and found Kincaid with what appeared to be blood on his nose, ears and glasses. EMS then contacted public safety officials, who arrived at the residence to conduct a welfare check and found the bodies of Johnson, Thompson and Bey inside, according to the warrants.

Kincaid's next appearance in court is Jan. 12, according to the clerk's office.

(source: The News Herald)


Michael Jones could face death penalty if convicted in murder of Diana Duve

A man accused of killing a nurse from Vero Beach could now face the death penalty if convicted.

32-year-old Michael Jones is charged with murdering his on and off again girlfriend, 26-year-old Diana Duve more than 5 months ago.

Duve's mother says it's the news she needed to hear to get through a tough upcoming holiday season.

Lena Andrews and her husband Bill are preparing for their first holiday season without their only daughter.

"Holidays will never be the same and we're just waiting for these holidays to go by," Lena Andrews said.

In there home, there's not much holiday spirit. This year, pictures of Diana take the place of decorations.

"We're thinking about her every second. As a matter of fact, it's the only thing I'm thinking about," Andrews said.

Investigators say Diana Duve was murdered by Jones. Her body was found in the trunk of her car in Melbourne after she was allegedly strangled by Jones.

"He is so evil that he should have been locked up a long time ago," Andrews said."

Andrews says Jones deserves to pay the ultimate price for taking her daughter's life.

"Now he's in jail, but he is breathing, eating, sleeping and she is dead."

"I hope that whatever life he has left he is going to suffer everyday for the rest of his miserable life."

No trial date has been set for Jones.

(source: WPTV news)


Jury deliberating in capital murder trial of Birmingham man whose low IQ prohibits death penalty

A Jefferson County jury is deliberating in the case of a Birmingham man accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend and another man.

Harold James Burch, 32, was charged with capital murder, attempted murder and burglary in the April 2012 shooting of 29-year-old Jacobi Bennett. Burch's ex-girlfriend also was shot in the hand.

His trial began with jury selection Monday before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam.

After about 2 days of testimony, the jury received the case Wednesday afternoon. They will resume deliberations Thursday morning. Though Burch is on trial for capital murder, he cannot be sentenced to death if convicted, court records show.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in Atkins vs. Virginia that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded defendant.

The Alabama Supreme Court has defined retardation as having an IQ of 70 or below with substantial behavior deficits.

Alabama law requires certain criteria for mental retardation as a criminal defense: an IQ that is subnormal, deficient ability to behave in society as compared to other people a defendant's age, and proof that the condition began before a defendant turned 18.

An Atkins hearing was held 2 months before Burch's trial began. One psychiatrist's evaluation found that Burch scored 53 on an IQ test.

An evaluation by 2 other doctors with the State Department of Mental Health said the test score fell into the "extremely low range of intellectual functioning."

Last month, the judge issued a ruling that the case was not eligible for the death penalty because Burch met the state's criteria for intellectual disability.



Hottinger opposes anonymous lethal injection suppliers

State Rep. Jay Hottinger sent out a tweet Wednesday night that might have raised some eyebrows: "Instead of shielding identity of drug co's that make & supply drugs/supplies for lethal injections in death penalty - bring back firing squad," he wrote at 7:49 p.m.

Hottinger, a Republican, was responding to proposed Ohio House Bill 663, which would shield the identity of manufactures and sellers of drugs used in lethal injections. The bill was fast-tracked and approved Wednesday by a House committee. It likely will be voted on today and, if passed, will move on to the Ohio Senate.

Proponents of the bill argue it's the only way to keep Ohio's death penalty, Hottinger said: Without anonymity, drug manufacturers don't want to take part in the lethal injection process.

Hottinger, however, has a different view. He's in favor of the death penalty, but he doesn't think it should be a secretive process at all. If drug manufacturers aren't willing to be open about their involvement, there are other ways, he said.

Some have talked about bringing back the electric chair. A firing squad - 8 or so people, so no one knows who fired the lethal shot - is a legitimate option, he said.

Another representative even made the comment that "ropes are cheap," Hottinger said.

"That is not something I would probably be for, but again ... I think there are a number of ways that we can effectively and humanely implement the death penalty other than lethal injection," he said.

"You know, you're dealing with life-and-death situations. ... Something that significant, I believe, should have a lot of transparency."

Executions in Ohio have been on hold since death row inmate Dennis McGuire, who was put to death with the country's 1st use of a 2-drug combo, took 26 minutes to die in January, repeatedly gasping and snorting. The nearly 2-hour execution of an Arizona inmate in July with the same 2 drugs deepened concerns over their use.

Ohio's 1st choice - compounded, or specially mixed, pentobarbital - has been used successfully by Texas and Missouri, which won't say where the drug comes from, but Ohio has been unable to obtain it.

H.B. 663's sponsor, Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the state prisons agency has said it can't obtain drugs without the promise of anonymity.

The agency "has represented to us that unless the anonymity clause is in place, they don't believe that vendors will be willing to supply the drugs, the products, or whatever," Huffman told the Associated Press. "And we take them at their word."

Companies would be shielded for at least 2 decades under H.B. 663, but in a last-minute change, they would have to ask to be granted anonymity rather than receiving it automatically.

The 20-year period would begin after the company stops providing drugs to the state, Huffman said.

Hottinger understands that one concern about the death penalty is the amount of time inmates are on death row. In his opinion, though, it's worth a bit more time to make sure Ohio has the right plan in place.

"I don't think a month or 2 or 6 longer is going to significantly set back Ohio's death penalty process," he said. "If the death penalty has to be delayed temporarily until we get this right, I would prefer (that)."

(source: Newark Advocate)


Ariz. attorney asks Trumbull judge to consider new trial for murderer Danny Lee Hill

An Arizona attorney has asked a Trumbull County judge to give a new trial to convicted murderer Danny Lee Hill of Warren on the grounds that bite evidence used at Hill's murder trial nearly 30 years ago has been discredited.

Hill was sent to death row in 1986 for killing 12-year-old Raymond Fife of Warren. Hill more recently challenged his death sentence by saying he was mentally retarded, but a visiting judge denied that claim.

Atty. Sarah R. Kostick of Tucson filed a motion last week with Judge Andrew Logan of Common Pleas Court seeking permission to ask for a new trial.

The county prosecutor's office says it will be filing a response to the request in the coming days.

Miriam Fife, mother of Raymond Fife and a victim-witness advocate for Trumbull County, expressed frustration that defendants and their attorneys are allowed to raise one issue after another to delay execution.

"It's just a stall tactic," Fife said.

Kostick said she previously worked as an "extern" for the federal public defender's office for Northern Ohio. That office tried 2 times but failed earlier this year to convince a federal judge to appoint the public defender's office to represent Hill in his request for a new trial. Kostick says she is representing Hill pro-bono, meaning for free.

In her filing, Kostick asked Judge Logan to seek a visiting judge to decide whether to consider a new trial.

Hill, 47, was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in the 1985 torture and mutilation killing of Raymond Fife in a wooded area off Palmyra Road Southwest. Hill was 18 at the time, and co-defendant Tim Combs was 17. As a juvenile, Combs was not eligible for the death penalty and got a life prison sentence.

Kostick wrote in her filing that Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins relied heavily during Hill's trial on testimony relating to bite marks on the genitals of Raymond Fife.

Some of the evidence came from Dr. Curtis Mertz, a forensic dentist, who compared the marks with dental impressions from the teeth of Hill and Combs and concluded that the marks had come from Hill.

But a federal public defender secured a report early in 2014 by Dr. Franklin Wright, a Cincinnati dentist who said the marks were not made by a human.

Kostick wrote that an effort to get a new trial for Hill began after the National Academies of Sciences in recent years "released a report determining that bite mark evidence is unreliable and cannot be validated scientifically."

The Ohio Attorney General's Office argued last spring that Hill's attorneys were overstating how important bite mark evidence was in Hill's conviction.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


Sources: Judge sets aside Michael Dean Overstreet's death penalty

A St. Joseph Superior Court judge has ruled that convicted killer Michael Dean Overstreet is not competent to be executed.

Judge Jane Woodward Miller's office confirmed this morning that an order in the Overstreet case was prepared but would not be released to the public until later today.

Sources close to the case say Woodward Miller issued a stay that spares Overstreet from the death sentence.

The judge, sources said, agreed with Overstreet's lawyers, who in court documents argued he was delusional and has no "rational understanding" of why the state of Indiana plans to execute him.

The Indiana attorney general's office argued that Overstreet's mental problems should not exclude him from facing his just sentence.

Overstreet was sentenced to death in the 1997 murder and rape of Kelly Eckart, 18.

Eckart, a Franklin College student, was driving to her Boggstown home after a shift at the Franklin Wal-Mart when prosecutors say Overstreet bumped into her vehicle and abducted her on a country road. DNA evidence linked Overstreet to the killing.

(source: Indianapolis Star)


A 9-Year Standstill For Arkansas' Death Penalty

Rebecca Petty has a book where she keeps all her memories of her daughter, Andi. On May 15, 1999, Andi Brewer disappeared from her father's home in Mena, Arkansas.

After a 3 day, state wide search, police found the 12 year old's body in Polk County. Police took Karl Roberts into custody. He was Andi's uncle by marriage.

"There are really no words to describe the feelings I feel missing her everyday," said Petty.

A jury found Roberts guilty of Capital Murder in 2000. They sentenced him to death. Roberts waived his legal right to appeal that conviction. Then, less than 4 hours before his was set to be executed, Roberts changed his mind. Now, 10 years later, Roberts is still on death row, pending further hearings.

"I've seen death row. I've seen what it looks like and that's no life," said Petty.

30 other inmates are on death row in The Natural State. Some have been there for nearly 25 years. According to Dina Tyler with the Arkansas Department of Correction, lawsuits are challenging the states execution policies.

"Right now, all we do is put them on death row and hold them there for safe keeping until the time the state is able to execute," said Tyler. "Those challenges have alleged the director of the department of correction has been given too much leeway, too much discretion, in the choice of the drugs used to carry out an execution."

Before 2005, the DOC used a combination of three lethal injection drugs known as the Texas cocktail. One of those drugs is now unavailable and replacements are wrapped up in more lawsuits. Ultimately, the state hasn't executed anyone since 2005. Tyler isn't sure what the future holds.

For Karl Roberts, prosecutors say he'll be back in a courtroom in Polk County in December for another hearing. Andi's family will be there too, hoping for justice.

"It's a chapter in a book that's just open, and it's not finished or complete for. For justice to be served, it needs to be served, one way or the other, there needs to be resolve and closure," said Petty.

And as a newly elected state representative, Petty says she will advocate for victim's rights and for families of those affected by crime, like herself. No matter what the outcome may be for Roberts, Petty just wants to close this chapter of Andi's life.



Death by firing squad could return to Utah

The firing squad could return as an option for death penalty sentences here in Utah.

A bill that would make it happen passed the law enforcement and criminal justice committee Wednesday.

The firing squad would be a secondary option when lethal injection drugs are not available.

Sponsor, Representative Paul Ray admits it very well could become a primary option given the recent problems with the drug cocktail and its lack availability.

He argues it's a more humane option anyway.

"Quite honestly they are dead before they hear the sound of the bullet. It's quick, it's efficient, it's a lot less painful than even lethal injection."

When the session begins in January, the bill will likely go back to committee before it hits the floor. But with Wednesday's vote, it will be an expedited path.


WYOMING----death sentence overturned

Federal court overturns death penalty for Eaton----Federal judge's order overturning death penalty

A federal judge has overturned the death penalty for Dale Wayne Eaton, Wyoming's lone death row inmate.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne on Thursday stated Wyoming has a choice of either granting a new sentencing proceeding for Eaton within 120 days in Natrona County or keeping him locked up for life without parole.

The 69-year-old Eaton was sentenced to death in 2004 in state court for the 1988 rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Montana.

The Wyoming Supreme Court had upheld Eaton's death sentence.

Eaton's federal lawyers didn't dispute that he killed Kimmell. But they argued Eaton's state defense team had failed to present information to the jury about his tortured background to give jurors reason to consider sparing his life.

(source: Casper Star tribune)


The Penalty - executing justice in America ----a film by Laura Shacham




Death-row deadlines a real killer

As the clock ticked closer to 12.01am on 29 October, the time scheduled for convicted murderer Mark Christeson's lethal injection, the US Supreme Court scurried to enact a stay of execution.

It had come to the court's attention that Christeson's lawyers had failed to meet an appeal deadline, putting their client's life on the line.

Not-for-profit news organisation The Marshall Project recently reported that 80 similarly tardy lawyers have missed crucial deadlines to apply for a final appeal. Of these 80 condemned clients, 16 have paid the ultimate price for their lawyer's incompetence.

The last chance for an inmate on death row is a habeas corpus petition, an appeal to the federal court on the basis that their imprisonment violates federal law.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton placed a limit on death-penalty appeals by setting a 1-year filing deadline.

Given the complexity of habeas corpus appeals and the pressure on the lawyer to protect their client's life, one could understand how poorly-trained public aid lawyers might accidentally launch their petitions a few hours or days late.

But this was not the case; the average petition was 2 years and 4 months overdue. The record was set by a lawyer who submitted his client's habeas corpus claim 11 years too late.

The Marshall Project's investigation found that many of these court-appointed lawyers were plucked from the bottom of the barrel.

1 lawyer from Alabama was a methamphetamine addict and on probation for public intoxication; another, from Louisiana, was so debilitated by multiple disorders that he was unable to leave his office.

Yet another lawyer's drinking problem was so severe that he "damn near fell out of his chair", according to a complaint letter written by a client.

Folklaw was shocked to hear that while condemned men marched to their deaths, the lawyers in question receive little more than a slap on the wrist for their abysmal performance.

Federal court rulings have described the lawyers' misconduct as "inexcusable" and "deeply unprofessional" but, so far, only one lawyer has been sanctioned by a professional disciplinary body.

"It is hard for me to fathom how a lawyer who asked for and received the appointment of this Court, could abdicate the most basic function of filing the petition on time," wrote district court judge Timothy Corrigan.

"I would be remiss if I did not share my deep concern that in these cases our federal system of justice fell short in the very situation where the stakes could not be higher," he added.

(source: Lawyers Weekly)


US House approves resolution condemning Iran's executions and human rights abuses

The US House of Representatives has voted to approve legislation that will condemn the 'gross human rights violations' committed by the Iranian regime.

The resolution comes just days ahead of the November 24 deadline for world powers to reach a deal with the clerical regime.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said: "I think it's incumbent upon all of us, as the House is doing, to stand with the people of Iran who suffer under this theocracy and speak out."

The House Resolution No.754 calls on Iran to abide by its international and domestic obligations on human rights and civil liberties, including freedoms of assembly, speech, and press.

It also deplores the steep rise in executions under Hassan Rouhani, and names Reyhaneh Jabbari, a woman hanged for killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault. It also condemns persecution of minorities, including Baha'is in Iran, and criticises the 'undemocratic' elections that deny Iranians the ability to choose their own government.

It also calls on Iran to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and to allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran to visit that country.

(source: NCR-Iran)


'Black widow' investigated after deaths of 7 partners----Japanese millionairess denies murdering 4 husbands and 3 boyfriends for 4.3 million pounds in payouts

Japanese police have arrested an elderly millionairess on suspicion of poisoning her husband and are investigating the deaths of a further 6 partners.

Chisako Kakehi, 67, was arrested in Kyoto on Wednesday in an investigation that has hit the headlines here as a "black widow" case.

Kaheki, who has reportedly amassed more than 800 million yen (4.3 million pounds ) in life insurance payouts and inheritances from her late partners, has denied the charges.

"I did not kill anyone," police quoted Kakehi as telling them, according to TV Asahi. "I don't even know how to kill someone. And I don't know where the cyanide came from. I wish someone would tell me."

Police launched their investigation after the death of Isao Kakehi, 75, at the end of last year. Mr Kakehi collapsed at the couple's home, in Muko City, just 1 month after their marriage and died in a local hospital.

An autopsy conducted by the hospital discovered highly toxic cyanide compounds in his system.

3 months earlier, Kakehi's then-boyfriend was taken ill after they ate at a restaurant, Jiji Press reported.

In March 2012, her 71-year-old fiancee died after falling off his motorbike in Osaka. The cause of death at the time was given as a heart attack, although blood taken during the autopsy was stored by police.

As the case against Kakehi proceeded, analysis of that blood sample also revealed the presence of cyanide compounds.

Kakehi's 1st husband died in 1994, at the age of 54, while her 2nd husband, whom she met through a dating agency, had a stroke in 2006 and died at the age of 69. A 3rd marriage ended with her husband's death in 2008.

1 year later, a boyfriend died from what was ascribed to cancer.

If she is convicted of murdering her partners, Kakehi is likely to be sentenced to death.

In April 2012, another black widow killer, 39-year-old Kanae Kijima, was given the death penalty for the murders of 3 men she met through Internet dating sites. Kijima was found guilty of drugging the men with sleeping tablets and then burning charcoal briquettes to poison them with carbon monoxide.

Kijima is awaiting the outcome of her appeal to the Supreme Court.

(source: The Telegraph)


Egypt prosecutors demand death penalty for Morsi

Egyptian prosecutors have officially asked the Cairo Criminal Court to sentence the country's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders to death.

Prosecutor Emad el-Sharawy said on Wednesday that Morsi and his aides must be handed down the death penalty on espionage charges.

Morsi and 35 Muslim Brotherhood leaders are standing trial for what the military-backed court calls destabilization of Egypt through collaborating with such groups as Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah and leaking confidential information to foreign countries.

The court's final session is set to be held on November 26 to hear Morsi's closing defense remarks.

Morsi, Egypt's 1st democratically-elected president, was ousted in July 2013 in a military coup led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the country's current president and the then army commander.

Sisi is accused of leading the suppression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters as hundreds of them have been killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces over the last year.

Rights groups say the army's crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has left over 1,400 people dead and 22,000 arrested, while some 200 people have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

(source: PressTV)


Death row inmates 'burdening' Indon jails----There's fresh discussion on the death penalty in Indonesia where 118 people, including 2 Aussies, are on death row.

Indonesian officials are debating the nation's death penalty, as they count 118 prisoners awaiting execution in overburdened jails.

2 of them, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are Australian, and desperately hoping for a 2nd chance.

Indonesia's Law and Human Rights director-general Wicipto Setiadi on Wednesday told a public forum the death row inmates were becoming a burden on the state.

But his hands were tied, because his department couldn't order the penalty to be carried out.

"We in the Law and Human Rights Ministry just happen to be a passing room," he said as quoted by Indonesian news website

"For executing it, it's up to the prosecutor." Chan and Sukumaran, members of the Bali Nine drug smugglers, have had a clemency request before the president for more than 2 years.

Indonesia's new president, Joko Widodo, will now decide on it.

He will likely take advice from his Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly.

He recently told AAP that while his department must uphold laws that still contain the death penalty as a sentencing option, he personally did not support it.

The public discussion held by the National Law Commission also involved Supreme Court judges.

It comes after a lawmaker from the parliament's justice commission on the weekend met Sukumaran in jail.

Aziz Syamsudin said he was concerned the cost burden of feeding so many prisoners had now reached 5 trillion rupiah ($A477 million) annually.

The death sentence is reserved in Indonesia for what are considered "extraordinary" crimes like drug smuggling and murder.

On death row are Ryan, a serial killer who took 10 lives, and Baekuni who killed 14 children, Detik reported.

Meanwhile in the prison art studio he helped establish, Sukumaran told reporters on the weekend he was using what time he had to better himself.

"I'm trying to be a better person," he said.

(source: SBS news)


Louisa Collins died in a gruesome 1889 hanging for husband's murder, but did she do it?

Louisa Collins was one of the only people in the world ever to be tried 4 times for murder.

On 8 January 1889, Louisa Collins, 39, a mother of 10 became the last woman hanged at the Darlinghurst gaol in NSW.

It was a gruesome end at the hand of hangman Robert "Nosey Bob" Howard, who misjudged the drop and nearly tore her head off.

Louisa was beautiful. She was promiscuous. She was under suspicion for murdering her 1st husband and had just been found guilty of murdering her 2nd, Michael Peter Collins. To make matters worse the evidence which condemned her to the gallows came from her own daughter, 11-year-old May.

But was she guilty? Or did the courts send an innocent woman to hang?

For 5 years, author, journalist and now associate editor of the Australian Women's Weekly, Caroline Overington has investigated the case.

She found a justice system gone wrong and a case that had stunning implications for society, sparking changes that generated new rights for women.

Chapter 11 of her book Last Woman Hanged covers the verdict and the turmoil it triggered.

The Verdict: 'Be hanged by the neck until you are dead'

The sentence would be death. Murder was a capital crime so it had to be death. Everyone knew that, before Chief Justice Darley even began to speak. Louisa would hang.

That was what the Crown wanted. That was what the Crown would get, and yet Chief Justice Darley's final address contained no ring of triumph.

Yes, Louisa had committed a wicked crime. She had taken the life of a man she had promised to love, but still, at least according to the Evening News, the Chief Justice was 'visibly affected' by his terrible responsibility and it seems that 'scarcely a dry eye was visible in the court' as he began to speak: 'Louisa Collins, after a most favourable and exhaustive trial, you have been found guilty of a most dreadful offence - the offence of murder.'

Of course, the Chief Justice might have said 'you have finally been found guilty of murder', but he did not. He went on:

"No one who has heard this case throughout can have any doubt that this verdict which has been given is a true and honest verdict. In fact, no other verdict could be arrived at by a body of intelligent men such as those who have so carefully attended to this case throughout."

In fact, 3 juries that comprised 36 men who had heard similar evidence over many months had been far from convinced of Louisa's guilt. But that was now irrelevant: the only verdict that counted was this final one.

"The murder you have committed is one of peculiar atrocity. You were day by day giving poison to the man whom above all others you were bound to cherish and attend.

"You watched his slow torture and painful death, and this apparently without a moment's remorse. You were indifferent to his pain, and gained his confidence by your simulated affection. There is too much reason to fear that your 1st husband Andrews also met his death at your hands; that he, too, you watched to the end - saw his torture day after day, and added to its horror this crime."

Louisa had in fact never been found guilty of Charles's murder; this was pure suspicion on the Chief Justice's part. He went on:

"I hold out no hope of mercy to you on earth. It would be wicked of me to do so. But I implore of you to seek forgiveness where it will assuredly be found. Seek the assistance of the clergyman to whose faith you belong. He will point out to you the way to gain such forgiveness."

This was an appeal to Louisa to pray for God's forgiveness or risk eternal damnation in hell.

"Your days are surely numbered, and it now remains for me only to pass the last dread sentence of the law upon you. The sentence of the Court is that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and on a day hereafter to be named by the Governor in Council, that you be taken to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the neck until you are dead; and may the Lord have mercy on your soul."

Louisa rose from her seat in the dock. In the Herald's re-telling, she appeared 'quite unmoved by the result of the trial' and remained 'perfectly calm and collected', even as the sentence of death was passed.

She did not scream out, or start to cry. According to the Evening News, Louisa - now 'the wretched woman' - was 'at once removed from the dock and taken into the gaol, where she was immediately placed in one of the condemned cells'. (This was in fact not true, but more about the cell in which Louisa spent her last days later.)

As so many reporters had already said, Louisa remained calm:

'Throughout the whole of his Honour's remarks not a muscle of her face quivered, and she appeared as calm as it was possible for any person to be."

Why was Louisa so calm, where so many others in court were weeping? She certainly didn't want to die. In the weeks ahead she would beg for her life: 'Oh Lord, have mercy, I have 7 children ...'

Perhaps she understood what many in court that day did not: that while she had been sentenced to death, the fight to save Louisa's life was not in any sense over.

It had been almost 30 years since a woman had been hanged in New South Wales. That woman was Ellen Monks, who was executed in May 1860 for the murder of her husband, Thomas Monks, at Longnose Creek on Halloween 1859. One key difference between the cases was that Ellen had pleaded guilty.

Conversely, just 3 years earlier, 2 women, Sarah Keep and her stepmother, Mary Ann Burton, who had been found guilty of the strychnine poisoning of Sarah's husband, had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment after a sustained protest.

Their supporters had argued that it would be barbaric to hang both a woman and her stepdaughter, especially since the daughter was just 24 years old and pregnant. (Only months after being granted a reprieve, Sarah died delivering her premature baby in prison.)

Given this history, it's perhaps no wonder that Louisa felt confident that she would not be hanged, either. If all else failed - and pretty much all else now had - her gender would protect her.

One of the key features of a good democracy is the principle of the separation of powers: put plainly, it means that parliament shouldn't interfere with the business of the courts. Judges need to be independent - especially of politicians.

Despite this, debate about the fate of Louisa Collins moved from the courthouse to Parliament House in about the length of time it took to traverse the distance by foot. Well, not quite, but the point is made.

To be clear, parliament was not due to debate the case. In fact, when the by-now-premier-again, Sir Henry Parkes, and other members of the Legislative Assembly went into the bear pit - a ferocious debating chamber, ripe with insult and upset - 6 days before Christmas in 1888, the item of business was Estimates, and the topics at hand included the cost of running trams.

Nobody in the Parkes ministry expected Louisa's case to come up and almost as soon as it did, some members of parliament tried to shut it down, saying politicians had no business under the doctrine of the separation of powers debating whether a mother of 7 should hang by her neck until she was dead. New South Wales was apparently too mature a democracy for that.

In any case, the Speaker took the chair at 4.30pm and for at least 2 hours, debate was as scheduled - until Sir Ninian Melville got to his feet. To sketch the scene, Melville was a former undertaker who liked to wear long black coats and puff on a grand, curled pipe, and although he was listed as a member of the temperance movement, he also liked to tell witty stories at his local public house. Now he wanted to talk about Louisa Collins.

The audacity of his move enraged Parkes. (For the sake of context, it's worth noting that Melville and Parkes loathed each other; at elections just a year earlier, Parkes had denounced Melville as 'the veriest charlatan that ever lived'. 12) Melville didn't give a hoot. He was determined to have his say. Lest anyone in the House not be aware of the case, he gave a brief outline: Louisa Collins was, he said, a woman who had been tried twice already for the murder of her second husband. Both juries had failed to find her guilty but instead of setting her free, the Crown had tried her a 3rd time, this time for the murder of her 1st husband. When that jury failed to reach a verdict, the Crown went back to the 1st charge, finally obtaining a conviction, but only after the Crown had objected to at least 4 of the potential jurors.

This was not justice, Melville said. This was a travesty of justice.

No 2nd guesses for knowing why Robert Howard was known as "Nosey Bob" after his face was disfigured by a horse.

Was the parliament really going to sit back and let this woman hang? 'It has been years since New South Wales was disgraced by the execution of a woman,' he cried. The colony ought to be ashamed of its ongoing thirst for the blood of criminals. It was immature.

New South Wales was surely no longer a penal colony. Wasn't there anyone who could see how poorly an execution would reflect upon the notion of New South Wales as a fully grown democracy, striving to take a seat at the table of mature and dignified nations? Also, it was the centennial year: 100 years since the arrival of the First Fleet. Rather than remind the world of how far New South Wales had come, all the execution of a woman could do was demonstrate how far the colony still had to go.

Many in the chamber agreed. 'Hear, hear!' they cried.

Unfortunately for Louisa, 1 man who did not agree was also one of the few men with the power to make a difference: Sir Henry Parkes.

To be clear, Sir Henry was in principle opposed to the death penalty. Just 2 years earlier, he had been part of the campaign to save the young men of Mount Rennie, writing personally to the New South Wales governor, Lord Carrington, to remind him that Britain didn't hang men for rape, and if New South Wales wanted to be seen as more than a penal colony where drunks were sent to dry out in the stocks and men were flogged with the cat-o'-9-tails, then it probably shouldn't hang men for the crime of rape, either.

Of course, Sir Henry hadn't then been premier. Now that he did hold that office - and could make a difference - he was on the side of death.

Sir Henry's lack of support for Louisa cannot have been for lack of empathy. Unlike many of the men who occupied positions of power in New South Wales at that time, men who came from aristocratic British families, Sir Henry actually knew something of grinding poverty (and of grand love affairs, although you'll have to go to the epilogue to read about those). He also understood power, having either hungered for, or exercised, it all his adult life.

Born in Britain in 1815, Sir Henry was already in his 70s by the time Louisa's case came to trial. He had a great, flowing white beard and unusually long white hair: 'leonine' was the word most commonly used to describe him. Although by most accounts a magnificent orator, Sir Henry had received only a few years of formal education. 15 As a boy, Henry did his best to scratch out a living in a brick pit before taking an apprenticeship with an ivory turner, opening a store and marrying a butcher's daughter called Clarinda.

By 1838, Henry's business had failed, and although Clarinda had twice given birth, both children had died. Henry pawned his tools and the couple sailed for Sydney in 1839, arriving 2 days after the birth of Clarinda's 3rd - but only living - child with only a few shillings to the family's name and no letter of introduction.

Henry looked for work but there was none to be found. He sold his possessions to survive, before finally taking labouring work at the estate of grazier Sir John Jamison near Richmond in New South Wales. 6 months later, the family returned to Sydney, where Henry worked at a foundry and a brassworks before opening an ivory and luxury goods store in Hunter Street. That business also failed but, never mind, it wasn't business that Henry wanted to be in. It was politics.

Parkes won the seat of Wentworth in 1854. One of the 1st committees he chaired as a parliamentarian examined the conditions of the working classes. He wrote critically of people living in hovels, alongside rats and disease, and of the more than 1000 vagrant children who roamed Sydney's streets barefoot, hungry and illiterate. A man of action as well as words, Parkes created a school - a magnificent little school - for orphan boys on a hulk in Sydney Harbour. Later still, he took steps to ensure that primary education in New South Wales would be compulsory, secular and free.

Hanged Sir Henry became premier (then called prime minister) in 1872, but his 1st term came to an end in 1875. And therein lay Louisa's problem: Parkes's reign had ended, at least in part, because Sir Henry had expressed sympathy in parliament for a notorious bushranger, Frank Gardiner, who had been on the run from police for at least a year before being recaptured, during which time he'd displayed exemplary behaviour (in fact, he'd been busy running a little shop). Sir Henry believed that Gardiner could be rehabilitated; others were thirsting for a sentence of least 30 years' hard labour, and while that debate alone would not cost Sir Henry the premiership, it would not assist him.

It is entirely possible that the debate about Louisa's sentence took Sir Henry by surprise, and he would certainly have been offended by the idea that New South Wales was not a mature democracy.

Sir Henry was by then on the verge of planting in Lord Carrington's mind the audacious idea that he could federate the colonies to create the nation that is now the Commonwealth of Australia in less than 6 months. (It would in fact take 10 years and Sir Henry would not live to see it, but he is today regarded as the man with the greatest claim to the title of the Father of Federation.) Few had done more to prove that Australia was ready to stand on its own, and here was his arch-enemy arguing that the execution of Louisa Collins would somehow prove that the colony was still a penal outpost.

Parkes got to his feet, took up a position next to the dispatch box and he gave a mighty speech, condemning Louisa to her fate.

This woman - Louisa Collins - had had as fair and patient a trial as any person ever had, Sir Henry said, his voice booming across the bear pit. Moreover, she had been convicted of 'one of the most cruel, inexcusable, and frightful murders ever perpetrated in the world's history'.

Sir Henry Parkes with wife Julia refused to intervene to save Louisa.

Energised, Sir Henry's supporters began to cheer: 'Hear, hear!' If the taking of a life could ever be justified, then Louisa's life could justly be taken, Sir Henry said. If it were ever sound to inflict the punishment of death, this was the case in which that punishment was sound.

Hear, hear, his supporters cried.

Louisa Collins had been ably defended. What's more, Sir Henry said, he had already put these very questions - whether the trial was fair and the punishment just - directly to the Chief Justice, and the Chief Justice had assured him in the 'most exhaustive and complete report ever conducted' that this woman had indeed received a fair trial. Moreover, the Chief Justice had given him no reason to believe that mercy could or should be extended to Louisa. In fact, when Sir Henry had asked whether the Chief Justice would consider mercy, the answer he had received had been a 'most decided negative'. Louisa Collins was guilty. The Chief Justice was in no doubt about that. Who could disagree? As for Melville's argument that Louisa could not be hanged because she was a woman, and therefore somehow precious and delicate, Sir Henry knew better: when women gave into a life of crime, he said, they soon became more evil and unpredictable than even the worst men. 'The worst of crimes have been committed by women,' Sir Henry said. In fact, 'in the fearful period when France ran riot in blood, those who were the most guilty of the most ferocious delight in blood were women - young women and tender girls!' Rising to the occasion, he went on, saying women had 'hoisted the heads of their fellow creatures on pikes!' Hear, hear! Further, once a woman forgot the character of her sex, 'there was no barrier to the lengths which she would go in crime!' Now Sir Henry's voice dropped. Let his fellow politicians understand: he did not himself believe in capital punishment, certainly not as having a deterrent effect.

'Hear, hear,' mumbled others in the chamber, less agitated now.

Capital punishment was, however, the law - and the parliament was bound to uphold the law. The sentence of death had been carried out on women whose cases were far less compelling than that of Louisa Collins. Did nobody in the chamber remember the case of Mary Ann Brownlow from Goulburn? Sir Henry did, and for the benefit of those who didn't, he was prepared to revisit the case.

Mary Ann had been 'young and married, and a mother', Sir Henry said. 'She had killed her husband with a knife in a fit of temper. She was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death.

Efforts were made to secure her reprieve, but [all was in] vain ... The unfortunate woman [had] a young child at breast and just before ascending the scaffold steps' she paused to feed the baby, who nuzzled at her breast, before being taken from Mary Ann so she could hang.

At this, 'a howl of indignation shot up from all sides of the House' and cries of 'Shame, shame!' and 'Outrage, outrage!' and 'Disgrace to civilization!' rang out - but Sir Henry pushed on.

The execution of Mary Ann was, in his opinion, 'an inhuman thing' and yet it had been carried out, because murder was a capital crime and the law was the law, and if Mary Ann could not be reprieved for an 'impulsive murder', how on earth could the conniving Louisa Collins be reprieved for a poison murder involving vastly more scheming and plotting? Also, if the death sentence was wrong, there was an easy way to remedy it: those who thought so should move to abolish it. If such a bill were to come before the Assembly he - Sir Henry - support it, for he did not believe in death as punishment. But there was no such bill before the House.

Furthermore, the idea that he, as premier, or any other member of the parliament, could interfere with matters of justice was dangerous for democracy. The courts were independent and had to remain so. Any member of the House that desired to take action should do so as a private citizen - and not as members of parliament. This was not the forum. This was not the place.

'Hear, hear!' his supporters cried.

Sir Henry sat down. His speech had been loud and passionate, and wild debate now ensued. The member for Northumberland, Mr Thomas Walker, shouted that the state was 'on the eve of committing ... murder'. Imprisonment for life was surely enough for the interests of justice to be served. Member for Monaro, Mr Thomas O'Mara, agreed, saying no woman should be placed upon the scaffold. 'There was a distinction made between man and woman,' he cried. 'Women were not flogged in this country' - and if they couldn't be flogged, surely they couldn't be executed.

The member for Paddington, Mr John Neild, was next to his feet.

In terms of extraordinary appearance, Neild gave even Sir Henry a run for his money: he had a pure-white, twirled moustache and his outfits included shirts with upturned collars and dinky neckties. In years to come, he would form his own militia and join the Senate.

On this day, he argued for Louisa's life on the grounds that her children - especially May - had probably been coaxed or even forced into giving evidence against her. These were little children, he said, who were brought to the court time after time after time, until they became educated as to what to say.

Some members were outraged by this accusation, and cried out: 'Shame! Shame!' Sir Henry, in particular, was livid, saying: 'That remark should not be made in a place like this!' But Mr Neild stood firm. He hadn't meant to suggest the Crown had coached the children but 'these little children could not be brought so often into court without the matter being impressed on their minds ... repeating a lie often [would eventually make any person] believe it!' (There is some evidence for this: in one of his earliest statements, Louisa's 16-year-old son, Arthur, told police that he couldn't remember any squabbles between his mother and Michael Collins; by the time of the final trial, he was saying that they squabbled often, and usually about how much she drank.) The member for Gundagai, Mr John Henry Want, was astonished. The children had not been coached, he said. The children were merely witnesses. It was very bad form to raise such allegations in parliament. A terrible precedent was being set, one that the House might soon regret.

Now Sir Henry rose again. He, too, was appalled by the debate - not the way it had roiled out of control on the floor of the House but by the gall of those who argued for Louisa's life while keeping capital punishment in place.

'There is nothing more abominable to my sense of feeling than the strangling of a woman,' he said. 'A woman! From whose breast the nurture of life is drawn by the human family! A woman! Who presides over the paths of our little children. A woman! Who is the very centre of everything that is gentle and lovable in social life!' Those who considered him bloodthirsty were wrong. He had spoken out in the Mount Rennie case because he didn't believe that young men should die for the crime of rape. He had genuinely believed that a mass hanging would scandalise the colony throughout the civilised world.

But that case and this one were different. Britain did not hang for rape. Britain did hang for murder.

'It would be a most dangerous practice to interfere here,' he said, because Louisa was guilty of murder, and if murderers could escape with their lives, a precedent would be set.

'Hear, hear!' his supporters shouted, but they were soon drowned out by those on the other side, arguing for Louisa's life.

Mr Thomas Henry Hassall, for example, cried out that the death sentence should be done away with, adding that it was a disgrace to the 'manhood' of any nation when a woman was hanged.

By now Sir Henry was furious. Who said it was only men that wanted to see Louisa hang? 'I believe that the women of the country would vote for Mrs Collins being hanged!' he cried.

It was an audacious thing to say. Sir Henry knew as well as anyone that the women in New South Wales in 1888 could not vote on anything.

Mr Hassall got to his feet. 'Slander!' he said. 'That is slander upon the women of New South Wales ... The women of Australia were not so depraved as to desire anything of the sort. I am astonished at a man like the premier uttering such a slander on the women of Australia!' Sir Henry was unrepentant. No, he said, the women of Australia would not support Louisa Collins. The women of Australia would be appalled by what she had done. The women of Australia 'do not approve of wives poisoning their husbands!'

From Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

Published: 1 November 2014 Imprint: HarperCollins

Hardback RRP: $39.99, E-Book Available

(source: The Herald Sun)


China executes more people than the 3 times the rest of the world combined

For thousands of Chinese citizens convicted every year of capital crimes, some 300 court workers in an unmarked building in eastern Beijing are the only thing standing between them and death by lethal injection or a firing range.

China has been gradually reducing the number of executions - currently about 2,400 by some estimates - that it carries out each year. One method a mandatory review of all death penalty verdicts. According to a profile of China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court, staff interview the convicted defendants in person or by video feed, reexamine evidence, and sometimes ask for more. They ultimately reject about 10% of death penalty verdicts.

The death penalty is often waived in cases involving the death of just one person, or if the defendant surrenders, according to the San Francisco-based human rights organization Dui Hua. China is also considering reducing the number of capital crimes from 55 to 46 - taking the smuggling of weapons, counterfeit currency, and nuclear materials off the list, along with fraud and forcing or facilitating prostitution - and has vowed to stop the widespread practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners. Defendants may soon be able to be represented by lawyers throughout the review process; currently they are not.

Still, China executes a staggering number of its citizens: Last year, China's estimated 2,400 executions vastly outweighed the 778 people executed in the rest of the world. Chinese authorities don't release official data on the executions, a figure that is considered a state secret.



KP Assembly flays punishment of Bangladeshi Jamaat leaders

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Wednesday condemned the award of death penalty and life imprisonment to Jamaat-i-Islami leaders and activists in Bangladesh and declared their trial partial.

The condemnation came in the form of the unanimous passage of a resolution tabled by Jamaat-i-Islami MPA Mohammad Ali Khan.

The resolution carried signatures of lawmakers of all parties in the assembly except Awami National Party.

During the session chaired by Speaker Asad Qaisar, only 1 ANP lawmaker, Yasmeen Pir Mohammad Khan, was in attendance.

She, however, didn't oppose the resolution.

The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, said the government of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hassina Wajid was punishing Jamaat leaders for fighting against India alongside the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war in the then East Pakistan.

"The pro-India government in Bangladesh at the behest of Indian government and as a political revenge is announcing unjust death sentences and life imprisonment for JI leaders. This assembly strongly condemns it," the resolution said.

It said Bangladeshi Jamaat leaders, including late Professor Ghulam Azam, Maulana Mateeur Rehman Nizami and Mir Qasim, had been given death sentences, while Mullah Abdul Qadir was executed for supporting Pakistan in the 1971 war.

The resolution said the punishments were awarded in violation of an agreement signed by then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi and Bangladeshi President Sheikh Mujibur Rehman after the 1971 war was over.

"That agreement said no one would be punished in connection with the 1971 war and the US, Britain and other countries had endorsed it. The Bangladeshi government is committing violation of human rights charters and international agreements," it said.

The resolution further said Bangladeshi Jamaat-i-Islami had recognised the country's Constitution and participated in the general elections and therefore, the punishment of its leaders and activists were unfair and unjust.

(source: Dawn)


China court reopens case of executed teenager

A court in north China Thursday opened a new trial for a teenager executed almost 20 years ago for rape and murder, state-run media said, in a rare re-examination of a possible wrongful conviction.

The 18-year-old, named Hugjiltu and also known as Qoysiletu, was found guilty and put to death in Inner Mongolia in 1996, but doubt was cast on the verdict when another man confessed to the crime in 2005.

Hugjiltu's family has been trying to prove his innocence for nearly a decade, according to reports, and the Higher People's Court in Hohhot officially began a retrial of the case on Thursday, according to Xinhua news agency.

"Any errors in the previous ruling, should there have been any, must be addressed," Xinhua reported the court's president as saying earlier this month.

The retrial comes just weeks after leaders of the ruling Communist Party pledged to strengthen the rule of law "with Chinese characteristics" - a concept experts caution refers to greater central control over the courts rather than judicial independence.

Chinese authorities regularly launch "strike hard" anti-crime campaigns, during which large numbers of suspects are swiftly tried and harsh sentences meted out.

But critics say there are numerous abuses in China's party-run legal system, including the widespread use of the death penalty and forced confessions.

In Hugjiltu's case, authorities interrogated the teenager for 48 hours, after which he confessed to having raped and choked the woman in the toilet of a textile factory, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported. He was executed 61 days after the woman's death.

Then, in 2005, police apprehended Zhao Zhihong, who confessed to raping and killing 10 women, including the textile factory victim.

Several high-profile wrongful convictions have sparked public outrage in recent years.

Last year, a man who served 17 years in prison for killing his wife was declared innocent by an appeals court in the eastern province of Anhui.

A few months earlier 2 men who had been sentenced to death and life in prison in 2004 for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl were also acquitted.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Saudi court hands death sentences to 2 more terrorists

The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh on Wednesday awarded the death penalty to 2 more suspects who belonged to an 86-member terrorist cell.

The court also sentenced 16 members of the cell to jail terms ranging from 6 to 30 years and slapped a travel ban on them after their release from prison, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

On Monday, the court had sentenced 3 members of the cell to death. They included the gunman who shot dead a BBC cameraman - Irish national Simon Cumbers - 10 years ago. BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner was paralyzed in the June 2004 attack.

The court has so far given jail terms to 36 members of the cell, which was accused of several terrorist operations, including attacks on Riyadh's Al-Mohya Complex and residential compounds in Al-Khobar.

The charges against them also included joining an Al-Qaeda outfit, plotting to assassinate prominent Saudi figures, and killing several security officers and foreign residents of the country.

(source: Saudi Gazette)


Taiwan Man Faces Death Penalty For Stabbing Girlfriend 47 Times

A Taiwanese man faces the death penalty after he was indicted today, accused of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend and sexually assaulting her corpse in a "brutal and inhumane" public attack, prosecutors said.

Chang Yen-wen, 29, who was charged with murder, is alleged to have knifed the woman at least 47 times in a frenzied attack in a street in Taipei on September 22 after she spurned his attempts to rekindle their romance, the district prosecutor's office confirmed.

Chang, who worked for a global accounting firm and is a graduate of the island's top university, was also indicted on the charge of "desecrating a corpse" after allegedly sexually assaulting the 22-year-old kindergarten teacher after she collapsed and died on the scene. Horrified passers-by alerted the police to the attack.

Prosecutors said they sought capital punishment for Chang as they allege the crime was premeditated because he bought a knife a week before the "brutal and inhumane" attack.

Violent crimes are relatively rare in Taiwan but in recent months there have been a number of attacks that have left the public shocked.

Last week, 60 people were indicted on murder and assault charges for allegedly beating a policeman to death outside a nightclub.

In July, prosecutors indicted and sought the death penalty for a 21-year-old college student accused of killing 4 people and wounding nearly 2 dozen others in a stabbing spree in the subway that shocked the island.

(source: Malaysian Digest)


Pakistan family gets death penalty for murdering pregnant woman

4 relatives of a 25-year-old pregnant woman who bludgeoned her to death outside one of Pakistan's top courts were sentenced to death on Wednesday for the crime.

A mob of over 2 dozen, including Farzana Parveen's father and brother, battered her with bricks outside Lahore High Court for marrying against the family's wishes. Farzana had gone to the court to seek protection. Her family beat her while her husband, Muhammed Iqbal, begged nearby police for help. They did not intervene.

Iqbal later admitted that he had murdered his 1st wife to marry Farzana. He escaped punishment because his son forgave him. According to Pakistani law, a woman's next of kin can forgive her murderers.

Farzana's father, brother, cousin and another relative were sentenced to death and slapped with a $1,000 fine. Another cousin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and also fined $1,000. The sentences were handed down for 3 counts - murder, terrorism and the killing of an unborn baby.

So-called "honour" killings are commonplace in Pakistan but the brazen nature of the attack on Parveen meant the case made headlines around the world.

(source: punemirror)

NOVEMBER 19, 2014:

PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Hicks given death penalty for murdering woman, dumping her body parts along Poconos highways

A jury has ruled to give the death sentence to a Monroe County man convicted of murdering and dismembering a Scranton woman in 2008.

Charles Ray Hicks, 40, of Coolbaugh Township, was found guilty of killing 36-year-old Deanna Null, then cutting up her body and dumping it, wrapped in garbage bags, along interstate highways in Monroe and Lackawanna counties. Jurors deliberated for hours on the sentence Tuesday.

All death penalties are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which can cancel the sentence.

On the 2nd and final day of sentencing, the jury heard from several witnesses for the defense who said Hicks has been a role model for other prisoners during his years in the Monroe County Correctional Facility.

Derek Oliver, a former prison guard who now visits the jail as a Jehovah's Witness, explained that he conducts Bible study with Hicks and said a lot of inmates look to him for "wisdom."

Teleconferencing in from Ft. Myers, Florida, Jerel Johnson told the jury that he shared a cell with Hicks starting in 2009. That happened while Johnson was facing his own murder charge, for which he has since been acquitted. Johnson was in a "very dark place" during his time in the maximum security wing, he said, but Hicks' kindness helped get him through it.

The defense also called neuropsychologist Carol Armstrong, Ph.D., who evaluated Hicks this summer. Armstrong told the jury that Hicks had a psychological impairment, struggling with attention, concentration and memory.

In his only cross-examination of the day, Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso questioned the neuropsychologist on the tests, which revealed that Hicks had scored very high on the reading and verbal portions.

On Monday, Hicks' mother and sisters pleaded for mercy, while his former fiancee said the man became a different person when he used drugs, and once threatened to kill her. Hicks has told investigators he and Null engaged in a drug-fueled sexual relationship.

(source: The Morning Call )


The cost of capital punishment in Pennsylvania

More than 180 inmates are on Pennsylvania's death row, but no one has been executed in the commonwealth since 1999.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more death row inmates in Pennsylvania have been exonerated than have been executed.

"The penalty that they sent down, 3 death sentences, I often wondered how they were going to kill me 3 times," said Harold Wilson, who was sentenced to die in 1989 for the murders of 3 people in Philadelphia.

Wilson won a new trial years later after a training video surfaced in which prosecutor Jack McMahon instructs district attorneys on how to pick juries and the role of race. He points to "blacks from the low-income areas that are less likely to convict."

With new DNA evidence, it was discovered the blood at the scene didn't come from Wilson. A new jury found him not guilty 9 years ago this month.

"Being incarcerated on Pennsylvania's death row, it's cruel, unusual," said Wilson.

Cases like Wilson's have caused some state lawmakers to question the use of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 3 inmates have died by lethal injection. Pennsylvania has the 4th largest death row in the country, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 28 inmates on Pennsylvania's death row were sentenced to die in the 1980s.

It costs the state about $35,000 a year to house an inmate sentenced to life in prison, compared to about $45,000 per year for an inmate on death row, according to the Pa. Department of Corrections.

Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille has written about the issue for the last few years. He's grown frustrated with federally funded public defenders who he believes are clogging the judicial system with appeals meant to prevent the death penalty from ever being carried out in Pennsylvania.

(source: Fox News)


Push for death penalty repeal in First State enlists law enforcement support

Supporters of death penalty repeal in Delaware are ready to try again in the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.

The advocacy group Repeal Delaware is renewing its efforts to sway legislators this week. It's holding a series of town halls featuring current and former members of law enforcement from around the region who favor repeal - many after initially supporting capital punishment.

Repeal Delaware campaign director Erik Raser-Schramm says his group recognizes opposition to repeal from law enforcement in the First State is a major hurdle to ending the death penalty here.

"What we're trying to do with the series of town hall meetings is to open the lines of communication and dialogue with both members of the House and Senate and also law enforcement here in Delaware and to talk about and address that law enforcement is opposed to the repeal."

Law enforcement officials joining with Repeal Delaware argue the death penalty is too costly, that studies show it does not make police officers safer, and that it can slow the healing process for victims.

"I fully get the argument, comprehend and understand, don't dispute the value of the death penalty solely as a means of retribution," said West Orange, NJ police chief James Abbott. "But as a matter of pubic policy, from an objective standpoint, it's horrible. It doesn't work. It tears families apart. It costs a colossal amount of money and is a waste of time and effort."

Last legislative session, a death penalty repeal bill cleared the state Senate, but stalled in the House Judiciary committee. It must start over in the new session that convenes January 13th.

Raser-Schramm believes there's an opportunity to get the bill through this time.

"We feel confident with the votes we had in the Senate and we have those same votes," said Raser-Schramm. "Over in the House, the bill never came out of the Judiciary committee and with the retirement of Rep. Rebecca Walker there will be the appointment of new Judiciary chair. So, the make-up of that committee is something we're watching closely while networking with the new members of the House."

Repeal Delaware's town hall Tuesday night is at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Catholic Church in Bear from 7-9pm. Similar events are scheduled Wednesday night at 7 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Middletown and Thursday night at 7 in Dover at Wesley United Methodist Church.

(source: WDDE news)


Death penalty considered in death of 15-month-old

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter says he may consider the death penalty in the case of a 15-month-old girl, Alcenti Mcintosh, who starved to death last week.

The baby's father brought the child to Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Police searched the Extended Stay America on Jimmy Carter Boulevard and found the child's mother, 21-year-old Iasia Sweeting near death, weighing just 59 pounds.

"I think it's something that's going to have to be considered as we go forward but we don't have all of the evidence yet. I think it's going to be important to talk to the survivor [Iasaia] who is just recovering in the hospital," said Porter.

The child's father, 44-year-old Calvin Mcintosh and his daughter, 23-year-old Najilaa Mcintosh are accused in the murder of Alcenti, along with a string of other charges.

Porter plans on meeting with medical examiners to decide if capital punishment is appropriate, as in the case of a 10-year-old Lawrenceville girl who was allegedly starved by her parents.

"In any case, just like we did in the Emani Moss case, we looked to see if the killing involves either torture of the victim or prolonged suffering by the victim," said Porter.

Porter has 90 days to indict.

(source: WSB news)


Alabama a glaring example of problems with the death penalty

In the spring of 1997, four young men in a car near Montgomery, Ala., cut off a 2nd vehicle with 2 men inside, intending to rob them. During a brief gun fight, the driver of the 2nd car was killed. Prosecutors charged all 4 men in the 1st car with capital murder, but only one received a death sentence. How Shonelle Jackson was singled out raises - yet again - troubling questions about the fairness of the death penalty, and especially about Alabama's peculiarly arbitrary judicial override system..

Alabama is 1 of 3 states that allow judges to 2nd-guess a jury's recommendation of life in prison and change it to a death sentence. Delaware and Florida also allow overrides, but they happen only rarely. In Alabama, 36 of the nearly 200 people on death row were sent there by judges overriding juries, according to a recent examination of the practice by the New Yorker. (In California, the jury decides, but a judge can reduce a death sentence to life without parole.)

In the Jackson case, a 12-member jury voted unanimously in 1998 for a life sentence rather than execution, in part because of evidence that the fatal bullet came from another defendant's gun. But invoking "judicial discretion," Judge William Gordon changed the sentence to death based on aggravating factors. One of the factors cited by the judge - who also acknowledged that Jackson might not have been the killer - was that he had declined to accept a plea bargain, thereby failing to take responsibility for his actions. So much for innocent until proven guilty. The other 3 men, friends before the shootout, received lighter sentences because they testified against Jackson, who knew them only in passing. 1 was sentenced to life; the other 2 come up for parole in 2015 and 2017.

Despite misgivings expressed in dissents, the Supreme Court has affirmed Alabama's use of judicial discretion in other cases. But that the practice is legal doesn't make it right. According to the state's Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama judges, who are elected rather than appointed, use the override inconsistently. Some use it more often against black defendants, some judges use it more than others, some counties use it more than others. Judges also invoke it more often in the lead-up to elections, apparently to show that they are tough on crime.

This page has been steady in its opposition to the death penalty. But if states are going to embrace such barbarism, they must respect the individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including its 8th Amendment protection against arbitrary punishment. It's one thing for an elected judge to be "tough on crime." It's something entirely different when the judge overrules a jury's call for leniency and imposes a death sentence.

(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)


Brothers in Barberton triple murder seek plea deal to avoid death penalty

2 brothers accused in the New Year's Eve triple murder of a family in Barberton are negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.

Michael and Eric Hendon both appeared in court on Monday in Akron. The pair is accused of shooting and killing John Kohler and his 2 children, Ashley and David, in their Barberton home.

Ronda Blankenship, who survived the shooting, was also in the courtroom.

Defense lawyers and the Summit County Prosecutor's Office tried to hammer out a deal, but after three hours of negotiations, no agreement was reached.

The plea deal could include life in prison with no chance of parole for the shooter, and maybe a life sentence with a possibility of parole for the other.

The prosecution received a confession from one of the brothers earlier in the case.

The Hendons are due back in court next week for an update on a possible plea agreement.

(source: WOIO news)


GOP blocks effort to ease secrecy in execution bill

Proposals to peel back some of the secrecy provided in a bill dealing with lethal-injection executions were rejected yesterday by majority Republicans on an Ohio House committee.

A vote on House Bill 663 - which would shield the identity of manufacturers and sellers of drugs used for lethal injections - could come as soon as today at a meeting of the Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee.

A parade of witnesses representing the Ohio Newspaper Association, Ohio Council of Churches, the Ohio Public Defender and others urged committee members to strip out some secrecy provisions. The bill, introduced just last week, would protect the identity of manufacturers and sellers of lethal-injection drugs, and provide permanent anonymity for physicians and members of the execution team who participate in the process.

But Republicans refused to budge. By an 8-5 vote, the committee tabled an amendment by state Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, to roll back the blanket anonymity. He proposed allowing names of individuals and companies to be redacted or withheld at their request, but for no longer 10 years.

"At some point, history should be able to render judgment about these actions," Curtin said. "Even our most sensitive national-security documents become public eventually. We need to allow the sun to shine on these executions some time in the future."

Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, co-sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, opposed Curtin's amendment, arguing that the proposed law is necessary to make sure the execution process "is done in a professional manner."

Huffman pointed out that anonymity in executions goes back to "the old days when the executioner wore a hood."

Among the witnesses was Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, who observed that there has been "a move for death penalty proceedings over time to become increasing void of public scrutiny." He said the issue comes down to a "conscience decision."

Thomas Madden, an assistant attorney general questioned by the panel, said the bill would not prevent disclosure of the name and quantity of drugs used in executions, only the names of those involved.

State officials argue that the proposed law is needed because Ohio, like other states, has trouble obtaining drugs from big companies, most of them in Europe, which refuse to provide them for use in executions. The state is likely to turn to small compounding pharmacies, which mix drugs to customers' specifications. Unlike drug manufacturers, however, the pharmacies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Death-penalty reform bill may violate constitution, lawmakers told

Constitutional issues have been raised about death-penalty reform legislation under consideration in the Ohio House.

House Bill 663 would grant anonymity to compounding pharmacies that prepare Ohio's lethal-injection drugs, even from courts. Physicians who testify about the state's execution method also couldn't have their state medical license revoked, and the bill would void contracts or agreements prohibiting the sale of lethal-injection drugs to the state.

Critics of the bill told the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee on Tuesday that keeping compounding pharmacies secret would infringe upon free-speech and judicial rights. They noted that lawsuits have been filed against similar measures in 6 other states.

The provision voiding agreements to ban drug sales may also violate the U.S. and Ohio constitutions' prohibition on impairing contracts, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

"This bill likely will prompt endless litigation - a precise situation you are trying to avoid," said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, during committee testimony.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican co-sponsoring the bill, said the legislation's backers are drawing up an amendment to address the contract clause concerns.

However, Huffman said the Legislative Service Commission frequently cautions lawmakers that parts of some bills may - or may not - have constitutional issues.

"Sometimes you don't know whether it's constitutional until a court says so, and then of course sometimes the courts reverse themselves," he said.

HB 663, which is expected to be voted out of committee on Wednesday, is an attempt to overcome problems that Ohio - like a number of other states - has had obtaining lethal-injection drugs.

Attorney General Mike DeWine and other proponents of the reforms say they are needed if Ohio is to resume executions next year, once a court-ordered moratorium ends.

Ohio ran out of its preferred lethal-injection drug, pentobarbital, last year because European pharmaceutical companies refused to continue selling it to use in executions.

The state has instead turned to a 2-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative. But executions in Ohio and Arizona using the cocktail haven't gone as planned, and Ohio's use of the drugs is being challenged in federal court.

The state could seek to obtain pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, small-scale drug manufacturers that create individual doses of lethal-injection drugs on demand. But Rep. Jim Buchy, a Darke County Republican who's co-sponsoring HB 663 with Huffman, said compounding pharmacies are reluctant to make lethal-injection drugs unless they can remain anonymous, for fear of public reprisal.

Another proposed change in the bill would prevent the Ohio State Medical Board from revoking or suspending the license of any physician who provides expert testimony on the state's death penalty.

Such immunity is needed, supporters say, because the state is worried that doctors will refuse to testify in defense of Ohio's lethal-injection protocol for fear that they'll run afoul of medical ethics.

Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman said it's not clear whether the state medical board has the power to revoke a license in that way. Many doctors, he said, have used that excuse as a way to get out of helping the state execute people.

Berman said he believes HB 663 is "probably" constitutional, but he questioned whether it would be better for Ohio to instead look at other methods of execution besides lethal injection.

"If the only way we can preserve this method of execution is by making it more secret," he said, "that, to me, is something of a sign that we shouldn't be trying to preserve this method of execution."



Ohio Wants to Cloak the Death Penalty in Secrecy

It would be an understatement to say Ohio has had many problems administering capital punishment.

Over the last decade, the state granted clemency to 10 people and botched 4 executions, including the tortuous death of Dennis McGuire, who was killed with experimental drugs. With mismanaged executions and growing controversy around lethal injections in Arizona, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, a federal judge in Ohio rightfully paused executions until the state could adopt new protocols.

Given all of these difficulties, you'd think leading state legislators would move forcefully to reform or abolish the death penalty in the state. Not so. Their solution is extreme: Close the curtain and keep the public out.

With almost no public discussion, proposed legislation that shrouds the capital punishment process in secrecy is being pushed through the legislature. The bill does 2 very alarming things. It would shield manufacturers and medical professionals who assist in executions from being the subject of public records inquiries, and it provides immunity to those individuals from ethical or professional reprimands.

This level of secrecy will be detrimental to Ohio's very democracy.

The government represents the people and should be accountable to us. We have laws that require government officials to provide public records and have open meetings in order to prevent corruption, abuse, and incompetence. Taking a person's life is the ultimate punishment that the public can levy, which means we have to take even greater pains to ensure the government does it humanely and legally.

Instead, Ohio's leaders want to introduce more secrecy and less accountability into an already cruel and flawed system.

Allowing anonymity for drug manufacturers is particularly problematic, especially if compounding pharmacies are involved. These types of pharmacies make small batches of drugs, with each one being unique. Ohio would like to use compounding pharmacies, which are totally unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety and efficacy, to supply the lethal dose during its executions. If this bill goes through, pharmacies will be off the hook and left unaccountable if their concoctions result in botched executions.

Unfortunately, secrecy is the typical reaction of the government in any number of circumstances - when problems crop up, the government opts to hide the truth from the people.

Ohio has had its share of problems with lethal injections. Secrecy will only guarantee that those problems will continue, and possibly spread. Ohio is consistently a bellwether state for contentious legislation, such as abortion and voting laws, which can set trends nationwide.

Whether you are a supporter or opponent of the death penalty, we all must agree that the government should play by the rules and must be accountable to the people. We don't need more botched or wrongful executions and a hastily passed secrecy bill is a recipe for disaster.

It's either kill this bill or let Ohio kill in secret, with other states to follow.

(source: ACLU)


Wrongfully convicted man freed after 15 years in prison: 'I was praying every day, asking God to shine down upon me'

Alstory Simon, 64, was released from prison on October 30 after spending 15 years behind bars.

Simon was wrongfully convicted of a double murder that occurred in 1982 after the Medill Innocence Project allegedly targeted him as a suspect.

The advocacy group was working to free Anthony Porter, a man on death row for the murders of teenagers Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green in Illinois. During the Medill Innocence Project's investigation, they came to believe that Simon was responsible for the deaths.

The group, led by former Northwestern University Journalism Professor David Protess, was established in 1999, and confronted Simon about the murders that same year.

"The Innocence Project had bum-rushed my house and accused me of murder," he told Fox News.

Simon was a crack abuser at the time, and the Medill Innocence Project allegedly used threats, intimidation, and other coercive tactics to convince him that there were witnesses who saw him commit the crime. According to Simon, the group also told him that they were developing a book about the murders, and that Simon would profit from its royalties.

He claimed 2 men impersonating Chicago police officers visited his home, and urged him to confess to avoid the death penalty. He relented, and gave a videotaped confession to the crimes.

"They did everything that's forbidden by the law enforcement community," Simon lamented. "These people went to great lengths to do what they did to me, and I never did anything to anyone."

Simon's conviction led to the release of Porter, and contributed to Illinois lawmakers abolishing the death penalty in 2011. He faced 37 years in prison, and served nearly two decades in the Jacksonville Correction Center.

"It was very hard to get along with knowing that fact: that I was locked up in prison for something I knew I didn't do," he explained. "It can make you kind of mean, but as time went by I overcame it.

"I was praying every day, asking God to shine down upon me."

Last month, the State's Attorney for Cook Country, Anita Alvarez, determined that Simon's original confession was false and vacated the charges.

"At the end of the day and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction," Alvarez said.

Simon described how it felt to walk out of prison 3 weeks ago as a free man.

"It was like something that stepped completely out of me," he recounted. "It's like when you have a big weight on your back and all of a sudden my body just got light.

"I started jumping for joy."

The Medill Innocence Project, now called the Medill Justice Project, has not commented on Simon's case.

(source: Christian Today)


Students push to change Tennessee capital punishment laws

Some say an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But in the American justice system, this mentality can lead to wrongful accusations and innocent individuals paying the ultimate price. On Monday night in the University Center, the libertarian organization Young Americans for Liberty at UT hosted "To Honor Life: An Evening on the Death Penalty," an event focused on exposing the deep-seated problems that lie at the heart of capital punishment in the United States.

The event featured a talk by Ray Krone, the 100th death row inmate exonerated in the U.S., on his 10-year struggle in the courts to prove his innocence, as well as a discussion panel with Stacy Rector from Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death penalty and Marc Hyden with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty.

Convicted of killing a Phoenix bartender in 1991, Krone was sentenced to the death penalty and spent 10 years fighting the court system with evidence of his innocence, including shoe prints smaller than the size of his actual foot and handprints and DNA evidence from the victim's body that did not match his own.

Despite the evidence in his favor, Krone spent two years on death row and 10 years total in prison after being found guilty twice and refusing to mitigate, or show remorse, for a crime he did not commit.

"How do you mitigate something you didn't do? How do you show remorse or regret for an act you never committed?" Krone asked the audience.

"They weren't interested in the truth, folks."

Krone's experience is just 1 story in a prison system that has wrongly sentenced 147 people to death. These examples, Rector said, are convincing people from different areas and political parties to band together against the death penalty.

"There are more and more voices from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives who are now speaking out and who are sharing their concerns about Tennessee's death penalty, because the evidence continues to mount that the system is too broken for us to fix," Rector said.

This evidence, Rector explained, includes personal testimonies that demonstrate the fallibility of the courts and the enormous cost of continuing to support the death penalty.

The court processes, Rector explained, take six times longer than the average criminal trial, with appeals that can last for decades and housing for death row inmates that can cost twice as much as general housing.

"So in the end, if you look at what happens in states like North Carolina, you're going to save yourself several million dollars per case," Hyden said.

Stories like Krone's and facts about capital punishment are what initially led Kenny Collins, a junior in political science and member of Young Americans for Liberty, to begin to research and think twice about the death penalty that he once strongly supported.

"I supported it because growing up, you think the death penalty, that's the right thing to do to people who have done wrong," Collins said. "Especially here in the South, people expect you to support the death penalty."

After learning about the innocent people who have been wrongly accused, as well as the failure of the death penalty to deter crime and prevent murder, Collins said that he could no longer justify the use of capital punishment.

"After I did a lot of research, I realized that I couldn't support it," Collins said.

Hyden said that capital punishment is contradictory to many tightly-held conservative views, including the importance of pro-life legislation and limited government.

"It's not pro-life when it risks killing innocent lives, it's not fiscally responsible because it costs millions more dollars to try to execute someone than to keep them in jail for the rest of their lives," Hyden said. "And I don't think that giving the government the power to kill you is a form of limited government."

Rector said she urges Tennesseans to write to their state representatives and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in order to bring awareness to the many flaws associated with capital punishment and stop 10 executions scheduled to take place in 2015.

"We need Tennesseans to come together to help make that happen," Rector said.

(source: Univ. Tennessee Daily Beacon)


Missouri Executes Leon Taylor for 1994 Killing

A man who killed a suburban Kansas City gas station attendant in front of the worker's young stepdaughter in 1994 was put to death early Wednesday - the 9th execution in Missouri this year.

Leon Vincent Taylor, 56, was pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m. at the state prison in Bonne Terre, minutes after receiving a lethal injection. With Taylor's death, 2014 ties 1999 for having the most executions in a year in Missouri.

Taylor shot worker Robert Newton to death in front of Newton's 8-year-old stepdaughter during a gas station robbery in Independence, Missouri. Taylor tried to kill the girl, too, but the gun jammed.

Taylor's fate was sealed Tuesday when Gov. Jay Nixon declined to grant clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal.

His body covered by a white sheet, Taylor could be seen in the execution chamber talking to family members through the glass in an adjacent room. Once the state started injecting 5 grams of pentobarbital, Taylor's chest heaved for several seconds then stopped. His jaw went slack and he displayed no other movement for the rest of the process.

4 of Taylor's family members sat in a room to his left and looked on without reaction as the drug killed Taylor in about 8 minutes. At a time when lethal injections have gone awry in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona and taken an extended period to kill an inmate, Taylor's execution went off without any visible hitches or complications with the drug or equipment.

In a final statement, Taylor apologized to Newton's family because "our lives had to entwine so tragically" and thanked his family for their support and love.

"I am also sorry to have brought all of you to this point in my life to witness this and/or participate," Taylor said. "Stay strong and keep your heads to the sky."

Speaking to reporters after the execution, Newton's brother, Dennis Smith, noted that it had been about 7,500 days since the killing and said the family has missed Newton every one of them. Smith described Newton as a hard worker, generous and with a memorable laugh. At times, Smith paused to compose himself as tears rolled down his cheeks.

"It would just take a coward to want to hurt someone like him," Smith said.

Taylor's execution was briefly delayed as he sought to have his half brother, Willie Owens, as a witness. Taylor's lawyers filed an appeal 4 hours before the scheduled execution time and the Missouri Supreme Court granted the request to have the 1-time co-defendant in the slaying watch his brother die.

Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O'Connell said Owens ultimately decided not to attend the execution.

O'Connell said Taylor later turned down the sedative Valium and the sedative midazolam.

According to court records, Taylor, Owens and his half-sister, Tina Owens, decided to rob a gas station on April 14, 1994. Newton was at the station with his stepdaughter.

Taylor entered the store, drew a gun and told Newton, 53, to put $400 in a money bag. Newton complied and Willie Owens took the money to the car.

Taylor then ordered Newton and the child to a back room. Newton pleaded for Taylor not to shoot him in front of the little girl, but Taylor shot him in the head. He tried to kill the girl but the gun jammed, so he locked her in the room and the trio drove away.

Taylor was arrested a week after the crime when police responded to a tips hotline call.

Court appeals claimed the death penalty for Taylor was unfair for several reasons.

Taylor's original jury deadlocked and a judge sentenced him to death. When that was thrown out, an all-white jury gave Taylor, who was black, the death sentence.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury could impose a death sentence. Taylor's lawyers contended that a Missouri Supreme Court ruling after the U.S. Supreme Court decision led the state to commute at least 10 other death sentences for inmates sentenced by a judge to life in prison - everyone except Taylor.

Attorney Elizabeth Carlyle said Taylor essentially was penalized for successfully appealing his 1st conviction.

The clemency request to Nixon said Taylor turned his life around in prison, becoming a devout Christian who helped other prisoners. The petition also cited abuse Taylor suffered as a child, saying his mother began giving him alcohol when he was 5 and that he later became addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Taylor becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 79th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (518), Oklahoma (111), Virginia (110), and Florida (89) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized in the US on July 2, 1976.

Taylor becomes the 33rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1392nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. As many as 4 more executions may be carried out in the US in December. Last year, there were 39 executions in the USA.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Death penalty protesters picket governor's office

Death penalty opponents called on Gov. Jay Nixon to halt a pending execution during a Tuesday protest outside his office.

Leon Taylor is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Taylor was convicted of killing gas station attendant Robert Newton during a 1994 robbery in Independence.

"It sends the wrong signal to kill a human being to show that killing is wrong," said protester Jeff Stack, adding, "no matter what kind of method is used, no matter how many people an individual may have killed, that person still retains the human right to life."

Stack said he recognized nothing can bring back Newton. The protesters said Taylor's execution should be stopped because he continues to give to others in prison. They said Newton's family forgave Taylor for his crime.

Stack said Taylor wrote a letter to Newton's widow, who accepted Taylor's apology and has forgiven him publicly.

"We'd like to see the state of Missouri show that type of emotion and maturity and indeed forgive him as well," Stack said.

The protesters are part of the group Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The group planned to have protests and vigils for Taylor in different cities across Missouri Tuesday.

If the state executes Taylor, it will be the 9th one of this year and the 11th in the last 12 months.



What charges could Officer Darren Wilson face in Ferguson?

Ferguson, Missouri, is bracing for a decision from the grand jury in the case of Michael Brown.

Brown, a black teen, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on August 9.

The jury is weighing whether to indict Wilson and has several options from which to choose, ranging from finding no probable cause to charging him with murder. Its decision could come as early as this week.

With apprehension filling the air, Ferguson awaits ruling

"The thing that's in common is that Michael Brown is dead and that his death was caused by the actions of Officer Wilson," Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said about the various options. "What changes with each one is really the mental state and the circumstances."

According to Ed Magee, spokesman for the prosecuting attorney's office, the grand jury is deciding whether Wilson should be charged with any one of several possible crimes, including: 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Here's a look at those charges and what they could mean for Wilson:

1st degree murder

This is the most serious of the possible offenses.

To prove 1st degree murder, prosecutors would not only have to show that Wilson killed Brown, which is not in dispute, but they'd have to prove that he did so after deliberating on the matter.

Deliberation is typically proved by showing some sort of planning, although planning can take place within a relatively short period of time.

If Wilson is charged and then eventually found guilty of 1st degree murder, he could face up to life in prison without parole, or death, if the death penalty is sought, according to Joy.

2nd degree murder

To prove 2nd degree murder, prosecutors would have to show that Wilson knowingly caused Brown's death -- that he knew what he was doing was going to cause serious physical injury or death.

According to Joy, if Wilson was found guilty of second degree murder, he could face up to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.

Voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the act of killing another person while under the influence of a sudden passion.

If prosecutors can prove Wilson acted while in a fit of anger or rage when he shot Brown, they might be able to secure a conviction on voluntary manslaughter.

If they do, according to Joy, Wilson could be sentenced from 5 to 15 years.

Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is when someone causes the death of another by being reckless.

He might not mean to kill the other person but didn't take the necessary precautions not to do so.

If prosecutors can prove Wilson didn't know what he was doing when he fired in the direction of Brown, they might be able to secure an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

If found guilty, Joy said, Wilson could be sentenced to no more than 7 years in prison.

No charges

Of course, it's entirely possible that the grand jury will find there is no probable cause to charge Wilson with anything.

In this case, it would have to decide Wilson was justified in shooting Brown -- perhaps he feared for his life or acted out of self-defense.

If the grand jury decided against an indictment, Wilson would be a free man, at least so far as the state's criminal charges.

Federal officials are conducting 2 civil rights investigations, one into Brown's killing and the other into the local police department's overall track record with minorities.

(source: CNN)


Death penalty harms victims' families

Occasionally you will hear someone say we need the death penalty "for the families of victims." I lost my sister to murder, and from my experience I can say without a doubt, the death penalty does us much more harm than good.

My sister Janet was murdered in 1980. For over 30 years I've reflected on her murder and appropriate punishments, and I've only become more convinced the death penalty is wrong for our state.

Justice needs to be swift and certain in order for families and communities to start rebuilding their lives. The death penalty fails on both counts. There is nothing swift about the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court guarantees certain appeals to those sentenced to death. While someone sentenced to life without parole begins their punishment (usually in obscurity) the day it's handed down, the death penalty can't be carried out until all of these appeals are exhausted. This takes years, usually decades.

We only have to think of the Beatrice Six to appreciate why rushing to an execution could have devastating results. It's reasonable that we take our time to ensure we only get the truly guilty; society should demand nothing less. But this creates an awful situation for the victims' families who have been promised a punishment, but then are told to wait years on end to see it realized. Obviously, the death penalty will never be swift.

The death penalty is anything but certain. The vast majority of death sentences in Nebraska have been overturned and commuted to life without parole (our case was one of those overturned). These men are never going see the outside of the prison again either way, but when we seek the death penalty we just incur so much more cost to the taxpayers and heartache to the families than if we had just given a life sentence in the first place.

Even if a family endures years of high profile appeals after a death sentence, they still aren't guaranteed that an execution will occur. Ever.

I think if Nebraskans understand what this process does to those left behind after these unspeakable crimes, they would re-think their support of the death penalty. I didn't even mention that the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole - those funds should go directly to victims' services. This would be a much better way to honor victims and our lost loved ones.

Nebraska can do better by us, I hope we repeal the death penalty soon.

Kurt Mesner, Central City

(source: Letter to the Editor, Grand Island Independent)


Consider cost in death penalty

Editors of the Lincoln Journal Star have it wrong again ("Don't botch an execution here," LJS, Nov. 17). Some DNA simply is not worth saving or trying to rehabilitate. We need the death penalty. Recent examples would be the baseball bat killings in Lincoln.

Incarceration costs $34,000 per year every year for life. Eleven on Nebraska's death row and no executions since 1997 (17 years ago) cost tax payers over $6.3 million. What a waste! Let's be democratic and let the prisoner select the method -- hanging, firing squad, or lethal dose of some drugs (whatever is available and selection thereof not restricted by law). And all noise about the alleged suffering during an execution, forget it, and think about the horrendous sufferings of the victims and their families.

Richard L Ternes, Walton

(source: Letter to the Editor, Lincoln Journal Star)


Lawyers in Colorado theater massacre case argue over grim images

Lawyers in the Colorado movie theater massacre case argued on Tuesday over whether jurors should see disturbing crime scene video and hundreds of gruesome photos of the July 2012 rampage.

Attorneys for accused gunman James Holmes said the images could inflame jurors, while prosecutors countered that they are needed to prove the case.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 others in a Denver-area cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and say they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

At issue was a defense motion that seeks to limit the use of video and photographs of dead and wounded victims.

Public defender Tamara Brady said the sight of too many graphic images "could cause the jury to act on passion, vengeance, hatred, or disgust," rather than weigh the evidence.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson countered that the images provide essential evidence.

"We have 12 people dead and 70 more injured, some catastrophically," Pearson said. "It is not an excessive number of photos .... There are simply so many victims in this case."

The defense also wants to restrict a video recorded inside Holmes' car that shows it has a skull-shaped gear shift.

"It has no relevance and it's possible some jurors could be put off or offended," Brady said.

Shackled and attired in red prison garb, Holmes sat impassively throughout the 90-minute hearing.

The defense also objects to video and photos that show posters hung in Holmes' apartment. The nature of the posters was not disclosed, but Pearson said they show the "normality" of the onetime neuroscience doctoral candidate.

"There are no pictures of Charles Manson on his walls," she said, adding that the posters are the kind typically found in a young graduate student's home.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour did not immediately rule on the motion, and said he might need to decide some evidentiary issues at trial.

Jury summonses will be sent to 9,000 county residents next month, and jury selection is set to start in January.

Samour has said he wants both sides to present opening statements in early June, although that date could be moved up if jury selection proceeds quicker than he anticipates.

(source: Reuters)


Committee approves idea to bring back firing squad in Utah

Lawmakers have given a preliminary nod to bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, proposed the bill that would bring back the firing squad only in the event that lethal injection was not available. Ray told the Utah State Legislature's interim law enforcement and criminal justice committee that he was being proactive.

"It gives us some maneuverability," Ray told the committee.

Lethal injection has come under fire as a method of execution after a botched execution in Oklahoma. Ray said the European company that makes lethal injection drugs has also refused to sell the cocktail because it is opposed to the death penalty.

Utah did away with the firing squad as a primary method of execution in 2003. Some death row inmates are grandfathered in. The last firing squad execution was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010.

Some lawmakers on the committee were skeptical of the idea.

"What problem does this solve?" Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, asked.

"A long, drawn out legal battle," Ray replied.

Jean Hill of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese spoke out in opposition of the bill, calling it inhumane.

"The state's role is to not take revenge on people," she told the committee. "The state's role is public safety."

The bill passed out of the interim committee on a 9-2 vote. It will now go on to the full Utah State Legislature for consideration.

(source: Fox News)


Judge Delays Death Penalty Retrial Without Giving a Reason

There has been yet another delay in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial.

After returning from recess on Monday, Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens announced that the trial will be postponed until Thursday because of an emergency situation, CBS 5 in Arizona reports. She didn't give any further details.

According to legal expert Beth Karas, this type of delay in a court case is common, especially considering the nature of the Arias retrial.

"It could be something in the personal life of one of the defense attorneys, or Juan Martinez or the judge," Karas explained. "How unusual is it for the Jodi Arias case? It is very typical. This case moves at a snail's pace."

However, an inside source revealed to the news station that neither the jury nor the trial was the cause of the mysterious emergency hindrance.

Earlier that day, Micia Fonseca, a clinical psychologist who specializes in twisted sexual behavior, continued to testify on behalf of the defense. She had previously testified about murder victim Travis Alexander's inner conflict between his religious conviction and sexual desires. Defense attorneys are trying to convince the jury that Alexander was a sexual deviant who emotionally abused Arias.

Fonseca described Alexander as having a mastery of deception and a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality Monday morning. Fonseca also alluded that Alexander communicated unpure thoughts about sexuality with minors, reports ABC 15 Arizona.

Also on Monday, state prosecutor Juan Martinez filed a motion to put sanctions against Arias' attorneys, alleging that a defense witness damaged a computer that could have been used as evidence in the case. The defense witness was expected to testify that Alexander's visited multiple pornographic websites. However, the prosecution's motion claims that the computer was damaged so that the state's computer expert could not re-examine it.

The motion also claims that the defense delivered computer files "to an individual named Tony," who was not involved in the case.

In May 2013, Arias, 34, was convicted of brutally murdering Alexander, 30, inside of his Phoenix, Arizona, home in June 2008. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart. She also slit his throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him and shot him in the face.

Although Arias was found guilty of 1st-degree murder charges, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, the jury in her retrial will determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison, or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

(source: Latin Post)


Jurors deliberate death penalty of man convicted in 1983 Garden Grove rape, murder

Jury members are weighing the fate of a convicted killer who raped a woman and stabbed her to death in a desolate alley behind a Garden Grove bar in 1983, beginning deliberations Tuesday on whether he should return to death row.

Nearly 30 years after he was first convicted in the death of 22-year-old Kimberly Gonzalez, the life of Richard Raymond Ramirez is once again in the balance, as the jury decides whether he should get the death penalty or serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Gonzalez met Ramirez at Mr. Barry's Bar in Garden Grove in November 1983, where he danced with her, kissed her, then walked her into a dirty alley behind the business where he stabbed her more than 20 times and sexually assaulted her.

The case has taken a circuitous route through the criminal justice system. Ramirez was first convicted in 1985 and spent several decades at San Quentin before the conviction was overturned on appeal in 2008. He was convicted again last year, but that jury deadlocked on whether Ramirez should receive the death penalty, causing a mistrial.

During the current trial, Ramirez's attorney acknowledged that he is guilty of the rape and murder, along with the rape at knife point of another woman several years earlier. The attorney argued, however, that Ramirez's upbringing in a severely dysfunctional family dominated by an alcoholic and violent father, as well Ramirez's year's of drug abuse beginning in his teens, should give the jury enough reason to spare his client's life.

"He deserves to spend every second of every day in jail, and that is where I want you to send him," Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill told the jury during his closing arguments on Tuesday. "He does not deserve to have a lethal injection put in the same veins he used to poison himself as a child."

Prosecutors argued that his history of violence and the callousness toward his victims warranted the ultimate punishment. During his closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin showed the jury photos of Gonzalez's lifeless body left sprawled in the dingy and dark alley, her clothes covered in blood and her pants and underwear pulled down to her feet and knees.

"Don't let him take the sympathy that belongs to her," Yellin said. "He has already taken her life, don't let him take that."

(source: Orange County register)


Judge orders Muhammad be appointed lawyer qualified in death penalty cases

A decision means the man accused of raping and murdering a Lewiston woman is getting a new attorney qualified for handling death penalty cases.

Tuesday afternoon Asotin County Superior Court Judge Scott Gallina ordered Bisir Muhammad to be appointed a lawyer who's qualified to handle a death penalty case.

The prosecutor hasn't filed charges against Muhammad that would show cause for the death penalty, but the option is still on the table.

Muhammad's Attorney, Victor Bottomly, has been ordered to draft a list of qualified attorneys from the Supreme Court's roster and present it to the court by 10:00 a.m. on November 24th.

Muhammad is accused of raping and murdering 69-year-old Ina Clare Richardson, and dumping her body near Beachview Park in Clarkston.

(source: KLEW news)


Minister due to decide on extradition

Justice Minister Amy Adams cannot say when she will make a decision on the fate of a Korean man who has spent more than three years in an Auckland jail without charge.

China has requested the extradition of Kyung Yup Kim, who is wanted over the death of a woman in Shanghai in 2009.

Mr Kim left China and lived in Korea for six months before arriving in New Zealand in October 2010.

In May 2011, China requested that New Zealand extradite him on a charge of intentional homicide.

He has spent more than three years on remand in Auckland's Mount Eden jail, fighting his extradition all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Korean man has twice applied to have the hearing to decide whether he is eligible for extradition deferred.

In May 2012, Mr Kim applied for a writ of habeas corpus, an ancient legal remedy which forces the authorities to bring a person before the court to establish whether they are being held lawfully.

When that was declined by the High Court he appealed to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court - which dismissed the case in December 2012. Last year, a judge at the Auckland District Court determined that Mr Kim was eligible for surrender.

In September, Mr Kim abandoned his appeals, and instead sought a final decision from the new Justice Minister over whether she should hand him over to Chinese authorities.

That decision is due this Thursday.

Last week, Mr Kim's lawyer Tony Ellis received a letter from Ms Adams saying she was considering seeking undertakings from China that his client would not be sentenced to death or tortured. "The Minister of Justice could have got those and should have got those 3 years ago," he said.

Dr Ellis said, under international law, such assurances were not worth the paper they were written on.

"The UN Human Rights Committee has said you need the assurances against torture, but you need a monitoring mechanism. It's not good [enough] being given an assurance."

Dr Ellis said if Mr Kim was returned to China, his client might face the death penalty, was more than likely to be tortured and certainly would not get a fair trial.

He said his client had been refused bail because he was deemed a flight risk.

But Dr Ellis said that was unlikely, given he had a home in South Auckland with his two New Zealand-born children and also lived with his mother, father and brother.

Challenge to legal aid decision

The case was funded by legal aid until it was referred to the Justice Minister, and Dr Ellis said he had applied for a review of the decision not to grant legal aid over the surrender decision.

"The most important decision, the Minister's surrending him or not - and then they deny legal aid," he said.

"There can't be anything more important than determining whether you are going to be sent back to somewhere you might be put to death and tortured."

Dr Ellis said if he did not receive an answer from Ms Adams by the end of the week, he would file an application in the High Court for Mr Kim's release.

According to a spokesperson, Ms Adams said she could not comment while the case was under active consideration.

(source: Radio New Zealand)


Death penalty is not a magic wand for SA

THE unacceptably high incidence of violent crime in SA has resulted in vociferous demands in the community for the reinstatement of the death penalty in our country.

Some people regard this penalty as a magic wand that will resolve the very serious problems that we are confronted with in relation to the criminal justice system. Furthermore, opinion polls suggest significant support for the reinstatement of the penalty.

There are cogent arguments against the death penalty:

-- There is, according to research, no conclusive evidence to prove that the death penalty is more of a deterrent than life imprisonment.

-- The death penalty is an irrevocable punishment. In the US there are about 12 recorded cases in which persons were executed and subsequently it has been established that they were innocent.

-- The death penalty is a cruel and barbaric punishment that depraves all who are involved with its application.

-- In heterogeneous countries such as SA and the US, it has been established that there is invariably a racial bias in the imposition of the death penalty. This was the position in apartheid SA and it remains the position in the US, where the majority of those executed are poor and black or persons of colour.

-- The death penalty is an arbitrary punishment since it is not imposed with any consistency. It depends, inter alia, on the judge’s disposition to the death penalty and the quality of the defence available to accused persons.

-- The death penalty is morally, philosophically and theologically questionable.

The most powerful argument in favour of the ultimate penalty is that of retribution. When unspeakable crimes are committed society demands retribution and this can only be satisfied, according to proponents of the death penalty, with the ultimate punishment. The eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth approach. However great the demand for retribution may be, it is my submission that it is outweighed by the 6 arguments above.

Most informed and perceptive commentators are of the opinion that the reinstatement of the death penalty would not instantaneously, or even over a period of time, resolve the serious crime problem in SA. What is required is a far more effective and resourced criminal justice system and a police force that is competent and not corrupt, in its fight against crime. There is indeed no magic solution.

What is also vitally necessary is the socioeconomic upliftment of millions of South Africans, who are poor, unemployed and live in appalling conditions. According to the South African Survey (2010-11), 36.5% of our population is unemployed. To make matters worse, 72.3% of people between the ages of 15 and 37 are unemployed. Grinding poverty and people who eke out an existence in the informal settlements are the metaphorical breeding grounds for violent crime in SA. The call for the reinstatement of the death penalty is a red herring. The real problems must be tackled if we are to radically reduce crime in our society.

(source: George Devenish is professor emeritus and senior research associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal----Business Day Live)


Honour killing: Pakistan court awards death penalty to 4 relatives

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan today sentenced to death the father, 2 brothers and former husband of a pregnant woman, who was stoned to death by them outside Lahore High Court in a case of 'honour killing'.

Judge Haroon Latif awarded death penalty to Farzana Parveen's father Muhammad Azeem, brother Muhammad Zahid, former husband Mazhar Iqbal and cousin Jumah Khan.

A fine of Rs 1 Lakh has also been imposed on each of them.

Ghulam Ali, another cousin of her, has been awarded 10 years imprisonment.

Farzana, 25, was killed on May 27 when her father, former husband, 2 brothers and some other relatives attacked her on Fane Road near the court with bricks.

She was going to the Lahore High Court along with her husband Muhammad Iqbal, 45, to attend hearing in an abduction case.

Farzana, of Nankana Sahib district, some 80 kilometers from Lahore, was pregnant at that time.

She died on the spot while Iqbal escaped unhurt. The killing sparked a countrywide debate demanding strict laws and their implementation to check the 'honour killing'.

The Pakistani prime minister, the chief justice and even foreign countries like the US and the UK condemned her murder.

The government had vowed for speedy justice in this case. Farzana's family had accused Iqbal of kidnapping her. It also claimed that Farzana was already married to her cousin Mazhar and Iqbal had lured her into second marriage without getting divorce from the first husband which is "illegal and un-Islamic."

Iqbal had killed his 1st wife some 6 years ago but was freed from jail after his son, the complainant in the case, pardoned him.

Advocate Mansoor Rehman Afridi, a counsel for the accused, told reporters they would file a review petition in the superior court against the verdict of the ATC.

The honour killing incidents are on the rise in Pakistan especially in Punjab, a province of 90-million. Last year, 870 women were killed in the name of honour here.

(source: Economic Times)


Sri Lanka releases Indian fishermen on death row

The Sri Lankan Government on Wednesday released the 5 Indian fishermen, sentenced to death in a case of alleged drug trafficking.

An official told The Hindu that the 5 fishermen had been released to the care of the Indian High Commission in Colombo, before being sent back to India.

It is learnt that they will serve no further jail term in India.

PTI adds:

The release came after Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa commuted their death penalty.

Prison officials said the 5 fishermen have been handed over to the immigration authorities for further action.

Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were apprehended in 2011 and were sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on October 30 for alleged drug trafficking.

The court ruling had triggered fiery protests in parts of Tamil Nadu and sporadic violence broke out in and around Rameswaram island as a large number of people staged protests.

India on November 11 had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka against a verdict of the high court awarding death sentence to them.

Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation last week on the issue.

The issue of fishermen is a very emotive matter for both Sri Lanka and India, where Tamil Nadu—based parties including AIADMK and DMK have been regularly pressing the government to take up the matter with the Lankan authorities seriously and have often resented high - profile visits from the island nation.

(source: The Hindu)


MOJ to review case after rapist-murderer escapes death penalty

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said Wednesday that it will review a case in which a man was sentenced to life imprisonment a day earlier for repeatedly raping the daughter of his partner and later murdering her.

Amid concerns by lawmakers that the sentence was too lenient, Vice Justice Minister Tsai Pi-yu said the case is still under legal proceedings and has yet to receive a final ruling.

After the court hands down its final verdict, the ministry will ask the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office to weigh the possibility of an appeal or review.

The case revolves around Hsu Chuan, 58, of New Taipei, who lived with the victim's mother 13 years ago and allegedly began to sexually assault the girl twice per week since 2006 for a period of five years. She waited until after her mother's suicide to report the matter to police in the company of her biological father on Sept. 19, 2011. She also moved out to live with her biological father.

Hsu, who had been jailed previously for sexually assaulting members of his family, pleaded with the victim to drop the case, but her father persuaded her not to.

Hsu then sneaked into the victim's house Nov. 29 and strangled her to death with a steel wire, arranging the scene so that it looked as if she had committed suicide.

The district court 1st handed down the death sentence to Hsu in 2013, which the high court maintained, as well as a single conviction for sexual assault.

The supreme court earlier this year revoked the death sentence and instructed that a retrial should take place, following which he was handed down the life sentence.

(source: Focus Taiwan)


UN resolution says Iran using death penalty at alarming frequency

The UN General Assembly human rights committee approved a resolution Tuesday expressing deep concern about rights violations in Iran, including the "alarmingly high frequency" of the use of the death penalty.

Support came from 78 member countries, with 35 voting no and 69 abstaining. Several countries have objected to the targeting of a specific nation.

The Canada-drafted resolution was approved less than a week before a 24 November deadline for Iran and 6 world powers to reach a deal on its nuclear program, but the word "nuclear" isn't mentioned in the text.

Instead, the resolution builds on a recent report by a UN special investigator on human rights and points out that Iran has not allowed an investigator to visit since 2005.

Iran's representative protested that the resolution doesn't acknowledge "positive developments" since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013.

"At the time when many parts of our region are burning in the fires of extremism," the resolution is counterproductive, the diplomat said.

The U.N. special investigator, Ahmed Shaheed, last month spoke out against Iran's 2nd-highest rate of executions in the world. Iran has executed 8 juveniles over the past year, he said.

He bases his reports on conversations with dozens of people both inside and outside the country, and it can be dangerous for some who speak with him, he said. Punishments include flogging and, in the worst cases, charges of spreading propaganda against the state.

The resolution calls on Iran to stop a range of abuses including torture, gender discrimination and the targeting of activists and journalists. It now goes to the General Assembly.

In a statement, Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said the resolution "leaves no doubt that the appalling human rights record of the clerical regime must be referred to the Security Council for the adoption of binding and punitive measures," and she warned that the nuclear talks should not be used as an excuse to ignore Iran's human rights issues.

In a separate statement, the U.S.-based group Impact Iran said, "More must be done to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses."

(source: First Post)


UN Committee Calls On Iran To Stop Executions

A UN committee has approved a resolution expressing deep concern about rights violations in Iran, noting the "alarmingly high frequency" of the use of the death penalty.

The UN General Assembly human rights committee passed the resolution on November 18 with 78 yes votes from member countries, with 35 voting no and 69 abstaining.

The Canada-drafted resolution calls on Iran to stop abuses, including torture.

The resolution follows on a report by a UN special investigator on human rights and points out that Iran has never allowed him to visit.

Iran's representative protested that the resolution doesn't acknowledge "positive developments" since President Hassan Rohani took office.

"At the time when many parts of our region are burning in the fires of extremism," the resolution is counterproductive, the diplomat said.

It now goes to the General Assembly.

source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)


Couple could face death for smuggling firearms

A married couple face the possibility of being sentenced to death under the Firearms Act 1971 after they were caught smuggling 5 air rifles and tens of thousands of pellets from across the border on Monday.

They were intercepted shortly after crossing the border back here around noon, after a team from the district police headquarters received a tip-off that a shipment of illegal weapons was being smuggled into the state.

District police chief DSP Mohd Sabri Zainol said a thorough search was conducted on the couple's old Toyota Corolla car during which 5 air rifles and a cache of over 48,000 pellets were found inside the rear seat, which had been modified to conceal the weapons.

"At the time of the arrest, the 50-something husband from Krokong and his 40-something Indonesian wife were travelling with their 9-year-old daughter, whom we have since handed over to a relative.

"The couple, however, are being investigated under Section 7 of the Firearms Act (Enhanced Penalties) 1971, which carries the mandatory death penalty or life imprisonment and not fewer than 6 strokes of the cane if convicted," Mohd Sabri told a press conference yesterday.

The OCPD further warned locals not to become arms smugglers by bringing in such weapons from across the border, as the police viewed the matter seriously and would come down hard on anyone found breaking the law.

"I implore the public not to view this issue lightly as these guns can easily fall into the hands of criminals and could lead to cases of shooting deaths," he said, adding that 2 other air rifles and an air pistol were seized in Bau prior to Monday's bust.

He also revealed that initial investigation indicated the suspect and his wife have previously smuggled similar weapons across the border, but that neither of them possessed any prior arrest record.

The guns, he said, were bought for less than RM200 apiece and were meant to be resold for profit to willing buyers here and in other districts.

During the press conference, the OCPD also chided several local dailies for literally 'jumping the gun' in reporting the seizure of the weapons.

"I'm not happy because no reporter contacted me to verify the information. If you publish the wrong information, it could jeopardise our investigation.

"There is no need to be so hasty. Wait for us to gather all the information and we will call for a press conference," he added.

On the recent nationwide crackdown on cyber gambling outlets, Mohd Sabri announced that such outlets in Bau have ceased to operate following relentless raids conducted by his men throughout the year.

“We have been cracking down on these types of outlets all year, with over 60 raids conducted and countless computers seized. "I also urge the public not to patronise such outlets because when there is no longer any demand, operators will not be bothered to open as there are no profits to be made."

Among those present at the press conference were district CID chief ASP Benedict Faris Jimoy and investigating officers Inspector Lonie Butek and Inspector Hamizan Ibrahim.

(source: Borneo Post)


'Of course, we killed him ... he had to go'----A little more than a quarter century ago I met a man who calmly told me how he had organized the massacre of a family. There was no sense of remorse in his confession. He was bragging about it, even grinning as he spoke to me

A little more than a quarter century ago I met a man who calmly told me how he had organized the massacre of a family. There was no sense of remorse in his confession. He was bragging about it, even grinning as he spoke to me.

I was a young reporter at that time, on assignment in Dhaka, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with Bangladesh. 15 years earlier, as a schoolboy in India, I had followed its blood-splattered struggle for independence. I remembered the images of 10 million people who had crossed the border seeking refuge in India; I had collected funds for the refugees by staging a play in Bombay, as the city I grew up in was known at that time; we shouted 'Joy Bangla', the Bangladeshi cry for independence, for no apparent reason (10-year-old kids do such things); and we eagerly listened to the radio and read newspapers over 2 weeks in December, as India defeated the Pakistani army, assisting Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini forces to gain independence. During those days, I remember going with my family to the railway station with home-cooked food for Indian soldiers going to the front.

The man I was interviewing that day in Dhaka lived in a well-appointed home in Banani, a tony part of Bangladesh's capital. Soldiers protected his house, checking the bags and identification of all visitors. A week earlier he had been a presidential candidate, losing by a huge margin to the eventual winner, President Hussain Muhammad Ershad.

The man I met wore a Pathani outfit that looked out of place in a country where civilian politicians tended to wear white kurtas with black waistcoats if they belonged to the Awami League, and safari suits if they were part of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, while working class men on the streets went about in lungis. The Pathani outfit was more in tune with what men from Pakistan wore, and as I was to learn later, many Bangladeshis who had lost their loved ones during the war hated that outfit, just as they hated the slogan 'Bangladesh Zindabad'. They preferred 'Joy Bangla'.

The man I had come to interview had a thin moustache and wore gold-rimmed glasses. He stared at me eagerly as we spoke, curious about the notes I was taking, trying to read what I was writing in my notepad. He sat straight on the sofa, his chest thrust forward, as if he was still in uniform. He looked self-assured and confident; not like someone who had overwhelmingly lost the presidential poll. He was part of a high stakes game, and he looked as if he was certain he would win, as if he was assured that someone important held all the cards.

His name was Farooq Rahman, and he had been a major, and later, lieutenant colonel in the Bangladeshi army. He had returned to Bangladesh only recently, after several years in exile in Libya. What he had done in the past was not in dispute.

Before dawn on 15 August 1975, he had led the Bengal Lancers, the army's tank unit under his command, to disarm the Rokkhi Bahini, a paramilitary force loyal to Sheikh Mujib. As Farooq left the Dhaka Cantonment, he had instructed other officers and soldiers to go to the upscale residential area of Dhanmondi, where Mujib lived. Soon after 5 a.m., the officers had killed Mujib and most of his family.

I had been rehearsing how to ask Farooq about his role in the assassination. I had no idea how he would react or respond. After a few desultory questions about the country's political situation, I tentatively began, 'It has been widely reported in Bangladesh that you were somehow connected with the plot to remove Mujibur Rahman from power in 1975. Would you...'

'Of course, we killed him,' he interrupted me. 'He had to go,' he added, before I could complete my hesitant, long-winded question.

Farooq Rahman thought he was a patriot. He believed he had saved the nation. The governments that followed Mujib reinforced this self-belief and perception, rewarding him and the other assassins with respectability by giving them political space, and to some, plum diplomatic assignments. Farooq himself stood in presidential elections, which he lost badly.

The Oxford-trained lawyer, Kamal Hossain, who was Mujib's law minister and later foreign minister, told me, 'The impunity with which Farooq operated was extraordinary. President Ershad encouraged Farooq to return because he wanted a candidate to stand against him in the rigged elections, so that the process would seem fair. In the face of the refusal of the opposition parties to participate in the elections which would legitimize his rule, Ershad encouraged Farooq to contest in the elections to give Ershad credibility.'

Farooq was able to operate with impunity for many years because the governments that followed Mujib were not keen to prosecute the killers and in the late 1970s, during the rule of Gen. Zia, the 5th Amendment to the constitution was passed, granting them immunity.

The political landscape in Bangladesh after Mujib's murder was unstable. In its 42-year history, there have been several coups, and the form of government has switched from parliamentary to presidential to parliamentary again. The country has had eleven prime ministers and over a dozen heads of state, and there have been times when it has been ruled by generals, or by a caretaker government comprising unelected officials.

Mujibur Rahman's daughter Sheikh Hasina Wajed had first come to power in 1996 but her majority was precarious at that time - her party, the Awami League, had won 146 of 300 seats, and relied on the support of other parties to rule. But when she came to power with an absolute majority in 2009, Hasina was determined to redeem her father's reputation and seek justice. Her quest has larger implications for Bangladesh's citizenry.

Hundreds of thousands - and by Bangladesh government estimates perhaps 3 million - people were killed during the 1971 war. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis now wait for justice - to see those who harmed them and their loved ones brought to account. But the culture of impunity hasn't disappeared.

Even for Sheikh Hasina, it took more than 3 decades before she received some measure of vindication, and one reason she was elected in 2008 was because she promised to set up tribunals to prosecute individuals accused of having committed international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Sometime in the afternoon of 27 January 2010, Mahfuz Anam received a call from a government official, saying that the end was imminent. Anam was in the newsroom of Bangladesh's leading English newspaper, The Daily Star, where he is the editor.

He knew what the message meant: perhaps within hours, 5 men - Lt. Col. Farooq, Lt. Col. Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Maj. Bazlul Huda, and army lancer A.K.M. Mohiuddin - would be hanged by the neck until they died at the city's central jail. Anam told his reporters to be prepared, and sent several reporters and photographers to cover the executions.

'We had hints that the end was near, particularly when the relatives of the 5 men were asked to come and meet them, and given hardly any notice,' Anam told me during a long telephone conversation a week after the executions.

'The authorities had told the immediate families that there were no limits on the number of relatives who could come, and they were allowed to remain with them until well after visiting hours. We knew that the final hours had come,' he said.

Once the families left, the 5 men were sent to their cells. They were told to take a bath and offer their night prayers. Then the guards asked them if they wanted to eat anything special. An imam came, offering to read from the Quran.

Around 10:30 p.m., a reporter called Anam to say that the city's civil surgeon, Mushfiqur Rahman, and district magistrate Zillur Rahman had arrived at the jail. Police vans arrived 50 minutes later, carrying 5 empty coffins. The paramilitary force known as the Rapid Action Battalion, took positions at various nodal points in the city that were prone to strikes and stoppages at the slightest political pretext, providing support to the regular police force to prevent demonstrations.

Other leading officials came within minutes: the home secretary, the inspector general of prisons, and the police commissioner. Rashida Ahmad, who was at that time news editor at the online news agency,, recalled: 'Many media houses practically decamped en masse to the jail to "experience a historic moment" firsthand.' Anam told me, 'By 11:35 p.m., we knew it would happen that night. We held back our 1st edition. The 2nd edition had the detailed story.'

Bazlul Huda was the first to be taken to the gallows. He was handcuffed, and a black hood covered his face. Eyewitnesses have said Huda struggled to free himself and screamed loudly as guards led him to the brightly lit room. An official waved and dropped a red handkerchief to the ground, the signal for the executioner to proceed. It was just after midnight when Huda died. Mohiuddin Ahmed was next, followed by Farooq, Shahriar, and A.K.M. Mohiuddin. It was all over soon after 1 a.m.

Earlier that day, the Bangladesh Supreme Court had rejected the final appeal of four of the 5 convicts. Shahriar was the only one not to seek presidential pardon. His daughter Shehnaz, who spent 2 hours with her father that evening, later said: 'My father was a freedom fighter; and a man who fights for the independence of his country never begs for his life.'

Sheikh Hasina was at her prime ministerial home that night. She was informed when the executions began, she reportedly asked to be left alone and later offered namaz-e-shukran, a prayer of gratitude. Many people, most of them supporters of the Awami League, had gathered outside her house that night, but she did not come out to meet anybody. A few days later, she told a party convention that it was a moment of joy for all of them, because due process had been served.

Many governments oppose the death penalty on principle and consider it violates human rights, and the European Union had appealed to the Bangladeshi government to commute the sentence of Mujib's assassins. The human rights group Amnesty International had also sought clemency, while agreeing that the men should face justice. These appeals met with no response.

The mood in Dhaka was sober and subdued, although Dhaka residents spoke of celebrations in certain localities. Ahmad, who was at her news desk until late at, described the mood in the newsroom as sombre. Many in the city could understand Hasina thanking God, and other politicians welcoming the closing of a dark chapter, but some felt it a bit much that parliament itself thanked God and adjourned for the day, she told me.

It had taken 34 years for this saga to end. The 1st politician to grant these men immunity was Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, who took over as Bangladesh’s president after Mujib's assassination. He had even praised the assassins, calling them 'shurjo shontan' or 'sons of the sun'.

Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who later became president, confirmed their immunity and later amended the constitution to entrench this. In the years that followed, their political rehabilitation had begun. Lt. Col. Shariful Haq Dalim, a decorated liberation war veteran who had played a major role in the conspiracy, held diplomatic positions in Beijing, Hong Kong, and became high commissioner to Kenya, even though he was implicated in a coup attempt in 1980.

Lt. Col. Aziz Pasha served in Rome, Nairobi, and Harare, where he sought asylum when Hasina first came to power in 1996. She removed him from his diplomatic post but he stayed on in Harare, and died there. (A month after the executions, Awami League activists ransacked and set afire the home of his brother in Dhaka.) Maj. Huda was briefly a member of parliament, and also served as diplomat in Islamabad and Jeddah.

Other conspirators at various times served Bangladeshi missions in Beijing, Buenos Aires, Algiers, Islamabad, Teheran, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Lagos, Dakar, Ankara, Jakarta, Tokyo, Muscat, Cairo, Kuala Lumpur, Ottawa, and Manila.

The government said it would now try to bring the surviving officers back to Bangladesh from the countries where some of the conspirators reportedly continued to live. These were often identified as the United States, Canada, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, and Kenya. They have been tried in absentia and some face execution.

Bringing all of them back is not going to be easy for Bangladesh, because some countries where they reportedly live, like Canada and South Africa, have abolished the death penalty, and Kenya has placed a temporary moratorium on the death penalty. They are unlikely to extradite them, unless Bangladesh guarantees that they will not be executed. Bangladesh is unlikely to offer such guarantee.

Bangladesh is among 58 countries (including India) that retain the death penalty. In 2008, 5 people were executed in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi human rights lawyers have found it hard to challenge the death penalty on a matter of principle because there is public support for the death penalty in Bangladesh.

Lawyers do appeal individual cases, but there is no concerted major human rights campaign against the death penalty. There are also political compulsions. One human rights activist told me, 'We are against [the] death penalty but the dilemma is that we are in a country where life imprisonment really means imprisonment guaranteed only until your party comes to power. The death penalty is almost seen as the only way to guarantee justice for such a grisly crime.'

(source: Salil Tripathi, Dhaka tribune)


SC upholds death for 2 in JSD leader Aref killing case

The Supreme Court today upheld the death penalty of 2 persons in a case filed for killing Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) president Kazi Aref Ahmed and 4 others in 1999.

The apex court passed the order after rejecting 2 review petitions filed by the condemn convicts -- Rashedul Islam alias Jhantu and Anwar Hossain alias Anwar -- challenging its verdict that had sentenced them to death in the case.

An armed gang killed Kazi Aref, Kushtia district JSD president Lokman Hossain, general secretary Yakub Ali, local JSD leader Shamsher Ali and Israil Hossain at a rally in Kalidaspur village of Daulatpur upazila in Kushtia on February 16, 1999.

After today's verdict, Additional Attorney General Mumtaz Uddin Fakir told reporters that the convicts can now seek presidential mercy to save their necks.

"If they don't, the jail authorities can execute them any day," Fakir said.

M Masud Rana, a counsel for the convicts, told The Daily Star that his clients will take decision about the presidential mercy after getting the full judgment of the SC.

On August 30, 2004, the then additional district and sessions judge Fazlur Rahman pronounced verdict sentencing 10 people to death and 12 others to life-term imprisonment for the killings.

On August 5 in 2008, a High Court bench acquitted one of the death sentence awardees and upheld punishment of others.

The duo filed the review petition after the Supreme Court upheld the HC verdict on August 7, 2011.

(source: The Daily Star)


Godhra train burning convict on death row jumps parole

Salim Zarda, who was awarded death penalty in the Godhra train burning case, jumped parole leading the Vadodara Central jail to sound an alert. Zarda, who was among the 11 sentenced to death in the February 27, 2002 Sabarmati express carnage case in which 59 persons were burnt to death, had got parole from the Gujarat High Court on the ground that he needed to be present at home in Godhra to build the collapsed roof of his house. The 15-day parole ended Tuesday.

Another convict Bilal Abdulla Badam who is serving a life term in the same case, was attacked when on parole to attend the funeral rites of his mother. His parole ends November 21.

Vadodara central jail authorities said that Zarda was required to turn up by Tuesday after his parole term ended but did not show up and hence they have alerted Godhra police as well as railway police to arrest him and bring him back.

He was supposed to be back by Tuesday. Now, he has jumped his parole so we have written to Godhra SP and railway police to look out for him and bring him back to the jail," a jail official said.

The lawyer who had moved his parole request before the high court, Deepak Sindhi, said that Zarda was granted parole after a government official stood as his guarantor. He had also deposited a security money of Rs 1 lakh before the court.

"Zarda had sought parole on the ground that he was required to be present during the construction of his ancestral house where his family lives. I am not aware if he has moved request for extension of his parole. If the court grants him extension, the jail authorities may come to know about it only after a few days," Sindhi said.

Badam had sought a 15-day parole after his mother passed away and was required to surrender before the jail on November 21. He had sought another week-long extension of his parole from the high court. According to the FIR, Badam was on Tuesday night attacked by 3 persons, one identified as Mohsin Mamji, who tried to loot his motorcycle.

The incident took place at around 11:30 in the night when Badam was at the house of his in-laws at Bhukri Palot locality. 3 persons barged into their house and started asking for the keys of his motorcycle. When he refused, they attacked him with sharp weapon and injured his hand. He is currently undergoing treatment at Godhra civil hospital.

A special court had awarded death sentence to eleven convicts in March 2011 and awarded life imprisonment to 21 others while 63 accused were released. A convict, Shaukat Patadia died in 2012 while serving life imprisonment, while 4 other accused were granted permanent bail in 2013.

Remaining convicts are lodged in Vadodara central jail.

(source: Indian Express)


Man gets death penalty for murder of 2 nephews

Almost 2 years after 30-year-old Mahipal kidnapped and murdered his nephews, aged 6 and 7, in Dataganj tehsil, the court of additional district judge in Badaun sentenced him to death, terming it as a "rarest of rare crimes".

"After examining the evidences and testimony of witnesses, the court of ADJ termed it as 'rarest of rare crime' in its 51-page order saying that for the greed of land, Mahipal executed the plan and killed 2 innocent children in a brutal manner. The court awarded death sentence to Mahipal for murdering his nephews and also slapped a fine of Rs 35,000 on him," said Jagat Singh, additional district government council.

Mahipal had kidnapped his 2 nephews on the morning of January 9, 2013 and later strangled them to death the same day as he was upset that their grandmother, Sushila Devi, had transferred 5 bigha land in their name. He buried their bodies under the cattle shed at his home in Larori village. The police found the bodies at Mahipal's home, which led to his arrest.

A case against Mahipal began in the court of the 7th additional district judge. During the course of trial, 8 public witnesses were produced and additional session judge, Bhudev Gautam, heard the arguments of the defence and prosecution.

Giving details, police said, on January 9, 2013, Vikesh (6) and Jitendra (7), sons of brothers Vidyaram and Brijesh respectively, went missing. The family members tried to locate the children in the village and adjoining areas but when they failed to trace them, they lodged a complaint with the local police.

Meanwhile, the family received calls from the kidnapper who demanded Rs 2 lakh ransom for each kid. He also threatened to kill the children if they took the matter to the police.

During investigation, the police discovered that Vidyaram and Brijesh's cousin, Mahipal, had kidnapped their sons. They traced him on the basis of the threat calls he had made. The cops arrested him after the kids' bodies were found buried under the cowshed at his home.

(source: Times of India)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheads killer who donned women's clothes

Saudi Arabia executed on Wednesday a man who donned women's clothing in a bid to escape after shooting dead a soldier and police officer, state media said.

Salih bin Yateem bin Salih al-Qarni was beheaded in the southwestern city of Abha, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Qarni was intially arrested on other charges and was transported in an official vehicle by the soldier and a member of the Muttawa religious police.

"He shot them with a gun that he was carrying," the SPA said, without explaining how he obtained the weapon.

After stealing the keys from the security officer driving the vehicle, Qarni chewed some narcotic qat "and disguised himself in women's clothing" in an attempt to flee, but was recaptured, it said.

Saudi women are required to cover from head to toe, often with only their eyes exposed.

The report did not say when the escape bid occurred.

Qarni is the latest of 69 Saudis and foreigners executed in the kingdom this year, despite international concern.

Rape, murder, apostasy, drug trafficking and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Akua Donkor wants death penalty

Founder and leader of Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), Akua Donkor, has proposed death penalty for any man who would be arrested for raping a minor.

In her opinion, there is nothing sexually attractive on young girls so men who forcibly have carnal knowledge with such girls should be executed.

"Men who defile small girls should be killed since they are not fit to be in the society," she told King Edward of Hello FM in a chat on Monday.

Akua Donkor, however, lambasted young girls of today for always dressing half-naked, an act, which according to her, demeans womanhood.

She observed with pain and sorrow how some young ladies dress in a manner that exposes their breast and other sensitive parts.

The GFP leader said some rapists committed the weird offence because they cannot resist the temptation of half-naked ladies.

Women dressing almost nude, she said, "Are not part of Ghana's culture", adding that the influx of foreign culture was badly influencing the young ladies to dress nude.

Akua Donkor noted that when she was a young girl, it was almost a taboo for any lady to expose her vital parts in public.

She, therefore, admonished young ladies to dress decently at all times so as to stop tempting the young men into raping them.

Akua Donkor said her presidential ambition is intact, stressing that she would ban the wearing of short skirts by ladies when she becomes president.

According to her, as Ghana's president, she would quickly order for the police to apprehend ladies who dress nudely in public.

The GFP founder stressed on the need for decency in the way people, especially women dress in society

Akua Donkor stated that her administration would put in place measures to make sure that Ghanaian women dress properly by covering their entire bodies as pertaining in many Islamic societies.

This, she was of the opinion, would help reduce the upsurge in rape cases in the country as the women would stop tempting the men with their nude dressings.

(source: Ghana Web)

NOVEMBER 18, 2014:


Northampton County judge delays death sentence of Michael Ballard

A Northampton County judge on Tuesday delayed the execution of 5-time killer Michael Ballard so the death row inmate could try to enter lawsuits challenging Pennsylvania's lethal injection methods.

Over and over, Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano asked Ballard if he was certain he wanted to forgo his rights to appeal his death sentence. Did he receive effective legal counsel? Did he receive a fair trial? Did he his punishment fit his crimes?

Over and over, the death row inmate said yes.

"You do understand that death is death -- meaning that death is final?" Giordano asked.

"Yes," said Ballard, handcuffed to a wheelchair and guarded by Northampton County sheriff's deputies.

At the end of the 45-minute hearing, Giordano ruled Ballard is competent to make the decision and was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily giving up his rights to dispute his death sentences.

But Ballard's recent efforts to enter state and federal lawsuits against the drugs used to put inmates to death meant his Dec. 2 execution date could not be carried out, Giordano ruled. District Attorney John Morganelli did not challenge the stay, saying if Giordano didn't grant the delay, another judge at a more distant court would.

For months, Ballard has said he will not appeal his sentence, which had put him on the fast track for death in a state that has not executed a prisoner in 15 years. When federal attorneys attempted to enter a defense on his behalf to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ballard wrote the high court, saying they were not acting on his behalf.

A cautious Giordano ordered Ballard in August to undergo a mental evaluation to make sure he was competent to waive his appeal rights. Psychologist Frank Dattilio testified Tuesday that Ballard was competent. His findings and Ballard's denials ended the efforts of Jonathan Lee Riches, a Pennsylvania inmate and Internet celebrity, who lobbed baseless accusations that Ballard was mentally unfit to make the decision and that he had been mistreated by his attorneys and prison officials.

Giordano was required to go through each of Riches' claims, including that one of Ballard's attorneys was biased because of a sexual relationship with a relative of one of Ballard's victims, that prison officials didn't provide him adequate nourishment and that Ballard was mentally ill. Ballard became visibly annoyed as Giordano addressed Riches' briefings.

"He needs psychological help," Ballard said. When Giordano continued to sort through the accusations, Ballard interrupted and asked the judge to move on. "I don't want to give him the platform he's seeking."

After the hearing, defense attorney Michael Corriere said Ballard was pleased with the outcome. He has maintained to attorneys that he does not want to fight his execution, and Giordano's rulings put everything in place.

"It's his choice to make, and obviously he's competent," Corriere said.

Morganelli said he was satisfied with the outcome as well. Despite Ballard's instance that he won't, the death row inmate has until June 23, 2015, to change his mind about his appeal process. There was little chance Ballard's execution would occur before that date, Morganelli said.

Death row cases in Pennsylvania have been delayed for years because federal judges who oppose the death penalty keep overturning their executions, Morganelli said. Ballard's insistence on barring federal defense attorneys from interfering on his case, his overwhelming guilt and the lack of extenuating circumstances remove many of the roadblocks these cases normally face, Morganelli said.

"I do believe Michael Ballard will face the death penalty carried out," he said.

Ballard pleaded guilty to the 2010 murders of his ex-girlfriend Denise Merhi, her father Dennis Marsh, her grandfather Alvin Marsh and her neighbor Steven Zernhelt. A Northampton County jury sentenced him to death for each of the murders. He previously pleaded guilty to killing Donald Richard in 1991.

(source: Express-Times)


Jury now deciding if Hicks should get death penalty

Closing arguments have concluded in the sentencing of Charles Ray Hicks, convicted Friday in Monroe County Court of murdering and dismembering a Scranton woman in 2008.

The jury is now deliberating whether Mr. Hicks should get life in prison, or the death penalty.

Mr. Hicks, 40, of Coolbaugh Twp., was found guilty of killing 36-year-old Deanna Null, then cutting up her body and dumping it, wrapped in garbage bags, along interstate highways in Monroe and Lackawanna counties.

All death penalties are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which can cancel the sentence.

Today, on the 2nd and final day of sentencing, the jury heard from several witnesses for the defense who said Mr. Hicks has been a role model for other prisoners during his years in the Monroe County Correctional Facility.

Derek Oliver, a former prison guard who now visits the jail as a Jehovah's Witness, explained that he conducts Bible study with Mr. Hicks and said a lot of inmates look to him for "wisdom."

Teleconferencing in from Ft. Myers, Florida, Jerel Johnson told the jury that he shared a cell with Mr. Hicks starting in 2009. That happened while he was facing his own murder charge, for which he has since been acquitted. Mr. Johnson was in a "very dark place" during his time in the maximum security wing, he said, but Mr. Hicks' kindness helped get him through it.

The defense also called neuropsychologist Carol Armstrong, Ph.D., who evaluated Mr. Hicks this summer. Dr. Armstrong told the jury that Mr. Hicks had an psychological impairment, struggling with attention, concentration and memory.

In his only cross examination of the day, Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso questioned the neuropsychologist on the tests, which revealed that Mr. Hicks had scored very high on the reading and verbal portions.

On Monday, Mr. Hicks' mother and sisters pleaded for mercy, while his former fiancee said the man became a different person when he used drugs, and once threatened to kill her. Mr. Hicks has told investigators he and Ms. Null engaged in a drug-fueled sexual relationship.

(source: The Times-Tribune)


Court delays lethal injection trial at state's request

Lawyers for a convicted child-killer and the state Department of Corrections were supposed to be in federal court Monday to schedule a trial on the constitutionality of Louisiana's method of executing prisoners.

Instead, the trial and Christopher Sepulvado's pending execution have been delayed for at least seven months as Louisiana figures out the best way to carry out the death penalty.

By the time of the next hearing, Louisiana's execution drugs will have expired.

And the state law saying how executions are to be carried out - and whether such details are to be kept secret - could change, too.

Sepulvado, who was convicted of beating his stepson with a screwdriver and then submerging his body in scalding water, has won several stays of execution in the past 2 years. He argues that the state's method of lethal injection violates his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.



Bill might eventually identify Ohio execution drugmaker

The secrecy surrounding future Ohio executions might be lifted, but only a decade after the fact.

Withholding the name of the supplier of drugs used in executions is the latest wrinkle in proposed state legislation aimed at allowing capital punishment to resume next year.

House Bill 663, introduced just last week, is on a fast track: It's tentatively scheduled to be amended in a committee meeting today and voted out on Wednesday. That would move it to the Ohio Senate, with an eye to getting it on Gov. John Kasich's desk by the end of the year.

The bill would shield the identity of manufacturers and sellers of drugs used in lethal injection, as well as physicians and members of the execution team who participate in the process.

One amendment to be offered in the House Legislative and Policy Oversight Committee would make the drug information public in 10 years instead of keeping it secret permanently.

If the bill passes, it will blow past significant opposition from the Ohio Public Defender, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the Ohio Newspaper Association, Statehouse Democrats and John G. Greiner, a First Amendment attorney from Cincinnati who questions the measure's constitutionality.

Greiner said in a letter sent to Attorney General Mike DeWine that the language of the bill conflicts with the Ohio Constitution in several places, including a provision prohibiting access to execution-drug information by any entity, including the courts. Greiner said that "does not square" with Section 4.01 of the Ohio Constitution, which vests power with the Ohio Supreme Court and other lower courts.

DeWine said in an interview that he will take a 2nd look at the language of the bill to ensure it isn't overly broad.

"Our lawyers who drafted it obviously believe it is constitutional. We are very open and will certainly go back and take a look at this thing to see if there are unintended consequences."

DeWine said he does not set policy; that is up to the General Assembly.

Reps. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, and Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said in introducing the bill that "Changes are necessary because Ohio and other states have exhausted their options for purchasing chemicals used in lethal injection."

Huffman said yesterday that he expects the legislation to be revised to allow for redacting specific information rather making everything private as in the current version.

The subject arose when Ohio prisons Director Gary Mohr informed DeWine that he doesn't think the agency can obtain the necessary drugs to proceed with the Feb. 15 execution of Ronald Phillips and others to follow next year without being able to guarantee anonymity to drug sellers. The state will most likely buy the drugs from a "compounding pharmacy," which mixes drugs to customer specifications. Big drug companies, most of them in Europe, refuse to sell drugs for use in executions.

Public Defender Timothy Young, in testimony prepared for today's meeting, said his primary concern about the bill is, "No one has any idea what the ultimate consequences of this bill might be." He said blocking the courts from obtaining information "raises separation-of-powers issues at both the state and federal level.

"No matter your position on the death penalty, H.B. 663 is bad legislation for Ohio. I understand the frustration with years-long litigation that drives this bill. But this legislation sacrifices so much of what we all know about good government: openness, transparency, accountability, oversight and limits on governmental intrusion into contracts, private businesses and the medical profession."

(source: Columlbus Dispatch)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri inmate Leon Taylor demands US supreme court halt execution ---- Governor Jay Nixon considering clemency appeal over the conviction of Taylor, 56, for killing a gas station attendant in Kansas City in 1994

Attorneys for Missouri inmate Leon Taylor asked the supreme court to halt his execution on Tuesday, citing several concerns that led to the death sentence for the convicted killer.

Taylor, 56, is scheduled to die early Wednesday for killing gas station attendant Robert Newton in suburban Kansas City in 1994, in front of Newton's 8-year-old stepdaughter. Taylor would be the 9th man put to death in Missouri this year and the 11th since November 2013.

The appeal notes that Taylor's original jury deadlocked and a judge sentenced him to death. When that was thrown out, an all-white jury gave Taylor, who is black, the death sentence.

In 2002, the supreme court ruled that only a jury could impose a death sentence. Taylor's lawyers contend that a Missouri ruling after the supreme court decision led the state to commute at least 10 other death sentences for inmates sentenced by a judge to life in prison - everyone except Taylor.

Attorney Elizabeth Carlyle said Taylor essentially has been penalized for successfully appealing his 1st conviction.

"It is difficult to imagine a more arbitrary denial of the benefit of a state court decision," Carlyle wrote in the appeal to the supreme court.

Governor Jay Nixon is also considering a clemency petition. In addition to the racial concerns, the petition cites abuse Taylor suffered as a child, saying his mother began giving him alcohol when he was 5 and that he later became addicted to alcohol and drugs.

According to court records, Taylor, his half-brother and half-sister decided to rob a gas station on April 14, 1994. Newton was at the station with his stepdaughter.

Taylor entered the store, drew a gun and told Newton, 53, to put $400 in a money bag. Newton complied and the half brother, Willie Owens, took the money to the car.

Taylor then ordered Newton and the child to a back room. Newton pleaded for Taylor not to shoot him in front of the little girl, but Taylor shot him in the head. He tried to kill the girl but the gun jammed, so he locked her in the room and the trio drove away.

"She had the gun turned on her," said Michael Hunt, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor who handled the case. "It didn't fire. If it had fired, we'd have had a double-homicide."

Hunt said the child's testimony at trial was pivotal in the death sentence.

"You can imagine what a horrible crime this was, but when you see it coming out of a young person like that, it was hard to listen to," Hunt said.

Taylor was arrested a week later after police responded to a police-tip hotline call.

(source: The Guardian)


Leon Taylor Execution: Attorneys File Last-Minute Appeal

Leon Taylor's execution is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning. However, his attorneys have asked Missouri's Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to grant a stay. In their appeal, Taylor's attorneys argue that their client's sentence is unjust. In addition to the appeal, Taylor's attorneys have requested clemency from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

In 1994, Leon Taylor was arrested and charged in the death of Robert Newton. According to reports, Taylor shot and killed the 53-year-old gas station attendant in front of his 8-year-old daughter. Witnesses said the suspect attempted to shoot the child as well. However, he fled the scene when his gun malfunctioned.

Following his arrest, Taylor argued that Newton's shooting was accidental. He claims the gun "fired accidentally," and he denies accusations that he attempted to shoot the 8-year-old girl.

Ironically, the little girl was the prosecution's star witness. Prosecutor Michael Hunt said the child's testimony made a strong impact during the trial. According to Hunt, "there was not a dry eye in the jury."

Although Taylor was convicted of murder, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision during the sentencing phase. As the jury was deadlocked, Taylor was sentenced to death by a judge.

In 2002, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment must be imposed by a jury. Therefore, Leon Taylor's original sentence was overturned. As reported by The Guardian, the defendant was granted a sentencing re-trial. However, the new jury reaffirmed the judge's decision. Leon Taylor was once again sentenced to death by execution.

In their appeal, Taylor's attorneys underlined the fact that their client, a black man, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. For this reason, the attorneys suggest their client's sentence was racially motivated. In their request for clemency, the attorneys explained that Taylor had a troubled childhood and struggled with addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Although Taylor has apologized and expressed remorse, Newton's family continues to struggle with their loss. As reported by, his brother, Dennis Smith, believes Leon Taylor has "been blessed with 20 years he shouldn't have had."

"I know executing him won't make it right. Nothing will make it right. But it's the right way to go and I think [the appeals] went on too long."

It is unclear whether the appellate court or the governor will halt Leon Taylor's execution. If the execution moves forward as planned, it will be Missouri's 11th death by lethal injection in the last 12 months.



Death-row inmate files appeal in federal court

A Gering, Nebraska, man convicted of abducting, raping and murdering a 15-year-old newspaper delivery girl in 2003 is asking a federal judge to set aside his death penalty conviction.

Jeffrey Hessler filed a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska on Monday arguing that he suffered from mental illness when he confessed to police and therefore didn't understand the law or his constitutional rights.

He also contends that he was provided ineffective legal counsel and didn't receive a fair trial because jurors couldn't have possibly remained impartial with everyone in town talking about the murder, Hessler's court filing said. Hessler waived his right to counsel and chose to represent himself during the trial.

Heather Guerrero, 15, was snatched while she was delivering newspapers in her Gering, Nebraska, neighborhood on Feb. 11, 2003. She was raped in an abandoned farmhouse and then shot in the head. Authorities found Guerrero's body in the house the next day.

A jury found Hessler guilty, and a panel of 3 judges ordered him to receive the death penalty.

Hessler has appealed his conviction numerous times. In July, his case made it to the Nebraska Supreme Court, where justices affirmed a lower court's ruling to deny Hessler's appeal.



'I failed horribly,' says mother of slain Ethan Stacy----Layton woman sent to prison for death of 4-year-old

Stephanie Sloop pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and obstruction of justice Monday in connection with the death of her 4-year-old son, Ethan Stacy, in 2010. She was ordered to spend 20 years to life in prison.

A Layton mother who once faced a potential death penalty cried to a judge Monday before she was sentenced to prison for murdering her 4-year-old son.

"I had an obligation and a responsibility as his mother to take care of him and protect him and I failed horribly," Stephanie Sloop said.

After explaining that it was her own selfishness that led to the brutal death of Ethan Stacy, Sloop was sentenced Monday to 20 years to life in prison.

"I was selfish when I brought Ethan into this world. I was selfish during his life. And I was selfish in his death," she told the judge. "I have no one to blame but myself and my selfish behavior for Ethan's death.

"I am entirely responsible because I am his mommy. I failed to take care of him properly because I couldn't even take care of myself. My selfishness and failure as a parent caused Pumpkin's death. There's no changing the fact that I'm the one responsible," she said.

Second District Judge Thomas L. Kay ordered Sloop, 31, to serve 20 years to life in prison for aggravated murder, a 1st-degree felony, and 1 to 15 years years for obstruction of justice, a 2nd-degree felony. He ordered the sentences to be served concurrently as part of a plea agreement.

The sentence brings to a close the tragic case of Ethan Stacy, who was sent from Virginia to live with his biological mother, Stephanie Sloop and her fiance, in Layton in 2010 because of a court-ordered custody agreement. In just a little over a week, Ethan was severely abused, scalded, beaten, overmedicated and not given the medical care that he needed.

Nathan and Stephanie Sloop got married on May 6, but left Ethan at home alone because they didn't want anyone to notice his bruises and swelling.

When he died, the Sloops attempted to hide their crime by disfiguring Ethan's body by burning him, smashing his face with a hammer and then burying him a shallow grave near Powder Mountain in Weber County where they sprinkled dog food over his grave.

Joe Stacy, Ethan's father, was in the courtroom for Monday's hearing but did not speak. Outside the courtroom, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said his interaction with Stacy over the past 4 years has been the most gut-wrenching part of the case.

"That's what's had the most impact on me, is having to deal personally with a father that loved a 4 1/2-year-old child, that lost that 4 1/2-year-old child through no fault of his own in circumstances he had no control over - a court order to send his son out here to this situation. He was sending him to his death. In the environment, the toxic environment, the perfect storm of Nathaniel and Stephanie Sloop."

Sloop was not thinking clearly when she married Nathan Sloop and did not think she could leave, defense attorney Mary Corporon told the court Monday, while conceding that she could have done more to protect her son.

In exchange for Sloop's guilty pleas to aggravated murder and obstruction of justice, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of intentionally inflicting serious physical injury on a child, a 2nd-degree felony, and abuse or desecration of a dead human body, a 3rd-degree felony.

Nathan Sloop, 35, pleaded guilty but mentally ill in February to aggravated murder. By accepting a plea deal, Sloop was spared a potential death penalty if he had been convicted by a jury. A judge instead sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole recently told Nathan Sloop that his first parole hearing won't be for 40 years. It was in part because of the parole board's tough stance with Nathan Sloop, as well as his desire to avoid years of legal appeals, that Joe Stacy agreed to the plea deal with Stephanie Sloop, Rawlings said.

"We believe the Board of Pardons and Parole gets it," he said, noting that he expected Stephanie Sloop to receive similar treatment.

Sloop cried as she read a prepared statement prior to being sentenced. Several times she mentioned her selfishness as leading to her son's death in addition to her addiction to prescription drugs. Her drug addiction caused her to make "reckless and indifferent" decisions that "paved the way for this" because she could no longer make sound choices, she said.

"My selfishness I always had took on a new form when I caused his death," she said. "I love Ethan so much and I don't know who I am without him anymore."

Sloop apologized in court to her ex-husband as well as Layton police and Davis County prosecutors.

"It shouldn't have gone this far," she cried. "Ethan is an innocent child and I will carry his death with me as long as I live."

Rawlings called Sloop's statement in court a "powerful acknowledgement" and what she said about herself was basically the same argument prosecutors would have used against her at trial.

"Our theory would have been exactly what she said. That is was her selfishness as a mother that allowed and enabled the abuse of her son that ended up killing him. So I think actually the defendant in her own words probably said better than anybody else today what happened," Rawlings said. "Her own desires, basically, to protect herself so she didn't expose what was going on with this young boy and it ended up killing him.

"The case is what it is. She did what she did. And she didn't do what she didn't do. Her failure to act lead to her son's death," Rawlings said.

But Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe thought Sloop's speech was self-serving. It's always easy to blame drugs or a person's own domestic abuse for their problems, he said. Keefe said there are a lot of drug abusers who don't murder their sons.

"There were many opportunities, many opportunities for Ethan's life to be saved. And she did not take one of them. She just perpetuated and participated actively in the murder and the disposal of little Ethan. It's unforgivable," he said.

Keefe said the "gruesome" case is one that was extremely tough on his officers, especially those who discovered Ethan's body.

"This is the type of case that will haunt law enforcement officers involved with it for the rest of their lives - not just their careers. But they'll carry memories of this case with them for the rest of their lives," he said.

"This has been tragic all around and this is a fitting outcome to something that has hurt a great many people," Corporon said after the hearing.

Keefe said he's glad that the case is now over.

"We are totally in agreement with the sentence that was imposed. We feel it was in the best interest of justice for Ethan and his family. It just brings to closure a sad story in our community."

(source: Deseret News)


Death penalty mistakes reason enough to oppose it

I stopped supporting the death penalty years ago.

Here's why: The Death Penalty Information Center reports that since 1973, 147 inmates in U.S. prisons who were sentenced to death have been exonerated.

I know this represents a teensy fraction of a percentage point of people who probably did commit murders and have been put to death or who are awaiting their date with the executioner. But I believe our justice system shouldn't be killing anyone - ANYONE - as long as there's even a possibility the sentence may be carried out for someone who didn't commit the crime.

Furthermore, I think it's morally wrong for the state to kill a killer. Period.

Lots of you reading this - perhaps most - will disagree with me. I'm fine with that. It's what we Americans do: argue about public policy, especially when it concerns life and death.

Consider Stephanie Sloop, who pleaded guilty Monday to 1 count of aggravated murder and 1 count of obstruction of justice in the death of her 4-year-old son, Ethan. 4 years ago, Sloop and her husband, Nathan - the child's stepfather - tortured and killed Ethan over the course of about a week. After the boy was dead, they mutilated his body and buried him near the Powder Mountain ski resort.

Stephanie went shopping for the shovel used to dig his grave.

Nathan Sloop is already in prison, serving sentences for aggravated murder and aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty but mentally ill, and got 25 years to life.

Stephanie Sloop got 20 years to life for murdering her own child.

Think about those words and try to comprehend them: "murdering her own child."

20 years doesn't seem much like justice for what happened to that boy. It doesn't to me, anyway.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings says prosecutors will ask the state's parole board to keep both Sloops locked up until they die. That's a good start, but I'll admit: It's not as satisfying as the idea of tying them to the bumper of a speeding vehicle and, a la "The Road Warrior," driving the wrong direction on I-15 in rush-hour traffic.

Which would be wrong, I hasten to point out, and a clear violation of my sincere belief that the death penalty is something we shouldn't be doing as an enlightened society.

Then again, how enlightened can a society be when it produces the likes of the Sloops?

Here's another bit of the story to consider: On May 6, 2010, a little more than halfway through the week or so of torture and brutality that caused Ethan's death, the Sloops locked the wounded child in a bedroom while they left home to ... wait for it ... be MARRIED.

Stephen King couldn't invent such depraved, savage selfishness.

This murder case isn't the 1st that's had me questioning my opposition to the death penalty. And it won't be the last. Killers like the Sloops just keep killing.

I don't have any sort of solution or a single idea for a better way to deal with the homicidal humans among us. Locking them away for good is the best option we have.

Yeah, it doesn't seem enough; we'll just have to live with that. Our society may not be wise to the degree we hope for, but we have to keep striving for a brand of justice that is less like the crimes we are punishing.

Remove the killers from society? Yes, permanently. But kill them? No.

Not even for the worst, like Stephanie and Nathan Sloop. Because, in the end, we should not be killers, either.

(source: Don Porter, Standard-Examiner)


Death Row Inmates and the Lawyers Who Fail Them

The cases that are most often burned into the public's memory are those where some sort of profound injustice has occurred to the victim and the alleged murderer has been absolved or remains free. Consider the O.J. Simpson verdict, the murder case against Casey Anthony involving her daughter, or even Amanda Knox. While most of us can rattle off a few infamous acquittals that boiled our blood as well, very few are likely to be able to name a single case of a prisoner who was wrongly treated by the justice system or the lawyers that were responsible.

Yesterday, the new journalism site, The Marshall Project, along with the Washington Post, released a 2-part investigative report looking into 80 cases of capital offenses and shining a light on the issue of incompetent, unqualified, and untrained lawyers failing to submit Federal habeas appeals prior to the deadline and to the detriment of their clients. A nonprofit journalism organization focused on investigating the criminal justice system, the Marshall Project officially launched its website this past weekend, with Bill Keller, previously the executive editor at the New York Times, at the helm. The Project joins a burgeoning field of investigative reporting into the justice system, already led by other organizations and individual reporters.

There are 3 appeals that can be filed after a client has been convicted: direct appeal, state post-conviction appeal and, lastly and under contention in the report, the federal habeas appeal. After a direct appeal is denied, a 1996 law initiates a yearlong deadline within which the lawyer must file the federal habeas appeal, if they intend to. In short, when these lawyers fail to turn in their petitions within the 1-year deadline, after both the direct appeal and state post-conviction appeal have been denied, the prisoner has effectively exhausted their available appeals and is left with very little, if any, recourse.

Both part 1 and part 2 of the feature include frustrating cases where lawyers missed the deadline, leading to their clients' executions. Michelle Kraus, an experienced defense attorney, worked on Gregory Scott Johnson's case for 10 years, including preparing a federal habeas petition. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder in 1986 of an 82-year-old woman during a burglary. Kraus dropped the petition in the mail, arriving 1 day late. As a result of the petition's tardiness, Johnson's execution continued in 2005. According to the report, of the 80 cases that are examined in which the deadline was missed, 16 prisoners went on to be executed.

In other cases, a missed deadline means a prisoner misses the chance to present to the court a strong case for an appeal. William Kuenzel was convicted of a 1988 murder of a convenience store clerk and sentenced to death. However, after new evidence was found 22 years after the trial indicating the prosecution had buried evidence that undermined their case, Kuenzel attracted a strong following of supporters, including former district attorneys who strongly believed prosecutorial misconduct had occurred. However, Kuenzel's lawyer missed the deadline by nearly 3 years due to a technicality unknown to the lawyers. Last known, the state was looking to set Kuenzel's execution date this past September; Kuenzel's most recent opposition was filed in October.

Why does this happen so frequently? Patience may be a virtue, but timeliness is certainly a requirement for most professions, particularly those in which a life is at stake. The report shines a light on the convoluted nature of habeas law, often misinterpreted or misunderstood by lawyers who may believe they are filing a petition on time only to be off by days or even years, as in Kuenzel's case. In other situations, lawyers simply don't care or don't want to exert the effort that is required in unraveling the law and keeping track of the timeline.

As seen with Johnson and Kuenzel's cases, the consequences rest on the prisoners' shoulders and, in the end, they are the ones who remain behind bars or are executed. In Johnson's case, the court wrote, in reaction to Kraus's mistake, "Lawyers are agents. Their acts (good and bad alike) are attributed to the clients they represent."

In about 1/3 of the 80 cases, the court found the lawyers' behavior to be beyond negligence and allowed the prisoners to go forward with their appeals. In light of these cases, the report asks a very important question: Why aren't these lawyers punished for their failures? As noted in part 2 of the report, even after the federal court found some lawyers' behavior to be "inexcusable" and "deeply unprofessional," they did not receive any sort of sanction from the bar association or any other agency.

Although the Marshall Project report only examined 80 cases out of the millions that are settled both inside and outside the courtroom, their report represents a significant problem within the system of lawyers bungling their jobs without repercussions. For example, if a follow-up report were to be conducted on the prosecutors who, in Kuenzel's case, were found to have buried exculpatory evidence, reporters would find most likely the attorneys would not be facing any sanctions. Prosecutors are rarely disciplined for such misconduct, in part because it is difficult to prove misconduct has occurred.

The same story rings true for prosecutors where misconduct has been found. City Limits, an nonprofit investigative journalism organization, looked into prosecutorial misconduct in the Bronx district attorney's office when similar problems arose in Brooklyn this past summer. City Limits found "that the office has a history of inaction when it comes to misconduct." In 1 case, dating back to April of this year, a man spent 8 months at Rikers Island awaiting trial for rape charges when it was discovered the prosecutor withheld evidence that the victim admitted the sex was consensual. However, since 1975, only 1 prosecutor has been disciplined for while prosecuting a case, providing a small vignette into the larger issue of sanctioning attorneys.

Worse yet, lawyers who showcase their incompetence in mishandling habeas appeals may go on to aid in other habeas appeals unchecked. Mary Catherine Bonner, an attorney in Florida, was a repeat offender when it comes to missing the petition deadline in death-penalty cases. 1 case, she was 210 days late; in another, 312 days late; and in yet another, 278 days late. Judge Timothy J. Corrigan voiced his concern and frustration over Bonner's actions in 2 of these cases: "It is hard for me to fathom how a lawyer who asked for and received the appointment of this Court, could abdicate the most basic function of filing the petition on time."

It's certainly easy to share Corrigan's shock over this seemingly pervasive ineptitude - avoidable, preventable, and detrimental to the system. In both of Bonner's cases that Corrigan oversaw, he granted the prisoner's "equitable tolling," forgiving the missed deadline. "I would be remiss,' Corrigan continued, "if I did not share my deep concern that in these cases our federal system of justice fell short in the very situation where the stakes could not be higher."

Clearly distressing to both judges and the Justice Department, outgoing attorney general Eric Holder noted that he would remark on issues with the death penalty and the missed deadlines to President Barack Obama. "When you're talking about the state taking someone's life, there has to be a great deal of flexibility within the system to deal with things like deadlines," Holder said. "If you rely on process to deny what could be a substantive claim, I worry about where that will lead us."

As advocates for clients who do not have the necessary legal knowledge to defend themselves, these lawyers' failures to file their petitions essentially strip prisoners of their constitutionally granted habeas corpus rights. These failings, as recorded in this report, reflect the need for journalist watchdogs to follow and report on those upending the justice system



Holder: America Has Probably Executed an Innocent Inmate

In his waning days as U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder reflected on his legacy in an interview with the Marshall Project, the criminal justice-themed journalism venture headed by former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller.

Here are some highlights from the interview, according to an edited transcript published by the site.

Death-penalty fears: Mr. Holder, who says he is personally opposed to capital punishment, predicted that America will one day execute an innocent death-row inmate, if it hasn't already.

"Men and women who are dedicated, but dedicated men and women can make mistakes. And I find it hard to believe that in our history that has not happened," Mr. Holder said. "I think at some point, we will find a person who was put to death and who should not have been, who was not guilty of a crime," he said, taking issue with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's suggestion in 2006 that the nation's capital punishment system has never made such an error.

Future of marijuana laws: Mr. Holder said the Obama administration’s decision not to challenge new state laws legalizing recreational marijuana "really shows leadership." He predicted that [marijuana] decriminalization efforts will "be more widespread around the country," and encouraged Congress to get more involved in the issue.

His biggest accomplishment: He said he's most proud of policies he put in place that give prosecutors more leeway when it comes to charging and sentencing recommendations. His push toward "individualized determinations" - taking into account factors such as the nature of the crime and its impact on victims - departed from a Bush administration policy of requiring prosecutors to charge defendants with "the most serious, readily provable offense" with limited exceptions.

Biggest disappointment: The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses still needs to be reduced, said Mr. Holder. A 2010 law closed some of the gap, but he said crack-possession penalties on a gram-per-gram basis are still too harsh relative to cocaine punishments.

On state efforts to reduce their prison populations: "This cannot be seen as simply something that is cost-saving, because that would potentially lead to states' doing exactly what you say: racing to the bottom, and just trying to push people out of prison," Mr. Holder said. "[I]f you do that you're really only putting people out for some short period of time before they ultimately come back. So there has to be a greater emphasis on rehabilitation while people are in prison, and then reentry efforts to prepare them to exit prison."

Praise for Koch brothers: Mr. Holder had some kind words for liberal bugaboo Koch Industries Inc., which recently announced a grant to support indigent defense training programs. "To hear that the Koch brothers would be contributing money in that way is something that I think should be applauded," he said.

(source: Wall Street Journal)


Fort Carson soldier charged with killing comrade

A Fort Carson soldier has been charged with killing a comrade overseas in May, the post announced Tuesday.

An evidence hearing is set for Wednesday to determine if Spc. Jeffery T. Page will be court-martialed in the death of Spc. Adrian M. Perkins, 19, of Pine Valley, Calif.

The 2 soldiers were deployed to Jordan as trainers with the post's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The Army had been tight-lipped on Perkins' death and the announcement Tuesday is the 1st public acknowledgment that he was killed.

The Pentagon attributed the May 17 death in Amman as a "a non-combat related injury."

At the time the post said Perkins died at a Jordanian military base and the circumstances were "under investigation."

Page faces several charges related to the killing including murder and manslaughter. The breadth of charges is not unusual for military trials, where several charges can be brought to an evidence hearing with just the substantiated counts going forward to trial.

Wednesday's hearing at the post should shed light on the case.

Like a civilian grand jury proceeding, the hearing will see prosecutors and defense lawyers vet evidence in the case before an investigating officer.

Once the evidence is aired, the investigating officer writes up recommendations on how the case should proceed.

If Page proceeds to trial, he could face the most serious charge in military justice.

In military law, premeditated killing comes with a mandatory life sentence, and military prosecutors can seek the death penalty.



Fist fight erupts as court postpones Abra trials

The trial of Abra detainees ended Tuesday in a clash between 1 of the suspects and the police as the military court decided to postpone the trial until Dec. 2, judicial sources said.

The military court delayed the trial of the Abra detainees after interrogating 8 suspects.

When the session ended, 1 of the captives requested to talk to the judge. Military police refused to let him, and the suspect began to yell. A scuffle then broke out between the suspect and the military police, who were able to put the situation under control.

The military court is trying 71 people, including radical preacher Ahmad al-Assir, over last year's clashes in Abra.

The suspects, including Assir and 24 other fugitives, are accused of murdering and attempting to murder soldiers and civilians, of committing terrorist operations, possessing weapons and explosives, instigating sectarian tension and calling for sectarian fighting.

If convicted, many of the detainees could face death penalty.

The anti-Hezbollah preacher, whose followers clashed with the Lebanese Army in June 2013, is still on the run, while many of his followers were arrested after the clashes.

The attacks resulted in the death of 18 Army soldiers and around 40 of Assir's followers. The Army was able to arrest 46 suspects.

Assir was the imam of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Abra, near which the clashes occurred, and a critic of Hezbollah's activity in Sidon. He claimed that the Lebanese government was controlled by Hezbollah and that state institutions, especially its security forces, were biased against Sunnis.

The families of the detainees have demonstrated on several occasions to demand the quick and fair trial of their sons, after the case has been delayed multiple times.

(source: The Daily Star)


Man sentenced to death for killing 2 children

A local court today awarded capital punishment to a person for killing 2 children last year.

Additional District Judge, Bhudev Gautam, gave death penalty to Mahipal for killing 6-year-old Vikash and his cousin Jitendra (7) on January 9, 2013 over a land dispute with their family.

Both the brothers were abducted by Mahipal from their house in Kanakpur village in Dataganj area and were later killed.

The police had later arrested the accused.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Christian Professor in Pakistan Accused of Blasphemy, May Face Death Penalty Like Asia Bibi

A Christian professor was arrested for blasphemy in Lahore, Pakistan, and has been accused of desecrating the name of the Prophet Mohammad, the same charge brought against Christian mother Asia Bibi, who is currently facing the death penalty.

According to Fides News Agency, Qaiser Ayub, a computer science professor, had been a fugitive for close to three years after hiding from police when accused of writing blasphemous comments on his blog.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, national director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development, said that despite the threat of arrest, the professor had been teaching recently at a school in Lahore, which triggered the police warrant.

"We also request prayer for him," Gill said, noting that his group will be providing legal assistance.

Currently, Ayub is being held at a police station in the town of Talagang in Punjab's Chakwal District.

The allegations brought against Ayub are the same ones brought against Christian mother of 5 Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being accused of blaspheming against Islam by a group of Muslim women.

In response, the American Center for Law and Justice has started a petition asking the U.S. government to stop sending foreign aid to Pakistan.

"We must stop sending billions of our taxpayer dollars to nations that persecute Christians. It's that simple. Not one more dime for persecution. Cut off American foreign aid to any country that persecutes Christians," states the petition, addressing Congress and President Barack Obama.

"As a wave of persecution sweeps across the Middle East - and Christians flee for their lives - it's time for the money to stop," it adds. "Already there is growing support for basic human rights and basic common sense on Capitol Hill."

Earlier this month, a Christian couple who was killed and set on fire by a Muslim mob allegedly for desecrating the Quran. However, media reports have revealed that the origins of this incident actually lay in a financial dispute between the couple and their employer, a local brick kiln owner.

"This incident appears to be yet another tragic example of how the social environment created by Pakistan's blasphemy laws allows personal disputes and vendettas to be pursued under religious pretexts, encouraging mob violence," says Peter Prove, director of the World Council of Church's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

"Christians in Pakistan are not safe as long as the current blasphemy laws exists. They are just misused to persecute them."

According to BBC News, "scores" of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.

The offense, which often carries life in prison or the death penalty as punishment, has been widely used to target religious minorities, which account for 50 % of those accused of blasphemy.

Since 2002, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern," a step that would make it eligible for sanctions or other measures intended to prod governments to stop violating religious freedom.



Family of BBC cameraman murdered in Saudi terror attack regret killer's death sentence -- Simon Cumbers died while filming near Riyadh in 2004

The family of a BBC cameraman who was shot dead in a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia 10 years ago have spoken of their regret over his killer's death sentence, saying the condemned man's parents "must now suffer that tremendous loss that we feel".

Simon Cumbers, an Irish national, was murdered while filming a news item about al-Qaeda near Riyadh in June 2004. The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, was also severely injured in the attack.

Mr Cumbers" killer, Adil Sa'ad Al-Dubayti Al Mutayri, has now been convicted of murder and of declaring war against the state. On Monday a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced him to death alongside 2 other defendants.

The cameraman's parents, Robert and Bronagh, from Navan in County Meath, have previously called on the Saudi Arabian authorities not to execute their son's killer.

"Simon was a pacifist, someone who would not have wanted the death penalty and would have opposed it. We do not want this man to be executed if he is found guilty," Mr Cumbers said in 2009.

In a statement issued to Irish broadcaster RTE after the court announced its decision, he said the family's view had not changed: "I have mixed feelings about the sentencing. On the one hand, I am pleased that the murderer has had his fate decided and that the long wait is over.

"It won't bring Simon back, but it puts an end to the waiting. On the other hand, both Bronagh and I sympathise with Dubayti's [the sentenced man] parents, who must now suffer that tremendous loss that we feel."

As well as being convicted of shooting the BBC crew, the men were accused of multiple murders in separate attacks in Riyadh and Alkhobar over a long period. The sentences, which are subject to appeal, were also criticised by Amnesty International, which condemns the death penalty in all cases.

Tim Hancock, the director of policy at Amnesty UK, said: "Amnesty of course opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the circumstances. It is the ultimate inhuman act.

"Saudi Arabia executes a lot of people; 79 last year. They have embarked on a killing spree in 2014, at one point over the summer executing at a rate of more than one person every day.

"This crime is an appalling one, shooting journalists going about their work is an abhorrent act of cowardice, but killing, even killing a killer, is never right."

Mr Cumbers had previously worked for both ITN and Channel 4 and also set up his own production company with his wife Louise. Mr Gardner suffered life-changing injuries in the attack and now relies on a wheelchair.

In his 2007 book Blood and Sand, in which he recounts his experience of being shot and left for dead, the BBC correspondent described Mr Cumbers as a man of "endless patience and good humour" who had a "kind and big-hearted family". "There were others at the BBC who knew Simon much better than I did, but he was one of those rare people with such natural charisma you only had to be with him for 5 minutes and you felt you had known him a lifetime," Mr Gardner wrote.

Recalling the memorial service for his colleague held at Fleet Street's St Bride's Church, he wrote: "After all my months in hospital it finally hit home hard: Simon was dead, because of the trip we had gone on together. I had survived and he had not. I would have given anything to wake up and realize it had just been a terrible dream, that Simon was still doing what he loved, making superb films or just making everyone around him smile and laugh."

(source: The Independent)


Ethiopia to execute Andy Tsege after was abducted in Yemen, and Britain in a state of anger

The family of a north London man who is facing the death penalty in Ethiopia has said the government should be doing more to help get him home.

Andy Tsege, from Islington, who opposes the Ethiopian authorities, was seized in June and has been in solitary confinement ever since, his family says.

The UK Foreign Office says he is not being held "illegally".

The international community expressed feelings of deep frustration because of the deterioration of human rights situation and freedom of expression in Ethiopia.

The Prime Minister has personally intervened in the case of a British father-of-3 facing the death sentence in Ethiopia, after the man's children appealed for his help.

David Cameron wrote to the Ethiopian Prime Minister in a bid to save the life of Andargachew "Andy" Tsege, 59, whose plight was revealed by The Independent Newspaper.

His actions were in response to what he described as "very touching messages" from Mr Tsege's children, who are calling for the Prime Minister to help get their father home.

Mr Tsege, who came to Britain as a political refugee in 1979, was arrested at an airport in Yemen in June and promptly vanished. 2 weeks later it emerged he had been sent to Ethiopia, where he has been imprisoned ever since. The Briton, a prominent opponent of the Ethiopian regime, is facing a death sentence imposed 5 years ago at a trial held in his absence.

Britain axes aid to Ethiopian police amid human rights outcry

Britain has suspended most of a 27 million pounds aid programme to support Ethiopia's police force, The Telegraph has learnt, amid mounting allegations of torture, rape and murder by the regime.

Ministers pulled the plug on a scheme intended to improve criminal investigations, help Ethiopian police "interact with communities on local safety" and help women access the justice system.

The cancellation coincides with an Amnesty International report that documents how the Ethiopian security forces have conducted a campaign of torture, mutilation, rape and murder in order to suppress political opposition.

Britain has given 1 billion pounds in aid, including around 70 million pounds for "governance and security" projects, to the country over 3 years. Critics of the ruling regime have disappeared, and Amnesty International found allegations of men being blinded and women being gang raped and burnt with hot coals by regime officials.

There are mounting fears for the safety of Andy Tsege, a British national and critic of the regime, who was abducted in Yemen before being tortured and sentenced to death.

(source: Diplomat)


Robert Ellis wife asked alleged killers to murder husband - but not 'sadistically'

The wife of a UK-born Australian resident murdered in Bali had admitted ordering his killing, but says she told his alleged assassins not to do it "sadistically".

A re-enactment of the death of Robert Ellis was carried out on Monday, involving his wife Noor, her 2 maids, 3 men arrested for the crime, and with police officers playing the parts of 2 men still wanted.

The body of 60-year-old was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in a rice field on 21 October.

Noor could face the death penalty for arranging the grisly crime.

The usually stylish Noor wore prison-issue orange on Monday as she demonstrated for police and the media the 19 October meeting with the alleged killers.

"I only told you that you could kill him but not sadistically," she said during the re-enactment to 1 of the men, Urbanus.

Urbanus, who was only arrested after being shot and captured after fleeing to the island of Sumba, replied: "I still remember you said that to me."

She sealed the deal by linking pinky fingers with 1 of the men still on the run.

They then reconstructed how Noor handed Aril, a boyfriend of one of her maids, a brown envelope containing Rp 100m as payment.

She had passed the package through the window of her car while parked in a Sanur street.

Following her request not to be sadistic, the men abandoned plans to use wooden sticks.

Instead, Ellis was to have his throat slashed in the kitchen of his Sanur villa later that night, after Noor took the men there to survey it.

Before Monday's re-enactment, Noor, a successful dive business operator, had claimed she ordered the men to hurt her husband, not kill him.

She says she was bitter about her husband's infidelity and the division of their finances.

Her defence lawyer has said she was stunned to discover her husband dead, and was "hysterical, frightened and confused".

The couple's 2 sons live and study in Perth.

Ellis, whose business interests spanned property, telecommunications and aviation, was laid to rest in New Zealand.

(source: The Guardian)


3 prisoners hanged in public

The Iranian regime's henchmen executed 3 prisoners in public on Saturday using a crane, pulley system and a specially adapted device for group executions.

The 3 men were hanged in the city of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran.

The identities of the 3 prisoners were not revealed and no specific information was provided about the crimes committed, their time of arrest or if they had been sentenced through any process within the clerical regime's own laws.

The graphic images of the brutal public hangings were published in the local media in order to intimidate the public.

At least 9 prisoners were hanged last week in Iran, including 2 political prisoners, as the execution rate soars under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani.

The political prisoners named as Vahid Shahbakhsh and Mahmoud Shahbakhsh were hanged in the main prison in the city of Zahedan, south-eastern Iran.

Vahid had been sentenced to 3 years imprisonment plus execution and was held in section 4 of the prison.

In a letter to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Vahid Shahbakhsh had revealed the torture he had been subjected to.

Vahid's letter that has surfaced on the Internet said: "I was at my home on May 22, 2014 when the members of Quds Force attacked my residents with rocket launchers and mortar shells. While I was severely injured with shrapnel in my body I was taken to a detention center and put under torture."

Mahmoud, 26, had been sentenced to death and was being held in section 1 of the prison.

Further reports received from inside the regime said another prisoner named as Bahador Niroomand was hanged in the main prison in the city of Bandar-Abbas on the same day.

3 more prisoners named as Morteza Rostami, Hooshang Saki and Mohammad Gholampour were also hanged in Shahab prison in city of Kerman on November 13.

(source: NCR - Iran)


New Video Footage Reveals Slow Strangulation in Public Executions in Iran

A video footage showing the public executions of last Saturday (15. November) in Bandar Abbas has been released by the "human rights activists news agency" (HRANA). The video shows 3 prisoners with the noose around their neck being slowly pulled up by a crane. This happens in front of tens of ordinary people.

The method has been previously described by Iran Human Rights (IHR) as slow strangulation where the prisoner suffers several minutes before the death occurs due to suffocation. There are several videos of public executions showing that this method is being systematically used by the Iranian authorities. In some cases it takes up to 15 minutes till the prisoner dies.

IHR strongly urges the international community to react in order to stop the public executions in Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR says: "Besides being a dehumanizing and barbaric punishment, Iranian authorities' method of execution is pure torture. The prisoner dies a slow and painful death in front of the horrified children and adults. The international community must not tolerate such barbaric punishments in a country which is a full member of the United Nations."

During the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on October 31 several countries recommended Iran to immediately stop the public executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Fast-tracked bill would shield execution drug

Opponents have lined up to testify against a fast-tracked legislative proposal to shield the names of companies whose drugs are used for lethal injections in Ohio.

The bill introduced a week ago and already set for a vote later this week in the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee also would bar companies from entering into contracts prohibiting states from acquiring drugs for executions.

The bill also prevents information about a lethal injection drugmaker or distributor from being disclosed in court.

Such a proposal raises separation of power issues at the state and federal levels and likely would be ignored by a federal judge, state public defender Tim Young planned to tell the committee.

The Republican-backed legislation is sponsored by state Reps. Jim Buchy and Matt Huffman and pushed by prosecutors, who say the bill is needed to help restart executions in the state. Buchy has said he believes the bill is constitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other groups also planned to testify at Tuesday's hearing.

Lawmakers are rushing the plan through before year's end even though the state prisons agency first proposed the need for confidentiality almost 2 years ago.

Ohio's execution policy calls for the warden over death row to determine a month ahead of time if the state has enough drugs for an execution.

The state's next scheduled execution is Feb. 11, when Ronald Phillips is set to die for the 1993 killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.

That puts the state's deadline for obtaining its 1st choice - compounded pentobarbital - by early next year.

Executions have been on hold since January, when inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during a 26-minute execution that raised questions about the 2-drug method used to put him to death that had never been tried. Problems with this combo were further underscored in July when an Arizona inmate took nearly 2 hours to die.

A federal judge delayed executions because of questions raised by McGuire's death.

(source: Associated Press)


Former death row inmate addresses TN death penalty

At a time when more people are questioning the death penalty, Tennessee is trying to push through multiple executions.

According to Death Penalty Information Center, there are 9 inmates with scheduled executions in Tennessee and 2 with stays.

Monday night, a former death row inmate spoke at the University of Tennessee about how he was convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Ray Krone served more than 10 years in prison.

In 1991, Kim Ancona, 36, was murdered in a Phoenix, Arizona bar. Investigators pinpointed the murder, kidnapping and sexual assault on Krone. A jury then found Krone guilty of her murder and kidnapping.

"Once you're arrested, it's really hard to fight that system. It cost so much money that even working for the post office, I couldn't come near affording the $100,000 to defend myself. And being innocent, I thought, 'What do I have to worry anyway? I'll be fine. I didn't do anything,'" Krone said.

Krone was sentenced to death in 1991. It was not until 2002 that DNA testing proved Krone to be innocent.

"It's just important for everyone to understand that the justice system isn't perfect and there are people out there that are behind bars for crimes they didn't commit," said Phillip Gaul, a UT senior and treasurer for Young Americans for Liberty at UT.

Young Americans for Liberty hosted the conversation. They were joined by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and the Knoxville Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The discussion included a growing number of conservatives who are rethinking the death penalty.

"We do exist to change that narrative because there is a fiction out there that all conservatives support the death penalty. And I'm proof that we don't and we're out there trying to change that narrative," said Marc Hyden, advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

It is Krone's hope that a new narrative will form in Tennessee--one that doesn't include the death penalty.

"Right now, here in Tennessee, they want to rush the executions. Tennessee has had a number of exonerations itself. We don't get it right always," Krone said. "We have a problem when we have a punishment, execution of taking someone's life, when we can't actually be absolutely sure."

Krone, originally from Pennsylvania, now lives in Newport. He is the director of membership and training for Witness to Innocence.

(source: WBIR news)


Supreme Court overturns Dickson inmate's death sentence

The Tennessee Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence for an inmate convicted of a 1995 murder and kidnapping. A statement from the court says justices decided on Monday to order a new sentencing hearing for Jerry Ray Davidson in the slaying of Virginia Jackson in Dickson.

Although the court upheld his convictions in the slaying of Virginia Jackson in Dickson, justices determined that Davidson's lawyers failed to present mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase of his trial.

They said his lawyers had records documenting his struggles with mental illness, but failed to present any evidence of it. Justices found that defense attorneys in death penalty cases are obligated by the constitution to present "mitigation evidence" that would help a jury assess the defendant's moral culpability.

(source: The Tennessean)


Supreme Court Affirms Death Row Inmate's Murder Conviction But Orders Another Sentencing Hearing

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a death row inmate's conviction for 1st-degree murder. However, it has ordered a new sentencing hearing because the lawyers representing the man at trial did not properly represent him.

Jerry Ray Davidson was convicted of the 1995 murder of Virginia Jackson in Dickson. At the time of his trial, his defense attorneys possessed numerous records documenting Davidson's troubled background and long history of mental illness.

During the sentencing hearing following Davidson's conviction for 1st degree murder, his lawyers failed to provide the jury with any evidence about Davidson's history of psychiatric problems. Accordingly, the jury sentenced Davidson to death without knowing about his diminished mental functioning.

In this challenge to his conviction and sentence, Davidson argued that the lawyers who represented him at trial violated his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel by failing to inform the jury of his physical brain abnormalities, cognitive deficiencies, and psychoses. In addressing these claims, the Supreme Court agreed that defense attorneys in death penalty cases have a constitutional duty to collect and present to the jury any "mitigation evidence" that could help the jury assess the defendant's moral culpability.

The Supreme Court held that the attorneys' failure to provide the jury with any information concerning Davidson's brain abnormalities and cognitive and psychological problems deprived Mr. Davidson of his constitutional right to effective representation. Although the Court upheld his convictions for 1st degree premeditated murder and aggravated kidnapping, the Court remanded his case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

In a separate opinion, Justice Gary R. Wade concurred with the Court's conclusion that Davidson was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. However, Justice Wade also decided that Davidson's attorneys had not effectively represented him during the guilt phase of the trial and, therefore, that Davidson was also entitled to a new trial on his guilt or innocence.

To read the majority opinion in Jerry Ray Davidson v. State of Tennessee, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., and the separate opinion by Justice Wade, visit the opinions section of

(source: The Chattanoogan)


Prospective jurors in Davis death penalty case undergo questioning

At the end of court on Monday, 11 prospective jurors had been passed for cause by prosecutors and defense attorneys in the trial of Billy Frank Davis Jr., who is charged in Shawnee County District Court with capital murder in the slaying of an 8-year-old girl in 2012.

Another 40 must be passed for cause before the pool of 51 prospective jurors is whittled down to a 12-member jury and 5 alternate jurors, which will hear the Davis case.

Monday was the 1st day prospective jurors were questioned individually during the jury selection process. Those passed for cause on Monday were told it could be early next week before 51 prospective jurors are passed for cause, then the jurors and alternates are selected.

Davis, 31, of Topeka, is charged with 2 alternative counts of capital murder in the killing of Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin, 8, who was slain March 13, 2012. Her body was found in a clothes dryer in an apartment basement in Highland Park.

Davis also is charged with an alternative count of 1st-degree murder of the child; rape; aggravated kidnapping; 1 count of burglary; and 2 counts of aggravated burglary. Additionally, he faces 2 counts of misdemeanor criminal damage to property.

Davis has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, Davis could face the death penalty.

On Monday, those called for jury duty were called into the courtroom of District Court Judge David Debenham in panels of 10 for some initial questioning. Then individually, they were questioned about 2 questions.

--Have you heard any news coverage about the Davis case and if you have, can you set it aside to decide the verdict based only on evidence presented during the trial?

--What is your opinion of the death penalty?

If Davis is convicted of capital murder, jurors then would decide whether to recommend to Debenham to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.

Defense attorney Mark Manna told prospective jurors it takes only 1 juror to favor life imprisonment to veto imposition of the death penalty even if the other 11 jurors favor the death penalty; that only 1 mitigating factor in the face of multiple aggravating factors could block the death penalty; and that a juror could adopt a mitigating factor that hasn't been suggested to jurors.

Among those passed for cause during the morning session were a woman who said she didn't have any opinion about the death penalty, a man who said the death penalty should be an option but he would consider mercy as a mitigating factor, and a man who said he was morally opposed to the death penalty except in "extreme cases," including the torture of the victim.

When 51 have been passed for cause, each side, 1 at a time, will exercise 17 peremptory challenges.

The 34 peremptory challenges will whittle down the 51 prospective jurors to 12 jurors and 5 alternates.

The alternates won't learn their classification until after all the evidence is presented and just before the case goes to the jury for deliberation. The trial is expected to take 4 weeks. After a jury is chosen, prosecution and defense opening statements will be made, and witnesses will be called to testify.

Jury selection resumes Tuesday morning.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)


Testimony in Arias penalty-phase retrial delayed

Testimony in Jodi Arias' penalty-phase retrial has been delayed.

Jurors heard testimony Monday morning but Judge Sherry Stephens of Maricopa County Superior Court then excused them in the afternoon until Thursday.

She announced there had been an emergency but didn't elaborate.

Arias was found guilty of murder last year in the 2008 killing of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home, but jurors deadlocked on whether Arias should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

Prosecutors now trying to secure a death sentence from a new jury. Otherwise, Arias faces life in prison.

(source: KGUN news)


Surviving bank robbery suspect pleads not guilty

The surviving suspect in a July bank robbery that left a hostage and 2 suspects dead in a shootout with police pleaded not guilty Monday in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

Jaime Ramos, 19, faces charges stemming from the July 16 robbery of Bank of the West in Stockton.

Ramos is charged with 3 counts of murder in the deaths of Alex Martinez, 27, and Gilbert Renteria, 30, who were killed in a final shootout with officers, and for the death of hostage Misty Holt-Singh, who police say was hit by officer gunfire while Ramos used her as a shield.

The lengthy complaint against Ramos lists 2 dozen attempted murder counts for firing at a host of officers and taking 2 other hostages. Ramos also is accused of assault, kidnapping, firearm and gang charges.

Attorneys on Monday set a preliminary hearing for a judge to hear a sample of evidence and decide whether there is enough evidence to hold Ramos to charges.

Deputy Public Defender Jonathan Fattarsi said in court that Ramos was not willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days of the plea. The hearing was set for Jan. 8.

Prosecutor Mark Ott has said he is considering taking the matter to a criminal grand jury in lieu of a preliminary hearing. It would have to take place before the preliminary hearing.

Ott has said if he goes with a grand jury, it would be a decision to counter the possibility defense attorneys file court papers to move the trial outside of San Joaquin County on grounds media attention has affected the local jury pool's ability to be fair in trial.

A grand jury would hear testimony in closed session, minimizing the dissemination of information before trial, whereas a preliminary hearing before a judge is open to the public.

Prosecutors want to avoid a long and expensive change in venue, Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said. Himelblau, who also is the spokesman for the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, filled in for Ott at Monday's hearing.

If a change in venue is approved, San Joaquin County would have to pay for witnesses to be transported to another county; temporary housing for attorneys, a judge and court clerks; and a deal with the designated county's jail to hold the defendant.

Family members of the victim also would be burdened to pay for travel and hotel stays.

"It's a massive expense," Himelblau said.

Monday's not-guilty plea was not a surprise.

In most serious cases involving long sentences, defense attorneys advise clients to initially plead not guilty and wait for evidence to come out, Himelblau said. Another reason is Ramos still is a candidate for the death penalty. It is unusual for defendants in that position to admit to every charge, Himelblau said.

Prosecutors have not yet made a decision whether to pursue the death penalty.

(source: Stockton Record)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Syrian drug smuggler beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia today beheaded a Syrian convicted of drug trafficking, official media said, bringing to 68 the number of people executed this year despite international concern.

"Talal Ali Qassem was captured smuggling a large quantity of methamphetamine. Investigations led to his confession," the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the interior ministry.

Qassem was executed in the northern region of Jawf.

The ministry says the government is battling narcotics "because of their great harm to individuals and society."

In September, an independent expert working on behalf of the United Nations called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Christof Heyns said that among his concerns was the obtaining of confessions under torture.

Rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are also punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


3 get death in Saudi for plots to 'wreak havoc'

3 people were sentenced to death and several others jailed in Saudi Arabia on Monday for Al-Qaeda linked crimes including the deadly bombing of a foreigners' housing compound, official media said.

The attack on the Al-Mahya compound 11 years ago killed 17 people, mostly from Arab countries.

A special court in the capital Riyadh convicted a total of eight accused, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

In addition to those who received the death penalty, 5 others in the same "cell" were jailed for between 25 and 30 years for crimes including weapons possession and money laundering, SPA said.

It described as "heinous" the acts of those sentenced to death but did not detail their exact roles.

The group was convicted of offences that included "pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda", and planning to storm companies and a residential compound in the Gulf coast community of Khobar, SPA said.

There they planned to kill "a large number of people from different nationalities as well as security men," it added.

The accused also prepared car bombs in a plan to "wreak havoc" inside the kingdom, SPA said.

Authorities in 2011 established specialised tribunals to try Saudis and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda or of involvement in deadly attacks in the country from 2003-2006.

The latest convictions come with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours taking part in US-led air strikes against Islamic State group extremists in Syria, which has raised concerns about possible retaliation in the kingdom.

(source: Asia One)


Death sentences

The man who gunned down an Irish cameraman working for the BBC in Saudi Arabia 10 years ago has been sentenced to death, a diplomatic source told AFP on Tuesday.

Simon Cumbers, 36, was filming near the home of a wanted militant in the Saudi capital when he was killed in the 2004 attack, in which the current BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was also left paralyzed.

The man, reportedly a Saudi, "was sentenced for the murder of Simon Cumbers," said the source, who was present at Monday's court hearing.

"As I understand it, there was a whole series of charges," which also related to the wounding of Gardner, said the source.

Cumber's killer was among 3 men the official Saudi Press Agency reported were sentenced to death on Monday for al-Qaeda linked crimes.

5 others were jailed for between 25 and 30 years for similar offenses.

Moreover, Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences for 5 pro-democracy advocates, including prominent activist and cleric Nimr al-Nimr, for their part in protests.

Human rights organizations and activists have called on Saudi Arabia to overturn the death sentences handed down to pro-democracy activists, accusing the Saudi regime of curbing freedom of speech and opinion.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi authorities to abolish The Specialized Criminal Court, the body that sentenced the 5 activists and many others to death, saying that analysis revealed "serious due process concerns" such as "broadly framed charges," "denial of access to lawyers," and "quick dismissal of allegations of torture without investigation."



2 Sunni Baloch prisoners executed in Iran

2 Sunni prisoners of conscience from Iran's Baloch minority were executed on Thursday morning in Zahedan Central prison, Sistan-Baluchestan province of Iran.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 22-year old Vahid Shah Bakhsh and 23-year old Mahmoud Shah Bakhsh were taken to the gallows and hanged on 13 November 2014 on charges of 'Moharabeh [enmity against God] and acting against national security'.

Both men had been subjected to severe torture whilst being held at the Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center in Zahedan, and the details surrounding their cases are still unclear at this stage.

Vahid Shah Bakhsh (also known as Abdol Rahman, the son of Ghous Uddin) and Mahmoud Shah Bakhsh (also known as Junaid, the son of Dur Mohammad) were arrested in Zahedan in April 2012.

Vahid Shah Bakhsh had been active in criticizing the Iranian government and speaking out against the oppression faced by the Sunni Baloch minority in Iran.

He had been on school study-leave and was at home when the security forces raided his house without warning and opened fire. He was shot and severely wounded, but was taken to the Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center without receiving adequate medical treatment.

Both he and Mahmoud Shah Bakhsh were subjected to severe torture whilst in the detention of the Ministry of Intelligence.

On 8 January 2014, the men were sentenced to death by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Zahedan for 'Moharabeh (enmity against God) and acting against national security'.

Mahmoud Shah Bakhsh was again transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention center in Zahedan in early January 2014, where he was held for 3 days and physically and psychologically tortured by interrogators who tried to force him to make a filmed false 'confession'.

He refused to make a filmed 'confession' and was transferred back to Ward 1 of Zahedan prison (also known as 'the Youth Ward').

On 12 February 2014, Mahmoud Shah Bakhsh was once again transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention center. This time, after extensive torture, he was forced to make a filmed 'confession'.

Iranian state-run media often broadcasts 'confessions' of prisoners, which are usually obtained through torture, in an attempt to sway public opinion and justify the executions.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Ndala's killers sentenced to death

A Congolese army officer and 4 Ugandan rebels were sentenced to death on Monday for the killing of a colonel credited with making great strides in restoring peace to the east of the DRC.

The military tribunal in North Kivu province concluded that soldiers plotted to kill Mamadou Ndala and that Ugandan rebels carried out the killing, its chief judge Colonel Joseph Maya Mokako told AFP.

Ndala commanded wide respect for leading operations against the M23 rebel movement, which was finally defeated in November last year.

Ndala, who embodied hopes for a disciplined, effective and republican army in the DRC, was killed in an ambush in January.

At the time the army was preparing a major operation against another group, the Allied Democratic Forces, which had operated in the east since fleeing Uganda in 1995 and were blamed for massacring some 120 civilians in October and November 2013.

Aged just 35, Ndala had won over the local population in North Kivu, reconciling them with an army generally known for its ineffectiveness and indiscipline, as well as abuses against civilians.

He was promoted to general after his death.

The DR Congo is observing a moratorium on the death penalty, so the sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment.

Lieutenant-Colonel Birotso Nzanzu was sentenced to death and expelled from the army, Colonel Maya Mokako told AFP by telephone from the North Kivu capital Goma.

4 ADF members including their leader Jamil Mukulu got the death sentence in absentia.

Another officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Joker Kamuleta, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars and a civilian got 15 years.

The court also meted out sentences of between one and five years to a dozen other defendants while acquitting 5 including Lieutenant-Colonel Tito Bizuru and his deputy Captain Moise Moussa Banza, a former aide to Ndala accused of stealing property belonging to him.

Multiple armed groups still operate in the mineral-rich region, which has been in turmoil for the best part of the past 2 decades.

(source: IOL news)


SA can't save 'killer' from execution

The South African government has conceded it has no control over the fate of Botswana national Edwin Samotse, who might be sentenced to death if convicted of murder.

South Africa was once in a firm position to negotiate with the Gaborone government not to impose the death penalty were Samotse to be found guilty of murder. But South Africa lost that advantage when Home Affairs officials deported Samotse to Botswana without ensuring whether he would be spared the death penalty were he to be found guilty. Samotse had been on the run from the law following the alleged murder of a woman in that country in 2010.

He was arrested in Botswana in March 2010 on a charge of murder, and fled to South Africa in March 2011. He was detained at the Polokwane police station while awaiting extradition proceedings but was deported on August 13.

On September 23, Judge Eberhard Bertelsman ruled in the Pretoria High Court that Samotse's deportation was unlawful and unconstitutional.

The judge ordered the department to investigate the circumstances surrounding his handing over to Botswana authorities.

But Botswana had no obligation to accede to South Africa's pleas and protestations, said spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs Mayihlome Tshwete.

Tshwete said the department had complied with the court's instruction to investigate Samotse's deportation and report back to it. "There are people appearing for disciplinary hearings as we speak," he said.

(source: The Times)


House urges swift decision on death-row inmates

House of Representatives Commission III overseeing legal affairs has asked President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to quickly decide whether to give clemency or execute the death-sentenced inmates to ease burdens in penitentiaries across the country.

"The government must decide fast. If not, execute them soon so prisons won't be burdened," The commission's chairman, Aziz Syamsudin said during a visit along with 5 other legislators, to the Kerobokan penitentiary in Denpasar on Saturday.

Aziz, of the Golkar Party, said the death-row inmates contributed to the problem of overcapacity at the penitentiary and were burdens on the state budget.

"Every year, it costs the government Rp 5 trillion [US$400 million] to provide food for the inmates in all prison across Indonesia. If we let prisons remain at overcapacity, we will continue to waste our state budget," Aziz added.

Aziz said that he had received a letter from Amnesty International related to several international agreements on the death penalty that have been signed by Indonesia. Amnesty International, he said, had asked Indonesia to not implement the death penalty.

"However, according to our national law, for extraordinary crimes, convicts can be handed down the death sentence," Aziz said.

Amnesty International's suggestion regarding the death penalty, he said, would be followed up by revisions to several laws that stipulate the death penalty. "The government needs to revise laws so that they are in line with international agreements that have been signed," he said.

Aziz said that Commission III had proposed revisions to, among others, the Criminal Code, Narcotics Law, and Human Rights Law, which would be further discussed next year. The commission plans to revise 14 laws until 2019.

Meanwhile, Kerobokan prison warden Sudjonggo said that overcapacity at the prison made it difficult to manage as there were currently 60 foreign inmates from 22 countries serving sentences in the prison.

Kerobokan Penitentiary, the biggest prison on the resort island, is home to 877 prisoners, including three death-row inmates and 15 inmates serving life sentences. The prison recorded an overcapacity of 544 inmates as it should only be housing 323.

Among the death-row inmates are 2 members of the Bali 9, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, and 1 Indonesian sentenced in a murder case. Both convicted Australian drug smugglers made pleas for clemency several years ago, but have yet to receive an answer from the President.

Meanwhile, 13 of 15 inmates serving life sentences are foreigners. Bali 9 members are also among those serving life sentences and have yet to receive answers regarding proposed sentence reductions.

According to National Narcotics Agency (BNN) data, there are currently 77 convicts on death row.

Myuran Sukumaran said he was hopeful that President Jokowi would let him live. "Please give me a 2nd chance at life," Sukumaran said.

Sukumaran, who is currently actively setting up workshops in the prison, said that he was trying to turn his life around. "I am trying to be a better person," Sukumaran said.

(source: Jakarta Post)

NOVEMBER 17, 2014:


Sister of convicted killer: "He's not some monster"

A Monroe County man found guilty of murdering and dismembering a woman will soon learn his fate.

The same jury that convicted Charles Ray Hicks of murder in the 2008 death of Deanna Null will determine his punishment.

The 40-year-old faces the death penalty or life in prison.

Hicks was found guilty of 1st degree murder and other charges on Friday, after more than a week of testimony.

On Monday, the jury heard from a new panel of witnesses hoping to save his life.

For the 1st time since the beginning of the trial, Hicks' family members entered the courtroom.

"I love my family," Hicks told reporters Monday.

His mom and 2 sisters walked into the courtroom fighting back tears.

They were later called as witnesses.

His mother, Emma Hicks, was the 1st witness called upon by the defense.

The Texas-native told jurors a death-sentence would pain her to the core.

"Words can't describe how difficult that would be. Almost unimaginable," said Emma Hicks.

Hicks' mother also told jurors her son was a high school athlete and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2004.

His oldest sister, Charlotte, said her son looked up to him.

"I don't want him to see his uncle die." Charlotte Hicks said with teary eyes. "Even though things have happened, I still know he is a good person and a role model for my son."

An ex-fiancee told jurors she only saw Hicks become violent or unruly once.

She claimed he was high at the time, and said she later called off the wedding because of Hicks' drug habit.

Psychiatrist Kenneth Weiss testified Hicks has a history of mental illness. He is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and on at least 2 occasions tried to commit suicide, he said.

"He had tried to cut his wrists. That's when I knew," said Charlotte Hicks.

Defense attorney Robin Spishock described Hicks as a "model prisoner."

Prosecutors are looking to prove Hicks undoubtedly and intentionally tortured Null.

Null's body parts were found along 2 highways in Monroe and Lackawanna counties in 2008.

Her severed hands were discovered in Hicks' home in Tobyhanna, according to investigators.

Hicks can only be sentenced to death if the jury's decision is unanimous.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning.

(source: WFMZ news)


Use of Death Penalty Declines in Virginia

Virginia has executed more people in its history than any other state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, on Friday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took the death penalty off the table for 4 people charged in the death of reserve police officer Kevin Quick. Daniel Mathis, Shantai Shelton, Mersadies Shelton and Kweli Uhuru could instead face life in prison.

CBS19 legal analyst Scott Goodman says one of the factors that may have gone into Holder's decision was the number of defendants in the Quick case, and that several possible key witnesses are also charged, or have pleaded guilty, to crimes relating to Quick's death.

"The prosecution in this case has no doubt that they have the right people that are involved in the murder, but they may have some doubt on the relative culpability; whether they can rely on what some of the witnesses are telling them about who is the most responsible," Goodman said.

Goodman says ages of the individuals, lack of a prior violent record, and mental capacity can also play into the decision to take the death penalty off the table in any given case.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, executions in Virginia have seen a sharp decline from a peak of 57 inmates on death row in 1995 to 8 presently. Goodman says up until the 1970's the criteria was not as strict for imposing the death penalty as it is now.

"There was a time when you could impose the death penalty if it wasn't even a murder, a serious rape, people have been executed for that." Goodman said. "Depravity of mind, mutilation of the body, multiple stab wounds, only those types of murders qualify for the death penalty and those are a minority of the murders committed."

2 former Former Virginia Attorneys General have called for changes to the state's death penalty to minimize the risk of executing an innocent person based on a September 2013 report from the American Bar Association.

Capt. Kevin Quick went missing in January 2014, and his body was found in Goochland County days later. The 4 people charged in Quick's death are scheduled to go on trial in May.



Prosecution still deciding whether to seek death penalty in Kevin Millner homicide

The Guilford County district attorney's office is still deciding if it will seek the death penalty in the case of a man charged with shooting and killing a man in a hotel parking lot.

Montray Deboris Price, 21, of 1706-B Maplewood Lane is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Kevin Christopher Millner, 32. Millner was found shot dead in a car in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express at 4305 Big Tree Way on Sept. 2.

Prosecutor Chris Parrish said the district attorney's office has not decided if it will seek the death penalty in Price's case, should he be found guilty.

"It's too early in the process," he said.

Several members of Price's family were in Guilford County Superior Court on Monday to support Price.

Millner's family and Samantha Yost, Millner's girlfriend, were not there. Parrish said he had called to tell them there would be no decision on Monday. He was unaware Price's family would be there, he said. Also charged in Millner's homicide are Craig Deonte Hairston, 25, and Colby Wade Watkins, 29, both of Danville, Va. Hairston also is charged with 1st-degree murder and felony conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Watkins is charged with felony conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

(source: News-Record)


Starved woman expected to survive; DA considers death penalty for suspects

It isn't an easy consolation to accept, but Iasia Sweeting's family has come to believe her daughter didn't die in vain. Instead, they believe the 15-month-old died so that her mother might live.

"That was our immediate feeling," said Darnell Morgan, a cousin of the malnourished 21-year-old woman who was rescued by police last week from a Peachtree Corners hotel and is expected to recover. "She's definitely going to survive. There's no doubt about that."

Sweeting, a former DeKalb School of the Arts student, is recovering at Gwinnett Medical Center after being found in dire need of treatment in the Extended Stay America hotel, where her deceased daughter was also reportedly deprived of food for "misbehavior." The family says Sweeting has begun to speak again and that tests have come back showing no life-threatening damage to her gaunt body.

"Assuming her condition doesn't take a turn, the now 59-pound woman - whose family says she was abducted 4 years ago - will be a key witness in the state's case against her alleged tormenters, suspected cult members accused of starving the mother and baby.

"Considering the nature of disturbing case, District Attorney Danny Porter said Monday he may pursue the death penalty, though he was cautious not to lean one way yet.

"It's certainly something I'm going to look at," Porter said.

Calvin Mcintosh, 44, the father of the baby and a suspected member of separatist group the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, and his daughter Najlaa Mcintosh, 23, are accused of murder in baby Alcenti Mcintosh's death, along with a litany of other charges. Calvin Mcintosh is also accused of raping and fathering 2 children with Najlaa, who reportedly claims to be pregnant yet again.

Porter said he needed to do more research before deciding what punishment to seek on the murder charges. He's planning meet with medical examiners and experts to decide if capital punishment would be appropriate, as he believes it is in the case of the death of a 10-year-old Lawrenceville girl who was allegedly starved by her parents.

"We've decided to seek the death penalty in the Emani Moss case. Part of that's based on the idea that, for a child that age it, would take 30 days to starve her to death," Porter said. "I just don't know if the same thing applies with a 15-month-old. The good news is the child's mother survived. We'll get a better sense of what was happening in that hotel room than we have."

Police searched room 310 at the hotel last Tuesday after Calvin Mcintosh reportedly brought the 15-month-old to Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs. The child was pronounced dead on arrival and the man told officers she had died at the Extended Stay America on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, according to a police report.

Upon arrival there, police found Sweeting lying on the floor, wrapped in blankets and presumably not far from death. 3 children - a 5-year-old and two 3-year-olds - in the room were also believed to be severely malnourished. Police said 2 of the children were fathered by Calvin Mcintosh with his daughter. 1 of the 3-year-olds belonged to Calvin Mcintosh and Sweeting. Sweeting's mother is attempting to get custody of the child from the state.

Sweeting's family says she had been living the hotel for some time after Calvin Mcintosh "coerced" her away from DeKalb County in 2010, though they were never able to make contact with her to attempt to bring her home. Mcintosh wasn't charged in Sweeting's disappearance, as police ruled her a runaway. Later, she was stopped by a Gwinnett police officer and reportedly wasn't interested in going home.

Before the reunion last week, the family had been dogged in attempting to track down Sweeting. Her mother heard she had been seen at the hotel and went there every month hoping to see her. Morgan, Sweeting's cousin, said he once pulled the fire alarm to draw residents outside, but the residents had apparently grown accustomed to regular false alarms and ignored it.

Morgan said his cousin and the rest of the family is now focusing on moving forward.

"Everything is about future care," he said. "She's going to need at least a home health aid, she's going to need a hospital bed, she's going to need a psychiatrist."

(source: Gwinnett Daily Post)


Louisiana delays executions until late June, The Lens reports

Louisiana has put state executions on hold until after at least June 25, when legal proceedings over the constitutionality of Louisiana's method of putting prisoners to death will be taken up next in court, according to The Lens.

Lawyers for Christopher Sepulvado, who was sentenced to death for killing a child in a brutal manner, have been challenging Louisiana's lethal injection protocol for the last several months.

The state intended to administer the same drug on Sepulvado that was used in botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma. Questions were raised about whether Louisiana's lethal injection drugs would cause undue pain to Sepulvado and other people killed by the state.

Several states, including Louisiana, are having a difficult time securing a drug they prefer to use for executions. Many suppliers no longer want to provide the drug if it will be used to administer the death penalty. This means states are relying on new formulas, which could be leading to the execution problems.

The June death penalty delay means the Louisiana Legislature's next session will come and go before another person is executed. Lawmakers took up a few bills that would have altered the proceedings around the death penalty last year, though none ended up passing into law. It's possible execution protocol could change before June as a result of the 2015 session.

The Legislature has already set up a committee to examine the cost of carrying out the death penalty. There is also a study underway to research the best ways to administer executions -- possibly looking into alternatives to lethal injection for Louisiana.



Brothers in Barberton triple murder seek plea deal to avoid death penalty

2 brothers accused in the New Year's Eve triple murder of a family in Barberton are negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.

Michael and Eric Hendon both appeared in court on Monday in Akron. The pair is accused of shooting and killing John Kohler and his 2 children, Ashley and David, in their Barberton home.

Ronda Blankenship, who survived the shooting, was also in the courtroom.

Defense lawyers and the Summit County Prosecutor's Office tried to hammer out a deal, but after 3 hours of negotiations, no agreement was reached.

The plea deal could include life in prison with no chance of parole for the shooter, and maybe a life sentence with a possibility of parole for the other.

The prosecution received a confession from one of the brothers earlier in the case.

The Hendons are due back in court next week for an update on a possible plea agreement.

(source: WOIO news)


Akron police union president calls for execution of accused Akron cop killer

The president of the Akron police union believes that the man accused of killing an off-duty police officer and wounding 4 others should be sentenced to the death penalty.

Paul Hlynsky, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Akron Lodge No. 7, said on Monday that officers will ask prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Kenan Ivery, 35. He is charged with aggravated murder and 5 counts of felonious assault in Akron Municipal Court.

A judge ordered Ivery held without bond at his initial court appearance on Monday. He is scheduled for another hearing on Tuesday. The Summit County Prosecutors decide whether or not to present evidence to a grand jury for the death penalty.

The grand jury ultimately decides if the case will move forward with death specifications.

Ivery is accused of fatally shooting Officer Justin Winebrenner, 32, and wounding 4 others, including David Wokaty, 34, Michael Capes, 41, Jennifer Imhoff, 41, and off-duty officer Thomas Russell, 51.

"We're terribly upset about it. We lost one of our buddies, our members our comrades," Hlynsky said. "There's no way to take away this pain. He's a hero to us. We won't rest until this guy is executed."

Winbrenner was a 7-year police veteran, a father of a 4-year-old girl and engaged to be married to an employee of Papa Don's Pub, where the shooting happened.

Akron Police Chief James Nice said Winebrenner, Wokaty and Capes saved peoples' lives when Ivery opened fire on the bar early Sunday morning.

Nice detailed what he observed on surveillance video taken from the bar. He said Ivery was escorted out of the building once by an employee earlier in the night. The 2 talked for about 5 minutes.

Ivery returned to the bar later with a gun, Nice said. Winebrenner, Capes and Wokaty all noticed Ivery toting a gun, Nice said. Wokaty is a bouncer at the bar and Capes was a patron.

All 3 rushed Ivery as he pulled his gun, Nice said. Some shots were fired inside the bar and others were fired after the group shoved Ivery outside, Nice said.

Winebrenner was struck in the chest and Capes in the foot, according to Nice and court records.

"Their conduct is heroic," Nice said.

1 man suffered major injuries but is recovering. Another suffered injuries to his leg. The 2 others were shot in the arm and in the torso.

No one other than Ivery fired a shot in the bar, Nice said.

"It's just a guess, but many people would have been shot," Nice said. "5 were shot as is, 3 that actually addressed him directly. Had he not been forced out by these individuals, many people would have been shot."

Hlynsky said Ivery was lucky he was taken alive considering he was found when it was dark and officers knew he had a gun.

"The hatred for him is so bad here," Hlynsky said of Ivery. "Believe me, I'd like to take a crack at this guy and so would a lot of other people here."

Fundraisers, memorials set

Memorials and fundraisers are being set up in Winebrenner's honor. Donations can be sent to the Officer Winebrenner Memorial Fund at the Akron Police Credit Union, 217 S. High Street, Room 508, Akron, Ohio.

A vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the East Market Street United Church of Christ.



Machete Killing Victims Drunk At Time Of Death, Medical Examiner Testifies

The Fort Smith man accused of slashing 2 men to death with a machete last year began his murder trial Monday in Sebastian County Circuit Court.

Gregory Kinsey is charged with 2 counts of capital murder in the June 2013 deaths of Brandon Prince and Nathan Young. Prosecutor Dan Shue said he is seeking the death penalty in the case.

Attorneys for both sides delivered opening statements Monday morning, before the prosecution moved on to calling witnesses. A medical examiner testified blood tests showed Prince had a .22 blood-alcohol level at the time of his death, while Young's blood-alcohol level was .10.

A neighbor who said he witnessed the killing also testified and said Kinsey approached the men and told them, "I am Satan," before the altercation.

Kinsey's attorney said the suspect acted in self-defense during the incident, and he was provoked by Prince and Young, along with another man who survived the machete altercation.

Authorities found Prince and Young dead from extensive cuts outside a duplex on North D Street near downtown Fort Smith. Investigators said Kinsey killed both of them with a machete he was carrying at the time of his arrest. During his investigation, Kinsey told authorities he was walking home from the Dollar Store when he was approached by the group of three men who became argumentative.

Kinsey told police he attacked Prince and Young after he told them to back off and felt they wouldn't let him go. Kinsey has been behind bars, without bond, at the Sebastian County Detention Center since his arrest that night.

The trial comes after several resets in the case so that both sides could properly prepare. Authorities released surveillance video last year showing Kinsey at a nearby Dollar General buying paper towels, soda and tea bags the night of the incident. Moments later, police said he and 2 men fought in an alley near the store.

911 calls at the time indicate that the confrontation had turned violent.

911: "Where's your emergency?"

Caller: "I need an ambulance at 1618 North D like right now, I don't know what just happened someone is bleeding to death."

The 911 call continues, as a frantic neighbor describes the scene and comforts screaming children in the background.

Police found the bloody Dollar General bags inside Kinsey's home, according to court documents. They also seized several knives from his home.

According to the medical examiner, Young's cause of death was "multiple chop wounds," while Prince sustained "injury to axillary artery due to chop wound of left arm."

Video was also released of Kinsey interviewing with police after his arrest. In the video Kinsey offered his account of what happened, telling officers, "He (Nathan) asked me why I was creeping around in the shadows like that. I became angry. I tossed my bags and yelled and told him, 'Please, I don't want to go to prison today.'"

Kinsey told police he had a clear mind at the time of the attack and once it began he described feeling like he was watching a movie.

"I remember he tried to flee, but I don't think I registered it at the time. I pursued him. I kept trying... I wasn't trying to kill him. I was trying to incapacitate him. It's just once I started swinging, I just kept swinging," said Kinsey to police.

Judge Stephen Tabor issued what attorneys called a "partial gag order" in the case. The order blocked some photos from being released, including 2 photos of Young and Prince taken at the crime scene as well as photos from inside Kinsey's home.

2 videos from Kinsey's cell phone were also blocked from being released.

Before the gag order was issued, though, photographs were released showing the inside of Kinsey's apartment, where walls were smeared with a red substance, showing finger-marks and handprints

(source: KFSM news)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Execution date nears for Missouri man

Attorneys for a Missouri man scheduled to be executed this week are asking the courts and Gov. Nixon to spare his life, alleging that race played a role in his death sentence.

Leon Taylor is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing an Independence, Missouri, gas station attendant during a robbery in 1994. He would be the 9th man put to death in Missouri this year and the 11th since November 2013.

Taylor is black. The victim of the crime, Robert Newton, was white.

The jury at Taylor's trial deadlocked on sentencing, and a judge imposed death. The Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing, and an all-white jury opted for the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA----nex execution date

Warrant of execution issued for Rodney Berget

A warrant of execution has been issued for a man convicted of killing a South Dakota correctional officer.

Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Monday that the execution of Rodney Scott Berget has been scheduled for May of 2015. The warrant states the execution will take place between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. during the week of May 3 through May 9 of 2015.

A specific time and date will be selected by the warden of the State Penitentiary, Jackley said. Per South Dakota law, the warden will announce the date within 48 hours of the execution.

Berget was convicted and received the death penalty for his role in a 2011 prison escape attempt that resulted in the killing of correctional officer Ronald Johnson. Another inmate charged in Johnson's death, Eric Robert, was executed in 2012.

(source: KSFY news)


Death penalty expert off prosecution team in Aurora theater shooting case----Dan Zook, who previously tried 4 death penalty cases as a prosecutor in El Paso County, came to the 18th Judicial District in early 2013 specifically to work on the trial of accused theater shooter James Holmes

An experienced death penalty prosecutor brought to the Arapahoe County district attorney's office to handle the Aurora theater shooting trial is no longer on the case.

But according to state records and recent case filings, he is no longer on the case. Michelle Yi, a spokeswoman for District Attorney George Brauchler said Monday that Zook is no longer with the DA's office, but said she could not comment further because of a gag order in the case.

According to the Colorado Supreme Court's attorney registration database, Zook is still registered as a lawyer with the DA's office, but his law license is listed as "inactive." According to the Colorado Office of Attorney Registration, Zook's license has been inactive since March.

Zook last appeared in court for a hearing in the Holmes case in October 2013, according to court records. He was listed as one of the prosecutors in court documents until August.

Zook did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.

In a statement announcing Zook's hiring last year, Brauchler said Zook is an experienced prosecutor well-versed in capital cases.

"Dan is the most experienced death penalty prosecutor in the state of Colorado and a national expert on these cases. He brings a wealth of talent to our office and will be a valuable addition to our team. His career shows his dedication to achieving justice for the people of the state of Colorado," Brauchler said at the time.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 and wounding dozens more during a July 20, 2012, shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

He is due in court Tuesday for a hearing about what images the judge will allow to be admitted at his trial next year.

(source: Aurora Sentinel)


Eric Holder Shares His Feelings On The Death Penalty

This interview was reported for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that just launched. For more criminal justice news produced and curated by The Marshall Project, sign up for their email. You can also like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Bill Keller and Tim Golden of The Marshall Project spoke with Holder in Brooklyn, where he was visiting a widely praised drug court. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

The Marshall Project: You've been pretty outspoken on criminal justice issues across the board - more outspoken than your boss, actually. What would you single out as your proudest accomplishment in the area of the criminal justice system, and what would you single out as your biggest disappointment?

Holder: In January 2013 I told the people in the Justice Department after the re-election that I wanted to focus on reforming the federal criminal justice system. I made an announcement in August of that year in San Francisco, when we rolled out the Smart on Crime initiative. It was a way of breaking some really entrenched thinking and asking prosecutors, investigators, the bureaucracy - to think about how we do our jobs in a different way - to ask the question of whether excessively long prison sentences for nonviolent offenders really served any good purpose, how we used enhancement papers, moving discretion to prosecutors and asking them to make individualized determinations about what they should do in cases, as opposed to have some big policy sent to them from Washington.

And I think that by and large - not without opposition, to be totally honest - the federal system has embraced that vision. And I think that we have started to see the kind of changes that I hoped we would see.

And the biggest disappointment?

I'm proud of the fact that - in 2010, I guess - we reduced that ratio, the crack-powder ratio from 100-to-1 to about 17- or 18-to-1. I'm still disappointed that, given the lack of a pharmacological distinction between crack and cocaine, the ratio is not 1-to-1. You know, it was the product of a lot of hard work that the president was intimately involved in. But I think he would agree with me that that number should be at 1-to-1. Before the 2nd term is over, could there be a push for a 1-to-1 ratio?

That is something that I know the president believes in, that I believe in. One of the things that I'd like to see happen before the end of this administration is that there would be a drug court in every district in this country. As I speak to my successor, the 83rd attorney general, and as I speak to the president, I'm going to push them to make that a goal for this administration, to have a drug court in every district by the end of Barack Obama's 2nd term.

While we're on the subject of drugs, a lot of people, including your choice to be the head of the Civil Rights Division, have pointed out that marijuana accounts for an awful lot of the excessive incarceration in this country, and a fair amount of the disproportionate numbers of African-Americans who are in that system. You've held back from calling for marijuana decriminalization. What holds you back?

I think the question of how these drugs get scheduled and how they are ultimately treated is something for Congress to work on. I think we've pushed. We have done an awful lot. You look at what's going on now in Colorado and Washington and the way we've dealt with those initiatives, identifying the 8 priority areas that we thought still would warrant federal involvement, and yet if you look at where we are now with those states and with what other states are doing, and the way we view the whole issue of the use of medical marijuana, we're in a fundamentally different place than we were when Barack Obama became president and I became attorney general.

So I think we've made significant progress in looking at that drug in a more realistic way. But I think our society has to ask itself the question of how ultimately we are going to view the use of marijuana.

Are you saying that you and the president can't afford to get too far ahead of public opinion on this?

The enforcement policies that this administration has undertaken, in its decision not to sue, for example, in Colorado - not to try to preempt those laws in Colorado and Washington - really shows leadership. And it took guts for the president to do what he did, what we did together. So I don't think it's a question of following public opinion. I think that we have taken leadership positions.

What we have learned through other huge societal changes is that we can lead, we can point the way, but society has to come along. I can think of a couple of different areas where I don't think that was done, where we sought to impose things. And I think that has led to controversy where, if given a little more time, society would have gotten to a better place.

Would you predict that the ultimate outcome of this evolution on marijuana is that it's decriminalized?

I certainly think that you're going to see decriminalization efforts be more widespread around the country. I'm not sure exactly where it will ultimately end up. And I'm not sure what we see in Colorado and Washington are necessarily predictions of the future.

Mass incarceration is one of the very few areas in today's policy world where there actually is some common ground between right and left. When you have Cory Booker and Rand Paul cosponsoring legislation and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry adding these issues to their agenda - how significant is that?

It's both jaw-dropping and heart-warming to see that an issue that is that important can get people from such disparate political views together. To think that you can have Rick Perry, Eric Holder, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy all essentially agreeing - there might be some disagreement about approaches on the fringes - with the basic notion that mass incarceration is not financially sustainable and also is not just, not fair. To get some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party agreeing with the Democratic Black Caucus is something that bodes well for what I think needs to happen in this country.

We have 5 percent of the world's population, 25 % of the people in incarceration. That's not something that we can sustain. 1/3 of the budget at the Justice Department now goes to the Bureau of Prisons, and if you look out to 2020, it goes up to 40, 45 % or so. Which squeezes out the other things we want to do with regard to other areas of crime that we want to focus on, other initiatives that we want to support.

And then if you look at the impact that mass incarceration has on communities from which these people are extracted, it leads to broken families, it leads to social dysfunction, it tends to breed more crime. So - look, I'm a prosecutor first and foremost, and as a judge I put people in jail for extended periods of time when that was appropriate. Smart on Crime says if you commit violent crimes you should go to jail, and go to jail for extended periods of time. For people who are engaged in non-violent crimes - any crimes, for that matter - we are looking for sentences that are proportionate to the conduct that you engaged in.

Have you reached out to any of these figures on the right? Personally?

Oh, yeah. We had lunch with Rand Paul. I've had breakfast with some of my more interesting adversaries in Judiciary hearings - Trey Gowdy, Jason Chaffetz. We had these kinds of conversations where I think there was a growing realization that we have to change things. You know, this war on drugs that we've been involved in for 30, 35 years.... We have not considered all the collateral impacts of the war on drugs, and I think people are now prepared to do that, and not tar the people who are asking these questions with being "soft on crime." It doesn't have that political resonance that it once did, so I think people are willing to step up and take some changes to do what they believe, and I believe, is the right thing.

Given all that, why hasn't the Smarter Sentencing Act become law?

I think it was - and I want to say "was" - a victim of the dysfunction, the gridlock in Washington D.C., where a lot of good ideas go to die. After the election, next year, I'm actually optimistic that a version of that act will become law. I think the stars are kind of lined up.

Looking at the realignment process in California and other experiments that are out there in reducing incarceration, do you worry at all about the danger of a race to the bottom, in which states and counties are much more eager to get people out of prison and stop paying for it than they are to pay for the housing and social services that will assure a lower crime rate in the future?

If this is done correctly you not only save money, you keep the American people safe by cutting down on the recidivism rate.

But this cannot be seen as simply something that is cost-saving, because that would potentially lead to states' doing exactly what you say: racing to the bottom, and just trying to push people out of prison.

I think people who have responsibility for the criminal justice systems around the country understand that if you do that you’re really only putting people out for some short period of time before they ultimately come back. So there has to be a greater emphasis on rehabilitation while people are in prison, and then reentry efforts to prepare them to exit prison.

Did you notice, or have any reaction to, the news that the Koch brothers recently donated money to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to help support indigent defense?

I was not aware of that. That's a good thing to hear - people from very different places along the ideological spectrum understanding that we have to make our criminal justice system more fair. It's about 51 years or so after Gideon, and there are way too many people on the civil side, as well as the criminal side, who don't have their legal needs met. There's a justice gap. And to hear that the Koch brothers would be contributing money in that way is something that I think should be applauded.

I was at a conference not long ago with some U.S. attorneys who were upbraided by one of the federal defenders who said, we're doing all kinds of innovative stuff and coming up with new programs and bearing a disproportionate share of the responsibility for solving these problems. But we're way underfunded, and you, the Justice Department, could be doing a whole lot more to help us. Why aren't you?

We are. The Access to Justice Initiative has not only been something that has shared best practices. We have, to the extent that we could, funded different ideas around the country, tried to raise the consciousness of various states, usually through their court systems, to fund indigent defense. So, yeah, we understand that there is a financial component to this, there is a resource component to this issue. The people who work for me, assistant U.S. attorneys in many of our offices, have caseloads that are way too large, but, boy, you look at the average public defender, and the amount of time that they are allowed to spend with a client before they have to enter into a courtroom and try to zealously defend that person - those caseloads are just, well, they’re just unbearable. Just unbearable. That is something that we have to fix. I think in some ways, that's the ultimate test.

The question will be, are we prepared to spend money, to live up to who we say we are as a nation? Are we going to live up to Gideon, one of the great Supreme Court cases of all time, and give money for the defense of people who are charged with crimes? That, I think, is going to be difficult. But I think again, there is a growing consensus that it's the right thing to do for a whole bunch of reasons. It's the morally right thing to do, and ultimately it saves us money in the long run.

How do you feel about the privatization of prisons, prison services, post-prison services like parole? Is that a good thing?

You know, I suppose it can be done well. But I am a person who believes that that's essentially a state function, a government function. I think it's done best by well-funded, well-led governmental entities. That's just where I come from.

The country has been moving away a little bit from privatization on the prison side, but now there is a new burst of business from the surge in immigration detention going to private companies, some of which have rather checkered pasts. Are you comfortable with that?

No, I'm not. I'm concerned about what I hear about, documented cases that have been presented to me about the way in which people who are in the system for immigration reasons - as opposed to drug selling or violent crime - and the way in which people are treated, the conditions under which they are held. That is, I think, extremely troublesome. It points to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. This is another place where we are going to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, who are we as a nation? Are we prepared to devote governmental resources to that issue? And that is quintessentially something for the government to do. There can be a place for the private sector to help in that regard, but I think government must lead in that area.

The Obama administration came in advocating transparency in the business of the federal government. Why hasn't the Justice Department gotten involved in litigation in Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and elsewhere involving transparency as it relates to lethal injection drugs? You've got all these states going to enormous lengths to keep secret the nature of the drugs they use. You guys have stayed out of those cases even when the states have tried to keep that information from judges.

What the president has asked me to do is to review the death penalty. Among the things we're looking at are the protocols that we use. There's essentially been a moratorium in the federal system, and given the issues that we have around these questions of drugs, where you get them, it will be interesting to see how that moratorium ultimately resolves itself.

This is something the president has asked me to look at. My hope is to have a report on his desk before I leave as attorney general, both with regard to the protocols and the policy behind the death penalty, or the use of the death penalty.

I think that the issue is made real when you look at some of the things that have happened in the states over the last year or so, where you had these botched executions, where you had an inability to get the appropriate drugs. We've had doctors unwilling to participate in the process. I think this is pushing this country toward some really fundamental questions about - even though, you know, people still support the death penalty by 55 %, or whatever the number is - some fundamental questions about continued use of the death penalty.

There was an execution that was just stayed by the Supreme Court in Missouri, that had to do in part with a case in which a defendant missed the deadline for filing a habeas claim in federal court. That deadline came from the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. You were around when that came into being. Is that part of the array of issues that you’re looking at?"

Yeah, I would think so. When you're talking about the ultimate penalty, when you're talking about the state taking someone's life, there has to be a great deal of flexibility within the system to deal with things like deadlines. There is always a need for finality in the system, that is a good thing. But there has to be enough flexibility so that you can look at the substance of a claim, especially when the death penalty is at stake. If you rely on process to deny what could be a substantive claim, I worry about where that will lead us.

I disagree very much with Justice Scalia's certitude that we have never put to death an innocent person. It's one of the reasons why I personally am opposed to the death penalty. We have the greatest judicial system in the world, but at the end of the day it's made up of men and women making decisions, tough decisions. Men and women who are dedicated, but dedicated men and women can make mistakes. And I find it hard to believe that in our history that has not happened.

I think at some point, we will find a person who was put to death and who should not have been, who was not guilty of a crime.

(source: The Marshall Project By Bill Keller & Tim Golden; Huffington Post)


Death Penalty Works, Afghans Say ---- After 6 hangings, public opinion appears solidly behind capital punishment.

The recent execution of a group of men found guilty of gang rape has been welcomed by human rights groups as well as officials in Afghanistan, despite strong international criticism.

On August 28, armed men wearing police uniforms stopped a group of cars returning to Kabul from a wedding ceremony in Paghman district. They tied up the men and raped at least 4 of the women, and stole jewellery and other valuables.

7 suspects were arrested and were quickly brought to trial and sentenced to death. 2 of them later had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The outgoing president, Hamed Karzai, signed the death warrants shortly before he left office. His successor, President Ashraf Ghani, chose not to block them.

The 5 men were hanged in Kabul on October 8, along with a 6th man, Habib Istalif, convicted of leading a kidnapping gang in a separate case.

International organisations including the United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the decision to carry out the executions, and said the judicial process had been flawed.

Not only was the trial rushed - the televised proceedings took just 2 hours - but 1 of the defendants said he had made his confession under torture. Karzai had called publicly for the death penalty even before the trial started.

Noting that capital punishment was applicable to very few crimes under Afghan law, Human Rights Watch said, "International human rights treaties to which Afghanistan is a party only allow the death penalty for the most serious crimes when there is scrupulous adherence to fair trial standards. This case fell far short of those international standards."

However, in Afghanistan, where violence against women is common and often goes unpunished, the case sparked huge interest. Public opinion was largely supportive of the sentences.

Even domestic human rights groups welcomed the executions. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said they sent an important message about the rule of law.

"The law has not been applied properly for the last 13 years," commission spokesman Abdul Maruf Bedar said. "Law enforcement has been biased. As a result, impunity - people escaping justice - has caused crime levels to increase."

Bedar said that under the new Ghani administration, "many hope that this problem will be addressed."

Officials claimed that the executions had an immediate deterrent effect on gender violence.

"We haven't had any reports of rape [since then], although we had high figures for violent crime against women in the first 6 months of the year, prior to the executions," said Aziza Adalatkhwa, head of the justice department at the women's affairs ministry.

Adalatkhwa said the threat of the death penalty could do a lot to reduce crime levels, providing trials were fair.

Senior police officers, too, said that crime had fallen since the highly-publicised executions.

"After these 6 individuals were executed, the crime level dropped significantly," Kabul police spokesman Hashmatullah Stanekzai said. "The offenses recorded at police stations were mostly minor family matters, not major crimes."

Many feel that a society in which armed men have gone unpunished for so long cannot afford to have too many scruples in pursuit of law and order.

"The execution of these 6 individuals has had a positive impact on the situation," said Munawar Shah Bahaduri. "It was a serious warning to professional criminals."

His colleague from Faryab province, Mohammad Hashem, agreed, saying "current circumstances require it".

"If capital punishment is abolished here some day, I will be amongst those who oppose the decision," he added.

According to Fawzia Naseryar, a parliamentarian from Kabul, "some people have been brought up to be uncontrolled and ungovernable during years of war. They don't obey the law, so the law must be imposed rigorously. I support the death penalty ... firstly because it is mandated by Islam, and also because it serves to punish criminals and reform society."

Fatana Gailani, head of the Afghanistan Women Council, pointed out that high crime rates were a consequence of broader factors like continuing conflict, unemployment, poverty, lack of education.

However, she too stopped short of condemning the recent executions.

"Although the execution of these 6 individuals was appropriate and had a positive impact on the crime level, the death penalty is not the ultimate solution," she told IWPR.

Capital punishment has been applied sparingly since the Taleban government was ousted in 2001. While as many as 400 people have received death sentences in the last 13 years, fewer than 40 executions have been carried out. In the past, Karzai has been criticised for his apparent reluctance to sign death warrants.

Kabul resident Sanabar, 60, who has four daughters, said the hangings had boosted her faith in the government.

"I used to guard my daughters all day long, because I was sure that no one would defend us if something happened," she said. "I prevented my daughters from travelling to college. However, since the criminals were executed, they are now going to the city and continuing their studies. This has created hope for us."

Kabir, 57, who sells second-hand clothes in Kabul's Kart-e Char neighbourhood, said that he had never sent his 1 young daughters to school for fear they would be assaulted.

"Since I have no sons [to accompany them] and there was no security, I didn't allow my daughters to go to school after grade 6," he said. "I used to worry every day. I used to leave work and go home to check on my girls .... Now I can work in peace. Executing these 6 men has really weakened the morale of criminals."



Officer sentenced to death in Congo military court

A military court in northeastern Congo has convicted and sentenced to death a high-ranking border official over the killing of a military commander early this year.

Lt. Col. Birocho Nzanzu Consy, a former chief for border intelligence in North Kivu Province, received the harshest penalty in a trial of 19 people in Beni in connection with the killing of Col. Mamadou Ndala, the military commander in the east, in a January ambush.

12 were convicted and 7 defendants acquitted. No appeals are available under Congolese law, though those found guilty can appeal to the African Court on Human Rights in Ethiopia.

Eastern Congo is home to myriad armed groups, many vying for control of the region's vast mineral resources. Many rebel groups originate in neighboring Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.

(source: Associated Press)


Irish journalist's killer gets death penalty ---- Simon Cumbers was shot and killed in Saudi Arabia in 2004

The man who killed Irish BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers in Saudi Arabia 10 years ago has been sentenced to death by a court in the kingdom.

Adil Sa'ad Al-Dubayti Al Mutayri attended a brief hearing in Riyadh yesterday with 2 other defendants accused of murder and of declaring war against the state. The sentence is subject to appeal.

Mr Cumbers (36), originally from Navan, was shot and killed in 2004 when in the country working on a BBC programme on al-Qaeda.

His colleague, BBC correspondent Frank Gardner, was also shot in the attack but survived.

(source: Irish Times)


Puntland court sentences 6 men to death for al-Shabaab links

Puntland military court on Monday sentenced 6 men to death after being found of guilty linked to Somalia's militant group al-Shabaab.

The 6 men, who sat in the dock dressed in yellow clothing, were found of having links with the extremist group who is affiliated to also al-Qaeda. Their trial took place in the port town of Bosaso and lasted only for few hours.

Court judge said that the men were preparing to participate in a terrorist operation in the stable region of Puntland.

In recent years, Puntland authorities have launched a massive crackdown on the network and its military has sentenced members and other individuals linked to the terror group tough punishments such as death penalty.

Last year, it executed 13 suspected al-Shabab members including a woman, after the military court found them guilty of orchestrating an assassination of a famous scholar Dr Ahmed Haji Abdirahman. But al-Shabab denied that none of them was part of the group.

Puntland forces captured last month the main base of al-Shabaab militants in the Galgala mountain ranges after years of fierce battle. Meanwhile the court postponed the trial of 2 former soldiers who have been accused for being involved in a murder case.

(source: Horseed Media)


Jury selection on hold in case involving deaths of East Liberty sisters

Jury selection in the trial of a man accused of killing 2 East Liberty sisters earlier this year will not occur today as scheduled, the Allegheny County district attorney's office said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Allen Wade, 44, charged with two counts of homicide and other crimes in relation to the deaths of Susan and Sarah Wolfe.

Online court records show jury selection was set to begin today, but DA's office spokesman Mike Manko said it had been put on hold pending a status conference.

The sisters were found in their home on Chislett Street about 1 p.m. Feb. 7 after coworkers became concerned after Susan Wolfe didn't show up for her job as a teacher's aide at Hillel Academy in Squirrel Hill. Sarah Wolfe was a psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Investigators believe the women were killed the night before, each by a single gunshot wound to the head. DNA from Wade, a convicted felon who lived next door to the women, was found under Susan Wolfe's fingernails, prosecutors said.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Delaware death penalty opponents gear up orchestrated campaign

Death penalty opponents are going public in Delaware the next few days.

"Death Penalty Awareness Days" started Friday and runs through Nov. 23.

The orchestrated push was designed to "educate the public about the inherent flaws in a capital punishment system and grow support for repeal of the death penalty in Delaware," according to a The Delaware Repeal Project news release.

Town hall-style forums are scheduled in Bear (Tuesday), Middletown (Wednesday) and Dover (Thursday) next week.

Among the keynote speakers is retired Manchester, N.H., police officer John Breckinridge, who said he initially supported the death penalty but has come around for repeal. Mr. Breckinridge's law enforcement partner was shot and killed as they investigated a disturbance in 2006.

When asked why, in a nutshell, the death penalty should be repealed, Mr. Breckinridge answered via email with:

"The death penalty should be repealed as it is about revenge, not justice," he said. "It prolongs the legal process potentially by decades making the families of all involved suffer for that length of time.

"The death penalty is not cost efficient as the bills for a DP case are in the millions while similar cases where the sentence is life in prison without parole tend to cost significantly less.

"The sole death row inmate in New Hampshire has cost the state $5 million plus to date with appeals yet to happen while the estimate for his case would have been under $1 million if the death penalty had not been sought.

"There have been people that were sentenced to death who were later found to be not just not guilty under law but innocent in every sense. The execution of even one innocent person is enough reason to repeal the death penalty."

Mr. Breckinridge will speak at St. Joseph Catholic Church Parish Hall at 115 Cleaver Farm Road in Middletown on Wednesday, followed by an appearance at Wesley United Methodist Church at 209 S. State St. in Dover on Thursday. The first meeting is Tuesday at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton R.C. Parish Hall at 345 Bear-Christiana Road in Bear.

The meetings are scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m.

Emotions likely will run high at the death penalty repeal gatherings, Mr. Breckinridge said.

"The (gatherings) that I've seen tend to be a pep rally of sorts for the people attending, it gets them excited about their cause, lets them meet and connect with like-minded people, and shows that lots of people from very different lives and points of view can agree about a cause," he said.

"On the other hand there are some people who become very upset at these events. It can be a very emotional and polarizing issue. ..."

"It's True: Police Support Repeal" is the theme for the town-hall forums, officials said.

Other keynote speakers include West Orange, N.J., Police Chief James Abbott, Terrence Dwyer and George Kain of Western Connecticut State University, both past and present police officers.

"The death penalty system is broken beyond repair, and the fact that police officers and others in law enforcement support repeal illustrates that the death penalty does not contribute to our safety," The Delaware Repeal Project Campaign manager Ti Hall said in a news release.

"We can replace the death penalty with life without parole and use the tax dollars saved to fund violent crime prevention and services for victims’ families."

The Delaware Repeal Project will visit church worship services throughout the state as well, which started Friday.

Currently, there are 16 convicted murderers, all men, sentenced to death in Delaware, according to the Delaware Department of Correction.

More information on The Delaware Repeal Project is available online at



No 7th trial for Curtis Flowers in quadruple murder

For some Mississippians, especially those in Montgomery County, the name Curtis Flowers evokes a haunting and eerie reflection.

Flowers sits on death row convicted of killing 4 people, including his former boss, at Tardy Furniture Store in Winona in July 1996.

After a succession of mistrials and successful appeals that led to retrials, the Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Flowers' 4th conviction for the execution-style killings of Robert Golden, Carmen Rigby, 16-year-old Derrick Stewart and store-owner Bertha Tardy. Flowers, 44, will not face a 7th trial.

The court, in a 6-3 decision, rejected numerous arguments made by Sheri Lynn Johnson, assistant director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, at a hearing July 21 that there were "many odd characteristics and many errors" in Flowers' last and 6th trial. Johnson alleged the prosecution "cheated" when they made misstatements of evidence in closing arguments, introduced unreliable identification and displayed racial discrimination during jury selection.

Johnson also said there was "no way one person could have shot all four people at close range."

At the hearing, Melanie Thomas, special assistant attorney general, said a primary witness consistently identified Flowers as being in front of the store that day, that Flowers had a clear motive and that the Tardy family "considered Flowers a threat and were concerned for their safety."

Facts of the case

On the morning of July 16, 1996, Sam Jones Jr., a retired employee of Tardy Furniture, went to the store to teach 2 new employees, Golden and Stewart, how to properly load and unload furniture.

As Jones entered the store that Tuesday morning between 9:30 and 10 a.m. he found the bodies of the 4 victims. All 4 had been shot in the head. Golden had been shot twice.

During his initial testimony, the 87-year-old Jones, now deceased, said he was startled by "gurgling" sounds or what he later described as "someone trying to catch their breath." The prosecution said it was Stewart, fighting for his life. He died a week later, unable to name his assailant.

Flowers became an immediate suspect when investigators learned he had been fired from the store several days earlier and owed Bertha Tardy $30 for a cash advance on his check.

Prosecutors have consistently argued Flowers had a "beef" with the store because his paycheck had been withheld to offset merchandise damaged in his care.

Several other factors tied Flowers to the crime: bloody shoe prints found at the scene matched shoes he was said to own; several eyewitnesses saw him in front of or near the store the morning of the killings; the gun used was stolen from Flowers' uncle's car the morning of the killings and Flowers was seen sitting on the car; cash found at Flowers' home was close to what had been stolen from the store, and a gunshot residue test performed on Flowers hours after the killings confirmed particles on his hands.

In October 1997, Flowers faced his first trial in Lee County for Tardy's death. Flowers took the stand in his defense and gave inconsistent testimony as to his actions the morning of the killings. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. That conviction was later reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct, namely, introducing evidence related to the deaths of the other victims when Flowers was not on trial for those crimes.

In March 1999, Flowers stood trial in Harrison County for Stewart's killing and was found guilty and sentenced to death. That conviction was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct, including the introduction of evidence relating to the other killings.

In February 2004, Flowers was tried for all four killings in Montgomery County. He was again found guilty and sentenced to death. That conviction was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct, including racial discrimination in the jury selection.

The remaining 3 trials also took place in Montgomery County.

In November 2007, the state did not seek the death penalty, and the trial resulted in a hung jury and mistrial.

In September 2008, at the fifth trial, two black jurors were arrested and charged with perjury. An alternate juror, and the only black female on the panel, Mary Annette Purnell, claimed during the voir dire process that she didn't know Flowers, but it was later revealed her car was seen prior to the trial at his parents' house and that she was listed as an approved visitor at the prison where Flowers was being held. Another juror, James Bibbs, introduced information during the jury deliberations that had not been considered during the trial. Judge Joseph Loper eventually declared a mistrial.

Flowers' 6th trial in June 2010 lasted 2 weeks. The jury deliberated 30 minutes before finding Flowers guilty and sentencing him to death.

Divided opinions

The Tardy murders, as they are known, have split the county of more than 10,000, which is is 53 % white and 45 % black.

In a recent poll of Montgomery County residents, just as many blacks as whites said they believe Flowers is guilty. A large number from both races remains undecided and a small percentage believes Flowers was involved but didn't act alone.

Ormon Knox, jury foreman in Flowers' 5th trial in 2008, said there are numerous conspiracy theories. "This is all the community is talking about," he said, "but these things were never discussed in the courtroom."

Some residents also believe that 2 men accused of robbing a pawn shop and shooting 2 people in Alabama around the same time as the Tardy killings may have actually committed the crime. A .38-caliber pistol was used in those killings, the same as in the Tardy case.

The prosecution has also been criticized for allegedly trying to keep African-Americans off the jury. In Flowers' 6th trial, more than 600 jurors were summoned - 55 % white and 42 % black. By mid-morning, fewer than 200 remained.

Prosecutors have argued - and it was borne out during the voir dire process - that the majority of potential black jurors in Montgomery County knew Flowers personally, had some kind of relationship with his family, or had been sued by Tardy Furniture and could thereby not be impartial.

In its decision, the high court agreed, citing several specific instances of those facts.

During the 2010 trial, Loper encouraged District Attorney Doug Evans to pursue legislation that would allow for a wider jury selection.

"Supposedly, the jury is fair to everyone," Evans said in 2010. "But as far as the law is concerned, if the defendant thinks the jury is not fair to him, he can request a change of venue. That's by law. But there is no such provision for the state."

Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, who resides in Montgomery County, introduced a bill that would "allow an impartial jury to be drawn from a wider geographical area than the county where the crime was committed."

"I offered the bill because the jury pool seemed to be depleting rapidly due to several trials," Chassaniol said. "Also, modern transportation is very different from when the state constitution was drafted. It seemed like a logical step to expand the jury pool lines from the county boundary to that of the Circuit Court district."

Chassaniol said the chairmen of the judiciary committees, however, believes her bill would require a constitutional amendment, and she has yet to pursue that effort.

Thus far, Flowers' trials have cost Montgomery County taxpayers $340,000. Chancery Clerk Tallmadge "Tee" Golding said a 7th trial could cripple the county.

"The amount of money that it costs for these kinds of trials is so much more than the average trial," Golding said. "We have the jury sequestered. We have to put them up in a motel. We have to feed the jurors 3 meals a day, and we have to provide transportation for them. It's just a lot of extra money that could be used for anything like buying new equipment or paving roads."

Golding also said continued litigation would put a continued strain on families involved.

"They can never put this case to rest," he said. "Time heals a lot of things. But for these families and anybody connected to these families, they will never, ever forget."

Monica Land is a freelance writer living in Monroe County.


Sheri Lynn Johnson, assistant director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, said at a July hearing that at 6 trials, Curtis Flowers' case was "unmatched in capital litigation in the entire country." But Flowers is not the first person to stand trial several times for the same crime in the state of Mississippi.

-- On July 6, 1974, Arthur Lee Stevenson, an inmate at the Warren County jail, stabbed a 72-year-old guard 26 times with a butcher's knife. After 4 mistrials, Stevenson was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, where he remains.

-- 5 mistrials were declared in the case of Loretta Pierre of Harrison County. Pierre was charged with killing Kathy Schweinsberg, the girlfriend of her ex, in December 1985. After a change of venue to Warren County, Pierre was found guilty of murder in February 1989 and sentenced to life in prison where she remains.

(source: Clarion Ledger)


Behind closed doors: Jury foreman tells his story

I was the best possible chance for Curtis Flowers to get a fair trial.

All of the other jurors were from Winona and were here when the incident occurred. I wasn't. I spent 22 years in the Navy, retired and moved back to Winona in 2003. And as somebody who was from Winona but didn't live here, I didn't have access to all the noise, the conspiracies and the theories of what he did do and what he didn't do. ... I didn't know Curtis Flowers. All I had was the order from the judge on how to conduct myself as a juror.

I was sequestered for the 5th trial in 2008. There were 15 of us chosen. 1 juror was dismissed and 2 of the jurors got in trouble. One juror, Mary Annette Purnell, placed a call to Flowers and she didn't make that known. And they came in during deliberations and walked her out in handcuffs.

And once we got into the nitty gritty of it, and we were already confused about Purnell, James Bibbs finally said what he said - that Curtis Flowers wasn't guilty because he and another man saw him around an auto shop the day of the murders. And we all jumped on him and said, "You can't do that Mr. Bibbs." But he held onto the fact Flowers didn't do it. But his premise was based on what was not discussed in court. And, in all fairness, that's how we got the mistrial.

Me, Mr. Bibbs and another man named Brown were the only blacks on the jury. And there were 7 ladies. And once we were given our instructions to go in and deliberate, the bailiff said, "Choose who you want to be your leader because if you need a break, if you need anything, we're only going to work through 1 person and 1 person only." And I was chosen to be that 1 person.

I spent 3 years with the Navy brig as a guard and a receipt and release officer. I heard every kind of case imaginable. So, I had a unique perspective on justice from a military standpoint. And what I tried to do in Flowers' trial was to take a more practical approach. We had chart papers all over the place. We re-stepped everything and tried to keep everything on point as to what we could discuss and what we knew what was not discussed in the courtroom.

But the real hard part from now on with any trial that has to do with Curtis Flowers is knowing that all the outside information that doesn't even get discussed in the courtroom is what the community is talking about. And here's what I mean. Mr. Tardy, Mrs. Tardy's husband, was known on business days to come in the store and take a seat in the rocking chair. You come through the front door; he's usually the 1st person you see. The day of the crime, he wasn't at the store. People talk about that.

There's a lot of conspiracy surrounding Mr. Tardy's son from his previous marriage. That he didn't like his stepmom. There was somebody connected to the mob. Curtis Flowers fled to Texas and came back with all this money. His mom had earlier won a class-action suit with Fen-Phen and folks were talking about, "Where is all this money coming from? How are they living now?" I heard all types of crazy stuff like that later, but it wasn't discussed in the courtroom.

They said there's no way he could have shot four people. You can say all you want. But all I know is, even O.J. took the stand. If you don't take the stand in your own defense, then for me, you know more than what you're letting on. And what you know may be detrimental to not only your family but other people who know what you know.

Flowers didn't move. He didn't flinch during the trial. He sat there the whole 2 weeks. And he didn't have to do anything. The burden of proof was on the state. So, there wasn't anything for him to do.

In the military, if you ever go up against a court martial, you're guilty. And now you have to sit there and prove your innocence or justify your actions.

But most of the information against him was very circumstantial. There was a missing gun that was never found. But each circumstantial thing pointed in his direction.

We deliberated for almost two weeks, and I was trying to uncover everything. Sometimes we brought up things the defense should have brought up. And because of the urgency of trying to put him away, I could also see a lot of missteps at the hands of the district attorney because these folks were frustrated.

The DA and some people here in the county connected with the local judicial system, they are totally, totally frustrated and the truth is, if the death penalty had never been on the table, he'd be serving life in prison right now.

But once we got the case, I didn't allow the jury to come up with a verdict in 15 minutes after going in or 45 minutes. I mean, we worked. And the female jurors. They were very conscious of Flowers' mother being there. And they agonized over the decision that they had to make. They did. And all these ladies were white. So, at this point, it just wasn't a black and white thing. It really wasn't. I can't speak so much for the men. Because they pretty much had their minds made up. But it was mostly the women that went to work in there.

When Mr. Bibbs said what he said, I passed a note through, and the judge said, "Keep deliberating."

When we went around the room and said what is your decision, the majority said guilty, with 2 who said not guilty. And I actually had 1 of the female jurors on my side. And one abstained. We asked them to bring in pictures; we questioned the testimony of the experts they brought in. And I had 1 female juror who hung in there with me to guide all of us into a real deliberation mode instead of just saying, "This is my opinion, and I'm sticking with it." I was the last person to break down and say, "Well, based on the information we have, it all points to him."

The 2nd time I passed a note through and said, "Judge, we're at a deadlock." He said okay. He declared a mistrial, and they immediately put handcuffs on Mr. Bibbs.

But before all that took place. Before we said, "Let's get the opinion of everybody." Everybody agreed that, this time, if we could come up with a unanimous verdict of guilty, we were going to recommend no death penalty. Just life in prison. And that's another credit to these particular jurors. But you don't hear people talking about that.

I've read some of the national blogs, and it's so easy for people to say, especially when you talk about our black men being railroaded, that "2 blacks voted guilty, and there still isn't enough evidence to prove he's really guilty." That's just not the case. It all pointed to him.

After it was declared a mistrial, most of us had an emotional breakdown. It just hit us, and we were crying like babies. I took these people through talking about this, looking at bloody pictures - and especially those women who were looking at that boy's mother every day. There wasn't a day during deliberation that they didn't mention, "I could not be in her seat right now." And they did everything they could to figure out a way to free that fella.

So, it wasn't a black and white thing. These women agonized over it until the judge said, "We thank you for your time, and we thank you for your service." The bailiff opened the door for us to go out the side way, and that was it. I couldn't do anything but cry myself. It was just that emotional, the weight we were carrying. It was almost like a collapse, and I just took a few days and got away.

Now, when we see each other on the street, we speak. Most of the ladies give me a hug. We ask about family. But this experience hasn't changed me.

But the (community) leaders should be trying to get people past this. Winona is a place that should be growing, but it's totally stagnant. Instead of raising up a cross, you need to start raising up some leaders that will really bring folks together.

Don't get me wrong. I love where I live. No matter where I went around the world, I found myself defending Mississippi.

I'm just like James Meredith. He didn't want to go to Ole Miss because he was trying to change civil rights or because he wanted to be the 1st black to go there. And he writes in his book that, technically, he wasn't the 1st black to go. But he wanted to go because, he said, as a citizen of Mississippi, there should be no reason why a school that has every major nationality attending - that as a citizen of Mississippi, that he couldn't attend. And that's sort of how I feel about it. There's still work to be done here.

(source: Ormon Knox is currently the District 5 election commissioner of Montgomery County----Clarion Ledger)


Might Ohio use electric chair again?

The difficulty of obtaining drugs for executions has some Ohio legislators talking about alternatives, including the electric chair.

"There are other options," said Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, a co-sponsor of legislation to keep the supplier of execution drugs secret.

"Rope is cheap," said state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.

No one is seriously suggesting - at least not yet - taking "Old Sparky," Ohio's electric chair, out of retirement, or returning to hanging, which the state abandoned in 1897.

But Ohio's problem with lethal-injection drugs is coming to a head: The scheduled Feb. 15 execution of Ronald Phillips is 90 days away.

Legislators are rushing to pass House Bill 663 before the lame-duck legislative session ends on Dec. 31 so that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction can obtain drugs it needs at least a month before the execution. The legislation would protect the identity of the source of the drugs from disclosure to the public and news media, and allow physicians who participate in the process - as well as execution-team members - to remain anonymous.

The deadline is crucial because the state must inform U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of any changes in the execution protocol, including use of new or different drugs, 30 days before a scheduled execution. Frost, the judge handling lethal-injection lawsuits filed by death row inmates, postponed executions this year until the drug issue is resolved.

Ohio's most-recent execution, of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, was troubled. After the injection of midazolam and hydromorphone into his veins, McGuire struggled against the restraints around his body for about 20 minutes. He repeatedly gasped for air, made snorting and choking sounds and clenched his hands into fists.

That combination of drugs had never been used in the U.S., and, if Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr has his way, will never be used again in Ohio. The state had resorted to the untested combination when pentobarbital, the single drug used previously, became unavailable because manufacturers no longer sold it for use in executions.

The drug still can't be obtained except from small "compounding pharmacies" that mix drugs to customer specifications.

Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, said the issue can't wait, "or we're going to have people pass away prior to execution."

If Ohio were to revert to the electric chair, it would not be the 1st state to do so. Tennessee passed a law this year requiring electrocution if lethal-injection drugs aren't available. Tennessee also enacted a law last year shielding the source of execution drugs from public disclosure.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan capital-punishment clearinghouse, says 8 states allow electrocutions, but most of them don’t use it.

In addition, Arizona, Missouri and Wyoming allow the gas chamber, Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington permit hanging, while Oklahoma and Utah allow the firing squad under limited circumstances.

Even if Ohio would, like Tennessee, go back to electrocutions, there's a problem: Old Sparky was unplugged and shipped in 2002 to what is now the Ohio History Connection. It was the focal point of a 2011 exhibition, "Controversy: Pieces You Don't Normally See," that attracted thousands of visitors to the museum at 17th Street and I-71. The wood, metal and leather chair was used to execute 312 men and 3 women between 1897 and 1963.

It is now in storage.

Lethal injection, by law, became the only means of execution in Ohio in 2001. However, that doesn't rule out other execution methods being added. There have been discussions of options, including a gas administered by a mask fitted over the face.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Missouri, Georgia and Texas have, like Tennessee, passed laws or have by administrative rule cloaked the source of lethal-injection drugs. Georgia made it a crime to reveal the drugs or their source.

Dieter said he's uncomfortable with a system that hides vital information from the public about government's ultimate power of life and death.

"This is a curious path to go down. States would be better off being more upfront about this.

"The fundamental principle is about how government is kept in check by the people knowing what government is doing. ... It makes a difference where the drugs come from, just as it would make a difference where the bolts come from in bridges that the state builds."

Dieter said he is unaware of pharmacies or drug suppliers being harassed or threatened, something suggested in the Ohio proposal as the rationale for confidentiality. But there have been issues. A Houston pharmacy stopped selling execution drugs when it was publicly revealed as a supplier. A Missouri pharmacy that sold drugs to Oklahoma was sued for allegedly violating a prohibition against interstate sale of drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio slammed the legislation. "It's not only a bad idea, it is bad governance to ram through during a postelection session without due and serious consideration," said Mike Brickner, ACLU senior policy analyst.

The Ohio Newspaper Association is opposed to making secret the records of execution drugs. In a column, association Executive Director Dennis Hetzel said he was "shocked by the sweeping language and the overall tone" of the legislation.

"Under the current language, it will be impossible for journalists, citizens, families and anyone else outside a handful of government officials and bureaucrats to scrutinize the process. The new, open-ended exception will invite the courts to block access to more and more information."

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


A good reason to rethink the death penalty

It's not a deterrent, and we don't execute the worst of the worst.

If someone has a mental illness that makes him unclear on the very concept of death, is that a valid reason not to execute him?

That's the question raised in the case of Michael Dean Overstreet, convicted and sentenced to death for the 1997 abduction, rape and killing of 18-year-old Franklin College student Kelly Eckhart. His attorneys are asking St. Joseph County Judge Jane Woodward Miller to rule Overstreet is not competent to be executed because he doesn't understand that he would die.

"Given his specific delusion, Overstreet would go to the execution chamber believing that he would not die but rather would transition back to life with his family. He cannot prepare himself in any spiritual sense for death," his attorneys wrote.

The state counters that several of Overstreet's phone calls and emails include conversations in which he discussed topics related to his death and noted that he has prepared a will and made plans with relatives to visit him in prison before he is executed.

If Overstreet is capable of grasping death, he deserves no more consideration than any other death row inmate. If he isn't, it raises an interesting philosophical dilemma. Does that add to the cruel and unusual nature of executing him because the state will inflict on him something he doesn't understand? Or would it diminish it because it takes away the most agonizing part of execution, the long wait of dreading what's coming?

As interesting as that dilemma is, another aspect to the case makes Overstreet's execution even more troubling. If the judge rules against him, he could be the 1st inmate executed in Indiana since 2009.

With 5 years between executions, no one can claim that the death penalty is a deterrent in any meaningful sense. That means the only reason to execute someone is to express our sense of moral outrage, convey the idea that some crimes are so horrible only the death penalty will do.

You can't be executed Indiana just for killing somebody. You also have to meet one or more of carefully spelled out aggravating circumstances. The state, then, intends to kill for only the worst of the worst of the worst crimes. Clearly, though, it does not always do that.

The state, once in a great while, puts somebody to death just because it can. Talk about arbitrary and capricious.

(source: Editorial, The News-Sentinel)


Death penalty protest planned in Springfield

An execution is scheduled Wednesday, and a protest planned for Tuesday in Springfield.

The Springfield chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will hold a vigil on Tuesday, November 18 from noon to 1 p.m. on Park Central Square to protest the scheduled execution of Missouri prison inmate Leon Taylor.

Taylor, 56, is scheduled to die for killing a Kansas City-area gas station attendant in 1994. Court records say Taylor also tried to kill the attendant's step-daughter, but his gun jammed.

Supporters have sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon seeking clemency for Taylor, saying he was treated unfairly because of race. The mixed-race jury in Taylor's 1st murder trial convicted him, but could not reach a verdict on punishment. The judge sentenced him to death. The sentence was overturned, and after a 2nd trial, an all-white jury sentenced Taylor to death. Taylor is African-American.

After Taylor's 2nd sentence became final on appeal, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled, based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, that if a jury could not agree on the death penalty, the judge could not then impose it, and subsequently commuted the sentences of all individuals on death row who had been given a death-sentence by a Judge under these circumstances. Taylor did not receive a commutation.

The Missouri Supreme Court had originally scheduled Taylor's execution for September, but withdrew that death warrant after his lawyers said they would be unable to work on his case at that time.

(source: KSPR news)

UTAH----female to face death penalty

Hearing for mother accused of killing Ethan Stacy

The preliminary hearing begins today for the mother accused of killing 4-year-old Ethan Stacy, whose disfigured body was found 4 years ago buried near Powder Mountain.

Stephanie Sloop, 31, of Layton is charged with aggravated murder under both sections of the child abuse law, including Shelby's Law.

The murder charge carries a possible death sentence if she is convicted. Her husband, Nathanael Warren Sloop, was also charged in the boy's death. He entered a guilty plea to aggravated murder, but mentally ill, on Feb. 4 and was sentenced to 25 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

She has yet to enter any type of plea. Her case has not yet gone to a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors have 60 days following a felony arraignment hearing to file their intent to seek the death penalty.

The 3-day preliminary hearing is scheduled to run until Wednesday in Farmington before Judge Thomas L. Kay.

Prosecutors have 60 days following a felony arraignment hearing to file their intent to seek the death penalty.

According to the probable cause statement, she "told police officers and dispatch that Ethan had done this over the past 4 nights."

After an extensive search, police learned the little boy had not left the apartment, but the Sloops had found him dead in his room, according to the document.

Stephanie Sloop admitted to police that Nathan Sloop had gotten angry with Ethan and took him in his bedroom, where she could hear "Nate slapping Ethan in the bedroom," according to the document.

When she went into the bedroom, she found "Ethan badly beaten about the head area," and she knew he needed medical attention, but never got it, according to the document.

She told police her son was ill over the next several days, and at one point she and Nathan Sloop forced the boy to drink 2 16-ounce bottles of water, a 16-ounce bottle of Kool-Aid and a glass of orange juice, according to the document.

Stephanie Sloop also told police that the boy was burned in the bathtub but she also did not seek medical attention for him. Several more days passed, and Ethan was still sick.

In the early morning hours of May 9, 2010, the couple realized Ethan had died, according to the documents.

They took the boy's body to a place near Powder Mountain and buried him there, police said.

Stephanie Sloop had gone to 2 convenience stores in the area, according to the probable cause statement. At one store, she bought 2 cans of lighter fluid and at another store she bought 2 slush drinks.

She told officers the lighter fluid was for Nathan Sloop, "because he wanted to burn the body," according to the probable cause statement.

(source: The Standard)


Wolfson gives more scrutiny to potential death penalty cases

After an emotional 2-day penalty hearing, jurors agreed that there were nearly 2 dozen mitigating factors to consider sparing Ralph "Macky" Jeremias' life, yet they still gave him the death penalty.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Jeremias' attorney Charles Cano asked jurors to "look inside yourself and see if there's mercy."

Other defense lawyers familiar with death penalty cases say that the sentencing process often can be confusing to jurors.

"There's a lot of room for improper considerations or analysis that doesn't come out with an objective standard," said Dayvid Figler, who represents four people who could be sentenced to death.

Before District Attorney Steve Wolfson took office in 2012, Clark County had more pending death penalty cases per capita than any other urban county in the United States.

Those numbers are falling, though, as Wolfson says he's giving more scrutiny to determine which 1st-degree murder defendants prosecutors want to send to death row.

He has filed notices to seek the death penalty in 25 cases since 2012, and he said that he's seeking capital punishment in about 1/2 as many cases each year than his predecessor, David Roger.

"I think there's a little bit of a change of culture here in the DA's office," Wolfson said. "We're only going to file the death notice in what we consider to be the so-called worst of the worst cases."

A group of senior prosecutors, including Wolfson, regularly review murder cases to determine whether to seek the death penalty. The process takes between 30 and 90 minutes per case, he said.

Last year, Clark County prosecutors considered 56 eligible cases and decided to pursue the death penalty in 13. In 2012, there were 24 eligible cases and prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty in 5 cases.

Some of the factors he believes make a case eligible include previous murder convictions, multiple victims and the involvement of children.

Wolfson acknowledged that death penalty cases are more costly than murder cases without the death penalty, but he said that's not a deterrent for prosecutors.

"If it's the right case, regardless of the cost, we're going to file notice on it," Wolfson said. The death penalty "is still the law. And until and unless the law changes, it's my obligation to pursue it in appropriate cases."

Wolfson said he has withdrawn the death penalty in about 5 cases since he took office, resulting in plea bargains.

The 29-year-old Jeremias, who was born in the Philippines, was convicted earlier this month in a double-murder carried out inside a central valley apartment 5 years ago.

His mother, grandmother and cousins testified during his penalty hearing, asking the jury to spare his life. Throughout that testimony, some jurors wiped tears from their eyes.

Relatives of the victims, Paul Stephens and Brian Hudson, also spoke during the penalty hearing, evoking emotion that even had one prosecutor choked up.

Prosecutors said Jeremias and two men went to the apartment planning to rob the victims. The 2 men told police Jeremias walked into the apartment alone and used a 9 mm handgun to kill the victims execution-style.

One of the men cut a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder and other charges. In exchange, he agreed to testify at Jeremias' trial. The 2nd man was acquitted of murder and robbery charges in 2012.

Jeremias, who denied the killing, had past arrests for possessing a gun in a park and possessing a gun with an obliterated serial number. He had also admitted to selling marijuana.

Among the list of mitigating factors the jury found for Jeremias: lack of supervision from a very early age; multiple concussions as an infant, a teen and a young adult; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; his initial bond with his parents; lack of access to medication; loss of a martial arts career; untreated depression; untreated anxiety; substance abuse and that he was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the killings.

The list went on.

But they decided that those factors did not outweigh the gravity of the crime and Jeremias' background.

His stepfather, Gordon Daniel, believes the jury made the wrong decision.

"I don't think they took all the mitigating factors seriously enough," Daniel said.

John Roop, a friend of Hudson and Stephens, called it a "just verdict" that would help provide closure for him.

Still, he said the case was "tragic in all regards."

Jeremias' death sentence likely won't be carried out for more than a decade, if ever, as he and his lawyers grind through appeal after appeal. No one has been executed in Nevada in more than 8 years, and state legislators have ordered a study on the costs of the death penalty for 2015.

Veteran defense lawyer Robert Langford represents accused strip shooter Ammar Harris, one of Clark County's most high-profile death penalty defendants.

Langford said he investigates a client's background in most violent crime cases, but that becomes critical when capital punishment is at stake.

In contrast to the Jeremias verdict, Langford said, a jury can find just one mitigating factor to decide on sparing a defendant's life.

A jury must decide whether the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating pieces of the crime and the defendant's life.

"What the hell does weight mean?" Langford said. "And how do you assign weight to any given mitigator, or for that matter any given aggravator? There's really no quantification whatsoever. The death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and capricious way no matter how you stack it up."

Although Wolfson wants more scrutiny in deciding which cases to pursue death, some defense lawyers say negotiations are non-existent.

Figler and Kristina Wildeveld represent Michelle Paet, who faces the death penalty in the fatal shooting of her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Paet. Prosecutors said Paet plotted with gunman Michael Rodriguez to kill the sergeant and collect $600,000 in military benefits and insurance.

Wildeveld said the victim's family is "adamantly to their core opposed to the death penalty," but prosecutors refused to take capital punishment off the table.

Wolfson declined to comment on the case. The defendants were indicted before he took office.

Wildeveld said death penalty cases take "exorbitantly more time than any other case." The lawyers must research everything a defendant has ever done in his life, good or bad, even investigating the factors of his birth. Then they present that evidence to a jury that must decide the defendant's fate.

"Nobody wins in a death trial," Wildeveld said.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Jodi Arias trial: Porn and abuse used to distance jury from shrieking victims

It's a story that is getting very predictable. What crazy move and outlandish thing will the defense team of Jodi Arias pull next? It almost seems like it is impossible to get more dramatic with all that has transpired over the past 6 years, but even Jodi Arias tops herself every single time. This week in the case of the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the 2008 murder of Travis Alexander, the stunts became so outlandish that some folks were even speculating that Jodi Arias was going to be home by Christmas. And by "home by Christmas", those speculations meant, freed from jail, home with her family by Christimas of this year. Despite events that transpired in the Jodi Arias trial this week, this is not going to happen. According to USA Today Nov. 14, porn was the subject of arguments attempted to "free Jodi Arias" before the Jodi Arias trial adjourned for the week.

Last week's drama in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and the Higher Appeals Court, centered around arguments that the Jodi Arias trial had now turned unconstitutional. This drama was not tampered by the evidence presented in victim impact statements where Tanisha Sorenson, one of Travis Alexander's 6 siblings, reportedly "shrieked" and showed her grief openly in open court last week. This week, as defense witnesses began to appear, the defense clearly worked very hard to distance the jury from that unforgettable testimony.

As has been predicted for many months, turning the tables on the victim was the defense strategy this week. In the latest Jodi Arias defense move, after being stabbed over 20 times, nearly decapitated, shot in the head, and then left for dead, Travis Alexander is now being dragged through the mud with porn allegations. In addition to this experts have been called to accuse Travis of being a bad boyfriend, and a bad Mormon. Even if it were true that he watched porn, was a bad boyfriend, and wasn't the perfect Mormon, it doesn't reverse Jodi Arias's murder conviction, or the fact that he was stabbed over 25 times and also shot.

Jodi Arias is on trial for the 2008 murder of her lover Travis Alexander. One June night in 2008, she drove 90 miles out of her way to rent a vehicle to take a road trip to Travis. She flipped the license plate of the rental upside down, died her hair, and off she went from Yreka, California, with 3 gas cans of fuel in her car. By the time she reached Mesa, Arizona, there was not one single surveillance camera from a gas station, an ATM, anywhere, that had recorded moments in her journey to Mesa.

On June 9, 5 days after he died, Travis Alexander would be found naked and dead in his shower. He was found with a bullet wound to the head, a severed windpipe, a fatal stab wound to the heart that was reportedly approximately 5 inches deep, a cluster of 9 stab wounds on his back, a stab wound on his head that chipped his skull, and over 14 more stab wounds on his body. A camera allegedly took pictures from one of Travis's last moments alive while he was standing in the shower, to the last picture where his bleeding head is seen on the floor. According to the time stamps on these pictures, the time lapse between his last shower pic to the last is approximately 90 seconds.

Jodi Arias was convicted of 1st degree murder with an element of aggravated cruelty that made her eligible for the death penalty in 2013. Her jury unanimously voted on those 2 phases. Where her 2013 jury was unable to come to an agreement was on sentencing. That jury was deadlocked on life or the death penalty for Jodi Arias, and a retrial for the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias trial was set. That retrial has been in progress since jury selection began on September 29 of this year. This new jury is not tasked with the task of determining Jodi's guilt, as the guilt phase of this trial has come and gone. The only thing this jury must determine is, will Jodi Arias serve life in prison, or will she be sentenced to Arizona's death row?

Court watchers that have been following this case since 2008, or since the 2013 trial, know how this defense likes to handle their case. It has almost become expected of them. What crazy allegations or drama stunts are going to happen now?

Since the murder of Travis Alexander in 2008, Jodi Arias and her team has made many attempts to deflect guilt and blame on every person or media outlet around them in their efforts to avoid facing the truth. It has been fully expected that when Jodi Arias returns to the retrial of her sentencing phase that she would be doing whatever she could to drag the name of Travis Alexander through the mud in her efforts to save her own life. So recent events should not be all that surprising.

Even so, it was almost humorous this week when Jodi Arias supporters were twittering about how Jodi Arias might be "home by Christmas" after the most recent stunts in the Jodi Arias trial. These stunts involved a computer, an alleged virus, and alleged porn files allegedly viewed by the victim in this case, Travis Alexander. In their efforts to try and prove these allegations, the Jodi Arias defense team went back to square one and even referred to previous defense team member Maria Shaffer according to USA Today. The first portion of the Jodi Arias trial last week centered around a computer that was owned by the murder victim Travis Alexander. After his murder, the computer was taken and filed in the Evidence Room of the Mesa Police Department. The defense team for Jodi Arias began this week of court drama by filing a motion on Monday Nov. 10 alleging that "thousands of pornographic files" had been deleted from this very computer at some point in the investigation.

In other words, the defense is reverting back to their, "We lost our evidence" defense. Much like the alleged "evidence" of emails that "prove" Travis was an abuser, these porn files allegedly got lost in the shuffle when the wind blew a little too hard one day. Or, as the defense alleges, when someone intentionally deleted these files from the computer. They are alleging this evidence proves Travis was a dirty dog, and thus...thus what? Thus Jodi Arias had good reason to kill him?

The prosecutor is alleging that if in fact those files exist, they existed because someone...other than Travis Alexander, put them on that computer. There have even been reports that those alleged porn files allegedly were placed on Travis's computer on June 10, 2008. If that is true, that would be several days after he had died, making it impossible for him to have been a dirty dog with those particular files.

The prosecution is not arguing that the porn files never existed, just that they were not involved with the files "suddenly disappearing". How could the files have gotten on his computer then if it can be proven that Travis did not do it? Kelly from Really Big Mean Dog School of Law has two theories on this, both of which make very good sense. She conducted field research with computer experts and has found, "There is definitely, for absolute sure, a virus that puts pornography on your computer. It is a real thing that actually exists. In almost all is downloaded onto a victim's computer from a trojan website...either at random, or else in an algorithmic pattern based on sexual proclivities diametrically opposed to the victim's - and deposits it in a not-especially-well-hidden folder somewhere on the victim's machine.

The virus also floods the victim's browser histories with compromising records, sometimes in a fashion that coincidentally correlates with times the victim was necessarily alone in the apartment. If the hard drive was signed out for forensic examination the very 1st thing they would have done was run an antivirus program to eliminate anything that could effect the lab equipment."

Now that is interesting. Could it be that a virus was put on the computer to make it look like Travis was a dirty dog? It's a serious allegation, but what is more serious than saying you have evidence that shows someone is a pedophile? We know Jodi Arias will stoop to nothing, she already said as much in her last trial.

But what if it wasn't a virus that put the material on? What if it was a human? Then, if it can be proven it wasn't Travis, who could it be? Kelly from Really Big Mean Dog has a theory on that one as well.

"Something else that we know. At one point while Travis was still alive, he was out of town and asked Deanna Reid to check in on Napoleon. Imagine her shock when she got there and found [Jodi Arias] baking cookies and using Travis' laptop. Could it be that [Jodi Arias] planted porn on Travis' laptop? I would say odds are 'No, Duh.' At that point I think her entire existence was to either blackmail Travis into marrying her or threatening to expose all the things she had manufactured about him. MY opinion."

Is any of this relevant? In a death penalty trial every stone needs to be unturned. So the trial attorneys unturned that stone in several ways this week. One stone they unturned in the process was to revert back to one of Jodi's first attorneys, Maria Schaffer, who was there on the day that the computer was first examined by all parties relevant to the case.

This occurred on June 19, 2009. On June 19, 2009, then defense team Greg Parzych and Maria Schaffer, the prosecutor on this case Juan Martinez, and lead investigator Detective Esteban Flores met to begin preparing the case according to USA Today. Martinez acknowledges that he was present at the time, but argued about how the history of the files on the computer could be altered.

"If the history was altered, it was changed by defense counsel, not the State."

Fox 12 also reports this week that Martinez strenuously disagrees with some of the timing of some of these files. Not only have the State's forensic analysis not uncovered any of the porn files in question, but asserts that the ones the defense are alleging he did claim has a serious timing discrepancy. On his own analysis Martinez argued, "It confirmed that he [Travis Alexander] had not accessed any of the porn files that they're claiming he accessed."

USA Today also reports that Martinez wrote in his motion that the computer in question contained 17 items of malware, and 24 computer viruses. He also showed dates where it could not have been possible that Travis viewed those files, as they were allegedly accessed after he had been killed. In a hearing Wednesday morning Nov. 12 on the matter, Martinez also said that the computer forensics that had been performed on Travis's computer showed no pornography at all.

Kirk Nurmi on the other hand still claims to have "evidence" that shows otherwise, and has asked the court in the Wednesday hearing for 2 or 3 more days to allow for an expert to testify on the matter later this month. Kirk told the court, "There is a plethora of evidence being uncovered by the expert."

Again the defense sought to have a "dismissal of all charges" or at the very least, remove the death penalty from sentencing options according to Fox 12. In other words, the defense is saying that 'we believe Travis was a sexual deviant and this should excuse Jodi Arias from the aforementioned 6 years of damaging evidence against her.' Another delay was requested until the defense expert could testify.

This request was denied. While this issue is being handled, prosecutor for the State Juan Martinez requested that no witnesses be questioned or allowed to give testimony on this matter. Judge Sherry Stephens agreed that was probably a good idea.

Maria Shaffer, one of Jodi's first defense attorneys was "shocked and offended" about Juan's allegations. She told the Arizona Republic, "To me it came out of left field.....At all times Juan Martinez or Detective Flores were in the room while we were looking at the evidence in this case."

"Left field" is how a lot of people have felt about this alleged evidence this week. Many feel that "left field" must be where the defense plans a lot of their strategies, as it seems for the past 6 years every theory, strategy, and create drama tactic seems to be more outrageous then the next. This motion and further arguments on this matter will be heard by Judge Sherry Stephens at a later date.

Following this drama, the Jodi Arias trial was ordered to move forward with the next defense witness. This defense witness was an expert psychologist who, according to the Arizona Republic, "specializes in unusual sexual proclivities." This was, as Jeff Gold tweeted, a "much weaker day for the defense."

This testimony occurred on Thursday of this week. Here a clinical psychologist Miccio Fonseca, testsified about Travis being a bad boyfriend and also someone with deviant sexual desires. Emails were read that were written by Travis about the women in his life, and experiences Travis had with abuse were brought up in court. During one email, it was revealed that Travis Alexander really loved a woman named Deanna, and did not love Jodi Arias.

The woman named Deanna was someone that Jodi Arias has been jealous of for years. Deanna and Travis were in a relationship before he was murdered, and she even became the guardian of his dog Napolean after Travis was killed. According to Jeff Gold from The Gold Patrol, when this email was read about Travis's feelings for Deanna, it appeared that Jodi's jealousy for Deanna has not died. Jeff Gold tweeted, "Wow still in denial. #JodiArias shakes her head ever so slightly as expert testifies to the effect that Travis loved Deanna, not really Jodi."

Abuse allegations from Travis's past, caused by his parents also came up in court this week. Marry Ellen from ABC 15 tweeted, "#TravisAlexander remembers father taking ax to mother's belongings. Mother unloading a revolver on his dad car. #JodiArias."

Many reporters tweeting this testimony noted that the jury was mostly bored about the relationship drama between Jodi and Travis, but notably shaken and even wiping their eyes during abuse testimony. The Gold Patrol tweeted, "#JodiArias juror clearly touched as #TravisAlexander words are read about abuse. Notes being taken by several jurors."

Was this level of depth in relationship analysis important for the sentencing phase? Attorney Jeff Gold says it's not only unimportant, but minutae that is only delaying the inevitable. He tweeted, "Can you imagine a sentencing judge caring a wit for a former GF saying a murder victim was selfish? #ridiculous.....This level of analysis of the relationship is so far beyond the norm of what we see in sentencing. Another failure of AZ 2 bite DP system."

The jury also saw a video this week of a Dan Freeman, who testified in the first trial in 2013. His testimony was shown by video to the jury this week. This testimony was put out by the defense in their attempts to portray the secret and sordid relationship between Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander. The video of Freeman's testimony can be viewed here.

What is all of this about really? All of these are the very tactics we have been expecting as Jodi Arias fights to avoid the death penalty. Until now, most of her desperate moves have been seen as just that. Why should this time be any different?

With these strategies, the defense is dancing around the truth to try and get the jury to think about anything else but the shrieking victim impact statements and the pints of blood splatter they have seen all over Travis former home. The real evidence that shows Jodi Arias to be a killer is not being discussed.

Instead, the defense appears to be flirting around every issue that they can. To some it is looking like the, "let's see what defense we can make stick today" strategy. Or, as Jeff Gold from the Gold Patrol puts it, the "OMG my boyfriend is so mean so I think I will kill him" defense.

This week many allegations were presented in these attempts. One of them being, Travis Alexander watched porn. The State vehemently disagrees with this, with a lot of arguments on time stamps, viruses, and deleted files. But no matter who "wins" those arguments, this doesn't change the fact that Travis Alexander was stabbed over 25 times, nearly decapitated, and shot in the head.

We also saw the strategy this week that tried to show Travis's fear of commitment, his "bad Mormon behavior", and testimony on how he may or may not have treated Jodi Arias during their relationship. Those may all be true things, or they may not be. Whoever "wins" those arguments may wind up feeling momentarily victorious, but this doesn't change the fact that Travis Alexander was stabbed over 25 times, nearly decapitated, and then shot in the head and left to die.

It doesn't change the fact that Jodi took a road trip from Yreka, California, to Mesa, Arizona, one fateful June night in 2008 and literally dropped off the grid as she did so. She was not seen on one surveillance camera, or at one gas station. That's because she had three cans of fuel in her car.

Did Travis watch porn? Is it possible that he may or may not have been disrespectful to Jodi Arias? Is it possible that he wasn't the best Mormon on the planet, according to the books, rules, and policies that Mormons live by? Was he afraid of commitment? Or was he just afraid of tying himself down to Jodi Arias?

Yes. It is also possible that he was, or wasn't any of those things. None of that changes whether or not he was stabbed over 25 times, nearly decapitated, shot in the head, and then left for dead as his killer did everything she could to cover it up after the fact. Does not wanting to commit to one person mean that he deserved to be slaughtered?

Attorney Jeff Gold thinks it looks like the defense is trying to "retry" Jodi's case and make it appear more like second degree murder than the brutal slaying that she has already been convicted for. During court this week, Jeff tweeted: "Judge allowing relitigation of defense? Nurmi want this jury to see 2nd degree M when they are required to assume 1st degree M # JodiArias"

Who do you think got the upper hand after this week's events in the Jodi Arias case? As Jeff Gold put it gently, it was a "weak day for the defense" to many. Last time around in the Jodi Arias trial, sympathy for the defense appeared to wane exponentially as soon as the defense started pulling these stunts. This week, a juror was seen crying.

It is probable that juror was not crying over the fact that Jodi Arias may, or may not have, had a mean boyfriend. In a death penalty sentencing phase, that is a good day for the prosecution. Juan Martinez needs to set the repeat button if he wants the trend to continue if he expects to secure a death penalty. But catering to this drama will not be the way to do it.

As Jeff Gold tweeted, he needs to keep reminding the jury that the victim Travis Alexander was butchered. He needs to keep reminding the jury that this is a fact of this case that causes the siblings of Travis Alexander to "shriek" about, to this very day.

Do you think the defense did a good job distancing the jury from the "shrieking" testimony of Travis Alexander's sister Tanisha Sorenson?

(source: The Examiner)


Government lawyer appointed for Boston Marathon Bombing trial faced allegations of serious professional misconduct

A specialist attorney recently appointed to assist with the prosecution of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faced previous allegations of serious professional misconduct, which forced a trial judge to throw out a kidnapping conviction and order the re-trial of a man convicted of murder in a Federal death penalty case.

Former Assistant DA Steven D Mellin was accused by U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee of deliberately planting evidence in order to sway a guilty verdict during the 2003 trial of Jay Lentz, a Virginia man convicted of kidnapping and killing his wife.

Lentz was sentenced to life imprisonment after the jury declined to impose the death penalty, but immediately appealed both convictions.

At a 2004 hearing, jurors reported a calendar allegedly obtained from the possessions of Doris Lentz, the defendant's wife, had "mysteriously appeared" in the jury room and had been "very influential" in their deliberations.

The calendar was previously ruled inadmissible by Judge Lee.

Mellin refused to explain to the court how the evidence got inside the jury room and at one point insisted the Judge had no authority to investigate him, nor "accuse him of misconduct in the first place".

The Judge tossed aside Lentz' kidnapping conviction and declared the initial murder trial void, stating Mellin, the lead prosecutor in the case, had intentionally put the calendar in the evidence box that had gone to the jury.

Judge Lee ruled:

"The Court concludes that Mr. Mellin's testimony indicates much more than a lack of credibility, rather it demonstrates his intent to act outside the Orders of this Court and the confines of the law. In sum, the Court finds that Mr. Mellin's actions with the calenders suggest his conduct was not a benign act or negligent error. Rather this action was reckless, and it was intentional",

Lentz faced a re-trial and was convicted for the 2nd time in 2006.

In 2008, the Court of Appeal issued a ruling acknowledging prosecutorial misconduct played a major role in the Judge's decision to dismiss the original guilty verdicts of 2003, despite an earlier appellate court ruling that rejected the finding with respect to Mellin.

Steven D Mellin is currently employed in the Department of Justice' Capital Case' Section.

His duties include advising the Attorney General on why a defendant should be subject to Capital punishment, acting as co-government counsel in Federal death penalty trials, and the preparation of evidence shown to a jury should the penalty phase of a Capital trial be reached.

Tsarnaev, 21, is slated to stand trial in January 2015.



Abolish Death Penalty, Says Chepkwony

The death penalty is a human rights violation and should be abolished, Kericho Governor Prof Paul Chepkwony has said.

He said people found guilty of capital offences should be imprisoned for life, not killed.

Chepkwony said God created mankind and only He is supposed to take life.

"Man has only excelled in landing man on the moon, but has never managed to create a human being," he said.

Chepkwony was addressing Power of Mercy Advisory Committee, who had visited him after touring Kericho prisons to evaluate the progress of prisoners pardoned by the President, on Friday.

He said Kenya should emulate developed countries, which engage criminals jailed for life in infrastructure development.

He said this is a better option than confining prisoners in poorly ventilated buildings, where some die of contagious diseases.

Chepkwony said this would provide the country with cheap labour and teach the prisoners useful skills.

"The kind of life the prisoners undergo in our prisons cannot reform some of them. It's hard and inhuman and a sober approach should be adopted like that being witnessed in China and other world powers," Chepkwony said.

POMAC chairperson Regina Boisambi said remorseful prisoners can appeal to the President for pardon through their parents or prisons in-charge.

Last year 47 prisoners were set free, she said.

Boisambi and her team were on a fact-finding mission on prisoners who are remorseful and would like to be pardoned.

Chepkwony said prisoners should be counselled because it has proved effective in reforming criminals.

(source: The Star)


Reconstruction of a contract killing: Wife accused of paying $14,000 to have Australian husband murdered in Bali helps police recreate his murder; Robert Kelvin Ellis was murdered in Bali October by 5 men and 2 housemaids paid by his wife

A reconstruction of the contract murder of an Australian businessman killed in Indonesia has taken place in Bali.

The murder of Robert Kelvin Ellis was ordered by his wife of 20 years, Indonesian Julaikah Noor Aini, known as Noor Ellis, who allegedly paid 150 million rupiah ($AU 14,200) for 5 men to commit the act.

The body of the 60 year old was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in a ditch in the rice field near Sedang Village in late October.

He was set upon in his own Bali kitchen by the killers who slashed his throat 'like killing a pig', police said, after Mrs Ellis employed the men along with 2 housemaids to clean up the murder.

His wife, who was taken into custody after confessing to her role in the crime, helped local officials to recreate the murder of Mr Ellis at home beds in Bali on Monday.

The re-enactment involved Mrs Ellis, the 2 maids, and 3 of the men arrested for carrying out the murder, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

Police officers filled in to play the roles of 2 wanted suspects who are still at large.

1 of the men arrested, known as Urbanas, was told by Mrs Ellis during the enactment that 'I only told you that you could kill him but not sadistically.'

Urbanas agreed that she had told him that, and the 2 were snapped showing their agreement to the deal by linking pinky fingers.

'There is no doubt this was an execution-style murder,' said a senior police officer in the Bali capital, Denpasar.

Mr Ida Bagus Putu Alit, who heads the district's forensic team, said Mr Ellis' throat had been slashed 3 times.

'One of the wounds to the throat was fatal, but he also had several bruises around his head, suggesting he had been knocked to the ground before receiving the fatal throat wound,' said Mr Putu.

During the re-enactment, Mrs Ellis showed how she had paid Aril, the boyfriend of one of her maids, 100 million rupia, through the window of a car.

Mr Ellis and his wife had been living in Bali for nearly 20 years, and had reportedly been experiencing marital difficulties for the past years, stemming from money problems and accusations of infidelity.

'The motive is because his wife felt embittered with the victim,' Badung police chief Komang Suartana told News Corp.

'Because of many things. She said that her husband is often cheating on her.'

A mobile phone and a large mat was found in close proximity to the body, local authorities said.

Detective Wisnu Wardana said the body is believed to have been lying in the ditch for several days as it was in a state of decay.

The rice paddy where the body was found lies between the popular coastal area of Kuta and the hillside town of Ubud.

'There was a deep wound to the neck that had almost completely cut the head,' said Detective Wisnu.

If Mrs Ellis is found guilty of premeditated murder, the charge against her, she will face the death penalty under Indonesian law.

The couple's sons Jon and Peter Ellis, both Perth-based students, released a statement which said that their father was a huge influence in their lives.

They were 'completely devastated' by his death, they said.

'The circumstances surrounding the death of our father is something we are still trying to come to terms with at this moment.'

'We are fortunately surrounded by friends and family.'

'We do ask for people to understand our need for privacy at this extremely difficult and sad time for us.'

(source: Daily Mail)

NOVEMBER 16, 2014:


Defense attorneys for father of 5 slain Lexington children prepare for potential death penalty case

Prosecutors have not yet said if they will seek the death penalty against Timothy Jones Jr. - the Red Bank father accused killing his 5 children in August - but his defense attorneys are expecting it.

Jones' attorneys, Rob Madsen and Boyd Young, are preparing for the possibility of a death penalty case in a series of requests made to Circuit Judge Thomas Russo, who has yet to decide on any of them except for one that ended with the judge imposing a gag order.

The gag order imposed on Sept. 26 prohibits any outside "statements of counsel, potential trial participants, law enforcement and any other persons involved in the investigation and possibly in the trial" from being made, according to court documents.

The gag order means attorneys can't talk to the press, so further elaboration on strategies and developments isn't available.

Jones' attorneys also made other requests, including for a prohibition against Jones from appearing in court in jail clothing and another request that would prohibit Jones from appearing in court in handcuffs.

Jones, 32, is charged with 5 counts of murder in the deaths of his children - Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Elaine, 1.

He is accused of killing the children Aug. 28 at the family home in Red Bank. Authorities say they found the 5 bodies where Jones told them to dig in Alabama.

One of the main requests filed by Jones' attorneys include a motion to require grand jury proceedings that would "require the Grand Jury proceedings to be recorded by a court reporter so there will be a record for review" by the trial court, a date for which has yet to be scheduled, and potentially, appellate court.

That request also said, "The Court should require the state to call witnesses to testify before the grand jury who have actual knowledge of (Jones') case," and "The Court should require the state to present to the grand jury evidence favorable to (Jones') case."

Jones had custody of the children after his 10-year marriage with his wife Amber ended in divorce in October 2013.

He was stopped Sept. 6 at a traffic safety checkpoint in Raleigh, Miss., on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The children were not with him, investigators have said.

The children's bodies were found in plastic garbage bags Sept. 9 outside Camden, Ala., according to investigators, who have said Jones led them there.

Autopsy results have not been released, but some law enforcement officials have said it is likely the children were strangled.

Jones told investigators he believed his children planned to kill him and then "chop him up and feed him to the dogs," according to an arrest warrant.



Witness to an execution, and life

I look at my friends who have children, or those who will soon be parents.

I love seeing the joy they're bringing into the world, the laughing, giggly essence of who we are as humans.

The gift of life is awe inspiring.

Thursday early evening, I witnessed a man die by lethal injection as punishment for the brutal double murder of his wife and her 10-year-old daughter.

Chadwick D. Banks committed those crimes in 1992 and saw how our legal system dispenses justice. His family lost a son and a brother, but they knew for 22 years it was coming.

His wife, 30-year-old Cassandra Banks and her daughter, Melody Cooper, were asleep when Banks shot them in the head.

Their families lost a daughter who wanted to help people through her work at the Apalachee Center and a bright young girl with an unlimited future.

Their only fault was being connected to Chadwick Banks.

I had never watched someone die.

Banks was calm while he was strapped to a gurney at Florida State Prison just moments before he was given a 3-drug cocktail that eventually killed him.

In his last statement, he apologized, saying he had searched for a reasonable answer for his actions for 22 years, coming to the conclusion there is none.

He said he was a different person. His mind was clear.

His morose calm was eerie as a room of more than 19 witnesses, including reporters and Department of Corrections staff, watched him take his final breath.

The calm exterior of the prison as we were driven to the execution chamber in the dark made me nervous anticipating what I knew I would witness.

But there is no way to anticipate watching someone die. I didn't know how I would feel going in, and then reminded myself I was there to do my job in documenting what justice looks like in Florida.

I'm not going to get into whether I think the death penalty is right or wrong. I imagine I will again report on executions and would like to keep my opinion to myself to protect that neutrality.

Cassandra Banks' mother, Annette Black, said something to me when I interviewed her earlier this week that stuck.

She told me the same thing she told this newspaper on Sept. 24, 1992; that she was never angry with her former son-in-law, but instead didn't understand why whatever caused him to kill his family couldn't have been avoided.

"He could have gotten in the car and never came back," Black said, "but he didn't."

With violence now an unfortunate norm in society - whether it be persistent wars, school shootings and random violent acts in communities across the world - Black said about an hour after the execution Thursday she hoped Chadwick Banks' death served as a lesson that might prevent future violent crime.

"Enjoy your life and allow others to enjoy theirs," she said. "Almost any decision a person makes can be reversed ... but once you take a precious life nothing can ever bring that life back again."

Life is beautiful. Don't take it for granted.

(source: Karl Etters, Tallahassee Democrat)

ALABAMA----female may face death penalty

Alabama Woman Forces Granddaughter To Run To Death, Wants Charges Dropped

Joyce Garrard Hardin, a 49-year-old Alabama woman, is requesting that capital murder charges against her, resulting from the death of her granddaughter, be dropped on the grounds that the autopsy was "problematic."

Hardin was arrested in 2012 for forcing her 9-year-old granddaughter to "run for hours as punishment for a lie about candy," according to the Daily Mail. After the girl collapsed due to exhaustion, she was hospitalized and died 3 days later.

Hardin's lawyers have requested that the charges be dropped because of problems that arose in the autopsy of Savannah Hardin. Joyce Hardin's lawyers are claiming that the child died due to "longstanding health problems" and that her physical condition should be investigated and could be vital in a trial. Hardin, who could be facing the death penalty, has pleaded not guilty.

The Daily Mail also reports that the autopsy was "performed by a doctor who was later fired over allegations that included possible falsification of documents and dereliction of duty. The physician has since failed to testify in other cases and may not be available to testify in Hardin's trial, the defense argued in the document." The defense is also attempting to have charges dropped due to the trial being delayed multiple times. Lawyers for Hardin also claim that she is currently in ill health at the Etowah County Jail.

Despite attempts, Etowah County judge William Ogletree has, so far, rejected attempts to throw out the case and drop the charges. Savannah Hardin's stepmother was also charged for her murder after she failed to intervene when Savannah was running, but is currently free on bond.

According to reports, prosecutors have not responded to the requests from Joyce Hardin's lawyers. The request was submitted in late October. Hardin's trial is set for February 12th in Gadsden, AL.



Shield law on execution drugs to protect administrators raises concerns

Attorney General Mike DeWine says that Ohio won't see another execution until the General Assembly acts to provide legal immunity for those responsible for administering the lethal injections used to put inmates to death.

Drug makers, as well as physicians involved in executions, have become increasingly reluctant to play a role in administering the death penalty because of legal concerns.

Republican legislative leaders have been working with DeWine on a law that would shield the identity of the makers of execution drugs, providing them with anonymity to enable the state to continue carrying out lethal injections.

Earlier this year, it took nearly a half-hour for the state of Ohio to put Dennis McGuire to death using two drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, that were obtained from Hospira, a pharmaceutical company. McGuire's family is suing the firm; Ohio is seeking other sources for the drugs.

McGuire's botched execution prompted U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost to postpone all lethal injections in the state. Executions are on hold until February, when the next inmate is scheduled to be put to death.

The shield law being considered in Ohio would be similar to actions taken in other states, including Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Oklahoma, which have passed secrecy laws to protect the anonymity of pharmacies.

We question the rationale for a shield law and the idea of granting blanket immunity to those involved in executions.

Why shouldn't drug manufacturers and physicians be held liable for their actions? Dennis McGuire was put to death - in the name of the state - in a manner that apparently caused him a great deal of pain and suffering. His family is entitled to know why that occurred and has every right to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

The taxpayers of Ohio are paying for the drugs used to kill human beings. Why shouldn't they know which drugs are being used, who is supplying them and who is administering them?

"I think the general idea is to the let the Department of Corrections acquire those things in private and not to have to disclose publicly who they're buying their drugs from," Senate President Keith Faber told the Associated Press. "Who they buy their drugs from, I don't think, is necessarily relevant to what their mission is."

We disagree. The issue under discussion is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. It deserves more careful deliberation than it is likely to receive in a lame duck legislative session. If that means deferring executions for a bit longer, so be it.

(source: Hudson Hub Times)


Execution order driven by misfortune, systemic racism

Executions snuff out human beings with the vast potential to be positive role models for fellow prisoners and to promote healing for crime victims. Missouri officials risk again creating an agonizing societal void if they execute Leon Taylor as planned early Wednesday morning.

Taylor would be the 11th person executed by our state since last November - the most in any year since 1899. Beyond issues of modernity and morality - we do oppose any murder by the person or state - citizens should be troubled by issues of racism and freakish legal misfortune in his case. We should appreciate Taylor's spiritual transformation, rising as he has from a nightmarish childhood and street crime to become a foundational leader of the Christian community within the Potosi prison.

Taylor has long accepted responsibility for his wrongdoing in 1994 when he fatally shot Robert Newton during the robbery of a gas station in Independence. Many years ago, Taylor wrote to Astrid, Newton's widow, apologizing for his actions and the grief he caused her and her family. She has accepted his remorse as sincere and has forgiven him. They eloquently share those heartfelt reflections in the documentary "Potosi: God in Death Row."

Jim Hall was deeply touched by the film, which publicly premiered last month -7 months after Jeffrey Ferguson was executed for his role in the rape and murder of Hall's 17-year-old daughter, Kelli. Ferguson, Taylor and 2 other men incarcerated in the Potosi prison speak with shame of their crimes.

Our society traditionally erects a figurative wall between offenders and those who have been offended - in addition to appropriate physical barriers for public safety - that can impede prospective healing. Hall never had the opportunity to see and hear Ferguson, much less interact with him while he was alive. He wasn't emotionally ready to initiate contact. Hall and his family had publicly expressed support for the death penalty, including just after the execution. However, the execution has compounded rather than eased the family's suffering. As Hall explained during recent public programs where he spoke against Taylor's execution, family members realize they and many others are grieving the death of Ferguson.

Leon Taylor would be the 2nd black man executed in Missouri in nearly as many months sentenced to death by an all-white jury for murdering a white victim. At least 4 other black men have similarly been convicted by all-white juries in Missouri and executed since 1989.

A racially mixed jury convicted Taylor of murder but was unable to unanimously agree to a death sentence, so the judge imposed it. On appeal, the sentence was reversed because the prosecutor made improper statements during closing arguments. The prosecutor at Taylor's subsequent 1999 sentencing dismissed all 6 blacks from serving as jurors. The all-white jury recommended a death sentence. The judge, even while expressing concerns about the racial dynamics, affirmed their recommendation and imposed death.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ring v. Arizona that judges could no longer sentence someone to death when jurors had not unanimously agreed to the sentence. The next year, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the Ring precedent should be applied retroactively. The courts then commuted to life imprisonment the sentences of about a half-dozen inmates. The courts refused this remedy for Taylor. As one of his co-counsels has lamented, "If the prosecutor had not made improper argument at the 1995 sentencing, Leon Taylor's original death sentence would automatically have been commuted to life. Instead, due to the prosecutor's misconduct, he is now awaiting execution."

Over the past two decades, Taylor has been a foundational leader of the Christian community in the Potosi prison, according to many accounts. He could continue to dwell as a positive influence if he were incarcerated and not executed.

His stand-up character is especially remarkable given his nightmarish childhood. Taylor's 2005 habeas petition notes his mother, Mary, was a chronic alcoholic who gave her children alcohol beginning with Leon at age 5. "Many of the children watched as she stabbed and shot at least 3 of her boyfriends. ... Leon watched as Mary shot and killed her husband, Sammie Owens."

She choked and beat all of her children, particularly when she was drunk, using her fists, switches, extension cords and other objects, the document notes. "She focused much of her anger and abuse on Leon" because he was the oldest and was expected to care for his siblings. "Strange men had access to the children; a 20-year-old male neighbor sexually abused Leon when he was 5 years old." Attempts by other adults to intervene failed. The petition reports Taylor was removed from the home a few times.

The document cites a police record years after Leon was sent to another juvenile facility, noting, "9 other children were removed from Mary Owens's home. The conditions in the home were horrendous. Mary was staggering drunk and cursed at the police. ... The children slept on urine-soaked mattresses, chairs or sofas. The house was full of spoiled food, and alcohol and Excedrin were available to the children. Insects crawled all over."

Contact Gov. Jay Nixon's office. Urge him to halt Taylor's execution and commute his death sentence. Call 573-751-3222 or write via email at

On Tuesday, join "Vigils for Life," remembering all murder victims and urging no more executions, from noon to 1 p.m. outside the Governor's Office, 2nd floor of the Capitol in Jefferson City, and from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. Call 573-449-4585 for more details.

(source: Mary Ratliff is NAACP Missouri State Conference president, and Jeff Stack is coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation----Columbia Daily Tribune)


Death penalty off table in Va. officer's slaying

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has taken the death penalty off the table for 4 people charged in the gang-related slaying of a reserve Virginia police officer.

Federal prosecutors said Friday that the 4 co-defendants will instead face the possibility of life in prison for their alleged role in the killing of Capt. Kevin Quick.

The 45-year-old Quick of Waynesboro was reported missing Feb. 1. His body was found several days later in Goochland County west of Richmond.

The Daily Progress reports that authorities say the 3 siblings and another man charged all belong to the Bloods gang set 99 Goon Syndikate.

The 4 charged in May are Daniel Lamont Mathis, Shantai Monique Shelton, Mersadies Lachalle Shelton and Travis Leon Bell, also known as Kweli Uhuru.

(source: Associated Press)


Lawyers' mistakes, unforgiving law----Investigation finds that 1996 law created procedural hurdles, causing many inmates to lose access to final appeal; Last-chance pleas from death row often tossed over late filings

In 1992, Kenneth Rouse, an African American man with an IQ between 70 and 80 - "borderline intellectual functioning," in the clinical parlance - prepared to stand trial in North Carolina on charges that he had robbed, murdered and attempted to rape a white, 63-year-old store clerk.

Rouse's lawyers questioned the prospective jurors to try to expose any racial or other bias they might have against the defendant. But several years after the all-white jury convicted Rouse and recommended a death sentence, his defense team made a stunning discovery.

One of the jurors, Joseph S. Baynard, admitted that his mother had been robbed, murdered and possibly raped years before. Baynard had not disclosed this history, he said, so that he could sit in judgment of Rouse, whom he called "1 step above a moron." Baynard, who used a racial slur when referring to African Americans, added that he thought black men raped white women for bragging rights.

As claims of juror bias go, the evidence could hardly have been stronger. But Rouse's final appeal was never heard. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Rouse's lawyers had just 1 year after his initial state appeal to petition for a last-resort hearing in federal court.

They missed the deadline by a single day.

A federal appeals judge wrote that it was "unconscionable" for her court to reject Rouse's case because of such a mistake by his court-appointed lawyers. But dozens of lawyers have made the same mistake, and most of their clients, like Rouse, have not been forgiven by the courts for missing the deadline.

An investigation by The Marshall Project shows that since President Bill Clinton signed the 1-year statute of limitations into law - enacting a tough-on-crime provision that emerged in the Republicans' Contract with America - the deadline has been missed at least 80 times in capital cases. 16 of those inmates have since been executed - the most recent was on Thursday, when Chadwick Banks was put to death in Florida.?

By missing the filing deadline, those inmates have usually lost access to habeas corpus, arguably the most critical safeguard in the United States' system of capital punishment. "The Great Writ," as it is often called (in Latin it means "you have the body"), habeas corpus allows prisoners to argue in federal court that the conviction or sentence they received in a state court violates federal law.

For example, of the 12 condemned prisoners who have left death row in Texas after being exonerated since 1987, 5 of them were spared in federal habeas corpus proceedings. In California, 49 of the 81 inmates who had completed their federal habeas appeals by earlier this year have had their death sentences vacated.

The prisoners who missed their habeas deadlines have sometimes forfeited powerful claims. Some of them challenged the evidence of their guilt, and others the fairness of their sentences. One Mississippi inmate was found guilty partly on the basis of a forensic hair analysis that the FBI now admits was flawed. A prisoner in Florida was convicted with a type of ballistics evidence that has long since been discredited.

Just last month, Mark Christeson, a Missouri inmate whose lawyers missed the habeas deadline in 2005, received a stay of execution from the Supreme Court just hours before he was set to die by lethal injection. In a court brief filed on Christeson's behalf, 15 former state and federal judges emphasized that he had not even met the appellate attorneys handling his federal case until after the filing deadline had passed. "Cases, including this one, are falling through the cracks of the system," they wrote. "And when the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the very legitimacy of the judicial process."

The 80 death-penalty cases reviewed here were largely culled from databases of federal court opinions, but they also include other, unpublished rulings that were known to capital defense attorneys and advocates interviewed around the country. They represent just a fraction of the habeas appeals foreclosed by the 1996 law, which also applies to non-capital cases.

Like Rouse, who is still awaiting execution in North Carolina, two other inmates missed the habeas deadline by a single day, and for the most banal reasons. One attorney made the mistake of using regular mail instead of an overnight courier; another relied on a court’s after-hours filing system, which turned out to be broken.

But many of the other habeas petitions from condemned inmates were late by hundreds of days, or even thousands. (On average, those lawyers missed the deadline by 853 days, or more than 2 years and 4 months.) In 1 case, the attorney was more than 11 years late.

Some of the lawyers' mistakes can be traced to their misunderstandings of federal habeas law and the notoriously complex procedures that have grown up around it. Just as often, though, the errors have exposed the lack of care and resources that have long plagued the patchwork system by which indigent death-row prisoners are provided with legal help.

The right of condemned inmates to habeas review "should not depend upon whether their court-appointed counsel is competent enough to comply with [the] statute of limitations," 1 federal appeals judge, Beverly B. Martin, wrote in an opinion earlier this year. She added that allowing some inmates into the court system while turning others away because of how their lawyers missed filing deadlines was making the federal appeals process "simply arbitrary," she added.

Meanwhile, the problem that the habeas deadline was intended to solve — the ever-lengthening delays in the carrying out of death sentences - has grown steadily. In 1996, the average time from sentencing to execution was 10 years and five months, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2012, the latest year for which the same figure is available, the delay had stretched to 15 years and 10 months.

Passing habeas reform

The 1996 law that set the one-year statute of limitations on habeas appeals was one of the signal compromises that Clinton forged on domestic policy in the aftermath of the sweeping Republican victory in the 1994 midterm elections.

Some Republicans had advocated for habeas corpus reform for years, mainly as a way to streamline and limit death-row appeals. The idea struggled to gain traction, but it became a small element of the Contract with America championed by then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who was on his way to becoming House speaker. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the proposal found new life as part of antiterrorism legislation embraced by both parties.

That pairing created political tension, both between the major parties and within them. Some Democrats supported the antiterrorism measures but viewed the habeas restrictions as the unnecessary circumscribing of a fundamental right. Some Republicans backed the habeas restrictions but feared the possible government excesses that might come from expanding surveillance authorities and other law enforcement powers also included in the measure.

"Why is it necessary to link the death penalty and the constitutional guarantees of habeas corpus to a terrorism bill?" Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) asked during the debate in the House. "This is just a political deal. It is a political deal to get votes on the right."

By the mid-1990s, American support for the death penalty had climbed to 80 %, its highest point since Gallup began polling on the issue in the 1930s. Public patience with the appeals process also was waning as the typical time between sentencing and execution stretched to more than a decade.

"Somehow, somewhere, we are going to end the charade of endless habeas proceedings," the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), declared in the debate over the antiterrorism law. "And this bill is going to do it."

But important changes in the legal landscape already were raising concerns among some civil libertarians. One opponent of the habeas proposal, Rep. Melvin Watt, a North Carolina Democrat, cited the advent of DNA evidence and the fact that some prisoners were being exonerated up to 15 years after their trials. Congress, he said, was proposing "to compromise the most basic thing - innocence - for political expediency."

4 former U.S. attorneys general who were opposed to the legislation - 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans - wrote to Clinton to urge that any filing deadlines on habeas petitions take effect "only upon the appointment of competent counsel."

As supporters of the bill lined up 4 competing attorneys general behind their position, Hyde announced that he had a "celebrity to trump all of those attorneys general" on the matter. "His name," Hyde said, "is President Clinton."

Clinton, who had initially opposed linking habeas reform to the antiterrorism measures, changed his mind - as he had on key facets of welfare reform, criminal sentencing and other domestic policies. As he began campaigning for reelection, he described the delays in death-penalty litigation as "ridiculous." The streamlining of appeals should begin with the Oklahoma City bombing cases, he announced.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden of Delaware, introduced amendments to soften several of the habeas restrictions in the bill. But he left the one-year filing deadline in place, and he supported the bill when it came to the floor. At one point, he proposed to limit the 1-year deadline to only federal prisoners, but he eventually supported the bill that came to the floor without that change.

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 91 to 8, and it cleared the House by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

Myriad mistakes

The hurried and often convoluted draftsmanship of the law's habeas provisions began to come under criticism almost as soon as it took effect. The ambiguities of the measure left a host of questions for the courts to answer, and with each passing year, the relevant case law has grown more complex.

Under the 1996 law, the 1-year statute of limitations to file a federal habeas petition is supposed to begin after the conclusion of an inmate's direct appeal, which is filed in the state courts.

The direct appeal - the 1st of 3 levels of possible appeals - must focus on the trial record. It can argue, for example, that an important objection by the defense counsel should have been sustained rather than overruled.

Post-conviction petitions, which include federal habeas corpus appeals, can go beyond the trial to deal with anything from new evidence to the discovery of juror misconduct.

Lawyers who do post-conviction work in capital cases face a daunting array of challenges: They must typically reinvestigate the evidence for both guilt and punishment; canvass witnesses called and uncalled; plumb a defendant's criminal, social and family history; and round up and study thousands of pages of records. They must also navigate an ever-shifting landscape of appellate deadlines and procedures, identify promising issues and craft a detailed petition - all while under the pressure of defending a client whose life may depend on their success.

Yet while the law guarantees that indigent death-row inmates have a court-appointed attorney in federal habeas corpus proceedings, it does not stipulate that the attorney must be competent. The Constitution guarantees the effective assistance of counsel at trial, but gives no similar assurance for lawyers doing habeas work. Some of the same federal judges who are responsible for appointing habeas counsel have later traced the failure of such attorneys to meet the filing deadline to their inexperience, indifference, ineptitude or illness - and to myriad combinations thereof.

Motions or petitions filed properly in the state courts can suspend the federal deadline. But sometimes the motions are filed improperly, with lawyers neglecting to secure authorization to practice in a given court or failing to pay a required filing fee.

In at least 3 cases since 1996, attorneys filed papers in the wrong court. One appellate attorney discovered that his predecessor missed the habeas deadline after failing to even order the client's case file. Another attorney, who insisted that he had read the relevant case file, was later found to have never picked up the voluminous records from a state repository.

In some of the 80 cases, mistakes by judges compounded those of defense attorneys.

The lawyer for Richard Hamilton, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and murdering a 23-year-old nursing student after kidnapping her from a supermarket parking lot in Lake City, Fla., thought Hamilton had more time to file than he really did. So did a local judge, who told Hamilton not to worry. "It has been resolved," the judge said, to which Hamilton replied: "If you say so, that's good enough for me."

In 2 cases out of Texas, U.S. district court judges granted requests for a filing extension - setting, in effect, what appeared to be a new deadline - then enforced the old deadline after the petition was filed. "Parenthetically, this court may have erred in assuming that it had the authority to extend the statutory deadline," 1 judge later acknowledged.

Sometimes, courts waited too long to appoint habeas counsel. In California, where the courts have struggled mightily to find attorneys for capital appeals, at least 6 inmates received an attorney only after their deadline had passed - by more than 5 years in 2 cases.

Then there are lawyers who have failed even more basic scrutiny.

Some of the attorneys appointed to the 80 cases include an Alabama lawyer who was addicted to methamphetamine and was on probation for public intoxication and a Louisiana lawyer who suffered from a neurological and physiological disorder so debilitating that he was asked to leave his firm. One attorney in Texas had twice before been reprimanded for misconduct, while another Texas lawyer had twice been put on probation by the state bar. 2 weeks after being appointed in the capital case, he was put on probation again.

In Mississippi, Willie Jerome Manning's 1st appointed attorney withdrew, citing his "most limited knowledged [sic] and familiarity with post-conviction proceedings at all." A 2nd attorney also withdrew, citing his lack of qualifications. A 3rd attorney was appointed - by a court order that was misfiled, adding to the delays - 7 months after Manning's habeas deadline.

2 other men facing death sentences complained that their lawyer had a drinking problem - and they had the same lawyer. "Damn near fell out of his chair," 1 of the inmates wrote of the man in a letter to the lawyer's co-counsel.

As deadlines approached, some inmates pressed their attorneys for information. "I'm getting a little worried," 1 wrote. Another pleaded, "I want to know what's going on!"

In several cases, courts have shown that prisoners who schooled themselves in habeas law have sometimes demonstrated a better understanding of legal intricacies than their lawyers.

"[P]lease file my 2254 Habeas Petition immediately," 1 defendant wrote in a typical plea to his lawyer. "Please do not wait any longer ... again, please file my 2254 Petition at once."

The Supreme Court took note of the phenomenon in the case of Albert Holland, who was sentenced to death for the 1990 murder of a Florida police officer who tried to arrest him.

"Holland was right about the law," the justices wrote. His lawyer, they added, "was wrong about the law."

In the tracing of blame, the case of Mississippi death-row inmate Alan Dale Walker offered a triple bank shot. Attorneys for the state put a wrong date in a court filing. The Mississippi Supreme Court incorporated that error into an opinion. An attorney for Walker then used the opinion to calculate the filing deadline. Walker had a 2nd attorney who had separately calculated the deadline, without relying on the court's opinion. He came up with a different date - but his date was wrong, too.

Pitfalls and procedural issues

The struggle to find capable lawyers for capital cases has been particularly visible in a handful of states with large numbers of death-row inmates.

Since its death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Florida, for example, has bounced from one troubled arrangement to another for the provision of post-conviction counsel. Of the 80 capital cases with a missed deadline, Florida has 37 - the most of any state by far.

The state originally asked private lawyers to do the work free; it got few takers. It then established a special government office to do the work but shifted much of the load to a registry of private attorneys after lawmakers complained about the delays and the cost. In 1998, the state also set a cap on the number of hours per case those lawyers could bill (840) and the rate they could charge ($100 per hour).

The complexities of habeas law often have challenged even the most conscientious defense attorneys.

Michelle Kraus is an experienced defense attorney in Fort Wayne, Ind., who concentrates almost entirely on trial work. At the request of a lawyer friend, she signed on to assist with a state-level appeal for Gregory Scott Johnson, who had been convicted in 1986 of beating an 82-year-old woman to death. But after her friend left the case, Kraus wound up taking it to federal court, where she confronted a steep learning curve.

"It was overwhelming, getting grounded in it," Kraus says. She got the standard text on habeas practice and procedure - at that point, the 2 volumes ran to some 2,000 pages - and read it front to back. She also traveled to Atlanta to attend a 1-week seminar on capital litigation, taught by some of the country's leading experts.

Kraus devoted long hours to Johnson's petition, which included a claim that prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that might have reduced Johnson's culpability and perhaps spared him the death penalty. She dropped the petition in the mail 3 days before deadline, but it arrived 1 day late.

"Counsel bungled the job," the federal appeals court wrote in 2004. Instead of using 1st-class mail, Kraus should have opted for FedEx or a courthouse messenger, the court said. The person held accountable would be Johnson. "[L]awyers are agents," the court wrote. "Their acts (good and bad alike) are attributed to the clients they represent."

Telling Johnson about her mistake - and how he would be punished for it - "was probably the hardest thing I've ever done," Kraus says. She stayed on the case - "he forgave me," she says - and was with Johnson for his last meal before he was executed in 2005.

But Kraus has declined to do any more habeas work since then.

"The pitfalls are there, and I fell into one," she recalled. "And it was horrible."

Sometimes, even legal organizations that are usually lauded for the quality of their capital work have faced criticism.

In a Georgia case, a federal judge chastised lawyers with the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit that opposes the death penalty and provides free legal support to prisoners in capital cases. The Southern Center lawyers had left the case well before an inmate's habeas petition was due, but the judge argued that they should have done more to find replacement counsel and to help the inmate determine the filing deadline.

One of the authors of the two-volume legal guidebook on habeas practice, James S. Liebman, a law professor at Columbia University, says the complexity and vagueness of the 1996 law has given lawyers all kinds of procedural nuances over which to fight. An important result has been that prosecutors have more ways to get a petition thrown out on procedural grounds - an advantage that they have seized "energetically and assiduously," Liebman says.

The guidebook, now in its 6th edition, has grown over the years to 2,700 pages. "There are more and more pages," he said, but "less and less justice."

Confronted with late filings, courts have embraced a remedy called "equitable tolling," which allows judges to waive a missed deadline in some circumstances. But courts limit its application to extraordinary situations, and the standard has been applied unevenly around the country.

Plain negligence - or a "simple gaffe," as the court labeled the mistake Kraus made - generally will not merit a judge's forbearance. But abandoning clients or lying to them often will constitute grounds for setting the deadline aside.

In the 80 capital cases, courts have granted equitable tolling in about 1/3. At least 3 of the inmates whose habeas petitions were reviewed went on to receive new trials.

The courts usually won't forgive a missed deadline if an attorney misinterpreted the law, a mistake that gets categorized as negligence. But a federal court in Ohio did so in the case of Michael Keenan, a landscaper who was convicted of murdering a young man found in a Cleveland park. "He would have been executed," Keenan's lead defense lawyer, Vicki Werneke, said in an interview. "He came dangerously close to getting his whole case dismissed."

When Werneke came onto the case in 2008, after Keenan had been granted equitable tolling, the state's case was already showing signs of unraveling. In 2012, a U.S. district court judge considered Keenan's habeas petition and ordered a new trial. Citing the state's "egregious prosecutorial misconduct" in withholding evidence, an Ohio county judge later ruled that prosecutors can't retry Keenan, allowing him to go free.

The state's appeal of that ruling is now pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Race against time

When a deadline is missed, an inmate's federal appeal can be lost - no matter the strength of the argument for a new trial, and even if the late filing can be attributed more to hard luck than ineptitude.

The law requires that prosecutors turn over evidence favorable to the defense before trial. But it wasn't until 22 years after William Kuenzel was condemned in Alabama that his appellate attorney received police notes and grand jury testimony undermining the prosecution's case.

Kuenzel was convicted in 1988 of murdering a convenience-store clerk. But in 2010, the state disclosed that an alleged accomplice originally told police he was with someone else, and that the only eyewitness who identified Kuenzel at trial had told grand jurors she "couldn't really see a face."

With such revelations, Kuenzel's claim of innocence has attracted an array of prominent supporters. 3 former district attorneys - Robert M. Morgenthau of Manhattan, Gil Garcetti of Los Angeles and E. Michael McCann of Milwaukee - filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying the newly surfaced evidence "completely eviscerated" a prosecution case that they characterized as "weak, to say the least."

Kuenzel's backers have also mounted a polished publicity campaign arguing that he is innocent, including a video with actor Sam Waterston, who played a prosecutor on "Law and Order."

Although Kuenzel now has potentially strong grounds for an appeal, he still lacks a court to hear them - his lawyer missed the federal filing deadline by nearly 3 years.

When the 1996 law took effect, Kuenzel had one year to file his habeas petition. But the law included a provision that would suspend the normal 1-year statute of limitations if an inmate had a "properly filed" petition pending in state court, essentially stopping the clock on the appeals process.

A petition that Kuenzel had filed in an Alabama circuit court had been dismissed as untimely in 1994, but then restored to the docket in May 1996. This led Kuenzel and his attorney to believe he had a "properly filed" state petition pending, and that the countdown toward the appeals deadline had paused.

But three years later, the circuit court reversed itself again at the request of state prosecutors, which was interpreted by a federal court to mean that the clock had been ticking all along.

"It is just the most grievous injustice," says David Kochman, an attorney who has been working on Kuenzel's appeal since 2004. "If any case was crying out for review, it was this case."

The state has written in court files that the newly disclosed evidence "fails to even come close" to exonerating Kuenzel. "It is time for this case to finally come to an end," wrote the state, which 2 months ago asked for an execution date to be set.

Sentenced to death at 26, Kuenzel is now 52. In a letter to this reporter last month, he wrote that he felt like he was listening to an old grandfather clock as it wound down, knowing he would be killed when it stops. He can't rewind the clock, he said, because "the courts have shut the hole."

Guarding against racial prejudice

On April 17, 1996, as then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued against any weakening of habeas corpus protections in the pending antiterrorism bill, the New York Democrat reminded his colleagues that the matters at hand were more profound than mere legal procedures.

"We are dealing here, sir, with a fundamental provision of law, one of those essential civil liberties which precede and are the basis of political liberties," Moynihan said.

Quoting from a letter that several former attorneys general had written to President Clinton, he cast the federal courts' ability to review state-court decisions under habeas corpus as an essential guarantee: "It has a proud history of guarding against injustices born of racial prejudice and intolerance, of saving the innocent from imprisonment or execution, and in the process, ensuring the rights of all law-abiding citizens."

2 days before Moynihan's speech on the Senate floor, one of the jurors who voted to send Kenneth Rouse to his death, Joseph Baynard, signed an affidavit acknowledging that he had deliberately withheld the fact of his mother's murder so that he could get on the jury.

Baynard, who died last year, acknowledged in the affidavit that his decision in the Rouse case might have been colored by "bigotry." A Duke University law student who interviewed the former juror for Rouse's appeal also filed a separate affidavit detailing Baynard's racial invective.

At that point, Rouse's case was still in the state courts, which ultimately denied him a new trial. His 1-year habeas deadline came on Feb. 7, 2000, and his lawyers, who miscalculated the date, filed their petition on his behalf 1 day too late.

While the American public often complains about criminal defendants winning their legal cases on technicalities, the opposite is often true, says Gretchen Engel, a habeas expert who had advised Rouse's defense team and provided the correct filing date: "What they don't realize is how often people lose on technicalities, or in ways that would offend most people's sense of justice."

Despite the federal courts' refusal to hear his case, Rouse got 1 more chance in 2009, when the North Carolina legislature passed the Racial Justice Act, allowing condemned prisoners to challenge their sentences if they could demonstrate that racial bias had played a role.

Rouse filed a motion to have his case reviewed under the act. But in 2013 - after 4 other death-row inmates had succeeded in getting their sentences reduced to life without parole under the new provision - the state legislature repealed the law altogether.

Rouse's motion is still pending. It is unclear if it will ever be heard.

(source: Washington Post)


Moumita's brother identifies body and demands death for accused

The Moumita Das rape and murder case has finally come to a close. Mirgunk Das, the brother of Moumita - the Gurgaon teacher who was raped before being murdered in Chakrata area near Dehradun last month - identified his sister through the shape of her navel.

The victim's family has demanded death penalty for the accused youths. After the identification, the postmortem was conducted and finally the body was cremated at Kedar Ghat in Uttarkashi on Saturday.

The police recovered a decomposed body near Damta 2 days back. The police was confident that they have recovered Moumita's body but the victim's kin had expressed confusion. But the arrival of Mirgunk and his other family members cleared the confusion.

Mirgunk said: "We demand death penalty for the culprits and I will fight a legal battle for this. We are satisfied with the work of the local police."

Uttarkashi Superintendent of Police Jagat Ram Joshi said: "Besides the navel, the family members also confirmed the identification by finding surgery mark on her belly and also the earring hole."

"There was little left in the decomposed body. There was no cloth, paper or ornaments recovered from the spot where the body was found. This made the identification process complicated," the police said.

A joint team of Uttarakhand Police and State Disaster Relief Force managed to recover Moumita's body on November 13.

The incident dates back to October 24 when Moumita and Avijit Paul, who were on a Diwali break, had suddenly disappeared from the Chakrata area, about 110 km from Dehradun.

The couple reached Dehradun on October 21 and left for Chakrata early the next day. The 2 had spoken with their families on October 23, Diwali morning, before they had gone to Tiger Falls.

They hired a taxi in Chakrata and this turned to be the biggest mistake of their lives.

Driver Raju, with 3 of his friends, first killed Paul and murdered Moumita after raping her in a moving car. The culprits dumped the bodies in river.

(source: Daily Mail)


6 more hanged in Iran as regime execution rate soars

6 more prisoners were hanged in Iran on November 13 as the execution rate soars under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani.

2 men named as Vahid Shahbakhsh and Mahmoud Shahbakhsh were hanged in the main prison in the city of Zahedan, south-eastern Iran.

Vahid, in his 30s, had been sentenced to 3 years in prison plus execution and was held in section 4 of the prison.

Mahmoud, 26, had been sentenced to death was being held in section 1 of the prison.

Both men were classified as 'security' prisoners, a term the Iranian regime uses for the inmates that are not being held as criminals. There is no information available on any legal process the men may have gone through.

Further reports received from inside the regime said another prisoner named as Bahador Niroomand was hanged in the main prison in the city of Bandar-Abbas on the same day.

3 more prisoners named as Morteza Rostami, Hooshang Saki and Mohammad Gholampour were also hanged also in Shahab prison in city of Kerman on November 13.

The surge in secret executions in Iran comes as the regime claimed it would allow 2 United Nations human rights experts into the country - but the UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmad Shaheed.

Dr Shaheed has made repeated requests to visit Iran since his appointment at the UN in 2010, but all have been denied.

He has also published numerous reports on the gross violations of human rights in Iran, and has been the target multiple personal attacks, crude insults and defamatory remarks by the regime's highest officials.

He wrote in an article in April: "The attacks against me and other UN officials pale in comparison to those often reported by Iranians who exercise their fundamental rights to free expression, belief, assembly and association."

(source: NCR-Iran)

NOVEMBER 15, 2014:

TEXAS----new execution date

Derrick Charles Has been given an execution date of May 12; it should be considered serious.


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

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

280------------Dec. 3-------------------Scott Panetti---------519

281------------Dec. 11------------------Robert Ladd-----------520

282------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------521

283------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------522

284------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------523

285------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------524

286------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------525

287------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------526

288------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------527

289------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------528

290------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------529

291------------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------530

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Why the death penalty costs so much

"Other states are trying to abolish the death penalty," quipped Texas comedian Ron White, "my state's putting in an express lane."

Texas has been known for its high number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, having killed off some 518 offenders to date. Proponents of the death penalty push for a shorter appellate process and expedited execution, while those opposed to the "murder for murder" policy advocate life and promise lower costs on the taxpayers.

Capital trials involving the death penalty are vastly different from their non-death counterparts, beginning with investigation and continuing through jury selection and the trial. The trial is likely followed by the appellate process.

Each part of the process carries a hefty price tag, and with an average of 10 years in appeals while inmates are on death row, costs mount to the millions.

Locally, the last death penalty case tried in Tom Green County was the case of Luis Ramirez in 1999, who was sentenced to death and executed some 6 years later in 2005. Assistant District Attorney Bryan Clayton served as second chair for the prosecution in that case, marking his 5th death penalty case since 1991.

He explains the differences between a death penalty capital murder trial and what he terms a "mini-cap", or capital murder where death is waived as beginning with jury selection, notes differences in the punishment phase of the trial, and compares the preparation for trial through the appellate process to a marriage between a prosecutor and a case.

Voir Dire

In the case of Luis Ramirez, Clayton estimates that he and Steve Lupton worked intermittently on preparing for trial for about a year before jury selection began. In the months preceding the trial, Clayton said, both he and Lupton were completely consumed by the case and worked solely on it through the sentencing.

The death penalty is not sought in all capital cases, and a judge cannot assign it; only a jury may hand down the punishment of death, and the jury selection process varies significantly in a death penalty case from a felony case.

Allison Palmer, 51st District Attorney, explained that in a typical felony case, roughly 45-75 potential jurors are called in for the jury selection process, voir dire. During voir dire, a judge addresses the jury, and both the state and defense do the same, while all 45-75 individuals are seated in the courtroom. The process generally takes a few hours and is finished by the afternoon.

In a capital case where the state is seeking the death penalty, a couple hundred potential jurors are called in and are given a written questionnaire that probes into their personal lives, experiences and preferences in an attempt to ascertain whether a person can be fair and impartial.

Both the state and defense usually submit their own written questionnaire and attempt to come to an agreement on what should be included from both sides, with the judge making the final ruling. Some of the questions are constant, while others are case-specific, such as questions about alcohol, should the substance be involved in the offense.

"The questions really delve into personal experiences, personal experiences with law enforcement, personal feelings on the death penalty for sure, involvements with the law and involvements with the legal system," Palmer said.

The number of pages varies, but averages at about 14, and includes open-ended, multiple choice, yes/no and scale-type questions. The questionnaire is completed in court and can take a while to complete.

"You can never commit a juror to your set of facts, but you can check their feelings on different things you know would come up in the trial," she said.

After the questionnaire is completed, jurors are taken individually to speak with the judge, state and defense attorneys. The entire process equates to weeks rather than hours.

"Voir dire may last 3 to 4 weeks," Clayton said. "You try to get 8 to 10 prospective jurors interviewed per day and you are worn out because you spend probably each side over an hour with each one. Physically, it takes a toll on you. You can lose the case as a prosecutor in voir dire just based on a random draw of the jury, what kind of people you got."

The Trial

The real work of a death penalty trial takes place in the punishment phase, Clayton said. Guilt or innocence should essentially be open and shut, he said, because if there's doubt in that portion there will likely be a real battle when it comes to assessing punishment.

"The hardest part? The fact that you're asking 12 people to sit in the same courtroom with an individual and get them all 12 to agree unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence is sufficient to terminate that individual's life," he said. "It's hard enough to get 12 people to agree where to go to lunch, much less to kill somebody.

Clayton explained that the difficulty lies with convincing the jury that a person's past conduct warrants death, as one of the primary questions juries are to consider is whether or not they believe the individual is going to continue to be a threat to society both between and beyond prison walls.

"We're asking them to look into a crystal ball," he likened. "That's pretty scary right there. 1 dissenting vote and it's over, it's a life sentence."

In order to clear up the crystal, both prosecutors and defense attorneys spend an enormous amount of time, resources and effort calling witnesses and experts in the punishment phase after conviction.

1st-degree murder trials differ from other felony cases in that the defendant's personal lives are presented to the jury in much greater detail, allowing them to get an idea of what kind of person the defendant is. In a capital murder case, where the death penalty is sought, that attention is amplified, and investigators and private detectives are hired for both sides to track down information and witnesses that paint a picture of the defendant.

Former teachers, pastors, loves, cousins and friends are just some of those who may be called to the stand, as well as psychologists, investigators, law enforcement officers and technicians with specialized training.

Mental health becomes a big deal in capital cases because the Supreme Court says a defendant who is mentally retarded cannot be sentenced to death. Clayton said that once a prosecutor decides to pursue the death penalty, it isn't uncommon to see a defendant's IQ suddenly drop 10 points.

"A trial is called a trial because that's what it is," Clayton said. "A trial is a test; it's a test of the facts. And if you're going to put someone down in a hole, 6 feet under, you better be damn sure you're doing the right thing."

Married to the Case

Although the men Clayton prosecuted were all sentenced in the '90s, the work on his end was not finished until the fluids flowed and they were pronounced deceased. All death penalty cases are appealed, reviewed and scrutinized, lending to the lengthy period between sentencing and execution and some being overturned. Others "bounce around the appellate courts" for years or even decades, Clayton said, some resulting in a new trial.

"You see cases very occasionally get reversed," he said. "That tells me the review system works. Not all of the people the cases are reversed on are innocent. That just means their trial may have been flawed or some single piece of evidence may be flawed. Do they deserve a new trial because of that? Yes. Will the outcome be different? I don't know, but that's what that review process of for."

In 1988, Ted Calvin Cole, also known as the "dog-leash killer", was sentenced to death by a jury in Tom Green County. Former DA Steve Lupton tried the case. After "bouncing around the appeals courts" for 20 years, Cole was granted a new trial in April 2007 and was sentenced to life without parole.

"If you seek the death penalty, you are going to be married to that case not only for the time it takes to get it to trial, but the appellate end of it may go on for years and years and years," Clayton reflected. "Most of them, you have to realize that you're committing a huge, enormous block of time. We don't just scan the file, walk in and say what's on our mind."

Clayton's 1st capital case involving Kenneth Bruce took 12 years to run its course from sentencing to execution. The Luis Ramirez case took 6.

"We have several phases [of appeals] and each phase can have several, kind of bumps in the road," he said. "The 1st phase is all people who are convicted and given the death sentence following a capital murder trial have an automatic direct appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. It's automatic."

Assuming the conviction is affirmed on direct appeal, the post-conviction process branches off in 2 directions, Clayton said. The 1st branch is a Writ of Habeas Corpus under the state courts; the 2nd branch is a Writ of Habeas Corpus under the federal courts. These may run parallel.

"A habeas corpus petition is not like a direct appeal," Clayton explained. "A direct appeal deals solely with legal issues in the conduct of the trial, procedural issues. When you get into the (state court) writ process, that usually focuses more on factual things, new evidence, conflicting evidence, undiscovered evidence at time of trial, ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, just a whole wide variety of things."

Clayton said the state-level habeas corpus writ is ultimately decided in Austin, after the district or trial court may or may not have a hearing to develop the new evidence.

At the federal level, the writ of habeas corpus functions much the same as the state-level petition, but operates on a higher level. The decision at the federal level takes place in federal district court and is reviewable by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and their decision is potentially reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, Clayton explained.

"So you can see it's a multi-layered, multi-leveled deal. Our office does the direct appeal. I have done them, I've argued twice at the Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal. I did Luis Ramirez's. I went down and did that one myself."

Ramirez's conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, and he was appointed a new attorney, who filed a writ of habeas corpus in Tom Green County stating he had new evidence. Once again, Clayton and Lupton had to argue against the evidence at a hearing held in Judge Woodward's court, who sent his findings to the attorney general's office, which handled the habeas petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"He was trying primarily the new evidence tag," Clayton said of Ramirez's petition. "He was claiming they had found some magical alibi witness and they brought the person in and we cross-examined him. It was very nebulous and the judge turned it down. I think they were (also) trying to raise some questions about the co-defendant's confession being used against him..."

The speed with which Ramirez made it through the appellate process has been described as "unprecedented." The average time on death row in Texas is 10.74 years. In that time, inmates are going through the appellate process, but there are also changes occurring outside prison walls in that time. District attorneys and attorneys general may change over and different attitudes may prevail. All of these things can affect and extend the process.

"Even if you are successful at trial, it doesn't mean he's going to be executed any time in the foreseeable future," Clayton warned. "Certainty of a life sentence is oftentimes much better and, frankly, in some ways, I think it is an even more severe punishment. [Death penalty cases are] a severe commitment of time, money, resources, energy and no real certainty to it."

Big Bucks

Much has been said about the exorbitant cost of trying a death penalty case over a capital or 1st-degree murder trial in which death is waived, leaving many to wonder how it could cost more to kill somebody than to keep them alive in prison.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice website provides information on death row inmates, which states that the average age of executed inmates is 39 years old. The average time spent on death row is 10.74 years, making offenders on average between 28 and 29 at the time of incarceration.

A 2011 study conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice states that the average annual cost of housing an inmate in Texas is roughly $21,390. This equates to $58.60 per day. If an inmate were 28 years old when he entered the prison system and lived for 40 years until death, the average cost of his incarceration by Vera's measure would equal $855,600.

Court documents from both the Ramirez and this year's Salazar cases reveal vastly different numbers as pertain to costs of legal proceedings in preparation for and during those trials.

Costs begin to accrue with investigation, which includes both the cost of detectives, psychiatrists and travel to meet witnesses, as examples. According to financial documents available at the District Clerk's Office, investigator fees in the Ramirez case came to nearly $32,000. There were no records readily available for psychiatrist and other expert fees.

Note: Due the age of the Ramirez case, not all documents have been filed electronically. The files are currently stored in roughly 15 separate legal boxes, and due to time constraints, could not be researched thoroughly. Information on all payments made to attorneys, investigators, witness travel, the jury and prosecutors (salary) could not be obtained. The numbers listed here reflect what was available on the criminal docket sheet.

The payments made in the recent Salazar trial to investigators was exponentially lower at $1,612.50. A forensic psychologists bill from the Salazar case was paid in the sum of $3,437.50; and payment to the defense attorney ran $10,269.98. The grand total, including court costs but excluding the prosecuting attorney's salary, came to $15,753.98. Salazar was 32 years old when convicted.

By comparison, defense attorneys' fees in the Luis Ramirez case came out to $145,651.03. However, rather than writing checks to one attorney as was the case in Salazar’s proceedings, two attorneys handled the trial of Ramirez and a new attorney was appointed during his habeas petition, who also had an assistant. Those attorneys officed in Midland and of course had to be briefed by previous counsel, as well as travel to and from San Angelo during the process.

"There are 2 sets of defense attorneys typically representing an offender these days in Tom Green there are - but typically in the past there has always been a 1st chair and a 2nd chair," Palmer explained. "Attorneys' fees alone will go beyond $100,000. Then there are investigators that they hire that the courts will have to pay if a capital murder defendant is indigent, which most are."

Because investigation is so thorough in a death penalty case, investigators will often have to travel out of town or out of state if the defendant has lived anywhere else throughout their lives. If a witness is found beyond the county, travel costs of bringing that witness to trial are also added to the county's bill.

"Like Luis Ramirez..." Clayton said. "We brought in witnesses from Las Vegas, Nevada that knew things about him, we brought in witnesses from all around this area, the defense brought in witnesses from other states and we brought in experts, all of it at great, tremendous cost. I would suggest to you that in today's dollars one could not prosecute a death penalty case for anything less than $1 million. That's conservative."

Once the trial begins, costs begin to compound. Back when Luis Ramirez was tried, the payment received for jury duty was a meager $6-7, Clayton said. Now, potential jurors are paid $40 per day, and while a pool of 45-75 may be expensive on a typical felony case for day 1, voir dire generally ends and trials begin the same day, running 4 days to a week on average.

In Salazar's case, 58 people were called in for jury duty; 12 were selected with 2 alternates, and the trial lasted 4 days. The jury would have cost roughly $2,240 excluding the cost of voir dire.

We could not find that information for the Ramirez case, however given 150 potential jurors on the 1st day of voir dire at $40 apiece, the county would pay $6,000. Clayton estimates voir dire in death penalty cases to take a matter of 2-4 weeks with their numbers gradually decreasing, and the Ramirez trial ran 4 weeks long. Even back then at $7 per juror per day, the trial alone would have cost $2,940 for the panel.

Additional court reporter, expert, miscellaneous and appellate fees bring the cost of a death penalty case up to an estimated 3 to 4 times that of a non-death case, Palmer said.

"First just remember that every step of the way is through courts, prosecutors, assistant attorney generals, the defense lawyers that are involved in it - those are all funded by your tax dollars," Clayton said. "Every bit of it. They may come out of different pots. For example, back when we tried Luis Ramirez, every dime for his original trial was paid for by Tom Green County...Then the direct appeal: all Tom Green County money for everything. The 1107 writ (of habeas corpus), I'm a little more unclear as to what pot that came out of, but it was all tax dollars, be it from the state or from the county."

Prosecutors agreed that although the prices may be astronomical, they are not a factor when DA's consider whether to seek the death penalty.



Pennsylvania man convicted of murder, state seeks death penalty

A jury on Friday convicted a Pennsylvania man of 1st-degree murder in the dismemberment of a woman whose body parts were found stuffed in garbage bags strewn along 2 highways, and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty next week.

After 2 hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Charles Ray Hicks, 40, of all 3 charges he faced in the beating, strangulation and dismemberment of Deanna Null, 36, of Scranton. Her remains were found in January 2008.

Showing no emotion as the verdict was read, Hicks was then handcuffed and led by sheriff's deputies out of the courtroom and back to a detention center where he has been held without bail.

Hicks, a former electrical contractor at the Tobyhanna Army Depot, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

The jury will return to Monroe County Court in Stroudsburg for the penalty phase of the trial on Monday. Prosecutors are set to ask for Hicks to be sentenced to death and the defense will seek life imprisonment.

Testimony in the 2-week trial turned on competing theo