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

OCTOBER 18, 2017:

TEXAS----impending executions

Texas Set to Execute Anthony Shore, Who Asked for Death Penalty

A Texas man who confessed to raping and strangling girls - and who asked the jury to give him the death penalty - is set to be executed Wednesday evening.

Anthony Allen Shore's lawyers said in court papers that their client, known as the "Tourniquet Killer," should be spared death because he is brain damaged, and they argued that his trial lawyer did not put on a robust defense.

But appellate judges rejected his appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case. It's not clear whether Shore's lawyers will file a last-minute challenge.

Shore, 55, was convicted in 2004 of raping and strangling Maria del Carmen Estrada, 21, in 1992. He was prosecuted after investigators linked the Estrada murder, a cold case, to DNA that Shore had provided in an unrelated matter. Although he was tried for just her murder, police said he also confessed to killing 3 other women from 1986 to 1995.

At his trial, his attorney told jurors that they should find that the crime included aggravating circumstances that called for the death penalty.

"Anthony has asked on his behalf that we ask you to answer those questions in such a way that he's sentenced to death," the lawyer told the panel.

"Anthony still believes ... it is time for him to sacrifice his life for what he has done."

His current attorneys contended that the defense team should have challenged the state's case during the punishment phase. They also argued that mental illness should make him ineligible for execution.

The courts disagreed. In January, one panel of judges noted Shore's long history of violent behavior.

"Shore's sister testified that he stabbed a kitten to death when he was 4 or 5, that he pushed a screwdriver through his sister's head when they were children, and that he used his sister to get girls in the neighborhood to come out of their houses so he could grope and try to kiss them," they wrote.

"Shore's daughters testified about being abused, drugged, and molested by Shore. His wife and former girlfriends testified that he drugged and raped them, choked them while having sex, used drugs, and kept pornography of young girls."

They said the clinical director of a sex offender program "testified that he had superior intellectual and abstract reasoning abilities; was grandiose, opportunistic, manipulative, and narcissistic; understood what was socially acceptable but had sexual deviations and would break a law if he thought he could get away with it; and scored high on a measure of psychopathy."

If Shore is executed Wednesday, it will be the 7th lethal injection in Texas this year - more than in any other state.

(source: BBC News)


Stay the execution of Clinton Young.



Former Death Row inmate: "Go to the ballot box"

Anthony Graves, also known as Death Row Exoneree 138, visited Texas State Oct. 10. Graves shared his story behind being wrongly convicted and spent 18 years in prison, 12 of which he spent on death row, and motivated students to take their frustrations by going to vote.

Graves' visit to campus was a part of the 2017-18 Common Experience theme: The Search for Justice. Graves shared his story in the lecture held in Evans Auditorium. He explained the process of being falsely accused to the moment he called his mom when he was released.

"At the most, I thought maybe I have a traffic ticket I forgot to pay," Graves said. "I never shot a gun in my life."

Graves was charged with capital murder for the death of six people in Somerville, in 1992. He waited 2 years for trial, where 11 white jurors and 1 black juror convicted him of the crime. Two execution dates later, he was released in 2010.

Although Graves explained the effects media, racism and injustice had on his trial, he kept pointing to the importance of going to the ballot box and holding public officials accountable.

"We have a voice in this thing," Graves said. "You got to use it, and you got to use it at the ballot box. You got to know who your nominees running for office are, what they stand for. We are at a place in our country where it is so important to take your voice to the ballot box."

During the Q&A segment following Graves' testimony, 1 attendee asked Graves how people can change the criminal justice system. Graves responded, "Find an organization and donate your time."

Nathan Pino, a professor of sociology, said that Graves' story doesn't just tell a testimony, but it humanizes the larger issue.

"Graves puts a human face on important issues in the criminal justice system, and he can provide his personal experience with something that is usually discussed in the abstract in the classroom," Pino said. "His story can show students how one can work to make things better and to never give up on working toward a better future.

Graves' story vocalized the injustices behind the criminal justice system. Graves said unless someone makes more than $150,000 they are not exempt from the death penalty, even if innocent.

Shannon Fitzpatrick, an attorney for students, said that students need to familiarize themselves with our criminal justice system and act from there.

"We choose to execute people that do bad things, but more often than people would like to believe, we get it wrong," Fitzpatrick said. "That is a huge risk, and it is pretty well understood that we have actually executed innocent people. Students need to understand the system that we have in place and either support it or try to change it for the better, but don't just sit back and say 'those are all bad people' because as Anthony Graves (and hundreds of others) so clearly demonstrates, they are not all bad."

Common Experience has events planned throughout the academic year, including more guest speakers and exhibits to emphasize justice.



Alabama seeks court permission to proceed with execution

Alabama on Tuesday asked an appellate court to allow the execution of an inmate convicted of killing a police officer in 1997.

The Alabama attorney general's office asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a stay that is blocking the execution of Torrey Twane McNabb. McNabb is one of several inmates in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the state's use of the sedative midazolam at the start of executions, saying it would not reliably render them unconscious before other drugs stopped their lungs and heart.

"Alabama has already carried out 4 executions using this protocol. 3 of those executed inmates were co-plaintiffs in this case, and their stay requests were denied by both the Supreme Court and this Court," the Alabama attorney general's office wrote in the court filing.

McNabb was convicted of killing Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon in 1997. Prosecutors say McNabb shot Gordon multiple times after the officer arrived at the scene of a crash that McNabb caused while fleeing a bail bondsman.

An attorney for McNabb urged the appellate judges to keep the execution on hold since the 11th Circuit last month ruled in the inmates' favor and said a federal judge prematurely dismissed their lawsuit.

"This court ordered that Mr. McNabb was entitled to further proceedings on the merits of his case challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's execution protocol," attorney John Palombi wrote.

McNabb was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday, but a federal judge on Monday issued a stay in order to have time to hold the proceedings ordered by the 11th Circuit. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins wrote it "would require nothing short of Circe's magical powers" to have a trial completed on the matter by Oct. 19.

"There is insufficient time prior to October 19 to address deliberatively the full panoply of weighty, life-involved issues presented. Because the prejudice to McNabb - his execution - is so great, the equities strongly outweigh the state's interest in executing McNabb as scheduled on October 19," U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins wrote.



Potential jurors in Hamad case expressed practical, not political, concerns about shootings

Despite the impression one might get from reading the politically charged commentary on the internet about the Nasser Hamad aggravated murder case, potential jurors questioned about it over the past 5 days had more practical concerns.

Many of the 173 people called for jury duty in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court were asked what they knew about the Feb. 25 shootings in Howland to determine whether they had already formed an opinion about Hamad's guilt or innocence.

When asked what they remembered about the news coverage they received about the conflict that left two young men dead and three other people wounded, 2 expressed the same thought: The gunshots fired that day could have hurt innocent people.

"It was disturbing because I or someone I know could have been on that highway," 1 potential juror said. He remembered hearing that some of the gunshots Hamad is accused of firing apparently traveled in the direction of the busy state Route 46 commercial district in front of Hamad's house.

That same potential juror said he doesn't watch or read the news a lot, but said: "It would be hard to live here and not have heard something about" the shootings.

Another potential juror also remembered hearing shots had been fired toward Route 46.

"I thought that was pretty reckless," the man said.

In both cases, the men said if they were selected for the jury, they would set aside that or any other information they had heard before the trial and would decide Hamad's guilt or innocence based only on the evidence they would hear at the trial.

They were not excluded from being among the final 12 jurors and 4 alternates.

During parts of 2 days of jury selection, a Vindicator reporter did not hear any juror mention any debate about whether Hamad had a right to defend himself, which has been a hot-button topic on internet blogs.

Hamad, 48, is charged with killing Joshua Haber, 19, and Josh Williams, 20, and injuring Bryce Hendrickson, 20, John Shively, 17, and April Trent-Vokes, 42.

Police said Hamad was involved in a monthslong feud with some of the 5 because his girlfriend had left her husband and come to live with Hamad. The 5 were all related in some way to his girlfriend, Tracy Hendrickson.

Police say the 5 went to Hamad's house after Facebook taunts earlier that day. A fist fight took place. After it was over, Hamad went in the house, got a gun and fired it at the 5, who were preparing to leave in their car near the road.

If Hamad is convicted of certain of the charges, he could get the death penalty.

Many of the questions the potential jurors were asked related to their opinion of the death penalty.

The judge, assistant county Prosecutor Chris Becker, and defense attorney Robert Dixon questioned 1 woman at length about a comment she made on a questionnaire about finding the death penalty necessary only in "extreme" cases, such as someone raping and murdering a child.

She agreed she would decide on the death penalty - or not - based on the facts and would follow the law as given to her by Judge Ronald Rice.

But she acknowledged making the decision to vote for the death penalty would be "stressful," and she would "have a hard time" if put in that position.

"You've made difficult decisions your whole life," Judge Rice said. "Decisions in life are difficult."

She was not excluded from possibly being among the final 12 jurors and 4 alternates.

The 5 days of jury selection reduced the number of potential jurors from 173 to 43, whom the judge called "death-penalty qualified" because of their answers regarding the death penalty.

Because there were enough qualified jurors to pick a final panel Thursday, Judge Rice said moving the trial will not be necessary. Hamad's attorneys had asked the judge earlier to move it out of Trumbull County.

The final 43 potential jurors will be narrowed to the final 12 jurors and 4 alternates Thursday, when attorneys for the prosecution and defense each are allowed to eliminate 6 jurors and 2 alternates with what are called pre-emptory challenges.

Pre-emptory challenges are ones in which an attorney can ask for a juror to be dismissed without needing to give a reason.

The final 12 jurors and 4 alternates will visit the scene of the shootings Friday morning, and testimony will begin Monday.



Lake County prosecutor fighting death penalty reversal in murder case

The Lake County Prosecutor's Office has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to reverse the convictions of a former Perry Township man who was sentenced to die for the 2010 rape and murder of a Mentor woman.

Joseph Thomas, 33, was found guilty by a Lake County Common Pleas Court jury in 2012 of the aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape of Annie McSween. Judge Richard L. Collins Jr. chose to adopt the jury's recommendation of death rather than downgrade the sentence to life in prison.

In a 4-3 vote earlier this month, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and ordered a new trial be scheduled for Thomas.

However, Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Karen Sheppert is arguing the high court's majority neglected to fully analyze the issues, confused legal standards and failed to utilize its own law rather than "cherry-picking cases from outside Ohio" to make its decision.

McSween's body was found on Nov. 26, 2010, in a wooded area outside of Mario's Lakeway Lounge on Andrews Road in Mentor-on-the-Lake, where she worked as a bartender. She was strangled and stabbed multiple times in the neck and back on her 49th birthday, which was also Black Friday. The power lines to the bar had been cut, and McSween and 2 other women had their tires slashed.

Thomas has maintained his innocence and claimed he had no motivation to commit the crime.

Although Thomas had frequently been seen carrying a blue pocketknife before that night, it was not recovered during the criminal investigation. At trial, prosecutors introduced 5 other knives Thomas owned, describing them as "full Rambo combat knives."

Justice Terrence O'Donnell wrote the court's lead opinion, which determined the trial court committed plain error by admitting those 5 knives that prosecutors knew were not used in the crime into evidence. The majority found a reasonable probability that the error affected the outcome of the trial, and that reversal was necessary to prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice.

The 3 dissenting justices found the prosecution presented substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict independent of the admitted knife evidence.

The assistant prosecutor agreed with the dissenting opinion in her recent motion to reconsider.

"The state introduced (Thomas') knives in conjunction with eyewitness testimony to demonstrate that the blue knife was missing from (his) possessions, but the lead opinion failed to acknowledge this," Sheppert wrote. "... A witness testified that Thomas carried a blue pocketknife with a blade that was 3 to 4 inches long. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy opined that the perpetrator used a knife with a 4- to 6-inch blade. The blue pocketknife therefore could have been the murder weapon, and the fact that investigators were able to find Thomas's other knives but could not find the blue pocketknife has a tendency to make Thomas's disposal of the blue knife more probable."

In addition, the assistant prosecutor noted the seized knife evidence did not affect Thomas's rights to a fair trial since the defense was then able to emphasize the fact that the state was unable to produce the murder weapon.

"... The evidence cannot be used as both a shield and a sword," Sheppert stated in her motion.

Sheppert also claimed the Supreme Court's factual analysis was flawed.

"This court has previously held that the reviewing court should only consider evidence admitted at trial," she stated. "... In (the) Thomas (case), the polygraph results were not admitted to the jury yet seemed to play a part in this court's conclusion."

The lead justice's opinion noted that Thomas voluntarily agreed to a polygraph examination in 2011. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation examiner determined Thomas told the "substantial truth" when questioned about whether he killed McSween, knew who did it or did anything to cause her death.

Another man failed the polygraph, according to Thomas' lead trial lawyer.



Letter: Protect the mentally ill from death penalty

We were very pleased to read the op-ed by Paula Caplan, "Executions of intellectually disabled continue," which brings attention to the important issue that people with intellectual disability continue to be executed despite the fact that the Supreme Court outlawed the practice. However, there is another area of death penalty law that is very troubling and which the South Dakota legislature should seek to address. People with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, do not currently have any protection from the death penalty. Severe mental illness is a different condition than intellectual disability, but one that brings similar impairments, so we should be very disturbed by the fact that individuals with mental illness can still be executed. The death penalty is intended to be used only against the worst offenders who commit the most heinous crimes. We know that defendants with mental illnesses are not the "worst of the worst," as their disability makes them more vulnerable and sometimes completely disconnected from reality. For these individuals, life without parole should be the maximum sentence and they should not be subject to society's ultimate punishment. Denny Davis, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Burbank

(source: Letter to the Editor, Sioux Falls Argus Leader)


Another push to end Utah's death penalty is likely for the 2018 legislative session

Advocates for abolishing Utah's death penalty system say they plan to push lawmakers to end capital punishment in the 2018 legislative session.

Legislators came close to stopping the punishment in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session. Still, it was exciting to see it come that close, said Darcy Van Orden, the executive director of the Utah Justice Coalition. And at a Tuesday evening panel hosted by Young Americans for Liberty, Van Orden said they are planning to make another run at abolishing the death penalty in 2018. They already have their Senate sponsor, she told attendees, and are looking for someone in the House of Representatives to back the bill.

"More to come on this," she told the audience.

A bill to abolish the death penalty wasn't brought up in the 2016 session, though lawmakers then had considered studying the costs of the death penalty. The bill, however, never came up for a final Senate vote.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimated in 2012 that when compared to a sentence of life without parole, it costs an additional $1.6 million to handle appeals and costs of a death sentence over 20 years.

At the Tuesday panel held at the University of Utah, Van Orden was joined by other criminal justice reform advocates, all lamenting Utah's - and the nation's - death penalty systems.

It's too expensive, said Kevin Greene, state director of the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

It unfairly targets minorities, according to Jean Hill, the director of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

It's too risky, said Jensie Anderson, a University of Utah law professor and legal director of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project. The risk of executing someone who is innocent is far too great, she said.

And it's too arbitrary, said Ralph Dellapiana, director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Whether a murderer faces the death penalty often depends solely on a prosecutor's discretion, he said.

"It's like being struck by lightning," Dellapiana said. "It depends on your ZIP code on what is the possibility [a case is] going to result in a death penalty."

All said that the better solution would be to make the most serious punishment in Utah life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"The other death sentence," Dellapiana quipped.

Utah last carried out the death penalty in June 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad, drawing international attention to the state.

9 men are on Utah's death row, and all are in various stages of appeals in state or federal court. 2 received the death penalty in the past decade: Floyd Maestas was sentenced to death in 2008, while Douglas Lovell was sentenced to be executed in 2015 after a retrial.

The next death penalty trial is scheduled for November, when a jury will decide whether Steven Crutcher should be executed for killing his cellmate at the Gunnison prison in 2013. He has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, so the jurors at his trial will only be asked to decide which punishment he will face.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


ACLU wants Idaho to restrict death penalty----UI law professor discusses mental illness, capital punishment

A University of Idaho law professor and a group of advocates want to see Idaho pass rules that would prevent the mentally ill and juveniles from being subjected to the death penalty.

Shaakirrah Sanders, an associate professor at the UI College of Law Boise campus, discussed the issue in a presentation titled "Severe mental illness and the death penalty in Idaho" during an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Moscow and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho on Tuesday at the 1912 Center in Moscow.

Sanders said she is part of a team pushing legislation in Idaho that would prohibit the death penalty from being imposed on the severely mentally ill and juveniles.

(source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News)


Media to appeal judge's ruling denying them access to execution-drug information

A media coalition filed notice Tuesday that it will appeal a federal judge's September ruling dismissing arguments that it had a First Amendment right to information about execution drugs used by the Arizona Department of Corrections and the qualifications of its executioners.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow informed the media outlets, which include the Guardian, the Associated Press, The Arizona Republic, KPNX/12News, KPHO/Channel 5 and the Arizona Daily Star, that they had a First Amendment right to report on the issues, but the DOC did not have an obligation to turn over the information.

Among the concerns listed by Snow was a belief that identifying companies that provide drugs makes them targets for anti-death-penalty advocates and discourages them from selling the drugs to state departments of corrections.

Execution by lethal injection has repeatedly been deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Similar arguments were already dismissed in District Court in Phoenix in another case brought by several Arizona death-row inmates. That decision has also been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

No one has been put to death in Arizona since the 2-hour-long execution of Joseph Wood in July 2014.

Wood gasped on the execution gurney as executioners pumped into him 15 supposedly lethal doses of the drugs midazolam and hydrocodone. District Court Judge Neil Wake immediately imposed a stay of all executions until the incident was investigated and fully litigated.

The stay was only lifted this June after the death-row inmates reached a settlement agreement with the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Even so, the state has not yet filed with the Arizona Supreme Court for any warrants to execute prisoners, in part because it has had difficulty obtaining drugs to perform the executions.

Aside from access to information about the drugs and the executioners, the two lawsuits have significantly changed how future executions are to be carried out in Arizona:

The drug midazolam was removed from Arizona's execution protocol even though it was OK'd by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has pledged to carry out further executions using the anesthetic sodium thiopental or the barbiturate pentobarbital without adding paralytic drugs that could mask pain and suffering. Neither drug is available to prisons at present from U.S. pharmaceutical firms, and the state has indicated that it will continue looking for them overseas or have them made to order by compounding pharmacies.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan can no longer exert total discretion and make last-minute changes to execution protocols that have been painstakingly hashed out in court.

Journalists and other witnesses can now see all stages of an execution, starting from the moment the condemned person is walked into the death chamber and strapped to the gurney. A camera will monitor the drug-injection control board so witnesses can see how many doses are pushed into the prisoner.

(source: Arizona Republic)


Juror in 2010 bank bombing trial questions her role in Oregon death penalty case

A member of the jury that convicted a father and son in 2010 for a bank bombing says she abused prescription pain pills during the trial and may have improperly influenced other jurors.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that juror Tasha Hobbs wrote to the court last month saying she wouldn't have reached the same verdict if presented with the evidence today.

Bruce and Joshua Turnidge were convicted of aggravated murder for a bank bombing in Woodburn. The 2008 blast killed a state police bomb technician who was trying to dismantle the explosive and a Woodburn police captain who was helping.

Hobbs' letter has been turned over to the judge involved in the Turnidges' appeals process.

Mike Charlton, a lawyer representing Bruce Turnidge, says he wants to talk to Hobbs to see how she might affect the case.

The Turnidges are among more than 30 people on Oregon's death row.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors Are Banding Together to Prevent Criminal-Justice Reform----A new investigation shows that DA associations are thwarting changes to the death penalty, sentencing, and more.

On March 16, Aramis Ayala, the first black state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Florida, which includes Orlando and Orange counties, took the podium in front of the Orange County Courthouse and announced that her office would no longer seek the death penalty. "I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice," Ayala said, explaining that she'd based her decision on a host of factors, including the high costs of death-penalty prosecutions, the lack of a deterrent effect, and harm to the victims' families. "I do understand this is a controversial issue," Ayala concluded. "But what is not controversial is the evidence that led me to my decision."

The impetus for Ayala's announcement was the trial of Markeith Loyd, who was accused of shooting his pregnant ex-girlfriend in her home as well as a police officer in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Witnesses saw Loyd firing multiple rounds into the officer's prone body. The killing inspired particular ire among law-enforcement leaders, who demanded the death penalty alongside the Florida attorney general and some lawmakers.

Opposition to Ayala's death-penalty ban came swiftly. Florida Governor Rick Scott removed her from the Loyd case and then went a step further, removing Ayala from all of the capital cases in her district - more than 2 dozen - and reassigning them to Brad King, the state attorney for the neighboring Fifth Judicial Circuit. King, a former sheriff's deputy, is a steadfast supporter of capital punishment. Ayala's choice also put Florida's other elected state attorneys in an uncomfortable spotlight: Many were quick to condemn her, supported by law enforcement and victims'-rights advocates. Someone sent her a noose in the mail along with racist messages, and a court employee wrote on Facebook that Ayala should be "tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree." Later, she was pulled over by an Orlando cop and subjected to intrusive and skeptical questioning. (A video of the encounter later went viral.) One former state attorney predicted that Ayala's decision would lead to a huge spike in murders, saying on the local news that "I, frankly, was flabbergasted.... When you don't have a death penalty, bad things happen."

Among those opposing Ayala was the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, a professional organization that includes the state attorneys from every judicial circuit in the state. In addition to providing resources and training for prosecutors, the FPAA provides testimony before the State Legislature, lobbies for or against pending bills, and writes amicus briefs. After Governor Scott announced that he would remove Ayala from all of her capital cases, she sued to stop him, arguing that he was constitutionally prohibited from doing so. Officially, the FPAA has no position on capital punishment, but in May the organization filed an amicus brief siding with Scott and arguing against Ayala, a dues-paying member of the association. The FPAA brief said that Ayala had violated the separation-of-powers doctrine by effectively setting her own policy. (At the end of August, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Ayala in a split decision.)

Before the amicus brief was filed, I spoke with former FPAA president Glenn Hess, the state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit, who explained the organization's purpose to me. "At the FPAA, our job as prosecutors is not to make law," Hess said. "It is to take the law the Legislature makes and enforce [it] in the state." An investigation by The Nation, however, tells an entirely different story. Not just in Florida but nationwide, district attorneys' associations are powerful political actors. They do not just "enforce" the law; in fact, they help to make it.

"In state after state, we've seen DA associations hold back reform." -- Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice

District attorneys' associations exist in most states. They consist of dues-paying members - generally the lead prosecutors from every county or district in the state - and have bylaws, like most professional groups. As professional organizations, they also have nonprofit status; their activities include public education and training as well as lobbying.

For the most part, these prosecutors' associations adopt a "tough on crime" stance, advocating for legislation that would give them greater discretion to lock people up. "They all too often act as a roadblock to significant reforms," says Udi Ofer, director of the Campaign for Smart Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union. "In state after state, we've seen DA associations hold back reforms that are supported by Democrats and Republicans alike."

According to Fordham University law professor John Pfaff, prosecutors are the single most important factor in the increase of prison populations, because they tend to file charges even when the evidence suggests that someone should go free, and generally pursue the harshest sentence they can get. District attorneys and county prosecutors can opt to drop charges - for example, by refusing to prosecute marijuana possession - or to favor pretrial intervention. But Pfaff found that between 1994 and 2008, even as crime and arrest rates fell, the number of felony charges filed by prosecutors increased. From this data, he concluded that prosecutors were driving the phenomenon of mass incarceration through punitive charges and penalties.

Prosecutors have 1 big reason to protect harsh sentencing: Today, around 95 % of federal and state criminal cases end in a plea bargain. Such agreements, in which the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a fixed sentence, avoid the time and expense of a jury trial, making it faster and cheaper for prosecutors to close cases. And the more draconian the punishments that a prosecutor has at her disposal - high mandatory minimums, say, or the ability to charge a youthful offender as an adult - the more leverage she has to persuade someone to take a plea bargain instead of risking a trial.

In the last year or so, criminal-justice reform has topped the legislative agenda in several states, from conservative Florida and Louisiana to liberal California, and advocates for reform exist across the political spectrum, from the conservative Right on Crime, the Koch brothers, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich to the ACLU and Black Lives Matter. In response, prosecutors' associations have pushed legislators hard to reject such reforms. And, in most cases, they have succeeded.

In Florida, the FPAA's general counsel and lobbyist of 47 years is Arthur "Buddy" Jacobs. He lives in Fernandina Beach, an exclusive community on the state's northeastern tip. An article in the Fernandina Observer, the local paper of record, describes Jacobs - pictured in a glaringly white suit and straw hat - giving an eloquent dedication speech at a brass-band ceremony unveiling a $100,000 restored train depot. A history buff, Jacobs reminisced on the Confederate past of his adopted hometown and thanked the others who helped him preserve locally well-known landmarks.

Jacobs has had a bit of trouble with the law himself, making him a controversial figure among the prosecutors he represents. In 1991, he was indicted for his role in manipulating St. Louis municipal bonds. After entering a diversion program and paying a hefty fine, he was accused of the same behavior, this time in Fernandina Beach. He managed to escape unscathed, but money troubles followed him everywhere. In 2007, the 11th Circuit found Jacobs guilty of willful tax evasion based on his profligate spending and disdain for paying taxes. An appeals court issued an opinion holding that "the record overwhelmingly shows that Mr. Jacobs willfully attempted to evade or defeat his taxes," and noted that the record was replete with "badges of fraud." Former Jacksonville state attorney Harry Shorstein, who has known Jacobs since college, wanted the FPAA to fire him in the 1990s. "Some of us felt that we didn't want to be represented by someone under federal indictment," Shorstein said.

Preserving history is one of Jacobs's gentlemanly pastimes, but he is himself a living anachronism. In his nearly half-century of work with the FPAA, he has lobbied for mandatory minimum sentences, lobbied against legislation that would allow juvenile offenders to remain in juvenile court, and opposed open-records laws. Most recently, he was the primary author of the FPAA's amicus brief opposing Ayala on the death penalty. He appears to have taken little of the new science on juvenile development into consideration, or the fact that, according to the Pew Research Center, support for capital punishment is declining across the political spectrum. (Currently, it hovers at 49 %, down from 80 % in the mid-1990s.)

Prosecutors are part of this trend, too: Their use of the death penalty has been in steep decline in recent years. But Florida has maintained a troubled relationship with the practice, and it now has the 2nd-largest death row in the nation. A report by the Fair Punishment Project counted 5 counties in Florida among the nation's 20 "most deadly." In Jacksonville, the previous state attorney, Angela Corey, held the dubious distinction of winning the most death sentences in Florida. Nationwide, black people are disproportionately sentenced to death, and there is even social-science research to suggest that the more "stereotypically black" someone looks, the more likely he is to receive a death sentence. Indeed, the majority of death sentences are handed down in the region that had once been the Confederate States of America.

The more draconian the punishments that a prosecutor has at her disposal, the more leverage she has to force a plea bargain.

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court held that the state's death-penalty statute - which allowed people to be condemned to death by a non-unanimous jury verdict - was unconstitutional. All executions were placed on hold until the Florida Legislature revised the statute to conform with the State Supreme Court's ruling. Yet there is still some debate about the fate of those currently on death row who were sentenced by non-unanimous verdicts - about 75 % of the 396 people there.

Throughout Florida's death-penalty controversies, Jacobs and the FPAA have fought to prevent reform. This past February, when the Florida Legislature was considering its 1st round of fixes to the unconstitutional death-penalty statute, Jacobs urged it to push through the necessary changes and resist further reforms, in line with his belief that the death penalty is a deterrent and that jurors are "too compassionate." As he exhorted lawmakers, "This is a real crisis in the criminal-justice system, and it's a real crisis for the victims' families of these terrible, terrible crimes."

Stephen Harper, a professor of law at Florida International University, emphasizes that Jacobs and the FPAA are quite simply behind the times. "For 35 years," Harper said, "the FPAA has had unfettered discretion on criminal-justice policy.... If you look at polling and changing demographics, I don't think the FPAA are in touch with the attitudes of Floridians."

Ironically, the FPAA's brief against Ayala arguably runs counter to its members' own interest in maximizing prosecutorial discretion. (The FPAA also ran into a bit of trouble when it turned out that large portions of its brief were plagiarized from a blog post.) David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who studies the role of prosecutors, described this in an e-mail to me as "odd." Sklansky added: "It's also odd that they accuse [Ayala] of 'using her own moral code’ when she spelled out, explicitly, her reasons for deciding not to seek the death penalty, and none of them had to do with 'her own moral code.'"

Because she's officially a member of the group, the FPAA did send the amicus brief to Ayala before filing it. She responded by e-mail:

Despite being a dues paying member of the FPAA, I am unaware of the process by which this Brief was developed. It is beyond clear based on the timing, tone and content of this brief that you are not truly interested in my opinion but rather checking a box in the event you get asked about it later. Your complete failure in genuinely engaging with me on this matter has been deeply disappointing given what's at stake for all of us.

When I circled back with former FPAA president Hess, he described what Ayala did as a "violation of the Constitution" and added: "If she had just kept her mouth shut and said nothing, we wouldn't be talking.... And if she wants to change the law and run for the Legislature, I will send her $100." When I asked about the perception of race in the dispute, he asserted that "nobody cares if she's black, Latino, Oriental, or Asian."

"The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association has had unfettered discretion on criminal-justice policy." -- Stephen Harper, law professor at Florida International University

The death penalty may be Florida's highest-profile issue concerning criminal-justice reform, but it's not the only one on which the FPAA has been active. In 2001, Jacobs opposed legislation similar to laws existing in several other states that allow 1st-time drug offenders to get treatment in lieu of jail time. In a brief, he wrote that the proposed legislation violated Florida's rules "by taking away and/or severely limiting the prosecutorial discretion of the State Prosecutors of Florida."

In addition to opposing treatment for low-level drug offenders and DNA testing for people seeking to prove a wrongful conviction, Jacobs has consistently opposed reforms to Florida's so-called "direct-file" policy, which currently allows prosecutors to send juveniles as young as 14 directly to adult court without a hearing. As a result of the policy, Florida sends more kids to adult prison than any other state in the country; a 2014 Human Rights Watch report also noted that more than 60 % had been sent there for nonviolent crimes. Many states, including California, have already begun limiting this practice, based on advances in neuroscience showing that juvenile offenders should be considered less culpable for their crimes and more capable of change. Reports have also shown that people of color account for a disproportionate number of the youthful offenders sentenced as adults. (All 50 states still allow a minor to be tried as an adult after a formal judicial determination.)

Just this past summer, Jacobs called the juveniles direct-filed to be prosecuted in adult courts "bad hardened criminals that wreak havoc over the state of Florida." He went on to claim that "Florida was rampant in juvenile crime. We had juveniles in Miami carjacking tourists' cars and folks getting killed. At a rest stop on I-10, just east of here, we had some folks that were killed at a rest stop by some teenagers out of Tallahassee." (Less than 3 % of the young people direct-filed to adult court had been accused of murder.)

Even as much of the country - including conservative Florida - moves left on criminal-justice reform, Jacobs and the FPAA remain at the forefront of conservative reaction. In March, I asked Hess whether Jacobs's own legal troubles might affect his position. Ever the Southern gentleman but noticeably annoyed, Hess went on a tirade, concluding that Jacobs could remain in office as long as the 20 state attorneys approved - and, he added, those state attorneys are "all very high-class people." Also, Jacobs had gotten results: "He has been an excellent, excellent member of the FPAA," Hess told me. "His performance has been exemplary."

Louisiana, like Florida, is governed by some of the harshest criminal-justice policies in the nation. In fact, Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any state in the United States - which incarcerates more people per capita than any country in the world. But in 2015, Louisiana elected a governor who promised, among other things, to reform the bloated prison system and cut costs for the sorely underfunded state.

Governor John Bel Edwards, in conjunction with Pew Research, created a bipartisan panel, the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which included everyone from prosecutors to members of the clergy. The task force generated a report with a list of recommendations intended to reduce the size of Louisiana's prison population, save money, and bring state law in line with other red states, such as Texas and Mississippi, that have had success with decarceration. The report gained the support of business leaders and conservatives as well as Democrats. This session, the Louisiana Legislature passed that list of sorely needed criminal-justice reforms, which included eliminating the sentence of life without parole for juveniles and allowing elderly inmates a chance at release. The reforms were projected to generate some $300 million in savings over 10 years, most of which would be invested in programs to help the people who had been released.

Enter E. Pete Adams, the executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. "We are for trying to get something done, but not at the risk to public safety," he told a local paper. Once the legislative session started, the LDAA issued its own report opposing every single reform recommendation. The bulk of the LDAA's disdain was reserved for the recommendations that would have permitted some people convicted of violent felonies to have a chance at release. (Most of these concerned inmates who had already served decades in prison.) Another of Adams's major issues was with the definition of "violent" offenders - a category in which he wanted to include some people convicted of nonviolent crimes, because, he argued, they might have had a violent past.

"If you give a legislator the opportunity to go with either the Innocence Project or their DA, they’re going with their DA." - ?a Louisiana state senator

Will Harrell, the founder and leader of Louisianans for Prison Alternatives, argues that "the LDAA's opposition to sensible reform is out of step with our neighboring states, the Louisiana people, and even with the honest opinion of most state legislators. Frankly," he added, "I even believe their voice at the Legislature - Pete Adams - is out of step with the emerging leadership of the LDAA. The problem is, he's very good at hiding the ball and spooking folks in the Legislature, and that's why the LDAA is the most formidable obstacle to reform." This is no exaggeration: From 2012 to 2015, criminal-justice bills backed by the LDAA had an 85 % rate of passage in the Louisiana Statehouse, while criminal-justice bills it opposed passed only 38 % of the time.

Hillar Moore, the ex-president of the LDAA and the lead prosecutor in East Baton Rouge Parish, spoke with me this past spring and was vehement that the LDAA wasn't rejecting the changes outright, but rather wanted to conduct further research and suggest amendments to the bills up for debate. "We've made it clear that we want to work with everyone," Moore said, but "there are some [issues] that are nonstarters for us," including any provision to release inmates convicted of violent crimes. (For his part, Adams refused to comment for this story. I conducted my interview with Moore in April, but he wouldn’t comment further after the LDAA's opposition paper was released.)

The association's strategy worked: In mid-May, Governor Edwards announced that he and the prosecutors had reached a compromise. While Edwards attempted to save face by insisting that most of the original reform recommendations had been retained, many key provisions had been gutted, including one that would have eliminated sentences of life without parole for youthful offenders - something that many states have already outlawed and that the US Supreme Court has severely limited.

Adams, who is easily recognized by his bow ties and bushy gray mustache, has been the LDAA's executive director for 40 years, representing its interests in the public eye and with the Legislature. He represents the model of old-school, tough-on-crime prosecutors. Yet even as new and younger district attorneys are elected - some of them running on a platform of reform - Adams remains in power, driving LDAA policy. The LDAA has also retained the services of a part-time lobbyist, prosecutor Hugo Holland, who was famous for putting people on death row and has been accused by advocates and higher courts for concealing exculpatory evidence in capital cases. In 2011, Holland and another prosecutor purchased machine guns and patrolled Caddo Parish, pretending to be police offers. Caddo Parish, once known for having the most death-row inmates in Louisiana, was forced to fire Holland, but Adams has kept him on the payroll.

During his tenure with the LDAA, Adams has also argued that the burden of proof necessary for conviction shouldn't be raised; that juveniles should be tried as adults; and that wrongful convictions don't occur in Louisiana - or at least not as many as publicized. As a representative of the LDAA, he has lobbied against eliminating the habitual-offender law, which imposes draconian sentences even on those repeatedly convicted of nonviolent crimes, and he has opposed eliminating life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, a practice that was deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2010. He has also lobbied for stricter punishments for people who misuse Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (i.e., food stamps).

Adams's most passionate efforts, however, have been reserved for the beleaguered public-defender system in Louisiana, which is so underfunded that judges this past spring dismissed cases because there were no lawyers to represent the defendants. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit this year arguing that Louisiana's failure to fund public defenders violated the US Constitution's guarantee of counsel. Yet for Adams, the problem is a misallocation of funds: The public defenders, he argues, need less, not more, money. According to multiple sources, Adams meets regularly with the elected public defenders and discourages them from asking for state funding. As Adams told a local paper back in 2002: "You have well in excess of 90 % of people who find themselves indigent and that number should bear some scrutiny. A reasonable person would question the veracity of that. The hidden assumption is that money solves all problems - I can't answer that. They ought to begin with an analysis of how [public defenders] spend their money." And yet Louisiana is among the poorest states in the nation, with a poverty rate of around 20 %.

Adams's arguments haven't changed at all in the past 15 years, even as the public-defender system continues to get worse. Public defender Derwyn Bunton of Orleans Parish has said that the LDAA is "a very active co-conspirator in mass incarceration in Louisiana."

Adams has even attacked the resources that public defenders need to keep up with the cases on Louisiana's death row, a major cost. For Adams, this isn't a problem caused by the death penalty (which Louisiana has considered eliminating but for the opposition of the LDAA and other groups); it's the fault of the public defenders. He has argued that too much money was being "wasted" to defend people facing execution, because those funds went to larger law firms and nonprofit organizations instead of individual public defenders. (The state public defender in Louisiana has flatly declared that the notion of people "getting rich" from their work on death-penalty cases is ludicrous.)

At the same time, the LDAA has increased funding for itself without any noticeable improvement in the quality of criminal justice. Just a few years ago, for example, the LDAA requested authorization from the Legislature to establish internal debt-collection agencies to extract payments of court fines and fees from defendants - with a 20 % premium being kept by the prosecutors. In 2016, the LDAA pushed for passage of a bill that would have authorized a private corporation to operate an automated system to read license plates and issue tickets in nine parishes statewide, with 30 % of the proceeds reaped by district attorneys, and the remaining 70 % being split by sheriffs, the corporation, and other parties. Prosecutors across the state also abuse what are known as "diversion fees": unregulated monies paid to avoid prosecution. For instance, according to the office of Louisiana's legislative auditor, which collects information reported by the parishes themselves, the 18th Judicial Circuit reported $1.19 million in diversion-fee income from just 132 participants. And according to the 2016 legislative auditor's report, more than 30 % of the income from the state's district-attorney offices comes from fines and fees; in some parishes, over 50 % of the income comes from diversion fees and tickets. Finally, Louisiana's prosecutors are known for their own legal troubles: In 2016 alone, 3 of Louisiana's 42 elected district attorneys were convicted on corruption and other criminal charges.

The Louisiana District Attorneys Association has increased funding for itself without any improvement in the quality of criminal justice.

Even so, Louisiana's DAs hold particular sway over public opinion as representatives of justice and experts on law and order. Flozell Daniels, who was a member of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force and is now the CEO and president of Foundation for Louisiana, puts the state's struggles with criminal-justice reform squarely on the backs of prosecutors, and the LDAA in particular. In a guest column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Daniels noted that "the District Attorney Association representative on the task force supported the overwhelming majority of the recommendations," arguing that the LDAA is dissembling when it paints the task force's reform recommendations as radical. And his view is supported by polling in Louisiana, which suggests that the vast majority of residents want reform, including business leaders and conservatives.

But the prosecutors persist, because they can win. As a Louisiana state senator observed when criminal-justice reform was on the table in 2012: "If you give a legislator the opportunity to go either with the Innocence Project or with their DA, guess what? They're going to vote with their DA."

The influence of district attorneys' associations extends beyond the usual list of red-state suspects. In California, for example, prosecutors sued last year to prevent Proposition 57 - a suite of progressive changes to the state's criminal law, including reduced sentences - from moving forward. The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) argued that Governor Jerry Brown violated a recently enacted law requiring a new comment period after substantial revisions. (Brown's office argued that the prosecutors had been given a day to consider the revised bill.) Proposition 57 is designed to decrease the state's prison population by making more criminal charges punishable by serving time in county jail and by offering some long-serving inmates the chance to make parole earlier. The law, which voters overwhelmingly approved last November, also eliminates giving prosecutors the power to send juvenile offenders directly to adult court.

The CDAA has long opposed legislation that would result in lesser penalties, going back to the change in California's draconian "3 strikes" law in 2012. Since the passage of Proposition 57 and other laws like it, the fearmongering has reached a fever pitch, with prosecutors asserting that reducing the sentences for those convicted of nonviolent crimes would result in communities being inundated by the homeless and drug-addicted. (A representative for the CDAA refused to comment for this story, writing in an e-mail: "Most all of the prop [sic] 57 information was well Covered [sic] by the press. I'm not going to get back into it.")

Rectifying wrongful convictions is yet another reform that prosecutors have resisted. Earlier publications by the CDAA include a 40-page rebuttal to a report by the Northern California Innocence Project showing a significant degree of prosecutorial misconduct in cases of wrongful conviction. Currently, the CDAA is requesting changes to legislation that would reduce the imposition of cash-bail requirements, which has already passed the State Senate and awaits approval in the Assembly. As the ACLU's Udi Ofer observes, "No matter whether it's a red state or blue state, DA associations are guided by the same principles - mainly seeking to maintain their members' unfettered powers."

There is also a National District Attorneys Association, which is led by Mike Ramos, the Republican DA from San Bernardino, California. While not officially affiliated with the state-level prosecutors' associations, it has taken similarly aggressive stances. In September 2016, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report, "Forensic Science in Criminal Courts," offering findings on several types of forensic evidence commonly used in courts that have now been discredited by scientists. The PCAST report found that the use of bite marks and shoe prints had no evidentiary basis. The NDAA immediately issued a rebuttal arguing that the report was "scientifically irresponsible," even though the council was composed of many experts in their fields. The NDAA has also received a direct boost from the Trump administration: Upon taking office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, which was chartered under the Obama administration. The NDAA applauded the decision.

Thus far, Sessions has proved more than friendly to the interests of prosecutors' associations, even as voters appear increasingly inclined to take the ramifications of mass incarceration more seriously. In May, Sessions issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors requiring them to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense." This is a direct reversal of the Obama administration's policies, which generally allowed federal prosecutors to exercise discretion in charging and sentencing. Sessions has implied much the same policy when it comes to marijuana, indicating that he will reverse the Obama administration's policy of not interfering in states that have legalized pot use. (Sessions even once said that he supported the death penalty for pot dealers.)

While they apply only to federal prosecutors, Sessions's directives - along with his reliance on rhetoric from the War on Drugs - have given new relevance to the words of people like Pete Adams and Buddy Jacobs, another set of throwbacks. Like Sessions, Adams and Jacobs grew up in the Jim Crow South and established their careers in the early years of the 1980s tough-on-crime era. Yet they have remained in power ever since, part of a good-old-boy system that has protected the consolidation of prosecutorial power and opposed anyone who seeks to dilute it.

Already, Sessions has toured multiple cities that he has deemed "violent" to provide backing for those prosecutors willing to come down hard on groups of people - such as gang members and undocumented immigrants - who are easy to isolate and already have a negative profile. Baton Rouge is among the 12 cities that Sessions chose as part of his fledgling initiative (Chicago and Baltimore didn't make the list). The rhetoric of Sessions and his boss, Donald Trump - depicting a scourge of black and brown people overtaking urban areas - makes the efforts of reform-minded prosecutors like Ayala more difficult, even as it emboldens hard-liners. District attorneys' associations may be championing the criminal-justice policies of the past, but under Trump's administration, they could enjoy a new lease on life.

(source: Jessica Pishko is a San Francisco-based writer for the Fair Punishment Project----The Nation)


A Long Decline in Executions Takes a Detour----Recent court rulings and start-stop access to lethal drugs push numbers up this year.

For years, the number of prisoners put to death in the United States has been in decline. That is still true, but with a wrinkle: this year will be the 1st since 2009 in which there were more executions than the year before. The grim milestone will likely be crossed on Wednesday night, when Anthony Shore is scheduled to be executed in Texas. Unless the courts intervene, it will be the 21st execution of the year, 1 more than last year. 8 others are scheduled through the end of the year.

Why does this matter? The upswing does not suggest that executions are likely to become more common, but it does grow out of recent courtroom battles. Chief among them is a big victory that the Supreme Court gave to state officials back in 2015. Officials had been looking for new drugs to use in lethal injections, and fighting to keep the sources secret from defense lawyers, as pharmaceutical companies kept pushing to keep their products out of death chambers. The court's decision in the case of Glossip v. Gross set a high bar for arguments that new drug combinations would violate the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

The upshot has been to clear the way for executions. This year, Ohio and Arkansas began executing again after long pauses (3 years in Ohio, 11 in Arkansas). Arkansas was, publicly at least, trying to beat an expiration date for their store of the drug midazolam, a sedative, after years of litigation. Ohio had been tied up in the courts since prisoner Dennis McGuire visibly gasped and choked during his 2014 execution. Other states are trying new drugs: this summer, Florida became the 1st to execute with etomidate, an anesthetic, and Nevada is planning an execution for November involving fentanyl, the opioid implicated in thousands of overdose deaths in recent years, as well as Valium.

Cases can take a decade or more to reach the end of appeals, and the stop-start nature of drug availability, as well as litigation-imposed hiatuses, have meant that numerous prisoners can reach the end and accumulate in a queue. This happened at the national level when the Supreme Court examined lethal injection methods in 2008. "We tend to see 'execution sprees' in individual states," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, "followed by significant drop off in executions in those states." In Arkansas, the execution of four prisoners in April sparked a media frenzy. In 2015, Missouri had the highest execution rate per capita as the state cleared a backlog. In 2016, Georgia had more executions than any other state as it cleared cases backed up because of drug litigation, according to the Chicago Tribune. None of these states have carried out many executions since these surges.

Beyond the drug issues, executions in an individual state can stop suddenly when a big case casts others in doubt. The Supreme Court struck down the death sentence of Florida prisoner Timothy Hurst last year, ruling that jurors, rather than a judge, should be the ones making key decisions about whether he should be sent to death row. The ruling had potential ramifications for dozens of prisoners whose trials involved the same problem, and executions have slowed to a trickle - 1 last year, 2 this year, and 1 more scheduled - while lower courts make sense of how to apply the ruling. A similar dynamic could arise in Alabama, where there have long been challenges to the state's practice (ended this year) of letting judges overrule juries to hand down death sentences.

Looking down the road, Texas, long the country's leading executioner, will be the state to watch. Executions slowed to 7 last year, and might rise above ten this year, but it will still be far less than the 40 carried out in 2000. Lethal injection drug battles have had little effect, but Texas prisoners do keep getting stays of execution. This may be due in part to a 2013 law bolstering the ability of prisoners to contest the forensic science that got them convicted. A 2015 law required news of execution dates to be better circulated among defense lawyers. "The defense lawyers are getting better and better," Judge Elsa Alcala of the state's Court of Criminal Appeals told The Texas Tribune last year. "They're able to bring things forth that have never been brought forward before."

In Texas and elsewhere, executions are likely to keep declining for 1 big reason: juries are handing out fewer death sentences. Texas sentenced only three people to death last year, and the situation is even more pronounced in Virginia, which has carried out the 2nd-most executions since the 1970s, but only 2 this year (and none last year). The state's death row has dwindled to four men. (Law professor Brandon Garrett has examined the reasons for this decline in death sentences.)

Support for the death penalty by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not yet reinvigorated its use, which is mostly a state-level issue, and on Election Day last year voters in several locales responsible for high rates of death sentences in the past, from Houston to Tampa, elected district attorneys who promised to pursue the punishment more sparingly. "There will be substantially fewer prisoners left to execute in the long run," Dunham said.

But that's the long run.



Federal inmate sparred death penalty for 4th murder

A federal inmate with end-stage renal disease has been spared the death penalty for his 4th murder conviction and the second committed while imprisoned.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that federal jurors couldn't reach a unanimous decision Monday in the case against 61-year-old Ulysses Jones Jr. Defense attorney Shane Cantin says that means the slowing dying man will receive another life term when he's sentenced.

The same jurors had convicted Jones earlier this month of using a makeshift knife to kill fellow inmate Timothy Baker as he slept in 2006 at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield. Court records say another inmate survived being stabbed.

Jones also has been convicted of 2 robberies and murders in 1979 and 1980 in Washington, D.C., and another prison murder in Virginia.

(source: Associated Press)


The job crisis in Zimbabwe means dozens of people are keen to take a long-vacant hangman job

Zimbabwe has taken strides in recent years to abolish capital punishment and there has been fervent debate about the future of the death penalty among locals, but there is strong interest in the job of hangman, which has been vacant for about 12 years.

The overwhelming interest by Zimbabwean applicants for the executioner post could probably be explained by Zimbabwe's high unemployment rate, estimated to be over 80% by the World Bank and IMF.

Over the last decade millions of Zimbabweans have left the country in search of greener pastures across Africa and beyond as the economy continues to struggle amid wilting foreign direct investment and company closures. Most Zimbabweans generate income through a busy informal economy and there are few well-paying formal jobs.

Zimbabwe's justice ministry said this week that as many as 50 men and women have applied for the job of hangman "in the past few months". The last hangman Zimbabwe had retired in 2006.

Virginia Mabhiza, secretary in the ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said "people are very interested" in the hangman's job. There are about 90 people on death row in Zimbabwe but no executions have been carried out because the country does not have a hangman.

President Robert Mugabe had to commute the death penalty for 10 inmates on death row last year and said his cabinet was divided over abolition of the death penalty. For example his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa only escaped the noose for sabotage offenses during Zimbabwe's liberation war because he was under 18 years.

The country last carried out an execution in 2005. Women, the mentally ill, juveniles and those above 70 years of age are exempt from capital punishment in "conformity to Zimbabwe's international obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits the execution" of these groups.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have campaigned for the abolition of death penalty in Zimbabwe.

However it is not clear when the country will appoint a hangman following the invitation for applications by Mugabe in August and subsequent overwhelming interest in the job.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the Zimbabwean constitution was against the death penalty.

"The death penalty breaches some fundamental human rights including the right to life as enshrined in section 48 of the Constitution and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment," Kumbirai Mafunda, spokesperson for ZLHR said by phone.



Thailand moves towards abolishing death penalty

As many as 447 convicts are now on death row in Thailand, which is reviewing the use of the death penalty.

"We have started with the move to allow judges to exercise their judgment to decide whether a convict should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment - instead of prescribing death sentence as the only penalty for certain offences," the Rights and Liberties Protection Department's director-general, Pitikan Sithidej, said on Tuesday (Oct 17).

She added that, in the next phase, the country might consider abolishing the death penalty for crimes that do not affect the lives of others. Pitikan was speaking at an event held to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty, which is observed on October 10.

Thai laws now prescribe the death sentence for those convicted in 63 offences, including drug offences.

Of the 447 convicts on death row, 157 have already been condemned through final court rulings. Of these, 68 were found guilty of drug-related crimes.

A foreign speaker at the same event said there was no international consensus that drug offences were crimes against human lives. "It should also be noted that there is a difference between serious legal enforcement and the use of harsh punishments," he explained.

Both Pitikan and Colin Josef Steinbach, the 1st counsellor (political, press and information) of the European Union delegation to Thailand, said at the same forum that there was no clear evidence that the death sentence could reduce crimes.

"The end of death penalty is not about encouraging crimes; it's about cancelling unreasonable types of punishment," Pitikan said.

Of 198 countries, 141 have already abandoned the use of death sentences. According to Pitikan, Thailand started implementing the death penalty in 1935. From that year until 2009, 325 convicts were executed.

Initially, death-row convicts faced firing squads, but lethal injections have been used in recent times.

However, in line with international trends, Thailand has not carried out any execution since August 2009.

The country is expected to eventually abandon the death penalty altogether. One foreign speaker at the event believed better technologies and greater budgets would be better able to deter crimes than the death penalty or life imprisonment.



Al Qaeda man's death penalty commuted

An appellate bench of the Sindh High Court on Tuesday commuted the death penalty of an Al Qaeda militant to life imprisonment.

Anwarul Haq was awarded capital punishment on 4 counts in a 2006 suicide attack case that killed an American diplomat and 3 others near the US consulate. He was charged with masterminding the suicide attack.

The prosecution said the suspected suicide bomber, identified as Mohammad Tahir, had smashed a car packed with explosives into the vehicle carrying the US diplomat. Commuting the death penalty, the bench said there were contradictions in the case of the prosecution.



Death penalty for woman who burned husband to death with acid

An anti-terrorism court in Multan on Tuesday sentenced a woman to death on 2 counts after finding her guilty of murdering her husband.

Judge Malik Khalid Mehmood, in his verdict, said that Yasmeen has been found guilty of "the brutal and gruesome murder of her husband," Muhammad Imran Ashraf. He also handed her a life imprisonment sentence.

"The convict sprinkled acid on Muhammad Irfan Ashraf, entailing his death," the verdict noted.

Yasmeen was sentenced to death under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Pakistan Penal Code. She has also been made liable to pay a fine of Rs20,000.

She was booked on June 23 by Multan's Ludden Vehari Police.



Iranian authorities urged to halt execution of 17-year-old boy later this week----Amirhossein Pourjafar, still only 17 years old, is facing execution this week

--If execution of Amirhossein Pourjafar goes ahead it will be the 5th of a juvenile offender this year alone

--Pourjafar is 1 of more than 90 people on death row for crimes committed as children

'The authorities' rush to send a child to the gallows in order to placate public anger is short-sighted and misguided' - Magdalena Mughrabi

The Iranian authorities must stop the execution of a 17-year-old boy who is scheduled to be executed later this week.

Amirhossein Pourjafar is scheduled to be executed in a Tehran prison on Thursday after being convicted of the murder and rape of a 7-year-old girl, Setayesh Ghoreyshi, from Iran’s Afghan community. Amnesty is calling for the death sentence to be commuted to imprisonment.

The execution was scheduled 2 months after the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, repeated Iran's untruthful claims that it does not execute minors. In reality, Amnesty has recorded the execution of 85 juvenile offenders in Iran during 2005-17, including 4 in 2015, 2 in 2016, and 4 so far this year. Amnesty has also identified 92 individuals who are currently on death row for crimes committed when they were children.

Pourjafar was sentenced to death in September 2016 after a Tehran court said he had already reached "mental maturity" at the time of the crime, and understood the nature and consequences of his actions. In reaching its conclusion, the court cited opinions from Iran's state forensic institute attesting to Pourjafar's "mental sanity" as well as evidence they say pointed to his efforts to conceal the crime. The court claimed its reasoning was in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a state party. However, the convention has an absolute prohibition on the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people younger than 18. It is a well-established principle of juvenile justice that under-18s are categorically less mature and culpable, and should not face the same penalties as adults.

In September 2016, a court in Tehran handed Pourjafar 2 death sentences, 1 for murder in accordance with the Islamic principle of "retribution-in-kind" and another for rape. He was also sentenced to 74 lashes for mutilating the corpse. The Supreme Court upheld both death sentences in January. In its final verdict the court said the death sentence against Pourjafar was issued after taking into account "societal expectations and public opinion".

Magdalena Mughrabi, at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: "There is no question that this was a horrific crime and the perpetrator should be held accountable.

"Amnesty International supports the demands for justice voiced by Setayesh's bereaved family and the wider Afghan community in Iran, but executing a 17-year-old boy is not justice.

"The use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed while they were under 18 is absolutely prohibited by international human rights law. If Iran goes ahead with the execution this week it will be another appalling breach of its international obligations.

"The authorities' rush to send a child to the gallows in order to placate public anger is short-sighted and misguided. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment and there is no evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect than imprisonment. Using it as a means to exact revenge only compounds its brutal effects on society. "Instead of resorting to case-by-case 'maturity' assessments, which are by their very nature flawed and arbitrary, the Iranian authorities must comply with their international obligations toward children and end the use of the death penalty against all juvenile offenders immediately."


OCTOBER 17, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Houston serial killer faces execution this week----Anthony Shore, a convicted serial killer, is set to be executed Wednesday evening. His murders in the 1980s and 1990s went unsolved until 2003.

Houston's "Tourniquet Killer" is on his way to the Texas death chamber.

Anthony Shore, the confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders in the 1980s and 1990s went unsolved for more than a decade, is scheduled for execution Wednesday evening. The courts have shot down his latest appeals that argued a traumatic brain injury decreases his culpability, and a plea for relief to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was denied Monday afternoon.

Shore, 55, has been on death row since 2004, when he was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1992 rape and murder of 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada. The killing was 1 of 4 similar murders of young women and girls and one aggravated sexual assault where the girl was able to escape.

The murders took place between 1986 and 1995, according to court documents. All became cold cases in the years after the bodies of Estrada, 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay, 9-year-old Diana Rebollar and 16-year-old Dana Sanchez were found, dumped behind buildings or in a field, partially naked with rope or cord fastened around their necks like tourniquets.

Finally, in 2003, Houston police matched Shore's DNA - on file from a 1997 no-contest plea of sexually molesting his 2 daughters - to Estrada's murder, according to a court ruling. After hours of interrogation, Shore confessed to all of the killings, telling police he had an "evilness" in him.

"I think if I tell you what I've done that it will release the evilness, and I would feel better," Shore told a police sergeant.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Shore was a "true serial killer" after the trial court set his upcoming execution date in July.

"His crimes were predatory, and his victims the most vulnerable in society - women and children. For his brutal acts, the death penalty is appropriate," she said in a statement.

Recently, Shore's legal team has pointed to a previously undisclosed traumatic brain injury, likely obtained in a 1981 car accident, as a reason to stop the execution. Knox Nunnally, Shore's court-appointed appellate lawyer, said he is not arguing that Shore is innocent or undeserving of punishment, but that courts should look at people with brain injuries the way they look at minors and the intellectually disabled - ineligible for execution based on decreased reasoning skills and culpability.

"We think if a jury had heard that evidence ... that it is possible a jury could at least change their decision that Mr. Shore deserves life instead of death," Nunnally said, referring to the alternative sentence in a capital murder conviction. "Because by no means are we claiming that ... a head injury was the only reason he committed these crimes, we're saying it was a contributing reason."

The courts rejected Shore's appeal and the broader argument that brain-injured people are ineligible for execution. It's a rejection that concerns Nunnally as a combat veteran, he said.

"My fear is that if we're denying this for Anthony Shore, what's gonna happen if we have a combat vet who comes up 5 or 6 years from now and he has suffered a severe injury from combat?" he said. "The state's going to use Anthony Shore's case as an example of precedent."

On Monday morning, Nunnally said that his team was still looking at other possible appeals in the next 2 days before the execution but that nothing was currently pending. If it proceeds, Shore's execution will be the 7th in Texas this year and 21st in the nation.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Sister of notorious Houston serial killer: 'He should be killed'

Gina Shore feels it in her bones: There must have been more.

Sure as the tick-tick of the clock winding down her brother's final hours. Certain as the needle the state of Texas will slip into his arm. Fixed as the gruesome fates of the 4 girls he raped and murdered.

"I know in my heart without a doubt that there are more," she said. "There had to have been other girls."

But if there are, the world may never know.

Anthony Shore, the notorious Tourniquet Killer who terrorized the Bayou City in the 1980s and 1990s, is set to meet his fate Wednesday in Huntsville's death chamber.

"I think it will give closure," Gina said. "Then when people ask what about him, we can just say he's dead."

The 55-year-old former telephone technician was sent to death row in 2004, after confessing to the rapes and murders then begging the court for capital punishment.

He'd escaped detection for nearly 2 decades, but ultimately it was DNA - put on file after he was convicted of molesting his daughters and forced to register as a sex offender - that brought police to his door.

Researchers say they have now proven that a controversial diary actually belonged to Jack The Ripper. Josh King has the story

Since arriving on death row, he's waged a war against the state's harshest punishment, filing appeals blaming everything from ineffective lawyers to previously unrealized brain damage.

As of Monday, courts had slapped down all his last-ditch bids for life and the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles had turned down his request for clemency, according to Shore's attorney, Knox Nunnally.

Yet Shore's youngest sister, Laurel Scheel, holds a creeping fear of a darker chance for a stay - a last-minute slew of confessions. Houston police and the Harris County Sheriff's Office both confirmed he is not considered a suspect in any open cases.

But his family members - who spoke extensively to the Chronicle - have their doubts.

"He's good at keeping things hidden," Laurel said.

Since his sentencing, Shore has been tight-lipped with the media, even as he fired off a regular string of upbeat and neatly penned missives to his family.

"I will likely get a stay, but ya' just never know," he wrote his father in July, the same day a judge greenlit prosecutors' request for an October execution. "I'd prefer to live a bit longer but am ready if it's God's will."

Decades before his name became synonymous with a trail of bodies, Anthony Shore was a little boy with promise.

Smart as a whip and talented at any instrument set before him, he was "a musical prodigy who never realized his potential," as author Corey Mitchell wrote in his 2007 true-crime tale of the case.

"All my girlfriends were in love with him because he was so charismatic and cute," Laurel, now 47, said of her older brother, who taught her how to fight.

Their father's work with NASA forced the family to move cross-country repeatedly, but otherwise it was a normal upbringing.

"The only messed up part of my childhood was that my mom and dad split up," Gina, now 53, recalled.

But there were early signs something was amiss. Tony killed a neighbor's cat when he was 5 or 6, "because he didn't want it to run away," Gina said.

And as he grew older, his pastimes grew more sinister. He used his sister as bait to lure young girls outside. He once boasted that he and some friends had beaten a homeless man to death behind a grocery store.

Some actions, though, seemed off-kilter only in retrospect, like the time he told his mom his favorite thing about his girlfriend was "the nape of her neck."

It seemed innocent enough at the time.

"But then he turned out to be a strangler," Laurel said.

After spending the later part of his childhood in California, Tony moved back to Texas as a young adult.

He settled down and got married. He had 2 daughters.

He got a job. He joined a band.

And he became a serial killer.

In 1986, he slaughtered 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay, snatching the girl up on her way to the bus stop. 6 years later, he raped and murdered 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada before leaving her naked body in the drive-through of a Spring Branch Dairy Queen.

In 1994, he killed 9-year-old Diana Rebollar. When her battered body was found, she was wearing only a black Halloween T-shirt - and a ligature twisted around her neck.

Less than a year later, he murdered 16-year-old Dana Sanchez, then reportedly called a local TV station to report a serial killer on the loose.

All of the victims were raped and tortured before he strangled them with handmade tourniquets.

When he finally confessed to the 4 murders and another rape, his family was shocked. But they believed it right away.

"There wasn't a doubt in my mind," Laurel said. "Because of what he did to his daughters."

For years, Gina suspected something was amiss in her brother's household. 5 times, she says, she reported her concerns to child-welfare authorities in Texas.

During a visit to Texas in 1995, one of Gina's friends reported Tony for child endangerment after noticing the windows nailed shut.

"They were locked in the house, they had no running water and no power," Gina said.

But it wasn't until the girls visited family on the West Coast in 1997 - during Tony's honeymoon following marriage to a woman 14 years his junior - that the truth came out.

Even after his conviction forced him on the sex offender registry in 1998, it took another 5 years before authorities finally tested cold-case evidence and matched a murder to Shore.

"I think he knew he was going to get caught," Laurel said.

Even as he waits out his last days behind bars, his family still describes him as a master manipulator. A control freak. A man always seeking to control the narrative.

But he confessed when it suited him. He asked for death when it suited him. And he argued for life when that suited him instead.

Years ago, Laurel said, she predicted an end-of-the-line appeal hinging on medical issues.

"And sure as s***, that was his last plea," she said, referencing the claims of brain damage from a 1981 car wreck that left him with mangled hands and a wire in his jaw.

"I think it's a load of crap," said his younger daughter, Tiffany Hall, now 32 and living in Arizona.

Gina simply snorted in derision.

"The only reason I can see him wanting a stay is so he can torture his victims and his family by being alive."

But whenever death comes calling for Anthony Shore, his family won't be there to watch.

His father, Rob Shore, plans to stay home. Gina and her mother, who now live together in Washington, may stop to remember him - but not fondly.

"I would have never been for the death penalty if it had not been for my brother," Gina said.

Laurel agrees. "He should be killed," she said. "He was a good brother, but he's not a good person."

Now living in Oklahoma, she drove down to the Houston area a few days before the execution. But she's not heading to Huntsville to watch.

"We'll probably go to the beach or something," she said.

Amber Shore - the killer's older daughter - hasn't been heard from in years, but her sister deemed it unlikely she'd attend.

"The final slap in the face for him would be to pretend that he's not important enough," Tiffany, his youngest daughter, said Monday. "His own children think he's insignificant."

For Tiffany, it'll be an almost normal day. Formerly a sheriff's deputy and now in the Air National Guard, the single mother is working her way through college for a 2nd time. She's got a 3-year-old to raise and forensic science classes to complete.

"Honestly, I have a biology lab and calculus that day. So I'm going to go to school," she said. "Maybe I'll see a movie later if I have free time."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Death Penalty Sought In Reston Girl's Killing: Report----The murder of local teen Nabra Hassanen shocked the community, and authorities are seeking the death penalty for her accused killer.

An El Salvadoran man accused of savagely beating a Reston girl to death this summer could face the death penalty, according to a report.

Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling, a 22-year-old native of El Salvador, is accused of getting into a dispute with 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen and her friends as they were walking back to their mosque one evening in June in the Herndon area, prompting him to get a baseball bat and beat Hassanen to death before dumping her body in a pond, authorities say.

NBC 4 reporter Julie Carey reports that the Commonwealth's Attorney will pursue the death penalty against Martinez Torres for the rape and murder of Hassanen.

Carey reports that the last time the Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney won a death penalty sentence was 5 years ago.

Hassanen's death sparked shock and outrage nationwide because she was a Muslim, and many assumed she had been targeted for her religion. However, police say they don't believe her religion had anything to do with the attack, and this was a case of road rage taken to the extreme. Her family doesn't accept that explanation, however.



Man indicted on murder, rape charges in death of Muslim teen in Virginia

A grand jury has indicted a man on capital murder and rape charges in the killing of a 17-year-old girl whose death has rattled northern Virginia's Muslim community.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court panel handed up indictments Monday against Darwin Martinez-Torres. State law allows prosecutors to pursue a death penalty under certain conditions, including premeditated murder during a rape.

Monday's indictment is the 1st indication that authorities believe Nabra Hassanen was raped.

Police say Martinez-Torres encountered Hassanen among a group of teenagers in June. Authorities say Martinez-Torres got into a confrontation with some of the teens, and chased them. Police say Martinez-Torres caught Hassanen and bludgeoned her with a bat. A search warrant says Martinez-Torres dumped her body in a lake.

(source: Associated Press)


New witness comes forward, adds twist to Garry Gupton's murder trial

A stunning new witness was introduced today, on the 11th day a capital murder trial, and told detectives that Stephen White died so that no one would find out Garry Gupton "went home with a gay man."

Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Robert Enochs told Superior Court Judge Michael Duncan about the witness before the trial began Monday morning. Enochs said Brandon Jamison called him at 8:50 a.m., telling him that Gupton confessed to White's death while he and Gupton were housed together in an undisclosed hospital.

Gupton, 29, has spent the past 2 weeks on trial for the death of White, 46, on Nov. 15, 2014, 6 days after he was burned severely when he was set afire in a hotel room.

Gupton and White met on Nov. 8, 2014, at Chemistry Nightclub, a gay bar and lounge in Greensboro. The two men traveled from the nightclub to the Battleground Inn at 1517 Westover Terrace in Greensboro, where attorneys said the pair agreed to have oral sex before Gupton attacked White and set him on fire.

Gupton could face the death penalty if convicted in White's death.

Gupton's attorneys, Wayne Baucino and Ames Chamberlin, have not denied the allegations against Gupton, but Gupton has pleaded not guilty to the crime by reason of insanity.

Since Oct. 9, 12 jurors and 3 alternates have listened to testimony and watched surveillance and police body-worn camera videos showing Gupton outside the Battleground Inn screaming that ISIS, Al-Qaeda, C-4 and bombs were inside the hotel. On camera, Gupton cried hysterically and told officers it was a trap when they heard fire alarms go off inside the building.

Enochs was between testimony from first responders and an officer who processed the crime scene when he learned about the new witness. The prosecutor said he received a call before court from Jamison, a patient with Gupton at an undisclosed hospital. Enochs said Jamson told him about the conversation he had with Gupton.

"Mr. Gupton described going home with a gay man and beating him with a telephone because he didn't want people to know he went home with a gay man," Enochs told the judge, quoting Jamison.

Enochs said he immediately told Jamison that he would have a detective call him back so that Enochs did not become a witness in the trial he was prosecuting. During the morning court session, Greensboro Det. C. Montgomerie spoke to Jamison and determined he was a credible enough to add to the state's witness list.

Baucino objected. "We're in the middle of the trial, and we would certainly object to new evidence," Baucino said. "This has substantial impact on our defense."

Jurors do not know about the new witness. Discussions about Jamison and his information have happened outside their presence.

Duncan has not ruled on whether he will allow Jamison's testimony. He decided to give Baucino and Chamberlin the lunch break to review notes taken by Det. Montgomerie about his conversation Monday morning with Jamison.

Enochs said that if Duncan allows Jamison to testify in the trial, he plans to introduce him Tuesday afternoon.

He said he hopes to wrap up the state's case by Wednesday.

Gupton has agreed to testify during the trial.

Court will resume at 2 p.m.

(source: News & Record)


'Stocking Strangler' Carlton Gary's attorneys get an extended deadline to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Attorneys for convicted "Stocking Strangler" Carlton Gary will have more time to file for an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court after a Columbus judge this past Sept. 1 denied the serial killer's motion for a new trial.

The extension gives them until Nov. 2 to ask the state's highest court to hear what's expected to be among Gary's last appeals in a death-penalty case now in its 31st year.

That's 31 years as measured from Gary's conviction in Muscogee Superior Court on Aug. 26, 1986. The murders are four decades old. Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of the rape and strangling of Florence Scheible, 89, in her Dimon Street home near Lakebottom Park.

After the defense files its appeal, the prosecution will have 10 days to respond, said District Attorney Julia Slater, the chief prosecutor for the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit that includes Muscogee.

If the Georgia Supreme Court denies the appeal, Gary's attorneys may apply to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it repeatedly has refused to review the case.

The next steps

Once Gary's appeals are exhausted, Muscogee Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr. will issue a death warrant designating a week during which the state Department of Corrections may schedule Gary's execution by lethal injection.

He has 1 last-minute chance to escape death by asking the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life in prison. The board turned him down in 2009.

That's when Gary last escaped death: He was to be executed on Dec. 16, 2009, at Georgia's Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, but the state Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay and sent the case back to Columbus for a hearing on testing DNA evidence.

Those tests proved inconclusive, tying Gary to one of the 7 stranglings, but not one for which he was convicted, and excluding him from a rape and assault prosecutors claimed to be a precursor to the serial killings of 1977 and '78. He was not convicted in that case, either, though jurors in 1986 heard evidence from all the cases as prosecutors illustrated Gary's pattern of criminal conduct.

Defense attorneys cited the conflicting DNA tests in their effort to persuade Jordan to grant Gary either a new trial or a different sentence. Jordan rejected their arguments in a decision nearly 50 pages long.

In asking for an extension, Gary's Atlanta attorneys Jack Martin and Michael McIntyre cited these reasons:

-- The volume of material to be reviewed. The 1986 trial transcript is 4,500 pages, and does not include the record of state and federal appeals. Just the record amassed since the state Supreme Court sent the case back to Columbus in 2009 adds up to 3,000 pages contained in nine volumes.

--According to a clerk in the Superior Court, "the record ... is contained in 18 boxes as well as numerous accordion files," the attorneys wrote.

-- Limitations on the attorneys' time. Since Jordan denied Gary a new trial, McIntyre has had a family emergency involving a relative with cancer, and Martin has spent 10 days traveling in Portugal.

Also Martin is occupied with another death-penalty case, that of Lawrence Joseph Jefferson, convicted March 9, 1986, of bludgeoning Edward Taulbee to death before taking his money and leaving the body in the woods near Lake Alatoona in Cobb County. Taulbee's body was found the next day, May 2, 1985.

Taulbee's case is now before the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Martin is his lead attorney.

The assault and murders

Born in Columbus on Sept. 24, 1950, Gary now is 67 years old, and remains on death row at the prison in Jackson.

Here are the 7 Stocking Stranglings and the rape and assault prosecutors said preceded them:

On Sept. 11, 1977, Gertrude Miller, 64, is beaten with a board and raped in her 2703 Hood St. home. Her assailant leaves behind knotted stockings he took from her dresser. She in 1986 identifies Gary as the rapist, but a later DNA test on her clothing excludes Gary.

On Sept. 16, 1977, Mary Willis "Fern" Jackson, 59, of 2505 17th St., is found brutally beaten, raped and strangled with a stocking and sash. Her body is left covered.

On Sept. 24, 1977, Jean Dimenstein, 71, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her home that then had the address 3027 21st St. (the street has since been renamed). Her body was left covered with sheets and a pillow Later tests match Gary's DNA to crime-scene evidence, but he was not convicted in this case.

On Oct. 21, 1977, Florence Scheible, 89, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 1941 Dimon St. home, which today has a different address. Her body was left covered. Gary's right thumbprint was found on a door frame leading into Scheible's bedroom. Gary is convicted in this case.

Oct. 25, 1977, Martha Thurmond, 70, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 2614 Marion St. home. Her body was covered by a pillow, blankets and sheets. Gary's fingerprint is found on the frame of a rear bedroom window. Gary is convicted in this case.

Dec. 28, 1977, Kathleen Woodruff, 74, is found raped and strangled in her 1811 Buena Vista Road home, which later was demolished during an Aflac expansion. Gary's right little fingerprint is found on the aluminum window screen where the intruder entered, and his palm print is found on the windowsill just inside. Gary is convicted in this case.

Feb. 12, 1978, Mildred Borom, 78, 1612 Forest Ave., is found raped and strangled with a cord cut from window blinds. Her body's covered with a garment.

April 20, 1978, Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, is found raped and strangled with a stocking. A pillow covers her face.


This timeline was compiled from Columbus police, court records and Ledger-Enquirer archives:

Sept. 24, 1950, Carlton Michael Gary is born in Columbus, Ga., where he lives until age 16, when he moves with his mother to Fort Myers, Fla., and later Gainesville, Fla.

Sept. 3, 1964, Gary attends Carver High School.

Nov. 18, 1965, Gary attends Spencer High School.

Jan. 31, 1966, Gary returns to Carver High School and later transfers to Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Fla.

Oct. 31, 1967, Gary's charged with breaking into an automobile in Gainesville, Fla.

March 17, 1968, Gary's charged with arson in Gainesville, Fla.

Nov. 26, 1969, Gary's charged with assaulting a police officer in Bridgeport, Conn.

April 14, 1970, Nellie Farmer, 85, is raped and strangled and her body left covered in her home in the Wellington Hotel, Albany, N.Y. Gary's fingerprint is found at the scene. Gary claims another man killed Farmer, and is convicted only of robbery.

July 15, 1970, Gary's sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery.

March 31, 1975, Gary is released from prison and moves to Syracuse, NY.

June 27, 1975, the body of Marion Fisher, 40, is found on a road just outside Syracuse. She was raped and strangled. Authorities in 2007 say they match Gary's DNA to the cold-case evidence.

July 25, 1975, Gary's charged with escape, resisting arrest and violating parole.

July 17, 1976, Gary's released on parole.

Sept. 3, 1976, Gary's charged with assault.

Jan. 2, 1977, Jean Frost, 55, is raped and nearly choked to death in her home in Syracuse, N.Y. Gary has a watch taken from Frost's home when police arrest him 2 days later. Again he blames another man for the assault. He is charged with possessing stolen property, resisting arrest, perjury and assault.

Aug. 23, 1977, Gary escapes from New York's Onandaga County prison by jumping from a 3rd-floor window. He goes home to Columbus, where he soon moves to 1027 Fisk Ave.

Sept. 11, 1977, Gertrude Miller, 64, is beaten with a board and raped in her 2703 Hood St. home, about 2 blocks from Fisk Avenue. Her assailant leaves behind knotted stockings he took from her dresser. She in 1986 identifies Gary as the rapist.

Sept. 16, 1977, Mary Willis "Fern" Jackson, 59, of 2505 17th St., is found brutally beaten, raped and strangled with a stocking and sash. Her body is left covered. Her stolen car is later found on Benner Avenue near Fisk Avenue.

Sept. 24, 1977, Jean Dimenstein, 71, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her home that then had the address 3027 21st St. (the street has since been renamed). Her body was left covered with sheets and a pillow Later tests match Gary's DNA to crime-scene evidence.

Oct. 4, 1977, Gary moves to 3231 Old Buena Vista Road.

Oct. 8, 1977, the 1427 Eberhart Avenue home of sisters Callye East, 75, and Nellie Sanderson, 78, is burglarized. Sanderson's son Henry is visiting. The intruder steals his Toyota, which has a .22-caliber Ruger pistol under the seat. The car's left on Buena Vista Road.

Oct. 21, 1977, Florence Scheible, 89, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 1941 Dimon St. home, which today has a different address. Her body was left covered. Gary's right thumbprint was found on a door frame leading into Scheible's bedroom.

Oct. 25, 1977, Martha Thurmond, 70, is found raped and strangled with a stocking in her 2614 Marion St. home. Her body was covered by a pillow, blankets and sheets. Gary's fingerprint is found on the frame of a rear bedroom window.

Nov. 11, 1977, Gary moves to 2829 Ninth St. and gets a job working the late shift at Golden's Foundry.

Dec. 16, 1977, Gary leaves the foundry job.

Dec. 20, 1977, the 1710 Buena Vista Road home of William Swift is burglarized while the residents are away. Swift later discovers the burglar removed bars from a kitchen window to get in, then set the bars back on the windowsill. Detectives later say Swift never told police this; Gary did.

Dec. 28, 1977, Kathleen Woodruff, 74, is found raped and strangled in her 1811 Buena Vista Road home, which later was demolished during an Aflac expansion. Gary's right little fingerprint is found on the aluminum window screen where the intruder entered, and his palm print is found on the windowsill just inside.

Jan. 1, 1978, the 2021 Brookside Drive home of Abraham Illges, who is 85 and whose wife is 75, is burglarized and a Cadillac stolen. The car's left at a restaurant on Victory Drive. Police say Gary later refers to this home as "the castle."

Feb. 11, 1978, Ruth Schwob, 74, of 1800 Carter Ave., is nearly strangled to death by an intruder she fights off, pressing a panic alarm by her bed. Police find her sitting on the edge of her bed, gasping, a stocking wrapped around her neck.

Feb. 11, 1978, the Illges home is burglarized again, but the intruder triggers an alarm and flees. Police said Gary later told them he ran and hid in Wildwood Park.

Feb. 12, 1978, Mildred Borom, 78, 1612 Forest Ave., about 2 blocks from Schwob's home on the west side of Wildwood Park, is found raped and strangled with a cord cut from window blinds. Her body's covered with a garment. This series of rapid events becomes known as "The Night of Terrors."

April 20, 1978, Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, is found raped and strangled with a stocking. A pillow covers her face. Police find Cofer's stolen car on Mill Road.

April 20, 1978, Gary robs the Burger King at 3520 Macon Road.

May 14, 1978, Gary robs the Hungry Hunter restaurant at 1834 Midtown Drive.

Sept. 4, 1978, Gary robs the Western Sizzlin restaurant at 4385 Victory Drive.

Sept. 22, 1978, Gary robs the Talk of the Town restaurant in Greenville, S.C.

Oct. 8, 1978, Gary robs the Ryan's Steakhouse in Greenville.

Oct. 19, 1978, Gary robs the Western Sizzlin steakhouse in Greenville.

Nov. 5, 1978, Gary robs the Po' Folks restaurant in Greenville.

Dec. 7, 1978, Gary robs Jack's Steak House in Greenville.

Feb. 15, 1979, having earned the nickname "Steakhouse Bandit," Gary robs a Po' Folks restaurant in Gafney, S.C., and is arrested the next day.

Feb. 22, 1979, Gary is convicted of armed robbery in Greenville County, S.C.

March 29, 1979, Gary is convicted of armed robbery in Cherokee County, S.C.

March 15, 1984, he escapes from a prison in Columbia, S.C., and returns to Columbus.

April 3, 1984, Gary robs a Po' Folks restaurant on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City and rapes a woman who works there.

April 10, 1984, Henry Sanderson calls Columbus police to ask about the Ruger pistol taken from his Toyota in the 1977 Eberhart Avenue burglary. A detective sends out a nationwide alert for the gun, which turns up in Michigan and is traced back to Gary.

April 16, 1984, Gary robs a Wendy's restaurant in Gainesville, Fla.

April 22, 1984, Gary robs a McDonald's restaurant in Montgomery, Ala.

April 28, 1984, Gary robs the County Seat Store in the Oaks Mall of Gainesville, Fla.

April 30, 1984, prompted by Sanderson's call and the gun trace, copies of Gary's fingerprints arrive at the Columbus Police Department, where 1 is matched to a print found on the frame of a screen removed from Woodruff's home.

May 3, 1984, authorities arrest Gary in Albany, Ga.

May 4, 1984, from around midnight until 3:30 a.m., Gary takes investigators on a tour of homes he tells them he broke into. He blames the stranglings on another man.

May 8, 1984, Gary attempts suicide in jail.

May 9, 1984, then Superior Court Judge John Land appoints attorneys William Kirby and Stephen Hyles to represent Gary.

Aug. 28, 1984, attorney August "Bud" Siemon becomes Gary's lead defense counsel.

Oct. 11, 1984, attorney Bruce Harvey becomes Gary's co-counsel. Attorney Gary Parker joins the defense team the following December.

Feb. 8, 1985, Siemon files a motion asking Judge Land to recuse himself because he has personal knowledge of the case. Land recuses himself.

May 13, 1985, Judge E. Mullins Whisnant is assigned the case.

May 22, 1985, Siemon files a motion asking Whisnant to recuse himself because he was the district attorney during the strangling.

May 20, 1985, Whisnant recuses himself and the case is assigned to Judge Kenneth Followill.

Dec. 18, 1985, Parker withdraws as co-counsel after Followill refuses to grant the defense team funds for an investigator.

Dec. 29, 1985, Gary tries to escape from jail.

March 10, 1986, on the day Gary's trial is to start, he refuses to get dressed and come to court. Harvey files a motion questioning Gary's competency to stand trial, saying the defendant's mental health is in decline. Followill orders a psychological evaluation.

March 24, 1986, Gary goes to Georgia Central State Hospital in Milledgeville for his evaluation, but refuses to cooperate with doctors.

April 21, 1986, Followill holds a trial to determine Gary's mental competency.

April 28, 1986, the jury finds Gary competent for trial.

June 9, 1986, Gary's trial is set to begin, but Siemon files for a change of venue.

July 2, 1986, Followill decides that instead of moving the trial, the court will bring jurors from Griffin, Ga., to hear the case.

July 7, 1986, Harvey withdraws, leaving Siemon as Gary's only lawyer.

Aug. 11, 1986, Gary's trial begins.

Aug. 26, 1986, the jury finds Gary guilty in 3 of the 7 stranglings, though then District Attorney Bill Smith maintains one perpetrator committed all seven along with the attack on Miller and Schwob. Smith used evidence from the other cases to illustrate a pattern of criminal behavior.

Aug. 27, 1986, the jury sentences Gary to death.

Sept. 25, 1986, Gary moves for a new trial. His motion's denied the following Oct. 18, and he appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court.

June 26, 1987, the Georgia Supreme Court sends the case back to Columbus, instructing the court here to determine whether Gary had ineffective counsel.

Nov. 4, 1987, Followill holds hearings to determine the effectiveness of Gary's defense.

June 12, 1989, Followill rules Gary failed to show his counsel was ineffective.

March 6, 1990, the Georgia Supreme court upholds Followill's ruling and reaffirms Gary's conviction and death sentence.

Jan. 27, 1995, the superior court of Butts County, Ga., where Gary is imprisoned, rejects one of his habeas corpus appeals.

Nov. 13, 1995, the court rejects another of Gary's habeas corpus appeals.

Nov. 18, 1997, Gary files a habeas corpus appeal in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Sept. 28, 2004, the federal court rejects Gary's appeal, and he appeals to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nov. 9, 2005, then-Coroner James Dunnavant finds a bite-cast mold made from teeth marks on Janet Cofer's body. It has been missing since Dunnavant's predecessor Don Kilgore died.

Nov. 23, 2005, the appeals court sends the case back to U.S. District Court to consider the bite-mark evidence.

Feb. 14, 2007, the district court holds a hearing and decides the bite cast would not have bolstered Gary's defense and again rejects his appeal. Gary again appeals to the 11th Circuit.

Feb. 12, 2009, the 11th Circuit rejects Gary's appeal. He appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dec. 1, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Gary’s appeal. His execution is set for the following Dec. 16.

Dec. 16, 2009, Gary is hours away from execution when the Georgia Supreme Court issues a stay and sends the case back to Muscogee Superior Court to consider DNA testing evidence.

Feb. 19, 2010, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to DNA test suitable evidence samples, four items from three cases: Dimenstein, Scheible and Woodruff.

Dec. 14, 2010, attorneys say the initial DNA test results match Gary to the murder of Jean Dimenstein but not Martha Thurmond. The defense seeks testing on clothes from Gertrude Miller the morning after she was raped and beaten.

March 6, 2012, tests of the Miller evidence yield a DNA profile that does not match Gary. The prosecution says the defense can't prove Miller was wearing the garments when raped.

Nov. 21, 2013, District Attorney Julia Slater announces the Thurmond DNA test was tainted at the state crime lab and thus invalid.

February 24-28, 2014, Judge Frank Jordan Jr. holds evidentiary hearings on Gary's new trial motion.

Jan. 11, 2016, Doug Grubbs, son-in-law of sheriff's investigator Don Miller, in the attic finds a briefcase containing files on the strangling. He turns it over to the sheriff's office.

Jan. 27, the defense is told of the briefcase.

Feb. 3, both sides meet to inspect the documents. They find a composite sketch believed to have been drawn as Gertrude Miller described her assailant under hypnosis in October 1977.

Jan. 12-12, 2017, Jordan holds a final set of hearings on the new evidence in Gary’s motion for a new trial.

June 27, the prosecution files a motion asking Jordan to issue a ruling.

Sept. 1, Jordan denies Gary's motion for a new trial in a 50-page ruling.

Sept. 20, Gary's attorneys file for an extension of the deadline to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Nov. 2, the new, extended deadline for the defense to appeal.



Death penalty review panel members prosecuted more than 1,900 cases since 2012, records show

Since State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced the formation of a panel to review whether the death penalty should be sought in a case, Channel 9 has been pouring through records for the 7 members.

All are assistant state attorneys, 6 of them permanent members, who have prosecuted a wide variety of cases, including some seeking the death penalty.

It was formed after Gov. Rick Scott took 30 cases from Ayala's office because she vowed not to seek the death penalty in any case prosecuted by her office.

Ayala fought the move, but the Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott.

As a group, the members of the death penalty review panel have prosecuted 1,900 cases since 2012, records show.

With 1,100, more than 1/2 of the cases were prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Kenneth Nunnelly.

Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra has the 2nd most prosecutions at 455.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer warned against judging the experience level or abilities of a prosecutor by the number of cases they have worked.

"What you have to look at is the panel as a whole," Sheaffer said.

Assistant state attorneys Candra Moore and Gabrielle Sanders have both prosecuted about 50 cases since 2012.

Moore serves on a task force combating human trafficking and mid-level drug trafficking and Sanders worked with a domestic violence felony unit in Osceola County.

Working in specialty areas generally results in few prosecutions, Sheaffer said.

"The more complex the cases that you handle, you're going to handle fewer because it takes a greater degree of concentration, expertise and preparation," he said.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala won't pursue death penalty in cases, including Markeith Loyd's

Gov. Scott removes Aramis Ayala from Markeith Loyd case after she refuses to recuse herself

Florida Supreme Court rules against Ayala on Scott's reassigning of death penalty cases

For the death penalty to be sought in a case, the panel must be unanimous, which Sheaffer said would be a difficult thing to do.

"It's hard to get 7 ordinary citizens to agree on anything," he said. "It may be darned impossible to get seven lawyers to agree on anything."

While Ayala hopes the panel will allow her office to continue prosecuting cases where the death penalty could be sought, Scott has not said if its existence would keep him from removing cases from her office.

"We will continue to review the details that come out of the state attorney's office, but the governor must be convinced that the death penalty will be sought as outlined in Florida law, when appropriate," Scott's office said in a media statement. "The governor will always stand with crime victims and their families."

(source: WFTV news)


Justices Won't Review Florida Death-Penalty Cases

3 liberal justices dissented Monday from the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of a challenge to Florida's death-sentencing procedures, saying the high court should have decided whether jurors being told their verdict was merely advisory diminished their sense of responsibility.

In March 2010, Quentin Marcus Truehill and 2 cellmates at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Office in Mansura, La., held the holding-cell officer hostage, according to court records.

Truehill then attacked the booking officer with a shank, and the 3 men escaped. They stole a truck and committed a series of crimes on their way from Louisiana to Miami, Fla.

The decomposed body of Vincent Binder was found in an open field near St. Augustine, Fla., soon after police learned that Truehill used Binder's credit card the night he went missing.

Truehill was convicted of murdering and kidnapping Binder, and was sentenced to death.

He appealed, but the Florida Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence in February, finding that he was more culpable for the crime than a co-defendant who received life in prison and equally or more culpable than another who was also sentenced to death.

In January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down Florida's practice of having judges issue death-penalty sentences after collecting jury recommendations.

The case stemmed from the sentencing of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of killing a fast-food worker during a robbery in May 1978.

Hurst stabbed his bound and gagged victim, Cynthia Harrison, more than 60 times before leaving her in the restaurant freezer. The jury quickly convicted him of the crime, but was sharply divided over imposing the death penalty.

Under the existing Florida law, judges had wide latitude when it came to sentencing in capital cases, even allowing them to override the sentences handed down by juries.

In the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed that decision and held the state sentencing scheme unconstitutional, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote "the Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury's mere recommendation is not enough."

Florida responded by passing a new law that requires at least 10 of 12 jurors to recommend execution, and then, only after they've unanimously decided at least 1 "aggravating factor" related to the crime justifies it.

But in a pair of rulings, the Florida Supreme Court said the new state law was still unconstitutional because it continued to allow a partial panel to recommend the death penalty "as opposed to the constitutionally required unanimous, 12-member jury."

Meanwhile, Truehill appealed his case to the Supreme Court, arguing that he was sentenced to death without any of the required findings outlined in the Hurst v. Florida decision.

On Monday, the nation's high court denied petitions for certiorari from Truehill and another capital defendant, Terence Oliver.

Justice Sotomayor wrote a 2-page dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

She said the Supreme Court "has not in the past hesitated to vacate and remand a case when a court has failed to address an important question that was raised below."

"At least twice now, capital defendants in Florida have raised an important Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences that the Florida Supreme Court has failed to address. Specifically, those capital defendants, petitioners here, argue that the jury instructions in their cases impermissibly diminished the jurors' sense of responsibility as to the ultimate determination of death by repeatedly emphasizing that their verdict was merely advisory," Sotomayor wrote.

She added, "Because petitioners here raised a potentially meritorious Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences, and because the stakes in capital cases are too high to ignore such constitutional challenges, I dissent from the Court's refusal to correct that error."


ALABAMA----stay of impending execution

Execution stayed for Alabama man convicted of killing cop

A federal court granted a stay of execution for Alabama death row inmate Torrey Twane McNabb, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday.

The order was issued on Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins of the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division.

The state has appealed the stay.

The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hollman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

McNabb has spent the last 18 years on death row, after being convicted of fatally shooting Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon in September 1997. McNabb was convicted on 2 capital murder counts -- 1 for killing Gordon while he was on duty, and 1 for killing him as Gordon sat in his patrol car. McNabb also was found guilty of 2 additional counts of attempted murder.

McNabb's attorney John Anthony Palombi, an assistant federal defender, filed an emergency motion for stay of execution on Oct. 11. The defense claims the "challenged method of execution presents a substantial risk of serious harm" and that there's an alternative that can reduce the risk of severe pain.

A federal court of appeals stayed the execution of Jeffery Lynn Borden on Oct. 2 on similar grounds.

"Borden, in almost identical circumstances, received a stay of execution," Monday's order stated. "Defendants did not appeal, admittedly in part because of the late litigation hour. The court, in equity and good conscience, cannot treat McNabb differently than Borden when the stakes are this high. There is no evidentiary justification for disparate treatment of McNabb."



John Thompson Received 18 Wrongful Years On Death Row, Yet Never Received Justice----The activist and death row exoneree died without anyone being named culpable for his wrongful imprisonment.

John Thompson was many things: death row exoneree, abolitionist, advocate for prosecutorial accountability, spokesperson, founder of an exoneree-run re-entry program, and mentor. Before the news cycle moves on from John, we are compelled to acknowledge the way he most profoundly affected the world.

After his untimely death on October 3rd, the media described him as a man who saw the world as it should be, as angry, and as a warrior. To those of us who enjoyed the enormous privilege of knowing and loving John, he was so much more.

John survives as a symbol of the impunity with which prosecutors may disregard the life and rights of a young black man. Yet he was a wonderfully regular man with a sharp wit and irreverent humor. He loved his wife, family - especially his grandchildren - and friends. He liked a strong coffee in the morning and a beer in the evening. He went to church, and then cursed at the football game. John didn't sugarcoat anything. He had 100 big ideas a week. He issued straight line challenges - to his colleagues and to the world. Consequently, those who truly knew and loved him maintained a more real, raw and rewarding relationship with John Thompson, compared to others in their lives. He was our friend, and a brilliant, honest, funny, smart, present, and - at times - difficult colleague.

John lived helping and questioning: helping fellow exonerees after release, questioning institutions of criminal justice and challenging them to do better.

But mostly, John Thompson will go down in legal history for demanding the kind of justice a white man would expect - and being told in 2011 he was not entitled to it.

On May 10, 2003, the headline of the Times Picayune read:

Acquitted inmate a free man.

John Thompson, the New Orleans man acquitted this week of a 1984 murder that had once placed him on death row, walked out of the parish prison Friday afternoon after more than 18 years of incarceration.

Every exoneration story is horrifying and fascinating. John's is extraordinary for many reasons, not least of which was a last-minute defense discovery that saved him from execution and the 35 minutes a jury took to acquit him at his 2003 retrial for the murder he was nearly executed for 4 years previously. When John walked out of prison, his story could have ended like a movie: a happy and satisfying ending after a tough legal battle, dramatic twists, his swift acquittal, release and subsequent marriage to his wife of now-14 years. But John knew people should not console themselves with a happy ending.

John could have done anything he wanted after 18 years of wrongful imprisonment. He chose to become a selfless, tireless advocate, social worker and mentor for other returning prisoners, establishing the 1st exoneree-run reentry program in the country. He was working there the day he died, sustaining a network of support among the formerly incarcerated, reconnecting them to the community, and providing education and counseling. He helped dozens.

All the while, he traveled the country questioning the status quo of criminal justice, trying to prevent injustices like his. Although it was prosecutors who nearly had him killed, to his great credit, he did not exclusively focus his criticism there. Police, courts and public defenders also failed John and he understood that the failing of those institutions too affected the lives of the poor and people of color - particularly black people. John increasingly chose to use his story as a galvanizing cry for racial justice in America. Until his death, John remained a strong advocate for organizations fighting to bring equal justice to an unjust system. He advocated for more judicial oversight, robust public defense and for the urgent work of freeing innocent prisoners.

Famously, John sued the prosecutors who nearly killed him, arguing that prosecutors’ offices need standards to prevent the kind of terrible injustice he suffered. He believed he deserved compensation because the New Orleans District Attorney did not care to have such standards, and consequently, John was ripped from his 6 and 4-year old sons, thrown into solitary confinement for 14 years to await his execution for a murder he did not commit. John survived 7 execution dates (including the last - set for the day before his youngest son's high school graduation) and lost 18 years of his life. John wanted the prosecutors to help him rebuild his life and sanity. He asked for the justice any of us would expect if we survived such torture.

A New Orleans judge and jury agreed John's life mattered, and the prosecutor's office should pay. But we all know the ending. In 2011 in Connick v. Thompson, 5 justices of the Supreme Court took John's victory and validation away, saying the law is not the way to hold prosecutors accountable and, if district attorneys do not train their staff to avoid such injustices, they are not liable. Those 4 white men and Clarence Thomas were mistaken and morally wrong. To John, and many others, the Supreme Court said his black life did not matter enough for the white prosecutors who nearly killed him to be accountable.

To date, not a single prosecutor from John Thompson's case has faced a single consequence."

He later wrote in the New York Times he didn't care about the money, he just wanted to know why no prosecutor was disbarred or jailed. Swift consequences befell prosecutors who committed misconduct in recent high-profile cases of white defendants. Ted Stevens, the Duke Lacrosse players, Michael Morton: none were nearly killed from prosecutorial misconduct, yet in each case when it was revealed, the outrage was palpable and the penalty swift. To date, not a single prosecutor from John Thompson's case has faced a single consequence. So he filed a complaint with the Justice Department last year, asking for a civil rights investigation into those prosecutors. But John Collin Thompson died with little faith that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions' Justice Department was actively concerned with his complaint.

Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow, identifies the U.S. as unique in the world for the rate at which its prisoners so disproportionately correlate with its racial minority: African Americans. Recently her work, and that of other criminal justice reform advocates, has increased popular understanding that the struggle for a smaller, fairer, more accurate and more accountable criminal justice system is a seamless part of the struggle for civil rights and racial justice in America. John's life-defining struggle to hold prosecutors to account was firmly part of that struggle.

On June 7, 1892, 3 miles from where John Thompson was convicted and later acquitted, Homer Plessy sat in a rail carriage reserved for white people and was charged with violating the Louisiana law forbidding people of color and white people from sitting in the same carriage. When Homer Plessy took his case to the Supreme Court, in another sorry decision, it said, "If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane." It said that he had been "assigned by officers of the company to the coach used for the race to which he belonged, but he insisted upon going into a coach used by the race to which he did not belong."

So, too, John Thompson was assigned to be grateful with his acquittal and move on. When the U.S. Supreme Court took away the jury's verdict that had acknowledged the irreparable but avoidable damage to his life, it effectively said: "John Thompson is insisting upon the kind of justice used by the race to which he does not belong."

Today, Plessy v. Fergusson is a relic from a morally misguided time. Here in New Orleans, the descendants of Homer Plessy and Judge Howard Ferguson - Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson - established the Plessy and Ferguson Foundation to teach justice and equity and "connect communities to history in an effort to bring a greater understanding, respect, and vision for who we are today and who we can be tomorrow." They presented John's lawyers with an award at a dinner in New Orleans in 2013.

When the Supreme Court overturned Plessy in 1955 with Brown v. Board of Education, it prescribed that "separate" is inherently unequal. That decision was part of a long social and political struggle for true equality that continues today in criminal courts across America. To John, the Connick decision said that his black life didn't matter and that, while we may not be formally separate, we are still absolutely unequal. This energized thousands of people who knew and loved John, and thousands who did not, to work harder for true equality. Ironically, this gives John far more power and consequence in history than the prosecutors who were at best indifferent to his guilt while they tried to kill him in the name of their sorry careers.

In 1898, Homer Plessy was right and the Supreme Court was wrong. 123 years later, John Thompson was right and the Supreme Court was wrong. We look forward to the day that Connick is considered a relic from a morally misguided time.

There again is the power of John Thompson's story, showing us who we really are."

Some of us who have had the monumental privilege of knowing John take a perverse satisfaction in seeing last week that the man who argued to reverse his jury verdict in the Supreme Court was nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Because if John's legacy speeds all of America's realization that its society - as reflected in its courts - does not value black lives as it does white lives, he will continue to rest in the incredible power he had in life. John died early of a heart attack that was undoubtedly caused by the stress of what he had endured at the hands of the State of Louisiana. Days before, Kyle Duncan, the man who had argued that the prosecutors need not be liable for the terrible damage they caused him and his community, was elevated to one of the highest positions in the law. There again is the power of John Thompson's story, showing us who we really are.

John spent his life asking us all hard questions. He asked the hardest question of the highest court in the country: does my life matter enough? He showed the country the answer, and left us to do something about it. We just wish he was still here to do it with us.

(source: Emily Maw, Contributor----Director, Innocence Project New Orleans; Derwyn Bunton, Contributor, Chief Defender, Orleans Parish----Huffington Post)


A Tragedy of Errors----The corkscrew case of Rogers Lacaze.

In "Case in Point," Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character that sheds light on the criminal justice system. An audio version of Case in Point is broadcast with The Takeaway, a public radio show from WNYC, Public Radio International, The New York Times, and WGBH-Boston Public Radio.

Pretend for a moment that you are an 18-year-old black man in Louisiana in 1995 and you've been charged with murdering a white police officer and 2 others, the children of the owner of the restaurant where the crime took place. It's sensational news in New Orleans in part because you have a co-defendant in the case, herself a police officer, Antoinette Frank, who immediately implicates you in the crime. Prosecutors seek the death penalty against you and your judge sets your capital case for trial just over 4 months after the crime.

You have a defense attorney who has never tried a death-penalty case before and who agrees to do so in exchange for your family's promise to give him a used car. Unsurprisingly, the defense he offers on your behalf is feckless from the start. He does not raise the question of prejudicial pretrial publicity or challenge much of the evidence prosecutors seek to use. He does not move to suppress statements you tell him were made only after the police beat you during an interrogation. He tells the court he won't challenge the government's eyewitness identification of you at trial, a critical concession. Nor does he undertake any investigation into any mitigating factors that might spare your life. (After trial, such an investigation shows your IQ is 71).

Things get worse from there. Your lawyer says he is getting death threats and wants to get paid. Then, on the morning of your trial, your lawyer and the judge get into an argument. Your lawyer compares the case with the O.J. Simpson murder trial, then at its zenith, and the judge doesn't like it. So he holds your attorney in contempt of court and gives him a 6-month jail sentence and a $500 fine, with the sentence suspended until after the trial. Your lawyer asks to withdraw from the case. The judge orders him to stay, and the trial begins.

Jury selection takes just a few hours. It is over in time for lunch on the first day. Neither your attorney, nor an attorney assisting him, asks any of the potential jurors questions about their views of the death penalty. Instead, your attorney moves to have the trial judge, the one who held him in contempt, recused from the case. That doesn't go so well, either. The judge stays and now there is clearly tension between him and your lawyer.

The case against you is not compelling. The murder weapon was never found. There is no physical evidence linking you to the crime scene. 2 surviving witnesses to the shooting do not identify you as the shooter. Indeed, it appears more likely that your co-defendant, that rogue cop, was the shooter. None of this matters. You made 2 incriminating statements to the police while in custody after detectives failed to read you your Miranda rights against self-incrimination. At trial prosecutors don't appear to challenge your lawyer's assertion that you were coerced, intimidated, and even beaten into "confessing." To prosecutors, your co-defendant's pointed finger and your incriminating statements are enough, even though you stopped short of confessing to the crime.

The trial begins on July 17, 1995 and ends three days later with a guilty verdict against you. Deliberations take precisely 1 hour and 36 minutes, according to court records. 1 day after that, the same jury that so quickly convicted you recommends you receive the death penalty.

Your name is Rogers Lacaze, the above narrative comes from the trial and appellate record in the case, and just like that you are headed for Louisiana's notorious death row. You also are headed for more than 2 decades of head-twisting post-trial litigation, the latest twist earlier this month from the U.S. Supreme Court.

What Lacaze and his trial lawyer did not know at the time of his conviction was that the jury that so quickly convicted him and sentenced him to death included at least 3 people with evident conflicts of interest that were not disclosed to the judge or to any of the attorneys. Police and prosecutors, meanwhile, who were in a position to know about some of these conflicts, remained silent as well and then later defended the inclusions of these jurors in the case.

One juror, a man named David Settle, was employed by the Louisiana State Police at the time of the trial. He had been a law enforcement officer for more than a decade. Another juror, Lillian Garrett, had lost her 2 brothers to murder in New Orleans. 1 of her brothers died the same way one of the victims in the Lacaze case had died-- with a gunshot to the head. Remember, the trial on which she was sitting in judgment involved the murder of 2 siblings.

\ A 3rd juror, a woman named Victoria Mushatt, was a police dispatcher with the New Orleans Police Department, the very same department whose officer was both a victim and a co-defendant in the Lacaze case. She was on duty in the dispatch room when the 911 call came in for the murders on which the case was based. Mushatt attended the funeral for the police victim in the case and was the wife of another NOPD officer. She also knew the police witnesses who incriminated Lacaze.

Each of these 3 jurors was asked during jury selection to disclose any connections they had to law enforcement or to the victims of crime. In Settle's case, he remained silent even as other prospective jurors around him conceded their connection to local police and left the panel. Mushatt originally did disclose that she was a 911 dispatcher and was told by the judge to say so again if she made it to individual questioning. But she did not do so. Garrett, meanwhile, was asked three times if she had any connection to any crime victims. 3 times she said nothing.

Lacaze's attorneys discovered most of this within 5 years of his conviction. For the past 17 years they have been arguing that their client could not possibly have received a fair trial from jurors who were unable or unwilling to follow the trial judge's rules or disclose clear conflicts of interest. And for the past 17 years the Louisiana Supreme Court has refused to acknowledge error or grant relief to Lacaze. In 2015, for example, a trial judge ordered a new trial based on this jury misconduct. The judge also set aside the death sentence because Lacaze's attorney had failed to investigate any of those "mitigating" factors that are evaluated in the sentencing phase of a capital trial. Louisiana has given up on the idea of executing Lacaze (although he remains on the state's death row). But the justices on the state's high court overturned the grant of a new trial.

If these were the only major shortcoming in Lacaze's trial, they would be enough for most courts to grant a new trial. But the problem with Lacaze's jury is only the half of it. It took about 14 years for defense attorneys to figure out another serious flaw in the trial and it is this flaw that ultimately may force the Louisiana court to finally give Lacaze the new trial he seeks.

Orleans Parish Judge Frank Marullo, the same judge who had held Lacaze's lawyer in contempt, and who had presided over the botched jury selection, was at the time of the trial under investigation for his own role in providing the murder weapon to Lacaze's co-defendant, the police officer Antoinette Frank. The judge not only did not recuse himself but did not disclose the problem to defense attorneys before or during the trial to allow them to seek his recusal. Worse, he may have disclosed his conflict in a private meeting with prosecutors (a meeting he also didn't disclose to the defense).

Marullo allegedly had signed an order authorizing the release of two weapons from the New Orleans Police Department's property and evidence room. Those guns, including the murder weapon, had found their way into the hands of Officer Frank through another cop named David Talley, who evidently gave the weapon to Frank as a favor. When Marullo was questioned about the order he denied signing it, essentially accusing Talley of forging his signature.

Investigators tried before and during the trial to get handwriting samples from him to compare with the signature on the order authorizing the release of the guns. He refused, arguing that he could not do so because he was busy presiding over the Lacaze case.

None of this convinced Louisiana's courts that Lacaze's trial was fatally flawed. Last week, however, Lacaze got a measure of good news. His current attorneys took the case to Washington in March, claiming that the Louisiana courts had applied the wrong legal precedent to his claims. The U.S. Supreme Court, without even hearing oral argument in the case, ordered the Louisiana high court to reevaluate its prior rulings in the case. It wasn't the jury misconduct that caught the attention of the justices. It was the judge's alleged malfeasance.

In March, in a Nevada case, the justices had overturned a murder conviction and death sentence in a case in which the judge was being investigated by prosecutors as part of a federal bribery probe. "Under our precedents," the justices wrote, "the Due Process Clause may sometimes demand recusal even when a judge 'has no actual bias.' Recusal is required when, objectively speaking, the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable."

Will the Louisiana Supreme Court concede that Lacaze got nothing close to a fair trial? It may be another few years before we find out. The justices in Washington did not order the state court to give Lacaze a new trial. So there will likely be a new round of briefs, and a new round of hearings in New Orleans, and a new round of judicial opinions as the curious case of Rogers Lacaze rolls into its 3rd decade. No one I talked to about the case said they'd be surprised if the case found its way back to Washington before it's finally resolved.



Luis Toledo trial: Testimony continues

Testimony continued Monday for a 4th day in the murder trial of a 35-year-old Deltona man who is accused of killing his wife and her 2 children.

Luis Toledo is accused of killing Yessenia Suarez, 28, and her children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8, who disappeared from their Deltona home in October 2013 and were never found.

Investigators said Toledo confessed to killing Suarez but denied killing her children. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the deaths of the children.

Tyshawn Jackson, who was 21 at the time, was Toledo's neighbor and friend. The 2 went to barber school together and would often carpool.

Jackson testified Monday about Oct. 23, 2013, the day of Suarez's disappearance. He said Toledo knocked on his bedroom window early in the morning, asking him to drop off Suarez's car at a Publix parking lot in Seminole County.

Jackson said he saw Toledo wiping down the car down and they left in Toledo's car to drop off cleaning products and trunk lining from Suarez's car at an apartment complex dumpster.

Toledo admitted to killing his Suarez in self-defense, but he claimed Jackson killed the children. Jackson denied that Monday.

Jackson said that while they were driving home from dropping off the car, Toledo said he "snapped."

Toledo's brother testified Monday that Toledo visited his home early in the morning and said that Suarez was cheating on him.

On Friday, jurors heard from 2 neighbors, who are sisters. One woman, who was 13 years old at the time, said she heard a woman yelling for help around midnight on Oct. 23 at Toledo's home.

The woman testified that she found a large knife while walking home from school the next day.

Prosecutors believe the knife belongs to Toledo and that he tossed it from his car while police officers were following him.

(source: WFTV news)


A stain on conscience

As a concerned citizen, I am writing in regards to the scheduled execution of Arkansas death row prisoner Jack Greene. I am shocked to hear that our state would pursue the execution of a man as severely ill as Jack Greene. I agree that carrying out such an execution would be a stain on the whole state's conscience. After all, the death penalty serves no legitimate purpose if the person being executed does not understand why he is being put to death.

At the very least, Arkansas should allow Jack Greene a hearing to examine his competency to be executed. I hope those who still have the power to intervene in Mr. Greene's case will do so and ensure that the state does not carry out the execution of this mentally ill man in our names.


Hot Springs

(source: Letter to the Editor,


Death sentences continue in Oklahoma despite execution moratorium

Andy Lester co-chairs the Death Penalty Review Commission, a bipartisan group looking into Oklahoma\'s execution protocol.

"Our overall recommendation was that the state keep the current moratorium on executions in place," Lester said.

The commission was formed when the attorney general decided to temporarily stop executions 2 years ago following the April 2014 botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett and the controversial execution of Charles Warner in January 2015.

"If we're going to have a death penalty, we need to do it the right way," Lester said.

However, that hasn't stopped the state from asking for the death penalty in murder cases. Most recently, the Cleveland County district attorney asked for the death penalty against Alton Nolen for the murder of Colleen Hufford.

"A trial and sentencing can certainly take place; it's whether that is ultimately carried out," Lester said.

Oklahoma has nearly 50 inmates on death row; 16 have exhausted their appeals and are scheduled for execution. But, when the death penalties will be carried out remains unclear.

Back in April, the commission made 45 recommendations to the Department of Corrections and the attorney general. They said the moratorium should be extended until significant reforms could be put into place. That includes the drug protocol.

But, Lester said abolishing the death penalty was not one of their recommendations.

"The report did not recommend a moratorium on jury trials for death penalties," he said.

So, at this point, there is no timeline for when the execution moratorium could be lifted.

Attorney General Mike Hunter sent us a short statement Monday, saying "We are in consultation with the Department of Corrections to perfect and finalize Oklahoma's execution protocol."

(source: KFOR news)


State tries to prove convicted cop killer is eligible for death penalty

The man convicted of killing a Coeur d'Alene police officer will soon find out if he's eligible for the death penalty.

Friday, Jonathan Renfro was found guilty of 1st degree murder in the killing of Sgt. Greg Moore. Monday marked the beginning of the penalty phase of his trial, with the statutory aggravating circumstance phase.

In order for Renfro to be eligible for the death penalty, the state must prove one of four aggravating circumstances in the case. First, it can prove Renfro killed Moore because he was a police officer. It can also prove the murder was committed with the intent of carrying out or during the act of a robbery. It can also prove those same circumstances for a burglary. Finally, prosecutors can prove Jonathan Renfro has a propensity to commit murder.

During Monday's proceedings, the state spent a lot of focus trying to prove that last aggravating circumstance. It called on several corrections officers to testify about conversations they had with Renfro while he has been housed in jail.

Multiple officers said they had heard Renfro making threats against other officers and fellow inmates. They also said Renfro demonstrated how he could use common jail items, like a towel, to make a weapon.

Renfro's defense pushed back though, saying Renfro had never acted on any of those threats, and tried to prove that the convicted murderer is just a big talker who isn't planning on carrying out those threats. Those officers testified that it was true Renfro has never acted on any threats he mentioned.

The state also called on several of Renfro's former friends, who testified that he helped them regularly burglarize homes and cars. One of those witnesses also said Renfro carried a friend's gun with him sometimes, and said he was planning on getting his own.

(source: KXLY news)


Renfro starts next phase in Sgt. Moore murder trial

Jonathan Renfro will once again go before a judge Monday to start the next phase in his murder trial.

He was found guilty of 1st degree murder Friday in the death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sergeant Greg Moore. KREM 2 will have a crew in the courtroom Monday.M

On Monday, he will enter the next phase of his trial, called the aggravation phase. In this phase prosecutors are trying to show that Renfro has the potential to commit another murder. Once the aggravation phase is over, the case will enter the penalty phase determining how long Renfro will spend in prison or whether he receives the death penalty.

Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty in this case.

In May 2015, Moore stopped Jonathan Renfro while walking through a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood that had become the victim of recent car burglaries. Investigators said Renfro pulled out a gun, shot Moore, took the officer's gun and then sped off in his car.

It only took the jury Thursday afternoon and Friday morning to decide Renfro's fate after hearing closing arguments from both sides.

Jurors had to decide between the following charges: 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. The jury found him guilty of 1st degree murder, as well as removing a firearm from a police officer, concealing a firearm and a robbery.

(source: KREM news)


Torture murder of 8-year-old boy? Jury hears death penalty case against accused Palmdale killer

A jury is set Monday to begin hearing the torture murder case against a Palmdale man who may face the death penalty if he's convicted of the beating death of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son.

The woman is also charged in the boy's murder, and she too could be sentenced to death for the killing.

The 7-woman, 5-man panel is due in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for opening statements by attorneys in the trial of Isauro Aguirre, 37, who is charged in the May 22, 2013, death of Gabriel Fernandez.

The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and co-defendant Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, who will be tried separately.

As jury selection began late last month, Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said the boy suffered "extensive internal and external injuries."

"It's going to be an interesting case, believe me," the judge said then, noting that the trial was expected to last about 6 to 8 weeks.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent May 22, 2013, to a home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy was not breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, but not taken off life support until 2 days later.

The prosecution has alleged that the child suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and was burned over his body.

In court papers filed last year, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami wrote that a 1st-grade teacher made a report to authorities about Fernandez allegedly hitting her son with the metal part of a belt, causing injury.

"This was essentially the beginning of the 8 months of torture and abuse of Gabriel Fernandez by Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre in Palmdale," the prosecutor wrote, adding that the boy was "withheld from school by the defendants for the last 3 weeks before he was murdered."

Aguirre and Fernandez were indicted in July 2014 on a murder charge, along with the special circumstance allegation. The boy's death triggered investigations into the county's child welfare system and resulted in criminal charges of child abuse and falsifying public records being filed against 2 former county social workers and 2 of their supervisors, who are due back in court Friday for a pretrial hearing.



Advocates for death penalty abolition encouraged by Pope Francis statement

Advocates for the abolition of capital punishment in the United States were cheered by the pope's clear instruction against the continued use of the death penalty on Oct. 11 as "contrary to the Gospel."

"We absolutely welcome the pope's strong statement on this issue; we welcome the moral clarity and the leadership he is showing" said Diann Rust-Tierney, the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"We've got to show people that there is a better way, that this is a fundamentally immoral practice," she said, describing all the controversy that swirls around executions in the United States as symptoms of that immorality. "You know sometimes we struggle in the wilderness.

"This is encouraging us in the United States to really push this forward; this is really the wind at our backs."

During ceremonies at the Vatican commemorating the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis reiterated and expanded on the church's rejection of capital punishment. "However grave the crime that may be committed," he said, "the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person."

"We absolutely welcome the pope's strong statement on this issue; we welcome the moral clarity and the leadership he is showing."

He said, "The death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity," adding, "It is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred.

"In the final analysis," Pope Francis said, "God alone is the true judge and guarantor."

"I think the pope now makes it absolutely clear, without any doubt that the death penalty is contrary to the message of the Gospel," said Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza, a former president of the U.S. bishops' conference and former leader of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The archbishop has long advocated the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

Though he personally believed that the church had already been clear in its rejection of capital punishment, "there were some," the archbishop said, "who thought there was some wiggle room about it" because of the wording of the catechism.

"I think the pope has now put that to rest," Archbishop Fiorenza said. "This is Pope Francis' magisterial teaching on this issue and as the faithful we have the responsibility to accept what the pope says.

"And I have no doubt," he added, "that this is what Pope Francis has felt all along. I am absolutely gratified and pleased with his statement."

"I am grateful [Pope Francis] brought up the issue of the death penalty, especially in the context of the catechism," said Brownsville, Tex., Bishop Daniel Flores. That suggests, he said, that "there is going to be some kind of reconsideration of the language" on capital punishment in the catechism.

Bishop Flores is the episcopal advisor for the Catholic Mobilizing Network. The C.M.N. has been working closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise awareness about capital punishment in the United States and lobby against its use.

The bishops' conference, he pointed out, has long spoken out against capital punishment, even if that message has not always been accepted by some Catholics. The pope's instruction, Bishop Flores said, makes his job of persuading American Catholics against the use of the death penalty a little easier. "This puts it back on the table, and we are all going to have to be thinking about it.

"Any time Rome says something," he added, "It helps."

The specific wording in the catechism on capital punishment has changed in recent years as the church began to articulate a more restrictive view of the moral acceptability of its use. According to the catechism, the use of the death penalty is permissible only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and if it were "the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." After St. John Paul II issued his encyclical "The Gospel of Life" in 1995, the catechism was amended in 1997 to specify that the such a condition appeared rare, "if not practically non-existent."

Opponents of the death penalty frequently pointed out in the years since that the standard established by John Paul II has been essentially impossible to meet in societies with modern facilities for the incarcerated. But to some minds the catechism still left open the possible licit use of capital punishment.

The pope's new instruction "just closes the loophole," Karen Clifton, the executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, said. "This is against the Gospel; he makes it very clear, and it makes our pro-life teaching consistent."

Some critics of the pope complain that this latest revision suggests an alteration of irreformable doctrine. Ms. Clifton does not see it that way. "The church's teaching," she said, "hasn't changed because it has always been pro-life - from conception to a natural death - and the death penalty is not a natural death.

"It is a homicide, and that is how it is listed on the death certificate."

The church has taught that the response to a grave harm must be retributive, "but it also has to be restorative," said Ms. Clifton. "The death penalty is not restorative." In fact, it negates the potential of restoration, Ms. Clifton said, a process that can only happen in God's time.

"We can still be tough on crime," she added, but the experience of nations around the world has been that society can protect itself without resorting to executions.

While the pope's latest comments on the death penalty were surely aimed at the United States, the only Western state that still executes people convicted of capital crimes, Bishop Flores said that the instruction is also intended for a global audience, especially in those nations where Christians are a minority and may face the prospect of capital punishment simply because of their faith.

Ms. Clifton believes the pope's comments should invigorate Catholic efforts toward the abolition of the death penalty.

As more U.S. Catholics become active against capital punishment, she believes the church could have an impact in reducing the number of executions taking place. That number has declined substantially in recent years as execution methods have been challenged and miscarriages of justice in capital cases have been exposed.

"We need Catholics to exercise their citizenship on this issue," Ms. Clifton said. A recent vote at the United Nations suggests the hard path may ahead in changing hearts in the United States. The United States voted on Oct. 5 against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning the use of the death penalty as a punishment for "apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations," apparently fearing the resolution would undermine the institution at home. It was the only Western nation to do so.

"That's how wedded we are as a country to the death penalty," Ms. Clifton said. She is eager to take a revitalized message against capital punishment to the broader U.S. public.

This is a countercultural message, she allows. But "Jesus always met people where they were at, and he moved them toward healing and wholeness; the Scripture is filled with sinners and God's healing love."

"We need to meet people where they are and move them toward mercy and away from vengeance," Ms. Clifton said.



Driver Of Deadly Immigrant Smuggling Run Avoids Death Penalty With Guilty Plea

The driver of a semitrailer packed with at least 39 immigrants, 10 of whom died, has pleaded guilty to making the deadly smuggling run.

James Matthew Bradley Jr. pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in San Antonio to 1 conspiracy count and a count of transporting the immigrants resulting in death. He faces up to life imprisonment when he's sentenced on Jan. 22.

Bradley could have faced the death penalty had he gone to trial.

Authorities say at least 39 immigrants were packed into the sweltering trailer found by San Antonio police last July in a Walmart parking lot. Its refrigeration system wasn't working, and investigators say passengers had difficulty breathing as temperatures climbed.

Temperatures in San Antonio topped at 101 degrees that day.

(source: Associated Press)


Mongolian President set to bring death penalty back for child abuse crimes

President of Mongolia Khaltmaa Battulga said he intends to bring back death penalty for child abuse crimes.

Mongolian president has appointed lawyers to restore death penalty, Mongolian media report.

"The death penalty is not suited in the current Mongolian society. We should talk about abolishing it when we have a stable society and matured individuals," Gogo Mongolia reported Battulga as saying.

Capital punishment for child abuse-related or brutal murder cases has been abolished in Mongolia in 2012.

Death sentence was formally removed from statutes by a 2015 Act, which took effect on July 1, 2016.



Rapist who killed Syrian child receives death penalty

The Grand Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced a man to death for raping and murdering a 7-year-old Syrian child in Amman in July.

The jury said the defendant's confession and the technical evidence submitted during the trial proceedings were sufficient to convict the defendant and hand him the death penalty by hanging.

The convict was charged with murder in accordance with article 2/328 of the Penal Code.

Back in July, the rapist took the child away to an abandoned house in Amman's Jabal Al Nuzha district, sexually assaulted him and took his life in a gruesome crime, which stirred a furious public reaction. He was arrested shortly after leaving the house.

(source: jo)


President Lungu holds closed door meeting with a 3 man delegation from Amnesty International at State House

President Edgar Lungu yesterday held a closed door meeting at State House with a 3 man delegation from Amnesty International where issues concerning death penalty, land acquisition and the rights for the poor majority were discussed.

Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda says President Lungu emphasized during the meeting that the organisation is free to come to Zambia and conduct their own research where allegations of human rights abuses have occurred including illegal detentions.

President Lungu noted that the team from Amnesty International is free to go anywhere in the country and report back to him with clear evidence of name and incident.

The President has also asked the organisation to work closely with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in either whistle blowing, addressing human rights concerns as well as making suggestions.

Mr. Chanda added that Mr. Lungu has further called on Amnesty International to provide its input in what the country looks forward to see in the amended public order act, constitutional amendments and generally the human rights regime in Zambia.

Meanwhile, the President has emphasized that on his part he does not think that death penalty is a deterrent and so he remains in a position where he wouldn't sign a death penalty for any prisoner.

President Lungu added that he does not support the death penalty as a deterrent against the crimes.

Mr. Lungu said he alluded to the decision he made to commute the death sentences of over 330 people adding that the status currently remains like that.

However, debate can go on as to whether the constitutionality of the death penalty is constitutional or not bearing in mind that the case is before the Supreme Court, he said.

Mr. Lungu has further urged the Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International to not just examine allegations when the rich and powerful people are involved but to also work for the human rights of the poor as the rich and powerful have easy access to lawyers.

Amnesty International which was led by Secretary General from London Salil Shetty suggested that a matrix be created to assess where Zambia’s response on human rights is monthly, quarterly and yearly to which President Lungu was agreeable.

Meanwhile, President Edgar Lungu has also called on all institutions involved in land alienation to ensure that the rights of the poor in terms of land acquisition take precedence.

The President said no investor should displace people without taking care of their communal rights such as access to water and grazing land among other concerns.



50 apply for hangman's post

Over 50 Zimbabwean job-seekers have applied for the hangman's post which had remained vacant since 2005, a top official in the Justice ministry has said.

Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza said her office would soon go through the applications, but would not give a timeline as to when the appointment will be made.

"The response has been overwhelming and the applications have been from both men and women interested in taking up the position of hangman. We have received over 50 applications in the past few months.

"People are very interested," Mabhiza said yesterday.

Zimbabwe last executed a prisoner on death row in 2005 and international rights lobby group Amnesty International has applauded the country for the "10-year hiatus", urging authorities to declare an official moratorium on the death penalty.

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the immediate past Justice minister, has consistently declared Zimbabwe would not implement the death penalty "under my watch".

Mnangagwa, who survived the hangman's noose at the height of the liberation struggle, said he had raised his opposition to capital punishment with President Robert Mugabe.

According to Mabhiza, the country has 92 people on death row, but the absence of the hangman has stalled their execution.

Asked whether it would not be complicated to apply the death penalty in Zimbabwe given constitutional provisions that protect teenagers, women and all those beyond 70 years from capital punishment, Mabhiza said the provision was a step towards abolition.

"We should not look at it as discriminatory, but as part of steps that we have taken as a country towards abolition. But as things stand all people who fall in the category not protected by the Constitution can be hanged.

"This means all men between 18 and 69 years and have been convicted of murder in aggravated circumstances can receive capital punishment," she said.

"Remember under the previous dispensation, we had 7 categories of people who could be hanged, but now we are left with 1. We are moving in the right direction as far as abolition is concerned".

Government sources claim Mnangagwa's successor, former Central Intelligence Organisation boss Happyton Bonyongwe, is also against the death penalty.

"The indication is that he is also against the death penalty. We will wait and see how things move, but he has indicated that he is in support of abolition of capital punishment," said a source.

Mabhiza would not be drawn into commending on Bonyongwe's position.

"He is still new to the ministry and we are still to hear his position," she said.



Death penalty abolition 'not easy' in Thailand

It is not easy to abolish the death penalty in Thailand, the director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department says.

Department chief Pitikarn Pitikarn Sithidej told a meeting held on Tuesday to consider the possibility of abolishing the capital punishment.

Also present was Colin Steinbach, head of the political, press and information office of the EU delegation to Thailand.

The meeting is held to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct 10.

Ms Pitikarn said that abolishing the death penalty does not mean offenders will not receive punishment they deserve.

But the aim is to end the death penalty, which is seen as a cruel, inhumane, and uneconomical means of punishment, and to reduce the chance of wrongful execution.

The death penalty goes against the human rights principles and most prisoners on death row are the underprivileged who cannot afford to hire capable lawyers, Ms Pitikarn said.

There is no proof that the death penalty can deter crime, she added. So far, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty, while 57 still have it, she said.

For Thailand, the last death penalty was administered in August 2009 and if no execution is carried out by 2019, the death penalty in Thailand will effectively be suspended, Ms Pitikarn said.

However, Ms Pitikarn admitted that it is difficult to abolish the death penalty in Thailand, partly because many people in society do not understand that there are alternatives to capital punishment.

Many see the death penalty as a means to get revenge, she said, adding the abolition must also involve legal amendments and opinions must be sought from all stakeholders, a time-consuming process.



To hang or not to hang? Debate begins on capital punishment, alternative methods----Plea in Supreme Court?wants execution by hanging to be judged against global opinion and evolving standards of human decency

The last execution carried out by the state was that of Yakub Memon, in 2015. Convicted for his role in the 1993 Bombay blasts case, the charted accountant was hanged at the Nagpur central jail. Relatives weren't allowed to attend the event. Instead, his death was witnessed only by a magistrate, a doctor, and a few prison officials.

Now, nobody but the people present at the spot know how Memon suffered through his last moments among the living. Did death come instantly, or did he suffer? They aren't saying.

Over 1,414 convicts have been hanged since Independence, but there is just as little information on how agonising their final moments were. So, why has this issue suddenly become relevant now, after all these years?

At death's door: An investigation into capital punishment in India

A public interest litigation has once again ignited a moral debate on the question of hanging a convict by the neck till his eventual death. The petition, filed in the Supreme Court, wants execution by hanging to be judged against the backdrop of international opinion and evolving standards of human decency.

Hanging has been India's favoured mode of execution for over 100 years now, although the armed forces also regard death by firing squad as a legal way to end a convict's life. The question of the noose was addressed by the Supreme Court in the Deepa vs Union of India judgment in 1983, almost 34 years ago, but the horror that accompanies hanging was explicitly expressed only in this one.

Justice Bhagwati, in his minority judgement, provided a graphic description of the execution process. Here's an extract: "The day before an execution, the prisoner goes through the harrowing experience of being weighed, measured for the length of (the) drop to assure breaking of the neck, the size of the neck, body measurements, et cetera. When the trap springs, he dangles at the end of the rope. There are times when the neck does not break, and the prisoner strangles to death. His eyes almost pop out of his head, his tongue swells and protrudes from his mouth, his neck may or may not break, and the rope claims large portions of skin and flesh from the side of the face. He urinates, he defecates, and droppings fall to the floor while witnesses look on, and almost all executions have had one or more person fainting or being helped out of the witness room. The prisoner remains dangling from the end of the rope for 8 to 14 minutes before the doctor climbs up a small ladder and listens to his heartbeats with a stethoscope and pronounces him dead."

While the case primarily tested the constitutionality of death by hanging, it also discussed alternative methods of execution. However, the eventual conclusion was that hanging is indeed the most humane, painless and speedy way to execute a felon.

Name your poison

There are 9 common methods of execution: Hanging, firing squad, shooting, beheading, lethal injection, stoning, lethal gas, electrocution, and a particularly ghastly one that involves throwing people from a height.

The most common method is hanging, with as many as 60 countries authorising this practice.

The least common methods are electrocution, lethal gas execution and throwing off heights.

The United States is the only country to authorise both electrocution and lethal gas execution.

Iran is the only country to authorise pushing individuals from heights

Ruling in defence of hanging, the judges said: "Hanging by rope is not a cruel way to execute the death sentence. The mechanics of hanging have undergone significant improvement over the years, and it has almost been perfected into a science. The system is consistent with the obligation of the state to ensure that the process of execution is conducted with decency and decorum, and without causing degradation or brutality of any kind."

The option of electrocution was rejected because it was not an "entirely painless" mode of execution. "Besides, power cuts have been considered as an impediment in the use of the electric chair in America. With the frequency of power cuts in our country, the electric chair will become an instrument of torture," the judges said.

They also refused to consider lethal injection as a mode of execution, stating that it was by-and-large an untried method. The firing squad idea was shot down on the grounds that it was an unreliable technique, and not a very "civilised" way of ending somebody's life. The gas chamber method was likewise dubbed as a complicated one that would expose the prisoner to an uncommon level of torture.

Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that a lot has changed since the 1983 judgment. Hanging as a mode of execution has come under severe scrutiny.

In 2003, the Law Commission of India took it upon itself to study the pros and cons of hanging as the choice mode of execution. This exercise, which invited comments on the matter from judges, police and members of the legal fraternity, threw up some astounding results.

According to the study, as many as 80% of the judges said the mode of executing the death penalty should be changed. They were all in favour of the lethal injection. However, this method is also known to have its problems, with several instances of botched-up executions cropping up in recent times.

The jury is still out on the pertinent question of, if not hanging, what is the best way to legally kill a person? The debate, at least, has begun.



Pulo Mas robbers sentenced to death, life imprisonment

The East Jakarta District Court found guilty the defendants in a robbery and murder case that took place in Pulo Mas, East Jakarta, sentencing 2 of them to death and the other to life imprisonment.

The 3 defendants, Ridwan Sitorus aka Ius Pane, Erwin Situmorang aka Ucok and Alfin Berius Sinaga aka Alfin, have been detained since Dec. 29, 2016.

"Ius Pane and Erwin have been proven guilty of murder and Alfin Sinaga is guilty of aiding and abetting," presiding judge Gede Ariawan said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the defendants said they would appeal the verdict.

"We object to the verdict and will appeal," said 1 of the defendants' lawyers, Djarot Widodo.

The 3 defendants robbed a home owned by Dodi Triono, 59, in Pulo Mas, East Jakarta, on Dec. 26. They used a gun and machete to threaten their 11 victims, who they then locked in a 1.5 by 2-square-meter bathroom.

6 of the victims died of asphyxiation, while the rest survived.

(source: Jakarta Post)


Attorney General Admits Other Institutions Affects Execution of Death Penalty

Attorney General M Prasetyo admits his office is waiting for completion of legal aspects in order to carry out the death penalty, especially for death row inmates convicted on drug charges.

According to him, there are a lot of death row inmates who have been convicted inkrah (legally binding), about 10 people. Nevertheless, execution is also constrained by the rejection of death penalty from non-governmental organizations.

"There are always pros and cons, that's what we consider," Prasetyo said in Jakarta, Monday (10/16/2017).

Another obstacle, positive law in Indonesia requires a legally binding decision and all legal rights of the inmates are met before executing the death penalty.

The technical preparation of execution has actually been completed since the end of July 2016. A total of 24 executors from the police was ready 100 %. Nusakambangan Prison at that time had even been sterilized in preparation for the execution. However, until now the execution has not been implemented.

Prasetyo said, there are 2 aspects that must be met when executing the death penatly; the juridical and technical aspects. The juridical aspect relates to the process and legal rights of the inmates.

According to him, there are still death row inmates who filed a review and pardon. Thus, not all legal rights have been met.

"If the juridical aspect is met, the technical aspect is easy, we would just do it (execute)," he said.


OCTOBER 16, 2017:


Death penalty has its place in an orderly society

Several weeks ago, North Carolina Rep. Justin Burr took to his Facebook page and advocated for a return of capital punishment. Opponents of the death penalty have hammered Burr ever since, not only on Facebook (where several responses are childishly profane), but also in the pages of this newspaper and Raleigh's News & Observer. National magazines, including The Hill and Newsweek, have picked up the story.

But according to nearly every reputable poll, most North Carolinians continue to support capital punishment. This despite a relentless, years-long campaign against the death penalty from almost every mainstream news source.

What explains the majority's stubborn, unrelenting support for capital punishment?

Maybe our priorities and those of the media elite are not the same. Among our top priorities is the preservation of order, which necessitates a reverence for and protection of the innocent and defenseless. The deliberate taking of such a life is incomprehensibly cruel and unforgivable. The ultimate punishment for such offenses is not only justified, but necessary: the offender receives punishment that is proportionate to his offense, and society sends a message that is unmistakable.

North Carolina's most recent execution (in 2006) provides a vivid example. In 1994, Samuel Flippen beat to death his 2-year-old stepdaughter, Britnie Nichole Hutton. Flippen was not executed until 12 years later.

Opponents of the death penalty are in the awkward (if not impossible) position of arguing that the execution of Samuel Flippen was, somehow, a miscarriage of justice. But one could argue that the only injustice in the Flippen case is that it took the state about a decade too long to carry out the sentence. Since 2006, legal challenges have effectively created a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina.

A recent case in Michigan reminds us that lenient treatment of murderers can have catastrophic consequences. 25 years ago, Gregory Green stabbed his wife to death. She was 7 months pregnant at the time. (The infant also died.) Green served 16 years, was released from prison, and remarried. In September 2016, he killed his 2 biological daughters, aged 4 and 5, and both of his teenage stepchildren. The latter pair were shot to death in front of their mother, Green's 2nd wife, who was shot and stabbed, but survived. Maybe it's time for Michigan to reconsider its ban on capital punishment.

And Rep. Burr is correct: North Carolina needs to resolve its legal quagmire and resume executions. Our death row is occupied by 145 people. The oldest, Blanche Taylor Moore, is now in her mid-80s, and has eluded justice for a quarter-century.

Despite the virtual moratorium on the death penalty, some prosecutors, including Assistant DA Robert Enochs, continue to seek the ultimate punishment. A local man, 29-year-old Garry Gupton, is on trial in Greensboro for the murder of Stephen White, 46, 3 years ago. As reported in these pages on Oct. 3, police "believe Gupton beat White before setting him on fire in Room 417 of the Battleground Inn at 1517 Westover Terrace." Surgeons had to amputate both of White's arms, and he died less than a week later.

Faith Harris-Green, Gregory Green's 2nd wife, told her homicidal ex-husband at his sentencing hearing, "Your justice will come when you burn in Hell for all eternity for murdering 4 innocent children." It's a shame that the state of Michigan is unable to expedite Mr. Green's long-overdue journey to Hell.

(source: Charles Davenport Jr. is a News & Record columnist and a member of the Community Editorial


Man once sentenced to death gets life for killing teen

A Georgia man once sentenced to death in South Carolina for torturing and ordering the killing a 16-year-old boy will now spend the rest of his life in prison.

Steven Barnes, 36, was found guilty of murder Friday after an hour of deliberations by an Edgefield County jury, Solicitor Rick Hubbard said.

Barnes ran a teen prostitution ring in Augusta, Georgia, where clients were robbed after having sex, and 16-year-old Samuel Sturrup was one of several teens who liked to hang out with him, investigators said.

But in September 2001, Barnes thought Sturrup robbed him. He beat the teen with his fists, a metal pole and a shock absorber, stuffed him in a car trunk and drove toe Edgefield County with several other people, authorities said.

Barnes forced Sturrup into the woods, where he ordered another teen to shoot the victim in the head. Sturrup's disappearance went unsolved for three months until a dog found a skull with a bullet hole, investigators said.

Barnes had been sentenced to death, but the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2013, saying he should have been allowed to represent himself at his death penalty trial. Barnes had defense lawyers at this week's trial, prosecutors said.

All the others with Barnes the night Sturrup was killed served lengthy prison sentences, either for the sex ring or the beating, authorities said.

Hubbard said Charlene Thatcher pulled the trigger. She is serving 20 years in prison in Georgia.

(source: Associated Press)


Man gets death sentence again for killing neighbor

A Florida man has been sentenced to death a 3rd time for slashing a neighbor's throat and strangling her.

The Florida Times-Union reports that a Duval County jury unanimously decided Friday that Randall Deviney should die.

Deviney was 18 in 2008 when he killed 65-year-old Delores Futrell, a neighbor who used to bake cookies for him, pick him up at school and give him odd jobs for money.

A 2010 conviction and death sentence for the Jacksonville man were later overturned. Deviney was convicted and sentenced to death again in 2015 with and 8-4 jury recommendation.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty unconstitutional in 2016, because it didn't require unanimous approval from a jury. Hundreds of cases from 2002 on required re-sentencing hearings.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama Prepares for Execution of Torrey McNabb on October 19

Torrey Twane McNabb is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Thursday, October 19, 2017, at the Holeman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. 40-year-old Torrey is convicted of the murder of Police Officer Anderson Gordon on September 24, 1997, in Montgomery, Alabama. Torrey has spent the last 18 years on Alabama's death row.

Torrey's father had spent time in prison and his mother was a cocaine addict. Torrey began using cocaine around the age of 14 or 15.

On September 24, 1997, Sanford Sharpe, a bail bondsman, was attempting to locate Torrey McNabb, who had failed to appear in court to charges of receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled substance. After failing to appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Sanford located McNabb and McNabb's grandmother's residence. Sanford spoke with McNabb, who said he would go with Sanford. Under the pretense of putting on shoes, McNabb fled out the back door.

Later that day, around 1:30 pm, Sanford again located McNabb, this time parked in a vehicle outside of his grandmother's home. Sanford pulled up beside McNabb. When McNabb noticed Sanford, he quickly drove away. Sanford pursued. While crossing an intersection, McNabb struck another vehicle. Sanford drove up and started to get out of his vehicle when McNabb started shooting a gun. Sanford quickly drove away from the gunfire and called the police. Sanford then returned to intersection and parked next to a police patrol vehicle. Inside was Officer Anderson Gordon, who had been shot several times. Sanford, fearing for his safety, pulled out his own weapon. Police arrived a short time later and confiscated Sanfords weapon.

Annie Gamble, was the women whose vehicle had been struck by McNabb. After being struck, Annie saw McNabb, who she identified later, pull a gun. She pleaded with him not to shoot her. McNabb began shooting at a red truck that drove by. Annie then saw McNabb walking towards the police patrol parked on the corner, hiding his weapon. McNabb approached the rear of the patrol car and began firing into the car, shattering the rear window. When the officer fired back, McNabb fled the scene.

Several other eyewitnesses corroborated Annie's story. They were also able to tell police what direction the shooter had fled. Police officers pursued. McNabb attempted to hide in a ditch and, upon discover, shot at the officers. The officers returned fire, wounding McNabb.

McNabb was treated for his injuries and confessed to the shootings, telling police a similar story as reported by the witnesses. However, McNabb disputes the earlier events as reported by Sanford, alleging that Sanford fired at him 1st and was an "out of control bounty hunter." He also claims that he approached Officer Gordon for help and that the officer pointed a gun at him first, causing him the panic. Witnesses report that the police officers weapon was not drawn when McNabb began shooting. He also argued that he was high on cocaine that morning making him unaware of his actions and paranoid. McNabb was sentenced to death in 1999.

McNabb has requested that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals halt his execution over concerns about the state's lethal injection protocol.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Officer Anderson Gordon. Please pray for strength for the family of Torrey McNabb. Please pray that if Torrey is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, evidence will be provided prior to the execution. Please pray that Torrey may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



Lesson in law----Prospective jurors whittled down in Hamad trial

Jury selection in the capital murder trial of a Howland man is expected to continue this week as attorneys on both sides try to pick panel of 12 jurors and 2 alternates from a pool of about 130 candidates.

The potential jurors showed up in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court last Wednesday to begin the proceedings against Nasser Hamad, the man accused of shooting 2 people to death and wounding 3 others Feb. 25 during a confrontation at Hamad's state Route 46 home.

Hamad is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder that carry the death penalty specification and 6 counts of attempted aggravated murder.

Attorneys for both sides spent most of the day Thursday and Friday questioning around 30 people from the pool about their views on capital punishment and whether they would be adversely affected by publicity in the case.

More people from the jury pool are expected to be brought in this week to be questioned individually to the courtroom of Judge Ronald J. Rice. The pool is expected to be narrowed to about 40 by Wednesday before the final 12 plus 2 alternates are picked.

"We are definitely putting the cart before the horse," said defense attorney Robert Dixon in explaining to a prospective juror why he was asking about her views on the death penalty.

Prospective jurors were given a lesson in law as attorneys explained the 2 phases of the trial - the evidence stage where jurors would hear from witnesses and view exhibits. If they find Hamad guilty, a penalty or mitigating phase would then begin where jurors would have to weigh the aggravating circumstances of the crime against mitigating factors about the defendant to determine if a death penalty is necessary.

Rice would have the final word on sentencing.

One woman, prospective juror No. 5, put it succinctly as lawyers talked about the process Thursday.

"I didn't learn this stuff in school," she said.

Defense attorney David Doughten of Cleveland responded to one juror who was surprised by the length of a questionnaire each prospective juror had to fill out after he entered the courthouse Wednesday.

"The reason we ask so many questions is that it cuts down on the time frame for questioning here," Doughten said.

Each side can use up to 6 pre-emptive challenges before a final jury and alternates are impaneled.

Once a jury is seated and before testimony begins, jurors are expected to tour the scene of the shooting which lies near a busy commercial stretch of state Route 46 near the state Route 82 interchange. Also a Mahoning County drone is expected to take overhead pictures of the scene to give jurors a better perspective.

The case revolves around a confrontation between Hamad and occupants of a van that was driven up to his home late in the afternoon of Feb. 25. Hamad and several of the van's occupants had engaged in taunting and threatening behavior over social media prior to the shootings, according to a Howland police report.

Although court officials are under a gag order in the case, a series of court filings show that defense attorneys at trial are expected to try to prove that Hamad suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by "constant threats of death" over a 6-month period.

Meanwhile, assistant Trumbull County Prosecutors Christopher Becker and Michael A. Burnett paint a different picture of Hamad - someone who boasted to detectives after the shootings about successfully defending himself after he retrieved a 9 mm handgun inside his home and began firing at those in the van.

Killed in the shooting were Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20. The three other gunshot victims were April Vokes, 43; John Shivley, 17; and Bryce Hendrickson, 20. Hendrickson, whose name was on a list of potential state witnesses, was found dead late last month.

(source: Tribune Chronicle)


State is accountable to Hoosiers on death penalty issue

The Indiana Supreme Court is weighing an issue that may have flown under the radar for most Hoosiers.

It's literally a matter of life and death.

The high court is considering whether state prison officials can change execution drugs without going through a public review.

The justices heard arguments earlier this month in the challenge by death row inmate Roy Lee Ward, who was convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in southern Indiana's Spencer County.

In June, the state appeals court ruled that the Department of Correction didn't follow proper procedures in selecting a new 3-drug combination in 2014. A lawyer for Ward says such decisions should be subject to public oversight.

Deputy Attorney General Stephen Creason says state law doesn't require the rulemaking process and would unduly delay executions.

In its decision in June, the appeals court ruled that Indiana couldn't execute prisoners with its chosen lethal injection cocktail because it didn't follow proper procedures when it chose the drugs. Before Indiana could carry out an execution, it had to go through a public hearing process to win approval for the drug cocktail it plans to use. Under the appeals court ruling, public officials would also have to seek input from the governor's office and the state attorney general before changing the drugs used for lethal injection.

In an earlier comment, we expressed support for the decision, which has nothing to do with your position on the death penalty. The issue is a critical reminder that lethal injection must be carried out according to protocol and with the bright light of transparency. Life and death decisions should not be made in the dark. The state must be accountable to Hoosiers for the executions it carries out in their name.

(source: Editorial, South Bend Tribune)


Big boost in funding for death penalty cases

Pennington County Commissioners have granted the courthouse and public defenders' office half-a-million dollar increases in their 2018 budget, part of which will be spent on defending 2 men facing the death penalty.

2 high-profile death penalty cases in Pennington County have led to large increases in funding for the county courthouse and public defender's office.

On Sept. 26, Pennington County Commissioners granted the courthouse's and public defenders' request for half-a-million-dollar increases to their 2018 budgets. A significant portion of the amounts will go toward defending 2 men who are facing the death penalty on 1st-degree murder charges.

Jonathon Klinetobe of Sturgis and Richard Hirth of Rapid City are charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Jessica Rehfeld in 2015.

Klinetobe, 28, is represented by 3 appointed lawyers, 2 from the county public defender's office and 1 private attorney. Hirth, 36, has 2 court-appointed private lawyers.

The public defender's office has been approved a $567,000 increase to its $2.4 million existing budget, according to documents from the county auditor's office.

About $200,000 of the new funding has been earmarked for expert evaluations, witness fees and travel expenses in Klinetobe's defense. In recent years - and before county prosecutors announced in April that they were seeking capital punishment - the public defender's office requested only around $35,000 for this category of expenses.

The county courthouse, which initially shoulders the cost of court-appointed attorneys, got a raise of $530,000 to its current $1.4 million budget. Nearly $1.2 million of the new funding will be allocated for court-appointed attorneys.

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

Death penalty cases are "exceedingly expensive," said Eric Whitcher, director of the county public defender's office. He said taxpayers can "reasonably expect" to shoulder $500,000 to $1 million for the prosecution and defense of such a case.

During a Pennington County budget hearing in August, Commissioner Ron Buskerud commented that the Supreme Court should just allow people facing the death penalty to have a trial, then be taken outside and shot.

Buskerud, who used to be a county prosecutor, later said he regretted the statement and that it was made out of frustration over the exorbitant cost of the death penalty cases.

When defense lawyers take on capital punishment cases, Whitcher said, they need to hire the assistance of various people who they otherwise don't have access to.

"The people who are available to handle those cases are highly specialized, and they cost significant funds," he said, naming as examples criminal investigators, lab analysts, psychiatrists, crime scene analysts and pathologists. Some of these experts apparently can be found only in big cities like Denver and Minneapolis.

In contrast, prosecutors have at their disposal resources of the state, such as law enforcement officers and crime lab analysts, Whitcher said.

The county state's attorney's office will next year get $135,000 more than its $5.1 million budget now. The increase includes the $57,000 it requested for its witness fund, which State's Attorney Mark Vargo said is expected to be spent on expert witnesses for the death penalty cases and other homicide cases.

The money being sought for the death penalty cases is necessary to meet the essential requirements of such a case, Whitcher said. Defendants have a constitutional right, he said, to a competent defense.

"If you fail in your efforts to do those basic things, the case will likely come back and will likely cost even more," he said, referring to a defendant's appeal rights, which could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We're in a fight for a human's life, and it's grave business."

Not all of the 3 departments' funding will come from taxpayers; each generates some type of revenue.

The courthouse will shoulder nearly 30 % of its budget in 2018; the state's attorney's office, 10 %; and the public defender's office, 5 %.

It\'s not clear when Klinetobe and Hirth, detained at the county jail since May 2016, will go to trial. The court right now is in the midst of settling pretrial matters between prosecutors and defense lawyers.

If Klinetobe and Hirth aren't tried this year, their cases will likely again come under the spotlight in the budget hearings for 2019.

Data on death sentences imposed around the U.S. since 1991 shows that death penalty cases are largely disappearing from small cities and rural counties, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Reasons include their "substantially greater cost" compared with non-death penalty cases, as well as the resources involved in their appeals, said the Robert Dunham, executive director of the center, a nonprofit organization that provides data and analysis on issues concerning capital punishment.

"The length and complexity of capital appeals that are necessary to minimize the risk of wrongful convictions and wrongful death sentences require a substantial commitment of staff, time and money - often for decades," Dunham told the Journal.

Pennington County's last death penalty case, according to the courthouse, was that of Charles Rhines. He was convicted in 1993 of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for fatally stabbing 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer during a Rapid City burglary in 1992.

Rhines, 61, is detained at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls while his appeals go through the judicial system. He is on death row in South Dakota along with 2 other inmates.

(source: Rapid City Journal)


BBC Worldwide, UKTV Take On True-Crime Series 20 Years on Death Row

BBC Worldwide will distribute the new true-crime series 20 Years on Death Row internationally, outside of France and the U.K., where the show has now been picked up by UKTV's Really.

The 4x1-hour series was originally commissioned by French pay-TV channel 13eme Rue and was shot entirely on location in the U.S. The program spotlights the story of Keith Doolin, a former long-distance truck driver with no previous criminal convictions, currently incarcerated on death row in San Quentin prison. He was convicted of the murder of 2 women in 1995 and after 20 years is maintaining his innocence while awaiting execution and trying to navigate California's capital appeals system.

The series is produced by Pernel Media, which secured access to the case via Doolin's defense attorneys, Robert R. Bryan and Pamala Sayasane, both of whom specialize in defending people facing the death penalty.

Samuel Kissous, the president of Pernel Media, said: "The Keith Doolin case is an extraordinary story which we believe sheds a new light on the American justice system. We're sure that viewers in the U.K. and around the world will be gripped by this true-crime series as they follow Keith's appeal process, revealing the new evidence and twists and turns of the case."

Emma Sparks, UKTV's head of acquisitions, added: "We are so pleased to have agreed our 1st collaboration with Pernel Media on this groundbreaking series. It's an explosive series which further cements Really as the U.K.'s destination channel for true crime."



Lawyers Defending Suspect in Bombing of USS Cole Quit

In what the Miami Herald calls "a stunning setback," the entire civilian legal defense team in a Guantanamo Bay death-penalty case has quit over claims the government was eavesdropping on confidential meetings with its client. Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri was arraigned 6 years ago on charges he spearheaded the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000 that killed 17 US sailors, the New York Times reports. Nashiri was to be the first Guantanamo prisoner to face the death penalty in court under a hybrid civilian-military trial system set up in the wake of Sept. 11, but his trial has been delayed over ongoing problems, including now the defection of his legal team.

(source: KABC news)


It is up to people to decide whether to cancel it or not - Bastrykin on moratorium on death penalty

The moratorium on the death penalty can only be canceled in Russia following a referendum, Russian Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin stated.

Such a decision can only be made following a referendum, Alexander Bastrykin said during his lecture in the Kutafin Moscow State Law University when answering a student’s question.

Bastrykin said death penalty can only be applied in exceptional cases, according to Committee official spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko. This includes those who committed major crimes and threaten the society.

Bastrykin favors humane actions and does not want to intimidate the public, Petrenko emphasized.

Bastrykin's lecture was on origin and development of investigative practices in Russia and Committee's current goals.

May we remind you that the moratorium on the death penalty has been in place in Russia since it joined the Council of Europe in 1996. Life in prison has been the maximum sentence in Russia since then.?



Senior terrorist sentenced to death in absentia in Algeria

An Algerian court on Sunday sentenced in absentia running away senior terrorist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alias Belaouar, to death penalty, APS news agency reported.

The sentence has been pronounced by the prosecutor of the Criminal Court of Oran, western Algeria, as Belmokhtar, leader of the terrorist group of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was charged by the creation and management of a terrorist organization, abduction as well as arm detention and trafficking.

The case dates back to April 2011. Detectives concluded that there was a terrorist plot to kidnap foreign nationals, specifically workers in charge of the construction of Oran tramway.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was the mastermind of this plot, as he was first tried in absentia in 2012. By then 8 other defendants were also tried, including three in absentia, and 5 others were present at the court.

Among these 5 defendants, 4 were sentenced to life prison, while the 5th defendant was set free due to lack of evidence.

The prosecutor of the Criminal Court of Oran has reopened the case and sentenced in absentia Belmokhtar and his 3 companions to death penalty.

It worth to recall that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alias Belaouer (the 1 eyed) claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack that targeted a gas field in the Algerian desert in January 16th 2013.

Al-Qaida linked militants attacked the gas field of Tiguentourine, in Illizi province, 1700 km southeast of Algiers and took some 800 workers as hostages, forcing the Algerian special forces to storm the field and release the hostages.

This rescue operation left more than 37 dead, including 36 foreigners. As many as 29 assailants were killed, while 3 others were captured alive, according to an official report.



Pakistan moves to narrow down death penalty scope----27 crimes being reviewed in the wake of 'scathing criticism on excessive use of capital punishment' by UN, Western countries

Pakistan has initiated the process to review punishment in 27 crimes carrying death sentence to narrow down the scope of death penalty, The Nation has learnt.

The decision has been taken in the wake of the 'scathing criticism on the excessive use of this penalty' by UN Human Rights Mechanisms, Western countries, particularly EU member states as well as NGOs with global outreach, suggest documents exclusively available with The Nation.

In a communication forwarded by Pakistan's Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2016, the concerns of the international community (UN Human Rights Mechanisms, EU member states, and NGOs) with regard to the death penalty in Pakistan were highlighted.

Keeping in view Pakistan's review of reports on human rights conventions at the UN level and concerns of the international community, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs moved a summary to the prime minister wherein some recommendations were made with regard to imposition of death penalty in Pakistan which compelled the authorities to review punishment for the crimes carrying death penalty.

It is to mention here that National Action Plan for human rights, approved by the prime minister, has also proposed a review of existing legal framework in line with the national and international commitments related to human rights.

The summary for the prime minister, a copy of which is exclusively available with The Nation, said that the 27 crimes which carry the death sentence in Pakistan may be reviewed to narrow down the scope of the death penalty.

"Like other countries, a longer life sentence may be introduced for some of these crimes. A high-level committee may be constituted to look into the recommendations," the summary suggested to the prime minister.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the summary, told the prime minister that after lifting a moratorium on execution of death penalty in December 2014, the country was facing severe criticism on the "excessive use" of death penalty by the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, Western countries as well as NGOs. The summary proposed that under the international humanitarian conventions ratified by Pakistan, the death penalty where permitted should apply to very serious cases.

"There is a need to review the existing provisions of CrPC and PPC to determine if the scope of the death penalty can be narrowed and the duration of a life sentence in certain cases increased," the summary proposed. It further said that there was a need to clear the doubts of the international community particularly with regard to cases of persons with disabilities (physical or mental) or juveniles.

"At present, there is no provision in our domestic laws regarding prevention of execution or clemency for a disabled person on death row," reads the summary. It further said that it needs to be ensured that no person below the age of 18 is awarded death sentence and death sentence may be converted to life imprisonment or pardon may be considered. The summary recommended that persons with disabilities, including persons suffering from mental and psychological disabilities, may not be awarded death sentence and their death sentence may be converted to life imprisonment or they may be pardoned. "Provisions for this may be incorporated in national laws as required," the summary says.

In view of the above, the Ministry of Human Rights has proposed a consultative meeting to discuss a possible review of the 27 crimes. According to sources, a high-level meeting was held on 15 September, 2017, at the Ministry of Law and Justice to discuss the possible review of the 27 crimes. The crimes include 'causing death to a person other than the person whose death was intended' (Section 301 of PPC), 'Qatal-e-Amad' (Section 302 of PPC), 'dacoity resulting in death' (Section 396 of PPC), 'terrorism' (Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act), 'airplane hijacking or assisting in hijacking' (Section 402-B of PPC), harbouring hijacker (Section 402-C of PPC), 'Zina' (Section 5 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), 'rape' (Section 376 of PPC), 'Zina-bil-Jabr' (Section 6 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), 'Zina or Zina-bil-Jabr liable to Tazir' (Section 10 (4) of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, 'kidnapping for ransom' (Section 365-A of PPC), 'drug trafficking-exceeding 1kg' (Section 9 of Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997), 'high treason' (Section 2 of The High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973), 'successful mutiny' (Section 132 of PPC), 'waging or abetting war against Pakistan' (Section 121 of PPC), 'blasphemy' (Section 295-C of PPC), 'hurting persons travelling by railways and damaging property of railways' (Section 127 of Railways Act, 1890), 'false evidence resulting death penalty' (Section 194 of PPC), 'stripping off women in public' (Section 354-A of PPC), 'kidnapping for unnatural lust' (Section 367-A), 'kidnapping or abducting in order to subject to unnatural lust' (Section 12 of The offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), 'kidnapping child under age of 14' (Section 364-A of PPC), "punishment of ‘Haraabah'" (Section 17 (4) of the offences against property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance), 'offences in relation to enemy' (Section 24 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), 'disclosure of parole or watchword' (Section 26 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), 'mutiny and insubordination' (Section 31 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952) and 'importing, exporting into and from Pakistan dangerous drugs', (Section 13 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930).

According to the sources, the ministry of human rights has supported the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on death penalty keeping in view Pakistan's international commitments. It, however, suggested that the matter be referred to the Law Reforms Committee instead of constituting a new committee as proposed by the foreign office, to review the existing legislation in consultation with stakeholders.

The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the stakeholders. In 2008, the government had placed a 5-year moratorium on executing prisoners on death row which expired in 2013.

(source: The Nation)


3 Ahmadi Men Sentenced to Death in Pakistan on Blasphemy Charges

A court in Pakistan's Punjab province has sentenced 3 men of a minority religious group to death on charges of violating the country's controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The men were tried under Section 295-B of Pakistan's penal code, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, which recommends either life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone found guilty of deliberately insulting Islam.

The men were arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

4 men were arrested at the time. The 4th man, Khalil Ahmad, was shot dead by an angry man while in police custody just a few days after the incident.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, told VOA that the charges against the defendants and the court's verdict were unfair.

"The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community," Saleemuddin said.

"We will challenge the trial court's decision in high court," he added.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan's state does not recognize them as such and labels them heretics. There are more than a half-million Ahmadis living in Pakistan under the constant threat of persecution.

The Ahmadi community "is one of the most mistreated communities in the country. They have had been a target of blasphemous charges, sectarian violence and target killings," said Mehdi Hasan, a prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.

Ahmadis 'a threat'

The death sentence for the three individuals came just a few days after Muhammad Safdar, a prominent member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced Ahmadi community members as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country's institutions not to hire them in the military or the civil service.

Safdar's remarks stirred a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights.

Pakistan Minister of the Interior Ahsan Iqbal, without mentioning Safdar by name, denounced the anti-minority rhetoric coming from politicians.

"It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities," Iqbal said in a tweet.

Abuse of law

"Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. We've seen several incidents where angry mobs killed those accused of committing blasphemy without giving them a right to face the trial," human rights activist Hasan told VOA.

Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes. Due process is often ceremonial, the rights activists add, and decisions are often informed by the growing religious intolerance in the country.

Even if courts do drop charges against defendants, mobs and local residents attack them, and law enforcement authorities look the other way in most cases, the activists charge.

?Social media posts

Nadeem James, a Christian, was sentenced to death last month in Punjab after the court established that he sent a blasphemous poem to a friend via WhatsApp, an instant message application.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a recent report said 15 people were arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2016, including 10 Muslims and five members of religious minorities.

In April 2017, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student, was accused of posting blasphemous content online and was beaten to death by fellow students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan's government is being criticized for strictly enforcing the blasphemy laws.

In April 2017, the government used newspapers and mobile phone services to warn its citizens not to post or upload any blasphemous materials on social media.

The government has also reportedly encouraged people to report those who violate the blasphemy law.



Man Executed at Kerman Prison

A prisoner was executed on Moharebeh charges at Kerman Prison.

According to ISNA and the Deputy of Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's office of Kerman, Mokhtar Shamsuddini, on the morning of Thursday October 12, a prisoner was hanged at Kerman Prison.

The prisoner identified as P.D. was charged with Moharebeh for blocking the road, kidnapping some Afghans, and extorting them.

At least 530 prisoners were executed Last year, 44 of whom were sentenced to death on the charge of Moharebeh and "Spreading corruption on earth".

Due to the ambiguity of the notions of Moharebeh (waging war against God) and "Spreading corruption on earth", these 2 charges are commonly used for a large number of offences.


Prisoner Hanged on Murder Charges

A prisoner was executed on murder charges at Rasht Central Prison (Lakan).

According to a close source, on the morning of Saturday October 14, a prisoner was executed at Rasht Central Prison. The prisoner, Hamidreza Khoshbakht, was sentenced to death on murder charges.

Close sources told Iran Human Rights (IHR) that Hamidreza was born on 1993. Four years ago, when he was 20, he was arrested for murder.

The execution of this prisoner has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Renewed efforts to abolish death penalty

Human rights groups have re-launched their bid to have the death penalty abolished in Zimbabwe.

The country is 1 of 3 southern African nations still upholding the harsh penalty.

As Zimbabwe commemorated the World Day Against the Death Penalty last week, Veritas, Amnesty International and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum canvassed for signatures to petition President Robert Mugabe to direct government to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.

This comes as Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has openly declared that he is against capital punishment, having escaped the guillotine himself during the liberation struggle.

Earlier this year, Mnangagwa blocked recruitment of the country's hangman, although at least five people had applied for the post, which fell vacant more than a decade ago.

According to official figures as at December 2016, there were 97 inmates on death roll, with Zimbabwe's last execution having been in 2005.

The rights groups argued that "throughout the world, and particularly in the continent of Africa, the death penalty is being abolished. The majority of African Union member states have legally abolished the death penalty or applied a de facto moratorium on capital punishment; only a minority of 17 States has retained the death penalty".

"Only three Sadc states continue to carry out the death penalty: Botswana, the DRC and Lesotho. The other Sadc States have either abolished it in law or do not carry it out in practice. In Zimbabwe there has been no execution since 2005, but persons are still sentenced to death and there are over a hundred prisoners languishing on "death row", some for nearly 20 years."

"The death penalty is not a traditional penalty but a colonial relic. Traditional customary law relied on restorative justice rather than retribution. For this reason the Council of Chiefs, in January 2016, urged that the death penalty be abolished. By abolishing the death penalty Zimbabwe would be making a clear break with its colonial past. In the Zanu election manifesto in 1980 your Party pledged to abolish hanging."

Harare lawyer, Tendai Biti, who is fighting a legal battle to get the death penalty abolished through litigation, yesterday reiterated that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent against serious crime. Under the new Constitution, the death sentence can be handed down only to male offenders between the ages of 21 and 70 and only in cases of aggravated murder.

"There is unequal treatment of men and women in the death penalty sentence because only men are subjected to capital punishment and the same does not apply to women," he said during the Women's Comfort Corner Foundation award ceremony in recognition of Constitutional Court's abolishment of child marriages.

There has been widespread condemnation of the death penalty among world rights groups, with former United Nations (UN) secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's famously remarking that "the death penalty has no place in the 21st century".

More than 160 member states of the UN, with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the penalty or do not practice it.

"In some countries information about death penalty is a State secret," UN Human Rights said in a statement.

"Capital trials can be carried out behind closed doors. And in some cases families of those executed may not even have access to their remains. The death penalty has no place in the 21st century, but countries should at least increase transparency and allow for informed public debate."

Calls for the abolition of the death penalty have been made from different sections of the society.

Last year, several local artistes used the 2016 next week's World Day Against the Death Penalty commemorations to push for the abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe.

The event, held in the capital's Harare Gardens, was graced by artistes, including musician Tehn Diamond, poet Chirikure Chirikure, actors Everson Ndlovu, Stewart Sakarombe and Getrude Munhamo.


OCTOBER 15, 2017:


Sherman hotel clerk murder suspect caught in N.Y.

The final suspect in the August murder of a Sherman hotel clerk has been apprehended and is now in police custody.

Family members of the victim in the case, 32-year-old Brandon Hubert of Denison, confirm that Reginald Vernard Campbell Jr., 24, has been taken into custody in New York.

Campbell was added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list earlier this week. Their webpage shows he was captured Friday in Mt. Vernon, a suburb of New York City.

"The arrest was the result of tip information received through Texas Crime Stoppers and a reward will be paid," the posting said.

At an afternoon press conference, Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores said Campbell was arrested without incident, and he will be extradited back to Grayson County "within the next couple of weeks."

Flores also noted, "The best feeling we can have is for the family, being able to see some closure for them."

Campbell, according to Flores, will face capital murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charges.

Police said a tip led them to the home in Mount Vernon where Campbell was arrested, and the tipster will get $5,000.

"I know it's going to be a long road, but still I am able to have a smile on my face now," Brandon Hubert's twin brother Brent Hubert said.

On Aug. 11, Campbell was allegedly involved in a robbery at the Quality Suites hotel in Sherman that resulted in the front desk clerk, Hubert, being fatally shot.

An investigation led authorities to arrest two female accomplices and identify Campbell as the masked suspect in the robbery and murder. On Aug. 23, law enforcement authorities encountered Campbell near Columbia, South Carolina. However, Campbell assaulted the officers and escaped.

Sherman Police obtained a capital murder warrant for Campbell for his part in the murder of Brandon Hubert at the Quality Inn and Suites on Aug. 11. Karalyn Marie Cross, 19, and Nikeya Grant, 24, were arrested days earlier on capital murder warrants.

Court documents show on Aug. 10, Karalyn Cross was out with her boyfriend, Reginald Campbell, and her roommate Nikeya Grant.

The trio went to Oklahoma to a local strip club, then to a casino, where they left before sunrise.

Records state the trio came up with the idea to rob a hotel, so they tried the Super 8 off U.S. Highway 75 in Sherman, but the clerk was in a protected area, so they went to the Quality Suites, where Hubert was working at the front desk.

A security camera captured the trio pulling into the parking lot.

Documents state Campbell put on a mask, walked in the lobby, and after a brief struggle, shot Hubert in the head.

A coworker found Hubert laying in a pool of blood hours later, and called 911.

During a police interview, Cross and Grant admitted to driving Campbell to Dallas after the murder so he could leave the area.

If convicted, all 3 face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Hubert was working as a hotel clerk while attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. His family has set up a scholarship fund in his name at the university.

The capturing agencies were listed as U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, U.S. Marshals Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force.

(source: KXII news)


As man on death row awaits decision about new trial, group protests for his release----A group of 20 people gathered outside the Court of Criminal Appeals to represent the 20 years Rodney Reed has sat in prison.

1 day after the hearing for Rodney Reed wrapped up, a group of University of Texas students and advocates gathered at the Court of Criminal Appeals to show their support for the man on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.

For 4 days this week, Reed's defense argued new evidence shows he did not murder Stites. Reed was sentenced to death in 1998. Many believe evidence points to Jimmy Fennell as the suspect in her murder. Fennell was Stites' fiance and a law enforcement officer when she was found on the side of a Bastrop County Road.

After the 4-day hearing wrapped up, Judge Doug Shafer said he may need up to 2 months to give his recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

About 20 UT students and members of the "Free Rodney Reed Campaign" were at the event Saturday, rallying for a new trial for Reed. 20 people gathered to represent the 20 years that Reed has been in prison. Throughout the event, they read facts about the case and spoke out against the death penalty.

(source: KVUE news)


Man condemned in family murder plot loses high court appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to consider an appeal from a suburban Houston man on Texas death row who arranged the killings of his mother and brother in 2003 so he could collect a $1 million inheritance.

Attorneys for 37-year-old Thomas "Bart" Whitaker went to the high court after losing a federal court appeal earlier this year. He claims his trial lawyers were deficient and that Fort Bend County prosecutors engaged in misconduct by improperly referring to discussion of a plea deal that never was reached.

According to court records, Whitaker offered to take responsibility for the killings and accept life sentences but his attorneys said prosecutors rejected it because it contained no expression of remorse for the shooting deaths of his mother, Patricia Whitaker, 51, and his brother, Kevin, 19, at the family's Sugar Land home. Whitaker's father was shot but survived.

The justices provided no explanation for their refusal.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling in April, pointed to court records consistently showing trial lawyers initiated the plea bargain offer and that prosecutors said they would promise "to consider" not seeking the death penalty.

A jury decided he should be put to death.

Evidence showed Whitaker orchestrated the plot and that it was at least his 3rd attempt to kill his family.

As part of the scheme with 2 friends, Whitaker was shot in the arm to draw attention away from him.

The gunman, Chris Brashear, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a murder charge and is serving life in prison. Another man, Steve Champagne, who drove Brashear from the Whitaker house the night of the shootings, took a 15-year prison term in exchange for testifying at Whitaker's trial.

Investigators said they made the shooting look as though the family had interrupted a burglary when they returned from a dinner to celebrate Thomas Whitaker's graduation from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Whitaker never graduated.

Whitaker does not yet have an execution date.

In a 2nd case involving a Texas death row inmate, the Supreme Court ordered the 5th Circuit to review the case of 36-year-old Obie Weathers, who was convicted in a robbery-slaying in San Antonio in 2000.

The 5th Circuit last year rejected arguments that Weathers is mentally impaired and shouldn't be put to death. That decision, however, preceded a similar case earlier this year in which the high court decided that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ignored current medical standards and required use of outdated criteria when ruling on the mental disabilities of capital murder convicts.

Weathers was 19 in February 2000 when he shot 63-year-old Ted Church twice in the head and once in the abdomen as Church tried to break up the robbery at the bar on San Antonio's east side. Church was a customer. Weathers fled with about $200.

(source: Associated Press)


Random killing sprees draw eerie parallels to a history of serial murder in Baton Rouge

It was as if the gunman had gone out hunting, targeting strangers as they carried out quotidian tasks on their own property.

1 victim was shot dead as he sprayed weeds in rural East Baton Rouge Parish. Another was gunned down outside his home at the Avondale Scout Reservation in Clinton.

The slayings, seemingly indiscriminate, sent a shudder through the quiet communities of Pride and Bluff Creek. Mothers forbade their children to play outdoors. A grass-cutting crew adopted a rotation of armed lookouts.

The anxiety was only heightened by a similar - and overlapping - pair of shootings that shook Baton Rouge last month, ambush-style killings that authorities said may have been racially motivated.

Taken together, the attacks bore a haunting resemblance to a past era of murder for the sake of murder in the Capital City, a region that has produced an uncanny number of serial killers over the past 2 decades.

"When people can relate to the victims, you see that public panic starting to take place," said Pat Englade, the former Baton Rouge police chief who in 2003 led a multi-jurisdictional task force organized to capture the serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. "Everybody in East Baton Rouge Parish can relate to a man working in his yard. Everybody does that."

A terrifying 3 months passed between the first shooting this summer and the arrest of Ryan Sharpe, a man authorities described for the 1st time Friday as a "serial killer." Sharpe, who said in a court hearing he has not hired a lawyer, is accused of fatally shooting three men and wounding another before being taken into custody last week, a couple days after the most recent killing. All 4 shootings of the middle-aged men occurred within a 25-mile radius.

"Everyone felt like they were in danger because the shootings appeared to be random," said Greg Phares, chief criminal deputy at the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office. "I think there's a great sense of relief in our parish given people's justifiable fears over the past several months."

Sharpe's arrest came less than a month after another man, Kenneth Gleason, was booked in the fatal shootings of two black pedestrians, stranger-on-stranger killings that prosecutors described as "cold and calculated" and police said could have a racial motivation. Those killings spanned just 3 days, as Gleason was quickly taken into custody following a frenzied manhunt by the Baton Rouge Police Department. Before the arrest, detectives distributed in an internal bulletin to law enforcement that warned, "We cannot predict where this person may strike again."

Gleason, a 23-year-old white man also accused of shooting at the house of black neighbors in the same week as the killings, has maintained his innocence through an attorney. He is not yet charged. But if convicted, he also would meet the FBI's definition of a serial killer - someone responsible for 2 or more murders at different times.

"There's no telling how many people would have been killed if the police had not made these arrests," said Susan Mustafa, a journalist who has written books about Lee and another Baton Rouge serial killer, Sean Vincent Gillis. "Once a serial killer gets his first taste of blood, they don't usually stop."

The recent slayings - and the pressure law enforcement faced to solve the concurrent cases - recalled a notorious chapter of violence for Baton Rouge in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when no fewer than 3 serial killers tormented the city. The Lee case garnered national attention and prompted a vast expansion of the state's DNA database. It also drew attention to the slayings of several Baton Rouge women that remain unsolved to this day.

Preying on the community at the same time as Lee, who was connected to 7 murders, was Gillis, who confessed to killing 8 women between 1994 and 2004, often mutilating and photographing his victims. There was also Jeffery Lee Guillory, who was accused in the slayings of women in 1999, 2001 and 2002 and who remains a suspect in several other unsolved killings.

Another serial killer who grew up in Baton Rouge, John Allen Muhammad, carried out the so-called D.C. sniper attacks in 2002. Muhammad, who was executed in 2009 in Virginia, and his accomplice were also indicted for a fatal shooting and robbery in Baton Rouge that happened before a 3-week killing spree that left 10 people dead in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Serial murder is hardly unique to the Baton Rouge area, though it is more often associated with major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, jurisdictions that have had scores of serial killers throughout their histories.

But the Baton Rouge serial killings were such a law enforcement priority that prosecutors here lobbied the legislature to adopt a law in 2009 that makes it easier for district attorneys to seek the death penalty against serial killers. That bill, passed after the Gillis case, added an element to the state's 1st-degree murder statute that allows the state to seek capital punishment when a defendant "has previously acted with a specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm that resulted in the killing or one or more persons."

Hillar Moore III, the East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney, has said he is considering using that law to seek the death penalty against Gleason.

"We needed a serial killer statute," Prem Burns, an assistant of Moore's who prosecuted Gillis, told The Advocate last month. "I'm glad we have it."

The city's violent history has spawned a range of speculation about the factors that contribute to the proliferation of serial killers. Tony Clayton, an assistant district attorney in the 18th Judicial District who prosecuted Lee and Gillis, pointed to what he described as a disturbing lack of resources for the mentally ill in Louisiana.

"I don't think it's in the air or in the water," Clayton said. "I think you'll see an element of some psychosis in each and every one of these serial killers, and it's a direct cause of not having access to these resources and not being able to diagnose these folks."

Ben Odom, a longtime Baton Rouge homicide detective, said it was no accident that the likes of Lee and Gillis operated in a community with universities like LSU, which he described as "a fertile field for serial killers who want to kill women."

"We agonized over that question for a long time when we had 3 serial killers working at once in Baton Rouge," Odom said. "These guys were hunters. They did their homework.

Another former Baton Rouge police chief, Jeff LeDuff, said he finds the city's history so troubling that the FBI's "experts at Quantico," Virginia, should examine it. "I think it's something that criminologists and law enforcement really need to sit down and come up with an answer for as to why this keeps happening," LeDuff said. "It's something we should be concerned about."

In the case of Sharpe, the alleged gunman arrested last week, authorities were reluctant at first to use the term "serial killer."

That initial reticence could have been an attempt by law enforcement to avoid sensationalism at a time when the community's nerves are already frayed. Phares, the East Feliciana chief deputy, said authorities Friday decided to adopt the phrase "serial killer" after Sharpe's arrest based on the FBI's definition of the term.

It's also true that the definition of "serial killer," a term first coined in the 1970s, has evolved.

The FBI adopted its current definition in 2005. "But if you ask 10 experts for a definition, you will get 10 answers that vary in terms of numbers of kills and motivation," said Michael Aamodt, professor emeritus at Radford University who maintains a vast research database of serial killers and their victims.

The Northeastern University Atypical Homicide Research Group said last week that Sharpe fit the profile of a serial killer in part because he used a firearm - the weapon most commonly chosen by such offenders - and allegedly confessed to authorities. But the case is unusual in that Sharpe is accused of targeting men "in the late stage of their lives," said Enzo Yaksic, the group's co-founder and a longtime researcher of serial killers.

Yaksic also said it is "exceedingly rare for serial murderers to be motivated to kill by mental illness or by urges beyond their control."

"More often than not," he wrote in an email, "serial killers deliberately choose their course of action and can also decide to end their campaigns of violence on their own terms. While some serial killers operate at the behest of a desire to placate an internal drive for gratification, it is a myth that all serial killers are compelled to kill."

(source: The Advocate)


Prosecutor to pursue death penalty in quadruple murder case

An Ohio prosecutor said Saturday he intends to pursue the death penalty against the man who allegedly killed 4 family members.

Arron Lawson appeared in Ironton Magistrate Court for his arraignment Saturday morning - a day after being taken into custody following a manhunt that began Thursday.

Lawson allegedly killed his uncle and aunt, Donald McGuire, 50, and Tammie McGuire, 43, along with his cousin, Stacie Jackson, 25, and her son, Devin Holston, 8. A 5th victim who was in the residence Wednesday night near Pedro, Ohio, escaped after being stabbed.

Lawrence County (OH) Prosecutor Brigham Anderson told WSAZ-TV Saturday this is a death penalty case.

"These were premeditated with prior calculation and design as well as committing numerous other felonies, and therefore the death penalty is required for crimes this horrific," Anderson said. "That's my job, is to seek justice and to make sure that this family knows that justice has been served, as well as the rest of the community. This is a horrific event."

A possible motive has not been released.



Prosecutor: Suspect in Southern Ohio slayings may face death penalty

A county prosecutor says he'll pursue the death penalty against the man charged in the slayings of 3 adults and a young boy in southern Ohio.

23-year-old Arron Lawson was ordered held without bond Saturday after his arrest along a rural road in Lawrence County on Friday. He's charged with1` count of aggravated murder and 3 counts of murder in the shooting deaths of 28-year-old Stacey Jackson, 50-year-old Donald McGuire, 43-year-old Tammie McGuire and Jackson's son, 7-year-old Devin Holston.

They were killed inside Jackson's trailer home Wednesday. Devin's body was found hidden there Thursday after being reported missing. All of the victims are related. No motive has been made public.

Devin's father, Todd Holston, was hospitalized after being stabbed inside the home.

Messages were left with Lawson's attorney Saturday.

(source: Associated Press)


Freed from hangman's noose after 13 years, 2 ex-prisoners start afresh

As a teenager, his dream was to play professional football. Williams Owodo, then 16, knew he had the skills and therefore needed to maintain his training routine daily to acutalise his passion. Little did he know that fate had a different plan for him.

On February 1, 1995, in one of his usual evening trainings in Ajegunle area of Lagos, a fight broke out around the neighbourhood where the football field he trains is located. And someone died in the fracas and the Police apprehended him on his way home from football training.

That was the beginning of his travails that culminated in a death sentence. He waited 18 years of harrowing experience for the hangman before he was freed through the providential intervention of the Legal Defence Assistance Project (LEDAP).

Accused of murder, Owodo was tortured, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. But LEDAP launched an appeal against his conviction, which exonerated the condemned 'criminal' and validated his innocence.

He reminisced: "I spent 9 years in Ikoyi Prison and was later transferred to Kirikiri Maximum-Security Prison, where I spent another n9 years. In total, I spent 18 years in prison for an offence I didn't commit.

"Before the incident happened, my daily routine was to play football every evening in the field with my friends. While playing, a fight occurred and someone got killed. The Police arrested me and asked me to come and make statement at their station.

"I got there and made a statement, but the Police tore it and forced me to sign an already written confessional statement that I conspired to murder the man. "When the torture became unbearable, without even reading the content of the statement, I signed it."

It was on account of that statement that the Judge convicted him. Following the nullification of his conviction, Owodo was finally discharged from prison on November 13, 2013 after wasting 18 years of his youthful and productive life in wrongful incarceration.

Owodo is not alone. Ganiyu Wahab, 53, then a businessman, was 40 when he had similar experience. He told The Guardian that he spent 13 years in condemned prisoners cell for an offence of murder he did not commit.

He said: "I sell drinks, like beer and others, in cartons. Every year, I organised a party as a carnival for the people that patronised my business in that area. I had done that for about 5 or 6 years before then.

"In that particular year, a musician came to perform. Area boys and girls, as well as my customers also came to enjoy themselves, because it held every December.

"There was this girl in my area that had an issue with her boyfriends. Suddenly, 2 guys began to fight over her and I was inside my shop when someone informed me that people were fighting outside.

"Before I got outside, 1 of the girl's boyfriends had stabbed the another one with a small knife. I wasn't even at the scene. "When the injured guy was shouting for help, I decided to take him to the hospital for treatment. I just helped him. I don't know him because he was not from my neighbourhood.

"After I took him to the hospital, some hours, they treated him and the next day, the guy died. So, the doctor said I was the one who brought the boy to the hospital and took me to the Police station."

Wahab said he was offered bail, but because he could not afford the amount of money demanded from him, he was later tortured and made to sign a confessional statement upon which the court convicted and condemned him to death.

He said regarding the day he was condemned to death: "I ran mad! For about 2 to 3 months, I wasn't myself. My children will come to the prison to plead and preach to me, so I could get myself back.

"We didn't have influential people. Assuming I came from a wealthy family, it would not have been like that. The law of this country deals with poor people."

The issue of the poor being victims of Nigeria's death penalty laws formed the fulcrum of the statement issued by the National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chinonye Obiagwu, as the world marked the World Day Against the use of the Death Penalty, with the theme, 'Poverty and the death penalty.'

LEDAP used the opportunity to reaffirm its position that the abolition of death penalty in law and practice should be the firm desire of the Nigerian government, describing death penalty as cruel and inhumane treatment, which has no place in modern society.

"The application of death penalty is discriminatory in Nigeria, as it has become a punishment exclusive to the poor in society," Obiagwu stated, adding that LEDAP was continually in legal battles with the federal and state governments in its quest to ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are safe-guarded and death penalty is abolished.

He stated further: "Currently, LEDAP has at least 3 actions in court challenging the imposition of death sentences and the proposal of the federal and state governments to execute death row inmates.

"LEDAP urges state governors not to sign any death warrant, as it constitutes state murder. With high number of criminal convictions overturned on appeal, continued execution is risky, as innocent people may be wrongfully killed.

"LEDAP strongly believes that in its practical application, death penalty is discriminatory, as there is hardly any rich or influential person in society who is sentenced to death, because the rich have the resources to settle the Police or afford the best lawyers to ensure they are not convicted."



Why Indonesia Delays Execution of Death Row Convicts

A total of 153 convicted death row inmates are yet to be executed in Indonesia, facing undetermined execution timeline. Even Attorney General M Prasetyo could not tell when these convicts people will go to the gallows.

Is an execution delay good or bad? Regardless, some in the public had repetitively questioned such long execution delay faced by these prisoners. On the other hand, human rights groups had ceaselessly sought support from the international community for the abolishment of capital punishment in Indonesia while the government had adamantly defended its use of the death penalty.

Prasetyo said on Wednesday, "On the delay of their execution, I also cannot explain about it now. I can only say that there are still so many problems currently faced by this nation, which should be given a priority. So many things," Prasetyo said in a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday (11/10) as reported by

The attorney general said the solution of existing economic, social and political problems as well as social gap issues should be given top priority.

Prasetyo said the current law on clemency for death row prisoners had also caused a delay in their execution. Such group of prisoners included former drug dealers.

Indonesia reportedly executed 39 death row convicts, including foreign nationals, in the past 10 years. Out of this total number, 18 went to the gallows under the government of President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo who took up his post in October 2014.



A Total of 11 Indonesian Citizens Threatened with Death Penalty in Sabah

A total of 11 Indonesian citizens working in the State of Sabah, Malaysia are threatened with death penalty related to criminal cases they have committed.

Indonesian Consul General of Kota Kinabalu Akhmad DH Irfan in Kota Kinabalu via a written message, Friday (10/13/2017), confirmed that dozens of Indonesian citizens who committed criminal acts in his territory in the State of Sabah are threatened with the death penalty.

However, the Indonesian Consulate General of Kota Kinabalu has defended by hiring lawyers in the neighboring country to set them free from the death penalty demand.

This step is not inseparable from the protection efforts by the Indonesian government through the representative office in the country against citizens who are caught by criminal cases.

Of the 11 Indonesian citizens who are threatened with death penalty, three of them have been legally binding and are awaiting the pardon from the Sabah Head of State.

Later, 4 other Indonesians were undergoing trials at the High Court of Appeal of Sabah State and 4 others still under investigation process.

Akhmad DH Irfan asserted the consulate continues to save Indonesian citizens from the threat of capital punishment. "We are committed to provide defense against citizens who are threaten with the death penalty to be reduced," he said.



Pakistan's angel of death

Malak al-Maut (the angel of death) was once, it is said by Islamic theologists, one of God's favoured angels; a loyal servant who was entrusted with separating people's souls from their bodies, when their time came.

To the righteous, it is said, the angel of death appears in a friendly form, a companion come to ease one's passage to the other side.

For those who have sinned, however, the angel appears as a terrifying beast, a demon come to wreak divine judgment and wrench their souls away to eternal damnation.

For most prisoners on Pakistan's death row, he appears as Sabir Masih.

Since 2006, Masih has been 1 of 3 executioners in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the country's most populous province. Although he says that he does not keep track, he claims to have hanged more than 250 people since he started work.

Masih comes from a family of executioners. His father, Sadiq, hanged prisoners for 40 years before retiring in 2000. Masih's grandfather and his brothers all did the same work, too. Indeed his granduncle, Tara Masih, hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's 1st elected prime minister, in 1979.

Tara had to be flown from Bahawalpur to Lahore because the executioner at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail - Sabir's father Sadiq - refused to hang the popular leader.

As a child, Sabir Masih always knew he would end up in the family business.

"I knew that this was a family profession," the 33-year-old explains, sitting cross-legged in his maternal uncle's simple home, about 25km outside of Lahore.

He was 22 the first time that he killed a man, a convicted murderer whose name he cannot recall.

"I didn't know anything at that time. I had just seen a man hanged once in front of me," he says. "I saw [my teacher] tie a noose once, the 2nd time I did it myself.

"When I pull the lever, I don't really think about it. You pull the lever, the man falls," he says. "My focus is on the sign, from the jail superintendent."

It was his 1st day on the job.

I am killing people based on the law. The murderer has killed by their choice, but I am not killing by my own choice... I have not picked the convict to kill.

Sabir Masih, executioner

Within 8 months, he says proudly, he had already executed 100 men, "completing his century", as he puts it.

In 2008, however, Masih's work came to an abrupt halt, as the newly elected Pakistan People's Party government placed an unofficial moratorium on executions. That measure remained in place until December 2014, when armed men stormed a Peshawar school, killing more than 150 people, most of them children.

The attack shocked the nation, and the government quickly lifted the moratorium, as a warning to members of armed groups such as the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, and others who had attacked both state and civilian targets in a war that has lasted since 2007.

Within a matter of hours, Masih was en route to Faisalabad from his native Lahore, to keep an appointment with two men convicted of "terrorism".

"There were news reporters everywhere," he says, recalling the crowd outside his home when the moratorium was lifted. "I sent a friend twice to go out and check … then I slipped out and went to Faisalabad."

'It's nothing'

Since then, Pakistan has executed at least 471 people, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Last year, it ranked 5th on Amnesty International's list of worldwide executioners, putting at least 87 people to death. Almost all of those cases were in Punjab province, with Masih carrying out many of them.

"Why should I keep track? The jail keeps records. They have books to keep track of the black warrants," he says.

Masih takes an uncomplicated approach to the question of whether the death penalty is justified.

"This is the law of our country, what am I meant to feel about it?" he asks. "It is nothing, it is just a job."

Further probing on the subject seems to elicit annoyance, a mild irritation at questions he thinks miss the point of what he does for a living.

"It's nothing. Only that minute or half a minute is urgent, when they are bringing the convict to be hanged. Other than that, it's simple," he says, detailing how he measures out the length of rope and ties the knot based on the height and weight of the convict.

Sometimes, he concedes, he gets it wrong.

"You'll see a person's body torn apart. I've done it many times."

Masih speaks at an odd rhythm, as if just slightly out of time with the world around him. As he picks at his yellowing teeth with a matchstick, he complains that people seem to make more of his job than is warranted.

"For the person who is observing it being done, it seems a huge thing to do ... but it's easy, it's not a big deal for me."

"It's nothing," he repeats throughout our conversation.

Fair trial concerns, however, have dogged Pakistan's justice system, and specifically its use of the death penalty, for years.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted 1 brothers, Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar, of murder, after they had spent more than 10 years on death row. The only problem? Qadir and Sarwar had both been executed at Bahawalpur's central jail in October 2015.

Masih had pulled the lever.

"I didn't feel anything," he says, of when he heard the news of the acquittals. "If anyone is going to feel tension about it, it would be the jail superintendent, or the deputy, or the chief minister. I didn't issue the black warrants, did I?

"It's nothing."

'They're finished from the inside'

In a sense, Masih concedes, he sees prisoners at their most intimate, in a moment where there are no longer any pretences.

"Yes, I see a face of theirs [that others do not]," he says. "At that time, they are crying. Either from the inside or the outside."

Some, he says, ask for forgiveness - from him, from the jail superintendent, from anyone who will listen.

"They're finished, from the inside. The convict who has done it, they know that they have to accept their fate."

Others, however, exult in their deeds.

1 execution that Masih says will always stay with him was that of 2 men convicted for facilitating a suicide attack on then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf in 2004. They were hanged in December 2014.

"They came to me 12 minutes before their hanging. They were raising slogans, and greeting each other happily as if they were at Eid prayers. They said that they were bound for heaven," he says.

"They accepted that they had done everything that they had been accused of. They were happy about it."

What, then, does Masih see as the difference between himself and those men? Or, rather, between himself and all of the murderers that he has executed over the years? Is there one?

"What I do, it is different," he says, emphatically. "I am killing people based on the law. The murderer has killed by their choice, but I am not killing by my own choice. On my side, I have the whole state, all the way to the president. I have not picked the convict to kill.

"It's nothing."

(source: Al Jazeera News)


On the death-penalty revival, priest asks: 'What message are we sending the youth?'

The revival of the death penalty would risk sending the wrong message to society, especially the young people, a Catholic priest said.

Jesuit priest Fr. Silvino Borres Jr., president of the Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CADP), said that to have a civil society, the country must respect life, not demand death.

"What kind of message are we telling our young people?" Borres said in his homily during a Mass to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Chapel in Manila on Tuesday.

He said the government should not be in the business of killing its people, adding that the poor and minorities are more likely to receive a death sentence.

The priest said the poor would always be at greater risk for execution because most of them are deprived of adequate and competent legal counsel during their trial.

"Capital punishment is reprehensive precisely because the government uses all its resources to kill a person. That's what makes this scandalous and atrocious," Borres said. No doubt, according to him, about the necessity for punishment of crimes and the demands for justice. However, he added, "we are questioning whether it [extreme penalty of death] leads to any good."

"We urge our lawmakers to take an enlightened action. Let us show the world that pursuit of justice is not incompatible with mercy and compassion," he said.

The bishops' prison ministry also affirmed its "option for life and justice" that moves beyond punishment.

"We consider the move to restore capital punishment as unenlightened, counterproductive and counterprogressive," said Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care.

"The stance against the death penalty is in no way a posture to let criminal offenders go scot-free. We believe in justice and it is ranked high in its hierarchy of values," he said.

Bills to reinstate the capital punishment are pending before the Senate. Despite the Philippines being a signatory to a global treaty against the death penalty, the House of Representatives have adopted measures contrary to this.

The House of Representatives and the Senate must agree on the provisions of the proposed law before it is sent to President Duterte for approval.


OCTOBER 14, 2017:


Murder Victim Families Lead Anti-Death Penalty Campaign in Texas----Bill Pelke originally supported the death penalty for the girls who killed his grandmother. His path to forgiveness led to start the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing

As new death sentences and executions continue at record lows in Texas, a group of murder victim family members will kick off a two-week tour of the state with the Texas premiere of an award winning documentary film at 7pm on October 14, 2017 at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston.

"The Gathering" is a film about exonerated death row survivors who become warriors against the death penalty. Award-winning filmmaker, Micki Dickoff, will be at this special screening for the Texas premiere. Admission is free.

Following the film, the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing will host a panel discussion featuring exonerated death row survivors and murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty. This will be the 1st of dozens of such events in schools, colleges and faith communities in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin over the following 2 weeks.

The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing is led by murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty, joined by the families of prisoners on death row and exonerated death row survivors who share their voices of experience with the aftermath of murder. This will be the 6th time the Journey of Hope will tour Texas since 1998.

"We can be safe from dangerous offenders and hold them accountable without killing them," said Ami Lyn White, whose pregnant mother was murdered in Alvin in 1986. "I can't speak for everyone who struggles with the aftermath of murder, but our experience is that having to wait a decade or more for an execution that may never come is not conducive to healing. I have no problem with a sentence of death by incarceration, which is what most killers get these days anyway."

In addition to Texans, the 2 week series of public events features speakers with compelling stories from across the United States.

"We feel that our message that the death penalty prevents healing and only creates more victims has helped reduce the desire for executions in Texas," said Bill Pelke, founder of the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing. "The 1st time we came here in 1998, executions were at an all-time high, with nearly 100 each year. Dozens were in Texas, and many of those cases were from Harris County. Now, the vast majority of killers in Texas get the alternative sentence of life without parole. One thing we know from experience is that when there is no death sentence in your case, the healing process begins a lot sooner."

"The death penalty is a distraction from the real needs of victim families," continued Pelke. "Most cases are not eligible for execution, but anyone with a relative who has been murdered wants the right person to be caught and held accountable. We include exonerated death row survivors on our tours because wrongful convictions are a real problem. It hurts victim family members even more when we learn that all this time we were focusing our anger on the wrong person. And to think they might have been killed in our names? That's unacceptable."

Pelke supported the death penalty for the girl who killed his grandmother, but then he came to understand the healing power of forgiveness. This experience and that of others on the Journey of Hope tour provide the opportunity for the public to look at crime and punishment from different perspectives, including that of the families of killers.

"I also recognize that those in prison or on death row and those who have been executed have families too," said White. "Those family members, especially those who were children when their loved one was arrested, experience pain and devastation similar to that which I felt. They, like me, didn’t do anything wrong, but society need not make it worse by making them homicide survivors too."

3 speakers on the tour have brothers who faced execution, including David Kaczynski who helped the FBI determine his brother Ted Kaczynski was the Unibomber, resulting in his apprehension. The juxtaposition of Kaczynski with Bill Babbitt is exposes issues of racism in the system which remain pervasive. Babbitt realized his brother Manny, a Vietnam veteran with diagnosed mental illnesses including PTSD, had killed a woman. He helped the police apprehend Manny on the promise of treatment. Instead, Manny was executed. The Babbitts are African American. Also on the tour is Randy Gardner, whose brother was the most recent person executed by firing squad in the United States.

The arts have been incorporated into some of the events. A photo display by Texas native Scott Langley will travel with the tour, and several of the events feature award-winning films. The Texas premiere of "The Gathering" is on October 14th. On Oct 18th, the award-winning film "Last Day of Freedom," will tell the story of Bill Babbitt and his Vietnam veteran brother Manny, who was executed after Bill turned him in on the promise that Manny would be treated, not killed. Discussion with Bill Babbitt & David Kaczynski exonerated death row survivors and others follows.



New rape charge coming against man accused of Pitt student's murder

The man charged with killing a University of Pittsburgh student last week will face new charges of rape involving a teen from Elizabeth.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said on Friday that Matthew Darby, 21, of Greensburg, will be charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl. The alleged crime occurred between Mr. Darby's arrest for criminal trespass on Sept. 26 and before he was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Alina Sheykhet, 20, of Oakland, early on Sunday.

Pittsburgh police were contacted on Tuesday by the mother of the alleged victim in Elizabeth, Mr. Zappala said. She told them that Mr. Darby was the man who assaulted her child, and that they recognized his photograph when they saw news coverage of the homicide in Oakland.

The Allegheny County police are investigating the alleged rape in Elizabeth, and Mr. Zappala said he expects the charges to be filed soon.

He also revealed that 1 of the weapons used to kill Ms. Sheykhet was taken from the basement of her apartment building on Cable Place.

According to investigators, Mr. Darby entered Ms. Sheykhet's building through a basement window, and the hammer used in the attack was taken from there.

Mr. Darby had already been out on a $10,000 bond on a pending rape case from Indiana County that was filed in February.

In addition, Ms. Sheykhet obtained a temporary protection from abuse order against him on Sept. 21 from Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Spurgeon after Mr. Darby attempted to enter her apartment two nights earlier by shimmying up a gutter on her building.

Ms. Sheykhet told Judge Spurgeon that she had dated him for 2 years but that they had broken up, and she had blocked him from being able to call.

When he broke into her 2nd floor window, she said, "he didn't want to harm me. He just wanted to speak to me. I did leave him a few weeks prior to that, and I guess he did not like the fact that I asked him to leave me alone."

She called him "controlling," but when asked if she thought he would hurt her, repeatedly said, "No."

She said she knew there was "a warrant out for his arrest," but said, "I don't think he would lay a hand on me."

"I'm more worried about your safety than you are," Judge Spurgeon said. "I think he's a danger to you."

He granted the order barring him from having contact with her, pending an Oct. 5 hearing.

Mr. Zappala said that the fact that Ms. Sheykhet was killed while under the protection of a PFA could qualify as an aggravating factor which could lead to his office seeking the death penalty against Mr. Darby.

"The death penalty is a consideration right now," the district attorney said, adding, though, "It's a little premature.

"It will be a thoughtful process."

Pittsburgh homicide detectives and sheriff's deputies have already gone to South Carolina, Mr. Zappala said, and he hopes Mr. Darby is returned to Allegheny County by the end of the month.

Mr. Darby's freedom on bond following his his Sept. 26 arrest for criminal trespass, despite the pending rape case, has prompted some experts and advocates to suggest that better coordination between Indiana and Allegheny counties could have changed the outcome.

Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said Friday that pre-trial services employees reviewed Mr. Darby's arrest record prior to making a recommendation for release. Although he had the rape case pending in Indiana County, he had no prior convictions.

"This is a college kid with no criminal record," Judge Manning said. "He came out as a low-risk offender."

Pre-trial services would not have had access to the underlying details of the Indiana County case, Judge Manning said.

"There is no doubt more information is better than less," he said. "Would we have liked to have better information? Sure. But better information about past acts doesn't necessarily predict future bad acts.

"It's still a judgment call." Pre-trial services recommended that Mr. Darby be released on a non-monetary bail and be required to report in person.

Magisterial District Judge Linda Zucco did not take that recommendation, and instead required him to post $10,000 bond.

"We do 20,000 bail petitions a year, and less than 5 % violate the conditions of bail," Judge Manning said.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Parents' outburst interrupts hearing in Muslim girl's death

4 months after a 17-year-old girl's death rattled northern Virginia's Muslim community, emotions remained raw as the girl's mother disrupted a pretrial hearing by hurling a shoe at the man accused in her slaying.

More than 200 family members and friends of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen turned out at the hearing Friday in the Fairfax County courthouse. Darwin Martinez-Torres, 22, of Sterling, is charged with murder in the death of the popular student at South Lakes High School in Reston.

It was the 1st face-to-face encounter between Nabra's parents and the suspect. They charged at him, and deputies had to hold them back.

Her mother, Sawsan Gazzar, shouted "I'll kill you!" after throwing her shoe at Martinez-Torres, who was quickly hustled out of the courtroom. The father, Mohmoud Hassanen Aboras, shouted "He killed my daughter!" as deputies removed him as well. A third person who shouted expletives also was ordered out.

Eventually, deputies cleared the entire courtroom, and held a truncated hearing in a smaller courtroom, closed off to the vast majority of spectators. Martinez-Torres waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and the case will be sent to a grand jury, where an indictment is expected next week.

Hassanen was killed June 18 as she was walking back to her mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, for pre-dawn Ramadan services. Hassanen and more than a dozen friends had been at a fast-food restaurant, eating ahead of a daylong fast.

Police say Martinez-Torres encountered the group at about 3:40 a.m., got into a confrontation with some of the kids who had been in the roadway, and then chased after them. Police say Martinez-Torres caught Hassanen and bludgeoned her with a baseball bat.

A police search warrant says Martinez-Torres led police to Hassanen's body, which he had dumped in a lake.

The circumstances of the girl's death led many to speculate about a possible hate crime, but police have said the slaying is a case of road rage.

After Friday's hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said it is possible that additional charges will be submitted to the grand jury beyond the preliminary murder count.

Asked about a hate crime, Morrogh declined to discuss the evidence in any detail. He said he remains open to considering any evidence of a hate crime, but so far has not seen anything to lead him in that direction.

Morrogh also did not rule out a potential death penalty charge. Virginia law allows a capital murder charge only under certain conditions, including premeditated murder in the commission of a robbery, or premeditated murder during commission of an attempted rape.

Hassanen's father thanked the community after Friday's hearing for supporting the family.

"Every day I think about my daughter," he said. "All of us came here today for justice for Nabra."

Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing the family, said "the community's expectation is that justice will be done."

"There is no question that this community will be watching the process," he said. "They will see to it that there is justice for Nabra."

After the hearing, many of those who were forced to leave the courthouse rallied on a plaza under a large U.S. flag, chanting "Justice for Nabra."

Martinez-Torres' lawyer, public defender Dawn Butorac, declined comment. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has lodged a detainer against Martinez-Torres, who is from El Salvador, meaning federal authorities believe they have evidence he's in the country illegally.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorneys for Matthew Baker ask judge to nix death penalty option

Attorneys for Matthew Baker have filed their 1st set of motions in the murder case against him, asking a Henry County judge to find fault with several aspects of the proceedings, including the state's intent to seek the death penalty.

A total of 114 motions have been filed by Baker's capital public defenders on his behalf. Several are assertions of Baker's constitutional rights, some deal with the way he is to be presented in court, and others claim that the Henry County criminal justice system has discriminatory and, in some cases, unconstitutional practices.

Baker, 20, is charged along with co-defendant Jacob Cole Kosky, 23, in the Oct. 27, 2016, murders of 4 young people at a Jackson area bonfire. 4 victims were found shot early that morning in the dining room of a home on Moccasin Gap Road.

Prosecutors have accused Kosky of shooting all 4 victims either in the head or in the back and have suggested in pre-trial proceedings he planned to do so as early as the day before the bonfire. Baker, according to prior police testimony, allegedly held a gun after Koksy asked him for backup.

Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo has announced his intent to seek the death penalty should Baker and Kosky be convicted of murder. In his notice of intent, he listed 9 statutory aggravating circumstances as reasons for capital punishment.

It is Pattillo's 1st death penalty case as district attorney, and 1 of the first homicide cases to cross his desk since taking on the role in January.

Defense attorneys Kimberly Staten-Hayes, Shayla Galloway and Christina Rudy would like to take the death sentence off the table for Baker, arguing that it is unconstitutional because it is a violation of Baker's right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, equal protection under the law, due process, and it is discriminatory. They claim that because Georgia has no statutory standards for when to seek the death penalty, the process exposes Baker, who is black, to discrimination on the basis of race or status.

"In this case, Matthew Baker intends to establish at an evidentiary hearing that the decision makers in his case have intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of race, and, 2nd, that the decision makers in his case are influenced by racial prejudices that make them more likely to seek and impose the death penalty when the defendant is black rather than when he is white," his attorneys wrote in one motion.

Baker's case is unique in that it will be the 1st death penalty case to be prosecuted by an African-American Henry County district attorney. His attorneys, however, also take issue with the way that district attorneys and Superior Court judges are elected in the state of Georgia because they are often not representative of the communities they serve.

They claim that there is concrete evidence that racial discrimination plagues the application of the death penalty throughout the state. In 1 example, they write that although African Americans make up 27 % of the state's population (current census data shows that they are 32 %), 43 % of Georgia's current death row population is black.

Since the state's reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976, more than 70 % of the people executed have been nonwhite, Baker's attorneys argue.

Nationally, although the majority of people executed since 1976 have been white, a disproportionate number have been black, according to data complied by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalistic enterprise focused on criminal justice. African Americans make up 13 % of the U.S. population and 34 % of those executed in capital cases.

"Any respectable defense attorney with a client who the state is seeking to execute is going to raise that objection, or any other type of objections," said Donald E. Wilkes Jr., professor of law emeritus at the University of Georgia Law School. Wilkes taught for 40 years specializing in criminal justice-related law.

"When you are in a death penalty case and you are a defense attorney, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by raising objections to the charges," Wilkes said.

It is common for defense attorneys to raise any objection possible and raise it early, because early objections are important to an appeals process. Though some claims may not be "winners," Wilkes said, it is better for a defense attorney in a capital punishment case to present it and let a judge decide, rather than to miss out on an opportunity for their client.

"There are many cases where people have been executed because there was a valid claim, the attorney did not raise it, and by the time it was raised it's too late," Wilkes said.

Since 1976, 70 people have been executed in Georgia. Last year, 9 people were executed, more than any other state.

Though the death penalty has been sought several times in Henry County, it has not been carried out once in the 41 years since Georgia's current death penalty statute has been in place, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

1 person, Mustafa Askia Raheem, convicted in Henry County was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of a Henry County woman and her son. He has been on death row since February 2001.

There is no record of the number of times a Henry County top prosecutor has sought a death sentence under the current statute. Baker's attorneys have asked a judge to order that information for the last 30 years be compiled, either by the District Attorney's Office or the Superior Court Clerk, along with a list of all the homicide cases prosecuted in Henry County from 1987 to 2017.

No response from the state has been filed with Superior Court.

The case has been assigned to Judge Arch McGarity, and it is expected McGarity will consider both defense and any state motions at a later hearing. As the anniversary of the shootings nears, no such hearing has been scheduled.

(source: Henry Herald)


It's death for Randall Deviney, third time around; he killed Jacksonville woman who looked out for him

They were given an unpleasant task. And so after 3 days of testimony from psychologists, police and a tearful father who admitted he worked too much and wasn't there enough for his wayward son, a 12-person jury Friday decided Randall Deviney should die.

Deviney was 18 when in 2008 he killed 65-year-old Delores Futrell, a neighbor who cared for him like he was her own. Deviney took a fillet knife and cut Futrell's throat from ear to ear. He then reached inside her throat and strangled the woman who used to bake cookies for him, pick him up at school and give him odd jobs so he could earn money.

Futrell put up a fight and dug her nails into Deviney's skin, giving police the key DNA evidence they needed. That sample was the only DNA to be found. Deviney was arrested 25 days after killing Futrell.

The hearing in Jacksonville this week was the third time a jury decided Deviney should be put to death. It will likely be the last.

In 2010 Deviney was convicted of murdering Futrell. Ten of the 12 jurors recommended that a judge sentence Deviney to death. Following that trial, Futrell's sister Debra Wright told The Florida Times-Union how relieved she was that family could finally stop seeing the person responsible for killing Futrell.

"Even though it's been 2 years, it still rips a hole in us every time we have to go through this. We are glad this is over and now we can start thinking about the happy times," Wright said at the time.

But it wasn't over. In fact, it was far from being over. In 2013 the Florida Supreme Court threw out the conviction because of police misconduct. Then in 2015 there was a 2nd trial. A jury in this case voted 8-4 to recommend to a judge that Deviney be sentenced to death. He was.

Then Florida's death penalty system was challenged and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 2016. Hundreds of cases, such as Deviney's, from 2002 on are being sent back for what are called re-sentencing hearings. Now, juries decide and not a judge and the decision must be unanimous.

It took the jury 5 1/2 hours to reach its unanimous decision Friday.

Veteran prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has tried the case against Deviney 3 times now.

"That man did an awesome job," said Futrell's son, Waverly Futrell.

De la Rionda moved the family to tears during his closing statements. After the verdict, he stood hand-in-hand with the family and Lysa Telzer of the Justice Coalition and led them in prayer.

"She was a fighter and that is what we need to remember," de la Rionda said. "Thank God for that."

Absent from the courtroom aside from the moments when they were called on to testify were Deviney's parents, Nancy Mullins and Michael Deviney.

Randall Deviney told 2 psychologists that he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his mother and her drug-dealing boyfriend. He also said he was beaten routinely by both parents. The psychologists laid out a sad and difficult life that Deviney had growing up.

While the jury tended to agree that those mitigating factors were made clear in court this week, the jury did not find that the factors - there were 37 of them - were reasons enough to spare him the death penalty.

"I don't know if there will ever be closure,' Wright said. "But I do feel better."



Sentencing phase in murder trial nears end

Curtis Wilson will have to wait at least 1 more day until jurors hand down a punishment of death or life in prison for the St. Petersburg man convicted of murdering Jamie Seeger on behalf of his 2 local cohorts.

Prosecutors and Wilson's defense team finished presenting their witnesses for jurors on Thursday, the 3rd day of Wilson's sentencing hearing this week.

Attorneys will resume Wilson's hearing on Friday with closing arguments.

Following that, 12 jurors will begin deliberating over how certain factors and circumstances either enhanced or lessened the impact of Wilson's fatal crime.

In order to find 35-year-old Wilson suitable for the death penalty, jurors must find at least 1 aggravating, or enhancing, circumstance in Wilson's case.

These same jurors in late September found Wilson guilty of 1st-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 27-year-old Seeger over 5 years ago near a Crystal River-area intersection.

Seeger, a former confidential informant with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, was found dead early July 25, 2012, in the driver seat of a Chrysler Crossfire near the intersection of North Reynolds Avenue and West Cyrus Street.

Local men Marrio Williams and Lawrence Vickers had paid Wilson $1,000 to murder Seeger before she could testify against them about her undercover drug deals with the duo during Seeger's time as an informant.

Wilson was accused in December 2012 of murdering Seeger, alongside 32-year-old Williams and 50-year-old Vickers, who have already been convicted in this case for their roles.

Jurors on Thursday continued to dissect Wilson's mind and background with the help of several mental health experts.

Wilson's attorneys, Candace Hawthorne and Brenda Smith, have pressed psychologists and psychiatrists on the witness stand during this week's hearings about how Wilson's mental health disorders, not his personality, contributed to his crime.

Psychologist Dr. Greg Prichard testified to evaluating Wilson in March. Hawthorne played a recorded tape of Prichard's interview with Wilson.

In the video, Wilson tells Prichard about being neglected while growing up in St. Petersburg with a disinterested mother and without a father. Wilson said he made it to 10th grade and his school record is spotted with multiple suspensions for truancy and fighting.

Prichard said in court Wilson's mother is to blame for her son's inability to thrive in school.

For 1 week, Wilson held down a job but had to leave because he went to prison, he says in the video.

Excluding his conviction for Seeger's murder, Wilson acquired eight felony convictions throughout his life, Prichard testified.

Wilson tells Prichard in the video he made his living selling drugs, dealing in "pretty much everything." He says he used marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and prescription pills. Wilson says he's able to acquire pills, marijuana and inmate-made alcohol at the Citrus County jail.

Wilson says he was Baker Acted in 2005 and placed into a mental health facility, where he was treated for psychotic symptoms, like hallucinations. He says he continued similar treatments while in prison but was not able to get adequate treatments.

"I'm still hearing voices," Wilson says about the loud whispers that tell him to hurt himself and others. "It's a constant struggle."

Prichard said Wilson is not intellectually disabled nor has a psychotic disorder, but does have serious drug use issues, which contributed to his temporary psychotic symptoms.

Prichard said Wilson also showed signs of malingering, or lying, during his evaluations.

Echoing other mental health experts who evaluated Wilson, Prichard said Wilson has antisocial personality disorder, which explains his persistent disregard for the law and other social norms.

Prichard said Wilson displays many traits of a psychopath, a selfish pathologic deceiver, troublemaker and sometimes violent individual.

"He has many of the behavioral characteristics of a psychopathic personality," Prichard said.



Man accused of killing NOPD officer Marcus McNeil to face 1st-degree murder charge----The shooting happened a little after midnight near Tara Lane and Lake Forest Boulevard in New Orleans East.

Darren Bridges, the man accused of killing NOPD officer Marcus McNeil, will face 1st-degree murder charges according to NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison.

If convicted, Bridges faces life in prison or the death penalty.

According to Harrison, Bridges fatally shot McNeil in New Orleans East early Friday morning.

McNeil and 3 other NOPD officers were on patrol when they made an "observation" that caused them to hop out of their police vehicles, at which point Bridges allegedly opened fire and hit McNeil several times.

Harrison said that 1 or 2 of the officers returned fire, wounding Bridges, who then ran into a nearby apartment.

(source: WWL news)


Suspect wanted in Ohio slayings captured

The manhunt for the suspect in the deadly shootings of a 7-year-old boy and 3 adults in Pedro, Ohio, ended in its 2nd day Friday with the capture of Arron Lee Lawson.

Lawson, 23, of rural Ironton, was arrested at about 10:35 a.m. Friday without incident while walking along the 1700 block of County Road 52 after authorities got a tip from someone who spotted him, said Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless. When authorities approached him, Lawson, who seemed worn out, quickly gave up, Lawless said.

"Based on the evidence that I have right now, it is my intention to seek the death penalty," Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said Friday.

Authorities on Friday did not indicate a motive in the slayings, which were reported around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday. Anderson said Lawson will be arraigned at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, in Ironton Municipal Court on 3 counts of murder and one count of aggravated murder. Additional charges could be filed, including felonious assault related to the stabbing of another person, he said.

Anderson said he plans to impanel a grand jury for the case as soon as possible. A grand jury indictment takes the case directly to a Lawrence County Pleas Court, bypassing the municipal court and any need for a preliminary hearing.

The victims were identified as Donald McGuire, 50, and his wife, Tammie L. McGuire, 43, both of 15830 Ohio 93, Pedro; and Stacey M. Jackson, 25, and her son, Devin Holston, 7, both of 15497 Ohio 93, Pedro.

Tammie McGuire is Lawson's aunt, Lawless said. Jackson and Holston were his cousins, according to the sheriff.

Since 1 of the victims was under the age of 13, Lawson faces a prison sentence upon conviction of life in prison and possibly a death sentence, according to Anderson.

In Ohio, death penalties require an aggravating factor like burglary or robbery, or in this case, the age of the victim, he said.

If a death penalty is sought in the case, Lawson will have to be represented by 2 lawyers who are certified by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Autopsies have been ordered by the Montgomery County coroner's office. Those autopsies could give authorities a better timeline of the fatal shootings, Lawless said.

Lawson, who lived on Township Road 1051 near Ironton, also is alleged to have stabbed a fourth adult in the head and neck when the man came upon the scene after work, Lawless said. The stabbing victim fled the scene and notified authorities and subsequently was flown to Cabell Huntington Hospital, which wasn't giving updates about the person's condition.

Some Ohio schools in the area closed Thursday and Friday over safety concerns as the manhunt continued.

"The massive, overwhelming police presence that was searching for Lawson aided in his capture as we know the area that he was in and we saturated it, setting up a perimeter that helped contain his movement," Lawless said in a prepared statement Friday, thanking the other law enforcement agencies that aided in the manhunt.

More than 100 state, county and local law enforcement officers were involved in the search for Lawson, according to Lawless.

"I am beyond words when it comes to the gratitude I have for all the various law enforcement agencies, fire agencies and emergency medical services personnel that came to my aid when I asked for it," Lawless said. "The public's support has also been tremendous.

"We have captured one of Lawrence County's most wanted," Lawless said.

He said he was pleased his office had made the county safer by getting Lawson off the streets.

Lawless called Lawson an outdoorsman and a hunter who has spent time in the woods. Despite that, Lawson "was ready and willing to give up. I think he was worn out from being out in the elements."

Lawson somewhere apparently pilfered a jacket after crashing a vehicle and fleeing on foot into a wooded area in the Hecla area, according to Lawless.

The suspect was taken to the prosecutor's office for questioning by Lawrence County Sheriff's Office detectives following his capture Friday.

"He's been very cooperative," Lawless said.

Authorities set up a perimeter and used helicopters in the search that lasted nearly 40 hours.

(source: The Herald-Dispatch)


Parole board to rule next week on killer's clemency request

The man called the textbook example for the death penalty as well as the sickest man on death row asked for mercy Thursday.

Alva Campbell has asked the Ohio Parole Board for a life sentence instead of the death penalty. He's scheduled to be executed November 15.

Campbell's attorneys spent hours Thursday explaining to the parole board why they believe he deserves to die in his prison cell instead of an execution chamber. They said he was physically and sexually abused his entire childhood. That caused him problems his entire life. They said his father not only abused Campbell and his sisters but also forced them to watch him beat their mother.

"He was fundamentally broken by what happened when he was a kid," said Bill Mooney, Campbell's attorney from 1997. "Just think of how horrific what he saw was and I think that broke him."

Mooney and the other attorneys speaking on his behalf said they weren't excusing his behavior.

"You can't excuse it," he said. "You can't. You can't make it better."

(source: WSYX news)

MISSOURI----female to face death sentence

Public barred from pretrial conference in Pam Hupp murder case

A St. Charles County judge held on Friday a pretrial conference in chambers in the Pam Hupp capital murder case, and declined to open the meeting.

The "conference" was billed in court records as an informal discussion of pretrial matters. St. Charles Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham declined, via a clerk, a request by the Post-Dispatch to move the hearing into open court. A deputy sheriff said the same to a Post-Dispatch reporter and journalists from Fox 2/KTVI who were waiting outside the courtroom.

Hupp attorney Nicholas Williams, before the hearing, said Hupp's attorneys would not comment after it concluded.

Later Friday, Cunningham issued a sealed order and set a status conference for Nov. 17, according to online court records.

Hupp's trial is currently scheduled to last 3 weeks beginning April 9. She's accused of fatally shooting Louis Gumpenberger, 33, in her home in O'Fallon, Mo., on Aug. 16, 2016. Prosecutors said in March that they would seek the death penalty for Hupp, if she is found guilty of f1st-degree murder.

She claimed Gumpenberger was trying to kidnap her, but police and prosecutors believe it was all part of an elaborate plot to divert suspicion from Hupp in a re-investigation of the 2011 murder of her friend Elizabeth "Betsy" Faria in Lincoln County in 2011.

Investigators believe Hupp pretended to be a producer for NBC's "Dateline" to lure Gumpenberger to her house, and told him she would pay him to help her re-enact a 911 call. She called 911 while pretending to be the victim of a home invasion, and shot Gumpenberger, they say. Gumpenberger had mental and physical injuries from a 2005 car crash.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

OKLAHOMA----new death sentence

Nolan Gets Death Penalty

A jury has recommended the death penalty for an Oklahoma man convicted of beheading a co-worker in 2014.

33-year-old Alton Nolen was convicted on Sept. 29 of killing 54-year-old Colleen Hufford and trying to kill another co-worker at a food processing plant in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Jurors agreed on Oct. 2 that Nolen should serve 3 life sentences plus 130 years in prison on assault and battery charges stemming from his attack on the co-worker who survived. Jurors took less than 3 hours Thursday to recommend the death penalty on the 1st-degree murder charge.

Investigators said Nolen had just been suspended from his job at the Vaughan Foods plant when he walked inside the company's administrative office and attacked his co-workers.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors Consider Death Penalty in Child Homicide Case

Wyoming prosecutors are considering bringing the death penalty to the table in the case against a man accused of sexually abusing and killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.

John Barrett pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of child abuse and 1st-degree murder in commission of a felony. A judge in Cheyenne gave prosecutors with the Laramie County District Attorney's Office until the end of this month to decide if they intend to seek the death penalty.

Barrett was charged in the killing of a 2-year-old boy in May. Authorities say his girlfriend left the child in Barrett's care while she was at work.

Autopsy findings indicated the death was a homicide, and the medical examiner found that the child had bruising on his body and injuries to several internal organs.

(source: Associated Press)


Man found guilty of murdering police officer

A Coeur d'Alene jury took only a few hours to find a man guilty of 1st degree murder in the 2015 death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

The jury notified the court it had reached a verdict just after 9:00 Friday morning. They began deliberations just after noon Thursday and were sequestered for the evening.

Renfro was seen on Sgt. Moore's body camera shooting him, then stealing from him as he lay dying. He then stole Sgt. Moore's patrol car and was found hours later. In the days after, he confessed to the crime, saying he didn't want to go back to prison.

Renfro is now eligible for the death penalty. It's the 1st time in many years a Kootenai County case has moved to the capital punishment phase.

Renfro was also found guilty of removing a firearm from a police officer, concealing evidence and robbery.

Sgt. Moore was a 16-year veteran of the police department; he was married with 2 children.

Renfro is now eligible for the death penalty. It's the 1st time in many years a Kootenai County case has moved to the capital punishment phase.

Starting Monday, that same jury will enter the "aggravating factors" phase. Prosecutors will try to prove that Renfro has a propensity to commit murder.

Of 16 possible aggravating factors, the jury only has to agree on 1 to send Renfro either to death row or to prison for the rest of his life.

(source: KXLY news)


5 indicted in alleged MS-13 gang slaying on the banks of the Potomac River

4 men and a woman allegedly belonging to the MS-13 street gang have been indicted by a federal grand jury on murder charges that carry a potential death sentence.

The indictment charges the 5, all natives of El Salvador, with murder in the aid of racketeering for the Jan. 1 slaying of 21-year-old Christian Alexander Sosa Rivas at a park on the banks of the Potomac River in Dumfries.

An FBI affidavit states the group convinced a female friend to lure Sosa Rivas to the park. The affidavit cites multiple rationales offered for killing Sosa Rivas, including that he was a member of a rival gang, and that he falsely claimed to be a member of MS-13.

The 5 were all initially charged in state court.

The attorney general would have to approve seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Guantanamo Defendant Is Sentenced, in Rare Success for Military Commission

A panel of American military officers at the Guantanamo Bay wartime prison sentenced on Friday a Saudi detainee, Ahmed Muhammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi, to 13 years in prison for his admitted role in a 2002 attack by Al Qaeda on a French oil tanker off the Yemeni coast.

The sentencing completed a rare successful case before the military commission system, which has struggled to bring contested cases - unlike that of Mr. Darbi, who pleaded guilty in February 2014 - to trial.

Marring the triumph, the punishment was handed down as a new hurdle emerged in a case against another Saudi detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is fighting charges that he orchestrated the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in 2000.

Mr. Nashiri was arraigned on capital charges 6 years ago, but his case has been plagued by problems and remains bogged down in pretrial hearings. On Friday, Richard Kammen, a death penalty specialist on Mr. Nashiri's defense team, said in a statement that he and 2 other civilian lawyers had quit for ethical reasons related to a dispute over the confidentiality of their communications with their client.

The details of that dispute are murky because filings related to the matter are classified. But Mr. Kammen's resignation, which was earlier reported by The Miami Herald, means pretrial hearings probably cannot proceed until Mr. Nashiri gains representation by a new death penalty expert. Brig. Gen. John Baker, the chief defense lawyer in the military commission system, said in an email that he was looking for one but did not know how long it would take to find one.

This year, Mr. Darbi provided videotaped testimony against Mr. Nashiri for use if the Cole case reaches trial, along with a deposition against another detainee fighting commission charges. He had promised to cooperate as a witness in his 2014 plea deal.

Under its terms, the commission could have imposed a sentence of 13 to 15 years. The prosecution had joined the defense in asking for the minimum available term in light of his extensive assistance to the government. Mr. Darbi has renounced Islamist ideology and lived apart from the general detainee population for years.

Before the commission members deliberated, Mr. Darbi, wearing a dark suit and glasses, stood at a lectern and said he took full responsibility for his actions, for which he apologized. Reporters watched a video feed of the hearing at Fort Meade, Md.

Mr. Darbi also thanked Guantanamo staff members and guards who he said had been kind to him, forgave those he said had "treated me harshly" and expressed remorse about the hardship and shame he said his actions brought his wife and children.

"I wish that I could talk now to myself years ago, or to any young man considering the same path, and tell them: 'Don't lose your life and future for something that is not real,'" he said.

Mr. Darbi has admitted that from 2000 until 2002, he helped plan and arrange for a Qaeda operation to sink at least 1 civilian oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz, resulting in the attack on the French ship, the Limburg. Yemeni suicide bombers rammed an explosives-laden boat into the ship in October 2002, killing a Bulgarian crew member and wounding 12 other sailors.

By then, Mr. Darbi had already been incarcerated. About four months earlier, he had been arrested in Azerbaijan and then transferred to American custody.

Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University New York who represents Mr. Darbi on a volunteer basis through his law school clinic, told the commission on Friday that as early as August 2002, his client had provided detailed information about the members and last known locations of the Qaeda cell plotting to attack ships.

The completion of the case against Mr. Darbi now sets up a policy question for the Trump administration: whether it will live up to the Obama-era deal and transfer him to Saudi Arabia by February to serve the remainder of his sentence. Mr. Darbi struck the deal with the Pentagon official who oversees the commission system, who agreed to recommend a transfer but lacks the authority to order the government to carry it out.

During the campaign, President Trump denounced President Barack Obama's policy of trying to winnow down the Guantanamo prison's population, calling for a halt to any more releases and vowing to instead fill it back up with "some bad dudes."

In the nearly 9 months since he took office, however, Mr. Trump has brought no new captives there. If that remains the case and Mr. Darbi is repatriated, it would mean that despite his campaign talk, Mr. Trump will end up presiding over a reduction in the prison population he inherited from Mr. Obama - from 41 to 40 captives.

A spokesman for the White House's National Security Council did not respond to a question asking what the Trump administration would do. But Mr. Kassem said this week that it was in the United States government's interest to live up to the deal.

"Honoring the agreement with my client and Saudi Arabia would serve the Trump administration's interests," Mr. Kassem said. "It would encourage other witnesses to testify for the government in the military commissions and federal court. And it would avoid alienating an important ally."

He also noted that if the United States did repatriate Mr. Darbi, he would not be released, but would instead serve the remainder of his sentence in a custodial rehabilitation program for low-level Islamist extremists.

The distinction between being transferred and released could be a face-saving way out for the Trump team, said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who worked on an Obama administration detention policy task force.

"Reneging on this deal would make it significantly harder for military prosecutors to secure plea deals going forward, making it that much less attractive to use the commission system in the 1st place," Mr. Chesney said. "Honoring the deal, in contrast, doesn't have to be seen as inconsistent with his prior complaints; those complaints focused on decisions to transfer or release quite apart from the commissions process."

Still, Republicans criticized the Obama administration for transferring detainees pursuant to military commission process, too, including a Sudanese man who pleaded guilty before a tribunal and was repatriated when his sentence ended in 2012, only to later join Al Qaeda's Yemen branch.

Mr. Darbi received no credit for the nearly 12 years he was in custody before his guilty plea, so he would complete his sentence in February 2027. However, the Pentagon official who oversees the commission system may waive the remainder of his sentence after February 2023.

(source: New York Times)


Abolish Death Sentence to Protect Rights, Govt Urged

Pressure is mounting for Tanzania to abolish the death penalty.

That follows President John Magufuli's remarks that he would not sign any death warrant during his term in office.

Legal and Human Rights Centre official Fulgence Massawe said during an event to mark International Day Against Death Penalty here that Tanzania should end capital punishment.

During a ceremony to swear in Prof Ibrahim Juma as chief justice, President Magufuli said last month that he would not sign any death warrant under his presidency.

"It's high time Tanzania repealed the law on capital punishment because it is against human rights," Mr Massawe emphasised.

Former Prisons commissioner John Nyoka urged Tanzania to join other Commonwealth countries to abolish the death penalty as its execution had not proved successful in ending murders.

"We can change the punishment to life sentence but not hanging them to death," said Mr Nyoka, who also worked in Namibia for 17 years to restructure that country's former apartheid correctional system.

Earlier, French ambassador Malika Berak said the country abolished death penalty in 1981 after realising that it was contrary to principles of human rights.

"The decision did not come overnight. Since the French Revolution in 1789, people debated the matter. In fact it took us 2 centuries to reach to conclusion that that type of punishment should end it," she said.

She is happy that Tanzania has not carried out capital punishment since 1994 and hopes that the country will join the long list of countries which have voluntarily adhered to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and to fully implement its article 3 on the right to life.

(source: The Citizen)


Freed from hangman's noose after 13 years, 2 ex-prisoners start afresh

As a teenager, his dream was to play professional football. Williams Owodo, then 16, knew he had the skills and therefore needed to maintain his training routine daily to acutalise his passion. Little did he know that fate had a different plan for him.

On February 1, 1995, in one of his usual evening trainings in Ajegunle area of Lagos, a fight broke out around the neighbourhood where the football field he trains is located. And someone died in the fracas and the Police apprehended him on his way home from football training.

That was the beginning of his travails that culminated in a death sentence. He waited 18 years of harrowing experience for the hangman before he was freed through the providential intervention of the Legal Defence Assistance Project (LEDAP).

Accused of murder, Owodo was tortured, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. But LEDAP launched an appeal against his conviction, which exonerated the condemned 'criminal' and validated his innocence.

He reminisced: "I spent 9 years in Ikoyi Prison and was later transferred to Kirikiri Maximum-Security Prison, where I spent another 9 years. In total, I spent 18 years in prison for an offence I didn't commit.

"Before the incident happened, my daily routine was to play football every evening in the field with my friends. While playing, a fight occurred and someone got killed. The Police arrested me and asked me to come and make statement at their station.

"I got there and made a statement, but the Police tore it and forced me to sign an already written confessional statement that I conspired to murder the man. "When the torture became unbearable, without even reading the content of the statement, I signed it."

It was on account of that statement that the Judge convicted him. Following the nullification of his conviction, Owodo was finally discharged from prison on November 13, 2013 after wasting 18 years of his youthful and productive life in wrongful incarceration.

Owodo is not alone. Ganiyu Wahab, 53, then a businessman, was 40 when he had similar experience. He told The Guardian that he spent 13 years in condemned prisoners cell for an offence of murder he did not commit.

He said: "I sell drinks, like beer and others, in cartons. Every year, I organised a party as a carnival for the people that patronised my business in that area. I had done that for about 5 or 6 years before then.

"In that particular year, a musician came to perform. Area boys and girls, as well as my customers also came to enjoy themselves, because it held every December.

"There was this girl in my area that had an issue with her boyfriends. Suddenly, 2 guys began to fight over her and I was inside my shop when someone informed me that people were fighting outside.

"Before I got outside, 1 of the girl's boyfriends had stabbed the another one with a small knife. I wasn't even at the scene. "When the injured guy was shouting for help, I decided to take him to the hospital for treatment. I just helped him. I don't know him because he was not from my neighbourhood.

"After I took him to the hospital, some hours, they treated him and the next day, the guy died. So, the doctor said I was the one who brought the boy to the hospital and took me to the Police station."

Wahab said he was offered bail, but because he could not afford the amount of money demanded from him, he was later tortured and made to sign a confessional statement upon which the court convicted and condemned him to death.

He said regarding the day he was condemned to death: "I ran mad! For about 2 to 3 months, I wasn't myself. My children will come to the prison to plead and preach to me, so I could get myself back.

"We didn't have influential people. Assuming I came from a wealthy family, it would not have been like that. The law of this country deals with poor people."

The issue of the poor being victims of Nigeria's death penalty laws formed the fulcrum of the statement issued by the National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chinonye Obiagwu, as the world marked the World Day Against the use of the Death Penalty, with the theme, 'Poverty and the death penalty.'

LEDAP used the opportunity to reaffirm its position that the abolition of death penalty in law and practice should be the firm desire of the Nigerian government, describing death penalty as cruel and inhumane treatment, which has no place in modern society.

"The application of death penalty is discriminatory in Nigeria, as it has become a punishment exclusive to the poor in society," Obiagwu stated, adding that LEDAP was continually in legal battles with the federal and state governments in its quest to ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are safe-guarded and death penalty is abolished.

He stated further: "Currently, LEDAP has at least 3 actions in court challenging the imposition of death sentences and the proposal of the federal and state governments to execute death row inmates.

"LEDAP urges state governors not to sign any death warrant, as it constitutes state murder. With high number of criminal convictions overturned on appeal, continued execution is risky, as innocent people may be wrongfully killed.

"LEDAP strongly believes that in its practical application, death penalty is discriminatory, as there is hardly any rich or influential person in society who is sentenced to death, because the rich have the resources to settle the Police or afford the best lawyers to ensure they are not convicted."



Ag: Caribbean Court Has Not Departed From Privy Council On Death Penalty

Anyone who thinks adopting the Caribbean Court of Justice as the Bahamas' final court of appeal in order to circumvent the Privy Council's "disciplines" on the death penalty will be "sorely disappointed", according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.

In an interview with the press, Mr Bethel said to date the CCJ has not departed from "anything said by the Privy Council in respect to capital punishment."

Last year while in opposition, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis pledged that if elected, he would hold a referendum on capital punishment "as soon as possible".

At the time, Dr Minnis said he would immediately seek to amend the Constitution to remove the UK-based Privy Council as the highest court of appeal for murder convicts.

Dr Minnis said in the case of murder convictions, if the trial judge thinks the nature and circumstances of the killing merit the imposition of a death sentence and the Court of Appeal agrees, the sentence should not be appealed to any other court anywhere else in the world.

Last week, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said he does not know if the Minnis administration has made progress in its plans to allow capital punishment to be resumed in the Bahamas.

After demanding in opposition that the law on capital punishment be enforced, the Minnis administration has, since its election victory in May, done nothing to suggest it has begun movement on the issue.

On Thursday, Mr Bethel said he would not say whether or not the government is working towards removing the Privy Council as the final court of appeal, but said his office is focused on creating an "effective justice system" that will be a deterrent to would be criminals.

"Let me say this, courts are courts and anyone who thought that the Caribbean Court of Justice would become a short cut or a way around the disciplines being imposed by the Privy Council in matters dealing with capital punishment have been somewhat disappointed, in fact sorely disappointed," Mr Bethel said.

"The learned Justices of the Caribbean Court of Justice have not found any reason thus far to justify departure from anything said by the Privy Council in respect to these matters. The real question is though how do we secure a system of justice that is effective and through its effectiveness a source of deterrence to the would be criminal and also a source of comfort to a society. Right now we have a society that is living on the edge because of the fear of crime. Efforts are constantly being made to try and find a way to improve the operations of the system and the administration of justice which continues to be plagued by human and technological problems, but each day we get better."

Mr Bethel said the government is in the process of securing a location for a new court to focus on sexual offences and domestic violence.

"We are looking at a court to address the backlog of cases and old cases that have not yet been brought to trial but also to focus on sexual offences and domestic violence cases," he said.

"So that requires a criminal court, a court capable of accommodating a judge, the registrars and a 12 person jury and possibly a seat for alternates. So with that in mind we do have a very broad timeline that we are hoping to have something in place by the start of the new year but I need to confirm with the Chief Justice with how far along he has gone with that. There are 2 sites we are looking at. The 1st one is the eastern lower level court but I don't think work has begun on that and it is too small for a criminal court, so we would have to do a switch and move a larger courtroom occupied by civil justice over if it comes to that. The other site being looked at that is a site the Saffery Square building, but it as to be reconfigured."

Although the law allows for capital punishment, the death penalty has not been carried out since January 2000. That year, David Mitchell was executed for stabbing two German tourists to death.

In 2006, the London-based Privy Council ruled that the Bahamas' mandatory death sentence for convicted murderers was unconstitutional.

In 2011, after a ruling from the Privy Council, the Ingraham administration amended the death penalty law to specify the "worst of the worst" murders that would warrant execution.

Under the amended law, a person who kills a police or defence force officer, member of the Departments of Customs or Immigration, judiciary or prison services would be eligible for a death sentence. A person would also be eligible for death once convicted of murdering someone during a rape, robbery, kidnapping or act of terrorism.



High Court commutes 'Cyanide' Mohan death sentence to life in prison

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday commuted the death penalty awarded to alleged serial killer 'Cyanide' Mohan Kumar to life until death in a murder case. Observing that he is a menace to society and threat to women, the court sentenced him to life until his death with no remission. The case relates to the rape and murder case of one Anita (22) of Kolimane in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada district. While modifying the trial court's order, a division bench of Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice John Michael Cunha also directed the prison authorities to not release him until his death.

"The circumstances and the cogent evidence calls for simple imprisonment till the end of his life. Hence, it is proper, just and appropriate to sentence him to imprisonment for life and he shall not be released for rest of his life with no scope for remission," the bench said. The court also acquitted him of the charges of rape and abduction. "The accused had lured the victim on the pretext of marriage. The doctor who conducted the autopsy did not give any opinion on whether rape was committed before the murder. Therefore, there is absolutely no material to prove the rape and abduction charges," the court said. The court also noted that the doctor did not send vicera samples and stomach contents of the victim for chemical analysis despite directives from SC. Initially the doctor felt that the death was due to organo-phosphorous poison. Later, after examining cyanide traces in the finger nails and the condition of the victim’s body, he stated that cyanide was also a cause for the death. It is a clear case of murder for gain, the court said.

When judges sought his opinion on quantum of punishment, Mohan, who argued the case on his own, pleaded for life imprisonment whereas the Additional State Public Prosecutor Vijay Kumar Majage pressed for death penalty. Convicting him of all other charges, including murder, the court observed: "The school teacher opted for voluantary retirement in 2002 to pursue criminal activities. 20 similiar cases have been lodged against him between 2003 and 2009. Hence, this case was treated differently," the bench said while declining to accept the trial court's finding that it was among the rarest of rare cases warranting death penalty. One of Mohan's victims, who is lucky to be alive, is the prime witness in the Anita murder case. Mohan had taken her to Madikeri and the 2 stayed in a lodge where he raped her.

The next day, he took her to the bus stand and tried the same trick. But the woman said he had worn a condom and hence there was no need for her to take birth control pills. Then he scared her saying that the condom had torn. She went into the toilet but did not take the pills. She tasted it and lost consciousness. After she was found, she was hospitalised but did not complain to the police fearing her family's reputation. But after Mohan's arrest in the case, she deposed against him.

Case history

On June 17, 2009, Mohan Kumar took Anita from Bantwal to Hassan promising to marry her. He allegedly raped her in a lodge near the bus stand. The next day, he took her to the bus stand and asked her to take a contraceptive pill. Anita consumed the pill laced with cyanide and was found dead in a toilet. The IV Additional City Civil and Sessions Court of Dakshina Kannada district imposed death penalty on him on December 21, 2013.



17-year-old boy at risk of imminent execution

The Iranian authorities must urgently stop the execution of a 17-year-old boy who was convicted of murder and rape, and commute his death sentence to imprisonment, said Amnesty International.

Amirhossein Pourjafar is scheduled to be executed in a prison in Tehran on 19 October 2017. He was detained in April 2016 and sentenced to death 6 months later after being convicted of the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, Setayesh Ghoreyshi, from Iran's marginalized Afghan community.

"There is no question that this was a horrific crime and the perpetrator should be held accountable. Amnesty International supports the demands for justice voiced by Setayesh's bereaved family and the wider Afghan community in Iran, but executing a 17-year-old boy is not justice," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

"The use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed while they were under 18 is absolutely prohibited by international human rights law. If Iran goes ahead with the execution next week it will be another appalling breach of its international obligations."

In its final verdict the court said that the death sentence against Amirhossein Pourjafar was issued after taking into account "societal expectations and public opinion".

"The authorities' rush to send a child to the gallows in order to placate public anger is short-sighted and misguided. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment and there is no evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect than imprisonment. Using it as a means to exact revenge only compounds its brutal effects on society," said Magdalena Mughrabi.

This execution was scheduled just 2 months after the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, repeated Iran's untruthful claims that it does not execute minors.

In reality, Amnesty International has recorded the execution of 85 juvenile offenders in Iran between 2005 and 2017, including 4 in 2015, 2 in 2016, and 4 so far this year. The organization has also identified 92 individuals who are currently on death row for crimes committed when they were children.

Amirhossein Pourjafar was sentenced to death in September 2016 after a criminal court in Tehran concluded that he had attained "mental maturity" at the time of the crime and understood the nature and consequences of his actions. In reaching its conclusion, the court cited opinions from Iran's state forensic institute attesting to his "mental sanity" as well as evidence they say pointed to his efforts to conceal the crime.

Outrageously, the court claimed that its reasoning was in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a state party. However, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is unequivocal in its absolute prohibition on the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people below 18 years of age.

It is well-established in the principles of juvenile justice that individuals under 18 years of age are categorically less mature and culpable, and should never, therefore, face the same penalties as adults.

"Instead of resorting to case-by-case 'maturity' assessments, which are by their very nature flawed and arbitrary, the Iranian authorities must comply with their international obligations toward children and end the use of the death penalty against all juvenile offenders immediately," said Magdalena Mughrabi.


In September 2016, Branch 7 of Criminal Court No 1 in Tehran handed Amirhossein Pourjafar 2 death sentences, 1 for murder in accordance with the Islamic principle of "retribution-in-kind" (qesas) and another for rape. He was also sentenced to 74 lashes for mutilating the corpse. The Supreme Court upheld both death sentences in January 2017.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)

OCTOBER 13, 2017:


Texas Inmate Executed for Prison Guard's Death

A Texas inmate convicted in the death of a prison guard was put to death Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyer's attempts to halt the execution.

Robert Pruett was given a lethal injection for the December 1999 death of corrections officer Daniel Nagle at a prison southeast of San Antonio. Nagle was repeatedly stabbed with a tape-wrapped metal rod, though an autopsy showed he died from a heart attack that the assault caused.

Prosecutors have said the attack stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter sandwich that Pruett wanted to take into a recreation yard against prison rules.

The 38-year-old Pruett, who was already serving a 99-year sentence for a neighbor's killing near Houston when he was convicted in Nagle's death, lost 2 appeals at the Supreme Court as his execution neared. He became the 20th prisoner put to death this year in the U.S. and the 6th in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas executed 7 inmates last year.

Pruett's lawyers had asked the high court to review whether lower courts properly denied a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought additional DNA testing in his case. They also questioned whether a prisoner like Pruett, who claimed actual innocence in federal court because of newly discovered evidence after exhausting all other appeals, could be put to death.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015, hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber, when a state judge halted his punishment so additional DNA testing could be conducted on the rod used to stab the 37-year-old Nagle. The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002.

Pruett's attorneys unsuccessfully sought more DNA testing and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit arguing Pruett had been denied due process. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit last week, and the lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Attorneys for Texas told the Supreme Court that Pruett's appeals were delay tactics after issues were "repeatedly raised" and "properly rejected" by the courts.

No physical evidence tied Pruett to Nagle's death at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's McConnell Unit near Beeville. At his 2002 trial, prisoners testified that they saw Pruett attack Nagle or heard him talk about wanting to kill the guard. According to some of the testimony, he talked about possessing a weapon as well.

Pruett had said he was framed and that Nagle could have been killed by other inmates or corrupt officers at the McConnell Unit.

Pruett's 99-year murder sentence was for participating with his father and a brother in the 1995 stabbing death of a 29-year-old neighbor, Raymond Yarbrough, at the man's trailer home in Channelview, just east of Houston. Pruett was 15 when the attack happened.

According to court testimony from a sheriff's detective, Pruett argued with Yarbrough and then got his father and brother to join him in attacking the man. Pruett punched and kicked Yarbrough and held him down while his father stabbed the man multiple times, the detective said.

Pruett's father, Howard Pruett, is serving life in prison. His brother, Howard Pruett Jr., was sentenced to 40 years.



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----544

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

26---------Oct. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------545

27---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------546

28---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas-------547

29---------Nov. 16-----------------Larry Swearingen-----548

30--------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo-----------549

31--------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Urgent Action


Ruben Cardenas Ramirez, a 47-year-old Mexican national denied his consular rights, is due to be executed in Texas on 8 November in violation of international law. Convicted in 1998 of a murder in 1997, he maintains his innocence and is seeking new DNA testing.

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

* Calling for the execution of Ruben Cardenas Ramirez, inmate #999275, to be stopped and his death sentence commuted;

* Stating that the execution would violate international law and an order of the International Court of Justice;

* Expressing concern that Ruben Cardenas Ramerez was denied his consular rights and not provided a lawyer until 11 days after his initial arrest and a week after being charged;

* Noting that the conviction was based upon highly suspect confession, DNA and eyewitness evidence;

* Pointing out the irrevocability of execution, and noting that the prisoner is seeking to have modern DNA testing of evidence from the crime, and calling for a reprieve to allow for testing that could exonerate him.

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

Contact these 2 officials by 8 November, 2017:

Clemency Section, Board of Pardons and Paroles

8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Austin, Texas 78757-6814


Fax: +1 512 467 0945

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Death penalty decision for man accused of killing UNCC professor delayed

The man accused of killing a beloved UNC Charlotte psychology professor faced a judge Thursday.

Donny Franklin is accused of killing Dr. Jeannine Skinner in September. In court Thursday, he was assigned new attorneys but the decision on whether he'll face the death penalty was delayed.

As the case moves forward, there are still many unanswered questions.

Investigators still have not said what drove Franklin to take Skinner's life, but police have said that the 2 had been dating.

During Franklin's 1st appearance in court last month, he showed little emotion when the judge explained the 1st-degree murder charge for which he could face the death penalty.

Police found Skinner's body at the Lofts Apartments in Ayrsley after a welfare check on Sept. 1.

Detectives believe the pair had only been dating for a few weeks before the murder.

Franklin is still being held at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

(source: WSOC TV news)


Man accused of killing priest says he'll be spared death

An ex-convict accused of killing a Florida priest who had tried to help him for months said he has reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty, an outcome that would likely have pleased the priest.

Steven Murray faces charges including murder in the April 2016 shooting death of the Rev. Rene Robert, a senior priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine in northeast Florida. Murray told The Associated Press in a call from jail Tuesday evening that he plans to plead guilty at an Oct. 18 hearing in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"It's a lot of time, but I deserve it. Father Rene was a good man," Murray told AP.

If the deal goes through, it would seem to be what Robert would have wanted. The priest opposed the death penalty and signed a document years ago saying that if he were to die violently he wouldn't want his killer executed.

Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Natalie Paine confirmed in an email Wednesday that Murray has a hearing on Oct. 18 but said she couldn't comment on it.

Adam Levin, an attorney for Murray, said by email that he also couldn't comment.

Murray, who was 28 at the time of Robert's death, was a repeat offender whom Robert had been trying to help for months. Police said Murray asked the 71-year-old priest for a ride in Jacksonville, Florida, and then kidnapped him and killed him in Georgia. Murray was arrested in Aiken, South Carolina, after a multistate manhunt, and he led police to Robert's body in the woods near Waynesboro, Georgia.

The motive for the killing isn't entirely clear.

Murray told the St. Augustine Record for a story published in July 2016 that he had Robert in the trunk of the car in South Carolina and realized he could get in big trouble if Robert ever reported him.

"I just (expletive) freaked out and I killed him," Murray told the newspaper in an interview from jail.

Speaking more generally, Murray has told AP that he suffers from mental health issues and wanted to cause pain because of hurt he had suffered in his life.

Authorities have said Murray has twice attempted to kill himself in jail since his arrest.

Murray expressed both sorrow and defiance in public statements as he was taken from the courthouse after hearings last year. In postcards and calls to AP from jail, he has repeatedly said he cries over Robert's death and that he is sorry.

"My apologies go out to the family and friends of Father Rene," he said Tuesday. "I hope with time they can get some closure."

Murray has said that his father abused him badly while he was growing up in South Carolina. His sister, Bobbie Jean Murray, told AP that the abuse led Murray to drugs and crime at an early age.

He met Robert through a girlfriend, Ashley Shreve. The couple did drugs together, and Robert often gave them money, against their families' wishes.

Robert's colleagues have said he was devoted to helping the poor, often scraping leftovers from plates into baggies to give to the homeless. He also had great compassion for addicts, sometimes going so far as to lend them his car while he walked home alone through dangerous neighborhoods.

Because he devoted his life to helping society's most troubled, he was also aware that he could become a victim of violence. More than 2 decades before his death, he signed a "Declaration of Life," calling for his killer to be spared execution in the event of his murder.

That did not sway prosecutors, who have said their decision to seek the death penalty was based on the aggravated nature of the slaying.

(source: Fox News)


Prosecuters still seek death penalty in retrial of Jabil executive

A 911 call captured the final moments of Elizabeth Evans and Gerald Taylor before they were shot to death on Dec. 20, 2008.

Someone told them to sit on a bed. They begged the intruder to put the gun down. And before shots rang out, Elizabeth Evans said the word "Rick."

That name, said Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo, is how Elizabeth Evans referred to her husband, Patrick Evans. He is charged with the murders of his wife and her friend.

"There's only one verdict in this case," LaBruzzo told the jury Thursday during opening statements in Evans' trial. "That's a verdict of guilty."

Evans, a former Jabil vice president, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders in 2012. But in 2015, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his convictions, citing errors in a detective's testimony and criticizing a prosecutor's remarks during the first trial.

Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty.

LaBruzzo told the 12-member jury, plus 2 alternates, about the Evanses' strained relationship.

They were married in 2005 and were together for 3 years until they separated in 2008. Evans filed for divorce, but later dismissed his petition. Elizabeth Evans, 44, had also filed to end their marriage and moved into a condo at 6080 Gulfport Blvd. S in Gulfport.

On Dec. 20, 2008, she was playing golf with a co-worker, the 43-year-old Taylor. They went back to her place to drink wine and play music. Later that day, LaBruzzo said, Evans showed up and confronted them inside her bedroom.

Someone dialed 911, but hung up. When a dispatcher called back, the call was picked up and recorded the seconds before Elizabeth Evans and Taylor died.

Prosecutors will also present other evidence. A neighbor walking his dog saw Evans outside moments before the 911 call. Evans' gun holster was also found at the scene. Shell casings left in Elizabeth Evans' bedroom, LaBruzzo said, matched Evans' Glock handgun, which detectives found in his safe. People who knew the Evanses will also take the stand to identify the voices on the recording.

While LaBruzzo described the Evanses as "estranged," Assistant Public Defender Paige Parish said the couple was "amicably separated." Elizabeth Evans still spent time with her stepson. The Evanses had also seen each other shortly before the shooting, getting their cars washed together and meeting with a Realtor to discuss the sale of a property.

Parish also pointed to holes in the investigation, which she said was squarely focused on only Evans. Detectives never questioned Elizabeth Evans' ex-husbands or Taylor's wife, she added.

Investigators also found prints on Elizabeth Evans' back door and DNA on the gun holster that was never identified.

"The most amazing thing about the American criminal justice system is that we don't get to tell you what the answer is," Parish told the jury. "You get to decide."

The 911 recording was at the crux of Evans' appeal. In a 2015 opinion by the Florida Supreme Court, justices questioned Pinellas sheriff's Detective Edward Judy's testimony. On the stand, Judy said he believed the voice of the intruder was Evans because he had listened to his jail phone calls several times and was familiar with Evans' voice. The court ruled that Judy "did not have prior familiarity with Evans or special training in voice recognition."

The justices also flagged former Assistant State Attorney William Loughery. They took issue with some of his comments, including Loughery's remarks about the defense's theory, at one point saying "only in a world populated by defense attorneys would that be true."

Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty. In Evans' first trial, jurors voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty for the murder of Elizabeth Evans and 8-4 for the murder of Taylor.

But under the state's new death penalty law, juries must vote unanimously to send someone to death row.

The trial resumes today.



Aramis Ayala moving on after losing death penalty battle

E8 months after she lit statewide firestorm debates over the death penalty and Florida government separation of powers, and five weeks after she lost those debates in the Florida Supreme Court, Orlando's State Attorney Aramis Ayala appears at peace.

Speaking with a gathering of journalists Thursday morning, the controversial, still-new state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, said she was settling in to pursue her judicial reform agenda, she was pursuing justice, and she was happy.

"I enjoy my office. I enjoy life. Generally, I'm just a happy person. I don't say that lightly. I enjoy doing what is right," Ayala said.

Ayala talked Thursday morning at a meeting of the Central Florida chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She took questions challenging her now-abandoned opposition in her circuit to death penalty prosecutions, yet largely dismissed any political or personal concerns about where that came from or how much it cost.

If she had any regrets about the consternation her previous position or her 6-month battle with Gov. Rick Scott and others had caused for anyone, including the families of murder victims, she wasn't sharing them. Over cafe con leche at the Melao Bakery in Orlando.

Ayala, who was elected last year, presented herself as a public official who took a stand based on her interpretation of the law, lost, and has since moved on. She characterized the debate as something that had to happen, it did, and now it's over.

"I had an interesting start," she said. "The day I took office we were dealing with the death penalty. And unfortunately, a lot of people only know me for that. But there certainly is more to me as a person, as a lawyer, as prosecutor that deals with that," Ayala said. "But when I took office, the first conversations I had with prosecutors across the state was dealing with the death penalty. We had a statute that had been ruled unconstitutional 2 times in less than 2 years, so we knew there was a problem. That was the 1st week of me taking office. Then we had the deaths locally of 2 police officers that we had to deal with. We had internal issues with employees, and ultimately we had retaliatory budget cuts."

Ayala said she supposed her contentedness came from being a cancer survivor, someone who nearly died from lymphoma as a young woman in law school, and then struggled with avascular necrosis. She said that life experience also taught her "the level of accountability. It teaches you that one day we all have to answer and respond to the right that we lived. And I've committed to that."

On Thursday she sought to turn the focus to initiatives she campaigned on - as opposed to the death penalty, which she did not. Those include creation of aggressive teams of prosecutors to deal with domestic violence and human trafficking. Ayala said that she has gotten those promised units up, operating and prosecuting, and getting convictions, despite state budget cuts of $1.3 million for her office, which for all practical purposes eliminated previous domestic violence money, forcing her to redirect funds from elsewhere.

"I'm ... looking at the numbers of homicides in our community that are based upon domestic violence," she said. "I look at the younger the girls are getting, the more they're being impacted by domestic violence. I'm looking at how domestic violence can tear up an entire community. And we get a lot of it."

She said her office also moved forward with other reforms, notably a program in which prosecutors get involved with communities, and her juvenile justice "Project No No," creating new opportunities for young offenders to go through diversion programs without getting criminal records. She said she has recently hired 20 new assistant prosecutors fresh out of law school.



Ex-death row inmate, priest share story of life----Pair address Perrysburg church

U.S. Army veteran Joe D'Ambrosio was in custody for 22 years for a crime he did not commit, with most of that -- more than 20 years -- spent on Ohio's death row.

He was finally exonerated from the murder conviction and freed in 2012 following the intervention and dedication of the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who was introduced to D'Ambrosio by chance but was the catalyst to get the conviction overturned.

The 2 men spoke at St. Rose Catholic Church on Sunday night, sharing their story with about 100 people. It's a story rooted in faith and bizarre circumstances. The 2 men told of the details of information withheld and hidden from D'Ambrosio's attorney in his trial, which lasted less than 3 days -- the shortest death penalty court case in the history of Ohio.

Both Kookoothe and D'Ambrosio shared numerous details about the withheld information. If it wasn't true, the details, including how the priest came to become involved with the death row inmate, would be totally unbelievable.

"I'm sitting there at the trial and I have no clue about what was going on," D'Ambrosio said.

The priest was visiting D'Ambrosio's next-door cellmate, who asked the priest to visit his neighbor. When D'Ambrosio's mother died, Kookoothe recognized the name and went and concelebrated at her funeral as a representative of the prisoner. On his next visit, he sought and was granted permission to visit and relate the details of the funeral that the death row prisoner was not permitted to attend.

D'Ambrosio was grateful for the priest's willingness to share the information about the funeral, but also was relentless in telling his story. He said that his court-appointed attorney was not effective at all.

"I was expecting that my attorney would be like Perry Mason, but he was more like Barney Fife," he said. "No one wants to listen to a dead man walking. It was the worst low you can feel. I'm screaming and no one listens."

When the death row prisoner finally got the ear of the priest, he made sure that Kookoothe listened. As it turns out, Kookoothe also previously served as an attorney and a registered nurse. The latter 2 career experiences were helpful in triggering his interest in the case.

"He's trying to tell me about my mother's funeral and I'm telling him they're going to murder me and send me where she is. When I told him about the extremely short trial, the attorney in him clicked in," the former inmate recalled.

Kookoothe recalls reading the first transcript, and through his nursing training, discovered medical impossibilities in the transcript of the murder victim's death. He wondered if that one glaring error that was found in his first glance was an indicator of how many other errors there might be. He became involved.

It took more than 10 years and a countless volume of legal wrangling before the exoneration finally came.

The priest noted had the jury had all the information they had to fight to receive, that "any reasonable juror would have to acquit," Kookoothe said.

D'Ambrosio recalled that 80 % of what exonerated him were the withheld files of the prosecutor, police chief and the coroner -- all files that should have been surrendered prior to the 1st trial.

Through the investigations, both men believe the real killer was a convicted rapist who would have a strong motive to keep the murder victim from testifying against him. Screams were heard from the rapist's home and the murder victim's body was believed to have been seen in the back of a pickup the following day. There was also missing evidence of a trusted police informant telling the police they had the wrong man.

A CNN documentary on the case can be accessed as well as a YouTube video providing more information on the case.

Once released, things were still tough for D'Ambrosio; however, Kookoothe hired him to work at his church in the Cleveland suburbs.

"I am one of the lucky ones," the released man said, noting only 6 death row prisoners have been exonerated in Ohio. "His church has shown me more unconditional love than I have ever experienced in my life."

There is no doubt in either man's mind that God's hand was involved. Kookoothe's knowledge of nursing, the law and being a priest all contributed to D'Ambrosio's conviction being overturned. His "chance" meeting withheld prisoner, and D'Ambrosio's mother's untimely death contributed to putting all the pieces in place.

Kim Mendel of Waterville was among those in attendance and said, "This talk proves there are miracles."

She called it a very "moving and sobering" presentation.

Lisa Connell of Perrysburg and a St. Rose parishioner added, "It really shows how there can be a lot of questionable actions of police and the prosecutors and evidence missing or withheld. It makes you want to question those people you want to trust."

(source: Sentinel-Tribune)


Alva Campbell's lawyers plead for leniency from death penalty, say he is too frail

It was 20 years ago when a citywide manhunt captured a man who kidnapped and killed a teenager. On Thursday his defense team pleaded with the state not to execute him.

Alva Campbell, 69, has been on death row for nearly 2 decades and is scheduled for a lethal injection next month for killing Charlie Dials, 19.

NBC4 spent the day at Campbell's clemency hearing at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction parole board hearing.

A picture of Alva Campbell recently taken in prison shows him frail and using a walker. Campbell was in the Chillicothe Correctional Institute, where his attorney claims he suffers from prostate cancer, COPD, emphysema and other ailments.

His defense team at the parole board hearing claims the state failed him all along, through an abusive childhood, and in both foster care and his first stint in prison. They spen the day using several experts and former attorneys asking the parole board not to recommend the death penalty.

"By the time he was 10 he was broken, and he is broken and he is not going to be repaired, and he shouldn't be out, but he shouldn't be executed either," said William Mooney, who was part of Campbell's defense team in 1997.

A member of the 12-person parole board asked Campbell's defense team when it became Campbell's responsibility to seek help for his abuse in the decades before he murdered Dials.

Charlie Dials' family, who were in attendance, nodded in agreement.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien prosecuted Campbell.

"He deserves no mercy! He shot a highway patrolman at 16, he later shot and killed a bar owner in Cleveland in an armed robbery. He committed 7 armed robberies here in Columbus,"said O'Brien.

Then in 1997, Campbell killed a Columbus teenager.

"While faking he was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, escaped on his way to court, carjacked Charlie Dials, then murdered him," O'Brien said.

Bill Mooney was his defense attorney back then calling Campbell's abuses a contributing factor in the crimes he committed.

"Why won't he have a difficulty in the day-to-day vagaries of life, given the way life treated him?" said Mooney.

The parole board will sent their recommendation to Gov. Kasich on Oct. 20th and he will decide if Campbell gets a lethal injection or life in prison,

(source: WCMH news)


Death Penalty Ban For People With Mental Illness

Indiana lawmakers Wednesday studied the potential of a move to prohibit the death penalty in cases where a defendant has a serious mental illness.

The majority of people who testified at a study committee hearing - including mental health advocates, public defenders, and the Catholic Church - favor a death penalty ban for people who diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or traumatic brain injuries.

Many say the state could also save money eliminating these death penalty cases. Defendants found guilty would instead face life in prison. Only a handful of states have such bans.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council opposes such a move. Prosecutors say serious mental illness is already considered in death penalty cases and can be a mitigating factor.

(source: WBOI news)


McGinn to talk about death penalty's costs

State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, will speak on the costs associated with having a state death penalty at the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty's Annual Abolition Conference and Annual Meeting.

The event will start at 1 p.m. Oct. 21 at Church of the Brethren, McPherson. The conference is free and open to the public. On-site registration will start at 12:30 p.m.

Celeste Dixon, whose mother was a victim of murder, and Roger Werholtz, retired Secretary of Corrections in Kansas, also will speak at the event.

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The state has not executed an inmate since 1965.

"When resources are so scarce, I would encourage you not to throw more away on such a wasteful policy," Werholtz said in the press release.

(soure: The Hutchinson News)


Jury recommends death penalty for Okla. man convicted of beheading co-worker

A jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for an Oklahoma man convicted of beheading co-worker in 2014.

Alton Nolen, of Idabel, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the September 2014 beheading of 54-year-old Colleen Hufford at Vaughan Foods in Moore.

His trial then entered the sentencing phase.

Nolen tried to plead guilty in the case prior to trial and asked to be executed. Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley declined to accept his plea.

(source: Associated Press)


Actor Mike Farrell Speaks Out Against the Death Penalty in Pasadena----All Saints Church discussion marks 'World Day Against The Death Penalty'

Justice takes many faces and many forms. For some the answer to the death penalty question is swift and sure; for others, the lines are blurred between a respect for life and a respect for the victims.

For actor Mike Farrell, self-described "social justice advocate," it has been a decades-long battle, as an opponent of the death penalty, and an advocate for prison reform. Known mostly for his role as for his role as "BJ Hunnicutt" in "M.A.S.H." and from NBC-TV's "Providence," he is the current President of the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, a spokesperson for Concern America, an international refugee aid and development organization, among other organizations.

On Tuesday evening, he gathered with fellow opponents of the death penalty, along with those who have have been personally affected, for a "World Day Against The Death Penalty with Mike Farrell and Friends," at All Saints Church, for a panel discussion about what the Church called "the harms that the death penalty inflicts on exonerees, victims families, and our society at large."

The discussion also marked the 15th Annual "World Day Against the Death Penalty." With the passage of Prop 66 last November, California is inching closer to the resumption of executions.

The evening featured a sobering panel discussion with Farrell, California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Member Bethany Webb, and death row Exoneree Gary Tyler.

"We have determined that some human beings are not human, are not worthwhile or capable, and that we can just do away with them," Farrell told The LA Times last year, adding, "If you set up that belief system in a society, you can justify torture, assassinations by drone, just about anything."

The death penalty has been in place continuously in California for almost 40 years, though executions were suspended in 2006 after the current method for lethal injection was challenged in court. Following 40 years of a legal death penalty in California, executions were halted in 2006, when the lethal injection method of execution was challenged. In 2014, a federal judge ruled the system unconstitutional, but the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision in 2016, bringing California closer to performing executions again.

Also participating in the panel was Gary Webb, who, in 1975, was sentenced to death as a youth in Louisiana for a crime he didn't commit, making him the youngest man on death row.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence minors to life without parole and applied its decision retroactively. Offered a plea bargain by prosecutors in order to avoid another trial, Gary agreed to plead "guilty" to manslaughter in exchange for his freedom. Having served 41 years in prison, Gary was released from prison in April 2016. He now lives in California and works on advocating against the death penalty and policies that support mass incarceration.

Panelist Bethany Webb, a loan officer and real estate agent who lives in Huntington Beach, lost her sister Laura Webb Elody in a 2011 mass shooting in Seal Beach.

When it came time to sentence her sister's killer, Bethany told prosecutors at a sentencing hearing, she didn't want the death penalty, saying, "There is no justice. Murdering someone else in my sister's name would be defiling everything she was." Says Webb, that although there is no doubt about the perpetrator in her sister's case, she knows the death penalty leaves open the possibility of executing innocent people.



Why Pope Francis' rejection of the death penalty is so important

In a major speech on Wednesday Oct. 11 Pope Francis said in blunt terms that the death penalty is contrary to Gospel teaching. Given the setting and context of the talk - a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - Vatican observers speculated that a change in the Catechism may be forthcoming. The passage in question (No. 2267) allows for the death penalty in very rare cases. But now even that small window may be closed.

America reached out to Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking and longtime opponent of the death penalty, for her response to the news.

At last, a clear, uncompromising stance of moral opposition to the death penalty by the highest authority of the church.

Words in official teachings matter. At death penalty trials, in state legislatures and before pardon boards I have witnessed as pro-death penalty district attorneys passed over the words of Jesus calling for forgiveness of enemies to quote instead church teachings that they felt justified the premeditated killing of criminals.

In New Orleans, I watched priests sent by the archbishop to the death penalty trial of Willie Watson, an indigent African man, to assure Catholic jurors that in good conscience they could vote for the state to kill Willie. Which, in fact, the state did on July 24, 1987, electrocuting Mr. Watson to death in Louisiana's (very busy) killing chamber.

This torture and killing in states continues today, terrible and mostly unseen, and Pope Francis' words or a change in church teaching are not enough to change that. Only we, the people, freshly awakened to the call of the Gospel can make that transformation happen. First, we must meditate on and ingest the pope's message so that the Gospel call in his words may set us on fire to act boldly, pouring into death rows, legislative halls and stations of public dialogue to persuade our citizens to truly become people of life.

May the Holy Spirit enliven our hearts and guide us all. Thank you, Pope Francis. Again and again, you renew my hope.

(source: Sister Helen Prejean,


UN: Death penalty has no place in 21st century

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an end to the death penalty on Oct. 10, insisting it has "no place in the 21st century."

He urged member states that still execute convicts to join the 170 countries that have halted or abolished the practice, warning that the risk of a miscarriage of justice is an "unacceptably high price" to pay.

"I want to make a plea to all states that continue this barbaric practice: please stop the executions," Guterres said at an event marking the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Capital punishment "does little to serve victims or deter crime," Guterres said, adding that most of the U.N.'s 193 members do not carry out executions.

"Just last month, 2 African states - The Gambia and Madagascar - took major steps towards irreversible abolition of the death penalty," he said.

"In 2016, executions worldwide were down 37 % from 2015. Today just four countries are responsible for 87 % of all recorded executions," he added.

Guterres also called for transparency from states where the death penalty is legal, asking them to let lawyers do their job.

"Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why," Guterres said.

(source: Hurriyet Daily news)


3 Ahmadis sentenced to death for blasphemy

3 members of Pakistan's persecuted Ahmadi sect have been sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court in the central town of Sheikhupura, a community spokesperson said.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were convicted by the court on Wednesday for insulting Prophet Mohammad under the country's strict blasphemy laws, Ahmadi community spokesperson Saleemuddin told Al Jazeera.

The 3 men were arrested in May 2014 after they tore down religious posters in Bhoiwal, a village about 22km southwest of the city of Lahore.

Khalil Ahmed, a 4th accused, was shot and killed in police custody just days after the incident took place.

While the accused claimed the posters carried anti-Ahmadi slogans, the prosecution said they carried religious significance and that tearing them down was tantamount to insulting the prophet.

Saleemuddin said that the Ahmadi community would challenge the trial court's decision in the high court.

Ahmadis are a sect that consider themselves Muslim but whose faith is rejected by the Pakistani state. There are around 600,000 Ahmadis in the country and several million around the world.

Members of the sect face 3 years in prison for referring to themselves as Muslim, to their places of worship as mosques or to their call to prayer as "azaan" under Pakistani law.

Last year, at least 6 Ahmadis were killed in planned attacks, according to local media reports.

Since 1984, when the blasphemy laws were amended to include several Ahmadi-specific clauses, more than 250 Ahmadis have been killed, according to data collected by the community.

'Atmosphere of fear'

Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Prophet Muhammad, and life imprisonment for those found to defile the Quran.

Those accused often face the threat of murder, even if they are acquitted by the courts.

Since 1990, at least 74 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.

Those killed include people accused of blasphemy, their lawyers, family members and judges adjudicating blasphemy cases.

On Tuesday, Muhammad Safdar, a member of parliament and son-in-law of recently dismissed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, launched a scathing attack against Ahmadis in the parliament.

"These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point," he said while calling for them to be barred from serving in the military or judiciary.

Safdar was not challenged by any other member of parliament at the time, although some political leaders have distanced themselves from his remarks since then.

"These statements create an atmosphere of fear," said Saleemuddin. "If these things are being said on the floor of the house, then what do you think will happen in the streets?"

(source: Al Jazeera)


8 Years Since Last Thai Execution, Future of Death Penalty Uncertain

Those campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty may take solace in the fact that no one has been executed for eight years. There have been no actual executions, but a senior government official said it's simply impossible to predict when capital punishment will be abolished in Thailand.

Pitikan Sitthidej, Director General of the Department of Rights and Liberties said it’s impossible to pin down when Thailand will do away with death penalty despite having observed a de facto moratorium since 2009.

"I can't say when it will end but in practice it will soon be 10 years since no execution has taken place," Pitikan said. "We don't know when death penalty will be abolished."

Pitikan was vague on whether it would be.

At present there are 63 crimes that merit death sentence under Thai law, ranging from people found guilty of the rape and murder of girls under 15 or their parents to big time drug dealers and extremists. Pitikan pointed out that under the Thai penal code, any criminal sentenced to death will automatically be required to apply for a royal pardon to the king in hope of having the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

According to a document of the justice ministry, there were 444 inmates sentenced to death at various stages of the judiciary system as of April 2017. The document also states that during the 65th UN General Assembly in 2010, Thailand no longer voted to oppose a move to end the death penalty but had decided to abstain from voting.

However, according to the same paper, the ministry conducted a survey on the possible abolition of the death penalty on 1,073 people in all the four regions of the country as well as in Bangkok and discovered that 73 percent of respondents still supported death penalty.

Campaign groups such as Amnesty International Thailand took the opportunity on the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday to renew its call for the abolition of capital punishment in Thailand.

Knowing that it is still far from being realized, the organization’s director Piyanut Kotsan said she wanted to see the Thai government announce a formal moratorium on capital punishment and decrease the number of crimes punishable by death.

"We're quietly lobbying and maintain the trend for the end of death penalty," said Piyanut on Tuesday.

Pitikan said there will be no formal announcement of moratorium as in reality Thailand is also a de facto moratorium state on the matter.

"What announcement? I am confused. How do we make such announcement?" said Pitakan, adding that the Third National Human Rights Plan, covering 2014 to 2018, clearly stated that the state shall conduct studies on the possible abolition of the death penalty. When asked about a campaign to educate the public about the negative repercussion of death penalty such as the violation of the right to life, Pitikan said the department lacks funding to engage in such campaign as it has only 300 million baht budget per annum.

In the end, said the director general, whether Thailand will abolish capital punishment or not depends not on international organizations such as Amnesty International or the government but on the society's consensus itself.

"We must consider the direction of our society as well," Pitikan said.

While it's still common for some Thais on social media to keep calling for some criminals - particularly those who have committed rape and murder - to be executed, the anti-death penalty argument is slowly becoming known.

Pitikan for example stressed that a wrongful death penalty means those executed can no longer be brought back to life.

"It's against the basic human rights principle of the right to life. Most of those [sentenced] tend to be poor and underprivileged."

Chamnan Chanruang, a prominent campaigner for the end of death penalty said ending the death penalty is not about not punishing the wrongdoers while death penalty is vindictive and about revenge.

"What should be done is not to eliminate these people but to find out the root cause and eliminate it. If we hate what they did we shouldn’t commit the same things which is to become criminals by allowing acting as executioners on our behalf," said Chamnan.



Prosecution seeks death for Sanghvi----Girgaum diamond merchant's son's murder case

The prosecution has sought death penalty for Vijesh Sanghvi, the sole convict of 2013 Adit Ranka murder case. It said that Sanghvi is beyond reformation because of the kind of thought he put into planning and executing the murder and in disposing off the body outside Mumbai's city limits. The defence sought leniency and prayed for life imprisonment instead.

Special Public Prosecutor Kalpana Chavan, making her submissions on Wednesday before Principal sessions judge SB Aggarwal, said that more than a dozen mothers were present in the court on the day of the conviction, and that they are now afraid that a similar thing could happen to their child as well.

"This has had an impact on society and a message has to go across. The punishment should be such that it can act as a deterrent," she submitted before the court. She added that Sanghvi knew the child well and was supposed to protect him. Instead, he killed him for money.

According to Chavan, the murder was not only gruesome in itself, but it also affected the entire family, cutting short Adit's father, Jitendra’s life as well. She submitted that though his father had ailments, his death got expedited because of the shock he suffered due to Adit's killing. The fact that Adit had undergone a heart procedure as an infant was also pointed out.

Chavan added that the convict was a well-educated person, and it could not be accepted that he was not aware of the consequences of what he was doing. Chavan said that in case the court was not convinced about capital punishment, Sanghvi should be sentenced to 'life imprisonment till death.'

Defence lawyer BP Singh pleaded for leniency, citing Sanghvi's family as one of the reasons. He submitted that Sanghvi had been married for barely a year when he was arrested, and that he was the breadwinner of his family. Singh said that the conviction was based mainly on circumstantial evidence, and, thus, it merited life imprisonment and not the death sentence. The sentence will be pronounced today.

Adit was kidnapped on May 13, 2008, by Sanghvi, a steel merchant, and the former's cousin, Himanshu Ranka. On Monday, Himanshu was acquitted by a sessions court.

(source: Mumbai Mirror)


Karnataka High Court reduces serial killer 'cyanide' Mohan's death penalty to life

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday reduced serial killer 'Cyanide' Mohan Kumar's death penalty to life imprisonment in the rape and murder case of one Anita of Kolimane in Bantwal taluk.

The division bench of judges Ravi Malimath and John Michael Cunha modified the death penalty judgement passed by the trial court. They directed the prison authorities to not release Mohan Kumar until his death and also said that he would not be entitled to remission.

In 2009, Mohan Kumar, promising to marry Anita, took her to Hassan city from Bantwal, where he allegedly raped her. He then, reportedly, took her to a bus stand in Hassan asked her to take a birth control pill. Not knowing that the pill was laced with cyanide, Anita consumed it and she was found dead in a toilet at the bus stand.

Out of 20 such similar crimes perpetrated by Mohan between 2003 and 2009, the alleged serial killer has been sentenced to life imprisonment in 4 cases, including the death penalty in 3 cases.

In Anita's case, he had filed an appeal in the High Court against the death penalty and pleaded for a life sentence. However, prosecution pressed for a death penalty. However, the court absolved Mohan from the rape and abduction charges framed against him.

(source: The New Indian Express)


China launches legal assistance pilot program for all defendants

China has launched a pilot program to ensure every criminal defendant has access to a defense lawyer for their trial.

The Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Justice jointly released a document Wednesday which stipulates that if a defendant has not retained a lawyer himself/herself, the court should inform legal assistance agencies to appoint a defence counsel for the defendant.

At present, a defense lawyer is only mandatory for juveniles and defendants with certain physical or mental disabilities, or in cases where the defendants face life imprisonment or death penalty sentences.

According to the document, if the appellate court finds that a defendant has not been allocated a defense lawyer due to the court's failure to correctly inform legal assistance agencies, the original ruling should be revoked and the case should be sent back for a retrial.

The document also guaranteed financial assistance for the services.

It required lawyers to be diligent in their work and improve the quality of their defense services.

The pilot program, which will run for 1 year, was launched in 8 provincial-level regions -- Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui, Henan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Shaanxi.



Death Row Convict Files Stay Of Execution Application

An Iranian, who is facing the death penalty, filed an application for a stay of execution in the Federal Court pending an amendment to Section 39B of Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, to include provisions on sentences other than the death sentence.

Hamidreza Farahmand Hassan, who was charged with 2 other Iranians, was convicted on a charge under Section 39B for drug trafficking and sentenced to death on May 15, 2014, by the Shah Alam High Court.

Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, who represents Hamidreza, said he had posed a question in Parliament on whether the government is proposing to introduce a "moratorium" for cases under Section 39B, on Aug 1.

He said the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, in her reply, said a study was presented to the Cabinet on March 1 and agreed to make amendments to the section by including provisions to allow the courts to use discretion to impose a sentence other than death.

Hamidreza, in his application, said the government has not stated clearly on whether the amendments will be enforced retrospectively in nature.

He said he would be prejudiced if his execution takes place before the amendment is approved by Parliament.

He said there are special circumstances to justify the stay of the death penalty on him.

Ram Karpal told the media that he intends to raise questions on whether or not it would be in retrospective in nature in the coming Parliament sessions, which will begin on Oct 23.

"This application is the first of its kind in asking the court for a stay of execution," said Ramkarpal.

"We are of the view that the judicial avenues had been exhausted. In light of this latest development, we believe judicial relief is warranted in the circumstances, in this case, a stay of execution of death penalty," he said.


Don't hang me yet, wait for law amendments, Iranian tells court

An Iranian on death row has filed an application to stay his death by hanging pending an amendment to a law that gives judges discretion on sentencing.

Hamidreza Farahmand Hassan, in his application filed in the Federal Court today, said the Malaysian government was scheduled to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to do away with the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers.

The former professional kick-boxing coach said judges would then be given the discretion to impose the capital punishment or a jail term under Section 39B of the law.

However, Hamidreza said the government had been unclear on whether its decision to amend the law had retrospective effect or otherwise.

Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, who filed the application, said the Iranian would be prejudiced if the sentence were to be carried out before any changes in the legislation, as the penalty was irreversible.

"Hamidreza wants the court to allow the application as he will lose an opportunity to substitute the death sentence if Parliament approves amendments to the law," the lawyer said.

Ramkarpal, who is also Bukit Gelugor MP, said there were special circumstances as to why his client's application should be allowed.

Hamidreza, 36, and 2 others were found guilty of trafficking 1.4kg of methamphetamine at KLIA in Sepang on Feb 2, 2010.

The Shah Alam High Court sentenced them on May 15, 2014, and the conviction was affirmed by the Federal Court last year.

Last week, Hamidreza filed an application for clemency to the Selangor Pardons Board.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said said in a written parliamentary response on Aug 1 that the cabinet had unanimously agreed to do away with the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, but that the decision still had to be approved by Parliament.

She said the cabinet had agreed to amend the colonial-era law to give the courts a choice in sentencing.

Capital punishment is mandatory in Malaysia for murder and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

Azalina said a total of 651 Malaysians had been sentenced to death since 1992, most of them for drug-related offences.

In March, human rights group Amnesty International ranked Malaysia 10th in the use of the death penalty among the 23 countries that carried out capital punishment last year.

2 days ago, in conjunction with World Day Against the Death Penalty, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the Bar would remain steadfast in wanting to abolish the death penalty for all forms of crime.

'There is no empirical evidence that confirms that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes," he had said.

He added that the Bar's primary opposition to the death penalty was because life was sacred, and every person had an inherent right to life as guaranteed under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution.



Death penalty 'moratorium' impresses EU

The European Union (EU) has commended Government for not implementing the death penalty for 20 years and has welcomed the global trend towards abolition of the practice.

And Minister of Justice Given Lubinda says Zambia will continue to be a de facto death penalty abolitionist despite it being enshrined in the Constitution. EU head of delegation Alessandro Mariani said Zambia is among 30 countries that do not practise the death penalty.

Mr Mariani was speaking during a joint press briefing with Government to commemorate World Day Against Death Penalty.



917 Egyptians sentenced to death since 2013 coup

An Egyptian Court sentenced 8 people to death on Tuesday and 50 others to life in prison for their role in a case known as the storming of Helwan Police Station.

According to prosecution, on 14 August 2013 protesters stormed Helwan Police Station, which led to the killing of 3 police officers and 2 civilians. The police station and 20 police cars were destroyed.

The same court issued a 10-year prison term against 7 defendants and 5 years in prison against 3 others. The defendants are accused of several charges including terrorism, premeditated murder, the attempted sabotage of public buildings and the destruction of police cars.

The Giza Criminal Court referred earlier this week 13 people's cases to the country's Grand Mufti in preparation for their execution.

Former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and co-founder of the Nahdha party, Ibrahim Al-Zaafarani, said that the number of Egyptians sentenced to death since the July 2013 coup has reached 917 cases.

In July 2013 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi overthrew the government of elected President Mohammad Morsi with the blessing of the United States. Since then General Al-Sisi has assumed the title of Field Marshal.

Al-Zaafarani said in a press statement that 16 Egyptians are waiting to be hung whilst 8 people have already been executed.

According to Al-Zaafarani nearly 640 Egyptians have died in prison as a result of torture and medical negligence while the number of those who have been extra-judicially executed has reached nearly 300 people.

A report by the UK based Arab Organization for Human Rights on human rights violations in Egypt during the third quarter of 2017 said that Egyptian courts have issued death sentences against 74 people.

In the aftermath of the 2013 coup, Egypt's judiciary gave 237 death sentences in 2016, more than any other country in the region. That same year, 44 people - including 8 women - were executed, a figure that doubled since the previous year and has risen sharply since the coup. In 2013 no executions were recorded.

As well as facing military tribunals, defendants are often sentenced to the death penalty in mass trials in which there is no time for individual evidence to be considered properly. In March 2014 a court in Egypt's southern city of Minya passed down 529 execution orders in one go, then just weeks later sentenced 683 to the same fate.

Those who are sentenced to death in Egypt face hanging, an ancient, barbaric form of execution that snaps the neck and breaks the spinal cord or cuts off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and eventually results in death.

In a 2015 reportReprieve revealed that of the 588 people who had been sentenced to death since 2014 72 % of sentences were administered for attending pro-democracy protests.

Egypt's highest criminal court has also sentenced 5 men to death for killing a policeman in the northern city of Mansoura in 2014 in what became known as the Mansoura 6 case. The policeman was part of Hussein Qandil's protection unit, one of the judges who presided over Mohammed Morsi's trial.

Theirs is a familiar story - confessions were tortured out of them, they were denied access to lawyers, verdicts formed on the evidence of secret sources as well as there being major holes in the case as video evidence did not match up with witness statements.

Despite this, the Mansoura 6 were convicted of premeditated murder, arms possession and forming a terrorist cell with the view to target security forces. Prior to the trial they were forcibly disappeared and then denied medical treatment once in detention. As of June their sentence cannot be appealed.

There are some 60,000 political prisoners in the country. Human rights activists are persecuted by the government and their organizations subject to severe limitations. In May, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi passed the NGO law which will severely restrict the operational capacity of some 47,000 non-governmental organizations.

(source: Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America----The Milli Gazette)


Aus urged to take charge in abolishing death penalty worldwide

The Law Society of South Australia has called for the country to take a lead in global efforts to abolish the death penalty.

In marking the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty this week and the 50th anniversary of the last Australian execution this year, the SA legal body is encouraging citizens to join in the fight to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

"The abolition of the death penalty in Australia has been an important milestone for human rights in this country," said Tony Rossi, president of the SA Law Society.

"As more Australians travel regularly overseas, including to countries where the death penalty remains, Australia must continue to push for the abolition of the death penalty globally. No country should consider itself as having the right to take a human life as a sentencing option."

Research from the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty shows that 104 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and an additional 7 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes except extraordinary crimes (such as those committed in times of war).

However, Mr Rossi explained that the death penalty is still used as a form of punishment in 57 countries and territories. In some countries the death penalty continues to exist as sentencing option in respect of juvenile offenders, he noted.

In addition, Mr Rossi said the death penalty continues to feature as a sentencing option for countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Unfortunately, Australians only too well know of the continued use of the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific. Most Australians would be familiar with the deaths of several Australian citizens, caught up in the legal systems of our neighbours while travelling abroad. These tragic examples have made Australians well aware that the death penalty robs people of the opportunity to rehabilitate, reform, and contribute to society," he said.

"The death penalty is an affront to human worth and dignity. It's absolute, and offers no opportunity for rehabilitation. As such, its continued use inflicts universal injustice, and therefore demands Australia's response.

"We call on the Australian government to make the global abolition of the death penalty a focal point of Australian foreign policy."

(source: Lawyers Weekly)

OCTOBER 12, 2017:

TEXAS----impending executions

Man convicted in Texas prison guard's death to be executed

A Texas death row inmate who sued unsuccessfully to try to halt his execution, arguing that more DNA testing needed to be done, is now trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the punishment scheduled for Thursday.

Robert Pruett was already serving 99 years for a neighbor's killing when he was convicted in the death of a prison guard who was stabbed in an attack that prosecutors say stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter sandwich. Pruett wanted to take the sandwich into a recreation yard against prison rules, they said. An autopsy showed corrections officer Daniel Nagle died of a heart attack brought on by the December 1999 stabbing.

Pruett, 38, has insisted he's innocent of Nagle's death at the McConnell Unit near Beeville, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. He would become the 6th prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other states. Texas executed a total of seven inmates last year.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015 when a state judge halted his punishment just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the tape-wrapped, 7-inch sharpened steel rod used to repeatedly stab the 37-year-old Nagle. The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002. The execution was put on the schedule again.

After seeking even more DNA testing and being rejected by the courts, Pruett's attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August in which they argued that the courts denied Pruett due process. The lawyers asked the federal courts to halt the rescheduled execution, allow the additional DNA testing and then check the results for matches in law enforcement databases.Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit. But Pruett's attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that a lower court judge wrongly rejected the case after sitting on it for 2 months.

In a second appeal to the Supreme Court, also filed on Tuesday, the attorneys asked the high court to revisit the question of whether it is constitutional to execute a prisoner who claims actual innocence because of newly discovered evidence. U.S. Supreme Court justices in 1993 ruled 6-3 in a Texas case that it was constitutional to do so.

State attorneys say Pruett's lawyers have long engaged in "a pattern of delay."

No physical evidence tied Pruett to Nagle's death. At his 2002 trial, prisoners testified that they saw Pruett attack Nagle or heard him talk about wanting to kill the guard. According to some of the testimony, he talked about possessing a weapon as well.

Pruett has said he was framed and that Nagle, an officer for more than 3 years, could have been killed by other inmates or corrupt officers at the McConnell Unit.

"I never killed nobody in my life," Pruett testified at his trial. He said he was in a gym when he learned the officer had been stabbed.

Pruett's 99-year murder sentence that he was already serving was for participating at age 15 with his father and a brother in the 1995 stabbing death of a 29-year-old neighbor, Raymond Yarbrough, at the man's trailer home in Channelview, just east of Houston. Pruett's father, 70-year-old Howard Pruett, is serving life in prison. His brother, 47-year-old Howard Pruett Jr., was sentenced to 40 years.

(source: Associated Press)


Houston serial killer loses appeal 1 week before scheduled execution

With just a week to go before his scheduled execution, Houston serial killer Anthony Shore lost a last-ditch appeal claiming decades-old unrealized brain damage left him so impaired he was not morally culpable for his crimes.

The so-called Tourniquet Killer slated for execution Wednesday was convicted of capital murder in 2004 after he confessed to brutally slaying 4 young women in the Houston area.

In the latest appeal, turned down by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday, Shore's lawyers argued that the extent of his brain damage rendered the execution unconstitutional, likening it to executing an intellectually disabled prisoner.

"Mr. Shore does not claim he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is unintelligent or uncharismatic," his lawyers wrote earlier this month in a court filing.

"Mr. Shore is ineligible for the death penalty because his brain injury decreases his moral culpability for his crimes, in the same way that a juvenile, despite intelligence or charisma, is nonetheless ineligible for the death penalty."

But the state's highest criminal court didn't buy into that argument.

"We find that applicant has failed to make a prima facie showing that a person with brain damage, like an intellectually disabled person, should be categorically exempt from execution," the court wrote in its decision.

"Accordingly, we dismiss this application as an abuse of the writ without reviewing the merits of the claim raised."

The failed appeal follows another courtroom disappointment, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied without comment his petition for writ of certiorari which, if granted, would have required a lower court to reconsider a request for appeal. Even before the court issued its decision, Shore's attorney, K. Knox Nunnally, admitted "the odds are not in our favor."

Now, Shore's hope rests on a clemency application filed with the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Nunnally did not offer comment about Tuesday's decision.

Currently the only Houston killer with a scheduled execution, the 55-year-old was convicted of one killing in 2004, though he confessed to 3 others.

Shore's murderous rampage started in 1986, when he slaughtered 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay. 6 years later, he raped and murdered 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada. In 1994, he killed 9-year-old Diana Rebollar, a year before slaying 16-year-old Dana Sanchez.

The cases went unsolved for nearly 2 decades, until Shore had to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of molesting 2 family members.

Eventually, authorities linked Shore's newly registered DNA to evidence from the cold cases. When they brought the former telephone technician in for questioning, he calmly confessed to a string of rapes and murder in the Harris County area.

Now, he's scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Texas attorneys brace for new round of death penalty appeals after intellectual disability ruling

Tomas Gallo smiled and laughed as Harris County jurors decided his fate for the rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.

Gallo had covered the girl's body with bruises and bite marks before sexually assaulting and bludgeoning her while her mother was at work just a few days before Christmas in 2001. He then cleaned up the blood-spattered bathroom, dressed the child in clean clothes and called her mother to say the girl was not breathing.

Jurors agreed he should be sentenced to death, despite his lawyers' arguments that he was intellectually disabled.

Now, however, Gallo and at least 9 other death row inmates from across Texas - including 5 others from Harris County - are seeking to have their death sentences thrown out in exchange for life in prison under a ruling earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court that changed how Texas determines intellectual disability.

Some, including Gallo, could eventually walk free, since life without parole was not an option in Texas when they were convicted.

"When we think about it, it just tears us up again," said Rosa Flores, the child's paternal grandmother. "I don't feel that this young man has any kind of problem. He might have a low IQ but that doesn't mean he's stupid or dumb. He knows what he's doing."

Their fears are echoed among other families awaiting execution of a capital murderer, said Andy Kahan, victim's advocate for the city of Houston.

Life or death?

A March ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could lead to new sentences for at least 10 death row inmates in Texas. The court, which in 2002 prohibited execution of mentally ill inmates, ruled that the state must rely on professional evaluations in determining intellectually disability. At least five of the cases under review are from Harris County:

Harris County

Joel Escobedo, 55, shot a man during a robbery at a bus stop in 1998.

Tomas Gallo, 42, raped and fatally beat his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter 2003.

Joseph Jean, 45, beat 2 teenage girls to death after breaking into his ex-girlfriend's home in 2010.

Harlem Lewis, 26, shot a police officer and a good samaritan after a police chase in 2012.

Bobby Moore, 57, shot a grocery store clerk during a robbery in 1980.

Bexar County

Obie Weathers, 36, killed a bartender while robbing a bar in 2000 in San Antonio.

North and Central Texas

James Henderson, 44, fatally shot 85-year-old while burglarizing her home in 1993.

Steven Long, 46, raped and killed an 11-year-old girl in 2005.

Naim Rasool Muhammad, 38, drowned his 2 sons in a creek in 2011.

Us Carnell Petetan, 41, murdered his estranged wife in Waco in 2012.

"There's a lull where you're waiting on justice, for maybe a decade, and you're riding that roller coaster and all of a sudden that coaster gets taken down because you're right back in court again," Kahan said. "And you have to re-live all the nightmares of what happened to your family."

The U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 2002 for people with intellectual disabilities, but left it up to states to set standards for determining disability. A follow-up ruling by the Supreme Court in March in a different Harris County case overturned Texas' method for determining intellectual disability, saying it was out of date and ineffective.

The March ruling left Texas prosecutors and defense attorneys scrambling to review cases, some dating back decades. Harris County has 82 inmates on death row, though it remains unclear how many cases in Houston or across Texas will be affected by the ruling.

Attorneys on both sides are bracing for what could be a wave of appeals, with some putting the number in the dozens.

"They could be looking at a nightmare," said Tom Moran, a Houston criminal defense and appellate attorney who is representing another inmate, Joel Escobedo, in his attempt to get his death penalty overturned.

District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office is keeping a close eye on the legal developments and she is sympathetic to the families of the victims.

"Taking a person's life is the most serious action a government can take against an individual," Ogg said, "and we are making every effort to ensure that offender's Constitutional rights are respected."

Moore and the law

The March ruling came in the case of Bobby Moore, convicted of capital murder in the death of a Houston store clerk in April 1980.

Moore, now 57, shot and killed 73-year-old James McCarble at Birdsall Super Market near Memorial Park, a store he and 2 accomplices picked because 2 elderly people were running the customer-service booth and the cashier was pregnant. After shooting McCarble with a shotgun, Moore fled and was arrested 10 days later in Louisiana.

He was sentenced to die by lethal injection.

His attorneys appealed the conviction, arguing that the judge and jury should have considered his intellectual disability as outlined in a landmark 2002 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that prohibited execution of the intellectually disabled.

The ruling stemmed from the conviction of Daryl Atkins, a mentally disabled Virginia man who was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of an air force serviceman in 1996.

The Atkins decision set off waves of appeals by inmates, many of whom had their death sentences changed to life in prison. At least 15 Texas inmates were removed from death row for being mentally disabled in the wake of the decision, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

To qualify for the Atkins exemption, inmates must have a low IQ, typically under 70, and significant problems adapting to their surroundings that were evident even in childhood. Figuring out how to determine that fell to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which adopted a seven-pronged test to determine intellectual disability in the state.

The test, named after plaintiff Jose Briseno, referenced Lennie, the fictional character from John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men," as someone most Texans would agree should be exempt from the death penalty.

The "Briseno factors," as they came to be known, consisted of 7 questions to help courts decide whether someone shows "adaptive behavior" that suggests they are not intellectually disabled. The questions ranged from whether someone can lie effectively to whether his conduct shows leadership.

In Moore's case, however, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in a 5-3 majority opinion that the Texas courts relied too heavily on IQ scores and non-clinical evaluations by judges. She said the state should have used evaluations by mental health professionals to determine intellectual disability.

Moore's precedent-setting case was sent back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has yet to issue a ruling on how the state's courts will determine intellectual disability.

In the meantime, other death row inmates are asking for reconsideration of their sentences.

Joshua Reiss, head of the post-conviction writs division at the Harris County District Attorney's office, has been notified that at least three inmates, including Gallo, are appealing under the March ruling. He said he expects 6 to 10 death row inmates from Harris County to appeal over the next few years. Even though they are being appealed under the same decision, he said each one would be different.

"They're very fact-intensive, they're going to be expert-intensive," he said. "We're going to take each one individually."

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the San Antonio case of convicted killer Obie Weathers back to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to be reevaluated under the new law.

Local cases affected

The 1st Houston case reconsidered under the Moore ruling was Robert James Campbell.

Mental health professionals on both sides agreed that he was mentally disabled. In a plea deal designed to make sure he never leaves prison despite being eligible for parole, he ended up with a life sentence earlier this year.

The new sentence was accepted bitterly by the family of his victim, Alexandra Rendon, a 20-year-old bank teller who was abducted from a gas station, raped and killed.

"To me, it's an extremely borderline case of whether Robert James Campbell is mentally well for execution," Israel Santana, Rendon's cousin, said at the time. "Me and my family, we strongly believe that he is. But in no way do we want to be a part of executing someone who is questionable."

Santana, an attorney, said he and his family have a duty to follow the law.

"As much as it hurts, we accept the State of Texas and the Supreme Court's ruling taking Robert James Campbell off death row," he said with tears in his eyes. "There are laws left and right that we may not agree with, but we have to abide by."

Gallo and two other condemned men, Harlem Lewis and Joseph Jean, have notified the Harris County District Attorney's Office they will also seek to have their death penalty sentences overturned.

Lawyers for Gallo argued during trial that someone else in the family killed the young girl. After he was convicted of capital murder, they argued that he was too mentally disabled to execute.

"It's not an act," said A. Richard Ellis, Gallo's appellate attorney. "Someone can't just rig up an (intellectual disability) claim after the fact and make it fit the law. He had abysmal school performance, was in special education and on and on. This is an ongoing disability."

The prosecutors who put Gallo on death row, who no longer work at the Harris County DA's office, did not return calls and emails. At trial, prosecutors and the jury relied on the Briseno test to determine that Gallo was not disabled.

In a more recent case, Lewis, now 26, landed on death row for gunning down Bellaire Police Officer Jimmie Norman and good Samaritan Terry Taylor after a police chase in 2012.

Lewis testified in his own defense that he was scared after a police chase and shot both men after a struggle to get him out of his car. His attorneys did not raise his intellectual capacity at trial but the issue is allowed in his appeal.

"A lot of us have the idea that if someone's not drooling in the corner, they can't have intellectual disability," said Gretchen Sween, an appellate attorney for Lewis. "Harlem Lewis's case shows that somebody can successfully mask all kinds of things, and it takes an expert to go in and investigate and understand what adaptive deficits mean."

In another case that is being appealed, Joseph Francois Jean, 45, landed on death row in 2011. He broke in to the home of an ex-girlfriend he was stalking and, finding just her teenage daughter and niece having a sleepover, beat the teens to death with a baseball bat on April 11, 2010. He then set the townhouse on fire using gasoline and fled. He was convicted of killing Chelsey Lang, 17, and her cousin, 16-year-old Ashley Johnson.

Those cases could be just the beginning. Attorneys who work on death penalty appeals agree there could be 8 to 12 more Harris County cases in which the new rule applies.

"If there's one case that would be affected by this, I'd be thrilled," said defense attorney Pat McCann. "And I'm pretty sure there's a dozen."

Other cases

Other cases are also working their way through the state and federal courts.

Attorney Moran has filed an appeal in federal court for Escobedo, who was convicted in 1999 of robbing and killing a 65-year-old man for drug money at an East End bus stop. Guadalupe Garcia was pistol-whipped, robbed, then shot.

In his pleadings, Moran cited 2 other death row inmates whose cases involved claims of intellectual disability: Raymond Martinez and James Henderson.

Martinez's case was closed in August when the 71-year-old died of natural causes after three decades on death row. A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with an IQ of 65, he was convicted of a 1983 crime spree that left 5 people dead. He died with claims still pending that he was mentally disabled.

Henderson, 44, was convicted in 1994 of shooting 85-year-old Martha Lennox while burglarizing her Clarksville home in East Texas. He was convicted in Bowie County.

Sween, an attorney for the state's Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, said the agency is handling at least 5 cases stemming from the Moore ruling.

"We shouldn't let unscientific biases come into play in this really important question," she said. "We should listen to what the scientists tell us about how you diagnose somebody."

Looking ahead

Death penalty opponents have cheered the Moore decision, saying courts have a tendency to look at a defendant's strengths and rule that they are not mentally disabled, rather than look at the disability.

"Based on Justice Ginsberg's opinion, you have to use the best medical standards available and focus on the disabilities to determine whether someone meets the standard," said McCann, Moore's attorney. "That's a game-changer because the courts have tended to put their thumb on the scale towards any showing of strength or some competency in some field as negating retardation, and that's just not how one determines that."

But critics argue that reducing old capital murder convictions obtained before the state's "life without parole" law was passed in 2005 means killers who have been behind bars for decades are eligible almost immediately for parole.

In most death penalty cases that have been changed to life sentences, defense attorneys work with prosecutors to craft elaborate sentencing arrangements to ensure that the former death row inmate never walks free. The common goal, both sides agree, is making sure killers never get out of prison, even if they get off death row.

But it's still possible.

In Campbell's case, District Attorney Ogg has promised to protest any possible parole. Similar arrangements are likely to materialize as other cases are considered in light of the new ruling.

In Gallo's case, the victim's family remains unconvinced that he is so mentally disabled that he should not be executed.

He has apparently been able to make jailhouse wine and give himself a jailhouse tattoo with a makeshift tattoo gun, said Flores, the child's grandmother.

"I don't think his IQ is all that low because he's got common sense," she said. "If you've got common sense, you've got a lot going for you."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Death Watch: Next Up, the Tourniquet Killer----Convicted strangler set for execution on Oct. 18

Time is running out for convicted serial killer Anthony Shore. Dubbed the "Tourniquet Killer" due to his predilection for strangling victims between 1986 and 1995, Shore's most recent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied on Oct. 2. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a motion for a last minute stay on Wednesday, and the Houston killer will face execution next Wednesday, Oct. 18. Though Shore was only convicted on one count of capital murder in 2004, he confessed to the killing and rape of several other girls, ranging in age from 9 to 21. On Sept. 12, Shore filed an appeal with the CCA that claimed he suffers from brain injuries incurred in a 1981 car accident. The state followed with a motion to dismiss his appeal and stay the request on the grounds that Shore has been diagnosed as a psychopath: That is "what someone is, not what someone becomes," read the motion. The state also referenced Shore's childhood history of sexual violence.

Shore was caught nearly a decade after what investigators believe was his last kill; he was arrested in the late 90s for sexually assaulting his 2 daughters. But because of Houston's notoriously dysfunctional crime lab, there wasn't a CODIS hit on his DNA until 2003, after a sample of one of his victim's DNA was outsourced to a different crime lab for testing. If Robert Pruett is indeed executed today, Thursday, Oct. 12 (see "Death Watch," Oct. 6), Shore is in line to be the 7th Texan to be killed this year.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Former Austin officer accused of murder may face death penalty, experts say----VonTrey Clark is charged with murder in the death of Crime Victims Counselor Samantha Dean outside of Bastrop.

A Bastrop county judge has set a trial date in one of the region's most high-profile murder cases in recent years.

Opening statements in the trial of former Austin police officer VonTrey Clark will start March 19, according to a judge's order, in the death of crime victims counselor Samantha Dean. Jury selection will begin Feb. 6 and will include individual interviews with prospective jurors, which legal experts said is an indication that prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

Clark is charged with capital murder in the death of Dean, who worked for the Kyle Police Department.

Clark is accused of killing Dean, who was 7 months pregnant, because she would not terminate her pregnancy.

He then fled to Indonesia, where federal officials captured him and returned him to Bastrop County.

A trial date for a co-defendant, Kevin Watson, has not been set.

(source: KVUE TV news)


Florida Could Become the First State to Execute Drug Dealers----Selling fentanyl to someone who dies is now 1st-degree murder. But how do you prove it? That's a life-or-death question for Tamas Harris.

Sonny Priest's friend found him dead in his home in Altamonte Springs, Florida, the week before Christmas 2016. Priest had overdosed on alprazolam, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl, a medical examiner ruled.

6 months after Priest's death, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law expanding the state's 1st-degree murder code to include selling a lethal dose of fentanyl. The law, which only applies to adults, took effect Oct. 1. Priest's alleged dealer, Tamas Harris, was 8 days into adulthood when Priest died. This month, 18-year-old Harris will go to court an accused murderer. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Florida law already allowed dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin to be charged with 1st-degree murder when their drugs led to fatal overdose. But overdose rates have skyrocketed in the state with the proliferation of fentanyl, a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl and heroin are sometimes combined without the buyer or distributor's knowledge, creating a cocktail of indeterminate strength.

"Most deaths we've seen since the rise of fentanyl in Florida have been a mixture of heroin and fentanyl," said Greg Newburn, Florida's state policy director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a sentencing reform group.

Florida's new law doesn't care whether or not dealers know their drugs are laced with fentanyl. As long as a fatal mixture contained any amount of fentanyl, the dealer can be charged with 1st-degree murder, a charge for which "the only 2 sentences available are life without parole and the death penalty," Newburn said.

In text messages before Priest's death, he and Harris only discussed heroin. Priest ordered 7 bags of heroin the morning of his death, according to texts included in a warrant for Harris' arrest.

Late that evening when a friend went to check on Priest, he found him dead in his bedroom. A medical examiner ruled that Priest had died from a combination of alprazolam, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl - a dangerous combination. The mixture of heroin with a tranquilizer like alprazolam is a common recipe for overdose, with the 2 sedative drugs combining to shut down the respiratory system.

Harris has entered a plea of not guilty in Priest's death. His lawyer argues that prosecutors cannot prove Harris sold the drugs that ultimately led to Priest's overdose.

In an attempt to prove Harris sold the drugs that killed Priest, police convinced Priest's friend to text Harris under the guise of buying drugs. "Is this new? I don't want that fire Sonny [Priest] last got from you," the friend texted Harris.

Harris confirmed that he was selling a different batch. After the deal was completed, police arrested Harris and tested his drugs. They tested positive for heroin, not fentanyl, according to an arrest report.

"Alleged dealers like Harris could be charged with murder regardless of their intent to sell fentanyl"

Like many street-level dealers, Harris might not have known the exact composition of his drugs, which appeared to vary between alleged sales. But under the new law, alleged dealers like Harris could be charged with murder regardless of their intent or lack of intent to sell fentanyl.

"One of the problems with the bill is there's no intent requirement for any of it," Newburn said. "The way the statute reads, it's unlawful distribution of this substance or any mixture of this substance."

One possible saving grace in Harris' case is the date of his alleged sale. He allegedly sold drugs to Priest in December, nearly a year before Florida's new sentencing law for fentanyl overdoses went into effect.

"If the cause of death is the fentanyl, I'm not sure he can be charged with murder because fentanyl was not in the list of drugs that could be listed as a predicate for murder until Oct. 1," Newburn said. "If it was heroin, or another drug that was already listed, then they could charge it as 1st-degree murder."

A medical examiner ruled the proximate cause of death in Priest's case to be heroin and fentanyl, claiming that the alprazolam and cocaine in Priest's system would not have killed him on their own.

If Harris is convicted of selling a fatal dose of heroin, he could still face the death penalty. But if the prosecution's case relies on Harris' alleged fentanyl sale, he could be the last alleged fentanyl dealer in Florida to avoid life in jail or the death penalty in a fatal overdose case.

Harris' family has already lost a teenage son. In January 2016, his 15-year-old brother Tamar died when a person fired into his car in broad daylight. In a press conference, Harris' mother pleaded for the shooter to come forward, while another boy who looked like Tamas Harris cried in a relative's arms behind her.

Nearly 2 years later, police have made no arrest in Tamar's murder, but Tamas Harris could get the death penalty for his alleged role in a death for which he was not present.

(source: The Daily Beast)


Ian Howard indicted, faces death penalty; speaks in court Wednesday

A grand jury has indicted Ian Paul Howard on a 1st-degree murder charge in connection with the Oct. 1 shooting death of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, a Lafayette police officer.

District Attorney Keith Stutes said he will seek a "capital verdict" against Howard, and later confirmed his office plans to seek the death penalty.

Howard, 27, is accused of killing Cpl. Middlebrook when he responded to an assault call at a Moss Street convenience store.

The grand jury also indicted Howard of three counts of attempted 1st degree murder. 2 of the reported victims are civilians, and the 3rd is a police officer.

A bond has not yet been set on the 1st-degree murder charge. A bond hearing will not be held until after Howard's arraignment, which is set for Oct. 24.

Lafayette police shooting suspect 'under the care of medical personnel'

Stephen Singer, an attorney for Howard, asked for the later bond hearing because he said he was not aware of the indictment until Stutes presented it during a Wednesday hearing.

Howard appeared in court Wednesday for what was originally slated to be a hearing on several motions filed by Singer last week.

He was escorted into Judge Jules Edwards' courtroom with heavy shackles and a protective vest. Multiple deputies were positioned inside the courtroom and outside the courthouse before, during and after the proceedings.

Howard no longer wore the head bandages he had on in his booking photo, but there were still small cuts and bruises on his face and under his eyes.

There did not appear to be any relatives of Howard in the courtroom.

Howard directly addressed Edwards several times, first saying he did not want Singer and Elliott Brown, both of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, to represent him.

"I've never hired him as a lawyer, no," Howard said of Singer.

Howard said he had spoken briefly to someone from the local public defender's office shortly after his arrest, and indicated he wanted that person to represent him.

However, he also said he was not indigent and had the money to hire his own attorney. When Edwards asked how much money Howard had available, he said he could not remember. Howard said he had one or two friends who are attorneys who would represent him for free, but could not immediately provide their names or phone numbers.

"I haven't gotten to make any phone calls," Howard told Edwards, who offered to let Howard call an attorney Wednesday.

Details emerge about man charged with killing police officer

Edwards ultimately allowed Howard time to consult with Singer, Brown and Chad Ikerd, an attorney with the 15th Judicial District Public Defender's Office. Following that consultation, Ikerd said Howard had agreed to let Singer and Brown represent him, at least for the time being, and had signed a document to that effect.

Edwards granted a motion from Singer asking the state to preserve all physical and scientific evidence in the case. Stutes had no objection.

(source: Daily Advertiser)


Accused killer's grim past influences death penalty decision----Rape victim says accused killer held her hostage years ago

A man charged with a Price Hill murder is now facing the death penalty, in part because of his past.

Gary Box, 41, is accused of murdering Tanisha Huff on Elberon Avenue Friday, but an unrelated rape case from 2001 is playing a role in why he will face capital punishment.

"11th grade high school, I was at the bus stop and he basically approached me and asked me for the time," said Caseya Brown, who talked without shielding her identity.

Remembering the incident from 16 years ago, Brown said Box's demeanor suddenly changed and he told her he had a gun.

"He told me to come with him and he ended up wrapping his hand around my neck," Brown said.

She was forced to a nearby vacant apartment where Box had apparently been staying illegally.

Brown said Box didn't have a gun, but pulled a knife.

"He just kept (me) at knifepoint 7 to 8 hours, the whole school day," Brown said.

Throughout the time she was there, she was raped "about a dozen times," Brown said.

Box made sure she couldn't escape.

"He tied me up. He cut off the extension cords to the TV and the fans and tied me up, tied my hands and my feet up," Brown said.

She only escaped when someone knocked on the door and Box ran out the back.

That was the last time Brown saw Box for another 3 or 4 years, until one day when she was at a park and heard a familiar question from a man.

"The man came from behind and asked me the same question, 'Do you know the time?'" Brown said. "I didn't recognize the voice, but when I turned around, my friend must have recognized the shock in my face."

It was Box.

Brown called police and Box was arrested. Faced with the DNA evidence, Box pleaded guilty.

He was still on parole for rape and kidnapping convictions when he allegedly shot Huff.

(source: WLWT news)


Hundley back in court bickering with judge in death penalty case

A man who wants the right to represent himself in his death penalty case bickered Wednesday with a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Lance Hundley, 47, accused of the November 2015 beating death of Erika Huff and the attempted murder of her mother, complained to Judge Maureen Sweeney in a pretrial hearing that his former attorneys, who are now on stand by, have failed to perform several duties for him, such as sending letters or acquiring documents.

Judge Sweeney curtly told Hundley that now that he is own attorney, those are his responsibilities.

Hundley is set to go on trial in January for Huff's death.

(source: vindy.indicator)


Killer claims he's too ill to be executed

Death-row inmate Alva Campbell, once dubbed "the poster child for the death penalty" for a deadly carjacking outside the Franklin County Courthouse 20 years ago, is now too sick to be put to death, his attorneys and advocates say.

The convicted killer is slated for execution Nov. 15, but Campbell has so much fluid in his lungs that he can't lie flat on the execution table for a lethal injection, one of his attorneys, David Stebbins, said Tuesday.

"He'll start gasping and choking," Stebbins said.

Stebbins said that for Campbell to sleep in prison, "he has to prop himself up on his side. It's not very good."

Stebbins said he has communicated his concerns to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which didn't immediately respond to questions about how to deal with Campbell's condition.

Campbell, 69, has twice been convicted of murder, most recently in the 1997 execution-style slaying of 18-year-old Charles Dials behind a K-Mart store on South High Street.

Long before that, Campbell had cardiopulmonary issues that in the past few years have become debilitating, his attorneys say. Most of his right lung has been removed, and he has emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and possibly cancer in much of his remaining lung tissue, Campbell's application for executive clemency says. In addition, his prostate gland has been removed, as has a gangrenous colon. A broken hip last year has confined him to a walker.

"The severity of these combined illnesses have left Alva debilitated and fragile," Campbell's clemency application says. "Alva's deteriorating physical condition further militates in favor of clemency."

The health claims are only one reason why Campbell and his attorneys are asking that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. They also cite the "nightmare" childhood that Campbell suffered at the hands of an alcoholic father who was both physically and sexually abusive.

If Gov. John Kasich doesn't want to commute Campbell's sentence, delaying his sentence would have the same effect because the inmate will die soon, advocates said.

"He's probably in the poorest health of any living death-row inmate in the country," said Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions.

A spokesman for Kasich couldn't be reached Tuesday.

Campbell is scheduled for a clemency hearing Thursday. A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that, in advance of the hearing, his office will file a response rebutting the claims made in Campbell's application.

Campbell argues that poor health is one reason he shouldn't be put to death, but he used an earlier, false health claim to commit the crime that put him on death row.

Campbell feigned paralysis from a glancing bullet wound suffered during a robbery arrest. As Campbell was being taken to the Franklin County Courthouse for a hearing on April 2, 1997, he sprang from his wheelchair, overpowered a deputy sheriff, took her gun and fled.

He then carjacked Dials, who was at the courthouse to pay a traffic ticket. After driving Dials around for hours, Campbell ordered him onto the floor of his truck and shot him twice.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who at the time of Campbell's trial called him "the poster child for the death penalty," couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment.

Campbell is not the first condemned man in Ohio to use ill health to argue that he should be spared from execution. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Richard Cooey's claim that he was too obese to be executed. Cooey said his obesity could make it difficult for executioners to find a vein for a lethal injection. He was executed that year.

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)


Indiana lawmakers consider changes to death penalty law

In just a couple months, lawmakers could make recommendations to change the state's death penalty law.

It goes back to a bill that failed last year that would have put new restrictions on when prosecutors could seek the death penalty if the defendant suffered from mental health issues.

Indiana has executed nearly 100 Hoosiers since 1897. The last one was nearly a decade ago. Right now, 13 inmates sit on death row.

"The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst, not people acting on false stimuli," said Barbara Moser, the executive director at NAMI Indiana, a part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Last year, a bill failed that would have exempted defendants from the death penalty if they suffered from mental illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

Lawmakers got a science lesson Wednesday on why to possibly reconsider. Neuro-anatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor said the brains of people suffering from schizophrenia or PTSD will not necessarily process right from wrong easily.

"If I'm hearing the voice of God that's telling me 'I'm Jesus' or 'I'm Michael,' then I am going to hold myself to the standard of that delusional system over what I'm going to hold as far as mankind is concerned," she said.

Several mental health experts testified the state could save millions in legal costs if the cases were tried with a maximum penalty of life without parole.

There are a couple prosecutors seeking capital punishment right now.

In Marion County, Jason Brown is accused of murdering Southport Police Lt. Aaron Allan.

In Boone County, Zachariah Wright could face the death penalty for reportedly murdering a 73-year-old man and trying to rape and set his wife on fire.

"As Indiana prosecutors, we do view the death penalty as a measure that should only be imposed on the worst of the worst," said Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer.

Meyer said the state's legal system allows defendants to challenge the decision, with the courts sometimes ruling in their favor.

"I think our system works very well in this state," he said.

Lawmakers have their opinions, too. State Rep. Thomas Washburne, a Republican from Inglefield, said to be exempt from the death penalty, the defendant should be diagnosed with psychotic features or losing contact with reality in addition to the mental illness.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said the death penalty should be abolished because it is so expensive.

(source: WISH TV news)


Former Arkansas death row inmate freed after 16 years in custody; charges dropped in mutilation case

After more than 16 years in custody, including as many as 12 on death row, Rickey Dale Newman walked out of the Crawford County jail Wednesday a free man.

Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell signed an order approving a motion by special prosecutor Ron Fields to dismiss the 1st-degree murder charge against Newman in the Feb. 7, 2001, mutilation slaying of fellow transient Marie Cholette, 46, at a camp on the western edge of Van Buren.

Standing outside the county jail Wednesday afternoon wearing a dark gray sweatsuit and slippers and sporting a scruffy gray beard and glasses, Newman said it felt good to be free again.

"I'm a little nervous," he said. "I mean, I've been locked up for 16 years, 7 months and 9 days. I have no idea what this world is all about."

Asked what it was like on death row, Newman said it was something he had to "deal with" every day.

"You have no feelings," Newman said. "You're dead."

Newman was waiting with court-appointed attorney Julie Brain for his brother to arrive and said he was heading to the Veterans Affairs hospital. He suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and the sheriff's office has provided his medication since the summer of 2015.

Newman indicated he didn't know where he would go from there, but he said he was not going to remain in the area.

In a letter dated Tuesday to Cottrell explaining his reasons for requesting dismissal of the charge, Fields wrote that the Sept. 21 opinion by the Arkansas Supreme Court barred the state from introducing at Newman's retrial confessions he made to police after his arrest in 2001.

The state had presented Newman's confession to a jury during his 1-day capital-murder trial June 10, 2002. Also during the trial, Newman, acting as his own attorney, told jurors he killed Cholette and wanted to be sentenced to death.

According to court records, Newman testified before the jury that he killed Cholette because she falsely represented herself as a member of a transient rail riding group he called the FTRA and had hurt one of its members during an altercation.

The jury convicted Newman and, on the basis of the jury's recommendation, Circuit Judge Floyd "Pete" Rogers sentenced him to death.

Newman was in the state prison system from June 11, 2002, to Feb. 14, 2014, according to the state Department of Correction, but it could not be determined whether he spent all that time on death row.

In January 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court threw out his conviction and death sentence, ruling that Newman suffered from mental disease and defects. The court ordered Newman back to Crawford County, where he was to be rendered competent and retried.

It was that 2014 ruling that Cottrell relied on in January to bar Fields from using Newman's confession in his retrial. Fields appealed Cottrell's decision to the state Supreme Court, and it denied the appeal in the Sept. 21 opinion.

The mandate for the opinion was filed Wednesday, returning jurisdiction for the case back to Crawford County and opening the door for Fields to file the motion to dismiss the murder charge.

"The Supreme Court's opinion will prevent all these incriminating statements from being introduced into evidence at any new trial," Fields wrote in his letter to Cottrell. "Without this evidence, it is my belief that sufficient evidence does not exist at this time to retry the case."

Fields said in a telephone interview Wednesday that while he did not have enough evidence to retry Newman, he didn't think police investigators made a mistake in arresting Newman in 2001.

"I found no need to look for other suspects, as I believe they had found the correct one at the time," he said.

Fields wrote to Cottrell that he did not make the decision to dismiss the case lightly. "Lengthy and strenuous investigation" was undertaken by the Van Buren Police Department, the Arkansas State Police and the state Crime Laboratory, Fields wrote.

Fields said in his letter that in preparing for trial, he had asked the state police to search the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, a large repository of major violent crime cases, to try to determine if other crimes of the type Newman was accused of had been committed around the country.

Court records showed that Cholette was killed Feb. 7, 2001. Her body was found in a tent at a transient camp known as the Benny Billy camp. Billy found her body Feb. 15, 2001. Cholette was wearing only a shirt and wrapped in several blankets.

According to the records, Cholette's sexual organs and anus had been severely mutilated and her nipples were cut off. Foreign material had been placed inside her pelvic area. Her jawbone was broken, and her dental plate was lodged in her throat. Her throat was cut, and there were several stab wounds in her chest.

Her sternum had been cut open and there was a large, gaping wound from her chest to her pelvic bone. Her pelvic bone had been cut through. There also was evidence of defensive wounds that indicated Cholette put up a struggle before she died, the records said.

"Based on my experience, it was clear that whoever perpetrated this crime would have committed other crimes of a similar nature if they were still at large in the public," Fields wrote. "The results of the search were that no other crimes matched the type of violence displayed in this case."

Fields wrote that he asked investigators to inventory the case evidence in the Police Department's evidence locker and to determine whether any other DNA testing was needed on any items. Several items were tested, he wrote, but results showed they "were not of evidentiary value at this time."

DNA testing on hair samples showed they did not connect Newman to Cholette as was presented to jurors in the original trial, Fields' letter said.

Fields noted that he found no indication police in the initial investigation made any mistakes or errors and that the investigation was conducted with "professional and competent performance."

Cholette's sister, Denise Cholette of Utica, Mich., said Wednesday that she was sad there was not enough evidence to try Newman, especially given that he was the last person to be seen with her sister.

Police had recovered video from a Fort Smith liquor store just across the Arkansas River from Van Buren that showed Newman and Cholette together on Feb. 7, 2001.

Denise Cholette said she didn't plan to tell Marie Cholette's 2 daughters, Angela Robinson and Danielle Soule, about the dismissal of Newman's charges because of the effect it would have on them.

"It was a difficult time in my life to lose my childhood playmate," Denise Cholette said of her sister's death.

She said she also believed that her sister's death caused the death of their mother. She said her mother, Ruth, grieved deeply after learning of Marie Cholette's death and died of a heart attack about a year later.

Even though they didn't have a body, Marie Cholette's family gathered in a Michigan church after her death for a service, Denise Cholette said. She said her sister's ashes were sent to her about a year after her death, and she keeps the urn in her basement.

The family never knew why Marie Cholette became a transient, Denise Cholette said. She once worked for Lockheed Missile and Space Co., in Bremerton, Wash., but lost it when violence in her marriage caused her to lose her security clearance.

The family lost track of her as she wandered the country with a succession of boyfriends, Denise Cholette said.

The last time she saw her sister was in the late 1990s when Marie Cholette and a boyfriend named Tom arrived at her home. Denise Cholette said she offered her sister a condo to live in as long as she would get a job to support herself. Marie Cholette chose to go off with her boyfriend, Denise Cholette said.

Records show she arrived in Van Buren in late January 2001 with another boyfriend, John Evans. They were arrested Jan. 23, 2001, for public intoxication. Cholette got out of jail the next day, but Evans remained locked up after hitting a jailer. Cholette stayed in Van Buren to wait for his release.

After his conviction, Newman sought to forgo his appeals and be executed. Murder convictions are automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court. After the court affirmed his conviction in September 2003, the justices determined Newman was mentally competent at his 2002 trial and granted his request to drop further appeals and dissolve his execution stay.

His execution was set for July 26, 2005, but four days before it was to be carried out, he allowed federal public defenders Bruce Eddy and Brain to file a request in federal court on his behalf to stay his execution.

In a hearing for that stay before U.S.District Judge Robert Dawson in November 2007, a neuropsychologist and a psychiatrist testified that Newman suffered from mental illnesses and cognitive deficits that made it impossible for him to rationally waive his appeals.

Court records show a psychological report on Newman that included a lengthy description of his early life.

From interviews with Newman's family, the report said, Newman had been physically and psychologically abused as a child. Newman and several of his siblings were beaten seriously and often by a man who lived with their mother.

A sister of Newman recalled the man would hold the children, including Newman, upside down with one hand and beat them with the other.

Newman also was tied up outside for hours. He and other siblings were left for long periods without food, and the man sometimes would taunt them with food but not give them any.

His mother, Ruby Inez Ross, regarded her children as a nuisance, the report said, and was quick to anger and lashed out physically at them. She died of cancer in 1969, with Newman and his siblings listening to her screams of pain that morphine could not ease, the report said.

Mentally impaired, Newman could not grasp his lessons in school. At 16 he began to run away, ride around the country in train box cars, do simple manual labor, panhandle, search dumpsters and get charitable and government assistance.

He joined the Marines for one year and received an honorable discharge.

In the effort to restore Newman to competence after his conviction and death sentence were reversed, Cottrell ordered Newman to be sent to the State Hospital for treatment and evaluation.

After 3 stays at the State Hospital over nearly 2 years, during which Newman refused to cooperate at his attorney's instruction, Cottrell declared Newman fit to proceed in November 2015 to be retried.

Progress on the case was further slowed when it took more than a year to reach a resolution of Newman's motion to bar his confession from trial.



Racial disparity led to ban of death penalty in territorial Alaska

A man accused of murdering his wife aboard a cruise ship in Southeast Alaska waters could face the death penalty. But it's a long process and it may be unlikely to end in the defendant's death.

In July, Kristy Manzanares was found dead in the couple's cabin aboard the Emerald Princess. They were on an Alaska cruise celebrating their wedding anniversary.

According to court records, her blood was everywhere, including on her husband. The cruise ship diverted to Juneau, docked, and federal authorities investigated the scene and interviewed more than 100 witness.

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Kenneth Ray Manzanares is awaiting federal trial on 1st-degree murder charges, and the prosecution is considering whether it will seek the death penalty.

Federal Public Defender Rich Curtner has been with the District of Alaska office since 1992.

"Somebody can be charged with murder in the 1st degree, but before the government could seek a death penalty at sentencing, they'd have to go through this process where the Department of Justice would have to authorize it," he said.

Curtner, who is also the board president of Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, said that process can take 2 to 3 months. The U.S. Attorney's office investigates and makes the final decision.

Curtner's office is representing Manzanares, so he couldn't speak about that case specifically, but he said the death penalty has been authorized in just a few Alaska cases since he became a federal public defender here. But they were all resolved without the death penalty.

As a state, Alaska has never had capital punishment available at criminal sentencing. You have to go back to the end of the territorial days under federal jurisdiction to find the last person executed.

In the early 1990s, some lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to establish a state death penalty. Averil Lerman, then a civil attorney, was inspired to research the history of executions in the territory. An interest in the case of the last man put to death in territorial Alaska prompted her to find out more.

She later became a criminal defense attorney and specialized in examining convictions and writing appeals.

"I learned many things that helped inform my feeling about what had happened to the last man. I did an oral history of the death penalty in Juneau," she said. "There were 3 executions in Juneau in 1939, 1948 and 1950."

When Lerman retired after practicing law in Alaska for more than 30 years, she devoted more time to researching. The racial demographics of those executed troubled her.

"The fact is that after 1902, all of the people who were executed in Alaska were either racial minorities or ethnic minorities."

The last 3 men executed in the territory were an Alaska Native and 2 black men.

Lerman said prejudice and poor legal training on the part of the defense lawyers were mostly to blame. She said the lawyers just weren't very good at writing appeals.

3 men were hung in Fairbanks in the 1920s. But after that, the 4th Judicial District didn't put anyone else to death. The last man executed in the territory was in Juneau in 1950

7 years later, the territorial Legislature banned capital punishment.

"I think that one of the things that suggests is that in small communities there's a learning curve about the death penalty and what it feels like to have it, and implement it and to have it live in your town," Lerman said.

Fast forward to today, and the death penalty is again being considered for a case in Alaska.

It would be good to note that Alaska does not have a death penalty.

But if Alaska doesn't have the penalty, how can the Manzanares case be eligible?

The alleged murder happened in territorial waters, so it's under federal jurisdiction. And while Alaska doesn't have the death penalty, federal capital punishment is legal.

If the alleged crime had happened while the ship was docked, the death penalty wouldn't be an issue, because the state would have jurisdiction.

Since 1963, only 3 men have been executed under federal jurisdiction in the entire country. Timothy McVeigh, for example, was one of them. He was convicted and sentenced for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

As of January 2017, there were 63 inmates on federal death row. They include convicted Charleston church shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof and convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Kenneth Manzanares is being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 29.

(source: KTOO news)


The death penalty's ugly, racist roots----Law professor and author Brandon Garrett explains the entrenched racial bias around the death penalty

"There's a long, ugly history of racial bias in the American death penalty," Brandon Garrett, professor of law at the University of Virginia and author of the new book,"End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice," told me in a video interview for Salon.

"The death penalty in the South has roots in lynching," Garrett said.

Garrett's book explains the steps that led to the decline in the death penalty in the United States and how specific reforms can lead to its total extinction.

While Garrett is hopeful that these reforms will translate into lasting changes within the criminal justice system, there are real concerns with the way black and brown defendants are discriminated against within the criminal justice system.

Will sweeping reforms be enough to address the specific disparities people of color face?

For example, Garrett says, there is a "white lives matter more effect" that is commonplace in death sentences. When the victim is white, a defendant is 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim was black. Garrett and many other researchers have found that the race of the victim is a defining factor in death sentences.

The ongoing racial bias in death sentences can be traced to the county-level, where the sentencing is imposed, Garrett points out.

"People think of death penalty states, you really just have death penalty counties," Garrett explained. "There's 31 states that have death penalty on the books," and just a few counties that order them.

In "End of Its Rope" Garrett writes that its the "counties with large black populations that engage in far more death sentencing." He cites Riverside County, California, where from 2010-2015, people of color made up 80 % of those sentenced to death.

"Despite the entrenched racial patterns," Garrett said, "death sentences are disappearing across the country." He added that it "is a phenomenon of a few counties, mostly wealthy counties that feel like they can afford it."

The demise of state-sanctioned death sentences give Garrett hope that racial bias can be addressed and tackled in criminal justice. And at the very least, he sees the national dialogue increasing around the discrimination and persecution faced by people of color.

"There are lots of conversations to have about how to improve the way race plays into our criminal justice system, but you do see it talked more about now," Garrett said. "I think that’s a really positive thing."



UN: 170 Countries Abandoned the Death Penalty

The countries that abolished the death penalty have reached 170. 87% of the death sentences are carried out in 4 countries. They are Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. These figures were released on Tuesday by the United Nations on the World Day against the Death Penalty - Oct. 10.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says there is "no room for the death penalty in the 21st century", quoted by Some of the 170 countries have abolished it or ceased to practice it last month. 2 African States. Gambia and Madagascar - have taken important steps to end the death penalty, - said the UN chief.

In 2016, the number of convicted persons decreased by 37% compared to the previous year.

The UN also believes that there are a large number of executions in China, but there is "no accurate data" on this issue.

It should not be forgotten that several states in the United States still have the heaviest punishment.



Pope Francis: The death penalty is contrary to the Gospel

Pope Francis declared Wednesday that the death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel." He said that "however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person."

He did so in a major talk on Oct. 11 to an audience of cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns, catechists, and ambassadors from many countries on the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the catechism, affirming that there has been a development of doctrine in the church and a change in the consciousness of the Christian people on the question of the death penalty. The pope's comments and the timing of them suggest that a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church may be forthcoming to reflect this new development in the church's understanding.

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out. And [it] is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which, in the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor," Pope Francis said.

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

Reiterating an observation in his Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, March 20, 2015, Francis said that "No man ever, not even the murderer, loses his personal dignity, because God is a Father who always awaits the return of the son who, knowing that he has done wrong, asks pardon and begins a new life." For this reason, he said, "life cannot be taken away from anyone" and there must always be "the possibility of a moral and existential redemption that will be to the favor of the community."

His statement is sure to be welcomed by bishops' conferences and the overwhelming majority of the Christian faithful around the world, many of whom have long called for the church to take this stance. His predecessors have been slowly moving towards the position taken today by Francis. Every pope since St. John XXIII has appealed to governments worldwide on behalf of persons condemned to death, asking for clemency.

When St. John Paul II published the catechism in 1992 it still admitted the use of the death penalty (No. 2266). But strong reaction from bishops and the faithful in many countries led him to revise the text in 1997, with the help of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The revised text (No. 2267), however, still did not exclude the death penalty on moral grounds as Pope Francis did today; it said that given the possibilities the modern state has of rendering the criminal incapable of doing harm again, then "the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'"

When St. John Paul II published the catechism in 1992 it still admitted the use of the death penalty.

Several times since becoming pope, Francis has made clear his total opposition to the death penalty, including in his speech to the U.S. Congress and to the United Nations in September 2015. But today he took a much greater step than any of his predecessors by declaring publicly on a solemn occasion, directly related to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that the death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel" and "inadmissible," making clear that the catechism must address the question in this more complete way.

The Jesuit pope began his talk by recalling that at the opening of the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962, John XXIII said, "It is necessary first of all that the church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time, she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened up new avenues to the Catholic apostolate." Moreover, Pope John added, "our duty is not only to guard this treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the church has followed for 20 centuries."

Drawing on this, Francis said the church's "task and mission" is "to announce in a new and more complete way the everlasting Gospel to our contemporaries" with "the joy that comes from Christian hope, fortified by the medicine of mercy."

He recalled, too, that John Paul II, in his presentation of the catechism 25 years ago, said "it should take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has intimated to his Church" and "it should also help to illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past."

He described the catechism as "an important instrument" for presenting and helping the faithful understand better the faith and for coming close to our contemporaries by presenting the faith as "a significant response for human existence in this particular historical moment."

In a highly significant statement, Pope Francis emphasized that "it's not sufficient to find a new language to announce the faith of always; it is necessary and urgent that, faced with the new challenges and new horizons that are opening for humanity, the church can express the new things of the Gospel of Christ that, while enclosed in the Word of God, have not yet come to light."

He sought to contextualize the Catechism in the life of the church by explaining that "to know God" is not first and foremost "a theoretical exercise of human reasoning but an unquenchable desire impressed in the heart of every person. It's the knowledge that comes from love, because we have met the Son of God on our path. The catechism is to be seen in this light of love, as an experience of knowledge, trust and abandonment to the mystery."

The "should find a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

In this context, he turned to the question of the death penalty, which he said, "should find a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Speaking of the way the church's teaching on the death penalty in presented, Francis declared that "this problem cannot be merely reduced to a mere memory of historical teaching without bringing to the fore not only the progress in the teaching by the work of the last pontiffs but also the changed awareness consciousness of the Christian people, that rejects an attitude which consents to a punishment that heavily harms human dignity."

Aware that some will question this radical change in the light of what happened in the Papal States and church in the past, Francis explained that "in past centuries, when faced with a poverty of instruments of defense and social maturity had not yet reached a positive development, recourse to the death penalty appeared as the logical consequence of the application of justice which had to be adhered to."

"Sadly, too," he said, "also in the Papal State there was recourse to the extreme and inhuman remedy, ignoring the primacy of mercy over justice." Speaking as the Successor of St. Peter, he said, "We assume responsibility for the past, and we recognize that those means were dictated more by a legalistic than a Christian mentality. The concern to fully preserve the powers and the material riches led to an overestimation of the value of the law, preventing a going in depth into the understanding of the Gospel."

Turning to the present time, Francis said, "Today, however, to remain neutral [on this question] in the face of new demands for the reaffirmation of personal dignity, would render us guiltier."

Clearly anticipating objections of a theological nature from some quarters, Francis explained, "Here we are not in the presence of any contradiction with past teaching, because the dignity of human life from the first instant of conception to natural death has always found in the church it coherent and authoritative voice." Indeed, he said, "the harmonious development of doctrine requires putting aside positions in defense of arguments that already appear decidedly against the new understanding of Christian truth."

In this light, he declared, "It is necessary therefore to restate that, however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person."

Pope Francis concluded by saying: "Tradition is a living reality and only a partial vision can think of 'the deposit of faith' as something static. The Word of God cannot be conserved in mothballs as if it were an old blanket to be preserved from parasites. No. The Word of God is a dynamic reality, always alive, that progresses and grows because it tends towards a fulfillment that men cannot stop."

This "law of progress," he said, "appertains to the peculiar condition of the truth revealed in its being transmitted by the church, and does not at all signify a change of doctrine. One cannot conserve the doctrine without making it progress, nor can one bind it to a rigid and immutable reading without humiliating the Holy Spirit."



Uganda Can Abolish Death Penalty - EU Envoy

The European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda, Mr Attilio Pacifici has urged Uganda to abolish the death penalty because it is "the global trend."

"It's not a strong correlation between the poverty and capital punishment, there's such a strong link; people living in poverty are at a greater risk of suffering the death sentence because they have no access to credible defence," Mr Pacifici said.

He was speaking at the International Day Against the Death Penalty at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Nsambya, Kampala, on Wednesday.

The 15th anniversary was attended by death row survivors, human rights defenders, officials from the Uganda Prison Services, the French Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Stephanie Rivoal, politicians, among others.

The envoy said the death penalty is an inhuman and degrading form of punishment that does not deter crime.

He hailed the Prison Services for allowing his delegation to conduct a survey at Luzira Prisons last week where they discovered that most of inmates on death row are poor and could not afford justice. "Not every country allows foreigners into their prisons," he said.

He stressed the importance of giving people a 2nd chance.

He decried several flaws in the criminal justice system.

"Judges are human beings, like police officers, they make mistakes. Good legal aid is not available to the vast majority of defendants," he said. "They [suspects] cannot afford it, some case files go missing; miscarriage of justice is inevitable in every justice system and is irreversible. How then can someone in an error-prone and imperfect system pass an irreversible sentence?"

He cited the cases of Mr Edmary Mpagi and Mr Patrick Zzizinga, who were sentenced to death for murders they never committed.

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Mr Mpagi and his cousin, Mr Fred Masembe (who died in prison) were sentenced to death in 1982 for murdering George William Wandyaka, their neighbour in Masaka District.

However, Mr Wandyaka was found alive even after Mr Mpagi's release after 18 years on death row. Mr Zzizinga on his part, was convicted and sentenced to death for "killing" his wife with whom they still live.

Even after the famous Suzan Kigula, in which the Supreme Court annulled the mandatory death sentence, and ordered a review of all cases for resentencing, many death row inmates still suffer inordinate delays in the appellate process, because they cannot afford timely justice or their files went missing.

"The death penalty is not prevention, not reparation, it's just revenge," Ms Rivoal, the French ambassador said, adding that abolition is a sign of respect for human life. "It's a moral choice. A political choice and here in Uganda, it's your choice."


Currently, Uganda has 160 death row inmates, 6 women. Uganda has 28 offenses that attract the death--the highest number in East Africa--however, with exemptions to juveniles, pregnant women and the mentally ill.

The last executions happened in 1999 and 2005 for the civilian and military systems, respectively.

Public support for the death penalty in Uganda has tremendously reduced, with 64 per cent reportedly backing abolition.

The ambassador said, the EU (which funded the Kigula petition) has no intention to interfere with Uganda's courts, but it will support strengthen the judiciary and entire justice system.

He thus urged government to: pass the Law Revision Law (Revision Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2015 to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling in Kigula and limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes as defined by international standards; require that all competent authorities consider the economic status of the defendants in deciding whether to impose or uphold a death sentence; ensure full respect for the right to a fair trial and the right to effective counsel and work to reduce poverty and inequality in the country.



Tears as death row inmates beg for mercy

The request was made in a song presented to the EU head of delegation Atilio Pacifici and other heads of missions accredited to Uganda who were on a fact finding mission ahead of the commemoration of the 15th World Day against Death Penalty.

A somber mood engulfed the female wing of Luzira Prison as inmates on death row wept while begging for mercy and asking Government to give them a 2nd chance to life.

The request was made in a song presented to the EU head of delegation Atilio Pacifici and other heads of missions accredited to Uganda who were on a fact finding mission ahead of the commemoration of the 15th World Day against Death Penalty.

With tears flowing down their faces, they admitted to have committed crimes but they have realized their mistakes and apologize to the public, they have reformed and promise to live a responsive life if given a 2nd chance to live, the inmates sung.

"It's true we have accepted we made a mistake, we seek for your forgiveness in repentance. Death penalty should be abolished, we won't do it again, we are broken please don't kill us we are so sorry, the inmates cried as they begged for mercy.

"We apologize to our country; we apologize to fellow Uganda citizens. We apologize to the people we offended. We are remorseful because our acts for that reason reformed, the inmates sung as they asked for forgiveness.

"The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and works towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, if necessary by lobbying for the immediate establishment of a moratorium which paves the way for its abolition," Pacifici informed inmates.

For the last 12 years, on October 10 of every year, nations have commemorated World Day against the Death Penalty. But Uganda still retains the death penalty although no execution has been carried out since 1999, when Haji Mustapha Sebirumbi was sent to the gallows.

Currently, 155 out of 195 independent states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 105 states have fully abolished the death penalty including 19 from Africa, 6 have abolished for ordinary crimes, 48 states have abolished in practice while 36 are executing.

Although Uganda last carried out executions in 1999, courts still sentence people to suffer death. Uganda's Prisons currently accommodate 198 death row inmates of these, 11 are female while 187 are male. For an execution to be carried out, the President has to sign a warrant first.

Annet Nakafeero, a former death row prisoner in an interview with the New Vision says she collapsed the moment court pronounced that she was sentenced to suffer death.

"I fainted and collapsed in the dock but gained cautiousness while in the condemn section of Luzira Women's prison. Being a single parent, I kept thinking of what would befall my children in case I died in prison," Nakafeero narrates.

Although her penalty was reduced, she did not regain freedom since High Court sentenced her to 45 years after mitigation hearing. She said she was surprised when the High Court gave her a long sentence despite her pleadings and appeals by her children and prison authorities.

Nakafeero said she had an abusive marriage which resulted into the murder of her husband.

"It is true I committed a crime but I apologized and given a chance, I am a reformed person and ready to go back to my community and sensitize people against wrong doing. I have learnt a lot and I feel changed," narrated Nakafeero.

Despite the High Court ruling, Nakafeero is still waiting for her final verdict after 13 years.

Jamilah Zubedah, the youngest death row inmate who was imprisoned at the age of 14 for murdering a man she claimed to have abducted her and forced her into marriage with his 5 wives says she did not intend to kill him.

"I was abducted and forced into marriage, while in abduction, I decided to mix sleeping tablets into the man's food so that I could take advantage of his sleep to escape, unfortunately his children ate the food and died," Zubedah confessed.

"I apologize for that I did and pray that Government gives me a 2nd chance because I was young but now I have grown up and I have learnt how to resolve problems," Zubedah cried as she begged for mercy.

Foundation for Human Right’s Initiative and other partners who were in the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty carried out various activities including a solidarity visit to death row inmates at the Women's prison and the condemn section of Luzira.

Other Diplomats present included; Stephanie Rivoal the French Ambassador, Hugo Verbist the Belgian Ambassador, Henk Jan Bakker Netherlands Ambassador, Domenico Fornara the Italian Ambassador, Finbar Obrien Irish Ambassador, Petra Kochendoerfer Charge d'Affaires- German Embassy and Mogens Pedersen the Danish Ambassador.

(source: New Vision)


Lift death row penalty, says ICJ

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wants the government to lift the death sentence arguing that it violates a person's right to life.

During a meeting with death row inmates and prison heads held at the Kamiti Maximum Prison, ICJ argued that hanging is not the best way to rehabilitate prisoners.

"Death row does not in any way rehabilitate someone who has made a mistake in his or her past," said Silas Kamanza, Programs Officer at ICJ. "It just tortures them, both psychologically and physically. In addiction to this, it violates their right to life which is against the Kenyan constitution."

Peter Kehia Mwaniki, who has been waiting for the hangman for the past 16 years at Kamiti prison said that he has trouble sleeping as he knows not the day or the time.

"I have been here since 2001 when I was sentenced to death. When you know you are going to die, you can't even sleep at night, all you think about is your death and the anxiety of not knowing when it will happen," he said.

Mr. Mwaniki, currently a law student at the prison university was found guilty of robbery with violence and murder.

If the death penalty was raised, he feels that it would give him a 2nd chance to make Kenya better.

David Munyui is another inmate who has been at Kamiti for the last 2 years. He was sentenced to death after being "framed for murder."

"I was framed for murder simply because I was the last person to be seen with the deceased. I was sentenced to death and right now, I have left my fate to God. There's little more I can do," Munyui said.

Kamanza said that most of the inmates on death row either don't have the money to hire a competent lawyer to allow them to access a fair hearing in court or they never make it to trial due to the rampant corruption in the country.



Iran Among Top 3 Death Penalty Countries -- New Persecutions

As human rights groups marked the World Day against Death Penalty on October 10, Amnesty International, AI, announced that China, Iran, and Iraq were the top three countries carrying out executions.

Courts in these countries have issued death sentences after unfair trials often based on confessions obtained through torture. Amnesty International also said, Iran is one of the few countries in the world that uses the death penalty to punish political opponents.

The organization does not have accurate information about the number of executions in China, however, it estimates that more than 567 people were executed in Iran in 2016.

"At least 1/2 of the death penalties in Iran are due to drug related offenses which are globally not considered serious crimes," Raha Bahreini from Amnesty International said in an interview with Radio Farda.

Currently, up to 5,000 mostly young people are on death row because of drug trafficking.

For many years, experts and lawmakers discuss the possibility of abolishing the death penalty for drug related offenses.

In August, parliament passed an amendment that would raise the threshold for imposing the death penalty in drug trafficking cases to 50 kg of opium, and 2 kg of heroin, morphine, cocaine, or their chemical derivatives. The amendment requires a second approval by the parliament and a final approval by the Guardian Council.

The council, controlled by ultra-conservative clerics has been responsible for some modifications of the original bill. After the modifications, the positive aspects of the bill have been weakened significantly, Tara Sepehrifar from Human Rights Watch told Radio Farda.

Iran also has been criticized by human rights organizations for executing minors. Based on their estimates, at least 90 young convicts are awaiting their death in Iranian prisons.

Continuing persecution of minorities and activists

The Islamic Republic continues the persecution of members of religious minorities and political and human rights activists. In recent years, several members of a Sufi order have received long prison sentences or sent to exile in a remote area.

Early this month, a revolutionary court in Shiraz convicted Mohammad Ali Shamshirzan, a member of a Gonabadi order, to life imprisonment for "waging war against God".

Last week, a court in Tehran convicted 7 reformists, including the brother of former president Mohammad Khatami to up to 2 years in prison and a ban from political and journalistic activities due to "propaganda against the regime".

They are all members of the banned reformist party, Participation Front who recently wrote an open letter to parliament criticizing the Revolutionary Guard for interfering in court cases related to political activists.

The members of Baha'i community are still treated harshly by security and judicial institutions in Iran. In recent days, Baha'i sources reported that 8 new members of their community had received jail sentences. They had been charged with "propaganda against the regime" and "promoting Baha'i faith".

In an interview with Radio Farda, Simin Fahandej from Baha'i International Community condemned the sentences and said their only crime was that they were Baha'i and nothing else.



Death Penalty: Oral Statement 36th session of the Human Rights Council

Amnesty International is concerned about the way in which the death penalty is used in the minority of states that still resorts to it, and in particular wishes to draw the attention of the Council to the states that disregard their international obligations and impose death sentences for offences that took place when the sentenced persons were below 18 years of age.



Ministry says lifting of death penalty needs public hearing

The Ministry of Justice says the call by Amnesty International for Thailand to lift death penalty and execution needs a public hearing to hear views from all relevant individuals and agencies.

The statement by the ministry's permanent-secretary Visit Visitsora-at came after the Amnesty International resubmitted its call citing that the country now has a new constitution in place.

He said Article 77 of the Constitution states clearly of a public hearing in case of making any change in the law.

Therefore the lifting of the death sentence and execution needs amendment of the law and the holding of the public hearing, he said.

The result of the public hearing will then be submitted to the cabinet for approval.



Death penalty sought for 'black widow' serial killer

Prosecutors requested Tuesday the death penalty for a 70-year-old woman, dubbed Japan's "black widow," charged with the murders of her husband and 2 common-law partners and the attempted murder of an acquaintance between 2007 and 2013.

Describing Chisako Kakehi's alleged crimes as "heinous and serious incidents that are rarely seen," the prosecutors said in their closing arguments at the Kyoto District Court that the victims -- all elderly men -- inadvertently drank cyanide given to them by a debt-ridden Kakehi who was endeavoring to inherit their assets.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Nov 7, with the defense making its closing statements on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Kakehi is mentally competent and can be held responsible for her crimes, which "were premeditated." Her "cognitive function has not significantly deteriorated as shown in her psychiatric evaluation," and that she had no mental disorders at the time of the crimes, they said.

Kakehi denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. Her defense argued that she cannot be held responsible or stand trial due to her suffering dementia, citing her incoherent statements which they said even led to her once admitting during proceedings to committing murder.

According to prosecutors, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband Isao as well as common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide between 2007 and 2013.

In the trial held under Japan's lay judge system, which involves citizen judges, the prosecutors had to use circumstantial evidence to argue Kakehi's guilt amid a dearth of physical evidence.

Kakehi was first arrested in November 2014 and indicted the following month on a charge of killing Isao, who died at the couple's home in Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, in December 2013. They married the previous month. She was later indicted in connection with the deaths of the 2 other men.

Kakehi, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, married first at the age of 24 and launched a fabric printing factory in Osaka Prefecture with her 1st husband. But following his death in around 1994, the factory went bankrupt and her house was put up for auction, forcing her to ask neighbors for a loan.

She later registered with a matchmaking service, specifically asking to meet wealthy men with an annual income of more than 10 million yen.

She was romantically involved with or associated with more than 10 men, enabling her to inherit an estimated 1 billion yen but later fell into debt following her attempts to speculate in stocks and futures trading.



South Korean church pushes for abolition of death penalty----While no one has been executed there since 1997, capital punishment remains in the codes of criminal law

Catholic Church leaders in South Korea have asked the country's parliament to legally abolish capital punishment as part of commemorations for World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Such sentiments were put forward at an event attended by religious leaders, rights activists and politicians at the National Assembly Oct. 10.

Co-organized by Korean bishops' Committee for Justice and Peace and lawmaker Fidelis Lee Sang-min of the ruling Minjoo Party, the event commemorated the World Day Against the Death Penalty and the 20 years of moratorium on death penalty executions in South Korea.

Among those attending the event were Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon, president of the CBCK committee.

"Today's event is a stepping stone for South Korea to make its journey from moratorium of death sentence to its legal abolition," said Bishop You. "Only when the value of human life is respected, the cruelty of humanity can be cured," he said.

"Now it's time for the National Assembly to answer our calls by presenting a bill to abolish it and passing it."

At the event, National Assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun said: "Some say we should maintain the capital punishment to counterpart the ever-ferocious crimes in our society."

He said that the National Assembly will try its best to abolish it in the process of constitution revision and bill deliberation.

South Korea has not carried out an execution since Dec. 30, 1997. South Korea is considered a de facto abolitionist country, but it still has capital punishment in codes of criminal law.

There are 61 people currently on death row in the country.



Executions must not violate rights obligations: HRCP

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the government to urgently institute safeguards to ensure that a generalised resumption of executions does not violate Pakistan's human rights obligations.

According to Justice Project Pakistan, 8,200 people are on death row in Pakistan and 477 people have been executed since December 2014. As many as 2,393 Pakistanis were executed in Saudi Arabian jails.

According to the World Coalition against Death Penalty, 104 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 7 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 30 countries are abolitionists in practice. According to statistics, 23 countries carried out executions in 2016. In 2016, top 5 executioners were China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

According to Amnesty International, it is believed that thousands of executions took place in 2016.

In Pakistan, executions decreased by 239 in 2016. Indonesia executed 4 people, Taiwan 1, Singapore 4, Japan 3 and Malaysia 9. Amnesty has not given any estimates for North Korea and Vietnam.

South Eastern countries like Maldives and the Philippines took steps in the wrong direction, towards resumptions of executions, after more than 6 decades, according to Amnesty International.

In a statement on World Day against the Death Penalty, HRCP said: "As we observe the 15th World Day against the Death Penalty, HRCP calls upon the government to take stock of the pressing issues that have arisen ever since it terminated the moratorium in December 2014.

"In addition to various and well-documented challenges that a generalised recourse to capital punishment presents, there is an urgent need to introduce safeguards in instances where age of the convict or his or her mental or physical ability is in question." Furthermore, the socio-economic status of a convict tends to be directly proportional to their risk of being sentenced to death and execution. This year the World Day against Death Penalty is bringing into focus the link between poverty and capital punishment.

"While HRCP calls upon the government to suspend the death penalty in the country as a 1st step towards abolition, it demands that these new issues should be urgently addressed through a conscious policy and not merely through last minute action in response to pleas from civil society in individual cases." HRCP also staged a demo outside the Lahore Press Club.

(source: The Nation)


527 prisoners on death row in Sindh jails

The death warrants of 7 condemned prisoners in Sindh can be issued any time as the President of Pakistan has rejected their mercy petitions.

The total number of prisoners currently on death row in Sindh is 527, out of which 13 have been awarded capital punishment from military courts, said personal staff officer to prisons IG, Shunail Hussain Shah.

Shah added, "The appeals of many prisoners on death row are either pending with the high court, Supreme Court or with the President of Pakistan after they have been awarded the death penalty by trial courts."

Among such prisoners, 122 have been incarcerated at the Central Jail, Karachi, 227 in Hyderabad, 135 in Sukkur while 38 are detained in Larkana, Shah informed. 4 women on death row are in Karachi jail while 1 other woman is in Hyderabad.

According to the prisons department, 18 prisoners have been executed in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Karachi since the moratorium on executions was lifted. The move came in the wake of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's attack at the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in December, 2014.

Prominent prisoners on death row in the prisons of Sindh include the murderer of American journalist Daniel Pearl, Omer Saeed Sheikh, Jundullah militant Mohammad Qasim Toori who carried out an attack on the convoy of the Karachi corps commander in June, 2004, and Azhar Ishrat, who was involved in the Safoora bus carnage.

Opposition to death penalty

"Capital punishment is a murder committed by the state and we need to abolish it," remarked Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Vice-Chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt, while talking to The Express Tribune.

According to Butt, human life needs to be respected and for this we need to reconsider our ways to treat criminals. "The government needs to construct healthy society to curb crimes."

Army chief confirms death sentences of 4 'hardcore' terrorists

"The death sentence could only be awarded for 2 felonies, murder and treason, before the partition. However, this has swelled to 28 in Pakistan," he maintained.

The 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty was observed on Tuesday. Opponents of the death penalty organised demonstrations, arguing for its abolishment.

The crime rate cannot be lowered through extreme punishments, Butt opined. The 40 counties which have abolished death penalty have lower crime rate than those which still execute criminals, he asserted.

There has been a tenure of around 6 years in the history of Pakistan when the state had stopped executing the criminals on death row. Former president Asif Ali Zardari had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2008 which was lifted after the attack on APS, Peshawar in 2014.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Amnesty International Leads Mugabe Petition To Scrap Death Penalty

Amnesty International has joined forces with the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to petition President Robert Mugabe to scrap the death penalty from the country's statutes.

The rights based organisations are currently soliciting for signatures to galvanise national support around the initiative.

The petition launch also coincided with the World Day Against the Death Penalty commemorations on Tuesday.

In the petition, the organisations implore the head of state to consider that capital punishment was being scrapped throughout the world.

African countries, likewise, have legally abolished the death penalty or applied a de facto moratorium on capital punishment; only a minority of 17 States have retained the death penalty.

In their petition, the rights based groups also argue that the death penalty violated African systems of dealing with offenders.

"The death penalty is not a traditional penalty but a colonial relic," reads the petition.

"Traditional customary law relied on restorative justice rather than retribution. For this reason the Council of Chiefs, in January 2016, urged that the death penalty be abolished. By abolishing the death penalty Zimbabwe would be making a clear break with its colonial past."

The groups further implore the President to be guided by his party, Zanu PF's 1980 election pledges to abolish the contentious method of punishment.

"The death penalty is not an effective deterrent against serious crime; this has been shown by research in many parts of the world. Without deterrence it becomes merely cruel and inhumane," the petition further reads.

Amnesty International and its collaborating group also want Mugabe to appeal to his conscience as an African statesman to scrape the death penalty and curve himself a legacy of tolerance towards perpetrators of heinous crimes.

"In April 2015," says the global rights group, "at its 56th Ordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a draft regional treaty (the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa) to help African Union member states move away from capital punishment and towards systems emphasising restorative justice rather than retributive justice.

"Your Excellency was Chair of the African Union when the draft was adopted, and Zimbabwe can seize the opportunity to lead other African States by example, progressively transforming our Continent's penal procedures.

"By abolishing the death penalty you will leave an immortal legacy of your Presidency and leadership, not only in Zimbabwe but in Africa and the developing countries of the world.

"We therefore respectfully urge you in your clemency to grant this our petition."



Rights groups in Morocco demand end to death penalty

The Moroccan Coalition against the Death Penalty organised a sit-in this week outside the parliament building in Rabat and renewed calls to abolish the death penalty.

In a statement the Moroccan Coalition reminded people on World Day against the Death Penalty yesterday to reiterate the importance of raising public awareness on the abolition of the death penalty.

"Inhuman and savage punishment" represents "a serious violation of the sacred right to life," the statement said.During the sit-in the group called on the government for the "abrogation of the death penalty in the Criminal Code". Suspended since 1993, the death penalty remains in the penal code though has not been used.

The Moroccan Coalition also called on the government to adopt the 2nd optional protocol on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at abolishing the death penalty. The latter was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCDR) in its resolution 44/128 on 15 December 1989.

This year the World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP) draws attention to the "discriminatory" aspect of the death penalty and believes that "people living in poverty are more likely to be punished with the death penalty".

On their website the group explained how "social and economic inequalities hinder access to justice for those sentenced to death," explaining that "the accused in such a situation of inequality often lacks resources (social, economic, cultural and also power) to defend themselves and will be marginalised mostly because of their social status".

The last execution in Morocco took place in 1993 with the kingdom considered a de facto abolitionist country. Despite this, 92 prisoners in Morocco have been sentenced to death since 2015, though 35 of those have been given a royalpardon.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Indonesia's Contradictory Death Penalty Rhetoric

Indonesia's government yesterday marked World Day Against the Death Penalty by issuing a self-serving and contradictory statement on its death penalty policy.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly reaffirmed the government won't seek to abolish the death penalty, but would pursue a "win-win solution" designed to appease both death penalty supporters and opponents. That might include mandatory judicial reviews of death penalty judgments and possible sentence commutation for death row prisoners.

Indonesia ended a 4-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a signature policy issue. Since Jokowi took office in 2014, 18 convicted drug traffickers were executed in 2015 and 2016 - the majority citizens of other countries. Jokowi has routinely rejected their governments' calls for clemency, citing national sovereignty. The government's apparent new-found flexibility on its death penalty policy, including a temporary suspension of executions in 2017, was linked by the attorney general to its ambitions to secure United Nations member support to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Recent evidence uncovered by the ombudsman of "maladministration" by the Indonesian government in denying the legal rights of a Nigerian citizen executed for drug trafficking in July 2016 underscore the need for the death penalty's abolition. But Laoly's claims of a more flexible death penalty policy are contradicted by Indonesia's performance last month during the UN Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia's rights record. Jakarta rejected recommendations by UN member countries that the government enhance safeguards on the use of the death penalty, including adequate and early legal representation for defendants and not executing people with mental illness. It also rejected a recommendation to review all cases with a view to commuting death sentences or at least ensuring "fair trials that fully comply with international standards."

Jokowi's government should stop its cynical efforts to use the cruel and irreversible punishment of the death penalty as a bargaining chip for a Security Council seat. Instead it should publicly recognize that the death penalty has no place in a right-respecting country and immediately move toward abolition.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Singapore's death penalty reform flawed: Amnesty

Singapore's reforms to its use of the death penalty are flawed, with some low-level drug offenders still being denied leniency and sent to the gallows, Amnesty International said yesterday.

After years of criticism from rights groups, the city-state in 2013 eased the requirement for mandatory death sentences in some drug trafficking and murder cases. The changes gave judges discretion to impose life imprisonment instead of the death penalty in certain cases.

In a new report, Amnesty acknowledged the number of people sent to the gallows had fallen but added that courts still impose death sentences when more leniency could be shown.

"The reforms introduced in 2013 were a step in the right direction and have allowed some people to escape the gallows, but in key respects they have been flawed from the outset," said Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty's death penalty adviser.

After the changes, judges can impose life imprisonment on drug couriers who give "substantive" cooperation to the authorities during investigations.

However Amnesty said decisions on who meets the criteria rest with the public prosecutor and not the judge, and are taken "behind closed doors in a murky and non-transparent process".

The group said the majority of people sentenced to death for drug offences in the past 4 years possessed relatively small amounts of narcotics. Many said they were driven by unemployment or debt.

"Singapore likes to paint itself as a prosperous and progressive role model, but its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life," Ms Sangiorgio said, urging the government to end capital punishment once and for all.

Amnesty said 17 death sentences were handed down over the past 3 years for murder and drugs offences and 10 convicts were hanged.


OCTOBER 11, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Junk Science? Unreliable Witnesses? No Matter, Texas Plans to Execute Robert Pruett Anyway----There's no physical evidence linking him the crime, but he's scheduled to die on Thursday.

Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed in Texas on October 12, despite the fact that there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime he was convicted of. Pruett, who is 38-years-old, was sentenced to death after he was convicted of the 1999 murder of Daniel Nagle, a correctional officer at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. Pruett was already serving a 99-year sentence for being an accomplice to a murder his father committed. Pruett's execution date has been put off twice before, but there are few legal maneuvers remaining that could delay his death sentence ahead of October 12.

Pruett, who has now spent more than 1/2 his life behind bars, led a rough life before he ended up on death row. As a child, his parents and other family members repeatedly abused him, physically and sexually. At the urging of his parents, he began using marijuana and cocaine in elementary school. The Pruett family lived in abject poverty, cycling between apartments that they would get quickly evicted from and sleeping outside. For food, they rummaged through dumpsters and bathed using water hoses outside of restaurants.

In 1995, Pruett got into a verbal fight with his neighbor, Ray Yarbrough. When Pruett's father, Sam Pruett, returned home that evening, Yarbrough began screaming at the trailer the Pruetts were living in. Pruett, his older brother Steven, and his father went outside and the brothers watched as their father stabbed Yarbrough to death. Sam Pruett was sentenced to life. Steven Pruett received 40 years and Pruett was sentenced to 99 years - effectively a life sentence. He was just 15 years old. Texas' "Law of Parties" allowed anyone involved in a crime to be sentenced as if they committed the crime themselves.

"In a lot of cases where there's no physical evidence that directly ties the defendant to the crime scene, [the prosecution] will find experts who fit their theory of the crime."

In late 1999, 4 years into his prison sentence, Pruett was accused of stabbing Officer Nagle to death at the McConnell Unit, a medium-sized prison in a small town near Corpus Christi. The day of the murder, Nagle had written up Pruett in a disciplinary report because Pruett tried to eat his sack lunch in an area that wasn't authorized for eating. Nagle was discovered with a bloody shank and Pruett's torn up disciplinary report next to his body. While Pruett had a pending disciplinary case related to gambling, he did not have a history of violence.

No witnesses immediately came forward and 2 years passed between the original indictment and the trial. "People's stories can change many, many times" in a long period of time, says Kristin Houle, the executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, about the witnesses who eventually came forward.

"The State was not able to discover any physical evidence that connected Robert to Officer Nagle's murder," Pruett's lawyers wrote in his petition for clemency in September. "Such evidence simply does not exist."

At trial, the state claimed that Pruett's cellmate, who worked in the prison’s craft shop, gave Pruett tape that he used to wrap around the handle of the shank. The state relied on the testimony of Lisa Baylor, a forensic analyst who testified, using a now-debunked scientific method called "physical matching,” that the tape came from the craft shop. "In a lot of cases where there's no physical evidence that directly ties the defendant to the crime scene, [the prosecution] will find experts who fit their theory of the crime," Houle says. And although the expert testified that the tape is a match, there's nothing to match Pruett to the tape. "No fingerprint and no cells," said Houle.

In the clemency petition, Pruett's lawyers write that DNA testing of the murder weapon in 2015 found DNA that didn't match either Pruett or the victim. Perhaps, Pruett’s lawyers write, it might belong "to the person that killed Nagle." The state has not yet responded to Pruett's petition. Typically, the parole board responds within a few days of the execution.

The prosecution in Pruett case's relied heavily on testimony from the defendant’s fellow inmates. But, unbeknownst to the defense and the jury, the state had made promises to inmates who testified against Pruett.

According to the clemency petition, which contains the state investigator's notes, one of the state’s key witnesses, Harold Mitchell, was told that if he testified against Pruett he’d be transferred to a prison in Virginia, where his family lived. And if he didn't testify, Mitchell would be charged with Nagle's murder. Mitchell later told his brother that he felt guilty for testifying against Pruett. "If the jury knew that these inmates gained something in exchange for testifying against Pruett - in many cases, significantly more than was disclosed at trial," Pruett's lawyers wrote in the petition, "it is likely they would not have believed their testimony."

It's not only the lack of physical evidence or bribed witnesses that concerns Pruett's lawyers. The prison that housed Pruett before he was sent to death row was rife with problems, such as staffing shortages and corruption. One month before Nagle was murdered, according to the Texas Observer, his name was discovered on a secret note from one inmate to another indicating that a prison gang wanted the officer dead. According to the clemency petition, in addition to raising alarm about the staffing shortage, Nagle was working to identify corrupt correctional officers who used the fact that they were often working alone to help prison gangs launder drug money.

2 weeks before his death, Nagle, who was the leader of the local AFSCME union, went to a rally in Austin to ask the Texas legislature to fix the shortage. "Someone will have to be killed before the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does anything about the shortage of staff in Texas prisons," he said, ominously. The same day Pruett was indicted, four correctional officers were indicted on federal bribery charges for participating in a drug smuggling ring.

Pruett was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002. In 2013, he was scheduled for execution but a judge withdrew the order after his legal team began requesting DNA testing on the torn disciplinary report. The results were declared inconclusive by the court, and Pruett was given an April 2015 execution date.

A state judge halted the execution so more DNA testing on the murder weapon could be performed. In August 2016, before his scheduled execution, a state court ruled that it needed more time to review Pruett's further claims about DNA evidence. Last April, an appeals court ruled that the outcome of the trial wouldn't have changed even if the new DNA evidence had been available.

Pruett's case is not an anomaly in Texas. Larry Swearingen, a 46-year-old man, is on death row for the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter. Swearingen maintains his innocence, while the state refuses to conduct additional DNA testing. Instead, the prosecution relied on a forensic analyst who lined up the pantyhose that was used to strangle Trotter and hosiery from the Swearingen home and determined the 2 pieces were a match. According to court documents, the DNA from the blood found underneath the victim's fingernails did not match Swearingen. He is scheduled to die on November 16.

Texas is a leader in capital punishment. Between 1976 and 2016, the Lone Star State has executed more than 500 inmates. The last prisoner to receive a reprieve was Kenneth Foster in 2007, who was sentenced to death under the same Law of Parties that sent Pruett to prison. His sentence was changed to life in prison by then-Gov. Rick Perry. The state's current governor, Republican Greg Abbott, has presided over 25 executions since taking office in January 2015. Abbott has not commuted a single death sentence.

(source: Mother Jones)


Days from execution, man convicted in prison guard's murder insists on innocence----Robert Pruett faces his execution Thursday in the 1999 murder of a Texas prison guard. Pruett has consistently argued his innocence in the case, pushing for multiple rounds of DNA testing on crime scene evidence.

Robert Pruett was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of prison guard Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.

Robert Pruett was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of prison guard Daniel Nagle. Pruett says he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates while the prison employee union says chronic understaffing led to Nagle's murder.

A man convicted in the 1999 murder of a Texas prison guard faces execution Thursday for the sixth time in a case where DNA testing has taken center stage.

Robert Pruett was sentenced to death in the stabbing of Daniel Nagle, a 37-year-old guard at a prison in Beeville. Pruett was a 20-year-old inmate serving a 99-year sentence at the time for being an accomplice in a murder committed by his father when he was 15.

Nagle was found lying in a pool of blood, stabbed repeatedly with a makeshift knife next to a torn up disciplinary report he had written on Pruett, according to court records. The prosecution argued that Pruett killed Nagle in retaliation for the report, and the jury agreed, but Pruett has consistently denied his involvement in the crime. He said he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates, and his lawyers have argued against the testimony used at trial.

"The only supposed eyewitness testimony came from inmate informants. Such so-called snitch testimony is notoriously unreliable," wrote attorney David Dow in Pruett's latest filing to a federal appellate court.

For years, he has sought multiple rounds of DNA testing on clothes, the weapon and the torn-up report in an attempt to prove his innocence. It has saved him from execution multiple times since 2013. But in April, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals finally ruled that the results of 2 rounds of DNA testing were inconclusive and therefore would not have changed the result of his conviction. A new execution date was set for Oct. 12.

"You've got to have faith in your juries and the many courts that have scrutinized the evidence and the claims here, and I just don't see any room for there being a claim of innocence here," said Jack Choate, executive director of the Special Prosecution Unit, which prosecutes Texas prison crimes.

Still, Pruett is fighting.

The Court of Criminal Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court denied his latest claims in state court last week, but he has also sued in federal court, claiming recent refusals by the trial court and prosecution to proceed with further DNA testing violates his due process rights.

The DNA evidence that was tested and deemed inconclusive by Texas' high appellate court needs more examination, Pruett argues in court filings. The testing looked primarily at the murder weapon, where a partial female profile had been found in the latest examination.

Pruett argues that the court should further investigate the profile, to see if it could identify a culprit, but the state argued the weapon was likely contaminated by people on the defense team and journalists who have handled it without gloves since the trial. The court denied further testing.

"Even if there were contamination, that conclusion would only demonstrate that the State had violated another provision of state law by failing to ensure the weapon is properly preserved," Dow wrote to the court.

Pruett's latest federal appeal was rejected by the appellate court Friday, but he could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Choate said that he expects the execution to proceed.

"I would be surprised to see the courts take a different position this late in the game," he said.

(source: The Texas Tribune)


As Texas Prepares to Kill Robert Pruett, He Leaves Behind a Literary Indictment of Us All

On Thursday, the state of Texas will kill Robert Pruett.

The 38-year-old has been behind bars since he was 15.

He was arrested in 1995 as an accomplice in his father's murder of a neighbor; 5 years later, a prison guard who had given him a disciplinary infraction for eating a sandwich in a hallway was found stabbed to death. Although he continues to maintain that he is innocent, multiple witnesses claimed that Pruett was responsible, and he was sentenced to death for the crime.

For proponents of the death penalty, the events that define Pruett's life serve as the case for killing him. He spent his pre-prison years in a vortex of violence - getting into fights, stealing, developing a drug addiction. Once he arrived in prison, he briefly flirted with neo-Nazi beliefs, reading "Mein Kampf" and getting a swastika tattoo to intimidate other inmates.

Wherever you fall on the question of Pruett's guilt or innocence in the prison guard murder, a brief look at his life could make you think that he's at least the sort of person who may do something like that.

But a person's life is not defined just by their worst actions. People grow, and they change, and Pruett's decades in prison gave him time to reflect on the life he had lived. He turned those reflections into an autobiography. It was reviewed in early October by Current Affairs's Nathan Robinson.

The autobiography serves as a sort of sociological self-examination - an attempt by Pruett to understand why his life went the way it did. He writes not to absolve himself of the choices he has made, but to impart why he felt like his options were so limited.

"Why are we the way we are? What causes human behavior? ... I believe we can understand ourselves and what influences us through an introspective process that includes an examination of our past experiences and the behavioral patterns in our families," he writes. "Ultimately, we make our own choices in life, but it helps to know why we are inclined or predisposed to certain types of behavior."

It is almost a cliche to explain criminal behavior through proverbs about a "bad childhood." But explaining something and justifying it are 2 different things, and the more you learn about Pruett's upbringing, the more remarkable it is that someone so deprived of a nurturing environment could grow to write so profoundly about his life circumstances.

If violent tendencies have a hereditary component, Pruett lost the gene lottery. He describes his father as "the most violent man I ever met"; his father had frequent stints in prison and would get into fights with family and just about anyone else.

Pruett's family was dirt poor; they were frequently ejected from trailer parks and motel rooms, as his father worked minimum-wage jobs to try to keep them above water.

But being poor in America is often associated with more than just not having money; violence and crime was all around him. His brother Steven was molested by a family member; his mentally disabled sister was raped and placed into a foster home. His drug addiction started early, when he was offered a huff of gasoline from a stranger at age 5. Both parents smoked marijuana, and his dad took him along on a marijuana sale to use him as cover.

Pruett's writing about prison demonstrates that it is a brutal place. He immediately learns to defend himself against prison rape and at first, becomes even more violent.

But spending the rest of your life behind bars gives you a lot of time to think and to read. Pruett read the works of Carl Jung and B.F. Skinner, and developed a fascination with psychology. Eventually, he came to see the forces that pushed him toward anger and violence, and that the same forces acted on African-Americans he came to despise during his flirtation with white nationalist beliefs:

I didn't realize it back then, but all of my anger and hate regarding race was misdirected and ignorant. I was so pissed off at the system for throwing me away that I needed somewhere to focus my negative energy. As the years passed I opened my eyes and matured, slowly growing out of that convoluted ideology on race. Today, I realize that there is no pure race; we all share DNA and we all sprang from the same source .... I understand that more often than not socioeconomic factors play the largest role in how people are treated. The rich and famous have it made; while the poor outcasts from both the ghetto and trailer park have it rough. My hope is that as society evolves, we'll erase the things that separate and divide us such as race and class.

After being sent to death row, Pruett developed friendships with fellow inmates. As they were executed one by one, he came to the conclusion that the people being executed are no longer the same people they were in the moment of their crimes:

The thing is, they aren't killing the same people who committed the crimes. It takes years for the appeals to run their course and in that time people change. Sure, some are just dangerous as the day they arrived, and I'm not saying everyone's some kind of angel, but so many have grown and matured in here and found their true Self. Many have realized the errors of their ways and would be productive members of society if they were given the chance. Even with a life in prison, these guys had much to offer humanity, not to mention the loved ones left with the scars of their murders.

When Pruett is executed on Thursday, he won't be the same young man who stood and watched his father kill a neighbor over a petty argument, or who may or may not have murdered a prison guard for the same reason. His writing makes clear that he is a deeply reflective person who sought to understand the forces bearing down on him for the 1st time.

Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of Pruett's case. Because the United States is not one of the 105 countries that have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Pruett's journey of self-discovery and redemption will end on Thursday, when the state of Texas will kill him.

(source: The Intercept)


Tucker could face death penalty; King won't

Samuel Anthony Tucker could face the death penalty for the murder of an Asheboro woman.

During a Rule 24 pretrial hearing in Randolph County Superior Court Tuesday, District Attorney Andy Gregson said it was the intention of the state to try Tucker as a capital case, meaning a guilty verdict could result in the death penalty.

Gregson said a grand jury had indicted Tucker with 1st-degree murder in the Sept. 11 death of Carrie Ann Welch, 30, of 1841 Poole Town Road, Asheboro. Tucker, 20, apparently was living at the same address.

Gregson said aggravating factors, which led to the designation of capital murder, included the allegation that the murder was in connection with armed robbery.

In another Rule 24 hearing on Tuesday, Gregson said Shamus Patrick King will not be tried as a capital case. Gregson indicated that there was a lack of aggravating factors to support the death penalty.

King, 23, of 1406 Brookwood Circle, Archdale, was indicted by a grand jury with 1st-degree murder in the death of his 11-week-old daughter, Harper Erin King. Reports by the Archdale Police Department said that Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where the girl was taken, indicated that she suffered injuries consistent with child abuse.

The child was in her father's care at the time of the incident. She died Sept. 26.

Judge Brad Long ordered King, who could face life in prison, to be held without bond.

(source: Courier-Tribune)


Florida inmates are latest in fight against mandatory solitary for death row residents----A class action suit challenges isolation as a matter of policy

This summer, 9 inmates from Florida's death row submitted a class action lawsuit against the state's Department of Corrections, challenging conditions for those awaiting capital punishment in the Sunshine State and joining a handful of others - including California, Louisiana, and Virginia - where prisoners condemned to death are demanding more humane daily existences.

Suffering isolation in windowless cells for the majority of the day, the plaintiffs on the case have spent, combined, over 150 years on Florida's death row. A total 356 individuals are currently there, awaiting their final days. The policy of automatically placing condemned inmates in a restrictive housing situation is a violation of citizens' 8th and 14th Amendment rights, according to the suit, given that solitary confinement and similar housing situations are widely-recognized as being detrimental to prisoners' physical and mental health.

In March, prisoners in Louisiana filed a similar suit.

Policies at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola have since loosened to allow inmates more time out of their cells, but that suit will carry on, in the hopes that the changes will expand permanently. As the result of a similar suit in Arizona, that state is currently working on changes to its policy.

Florida's particularly controversial capital punishment policies have made multiple appearance in the courts recently. Early in 2016, the United States Supreme Court found that the state's capital sentencing was unconstitutional, following a decision from Florida's Supreme Court that such jury decisions should be unanimous. A subsequent decision from a State Attorney, who claimed that she would never seek the death penalty on any cases, faced strong opposition from the Governor Rick Scott and ultimately ended in a rescindment of the decision.

More about state policies on solitary confinement and death row can be found on the Solitary Census and Death Penalty Project pages.



Abingdon woman faces death penalty in Florida murder

The death penalty will be sought for an Abingdon woman charged in the 27-year-old "clown murder" case in Florida, according to State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Sheila Keen-Warren, 54, was extradited last week from Abingdon to Palm Beach County, Florida, where she made her 1st appearance in court. She was denied bail and will likely remain incarcerated pending her trial.

Keen-Warren is charged in the death of Marlene Warren, 40, who was gunned down by a person in a clown costume in 1990. Keen-Warren is now married to Marlene Warren's widower.

Aronberg said he decided to seek the death penalty after consulting a death penalty committee, which reviewed the statutory aggravating and mitigating factors under Florida law.

Keen-Warren's attorney, Richard Lubin, told reporters at the courthouse that his client "vehemently denies" the killing. A representative at Lubin's law firm in West Palm Beach, Florida, said the attorney declined further comment but said he would review evidence obtained through discovery.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, which investigated the 1990 murder, shared video on its social media accounts of Keen-Warren being walked into the jail. In the video, Keen-Warren's wrists are bound with handcuffs as she is escorted to the jail.

Authorities continue to investigate the homicide. In 2014, authorities reopened the case using new DNA technology. Investigators learned that Keen-Warren married Marlene Warren's widower in 2002. Michael Warren, 65, was previously identified as a person of interest in the case but has not been charged.



Court hears minister's case for death penalty drug information

A Montgomery County judge could soon decide whether Alabama has to reveal where it got the drugs the state uses in executions, due to a lawsuit that moved forward in circuit court Tuesday.

"I'm not trying to bring down the death penalty," said the Rev. Tabitha Isner, who filed the lawsuit in May. "I understand that it's the law of the land. I just want to understand it better."

(source: The Anniston Star)


Deters intends to seek death penalty for suspect in deadly domestic violence case

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Tuesday night he intended to seek the death penalty for Gary Box, a 41-year-old man accused of killing the mother of his child after a prolonged campaign of domestic violence against her and others.

"The facts, (Box's) record, and the likelihood for success at trial cry out for it," Deters said. "He is a dangerous, murderous individual."

Investigators discovered 37-year-old Tanisha Huff dead inside her Price Hill home Oct. 6 -- a little over a week after she filed a criminal complaint alleging Box had pointed a revolver at her after an argument. Another complaint filed Oct. 4 accused Box of sending threatening messages to an unidentified recipient and her children; a judge had granted both Huff and another complainant temporary restraining orders.

Court records indicated Box had previously faced charges ranging from theft to assault to rape. The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts lists the majority of these charges as ignored or dismissed.

Box claimed Tuesday that Huff's death was an accident, but Judge Fanon Rucker was skeptical.

"He had threatened to kill her and another person, and then she showed up dead and he said it was an accident," he said.

Box was charged Monday with murder. Deters said he planned to send the case charge to a grand jury later in the week.

According to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, the state had 115 fatalities from 83 cases of domestic violence between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

If you or someone you know is a victim of ongoing domestic violence, you can call the YWCA Domestic Violence Hotline at 513-872-9259 or the House of Peace Hotline at 513-753-7281. Both hotlines remain open 24 hours and work to connect survivors with shelter, support and legal advocacy.

(source: WCPO news)


Jurors Say Man Eligible for Death Penalty in Beheading Case----Jurors deciding the punishment for a man convicted of beheading a co-worker say he is eligible to receive the death penalty.

Jurors deciding the punishment for a man convicted of beheading a co-worker say he is eligible to receive the death penalty.

Jurors in the 1st-degree murder trial of 33-year-old Alton Nolen ruled Tuesday that he is not "intellectually disabled" and ineligible for the death penalty. The jury has already found Nolen guilty of first-degree murder for beheading his co-worker, 54-year-old Colleen Hufford, and trying to kill another worker at a food processing plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore in 2014.

Jurors have sentenced Nolen to 3 life sentences plus 130 years in prison on assault and battery charges stemming from the attack on the co-worker who survived.

Nolen faces possible punishments of death or life in prison with or without the possibility of parole on the murder charge.

(source: US News & World Report)


OK-CAPD speaks against death penalty on World Day Against the Death Pealty

The Rev. Don Heath, chair of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty, knows that while the abolishment of the death penalty in Oklahoma may be years in the making, he hopes prisoners on Oklahoma's death row would at least be treated like humans and not animals.

"At this point, my concern is to open people's eyes that those on death row are human beings, not monsters. Yes, they have done terrible things, but we as a state should do something to humanize the experience (of death penalty)," he said. I think ultimately, the death penalty will be held as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no question that this is cruel and unusual punishment, but the problem will be changing the hearts and minds of the people here.

The harsh criminal justice system in Oklahoma needs to change"

Heath spoke on the state of the death penalty in Oklahoma on Tuesday's World Day Against Death Penalty, which is annually observed on Oct. 10. This year's 15th annual World Day Against the Death Pealty is meant to raise awareness about the death penalty and is supported through more than 180 local initiatives worldwide.

"The theme this year is poverty and the death penalty," Heath said. "We can't help but make the connection between the death penalty and mass incarceration in Oklahoma. Beyond the death penalty, Oklahoma also has the 2nd highest incarceration rate for men and the highest incarceration rate for women in the nation. The criminal justice scheme in Oklahoma is based on long sentences for mostly people of color and poor whites."

He added that the lack of a vigorous defense fund for the accused results in attorneys who are undercompensated and overworked, resulting in a less than ideal representation for the incarcerated, especially those on death row.

"The United States is the only Western country that still inflicts the death penalty on its citizens," he said. Other countries that still carry out the death penalty include Japan, China, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Iraq.

"Abolition of the death penalty is a condition for entrance to the European Union, which consists of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that executed a criminal defendant in the last two years. Less than 1/3 of the countries in the world still impose the death penalty."

While the death penalty has become increasingly rare even in the United States, Oklahoma is currently researching new lethal injection protocols to use. 19 states in the U.S. have abolished the death penalty and only 10 states have executed a criminal defendant in the past 5 years. 9 of these 10 states were part of the Confederacy.

In April, an 11-member state commission led by Former Gov. Brad Henry released a nearly 300-page report on the Oklahoma death penalty that included more than 40 recommendations. The commission members also made recommendations about executions themselves, saying the changes should be implemented before the executions resume.

Oklahoma's new Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter said that while he respected the panel's work, he and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections would move forward to new protocols to be used in executions.

Oklahoma voters agreed. In the last November election, voters approved State Question 776, which amended the Bill of Rights in Oklahoma's Constitution to expressly provide that the death penalty shall not be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

"The next thing to be expected is the death penalty protocol that the DOC and the AG are working on," Heath said. "The DOC has worked for several months to revise the protocols and how we do the drugs, but one of our concerns is the protocol. There is no representation for criminal defense about the protocols."

Oklahoma has executed 112 human beings since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. This ranks 3rd only to Texas, which has executed 543 people, and Virginia, which has killed 113. Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia together have executed more than 1/2 of the people executed since 1976, according to information from OK-CAPD.

"The death penalty dehumanizes all of us," Heath said. "It says that it is morally acceptable to kill a defenseless person who has already been segregated from society and poses no threat to public safety."

The death penalty does not deter crime and is more costly than life without parole, according to the organization.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, average cases without the death penalty cost $740,000 each, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost $1.26 million. Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in the general population.

In American, 156 people have been exonerated from death, 10 in Oklahoma.

In May 2016, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission Report also indicated that innocent people have been sentenced to death in Oklahoma.

Currently there are 46 inmates on death row in Oklahoma. 16 of those have exhausted all of their appeals and are eligible for execution dates if executions are resumed in Oklahoma.

The 16 Oklahoma inmates waiting execution are: Richard Eugene Glossip, John Marion Grant, Benjamin Robert Cole, Richard Stephen Fairchild, Jeremy Alan Williams, John Fitzgerald Hanson, Scott James Eizember, Jemaine Monteil Cannon, Phillip Dean Hancock, Julius Darius Jones, Anthony Castillo Sanchez, Shelton D. Jackson, James Chandler Ryder, Bigler Stouffer, Michael Smith and Richard Norman Rojem Jr.

Executions have been on hold since the wrong drug, potassium acetate - instead of potassium chloride, was almost used on September 30, 2015 in an attempt to execute Richard Glossip.

Officials later confirmed that the same wrong drug had been used to kill Charles Warner on Jan. 15, 2015, according to OK-CAPD.

The grand jury report recommended a series of changes, and corrections. The Attorney General's office says that that it would not seek a new execution until 150 days after new protocols have been adopted.

"We know that some of what happens on death row is dehumanizing," she said. "At the least, we can humanize the process."

(source: Red Dirt Report)


UN demands America end 'barbaric' use of death penalty----The US is 7th in the world in terms of executions

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said he wants the US to end its "barbaric practice" of the death penalty.

This was the leader of the world body's 1st statement on the death penalty.

"Please stop the executions," Mr Guterres said at an event at UN Headquarters in New York, titled "Transparency and the death penalty."

"The death penalty has no place in the 21st century."

Mr Guterres made mention of his home country of Portugal, abolishing the practice nearly 150 years ago and 2 African nations - Gambia and Madagascar - which have taken "major steps" towards getting rid of it.

In 2016, executions worldwide were down 37 % from 2015 as 170 countries have decided to abandon the practise, Mr Guterres said.

According to Amnesty International, just four countries make up 87 % of executions - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

China has the most number of known executions in the world, but figures have been hard to come by due to state controls.

It is thought to be much thousands higher than the reported 1,032 in 2016 according to the human rights watchdog.

The US was actually included in this top 5 group between 2006 and 2016, but fell out last year.

The 20 executions carried out in the US was the lowest number since 1991. This still put it in the 7th position, just shy of Egypt, and the only country in the Americas to impose the death penalty.

5 American states carried out executions last year but 31 still have the penalty on the books.

So far in 2017, 19 executions have been carried out, all through lethal injection.

Texas alone killed 5 inmates sentenced to death.

The Trump administration recently voted against a UN motion that condemned the death penalty for LGBTQ people.

The motion passed the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council despite the US being joined by countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Iraq, Botswana, Burundi and others.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's response to criticism from the LGBTQ community and her predecessor Susan Rice was confusing because she tweeted there was "no vote" but that the US voted the same way as it had under the Obama administration on the issue.

But, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert clarified the vote by saying: "We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether."

In fact, no US administration has supported a UN motion against the death penalty primarily for this reason and usually elects to abstain from voting on it.

As Newsweek reported: "In 2014 the Obama administration abstained from a resolution on capital punishments in the Human Rights Council, which did not highlight LGBTQ rights."

Mr Guterres made it clear at the event that he wanted to "reaffirm my opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances."



Catholic Mobilizing Network marks the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty----"This day challenges Catholics and all people of good will to educate, advocate, and pray to end the death penalty."

Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice, joins the international community in observing World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, 2017; a day that amplifies the Church's social teaching and compels us to a renewed commitment to work to end the death penalty.

"World Day Against the Death Penalty provides an important reminder of the need to abolish the death penalty in our country. This year especially, as we reflect on the intersection between poverty and the death penalty, we are galvanized by our obligation as Catholics to have a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable," Karen Clifton, Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network remarked.

Poverty plays a critical role in whether or not someone receives a death sentence. From access to proper counsel at trial or extenuating circumstances like the inability to receive mental health services or a history of childhood abuse or trauma, poverty dramatically increases the likelihood of receiving a death sentence.

"The death penalty denies our call to uphold the sanctity of all life, particularly the command to care for those vulnerable and marginalized among us," Clifton proclaimed. "As we prepare for ten additional executions by the end of this year, World Day Against the Death Penalty offers a poignant reminder of the work that lies ahead to build a culture of life in our country. This day challenges Catholics and all people of good will to educate, advocate, and pray to end the death penalty."

More information about Catholic Mobilizing Network can be found at


Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph that works in close collaboration with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, proclaims the Church's pro-life teaching and prepares Catholics for informed involvement in the public debate to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.

(source: Religion News Network)


Lawsuits Challenge the Cruelty of Decades in Solitary Confinement on Death Row

In a dissenting opinion written earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that "If extended solitary confinement alone raises serious constitutional questions, then 20 years of solitary confinement, all the while under threat of execution, must raise similar questions, and to a rare degree, and with particular intensity." Yet in a majority of U.S. states where the death penalty is still in effect, it is standard practice to hold condemned men and women in extreme isolation for years or decades.

In the past 6 months, men held on death row in 2 southern states have filed class-action lawsuits, challenging what they say is the torturous policy which demands that all persons sentenced to death be held in solitary confinement until their execution - or until their eventual death by suicide, non-state homicide, or natural causes. The 1st lawsuit, filed on March 29th on behalf of 3 men on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, appears to have pressured the state to make modest policy changes in the way it treats condemned persons. The 2nd suit was filed on July 19th on behalf of 9 men on death row in Florida, where conditions remain unchanged.

Life on death row in Louisiana

At Angola, some 3/4 of the 75 men condemned to death have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, waiting for their appeals to be exhausted and the state to schedule their executions. (Surprisingly, unlike its neighbor Texas, Louisiana seems in no hurry on this front, and the last execution took place more than 7 years ago. The remarkably high level of death row exonerations - 11 in all - may well be a factor.) The 3 named plaintiffs in the suit have been on death row for between 25 and 31 years.

The men are represented by Nicholas Trenticosta, a longtime death penalty lawyer in New Orleans, as well as private pro-bono attorneys and faculty and students from the Cardozo School of Law in New York. Their lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and several wardens at Angola, asserts that the mental and physical anguish inflicted by indefinite isolation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Additionally, the plaintiffs' inability to challenge their placement in solitary violates the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, the suit argues.

Angola as a whole is infamous for the harsh and often slave-like conditions under which its more than 5,000 prisoners live, with many forced to labor in the prison's corn and cotton fields, watched over by armed guards on horseback. Yet the hardships of life in Angola's main cell blocks and camps pale in comparison with conditions on death row, as described in the brief filed on the plaintiffs' behalf.

Men on death row can leave their cells, 1 at a time, for 1 hour each day. During this hour they can use the phone, take a shower, or walk along the tier. Three times a week, they can spend their hour outside, alone, "in a small outdoor cage resembling a dog pen." Whenever they leave their tier, "prisoners are shackled at the ankles and their arms are restricted by a waist chain." This is the only human contact they experience.

The suit's named plaintiffs - Marcus Hamilton, Winthrop Eaton, and Michael Perry - were all convicted of murder decades ago. Eaton, 52, and Perry, 63, who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, respectively, have been deemed unfit for execution.

Neither of the 2 men, the suit claims, is capable of maintaining basic conversation. Eaton "rarely speaks, but when he does, he does so in 2 to 3 word sentences." Perry's speech "is mostly nonsensical," and because he "cannot communicate his needs," "he is 'ignored' by the prison guards" and is "unable to maintain basic hygiene," the suit alleges. Perry was the plaintiff in Perry v. Louisiana, wherein the Supreme Court considered the legality of forcibly medicating a mentally ill person on death row in order to render him competent to be executed. (The case was remanded to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which stayed Perry's execution.)

The 3rd plaintiff, Marcus Hamilton, 56, although competent to be executed, has been physically disabled for over 25 years, since a brain aneurysm rendered his left side paralyzed and his left arm "functionally unusable." The brief details his struggle to keep his mind sharp through bible study and writing to pen pals, and the grief he felt "the day he learned via newspaper reports that his mother and younger sister were murdered": "His feelings of powerlessness were intensified by not being able to properly process the tragedy or speak to close friends or confidants about it."

Hamilton is housed in Tier A, "where prisoners who have not had any disciplinary problems are housed." Tier A is host to occasional public tours, and Hamilton has expressed his frustration at being made to feel like a "zoo animal" stuck "in a cage."

That sentiment has been repeated by others housed on death row at Angola, including Damon Thibodeaux, who spent 15 years there before he was exonerated in 2012. Thibodeaux, in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "People would come to tour our cells as if we were in a zoo." He "very seriously considered giving up my legal rights and letting the state execute me. I was at the point where I did not want to live like an animal in a cage for years on end."

Thibodeaux also described the "unbearable" summers on Angola's death row: "The prison actually blew hot air from the outside in the death row building, raising temperatures into the 100-130 degree range in each cell ... We would sit in our cells with sweat dripping down our bodies ... If you treated animals this way," Thibodeaux said, "you would get arrested and prosecuted, but that is apparently not the case with humans."

In 2015, 3 other men held on death row at Angola filed a lawsuit claiming that the state's refusal to provide air conditioning during the sweltering Louisiana summers amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The suit earned national coverage when the judge in the case pointed out that the state had spent $1 million fighting the lawsuit - about 4 times more than the cost of installing air conditioning.

Although the battle for air conditioning has largely been lost, there are signs that the solitary confinement lawsuit is influencing prison policy in Louisiana. In May, officials announced that the men on Angola's death row would be let out of their cells for as many as 4 hours a day, and offered some opportunities for programming and group activities.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Corrections told the Marshall Project that there had been only 1 fight since the changes were implemented, and proclaimed them a "great success" - calling into question why round-the-clock isolation had ever been necessary at all. The lawsuit will continue to ensure that the new policies are fully implemented and, preferably, expanded.

Stepped-Up Court Challenges to Death Row Isolation

The past several years have seen a growing concern regarding the housing of people on death row in solitary confinement.

In 2013, the ACLU published an oft-cited report that, in its words, was the "1st critical overview ... of death row conditions nationwide and the legal and human implications of the death row prisoners locked in solitary confinement for years and even decades." Entitled A Death Before Dying, it reported that "The overwhelming majority of death-penalty states house death row prisoners in solitary confinement." It found that "93 % of states lock up their death row prisoners for 22 hours or more per day," and "67 % of states mandate no-contact visitation for death row prisoners."

Other reports and investigative journalism on death row conditions have followed, including a report published earlier this year by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, which concluded that "the current conditions of confinement on Texas' death row, including mandatory indefinite isolation, amount to a severe and relentless act of torture."

At the same time, federal courts have begun to entertain the notion that it is unconstitutional to automatically and permanently house men and women on death row in solitary confinement.

In 2013, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Virginia found the practice to be a violation of one's right to due process, although a federal appeals court overturned the decision. In 2015, Virginia settled another lawsuit alleging the practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The state allowed the condemned weekly contact visits and daily contact with up to three of their peers. It even spent almost $2 million on upgrades to the death row facility, which included a basketball court and a recreation room.

This past March, California settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of people held on death row alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. California, home to the nation's largest death row with 747 people awaiting execution, did not hold all of the condemned in its draconian "Adjustment Center" at San Quentin, but only those classified as gang members or otherwise deemed a threat. However, "Individuals can be held in the Adjustment Center on the flimsiest of evidence," Solitary Watch reported at the time. "Some individuals are assumed to have gang allegiances simply because of their ethnicity or the region where they grew up." The settlement placed a 5-year limit on how long men could be held in solitary on death row, with more frequent reviews of their status.

The same month, Arizona settled a lawsuit similar to those filed in Louisiana and Florida. The Arizona Department of Corrections has yet to announce the specific changes that it will have to make in order to meet the requirements of the settlement. But, according to the Marshall Project, it is expected that "inmates with clear disciplinary records ... will be moved to an area that allows for more out-of-cell time, visits in the same room with family and friends, outdoor group recreation and better job opportunities."

The most notable judicial critique - prior to Justice Breyer's dissent earlier this year - came in 2015 from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. In his concurring opinion in Davis V. Ayala, in which the justices had reviewed a separate legal point, Justice Kennedy wrote, "This separate writing responds only to one factual circumstance, mentioned at oral argument but with no direct bearing on the precise legal questions presented by this case."

Hector Ayala had been sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of 3 people during a failed robbery. He had spent most of the subsequent 25 years in solitary confinement. "If his solitary confinement follows the usual pattern," Justice Kennedy wrote, "it is likely respondent has been held for all or most of the past 20 years or more in a windowless cell no larger than a typical parking spot for 23 hours a day; and in the one hours when he leaves it, he likely is allowed little or no opportunity for conversation or interaction with anyone."

He concluded that, "In a case that presented the issue, the judiciary may be required, within its proper jurisdiction and authority, to determine whether workable alternative systems for long-term confinement exist, and, if so, whether a correctional system should be required to adopt them."

Corrections officials in many states have long defended the practice of automatically and permanently placing death-sentenced individuals in isolation on the grounds that they pose a unique threat to corrections officers, other prisoners, and the public. Yet a study published last year under the auspices of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School challenges those assumptions. The study analyzed the latitude corrections officials have in housing people facing the death penalty, and interviewed officials in North Carolina, Missouri, and Colorado, which do not automatically place such individuals in solitary.

The officials interviewed all noted that violent incidents either remained flat or decreased after integration of death-sentenced individuals with the general population. In Missouri, where they have been housed with the general prison population since 1989 following settlement of a lawsuit, researchers concluded that death-sentenced individuals had "equivalent or lower rates of violent misconduct" than people serving other sentences. They also found that "rates of violence among Missouri [death-sentenced] inmates were markedly lower after being mainstreamed than they had been under the prior era of heightened security conditions on 'death row.'"

In Florida, the Isolation Continues Until Death

Despite such evidence, many states continue to automatically place condemned individuals in complete isolation until their executions. In the Florida suit challenging this practice, the named plaintiffs are 2 men on death row at Florida State Prison and 7 at Union Correctional Institution, both in Raiford. They have been held in solitary confinement - which the Florida Department of Corrections calls "single-cell special housing" - for between four and 30 years. They, too, allege violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, on the grounds that permanent isolation "violates contemporary standards of decency" and that their inability to challenge their placement violates their right to due process.

The suit notes that FDOC rules mandate an annual review of an inmate "to determine overall institutional adjustment based on the inmate's disciplinary history, participation in programming, and cooperation with staff." But "Defendants have never moved any death row inmate ... to general population or any other form of less restrictive housing as a result of any annual review or otherwise." As in other death penalty states, it is not unusual for people to remain on Florida's death row for decades. Michael Lambrix, who was put to death by lethal injection last Thursday, had been held there in isolation for 34 years.

Conditions on Florida's death row were detailed by William Van Poyck - who spent 26 years there prior to his execution - in a series of letters he wrote to his sister, which she published in a blog titled Death Row Diary.

On May 22nd, 2013, 3 weeks after Governor Rick Scott had signed his death warrant, Van Poyck reported in his diary that another man on death row had recently been found hanging in his cell. He wrote:

"The irony wasn't lost on me that while 3 of us on death watch are fighting to live, this poor soul, living just 10 feet above us, stripped of all hope, had voluntarily surrendered his life rather than continue his dismal existence.

"When nothing but a lifetime of suffering lays ahead - with no hope, no promise, no opportunity to change your fate - the idea of utter annihilation can come to look appealing in contrast. When everything has been taken from you, the one thing you have left, that nobody can take away, is the decision to live or die. In that context choosing death can look like freedom ..."



Death penalty - a fatal, inhuman practice that discriminates against the poor

We celebrate today the 15th World Day against the Death Penalty. As of today, 105 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. In the past 25 years, 60 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and the number of states that carry out executions has fallen by nearly half.

But it is still not enough: the world's most populated countries - China, India, United States of America and Indonesia still retain capital punishment along with countries like North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Around 1/2 of the world's population, who live in these countries, is not guaranteed the right to life, as prescribed in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hundreds of executions are carried out every year and thousands are under sentence of death.

Worryingly, the death penalty has been carried out arbitrarily and in a manner that discriminates against the poor and the marginalized sections of society including minority groups and migrant workers.

When I was the Governor of New Mexico, I changed my mind from being a believer of capital punishment as I saw this discriminatory aspect of the death penalty. Besides, there is always the possibility of executing an innocent and so I abolished the death penalty in New Mexico in 2009. My convictions have only strengthened as 159 persons facing capital punishment in the USA have been reportedly found to be innocent since 1973.

In the USA, most persons facing the death penalty even today cannot afford their own attorney at trial and most court-appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid or lacked the experience necessary to defend capital punishment trials.

Moreover, prosecutors tended to seek the death penalty more often when the victim was white than when the victim was African-American or of another racial or ethnic origin. These factors have contributed to the arbitrariness of the death penalty. By doing so, the death penalty violates the right to equal dignity and this discrimination condemns them to further marginalization.

This discrimination against the poor and minority communities occurs not just in USA but in practically every country applying the death penalty. Because of their limited economic means, because of their lack of knowledge of the legal systems and their rights, because of poor legal defense support, because of systemic bias that they face from law enforcement authorities, they are under greater risk of being sentenced to death.

In India, almost 75 % of the persons sentenced to death, and in Malaysia, nearly 90 %, reportedly belonged to economically vulnerable groups. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan hundreds are executed every year, most of whom are poor or from minority communities; in addition, there are concerns that these three countries carry out executions of those who were juveniles when they allegedly committed the crimes for which they faced the death penalty.

In China, the number of executions carried out is a state secret and reportedly, those executed, feared to be in the thousands, include those belonging marginalized communities including unskilled workers who have little means of defense.

In Indonesia, 13 of the 16 persons executed in the last 2 years were foreign nationals and there were questions of fair trials in several of these cases.

From my experiences and beliefs, that are shared by my fellow Commissioners of the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), the death penalty is not the solution to end criminality. It is usually counterproductive as it worsens poverty, discrimination and inequalities, perpetrating the circle of violence.

The right to life is a universal human right and the death penalty has no place in the 21st century.

I am inspired today on the World Day against the Death Penalty, when I see that more than half the countries in the world have abolished capital punishment because they have recognized that modern justice systems can protect the public from crime without the irrevocable and cruel nature of the death penalty and the constant risk of executing an innocent person.

These nations have recognized that state killing is wrong and fails to deter crime more effectively than other punishments. Today, I join the ICDP and the abolitionist movement in committing ourselves to achieve a world free of the death penalty, a world free of this discriminatory practice that is based on vengeance and bias that only enhances the ever-present risk of wrongful convictions.

(source: Bill Richardson is the former Democratic governor of New Mexico. He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the secretary of energy, both during the Clinton administration. He also served in the House of Representatives. As a diplomat and special envoy, Richardson has received four Nobel Peace Prize nominations and has successfully won the release of hostages and American servicemen in North Korea, Cuba, Iraq and the


Evaluating the death penalty in the United States----A brief look into the monetary cost, public support, and risk associated with the death penalty.

In the current political hotbed of the United States, capital punishment is brushed aside by the highly publicized issues of immigration and healthcare. However, despite the lack of recent media attention, the death penalty is as alive and real as ever. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, nine executions remain scheduled for the year of 2017. In other words, nine lives will be damned to the eternal punishment of death. This begs the question: Do the numbers support the death penalty? This question delves into the economic, moral, and democratic benefits derived from capital punishment.

Public support

According to a recent poll conducted by Oxford University's Professor Mark Ramirez, "A majority of Americans support punitive criminal justice policies." Although this may sound disheartening for opponents of the death penalty, Ramirez concluded that America's leadership is currently poised to ban capital punishment.

However, America is currently more interested in the economy, healthcare, and immigration; hence any anti-death penalty discussion within Congress is highly unlikely.

Monetary cost

The Office of Performance Evaluations within the Idaho Legislature reports that, "capital cases take longer to complete compared with noncapital cases..." They go on to say, "We found that for those who went to trial, reaching a judgment of guilty or not guilty took 7 months longer for capital cases than for noncapital cases." This increased trial time incurs serious costs to the state and to the taxpayer. The study "estimated the lifetime cost of capital-prosecuted cases (between 1977 and 2000) to be $186 million." in the state of Idaho. Another study by the Death Penalty Information Center estimated that California has spent "$1.94 billion (in) Pre-Trial and Trial Costs" alone.

Opponents of the death penalty will claim that this money is the taxpayers' money and instead of erecting schools, building roads, or funding local services, this money is dedicated to ending lives.

Risk factor

According to Scientific American, "a team of researchers has concluded that about 4.1 % of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death are falsely convicted." Some, however, argue that this rate may in fact be higher due to a lack of investigative interest and finances once an execution is conducted. Is it moral to allow even one innocent person to die at the hands of America's justice system?



The Number Of Death Penalty Sentences Are Way Down, But The Data Are Hard To Find

Over the last 50 years, more than 8,000 people have been sentenced to die under the death penalty, and 1,500 of them were ultimately executed. But today, the death penalty has fallen out of favor.

On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, host and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris talks to Brandon Garrett, University of Virginia law professor and author of "End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice."

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

DAVID HARRIS: What was not working about the death penalty in its heyday?

BRANDON GARRETT: Death sentences came easy, they came fast. Death sentences occurred in trials that were only a day or two long where we never really even heard what the mental health evidence was, what the defendant was like. And as a result, we had a lot of wrongful convictions that came to light. Over 100 people have been exonerated from death row, and we had you know about two-thirds of those death sentences reversed on appeal or habeas [corpus] because the wrong people were getting sentenced to death. We were over producing death sentences. Now fewer people are being sentenced to death, but we still see the same problems. It seems like we're just not ready to do these serious murder cases right, which is why people are wondering whether we should be imposing final sentences like death sentences when there's no chance to obviously correct a problem once one gets executed.

HARRIS: When you noticed the death penalties decline, you naturally went and looked for the data but you didn't find it so you began to collect it yourself. What did you do?

GARRETT: We wanted to find out who was sentenced to death in this country and in what counties and what states and what years. There wasn't good information when death sentences rose to their height in the 1990s and then they steadily declined in the 2000s to the present. There are rosters of who's on death row at any time that the prisons keep, and so we come through those prison records. We did searches to see what appeals people filed in different states. We reached out to lawyers that work on death penalty cases, and by combing through all those records we put together what we think is a definitive list of everyone sentenced to death from 1991 through the present.

HARRIS: Where are we in 2016? How many death verdicts, how many executions in the last year?

GARRETT: Death sentences and executions have cratered. In the 1990s, there were well over 300 death sentences a year in some years. Last year, there were 31. So it's just enormous - it's like a 90 % drop in death sentence. Executions have dropped even faster.

HARRIS: Why has the shift in death penalty sentences happened? Is it too many wrongful convictions that DNA shows later? Is it life without parole? Is it the decline in crime, especially murders?

GARRETT: Well what I found in analyzing DNA exonerations, adoption of life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, other changes coming from the U.S. Supreme Court, I found that none of those things were correlated with the decline in death sentences. The decline in murders was, but I also found that changes in the way that states provide resources to defense lawyers so that they actually set up offices so the defense can put on a fair case, that had an enormous impact. And so you see the decline of murders start to impact death sentencing, and by the late 90s, death sentencing starts to steadily decline. But then it really declines in the states where there's some kind of an office that knows what it's doing handling death penalty trials. You also see a steady effect of cost. Death penalty trials are really expensive. In the rural counties, they can't afford it. They almost entirely stop death sentencing, and then you see this kind of muscle memory effect. Prosecutors have gotten used to doing death sentencing and doing it easily and cheaply. Well once that starts to unravel, you see prosecutors just stop doing death sentencing entirely. And that muscle memory, that momentum, that inertia disappears.

(source: WESA news)


Egypt sentences 8 defendants to death over violence-related charges

An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced 8 defendants to death over storming a police station in a city just south of Cairo in 2013.

The ruling by the Cairo Criminal Court also sentenced 50 others to life in prison on charges that include the 2013 attack on the Helwan police station.

The attack came after security forces dispersed two sit-ins by supporters of then president, Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military in 2013.

The verdict can be appealed. Prosecutors have already received a non-binding approval for the death penalty in the case from the country's chief Islamic legal authority.



Europe may force Russia reinstate death penalty

Russia will consider the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights null and void in the event the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refuses to reinstate the Russian delegation in 2018, Valentina Matvienko, the Speaker of the Council of the Federation said.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe will be elected in 2018. There is awareness that without the participation of any delegation, in particular, the Russian one, the election of the head of this organization is not going to be completely legitimate. This applies to the elections of the judges of the ECHR too," Matvienko said on Monday on Rossiya 24 television channel.

When asked whether the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are going to be considered illegitimate on the territory of the Russian Federation, Matvienko responded: "Naturally, of course."

In this connection, Russia may reinstate the death penalty as a form of capital punishment for grave crimes. Will Russia make such a move?

Russia was invited to the Council of Europe in 1996. The abolition of the death penalty was a mandatory condition for Russia to join the international European organization. In 1997, Russia signed Protocol No. 6 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty (in peacetime). The protocol was not ratified, but Russia has not been practicing death penalty since 1996. Russia does not resort to capital punishment under the Vienna Convention, because a signatory state is supposed to follow the provisions of the protocol before it is ratified.

Can Russia reinstate the death penalty and should we do it indeed? We talked about the problem in a brief interview with first deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, Franz Klintsevich.

According to the senator, the Council of the Federation has recently had a heated discussion about a bill, according to which those convicted for terrorism should be provided with conditions to communicate with their relatives and friends. This is also part of Europe's requirements, Franz Klintsevich noted.

"Members of the committee have expressed harsh reactions on the subject, but we have made a decision in accordance with requirements of the international law. We have also set up a conciliation commission to revise the document. As for the remarks by Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, I also believe that we should defend our interests more rigidly and look at things the way many people look, including the Americans. I am talking about the need to take into account the mentality of our own people, without being fixated on the things that they impose on us from the outside," the senator said.

According to Klintsevich, for the time being, Russia is not going to abolish the moratorium on the death penalty, but one can talk about it today.

"I am personally convinced that terrorists, pedophiles, serial killers and corrupt officials, in case of a court verdict, should face such a form of punishment as death penalty," said Klintsevich.



"2/3 of Serbians want death penalty reintroduced"

Deputy Ombudsman Milos Jankovic says the fact that the number of Serbians who are in favor of reintroducing the death penalty is on the rise is worrying.

According to Jankovic, who spoke on the occasion of October 10, World and European Day Against the Death Penalty, last year a little over 1/2 of those surveyed favored this, while now the number has reached over 2/3.

He recalled that the last time the death penalty was carried out in Serbia was in February 1992, while the practice was formally abolished in 2002.

Jankovic, who is the ombudsman's deputy for the rights of imprisoned persons, is convinced, however, that the death penalty will never be reintroduced in this country, and that Serbia will never again execute a human being.



Intizar - an unequivocal call for abolition of death penalty

With its final performance, 'Intizar', at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, the week-long 'Bus Kar Do' campaign, calling for abolition of death penalty, wound up on Tuesday evening.

The campaign was run by Lahore-based Justice Project Pakistan, Azad Theatre, and Highlight Arts. The performance coincided with the World Day Against Death Penalty falling on October 10.

Travelling all the way by special bus from Lahore to Karachi, stopping en route at Sahiwal, Sukkur, and Hyderabad and performing at these places too, the troupe staged its final performance in Karachi on Tuesday.

In the tradition of street theatre, the act was performed out in the open courtyard without the theatre paraphernalia like sets and lighting. Yet the actors managed to convey their message in a very profound way.

The message was the weaknesses of the justice dispensation system whereby loopholes in the law often send the innocent to the gallows, as a result of exploitation by selfish, dishonest officials or various caveats.

This particular musical skit enacted the story of a teenager, Owais, who mysteriously disappears from among his group of friends. The whole locality is in a frightening quandary but the political elder with his oily tongue assures the residents that the killer would be apprehended soon and orders the police official to arrest him by the evening.

The police officer takes a real short-cut and randomly arrests one of the cronies of the teenager who implores to be released, with protestations of his innocence.

However, the police officer is in no mood to listen. The denouement of the play is that Owais, who actually is a worker from a remote part of Pakistan and has come to a big city to eke out a living, finally goes to the gallows despite his innocence.

Given its sombre theme, the scenes were often depressing, what with shrouded dead bodies of convicts/victims being carried, but it drove home a very profound message, something that would give us all real food for thought.

What made it all even more intense was the rendition of the songs by Sarfaraz Ansari, in his deep, rich voice, complete with those cadences and voice modulations that make a song impactful.

The Punjabi lyrics were so reflective of our treasured cultural heritage of the province. Besides, they really reflected the tragedy the play was depicting; Ansari really injected feeling into the songs.

Ryan Van Winkle, a US citizen presently associated with the Highlight Arts, UK, and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, while talking to The News, said that while he did not advocate complete and total abolition of the death penalty right away, he felt that the state should not meddle with the justice dispensation system beyond a certain limit.

Before sentencing a convict to the ultimate punishment, a whole set of factors should be considered that motivated the crime, plus the circumstances of the perpetrator of the crime.

The pun, Bus Kar Do, is actually supposed to convey the idea of the bus that has brought the troupe over and is an exhortation to terminate the system of capital punishment.



'Wider public debate needed on death penalty'

Senator Farhatullah Babar said on Tuesday that a wider public debate is needed on the death penalty that engages all sections of society in all provinces, instead of just politician and opinion-makers.

The senator was speaking to participants at a demonstration organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on the international day against the death penalty.

Senator Babar said that even if it is not initially possible to abolish the death penalty, basic legal guarantees in death penalty cases can and must be ensured.

Regardless of one's opinion, there can be no disagreement on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to a proper legal defence and declaring confessions extracted through torture illegal, he said.

He added that some jurists have also proposed a time gap between conviction and the pronouncement of the sentence, to safeguard against a hasty death penalty.

Senator Babar said there are laws with locus in religion that cannot be changed, but while there are only 2 crimes that are punishable by death according to the religion, there are 27 crimes that carry the death penalty, and called for a review.

He added that in Pakistan, the death penalty was almost abolished for the rich and privileges due to the mis-application of the Qisas and Diyat provisions.

He said the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted only in cases of hardcore terrorists.

We ought to know how many of the hundreds executed during the past 3 years were terrorists and how many were ordinary criminals, he said.

Any one who has taken the lives of others, how he could be spared. Since last 3 years when executions of the terrorists and murderers have restarted , there is drastic decline in terrorism and crime.



HRCP holds rally against death penalty

About 15 to 20 activists of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) held a rally on Tuesday to mark the "15th World Day against Death Penalty".

The participants in the rally held outside the Lahore Press Club, and led by HRCP Director Mona Baig and Programme Coordinator Tahira Habib, demanded the government to abolish the death penalty and adopt a moratorium on death penalties. The participants were carrying placards inscribed with slogans like calling attention to miscarriages of justice and the need to honour life.

On the occasion, the HRCP activists distributed pamphlets among commuters and media which explained the need to abolish death penalty. According to the pamphlet, death penalty in Pakistan has become controversial. At the time of independence, only 2 offences, murder and treason, carried death penalty while today, 28 crimes are punishable by it. According to the pamphlet, increase in offences which carry death penalty has been made against logic and without due consideration.

HRCP said that execution of criminals is state killing its own citizens, adding that the capital punishment has come to end in 140 countries and the campaign for abolition of capital punishment is gaining momentum across the world.

HRCP Chief Coordinator Hafeez Buzdar said that the poor cannot afford expenses of fighting cases in the courts and in most cases they are awarded capital punishment which amounts to a discrimination in law.

According to HRCP Database Administrator Muhammad Adeel, 55 prisoners have been executed in Pakistan in 2017 by August 31, while 175 have been convicted between June-July 2017 alone.

(source: Pakistan Today)


Executions continue in flawed attempt to tackle drug crime, despite limited reforms

Singapore's continued reliance on mandatory death sentences, which violate international law, has meant that dozens of low level drug offenders have been sent to death row in recent years, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

Cooperate or Die also reveals how death penalty reforms introduced in 2013, while reducing the number of people sentenced to death, do not go nearly far enough and in particular have left life and death decisions in the hands of the public prosecutor instead of judges.

"Singapore likes to paint itself as a prosperous and progressive role model, but its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life. The country relies on harsh laws that overwhelmingly target drug offenders on the lower rungs of the ladder, many of whom will come from disadvantaged backgrounds," said Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty International's Death Penalty Adviser.

"The reforms introduced in 2013 were a step in the right direction and have allowed some people to escape the gallows, but in key respects they have been flawed from the outset.

"Singapore is influential beyond its size in both Asia and the rest of the world. The government should move forward from these reforms towards ending capital punishment once and for all."

Amnesty International's investigation, based on extensive analysis of court documents, shows that Singaporean courts continue to hand down mandatory sentences in drug-trafficking cases, even though the new reforms should allow for more leniency.

Mandatory death sentences do not allow judges to take into account the mitigating circumstances of the crime or of the offenders. They leave courts with no option but to condemn drug offenders to the gallows.

The majority of people sent to death row for drug offences in the last four years have possessed relatively small amount of drugs and many say they were driven to the drug trade by unemployment or debt.

Since the new reforms were introduced in 2013, drug carriers should be able to avoid mandatory death sentences by co-operating sufficiently with the state prosecutor during the investigation phase or trial. However, decisions on who meets this criteria rests fully with the public prosecutor and not the judge, and are taken behind closed doors in a murky and non-transparent process.

"The use of mandatory death sentences in Singapore must end immediately. Although there has been a reduction in such sentences in the last few years, the fact that they are still used at all is cause for deep concern," said Chiara Sangiorgio.

A flawed tool to tackle crime

Singaporean officials have continued to justify the retention of the death penalty by pointing to it being a supposedly effective tool to tackle crime. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a speech to the UN in September 2016 said: "In our view, capital punishment for drug-related offences and for murder has been a key element in keeping Singapore drug free and keeping Singapore safe."

This is despite the fact that there is no evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than other penalties such as life imprisonment, something confirmed in multiple studies, including by the UN, across the globe.

"Singapore is deluding itself if it thinks the death penalty is an effective tool to reduce crime rates. This is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, it does not make us safer - a fact the vast majority of the world's countries have acknowledged," said Chiara Sangiorgio.

"Singapore should immediately put a freeze on the implementation of the death penalty with a view to its eventual repeal. In the short term, the country must reform its legal framework to bring it in line with international law, and ensure that death row convicts are afforded all legal protections guaranteed under international law and standards."

Crackdown on activists

Since the reforms were introduced, Singaporean authorities have also increasingly cracked down on those voicing dissent against the use of the death penalty, in particular lawyers and other activists. A new law introduced in 2016 has tightened already severe restrictions on the ability of human rights defenders and others to criticise court decisions.

In August 2017, for example, the High Court fined one lawyer who represented a death row convict SD6,000 (USD4,400) after he made a Facebook post critical of the judiciary hours before his client was due to be executed.

"Singaporean authorities have never had much time for the right to freedom of expression, and they are now increasingly seeking to silence debate on the use of capital punishment. This deliberate pattern of harassing those advocating for the right to life must end immediately," said Chiara Sangiorgio.


Singapore has seen marked progress on its use of the death penalty since the mid-1990s, when the city state was the world's highest executioner per capita and implemented dozens of death sentences every year.

Over the past 3 years, a total of 10 people have been executed (4 in 2016), while at least 17 death sentences were imposed in the same period. In all cases, those sentenced to death have been convicted of murder or drug trafficking.

Drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" to which the death penalty must be restricted under international law

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)


Spotlight On 16 Bahrainis facing execution on annual world day against death penalty

Rights groups are hoping to highlight the alarming number of Bahrainis on death row on the occasion of the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty.

According to the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), 16 Bahrainis are currently awaiting execution in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

The rights group alleges that 13 were convicted of politically motivated charges; 9 of them this year.

On January 15, Manama executed 3 Shiite men in what marked the 1st death sentences to be carried in decades.

Sami Mushaima, Ali Al-Singace, and Abbas Al-Samea were killed by firing squad after being falsely accused of carrying out a bombing in 2014 that left three state-security officers dead. They were convicted despite having their confessions extracted under torture, a lack of evidence, and the absence of due process.

This year is the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on October 10 and seeks the abolition of the practice.

(source: AhlulBayt News Agency)


The 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty

On October 10th, 2017, the World Coalition against the Death Penalty and abolitionist organizations across the world recognize the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Iraq remains one of few countries who still practice the death penalty including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United States.

Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. In 1977, only 16 countries were against the practice and now, in 2017, 141 countries have abolished it or no longer practice it.

There are currently an estimated 1816 individuals under sentence of death in Iraq. There were 101 executions recorded in Iraq in 2016 but so far, in 2017, no executions have been carried out or recorded by the formal government, though executions of suspected ISIS militants by local forces and militia, are reported to occur regularly, with impunity.

Why should the death penalty be abolished? Research of executions around the globe have shown it to be discriminatory and biased against the mentally unwell, poor and uneducated, it is ineffective in curbing crime, has historically been used in error against innocent persons, and it is inhumane.

This year's world campaign against the death penalty highlights the social and economic inequalities that affect unequal access to justice. Defendants who lack the social, economic and political resources to engage in the system effectively, cannot defend themselves.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and many international bodies remain deeply concerned about the use of the death penalty in Iraq at a time when its justice system is already overloaded and under-resourced. The Secretary General of the United Nations, his successive representatives in Iraq and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have consistently called on the Government of Iraq to become party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and, in the meantime, to comply with United Nations General Assembly resolutions.



Afghan girl's murderer to receive death penalty soon

The 17-year-old Iranian boy who had prosecuted for the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of the 6-year-old Afghan girl, Setayesh Qoreishi, has been handed down death penalty.

The boy who brutally killed the girl after raping her on April 10, 2016, has been in custody for more than a year now.

The horrific and tragic crime aroused great anger among the public and many officials called for severe punishment for the murderer. The Iranian deputy secretary general of High Council for Human Rights and Judicial Cooperation Kazem Gharibabbadi has explained Afghans are too entitled to equal protection of the law in Iran without any discrimination.

Now after more than a year the underage murderer who will soon come of age will face punishment by the end of the current Iranian calendar month of Mehr (October 22).

According to Mehr news agency the execution will be carried out on October 17-19 depending on the court order.

(source: Tehran Times)


World Day Against the Death Penalty: 435 Executions in Iran

Since January 2017, at least 435 people, including 5 juvenile offenders, have been executed according to Iran by Iran Human Rights (IHR) Death Penalty Research Section. At least 219 people have been executed for drug offences so far in 2017.

We celebrate this year's "World Day Against the Death Penalty", October 10, as the bill for the amendment to Iran's Anti-drug law is about to come to a conclusion. The bill has been approved by the Iranian Parliament, however, it still needs to be approved by the Guardian Council in order to be legislated. According to this bill, it is predicted that more than 80 % of nearly 4000 prisoners who are sentenced to death on drug related charges will be saved from execution. Considering the fact that 50 to 60 % of death sentences in Iran are issued for drug related crimes, it seems that this bill will play an important role in decreasing the number of executions if it is approved. Earlier in 2017, members of the Iranian Parliament's Justice Cimmittee called on the Judiciary to halt the drug related executions until the fait of the new bill is clear. However, the drug related executions in Iran continue as before. So far in 2017 at least 219 have been executed for drug offences.

In 2002, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) established 10 October as the date of the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty. WCADP has 140 members from 5 continents. 20 organizations, including Iran Human Rights (IHR), constitute the Steering Committee of this coalition. The role of this committee is to establish general policies and introduce the annual topics of this coalition.

Since in all the countries around the world poor and marginalized people are the main victims of the death penalty, the Steering Committee of WCADP has selected "Poverty" as the topic for this year's World Day Against the Death Penalty. There has not been a thorough research on the relationship between poverty and the death penalty in Iran. Although, as Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty suggests, most victims of executions are poor and belong to the marginalized parts of the Iranian society, including ethnic regions and Afghan citizens. Even Iranian officials have admitted that most of those executed for drug offences are not the real drug dealers but poor and marginalized people who are used as carriers for a small amount of money. In February 2016, the Iranian Vice-President Shahindokht Molaverdi said in a press conference that "We have a village in Baluchestan Province where every single man has been executed (for drug offences)". Baluchistan is Iran's poorest province.

The reasons why death penalty mainly targets poor people in Iran may include:

First, many people turn to drug trafficking as a result of poverty.

Second, many of these people belong to the lower strata of society, have a low level of education, and are unaware of their legal rights.

Third, most of these people do not afford to have a lawyer of their own choice and other legal and illegal facilities which require affluence in Iran's judicial system in order for them to be saved from execution.

It seems that poverty and being marginalized rather than the extent of the crime, are the common denominators for most victims of the death penalty in the world. In the few countries where such research has been conducted, researches have shown that if a poor and a wealthy person both commit a similar crime, the probability of the poor being sentenced to death is much higher. Thus, the death penalty is not only inhumane, but also unfair and discriminatory as it does not depend on the intensity of the crime, but on the socio-economic factors.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Scrap death penalty on drugs to start ball rolling, Amnesty tells Putrajaya

Malaysia should abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug cases at the next Parliament sitting as a pledge to improve human rights here, Amnesty International (AI) said today after the government announced its plans to allow judges a choice in sentencing.

AI Malaysia acting executive director Gwen Lee said many drug cases involve people from lower income groups and that it would be unfair if they had to pay with their lives for such crimes. She added that it would be a good first step towards abolishing the draconian punishment.

She cited the case of one Hoo Yew Wah, a poor Johorean currently on death row for drug possession charges in 2005, as an example of such cases.

"The situation is no different in Malaysia, where it is often those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds who end up paying the price of the death penalty.

"The mandatory death penalty on drug is very important to be reviewed," Lee said in a press conference today.

She also urged Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said to ensure the law gets tabled in Parliament this month.

The minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of law previously said in August that the Cabinet agreed to amend the colonial-era Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952 to give courts a choice in sentencing.

"We want total abolition, but we see this as a good step forward. We are hoping that it will be tabled and it is on the list of suggested amendments," Lee stressed.

She said this would also help in Malaysia's bid to be reappointed into the United Nation's Human Rights Council.

Capital punishment is mandatory in Malaysia for murder and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

According to Azalina, a total of 651 Malaysians have been sentenced to death since 1992, most of them for drug offences.

(source: The Malay Mail Online)


Abolition of the mandatory death penalty: No more delays - Malaysian Bar-----The World Day against the Death Penalty is commemorated on 10 October each year.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for persons convicted of murder, trafficking in narcotics of various amounts, and discharging a firearm in the commission of various crimes (even where no one is hurt).

The Malaysian Bar has been, and remains, in the frontline of the battle to uphold and preserve the rule of law, fundamental constitutional rights, the administration of justice, and law and order. In this regard, we have consistently called for the abolition of the death penalty. The Malaysian Bar at its Annual or Extraordinary General Meetings in 1985, 2006, 2012 and 2015 passed resolutions condemning the death penalty and/or calling for its abolition.

The campaign to abolish the death penalty is not meant to confer licence to commit serious crimes with impunity. Persons convicted of serious crimes must receive proportionate punishment. But this does not mean that they therefore ought to die.

The Malaysian Bar has always taken the view that there is no empirical evidence or data that confirms that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes. There has been no significant reduction in the incidence of crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory. This is particularly true of drug-related offences.

In short, the death penalty does not work as a deterrent.

The Malaysian Bar's primary opposition to the death penalty is because life is sacred, and every person has an inherent right to life. This is vouchsafed in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which eschews the arbitrary deprivation of life. The right to life is a fundamental right that must be absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of the crime committed by the accused person.

Recently, Minister Dato' Sri Azalina Othman Said stated on 7 August 2017 that the Cabinet had approved the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences. However, there has been no announcement of any timeline, or any release of draft legislation to this effect. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government of Malaysia to introduce the amending legislation without further delay. Any delay will mean more people being sentenced to die.

The Malaysian Bar further calls upon the Government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, stop executions, and commute each death sentence to one of imprisonment.

(source: This statement is issued by George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar Council. This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail


Death penalty sought for alleged 'black widow' serial killer

Prosecutors on Tuesday sought the death penalty for a 70-year-old woman, dubbed the "black widow," charged with the murders of her husband and 2 common-law partners and the attempted murder of an acquaintance between 2007 and 2013.

Describing Chisako Kakehi's alleged crimes as "heinous and serious incidents that are rarely seen," the prosecutors said in their closing arguments at the Kyoto District Court that the victims - all elderly men - were given drinks laced with cyanide by Kakehi. She was heavily indebted and had been planning to inherit their assets.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Nov. 7, with the defense making its closing statements on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Kakehi is mentally competent and can be held responsible for her crimes, which "were premeditated." Her "cognitive function has not significantly deteriorated as shown in her psychiatric evaluation," and she had no mental disorders at the time of the crimes, they said.

Kakehi denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. Her defense argued that she cannot be held responsible or stand trial due to the onset of dementia. They cited her incoherent statements which they said even led to her admission at one point during proceedings to committing murder.

According to prosecutors, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband Isao as well as common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by poisoning them with cyanide.

In the trial held under the country's lay judge system, which involves citizen judges, the prosecutors built their case against Kakehi based on circumstantial evidence amid a dearth of physical evidence.

Kakehi was first arrested in November 2014 and indicted the following month on a charge of killing Isao, who died at the couple's home in Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, in December 2013. They married the previous month. She was later indicted in connection with the deaths of the 2 other men.

Kakehi, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, married 1st at the age of 24 and started her own fabric printing factory in Osaka Prefecture with her 1st husband. But following his death in around 1994, the factory went bankrupt and her house was put up for auction, forcing her to ask neighbors for a loan.

She later registered with a matchmaking service, specifically asking to meet wealthy men with an annual income of more than Y10 million.

She was romantically involved with or associated with more than 10 men, enabling her to inherit an estimated Y1 billion ($8.8 million) but later fell into debt following her attempts to speculate in stocks and futures trading.

(source: The Japan Times)


Narcotic Agency Head Budi Waseso says death penalty critics may be part of drug syndicates

Tuesday was World Day Against the Death Penalty, and human rights activists in Indonesia used the occasion to highlight an alarming increase in death penalty prosecutions over the last year and to renew call for a moratorium on the practice until the procedures regulating it can be thoroughly reviewed to prevent human rights violations.

But the head of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), Commissioner-General Budi Waseso, shot back at critics of the death penalty, saying that it was an essential deterrent in the country's war on drugs and implying that those who oppose capital punishment might be criminals themselves.

"Why do these 'sontoloyo' (lit. duck herders; colloquially, people who hold up progress with unimportant issues) keep defending (drug dealers) continuously? What if they are part of the drug mafia syndicate?" Budi said at a press conference Tuesday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

He specifically took aim at Amnesty International, the activist NGO that defends human rights around the world and has asked the Indonesian government numerous times to place a moratorium on the death penalty in light of the numerous human rights violations related to its use in Indonesia in the past.

"What has Amnesty International ever done for this nation? Did they ever build up Indonesia? Have they ever struggled positively for the nation? Never, right?" Budi said.

Not only did the BNN chief defend the death penalty as a necessary, he suggested the government increase it’s deterrent value by having them be dicincang (chopped up) instead of shot.

"If we just chopped them up, there would be no need for them to be shot. Showing that would be a real deterrent," said Budi (who, by the way, was indeed the same guy who said he wanted to build a prison exclusively for drug dealers guarded by angry crocodiles).

Budi said that sentencing drug dealers to death could save 212,000 people's lives in Indonesia (not sure where he pulled that number from) and, pulling a card from Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's playbook, said human rights activists should focus on protecting the rights of victims rather than the rights of drug dealers.

Besides Amnesty, the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), also recently asked that Indonesia declare a moratorium on the death penalty while the process in which criminals can be convicted and appeal the sentence be reviewed for violations of human rights, noting that one of the last people executed by the government, Humphrey Jefferson "Jeff" Ejike, had been denied the ability to exercise all of his appeal options before he was killed.



France opposes restoration of death penalty in PHL

France on Wednesday voiced its concern on a plan by the Philippine government to restore death penalty, which it called an "unjust, inhumane and ineffective" punishment.

The French government made the statement on the occasion of the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty and the 40th anniversary of the last execution in France.

"France is...concerned about the determination of Philippine authorities to reintroduce the death penalty, following its abolition in 2006," it said in a statement sent by its embassy in Manila.

It also expressed concern on the continued use of the death penalty, notably in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and the United States.

France also took note of the resumption of executions in Nigeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Jordan, but praised efforts of other countries, such as Mongolia, Gambia, Benin, Nauru and Guinea to abolish death penalty.

"France is opposed to the death penalty everywhere and under all circumstances," the European Union-member nation said as it called on states that still impose the death penalty to establish a moratorium toward its definitive abolition.

President Rodrigo Duterte has severely criticized the EU for opposing his policy to reintroduce capital punishment for drug dealers and heinous crimes.

Duterte, known for using strong language against his critics, earlier threatened to hang EU officials for their opposition to death penalty and lambasted them for intervening in the country's domestic policies.

The status of the proposed revival of the capital punishment law, however, remains unclear as the House of Representatives, which approved its version of the death penalty bill last March, and the Senate excluded it from the list of priority measures for the 17th Congress.

(source: GMA News)


The death penalty has no place in the 21st century' - UN chief Guterres

The death penalty does little to deter crimes or serve victims, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday, calling on all countries which have not forbidden the extreme practice to urgently stop executions.

"The death penalty has no place in the 21st century," underscored Mr. Guterres, speaking alongside Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at an event at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

Welcoming that some 170 States around the world have either abolished the death penalty and put a moratorium on its use - most recently, Gambia and Madagascar - and that executions in 2016 were down 37 % compared in 2015, the UN chief, however, added that at present just 4 countries accounted for 87 % of all recorded executions.

He also expressed concern that the countries that countries that continue executions are also failing to meet their international obligations, particular in relation to transparency and compliance with international human rights standards.

"Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why," noted Mr. Guterres, underscoring that lack of transparency showed a lack of respect for the human rights of those sentenced to death and to their families, as well as damaging administration of justice more generally.

Concluding his remarks, the Secretary-General urged all those States that have abolished the death penalty to lend their voice to the call on the leaders of those countries that retain it, "to establish an official moratorium, with a view to abolition as soon as possible."

Also today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also called on all countries to strengthen efforts to abolish the death penalty.

"We [...] call on all States to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for OHCHR, told journalists at a regular news briefing in Geneva.

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), now ratified by 85 States around the globe, requires its parties to abolish death penalty. It is the only universal international legal instrument that aims to end the practice.

"[OHCHR] stands ready to continue to support all efforts in this direction," he added.



World Day Against Death Penalty: 5 Countries That Ditched Capital Punishment

October 10 marks World Day Against the Death Penalty, a time where human rights activist come together to advocate against capital punishment.

In the United States, executions occur so frequently that I bet a lot of Americans don't even realize how atypical this form of punishment is, particularly amongst other developed nations. As Amnesty International points out, with fewer than 200 countries in the world, 141 of them don’t use the death penalty, with 104 countries explicitly banning it.

In honor of World Day Against the Death Penalty, let's look at how just a few of those nations from various parts of the world officially got rid of the death penalty:

1. Australia

Originally settled as a penal colony, Australia has strong roots tied to punishment - and that included capital punishment. Gradually over a period of decades, however, Australian states and territories opted to get rid of the death penalty on their own accord, starting with Queensland in 1922 and wrapping up with New South Wales in 1985.

Not that there was a lot of clamor to bring the death penalty back, but in 2010, the Australian federal parliament decided to follow all of its states' lead and pass a law forbidding any part of Australia from reintroducing capital punishment down the road. It served as a recommitment to the idea that he death penalty is wrong.

2. Rwanda

After 800,000 people were killed in acts of genocide in the country, many of those responsible for these atrocities fled Rwanda to avoid punishment. Other countries kept tabs on these criminals on Rwanda's behalf, but refused to extradite them because of their own laws, which forbid them from turning over someone who would likely be charged with the death penalty.

If Rwanda wanted to get these murderers back, realistically, the country would have to choose to get rid of the death penalty.

It wasn't necessarily an easy decision for Rwandans since many survivors of genocide wanted to see the perpetrators of violence killed for their crimes. Ultimately, however, political leaders decided that achieving some sort of justice was preferable to letting these people go free and they voted overwhelmingly to end the death penalty.

3. Argentina

Argentina is an interesting case because its Constitution outlawed the death penalty at the time of its founding, only to see it reemerge a handful of times anyway. 5 times over the span of decades, Argentina decided to reinstate capital punishment, generally for just a couple years before opting to get rid of it again.

By 1984, his fickleness settled down and Argentina settled on only applying the death penalty for certain military-related matters. Then in 2008, Argentina decided even military personnel should be spared this fate. Like most of Latin America, it definitively eliminated the death penalty for everybody once and for all.

4. Vatican City

In 1929, Vatican City decided to follow Italy's lead and allow the death penalty. That said, the tiny Catholic country was only prepared to use capital punishment for one crime and one crime only - the attempted assassination of the pope. (To be fair, that does seem like a pretty big one.)

Luckily for the popes, the death penalty was never necessary. 40 years later, it hadn't been used at all, and by then Catholic leaders decided it wouldn't want to use it even if there were an attempt on the pope's life.

To this day, the Vatican City has been outspoken on the issue of the death penalty. Pope Francis has urged all countries in the world to get rid of this form of punishment permanently.

5. Mongolia

Only a decade ago, Mongolia was one of the Asian countries called out by human rights groups for conducting executions in secret, leaving it impossible to know how many people the government was killing.

All that changed in 2009, though, when Tsakhia Elbegdorj was elected president of Mongolia. A passionate death penalty abolitionist, he managed to singlehandedly change the course of the country by pledging to pardon all prisoners awaiting capital punishment in Mongolia. The following year, he put a moratorium on executions altogether.

At the time, pundits thought the moratorium was not likely to last past Elbegdorj's time in office, but that no longer seems to be the case. By 2015, the country's lawmakers came to see the president's point of view and officially abolished the death penalty.



The death penalty: what's changed since 1977?

It's 40 years since we created the world's 1st international manifesto to end the death penalty. Since 1977, we have seen huge amounts of progress in the campaign to end the use of the death penalty around the world. We're so much closer to seeing the end of this horrific punishment - which we consider the ultimate denial of human rights. But we're not quite there yet.

Do something now

Stop the executions in the Maldives

The Maldives is set to start using the death penalty again after 60 years of not executing anyone. 3 men now face execution by hanging.

Stop 14 men being executed in Saudi Arabia

14 men are due to be beheaded for allegedly being involved in anti-government protests, after they were tortured into confessing.

40 years of campaigning to end the death penalty

"When the state uses its power to end the life of a human being, it is likely that no other right is inviolate. The state cannot give life, it should not presume to take it away."---- Amnesty International's Declaration of Stockholm

In 1977, we drafted the Declaration of Stockholm - a declaration calling on every government around the world to stop using the death penalty.

Why did we decide to campaign to stop the death penalty?

The death penalty the ultimate denial of a basic human right - the right to life. The state shouldn't be able to take that away from you as a punishment within a criminal justice system. The death penalty also denies someone the right to be free from torture. It is a violent irreversible punishment.

We oppose the use of the death penalty in every single case. No matter what the crime, who the alleged criminal is, or the method proposed to execute them - we always stand against it.

The death penalty is irreversible and mistakes happen. Execution is the ultimate, irrevocable punishment: the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. Since 1973, for example, 150 US prisoners sent to death row have later been exonerated (cleared of the crime/s they were, or were due to be, executed for). Many people have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt.

It doesn't deter crime. Countries that execute commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime. This claim has been repeatedly discredited, and there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than imprisonment.

It's often used within skewed justice systems. Some of the countries executing the most people have deeply unfair legal systems. The 'top' 3 executing countries - China, Iran and Iraq - have issued death sentences after unfair trials. Many death sentences are issued after 'confessions' that have been obtained through torture.

It's discriminatory. You are more likely to be sentenced to death if you are poor or belong to a racial, ethnic or religious minority because of discrimination in the justice system. Also, poor and marginalized groups have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves.

It's used as a political tool. The authorities in some countries, for example Iran and Sudan, use the death penalty to punish political opponents.

Documenting executions

One of the ways we protect human rights is by reporting when governments abuse them. Our research is used to help hold abusers to account in courts around the world.

Under international law, the death penalty is banned from use - except during times of war - under:

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights

The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The European Convention on Human Rights (Protocol No. 13) bans use of the death penalty at all times, even during war.

Although international law says that the death penalty can be used for the most serious crimes, like murder, we believe that the death penalty is never the answer.

In 1979 we started publishing statistics showing which countries were executing, how and why. We have reported on this every year ever since, and have become a key global authority on monitoring and reporting on death sentences and executions carried out by governments worldwide.

40 years on...fewer states are executing

Back in 1977, the death penalty was legal in most of the world, with the exception of 16 countries who had outlawed it.

Now, in 2017, the death penalty is illegal in 105 countries. A further 36 countries have either repealed the death penalty for 'ordinary crimes' such as murder, or effectively stopped using the death penalty although it remains legal.

Last year, only 23 countries actually executed people. The majority of executions took place in a small group of countries - China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

We are calling on all countries that still have the death penalty in their laws to make it illegal. Where it is still illegal, we call on states to stop using the punishment and establish an official moratorium as a step towards making it illegal.

With your help, we won't need another 40 years to reach our goal of ending the death penalty for good.

Do something today

Call on the Maldives to stop its plans to resume executions

Demand that Saudi Arabia doesn't execute 14 men who have been tortured



Francis issues statement to mark World Day Against Death Penalty

Tuesday 10th October 2017 is observed as the World Day Against the Death Penalty. First observed in 2003 by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), this year marks the 15th observance with focus on the theme "Poverty and Justice a deadly mix."

The purpose of this theme is to raise awareness about the reasons why people living in poverty are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed. The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty is an alliance of N.G.O's, Bar Associations, local authorities and Unions.

The overall objective of the WCA against the Death Penalty is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the Death Penalty with the goal to achieve universal abolition of the death penalty.

The Caribbean is also part of the international campaign, through the work of the Greater Caribbean For Life (GCL) which is a Non-Profit, Civil Society Organisation established in Trinidad on October 2nd 2013 to unite the Caribbean abolitionist organizations and individuals.

GCL believes in stopping crime not lives and strives to create a culture of respect for the right to live and for the dignity of all human beings.

The Greater Caribbean consists of 25 countries/states including 13 Caricom countries which retain the Death Penalty.

As a member of the Greater Caribbean For Life I take this opportunity to raise awareness of the international campaign to abolish the Death Penalty. Although there has been no execution in St. Lucia since 1994, St. Lucia remains a retentionist country. Against the strong statements made 2 weeks ago by the Minister of Justice, to visit the gallows, it is necessary to state categorically that despite the rise in youth violent crime and murder, this is a backward stance, as hanging is no deterrent to crime.

In keeping with this year's theme "Poverty and Justice a deadly mix" I call on the Government to stop crime and not lives. Rather to focus on the issue of poverty and its related ills. Prevention is the key. By focusing on the social and economic origin of crime, such as the poverty which engenders violence and disregard for Law and Order. In this regard St. Lucia must adopt the recommendations contained in the U.N.D.P 2012 Report "Human Development and the shift to better citizen security."

The U.N.D.P urges Governments in the region to strive to achieve “a better balance between legitimate law enforcement and preventive measures, with a stronger focus on prevention and to invest more, for example in youth development, job creation and reducing poverty and socio-economic inequality, inequity. These strategies can contribute to a safer and more democratic just society in the region.

This is the strategy for St. Lucia in preventing crime/murder instead of applying the Death Penalty. At the domestic level we must try to eradicate the drug culture, which breeds the gun culture, side by side introduce family support measures and rehabilitate delinquent youth. The criminal justice system must be strengthened, by removing the delays, ensuring prosecutions and improving forensic investigation.

Above all St. Lucia must live up to its international responsibility by adhering to the 2014 recommendations of United Nations Human Rights Commission, which at the Universal Periodic Review Meeting for St. Lucia in 2015 urged St. Lucia to take steps to abolish the Death Penalty by signing and ratifying the 2nd Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which abolishes the Death Penalty. St. Lucia should also consider stop voting against the U.N Resolutions regarding the call for a moratorium on the death penalty, which the Caribbean States as retentionist always vote against.

As World Day against the Death Penalty is observed, the victims of violent crime must not be forgotten, however, injustice cannot be fought with injustice and our Court of Appeal has already declared the mandatory death penalty (hanging) to be inhuman and degrading treatment and therefore unconstitutional. For after all the RIGHT TO LIFE is the most fundamental human right and must be upheld by the citizens but more importantly upheld by the State. It is wrong for the State to carry out capital punishment in the name of justice. This is simply state killing, which most times involve the poorer marginalized in St. Lucia.

There must be a better way, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. As Christians and citizens let us educate ourselves, let us become part of the International Campaign to abolish the Death Penalty and save lives.

Without the right to life, there simply would be no human rights, because human rights are indivisible, are interrelated and interdependent. The abolition of the death penalty is in keeping with evolving standards of decency/practised by modern democratic societies which have implemented alternative punishment for murder so as to keep society safe. St. Lucia can do the same.

Mary M. Francis


National Centre For Legal Aid and Human Rights Inc.


Greater Caribbean For Life (G.C.L)

(source: St. Lucia Times)

OCTOBER 10, 2017:


DA asks for judge to oversee Stroupe case

A judge with death penalty certification will be requested to preside over the Phillip Stroupe II 1st-degree murder case, ensuring continuity and cohesion in the case, District Attorney Greg Newman said.

In Henderson County Superior Court Monday, Newman asked Judge Mark Powell to request that the judge be appointed, as Newman's office is seeking the death penalty.

Newman asked Powell to formally request the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts appoint a judge, which Powell agreed to do. Powell said he will not request any specific judge or a judge from any specific part of the state, saying it's all in Raleigh's hands.

To hear a death penalty case, judges have to have certain training and certifications, Newman explained. That was the main reason for the request, but having a particular judge preside over the entire case also ensures continuity and cohesion, Newman added, as superior court judges are assigned to a region every 6 months.

Newman also said he's been working with the county jail to have Stroupe brought back to Henderson County. This would allow Stroupe's attorneys more access to their client and help move the case along.

If Stroupe were to remain in Raleigh, Newman said it could have the unfortunate result of delaying the case.

Stroupe was indicted in August on charges of 1st-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and 1st-degree kidnapping in connection with the July 26 homicide of 68-year-old Mills River resident Thomas Bryson. Stroupe was arrested July 27 in McDowell County, and Bryson's body was discovered off Glenn Bridge Road in Arden July 30.

The Henderson County Sheriff's Office has not provided Newman with all the evidence yet, the district attorney told Powell Monday. He said the Sheriff's Office is still working with several counties in the area and even in Tennessee.

He said HCSO, in addition to the evidence it has collected, is serving as a clearinghouse for other counties involved in the case, including Transylvania, Buncombe and McDowell, and is almost finished.

Another court appearance was scheduled for Stroupe for Dec. 11, to update on the progress on the judge appointment and work on timetables for motions and the trial itself.

Newman said he's hoping to announce the pretrial hearing and trial schedule before the end of the calendar year.

Stroupe waived his right to appear in court Monday.



Father & son both due in court Monday on murder charges

The man awaiting trial on capital murder charges in Henderson County is scheduled to be in superior court Monday, along with his father.

Phillip Stroupe, II was indicted for 1st-degree murder in the killing of Thomas Bryson.

Stroupe was arrested in July following a 5-day manhunt that spanned several counties.

The district attorney says he will meet with the judge today in Hendersonville to pursue the death penalty.

Stroupe, II also faces felony charges in Transylvania, Madison, Yancey and McDowell counties.

Phillip Stroupe, Sr. will also be in court facing accessory after the fact to 1st-degree murder charges.

(source: WLOS news)


Convicted killer returns to court for 3rd sentencing----Randall Deviney convicted, sentenced to death twice before

A man convicted and sentenced to death twice in the killing of his neighbor was back in court Monday morning for yet another sentencing.

Randall Deviney killed Delores Futrell, 65, in August 2008 during an attempted burglary. His case is 1 of 6 Duval County death sentences overturned this year by the Florida Supreme Court.

Deviney, a neighbor who was 18 at the time of the murder, was first convicted of killing Futrell in 2010. The conviction and death sentence were overturned after it was found that detectives had coerced a confession out of him without giving him his Miranda rights.

In July 2015, Deviney was found guilty again, and a jury recommended he be sent back to death row with a final 8 to 4 vote.

The state Supreme Court upheld that 2nd conviction at first, but later ruled the death penalty unconstitutional unless there is a unanimous jury recommendation.

Over the years, Deviney's behavior behind bars came under scrutiny. Before the start of his 2nd trial, Deviney publicly made claims that Donald Smith, the man charged with murdering Cherish Perrywinkle, had told him about another murder he committed years before. He even attempted to use that information as leverage for a shorter prison sentence. The State Attorney's Office said Deviney's claims were not credible.

Jury selection begins Monday and Deviney will learn this week if he will be sentenced to death for a third time, which is what prosecutors are seeking.




Last week, a federal court stayed the scheduled execution of 56-year-old Jeffery Borden in order to address questions about the constitutionality of Alabama's method of execution.

Mr. Borden challenged Alabama's method of execution last year, arguing that the 3-drug protocol puts him at risk of a torturous execution in violation of the Eighth Amendment because there is a substantial risk that the first drug, the sedative midazolam, will not anesthetize him and instead he "will be paralyzed, suffocating, and unable to alert anyone" before the third drug, potassium chloride, is administered, causing extreme agony.

The federal trial court granted the stay on October 5, mere hours before the scheduled execution, in order to provide an adequate opportunity to fairly consider evidence in support of Mr. Borden's constitutional challenge.

In a similar case, the State of Alabama has scheduled an execution for Torey McNabb for October 19.

But an earlier order from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals required that there be no executions in Alabama before October 19, which could block Mr. McNabb's execution as well. Last week, Alabama prosecutors asked the United States Supreme Court to vacate the Eleventh Circuit's stay order, which it did over the dissents of 3 Justices.

Observers are hopeful that another execution will be avoided so that inmates challenging Alabama's method of execution can have a fair opportunity to prove that the current method is unconstitutional.

Questions about lethal injection [1] persist around the country as states respond to drug shortages by engaging in illegal drug imports and sales, buying drugs from largely unregulated compounding pharmacies, conducting experiments on prisons by injecting them with never-before-tried quantities and combinations of drugs, and using drugs like midazolam, which has been involved in several botched executions.




Jury selected in Jessica Chambers capital murder trial

A jury has been seated in the capital murder case of a teenager brutally burned to death in Panola County almost 3 years ago.

Quinton Tellis is accused in the death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers of Courtland and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Of the 7 men and 5 women selected, 6 are black and 6 are white.

Pike County has a similar demographic to Panola, and jurors had to be pulled from outside the north Mississippi area because of pre-trial publicity. Court officials said the jurors were to be sent to Panola County Monday night.

There, in a trial expected to last 2 weeks, they will decide Tellis' fate. The trial could go through the weekend should the judge so decide.

On Dec. 6, 2014, Chambers was found on Herron Road in the Panola County town of Courtland a little after 8 p.m., moving away from her burning vehicle with burns over 98 % of her body. In the small community of barely 500, almost all the first responders on the scene knew her and her family.

Chambers was flown to a Memphis hospital, where she died hours later. Coroner Gracie Gulledge said the cause of death was thermal injury.

Authorities worked leads and investigated for 14 months, ultimately indicting Tellis. It was an investigation that brought in local, state and federal agencies on personal, forensic and technological levels.

A team of investigators from the Panola County Sheriff's Department, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. attorney's office dug into Chambers' death. A marked lack of street chatter, possibly attributable to Tellis' solitary personality, made the case tougher to crack, causing much of the investigation to hinge on data collection.

On Feb. 23, 2016, a news conference was held to announce Tellis' indictment. It was an unforeseen development for many of the amateur sleuths who had begun to follow the case online, as Tellis' name had not come up publicly during the investigation. Chambers was with Tellis the night she died, by his own admission, officials have said.

Tellis' attorneys, Alton Peterson and Darla Palmer, have not responded to calls seeking comment.

Chambers' parents, Ben Chambers and Lisa Daugherty, once somewhat vocal, now keep their opinions, hopes and fears to themselves.

Tellis is also charged with murder in Louisiana in the death of Meing-Chen Hsaio, 34, of Taiwan. Court documents say Hsaio's death was slow and painful. She was allegedly stabbed and tortured to death for her credit card PIN numbers.

Authorities say the homicide took place on July 29, and her body was found Aug. 8. As authorities were working the homicide scene, Tellis was celebrating his wedding to girlfriend Chikita Jackson.

He faces a 1st-degree murder charge in Hsaio's death after Mississippi is finished with him, officials said.

(source: The Clarion Ledger)


Beacon Journal editorial board: Justice, mental illness and the death penalty

3 years have passed since a statewide task force made 56 recommendations to improve the conduct of the death penalty. Lawmakers have enacted fewer than 10. The courts, too, have been slow to act, though the Ohio Supreme Court led the way in forming the panel. Among the most notable recommendations yet to become law would exclude from the death penalty defendants who suffered from serious mental illness at the time of the crime.

The proposal appears to have strong support. The task force approved the proposal by a 15-2 vote. At one point, nearly every member of the Ohio Senate expressed backing, only to see Keith Faber, then the chamber's president, stand in the way.

Now the legislation has been revived as House Bill 81, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, and Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat. Committee hearings have been held. The time has come to advance this sensible legislation, out of committee, to the floor and then the Senate.

The concept builds on the exclusion already established for juveniles and the developmentally disabled, that the death penalty should not apply to those with diminished capacity. It goes to the idea that capital punishment should be reserved for the "worst of the worst." That doesn't mean those with a serious mental illness would escape accountability. They still would face the severe punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors object to the change, arguing the legislation would bring a practical end to the death penalty. They overstate the case. The state public defender's office notes that just 2 of the 2 dozen death row inmates currently scheduled for execution would be affected. The door would not be open to an avalanche of resentencing requests. The legislation identifies 5 precise mental illnesses, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and delusional disorder.

So the application is narrow, a judge determining whether the defendant suffered from the affliction at the time of the crime.

Prosecutors add that the process already accommodates mental illness. During the sentencing phase of a death penalty trial, the defendant presents mitigating evidence to the jury. Yet, as David Niven of the University of Cincinnati points out, studies consistently show that jurors actually see serious mental illness as an aggravating factor and thus are more likely to conclude that a death sentence is warranted.

Why? Researchers note that jurors see the presence of such an illness as a reason to be more confident of guilt and to be more fearful of the defendant. The practice reinforces the powerful stigma still attached to mental illness.

House Bill 81 would remedy what plainly is an injustice, jurors getting wrong the intent of the law. The judge would rule during a pretrial hearing on whether the evidence shows the presence of a serious mental illness. If the answer is yes, the process would move ahead without the death penalty. That is the responsible course, and why House Bill 81 deserves passage soon.

(source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal)


Inmates deserve transparency

Roy Lee Ward, an inmate on death row in Indianapolis, is contesting the legality of Indiana's lethal injection process to the Indiana Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled that Indiana prisons were unable to follow through with their executions.

According to Ward's attorney, David Frank, a state agency must choose its lethal injection drug cocktails by nature of a public hearing.

When new death penalty protocol was adopted in 2014, adding a new drug called methohexital, there was no venue for public comment. It was decided by unelected state agencies.

State transparency for the drugs being used in executions is important, and those on death row have the right to know the specific drugs being used in lethal injections. The Editorial Board believes that one's status as an inmate does not preclude that person from the right to transparency.

Ward is wary of the combination that the Department of Correction has chosen due to the fact that its chosen ingredient methohexital has never been used for lethal injections in any other state. The other 2 drugs being used are potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide.

At the same time, Ward does not have a lot of standing to contest his own sentence. He was originally condemned with capital punishment for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in 2001. At this point, he is only delaying his own death sentence.

Also, adding extra provisions for the Department of Corrections to obtain drugs for legal injections makes the entire process extremely complicated.

Understandably, drug companies are wary about supplying their drugs for lethal injections. For many pharmaceutical companies, such as Johnson & Johnson and Akorn Pharmaceuticals, supplying medicines for a purpose other than furthering health and wellness is against their mission statements.

Gov. Eric Holcomb added a budget provision to protect the confidentiality of drug manufacturers in order to obtain these drugs for lethal injection more easily.

This confidentiality for drug manufacturers is important and a necessary process for the state agency to obtain safe drugs for use in lethal injection. In the past, whenever states could not obtain the drugs they needed for a lethal injection, they have created drug cocktails from whatever drugs are available to them, leading to many gruesome botched executions.

For example, in 2014, a death row inmate in Alabama struggled violently after being administered drugs for lethal injection and died 43 minutes later of a heart attack. In Alabama in 2016, an inmate gasped and coughed for 13 minutes after his lethal injection.

While the right to transparency about the drugs being administered for these inmates is important, the right to a safe and painless death is just as important and cannot be ignored.

The issue of constitutionality regarding the death penalty and lethal injections comes into play when determining whether or not drugs used in lethal injection cocktails violate the provisions of cruel and unusual punishment outlined in the 8th Amendment.

Painful, botched executions are absolutely examples of cruel and unusual punishment, which is why the state should be able to take the necessary measures to obtain safe drugs for lethal injection cocktails.

The Supreme Court of Indiana questions why Ward has decided to bring up the issue of transparent drug choices now. Justice Steven David claims the Department of Corrections has been following the same procedure for the past 25 years with no objection.

While Ward's objection and criticism of the process is valid, states should value the rights to their inmates safety above all else.

(source: Editorial Board, Indiana Daily Student)


After Years With No Death Penalty Trials, Central Indiana Could See 2----Prosecutors seeking death sentence in Southport cop's death, Lebanon burglary-murder

After 4 years without anyone being sentenced to death in Indiana, prosecutors have filed 2 capital cases in the last month.

Not every murder is eligible for the death penalty, and not every case which meets 1 of 18 qualifying factors gets filed. But Marion and Boone County prosecutors have requested death sentences in the murders of a Southport police officer and a Lebanon man killed during a burglary.

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director David Powell says only a couple of cases a year might be eligible for death sentences, and the creation of life without parole in 1993 gave prosecutors another option to take killers permanently off the streets. Death penalty cases are expensive to prosecute, and appeals can drag on for decades. And prosecutors sometimes follow the wishes of victims' families who don't want the death penalty.

Some prosecutors follow the rule Powell says he used as Greene County prosecutor, reserving the penalty for cases which were not only beyond a reasonable doubt, but where there was no doubt at all about the defendant's guilt or the horror of the crime.

And Powell says only 1 in 100 criminal cases of any kind goes to trial -- most defendants plead guilty. Powell says prosecutors don't file death sentence requests just for extra leverage, but notes having a potential death sentence in play gives defendants an added incentive to reach a deal.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has sought the death penalty 3 times in 7 years, all against cop-killers -- he filed the 3rd, against the accused killer of Southport officer Aaron Allan, 2 weeks ago. Both prior defendants received life without parole after pleading guilty. Curry says one of those defendants had mental-health issues which would have complicated the possibility of the death penalty. The parents of the victim in the other case, Indianapolis officer David Moore, were both police officers themselves, and Curry says he heeded their wishes not to insist on a death sentence.

Curry declined in 2013 to seek a death sentence in the explosion which killed 2 people in Indy's Richmond Hill neighborhood. He noted the plotters weren't targeting anyone specific, but just failed to think through the consequences of an insurance fraud scheme. Curry instead sought and got life without parole for ringleader Mark Leonard and Leonard's brother Bob.

(source: WIBC news)


Tulsa man pleads not guilty in strangulation of 19-year-old woman; death penalty trial set for spring

A Tulsa man pleaded not guilty in the strangulation death of a 19-year-old woman and attack on her boyfriend inside the couple's southeast Tulsa apartment, setting the stage for a capital trial to begin in May.

Gregory Jerome Epperson, 41, was arraigned Monday on charges that he strangled Kelsey Tennant and attempted to do the same to her boyfriend, Riley Allen, on March 20.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office had already filed a Bill of Particulars noting the state's intent to seek the death penalty in Epperson's case, the 1st time prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence since 2012's Good Friday shootings.

The Bill of Particulars was read Monday in court, and a defense motion to quash the bindover for trial was overruled. Epperson will be tried on charges of 1st-degree murder and felony assault, with jury trial set for May 14.

Tennant was a 2015 Broken Arrow High School graduate who later studied at Tulsa Community College with the goal of learning to be a therapist for people with special needs.

An arrest report indicated Tennant's neck had ligature marks, and an autopsy report says Tennant's cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation.

Allen said during a preliminary hearing that he called Tennant but didn't get a response, which prompted him to knock on the front door and then use his key to open it. He said that's when Epperson attacked him from behind, shoved him down a short flight of stairs and began to choke him.

Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker said in March that police initially believed Tennant's arrival at the apartment surprised Epperson amid a break-in attempt but later said it was possible Epperson ambushed her when she got home and therefore gained access to the residence.

Epperson's next court hearing is set for Feb. 12.

(source: Tulsa World)


California regulators reject new lethal injection method

California regulators for the 2nd time Monday rejected a proposed new method of carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection, another move that slows the process for California to resume executing death row inmates.

A voter-backed initiative aimed at speeding up executions, though, may render the regulators' decision moot.

The Office of Administrative Law did not elaborate in its 3-paragraph decision rejecting the rules. But officials previously said the proposal wasn't clear on how the execution team would be selected and trained; how the drugs would be obtained and administered; and how a condemned inmate should be treated in the days and hours before the execution.

Those issues were raised during the 1st rejection in December.

California has nearly 750 inmates on death row, but only 13 have been executed since 1978, the last in 2006. Since then, death penalty foes and supporters have engaged in a push-pull over when and how to resume executions, if at all.

One of those fights is over the method of executing inmates.

State and federal judges have barred the old method of using a series of 3 drugs, prompting the need for new rules.

The regulations up for approval Monday would have allowed condemned inmates to be executed using 1 of 2 powerful barbiturates. Inmates could also choose the gas chamber.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which sued to force the new rules, thinks it shouldn't be necessary for regulators to consider the latest proposal.

He said the regulations must be approved by state and federal judges.

"This is stupid," he said. "This additional layer of bureaucracy is completely unnecessary."

The state Supreme Court in August upheld Proposition 66 ending the requirement that prison officials receive approval from state regulators. Death penalty opponents asked the judges to reconsider it with a Nov. 22 deadline, but Scheidegger expects the justices to uphold their earlier ruling.

If so, Monday's regulatory rejection won't add much delay, he said.

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the state will continue following the regulatory process while waiting to see what the justices decide.

If the high court ruling stands, the next step would be for state officials to ask a federal judge and a Marin County Superior Court judge to lift separate injunctions that blocked California's old way of executing inmates using a combination of 3 lethal drugs.

Critics have complained that Democratic office-holders have delayed the rules for years because they are in no rush to resume executions.

The latest rejection shows the proposed rules remain "deeply flawed on many levels and is further evidence that California is in no position to resume executions," Ana Zamora, the American Civil Liberties Union's criminal justice policy director, said in an email.



California's latest attempt at a death-penalty drug is rejected

Proposed rules for single-drug executions in California were rejected Monday by a state legal agency, whose decision may soon be nullified by an initiative approved by state voters last November.

State prison officials have been trying to rewrite their regulations since a federal judge halted implementation of California's death penalty in 2006, finding flaws in staff training and procedures that created the risk of a prolonged and agonizing execution. The state has nearly 750 inmates on death row, and courts have rejected final appeals on the convictions and sentences of at least 18 of those inmates.

With lethal drugs increasingly scarce, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration settled a lawsuit by murder victims' families by switching from the previous 3-drug executions to a single dose of a powerful barbiturate. Prison officials drafted procedures to use 1 of 2 possible drugs, to be obtained from private pharmacies. They received thousands of public comments, mostly critical, and then submitted them to the state office that reviews new state regulations for their compliance with the law.

On Monday, the Office of Administrative Law vetoed the procedures for the second time, issuing a brief notice that the prison department "did not resolve all necessity and clarity issues." The office said it would explain its reasoning within a week.

Meanwhile, however, 51 % of the state's voters in November approved Proposition 66, a measure designed to speed up executions, while rejecting a competing initiative to abolish the death penalty. The state Supreme Court upheld some provisions of Prop. 66 in August, including one that eliminates the need for regulatory review of 1-drug executions.

Opponents of the measure have asked for a rehearing, and the court has delayed implementation until at least Nov. 22 while it considers the request. But if the ruling stands, Monday's action will have no effect.

The dispute over execution procedures would then move to federal court, where lawyers for the condemned prisoners would renew their arguments against California's proposed injection procedures.

"The whole thing is stupid," death penalty supporter Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and an author of Prop. 66, said of the regulatory review process. He said the U.S. Supreme Court has approved similar execution drugs and procedures in other states.

On the other side, David Crawford of the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Focus endorsed the state office's decision.

"We've known all along that (the proposed procedure) was deeply problematic, and that it increased the risk of botched executions and secret drug deals like we've seen in other states," Crawford said. "We're coming up on a year since the election and nothing has changed, except that we've wasted another $150 million" in maintaining death row.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Jury: LB homeless camp killer Ponce should receive death penalty----Last month, Ponce and Max Eliseo Rafael were found guilty of 5 counts of murder and 1 count of kidnapping

A jury has recommended the death penalty for a gang member convicted of murdering 5 people at a Long Beach homeless encampment nine years ago, the Compton Herald has learned.

The panel sentenced David Cruz Ponce, 37, to death after deliberating for about 2 hours. Ponce will return to court for sentencing on Nov. 27.

Last month, Ponce and co-defendant Max Eliseo Rafael, 31, were found guilty of 5 counts of murder and 1 count of kidnapping. The jury also found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a kidnapping and murder while the defendants were active participants in a criminal street gang.

Ponce also was found guilty of an additional count of murder and kidnapping and 2 counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Deputy District Atty. Cynthia Barnes of the Major Crimes Division prosecuted the case.

Ponce and Rafael fatally shot Lorenzo Villicana, Katherine Verdun, Hamid Shraifat, Frederick Neumeier, and Vanessa Malaepule on Nov. 1, 2008. All 5 victims lived in a homeless encampment near an off ramp of the 405 Freeway in Long Beach.

The prosecutor said jailhouse conversations of the 2 defendants were recorded as they talked about the murders.

Ponce also was convicted of the kidnap and murder of Tony Bledsoe on March 23, 2009.

Rafael faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16.

The case was a joint investigation by the Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

(source: Compton Herald)


US should condemn death penalty

I am dismayed the United States couldn't sign onto a United Nations resolution that condemns executions for "apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."

Our delegation refused to vote for it without an amendment that would enshrine the right of governments to execute their citizens. Apparently, the president has decided the ability to execute prisoners is so precious that he is willing to silently endorse theocratic and sexist policies. This is where defense of capital punishment always leads. You find yourself on the same side as human rights paragons such as China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

I'd like to hear an explanation from the pro-life lobby and anyone who has ever used the phrase "all lives matter." They should explain how President Donald Trump is acting as America's moral compass.

Anthony Brylski, Madison

(source: Letter, Wisconsin State Journal)


10 October - European Day against Death Penalty

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided on 26 September 2007, to declare a ''European Day against the Death Penalty,'' which is held annually on 10 October. The Council of Europe has been a pioneer in the abolition process which has made Europe a de facto death-penalty-free zone since 1997. The day is a European contribution to the World Day against the Death Penalty, which is held annually on the same day.

The 47-nation Council of Europe and the 28-member European Union have published a joint statement to mark the European and World Day against the Death Penalty on 10 October.

The statement underlines the 2 organisations' firm opposition to capital punishment in any circumstances.

It also calls on countries still using the death penalty to commute any existing sentences and to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment as a 1st step towards abolition.

Through the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe has created a death penalty-free zone covering 47 countries and over 820 million people.

No executions have taken place in any Council of Europe member state for over 20 years.



6 sentenced to death

With the help of jurors, Justice Monfred Momoh Sesay on Friday 6 September 2017 at the Bo High Court convicted and sentenced to death six armed robbers for Conspiracy and Robbery with Aggravation.

The convicts include; Augustine Omaska (aka G-Father), Daniel George, Claude Nahas, Thomas Mando (aka Love-T), Aruna Bangura (Akon) and Steven Joel Smart.

They were convicted in the on-going High Court Special Criminal Session that was initiated by the Chief Justice to see how best pending cases across the country can be concluded within the shortest possible time to discourage prison congestion.

According to the prosecuting team led by Joseph A.K. Sesay, the convicts were brought to Court as a result of being armed with guns and machete attacks residents in Pujehun Town in March 2017 robbing them of their valuables and cash.

He maintained during the proceedings the State argued that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th accused conceived and planned to rob residence in Bo and that the 6th accused being an OSD personnel at the time provided his motor bike for the 1st and 2nd accused also OSD personnel and the 3rd accused left for Pujehun to meet the 4th and 5th and execute their plans.

It was disclosed that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd convicts were apprehended on their way back to Bo town after executing their plans in Pujehun on 3rd March the this year, and that the 2nd accused an OSD personnel was unable to convinced the personnel at the Bontiwa checkpoint for their reasons of traveling around 2:00 a.m. with stolen items in their backpacks.

Counsel representing the convicts in the trial tried to convince the Court the 6th convict was never spotted in Pujehun and the all the convicts were wrongly identified claiming the incident occurred during odd hours.

The jurors who have been listening to the trial unanimously agreed on the verdict that all the accused are guilty of both charges levied against them and Justice Monfred Momoh Sesay without wasting the Court's time convicted them with the maximum penalty levied on them sentenced to death by firing squad publicly.

As part of their legal rights, the convicts have the right to appeal their sentence within 21 days or face the full penalty of the law as provided in the laws of the land.

The question now is will these convicts face the law by firing squad? For years, there has been a moratorium on the use of the death penalty despite recent outcry by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Palo Conteh, for the gallows to be cleaned.



'Any federating state can choose to abolish death penalty'

Today is world day against death penalty. There are arguments about the need to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life sentence. According to World Coalition Against Death Penalty, it is used discriminatorily, often against the most vulnerable people and should be abolished. In this interview with JOSEPH ONYEKWERE and SILVER NWOKORO, a former solicitor general and permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Lawal Pedro (SAN), speaks on the issue and other topical legal matters

Where do you stand on this abolition debate?

Well, I am sitting on the fence. What do we truly want to achieve by abolishing death sentence? Is it on humanitarian ground? If we say it should be abolished, fine, so all convicts will remain in prison forever. What is the condition of our prisons today?

Your position is based on the fact that the death warrants for those already convicted never get signed?

That is the issue. To me whether you abolish or maintain it, you are within the law. The countries we are trying to copy, for example, United State of America, some States have it and they have retained it. Some States do not have it, so it's a matter of choice. That is why I say I am sitting on the fence. There is nothing stopping a state in its own criminal law from abolishing it, while the federal government maintains its own act. So it is really a matter of choice and what the government intend to achieve by it.

The point has been that death penalty is supposed to serve as a deterrent but it doesn't seem to have achieved that purpose. So why can't we try to see if by the time we remove the certainty of someone being killed when caught committing a heinous crime, maybe violent crime might reduce. This is because, if you know you are going for armed robbery but would not be killed if caught, you might not want to eliminate those who may likely implicate you at end of the day. How do you look at that argument?

I don't buy it! It is the same thing with the offences that do not carry death penalty. Had it been of any deterrent? They have not made corruption death penalty, but have it deter anybody? It does not! It is more than that. That is why I said if you don't carry out execution of the death row inmates, you are dehumanizing them. There is no justification for that. The trauma of expecting the executioner daily is even a severe punishment for that person. So for you to avoid that situation, we must first amend the constitution to remove capital offence.

If tomorrow the government says we want to remove death penalty in our statute books, will you be against it?

No, I won't be against it at all and if the government maintains it, I won't be against it.

I am sure you must have heard or read the report by the NBS that the judiciary is the second most corrupt institution in Nigeria. What do you say about that?

To me, it is a wrong perception. I am not saying the judiciary is corrupt free, but it is like other institutions, organizations or the society in which we all belong. But to have labeled it second most corrupt, I totally disagree. The samples they got depend on whom you they talked to. I have advocated that the best thing to do in this country is to improve and re-engineer our judicial system such that it becomes functional. That way, it will not give room for corruption. If the government can spend more money to improve judicial infrastructure, its maintenance, the welfare package and manpower development, I guarantee you that corruption will reduce to the barest minimum in this country. Judiciary to me will be the saving grace to reduce corruption in Nigeria.

How do you then relate it to the recent development where the NJC recommended the sacking of a chief judge for just taking N200, 000 bribe and a lot of others?

The problem is that there is a total system failure. It is not only in the judiciary, it is also in government and you cannot separate it. You have a judiciary that is within a community. That is why I am saying when we are dealing with the judiciary and the executive arm is saying they are doing theirs, I say fine, but don't forget there is one government with three arms. If the judiciary itself fights corruption within, you must handle it well. It is just like saying one of my arms is bad so the solution is for me to cut it off. So if the judiciary of your country is corrupt, it is an arm of government, so the government too is corrupt. You must not allow the judiciary to have a bad image. That is why I said we need to pay special attention to the judiciary. If a man knows that if he goes and steal or engage in corrupt practices and caught, that within 3 months his trial would have been completed and he is jailed, what do you think will happen to his colleagues outside? They will think twice. Due to the present state of the judiciary, a criminal who is caught and detained in Police station will be the one to tell you to charge him to court because he knows that when he gets to court, he can wriggle out and regain his freedom. But if we manage our judicial process such that anybody that goes into the system can determine when he will be out or if it is a criminal matter, he goes to jail, things will change. I recommend we do court automation alongside manual filing because of the challenges of having internet servers that are down most often and its associated delays. We can do both simultaneously to fast track the process and the judges must perform oversight function and manage the process, not only the adjudication process, even the administrative.

How can some of the innovations in Lagos be replicated at the National level?

It is already percolating to other states and even at the national level. If you are talking about the review of civil procedures, we started it in Lagos, then other states followed and the federal high court followed. I am talking about the administration of criminal justice, Lagos passed its own first, even if you are talking about criminal code laws, all the states even the federal the criminal code that we are still using back to pre-independence, is only Lagos that have been able to review and come up with a modern criminal law. Most other states if not all are still using criminal code that they used in teaching us law when we where in university in the 80's and 90's.

How can we make justice accessible to the poor at the appellate levels?

We have access to courts in Nigeria, but not access to justice and we all know that justice delayed is justice denied. I expect judges to query certain things without going through the pleadings. A judge should be able to go through the file, for instance and ask why 2014 case file is just getting to him now. He should able to look at the record and say wait a minute, my brother gave a directive that this file should be taken to Lagos 3 months ago, why is it getting to me now. The judge should be to ask questions, raise query and pass it to the registrar that he wants to know what happened, the officer responsible should be queried and disciplinary action taken.

So what name do we call this kind of activism?

I will call it judicial efficiency. That is how you can get it right. We need to focus attention to the support staff such as the registrars and the clerks. How many times do they train them? Are they well educated? We inherited some of them; some have been working for 30 years and about to retire. So, what have we done with them? In fact, some level of judicial officers in my own opinion, should be lawyers. I suggest that there should be a guideline even if it is a practice direction that the Chief Judges of each state can easily issue for the support staff that on no circumstance must a file be on your table more than 24 or 48 hours, unless you have a genuine reason. That way, corruption will reduce. Most times, if you file a process, if you don't tip, your file will be there. If you don't tip, they won't upload the thing to the system. The computer won't work by itself, so there is human factor that needs to be addressed. So, when you have a guideline, a regulation that would bind the support staff of the judiciary, it will be the efficiency I am talking about. If a clerk knows that if the file doesn't get to his superior within 48 hours, he will be queried, he won't wait so much waiting for money.

Will you suggest that Salami committee, which was set up by the CJN only to look at how the judges are handling corruption cases, be expanded to oversee support staff activities?

No, because that one has a mandate. I think each state judiciary should look inward. It is not going to be a national or global, no, but there must be a policy that can be done to ensure that there is speedy, efficient and effectiveness in the judicial process. That is what will give confidence to the people because if the confidence in judiciary is lost, we are inviting anarchy.

On the area of legal education, NBA just finished its annual conference and you played a vital role in that. From the benefit of hindsight, how do you look at responses of young lawyers in that conference?

To me, it was impressive for the young lawyers. In fact, more young lawyers registered than the senior ones and this is encouraging. To me, they want to know how it is done. To me, that is not enough, it is a follow up that is required and I believe the NBA will tackle it. We learn everyday even the senior lawyers will continue to learn everyday. So we must continue that process. To me, when I look at the training of young lawyers, I am particularly not too happy. For instance, one at 15 years, passed school Certificate examination, took JAMB and passed, you then study law. Before 20, you are already a lawyer and law is something that really requires experience. People who are not lawyers can also be judges. In the past, we use to have lay magistrates. They are not lawyers but they adjudicate. You go to the customary court, they are not lawyers but they adjudicate fine. It shows that you don't have to be a lawyer before you can adjudicate or even mediate. But before you do that adjudication or mediation, you need experience and that is what I see that is lacking in the new breed of lawyers.

Will you suggest one first get a first degree before coming to law?

I will recommend a minimum of Higher School Certificate (HSC) or you call it GCE advance level as a prerequisite to study law. That is what made some of us.

Are you worried that is no law faculty is offering professional ethics as a course?

When you are well groomed at the faculty, then you go to law school where you will be taught professional ethics. The core subjects should be taught in the university and when it is being taught, the people who are learning should be people with experience not just copy and paste.



Death penalty for kidnappers

To halt the heinous crime of kidnapping that has become a major threat to the safety of Nigerians, the Senate on Wednesday October 4, 2017 approved death penalty as the punishment for anyone found guilty of abduction, wrongful restraints or wrongful confinement for ransom. This resolution followed the adoption of a report by the Joint Committee on Police Affairs, National Security and Intelligence presented by its Chairman, Senator Abu Ibrahim.

The Senate Joint Committee observed that security agencies were unable to perform optimally due to inadequate support which it said deprived them of the necessary funding required to procure and deploy modern technology and equipment to sufficiently combat crimes. The Committee equally noted what it described as "unnecessary and unhealthy rivalry among security agencies" which denies them the benefit of synergy and intelligence sharing. Although relations of victims were always ready to pay ransom, which tend to encourage criminals to perpetrate their act, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said there is need to discourage the payment of ransom.

The Senate Committee recommended adequate funding for security agencies and advised the federal government to ensure that deliberate efforts are made toward creating employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths. The Senate also tasked security agencies to embark on training and re-training of security personnel for effective capacity building. Besides, it charged state governments to make laws that will enable security agencies to prosecute kidnappers and culprits of related offences in their respective states.

Kidnapping which started in the Niger Delta region of the country with the abduction of foreign oil workers has gradually advanced into a flourishing nation-wide business for criminals. Many parts of the country now suffer from it. The ordeal that victims of kidnapping and their families go through has made armed robbery a less feared crime. These days, mass abduction of bus passengers has been added to the equation. The entire Northwest zone of the country was recently hit by a gale of kidnapping. Kidnappers operated almost freely on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road; Obajana-Lokoja, Ajaokuta-Lokoja and Kabba-Obajana roads in Kogi state. The Benin-Akure road in Edo State is another notorious route for kidnappers.

In the Committee's report submitted to the Senate, Director-General of the Department of State Security [DSS] Lawal Daura was quoted as saying in October 2015 alone, Nigeria recorded 108 cases of kidnapping. He said the cases which involved 180 victims including 26 foreigners occurred in 24 states of the federation. In July this year, a permanent secretary with the Osun State government Mrs. Olufunke Oluwakemi Kolawole was kidnapped on the Okene-Abuja highway. Her body was later found on the road. On September 18, 2017 a Kaduna businessman Alhaji Sheriff Abidu Yazid was shot dead on the Kaduna-Abuja expressway and his wife was abducted. An Assistant Commissioner of Police with the Zamfara State Police Command, Emmanuel Agene was abducted on Wednesday September 27, 2017 along Birnin Gwari-Funtua road and was released after being held for 6 days.

In spite of the arrest of a large number of suspected kidnappers by the police, the heinous crime still rages on in parts of the country. It is also unfortunate that even with the existence of death penalty for kidnappers in some states including Enugu, Edo and Lagos; no culprit has yet been condemned to death. This is why we support the adoption of capital punishment for kidnappers. Given the traumatic experience that victims and their relations go through, death penalty should be the just deserts of any convicted kidnapper.

We urge Police investigators to be thorough in their jobs in order to facilitate and ease proper prosecution and eventual conviction of suspects. While we encourage other states to domesticate the anti-kidnap law of the Senate, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to, without delay, assent to the bill. All hands must be on deck to stamp kidnapping from this country.

(source: Editorial, Daily Trust)


LEDAP tasks govt on abolition of death penalty

As the world marks the World Day Against the use of the Death Penalty with the theme Poverty and the death penalty, a rights group, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, has reaffirmed its position that the abolition of death penalty in law and practice should be the firm desire of the Nigerian government as death penalty was cruel and inhumane treatment, which has no place in modern society.

National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr Chinonye Obiagwu in a statement, yesterday, said "We contend that the application of death penalty is discriminatory in Nigeria as it has become a punishment exclusive to the poor in society.

"LEDAP is continually in legal battles with the federal and state governments in its quest to ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are safe-guarded and death penalty is abolished. Currently, we have 3 cases in court where we are challenging the imposition of death sentences and the proposal of the federal and state governments to execute death row inmates."

"We urge state governors not to sign any death warrants as it constitutes state murder. With high number of criminal convictions overturned on appeal, continued execution is risky as innocent people may be wrongfully killed.

"We strongly believes that in its practical application, death penalty is discriminatory as there is hardly any rich or influential person in society who is sentenced to death. We contend that the reason for the discriminatory outlook is due to the fact that the rich have the resources to settle the police or afford the best lawyers who ensure they are not convicted.

"LEDAP therefore, takes the commemoration of the World Day Against Death Penalty, to re-live the experiences of the inmates saved from the gallows, inviting freed former death-row inmates to tell their stories in a media parley. It is our conclusion that poverty is a common factor to all prisoners on death row in Nigeria.

"LEDAP beckons on the government at all levels to ensure that they give life rather than exercise eagerness in taking it away while we condemn the recommendation that prisoners on death row be executed as a means of decongesting the prisons. We believe that the government has a duty to protect and respect the sanctity of human life rather than supervising its termination and recommends a moratorium law be passed against executions in Nigeria."



Poor women in Jordan most vulnerable to death penalties

The World Coalition against the Death Penalty will focus this year's World Day against the Death Penalty by looking at the close link between poverty and the death penalty and highlighting how people living in poverty are the most vulnerable to the death penalty.

The Association for the Solidarity of Jordanian Women, Tadamoun, has found that poorer women who are marginalised because of their social status are more vulnerable to the death penalty and less able to take conciliatory and tribal measures to drop the personal right to commute the punishment either by them or by their families.

In 2016, Jordan issued 13 death sentences. During the period 1975-2016 Jordan carried out more than 1,226 executions, including 26 since 2014. At the beginning of March 2017 Jordan executed 15 people, most of whom were convicted of terrorist crimes, a first for mass executions in Jordan since 2006.

Those living with imminent death sentences in Jordan (currently 15 women) are living under great psychological pressure, according to Tadamoun, which is pursuing a number of cases for tribal reconciliation.

However, the weak response of the government has prevented reconciliation taking place; authorities are unwilling to pay large sums of money for tribal reconciliation if the offenders are female.

According to statistics from 2016 from the reform and rehabilitation centres in Jordan, 87,442 people were admitted into rehabilitation centres that year of which 21,117 were sentenced, 36,197 were brought before a jury and 3,128 were administratively detained.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Man Executed For Drug Offence

A prisoner was executed at Qazvin central prison on drug related charges.

According to the Iranian state-run news agency Mehr, on the morning of Sunday October 8, a prisoner was executed at Qazvin Central Prison. This prisoner was sentenced to death for drug related charges.

"The defendant, Reza N., was sentenced to death on the charge of possessing 11 kilograms and 490 grams of meth. After the sentence was confirmed by the Attorney General, it was carried out on the morning of Sunday October 8, while a number of judicial authorities, the Head of the Penitentiary of Qazvin, the Police representatives, and the forensic physicians were present," said Esmaeil Sadeghi Niaraki, the Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Qazvin.

Sadeghi Niaraki added, "The defendant's case went to court and the execution sentence was carried out by the Section for Implementation of Sentence of Public and Revolutionary prosecutor's office of Takestan."

Kurdistan Human Rights Network identified the executed prisoner as Reza Naalbandi, son of Ali, from Tabriz (Northwestern Iran).

The execution of prisoners with drug related charges continues to be carried out in Iran despite the fact that the bill for the amendment to the drug law in Iran has been approved by Iranian Parliament. However, the Guardian Council must still approve the bill.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Annual Report on Execution in Iran - 2017

On the anniversary of the International Day of Fighting against People's Execution, The Department of Statistics and Publications of the Human Rights Activists in Iran publishes an annual report on executions in Iran. This report is intended to provide visibility to the dire situation where thousands of people are awaiting execution. The present report concerns the individuals executed in the 1 year period from 10 October 2016 until the beginning of October 2017 and refers to at least 508 people executed in different parts of Iran by hanging. The report shows a rise by about 1% in the number of executions compared to the same period last year. Most of these individuals had been condemned to death in unfair courts and deprived of access to lawyers. Moreover, this report shall not be considered an accurate and comprehensive estimate since the Iranian government has placed enormous restrictions on human rights related activities and independent human right organizations.

Since October 10th, 2016 to the beginning of October, 2017, this organization published 381 reports regarding the executions in Iran. These reports include a total of 223-execution decrees out of which 508 individuals have been already executed. Out of the 508 executions, a total of 32 people were executed in public. Among the victims whose identity has been established, there were 6 women, and the age of 6 individuals was under 18 years at the time they committed the alleged crimes.

In comparison with the number of executions in the same period last year, there has been a 1% rise in the number of executions but also a 62% increase in the number of execution decrees. The number of public executions has fallen by 5% over the same period, and execution of women has also shown a 33% decline.

According to this report, 57% of the executions were related to the charges of drug trafficking, 36% for murder, 4% for rape, 2% for political charges, and 1% for miscellaneous cases.

The following pie chart illustrates the number of executions in different provinces of Iran. The graph shows that the province of Alborz with 3 most populated prisons and 25% executions comes in the 1st place, and provinces of West Azerbaijan and Gilan with 11% and 6% are in the 2nd and 3rd places, respectively.

According to this report, the number of public executions has been 6% of the total number of executions as shown in the following figure.

(source: HRANA)


MP calls for death penalty in Zgharta murder as tensions mount

MP Estephan Douaihy Monday called for the death penalty in the case of a high profile murder of a Zgharta woman, allegedly by a Syrian national, which has triggered a crackdown on Syrians in the area.

(source: The Daily Star)


Standing against death penalty

Today, on 10th October the European Union (EU) joins many partners across the world to commemorate the 15th World Day against the Death Penalty. Despite a positive trend towards abolition and restriction of the use of capital punishment in most countries, we have seen worrying evidence of serious violations of international norms and standards where it's applied including the non-limitation of execution to the most serious crimes, the non-exclusion of juvenile offenders, the execution of mentally ill persons and the lack of guarantees for access to justice and a fair trial for all.

While the death penalty is still considered constitutional in Pakistan, it is very encouraging and promising to see a decline in executions from 333 in 2015 to 87 in 2016, and 44 until today in 2017.

However it is still too many.

Indeed, arguments can be made of the difficult security situation and the brutal and cowardly attack on the Army School in Peshawar, which led to the decision to lift the moratorium.

I can appreciate and understand the strong call for retribution which it prompted.

In the European Union we are also facing terrorist attacks; however, people are keeping their commitment against the death penalty.

Evidence around the world continues to highlight that death penalty is a discriminatory practice and that at every stage of criminal proceedings, social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who face the death penalty.

Lawmakers and practices still have not taken adequate steps to ensure that the death penalty is applied evenly across a society, or to guard against wrongful convictions based on errant identifications of witnesses or mistakes at forensic laboratories.

False testimonies or forced confessions and prosecutorial missteps are still alarmingly common.

Taking of a human life is irreversible and it does not make any society safer.

Evidences around the world conclusively show that death penalty does not deter crime more effectively than other punishments.

The European Union is firmly committed to the eradication of death penalty, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and remains among the strongest advocates for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

As a sign of its strong commitment against the death penalty, the EU and Belgium have agreed to co-host the 7th World congress against the death penalty, in Brussels from 27 February to March 2019.

This commitment also includes the regional congress, which will take place in the Ivory Coast, in April 2018.

The World Congress is a major triennial event drawing together over 1500 high level participants from around the world.

I sincerely hope that Pakistan will be in position to attend as a country having reinstated the moratorium on death penalty.

At these conferences we will reiterate our strong opposition to the death penalty.

There, we will also reiterate that we have since long done away with the capital punishment on our territory.

Because we believe that it can never be morally justified for any state to take a life.

Because there is no evidence that capital punishment has any deterrent effects on the level of violent crime in a society.

Because no justice system is immune of mistakes, and executions make it impossible to reverse miscarriages of justice.

And finally, because experiences show that death penalty is deeply socially biased, affecting mostly the poor.

A true search of justice implies the abolition of death penalty.

(source: Jean-Francois Cautain; The writer is the ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan----The Nation)


Australia must continue to campaign against the death penalty in our region

In a kitchen in suburban Melbourne sit 2 English lawyers who have saved hundreds of convicted criminals from execution.

Parvais Jabbar and Saul Lehrfreund's strike rate of keeping death row clients alive in the Caribbean and Africa is nothing short of extraordinary - more than 90 %, they say, much of it done from a cluttered London office smaller than the kitchen we are sitting in.

Across the kitchen table is Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon, an intense, quietly spoken criminal defence advocate.

His record is grimmer then his English counterparts, though not from lack of effort. McMahon was recently awarded of Companion of the Order of Australia for his efforts trying to keep Australians on death row alive.

His best-known clients, though, are dead. It is likely that McMahon will lose more clients in Asia in the coming years. Teaming up with Parvais and Saul is aimed at changing these odds.

In 2002, McMahon and Lex Lasry, QC, led the campaign to stop the hanging of Melbourne man Van Nguyen?, a low-level drug mule arrested in transit in Singapore. McMahon worked furiously on the legal case, while relentlessly pressing journalists, diplomats and politicians.

Several things remain seared in my mind about Nguyen, whose story I covered closely at the time. Media reports that he found religion on death row never fully reflected the depth of his discovery, detailed in his prison diaries. At a gathering a year after his death, friends and family shared stories about Nguyen's transformation on death row and his bravery in facing death.

A little-known fact is that he was prepared to testify against the Australian heroin syndicate that recruited him. His death meant he never got the chance.

Research has proven that the death penalty does not work as a deterrent, yet even the proponents of deterrence must acknowledge that Nguyen's execution achieved precisely the opposite effect: it allowed a syndicate to continue to operate with impunity.

I also recall staring at a clock as it crept towards 9am on December 2, 2005, the moment the Singapore justice system had decided Nguyen would drop into a cavity so the rope around his neck would break it. I recall reeling at the barbarity of the premise that I knew the precise moment that a person's life would end.

And yet the time of death is the only certainty that criminal justice systems can deliver. Every such system endures wrongful convictions, false confessions and levels of corruption and inequity. It is an unavoidable truth that while a state can chose the moment it will end a life, it cannot guarantee it will not sometimes kill the wrong person.

The night before Nguyen was declared dead, I watched McMahon leave Changi prison with his arm draped over Nguyen's mother's shoulder as she wept, dragged away from her last visit.

10 years later, McMahon farewelled his clients the Bali nine members Myuran Sukumaran? and Andrew Chan. They were shot dead in Indonesia 35 minutes after midnight. The pair refused to be blindfolded and sung Amazing Grace before being killed.

Jabbar and Lehrfreund's success at saving lives lies partly in their use of the UK Privy Council, which remains the last point of appeal for some common law nations but which was not available to McMahon's clients.

Without similar legal appeal rights, Lehrfreund believes Asia and the Middle East are set to remain "hold outs", resisting a trend his Death Penalty Project helped engineer. In 1998, 62 % of countries retained the death penalty. Today the figure is less than 30 %.

And yet there is hope. McMahon says Australia's relative inactivity in advocating for abolishment is changing. In 2015, Australia made it clear that it opposed all executions in all circumstances. This bipartisan policy is now embedded in Australia's campaign to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Jabbar and Lehrfreund say this can be bolstered in a variety of ways.

Research and polling they have commissioned has helped prove to politicians that most people, when presented with information about wrongful convictions and the failure of deterrence, don't support the death penalty. In Malaysia, such research has been instrumental in changing views inside government. The same could occur in Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, although the prospect of reform in authoritarian China or Rodrigo Duterte's Philippines (where the president wants to reintroduce the death penalty) appears bleak.

Australian diplomacy on this front, say Jabbar and Lehrfreund, should also be aimed at restricting the type of crimes and people which can receive a death penalty. A demand for abolishment is likely to be ignored, while a campaign to prevent the mentally ill from being executed, or to limit capital punishment to the most extreme cases of murder, may allow governments to save face but stop killing prisoners.

While they and McMahon keep fighting, the Melbourne barrister is sure to remain anxious. McMahon dreads receiving an out of hours phone call from an overseas number, the prelude to a long struggle he will probably lose and the strike of a clock marking the moment a person's life will be taken.

(source: Nick McKenzie is an Age investigative journalist)

OCTOBER 9, 2017:


'In Pakistan, death penalty is for the poor'

When my son Khizar was born, I held his small head in my hand and fell in love. Like all mothers, I dreamed that Khizar would grow up strong, live a good life with a wife and children, and be surrounded by love.

He did grow up, he did get married, and had children. But he is not surrounded by love. Love is hard to come by in prisons.

I never imagined that I would be visiting my only son in a jail, where I can barely recognise him.

In truth, during most of my visits to him in Kot Lakhpat Jail (Central Jail Lahore), Khizar struggles to recognise me. Schizophrenia does that to a person. Even his own mother has become a stranger to him; on bad days, he thinks I'm an enemy.

Khizar did well in school. He decided to stay in our village to become a police officer. He grew into a good-natured person who enjoyed being well-dressed, and going to early-morning prayers with me. He loved and respected Allah.

But every now and then, Khizar would withdraw into himself. Sometimes, I would find him speaking to someone in the room. There would be no one there.

Khizar met a pir who used his age and spiritual influence to take advantage of my son's generosity. Over time, this man filled Khizar's head with distrust and suspicsion. He encouraged Khizar to distance himself from me, his wife, and his children.

The pir told Khizar that his uncles and others wanted to kill him. He convinced my son to sell our property and steal our belongings. Khizar gave everything to the pir and his family. My son left home and began living with the pir.

He stopped going to prayers, became angry and paranoid, and his physical appearance deteriorated. When he would come to visit us, he would shut himself in a room and burn his hands. I was afraid for him and wanted him to go to the hospital. I knew that Khizar was sick, and that this man, the pir, was making it worse.

Khizar was arrested and sentenced to death in 2003, accused of murdering one of his closest friends and a fellow police officer. I sold my jewelry to pay for a lawyer, certain that my son didn't kill anyone.

At the trial, there was no clear evidence against Khizar, but his lawyer didn't submit any evidence in support of him or call a single witness to defend him. Khizar was sentenced to death based upon suspicion and lack of defense.

When his case was appealed, I again borrowed money for a government lawyer to speak to the judge, but when we were called into the judge's chamber, my lawyer didn't speak. He did not ask a single question. He took my money and did nothing.

In Pakistan, the death penalty is for the poor. Those who can afford to buy good lawyers don't get sentenced to death. Is that justice?

Khizar has been diagnosed by doctors with paranoid schizophrenia and placed in a section of the jail for mentally ill prisoners. It has been 14 years. He will never get better. He will never know his children, who have grown into adults. He will never again go to prayers with me.

I borrow what money I can to visit Khizar in jail, where he sits in solitary confinement. The visits are very hard for me. He no longer knows who I am. He doesn't know where he is.

Sometimes, he has ripped his clothes and sits naked in his cell, repeating paranoid thoughts to himself out loud. I sit near him, trying to come to terms with what has become of my son - that beautiful baby with almond-shaped eyes and long lashes, who had a whole lifetime ahead of him.

I challenge anyone to watch as their son stops being able to recognise his own mother or his children - Khizar no longer knows where he is or how to talk to other people. Even with treatment, schizophrenia doesn't go away - it just becomes manageable. There is no cure.

Whether you think that Khizar is innocent or guilty, he is still a human being, a son, a father, and he has a severe illness. I'm getting older and I am Khizar's only family. My visits are the only care he gets.

I understand that he will never walk around a free, happy man, but I urge the Government of Pakistan to please take my son off of death row and beseech that he be moved to a medical facility that is properly trained to treat schizophrenic patients.

(source: As narrated to Asim Rafiqui and Michael Braithewaite, who put it in form of an article. This article is 2nd of a 3-part series, curated in collaboration with Justice Project Pakistan, in lead up to The World Day Against the Death Penalty on October


Supreme Court ponders if lawyer can concede client's guilt when accused claims innocence

The lawyer told the Louisiana jury that the state would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Robert McCoy had committed a gruesome triple homicide in 2008, murdering the son, mother and stepfather of his estranged wife.

"There is no way reasonably possible that you can listen to the evidence in this case and not come to any other conclusion than Robert McCoy was the cause of these individuals' deaths," said lawyer Larry English.

But here's the twist: English was not the prosecutor in the case. He was McCoy's defense attorney. And McCoy vehemently proclaimed his innocence.

The Supreme Court last week said it would review McCoy's conviction - he was subsequently sentenced to death - to answer what sounds more like a typo than a contested question of law:

Does it violate the Constitution for a defense counsel to concede a client’s guilt over the accused's express objection?

"It happens more often than you think it would," said Lawrence J. Fox, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School who filed a brief on McCoy's behalf for the Ethics Bureau at Yale.

It occurs mostly in capital cases, Fox said, in which lawyers believe that it would be impossible to convince a jury that a client is innocent. The theory is that by creating some trust with jurors, it might be possible to get a conviction on a lesser murder charge that does not carry the death penalty.

"They think the most important thing is to save the client's life," said Fox.

But that misunderstands the lawyer's role, Fox said.

"The decision over whether to concede guilt at trial is ultimately the defendant's to make," Fox's brief to the court states. "It goes to the very heart of the right to put on a defense - a right that personally belongs to the accused."

McCoy's lawyers at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center said English's actions - allowed by the trial judge and unanimously upheld by the Louisiana Supreme Court - did not fulfill the Sixth Amendment's promise that the accused have "assistance of counsel for his defense."

"It is inconceivable that the Framers intended that the assistance of counsel should come at the price of defense counsel being authorized to tell the jury that the accused is guilty, even over the accused's protestations of his own innocence," the center's Richard Bourke wrote in McCoy's petition to the Supreme Court.

There's little doubt that the state had a pretty compelling case against McCoy, who was looking for his wife, who had gone into protective seclusion after McCoy had allegedly threatened to kill her and himself.

In a 911 call, McCoy's mother-in-law, Christine Colston Young, could be heard screaming, "She ain't here, Robert. I don't know where she is. The detectives have her." A gunshot was then heard on the 911 tape, and the call was disconnected.

A car later found to be McCoy's was seen leaving the area, and police discovered in the abandoned vehicle the phone Young had used. Eventually, McCoy was arrested in Idaho, after hitchhiking rides from truckers. The gun used in the killings was found with him. In custody, McCoy tried to hang himself.

But he maintained his innocence, alleging a conspiracy among local police to commit the murders and frame him. His 1st public defender attorney was let go because of differences between the 2, and then his parents paid English $5,000 to represent their son.

But English, who was not certified in capital cases, was convinced there was no way to convince a jury that McCoy was telling the truth.

English declined to be interviewed. But when lawyers were attempting to get a new trial for McCoy, he testified that, "I'm a seasoned criminal trial lawyer, had been doing this for a number of years, and I had never had a case where the evidence was so overwhelming against a client."

After English informed McCoy he was going to tell the jury McCoy was guilty, and McCoy objected, they told Judge Jeff Cox of their disagreement. But Cox said he was not going to again delay the trial and would not allow McCoy to replace English or represent himself.

When English made his opening statement to the jury, McCoy again objected.

"Judge Cox, Mr. English is simply selling me out, Judge Cox," McCoy said from the defense table.

English's strategy did not work, partly because Louisiana does not allow the kind of limited mental capacity defense that the lawyer pursued. McCoy was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death.

The Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld English's strategy and the trial judge's decisions.

"Admitting guilt in an attempt to avoid the imposition of the death penalty appears to constitute reasonable trial strategy," the court concluded.

(source: Washington Post)


Facing the Death Penalty With a Disloyal Lawyer

2 weeks before Robert McCoy was to be tried for a triple murder, his lawyer paid him a visit. It was the summer of 2011, and the 2 men met in a holding cell in a Louisiana courthouse. Mr. McCoy, who was facing the death penalty, told his lawyer he was innocent.

Mr. McCoy was adamant. Others had committed the crimes, he said, and he wanted to clear his name.

The lawyer, Larry English, said he had a different strategy.

"I met with Robert at the courthouse and explained to him that I intended to concede that he had killed the 3 victims," Mr. English recalled in a sworn statement. "Robert was furious and it was a very intense meeting. He told me not to make that concession, but I told him that I was going to do so."

Capital trials have 2 phases. The first concerns guilt, the other punishment. Mr. English reasoned that he would forfeit his credibility with the jury if he contested what he believed was overwhelming evidence against his client in the trial's 1st phase. He feared the jurors would not listen to him when he begged them to spare Mr. McCoy's life in the 2nd phase.

Conceding guilt in a capital case is sometimes the right play. Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether it is permissible even if the man whose life is at stake objects.

Mr. McCoy was accused of killing Christine Colston Young, Willie Young and Gregory Colston, who were the mother, stepfather and son of Mr. McCoy’s estranged wife. There was substantial evidence that he had done so. There was also reason to think that Mr. McCoy's belief in his innocence was both earnest and delusional.

There was no ambiguity in Mr. McCoy's position, Mr. English recalled.

"I know that Robert was completely opposed to me telling the jury that he was guilty of killing the 3 victims," Mr. English said. "But I believed that this was the only way to save his life."

After the meeting, Mr. McCoy tried to fire his lawyer, saying he would rather represent himself. Judge Jeff Cox, of the Bossier Parish District Court, turned him down.

"Mr. English is your attorney, and he will be representing you," the judge said.

Mr. McCoy's parents had paid Mr. English $5,000 to defend their son. They had borrowed the money, using their car as collateral.

In a letter to Judge Cox before the trial, Mr. McCoy's parents said they rued their decision. Mr. English "is neither prepared nor capable of adequately representing our son," they wrote. When they tried to discuss the case with Mr. English, they wrote, he responded with a tirade and "insulted us by talking to us as if we were children."

During his opening statement at the trial, Mr. English did what he had promised to do. "I'm telling you," he told the jury, "Mr. McCoy committed these crimes."

Mr. McCoy objected. "Judge Cox," he said, "Mr. English is simply selling me out."

"I did not murder my family, your honor," Mr. McCoy said. "I had alibis of me being out of state. Your honor, this is unconstitutional for you to keep an attorney on my case when this attorney is completely selling me out."

Whatever its wisdom, Mr. English's trial strategy failed. Mr. McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death. He appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, saying his lawyer had betrayed him. The court ruled against him.

"Given the circumstances of this crime and the overwhelming evidence incriminating the defendant," the court said, "admitting guilt in an attempt to avoid the imposition of the death penalty appears to constitute reasonable trial strategy."

The decision relied on a unanimous 2004 ruling from the United States Supreme Court in Florida v. Nixon, which said lawyers need not obtain their clients' express consent before conceding guilt in a capital case. But the ruling did not address whether it was permissible for a lawyer to disregard a client's explicit instruction to the contrary.

That is the question in the new case, McCoy v. Louisiana, No. 16-8255.

The right answer, Louisiana prosecutors told the justices, is that lawyers may ignore their clients' wishes. "Counsel's strategic choices should not be impeded by a rigid blanket rule demanding the defendant's consent," they wrote in a brief urging the court not to hear the case.

Mr. English declined requests for an interview, saying he would not comment until after the Supreme Court ruled.

In a brief supporting Mr. McCoy, the Ethics Bureau at Yale, a law school clinic, said Mr. English had essentially switched sides. "Far from testing the prosecution's case," the brief said, "Mr. English seemed downright eager to advance it."

Mr. McCoy's situation is not particularly unusual, according to a 2nd supporting brief, this one filed by the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Promise of Justice Initiative, a nonprofit group. "In Louisiana," the brief said, "a capital defendant has no right to a lawyer who will insist on his innocence."

Since 2000, the brief said, the Louisiana Supreme Court allowed defense lawyers to concede their clients' guilt in 4 other capital cases over the clients' express objections.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to "the assistance of counsel." Those words, the Supreme Court said in 1975 in Faretta v. California, indicate that the client is the boss.

"It speaks of the 'assistance' of counsel," Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "and an assistant, however expert, is still an assistant."

(source: New York Times)


The Sad Death of John Thompson

In November 2011, I had the pleasure of seeing John Thompson - who spent 14 years on death row before he was exonerated 1 month before his scheduled execution, based on the prosecution's withholding of exculpatory evidence during trial - speak at King Hall with fellow exoneree Don Diolosa.

He was eventually exonerated but his prosecutors were never punished as, in March of 2011 the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned the case that Mr. Thompson had won against them that would have given him $14 million for his years on death row.

That decision, handed down by Justice Clarence Thomas who ruled that the district attorney cannot be held responsible for the single act of a lone prosecutor, has been called one of the cruelest Supreme Court decisions ever.

Several weeks before he was scheduled to be executed in 1999, Mr. Thompson's private investigators discovered evidence that the prosecutors had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence that would have cleared him of his robbery charge.

The strongest evidence was that the blood sample at the crime scene did not match Mr. Thompson's blood type. It is worse than that, because this was known to the prosecutors 14 years before and excluded Mr. Thompson as the perpetrator. But it gets even worse than that, because in order to make sure the defense did not find out about this evidence, the assistant DA who was prosecuting the case took the jeans from the police evidence locker and threw them away.

Here is my 2011 write up on John Thompson.

"I remember the police coming to my grandmother's house - we all knew it was the cops because of how hard they banged on the door before kicking it in. My grandmother and my mom were there, along with my little brother and sister, my 2 sons - John Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 - my girlfriend and me. The officers had guns drawn and were yelling. I guess they thought they were coming for a murderer. All the children were scared and crying. I was 22."

He continued, "They took me to the homicide division, and played a cassette tape on which a man I knew named Kevin Freeman accused me of shooting a man. He had also been arrested as a suspect in the murder. A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun; it turned out that the ring belonged to the victim and the gun was the murder weapon.

"My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children. Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery first. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted based on the victims' identification.

"After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn't testify at the murder trial," he said. "So I never defended myself, or got to explain that I got the ring and the gun from Kevin Freeman. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty."

Eventually both of those convictions would be overturned.

You would think that John Thompson would be bitter about his experience - and he was. In 2011, he wrote, "The prosecution rests, but I can't."

And this week, at just the age of 55 he died of a heart attack. A sad ending in a tragic case. We have now seen the toll that wrongful convictions take on people, as many have died not long after release and all at a premature age.

Radley Balko this week wrote, "The 1st time I interviewed John Thompson, I was a little taken aback." He said he began the interview asking if anyone had ever apologized to him, to which Mr. Thompson went off on a rant.

He said: "Tell me what the hell would they be sorry for. They tried to kill me. To apologize would mean they're admitting the system is broken. That everyone around them is broken. It's the same motherf---g system that's protecting them," he said, jabbing his finger into the air for emphasis. He added, "What would I do with their apology anyway? Sorry. Huh. Sorry you tried to kill me? Sorry you tried to commit premeditated murder? No. No thank you. I don't need your apology."

Mr. Balko writes, "I hadn't expected that. I had interviewed exonerees before, and I had always been struck by their grace and their unfathomable lack of bitterness. I still admire that about those particular exonerees. But there's also something to be said for anger. We admire grace. Anger compels a reaction. Thompson's anger was righteous. It was unimpeachable. And once you know the circumstances of his 2 convictions - of what happened before, during and after his incarceration - it's really the only emotion that makes any sense."

My experiences are very similar - I have met and known a lot of exonerees and am struck by their grace and forgiveness.

We have covered a lot of cases this week that are flat-out ridiculous. I reserve a special place for the innocent who are robbed of their freedom and years of their lives. I think of my friend Ajay Dev frequently, as I look at our photo that hangs above my desk. But there is plenty of injustice to spare beyond just wrongful convictions.

As Mr. Balko argues, there is something to be said for anger. "We need more people to be as angry as John Thompson was."

I've always been surprised at the lack of anger that people have when they get exonerated - especially in cases with prosecutorial misconduct and cover ups. Think where you were 18 years ago today and now imagine having that life experience erased and having to spend that time in prison while completely innocent of the crime you were convicted of.

John Thompson's case was bad because of the level of corruption, but far from the worst. Think about Ricky Jackson, who in 2015 was exonerated after 40 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was 18 when convicted of the crime.

The witness who put him in jail said in 2013 "that police detectives threatened to put his parents in jail and coerced him into implicating Jackson and brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman in the slaying of salesman Harold Franks outside a corner store."

A lawsuit alleges that 8 officers, including detectives and their supervisors, were involved in framing the 3. Can you imagine - you go to prison at age 18 and are released at 57? That's your life.

Maybe more people need to be angry over this injustice.

(source: David Greenwald, Commentary; Davis Vanguard)


Community mourns lives of children lost in triple homicide

People gathered in West Sacramento Saturday to mourn the lives of 3 children, who were killed last month - allegedly at the hands of their own father.

That man, Robert Hodges, faces 3 counts of murder and 1 count of attempted murder, for an alleged attack on his wife. He could face the death penalty, if Yolo County prosecutors seek it. He's due back in court for a hearing later this month.

The kids' mother spoke at Saturday's memorial, held at River Cities Funeral Chapel.

Since she is an alleged victim of domestic abuse, ABC10 is not naming her.

"I will never stop missing them," she said, through tears.

Her children were Kelvin, who was 11 at the time of his death; Julie, 9 and baby Lucas, who was almost 8 months old.

Their mother reflected on each of them.

"Kelvin and his huge, beautiful smile...and cheerful nature," she said.

"Julie and her laughter. Her sweet, social personality," their mother said. "The way she walked through her school and know everybody by name."

"And little Lucas, my happy baby, whose giggles I can still hear and whose hand I can still feel on my face," she said. "Their spirits live in me, in all of us, and I know God has a plan for us all."

Other community members spoke at the memorial service, including Quirina Orozco, who is a West Sacramento city councilmember and deputy district attorney with the Sacramento District Attorney's Office.

"On September 13, 2017, 3 beautiful - vibrant lights - were dimmed in our community. On that day, a magnificent glory departed our city, and we have not been the same since," Orozco said.

Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, a trustee with the Washington Unified School District, said, "Kelvin, Julie and baby Lucas will forever have a special place in our community and our hearts."

Speakers assured the children's mother that she has support and love.

"Though the burden is experienced most with you, you share it not alone and are not meant to bear it alone from this day forward," Southport Church lead pastor Micah Moreno told her.

"I just want you to know that we will not forget," Orozco said. "This is our community. We are your family."

A GoFundMe site for the kids' mother has already raised more than $36,000.

(source: ABC News)


Death penalty: Washington should abolish unjust practice

Do you know capital punishment has been discussed for many years yet this inhumane, barbaric action still exists? And that it came before the Washington Legislature this session but, disappointingly, never passed committee despite encouragement by Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson?

Do you know the death penalty dehumanizes us, encourages violence and is arbitrarily unjust? Do we want to stand with China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other rogue nations in condoning the murder of human beings?

Do you know capital punishment does not deter crime nor does it lower recidivism? Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that it's a deterrent.

Do you know Innocent people have been put to death? When Inslee placed a moratorium on executions in 2014, he asked for public conversation. When he leaves office, the moratorium could be rescinded.

Do you know that when the "state" kills, we are participants? Would you choose to be the person that snuffs out a human life?

Let's keep the conversation going. Let's join other civilized nations that have abolished the death penalty. For more information visit the Fellowship of Reconciliation web site,

(source: Sandra Ware--Letter to the Editor, The News Tribune)


New report details Florida airport shooting that killed 5----Passengers at all the airport's terminals fled in a panic over erroneous reports of another shooter.

A 30-page report released by a sheriff’s office in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Florida airport details how an Alaska man waited at a baggage carousel for several minutes last January before being paged to pick up the bag containing his gun, which officials said he used to kill 5 people and injure 6 others.

Delta Airlines was paging Esteban Santiago, 27, to retrieve the bag after his flight arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6. Minutes after he picked up the bag, the shooting began.

The SunSentinel reported that the document is the Broward Sheriff's Office's final review of its actions following the mass shooting. The page by Delta is a new detail in the airport shooting. The report didn't disclose whether airline officials knew what was in the bag.

On that afternoon, passengers from all terminals at the airport fled in a panic over erroneous reports of an additional airport shooter. The report also shed light on the extent of the radio problems police and fire personnel encountered in attempting to communicate as state, local and federal officials answered calls for backup and converged on the airport.

The report says that at one point, the crush of users sent the system into a "fail-soft" mode and all connections between responding agencies were lost. Dispatchers were not able to quickly reconnect groups and told 'all units to stop transmitting until the radio bridges could be restored."

It took about 4 minutes, the report said. But the system began to "throttle," which resulted in garbled transmissions in which Broward Sheriff's Office deputies and fire officials could only hear parts of words or phrases.

Santiago, of Anchorage, Alaska, was caught by a deputy within minutes of the shooting. But an hour and a half later, the false reports of additional gunfire resulted in bedlam at the busy airport. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer thought he heard shots and relayed the information to a sheriff's officer fire captain who broadcast it over the radio as: "Border Patrol reporting shots fired in Terminal 2," the SunSentinel reported.

"The words "shots fired" spread throughout the airport and triggered pandemonium as thousands of travelers, airline and airport employees began to escape from the concourses, gates, baggage claim areas, curbside loading areas and parking garages of all 4 terminals," the report stated.

Sheriff Scott Israel, in an introduction to the report, said the review is an effort to "objectively review and assess" its response to the deadly shooting. The report is much shorter and far less critical than a 99-page draft report released in June that faulted the agency for failing to seize control and set up an effective command system, the newspaper reported.

Santiago has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment. He has stopped taking anti-psychotic medication to treat schizophrenia but remains mentally competent to stand trial, his lawyer told a judge last month.

The Justice Department may seek the death penalty in a trial currently set for January.



Students interview ex-death row inmate Nick Yarris on Wrongful Conviction Day

Jessica White, an associate of 1st-year experience at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, hosted a Skype interview in her UNIV 100 class on Wrongful Conviction Day, Oct. 2, with a man who spent 21 wrongful years on death row.

Nick Yarris was wrongfully convicted of 1st-degree murder and later released in 2004 after 21 years on death row.

"I can't believe she (White) got in contact with him," said Allie Moodie, freshman mechanical engineering major.

White teaches 4 classes - 2 sections focused on the crime documentaries and 2 on forensics media and the CSI effect - all of which were invited to her Skype interview, focused on Yarris' autobiographical documentary "The Fear of 13."

Yarris' wrongful conviction is explained in the documentary available on Netflix: He spent 21 years on death row in Pennsylvania, but DNA evidence proved him innocent and he was released with only $5.33 to his name.

"The story I told in 'The Fear of 13' is the story we're all trying to tell. It's important to highlight the best parts of who we are - the small acts of good amid the chaos of the world.

"We only support the death penalty if it is for someone else," he added.

Yarris, White explained, was convicted when was 20, pulled over for driving a stolen car while intoxicated. His life, fraught with criminal behaviors, drug abuse and sexual abuse, was connected to the murder of a woman when he attempted to reduce his sentence by providing fabricated information of the suspect. The false information led to an investigation, and officers found he matched the suspect's blood type.

Yarris said he reached the point where he asked for his right to be executed. He said started to question the purpose of his life.

A judge ordered to retest DNA evidence, and Yarris was found innocent.

"I got treated like a nut, stabbed, strangled, had my face crushed," Yaris said. "I get it, people thought they were enacting a justified vengeance on me. I had to tune it out. People thought I must be damaged."

Through impassioned testimonies of more than two decades spent behind bars, Yarris recounted the impact it had on his life at home.

"I had made one promise to my family while I was in there," Yarris said, "and that was that I wouldn't become an animal, I wouldn't lose to the anger, I wouldn't give into all the negativity and be like every other prisoner."

Students were able to ask him questions and evaluate the documentary with more context. Carmen Soileau, a freshman secondary English education major, described the interview as an "eye opener."

"You don't get the opportunity to talk with people who are wrongfully convicted because they aren't often given a chance," Soileau said. "I never really did any research on opinions of the death penalty."

"I really like the example of other people also having a mother or a close friend," Natalie Roberts, freshman accounting major, said after the interview. "Why would I support the death penalty and do that to someone else?"

White said she found many of her students changed their opinion on the death penalty after discussing the documentary in class.

"Our conviction rates in Louisiana are so high, more than any other place in the world," White said. "So, it's interesting to see that we have Wrongful Conviction Day, this man who has been wrongfully convicted, and served on death row -- it's all lining up."

Yarris said education kept him going during his imprisonment. Though as a 20-year-old he had never finished a book, he read over 9,000 books during his incarceration. He also had 6 years of university classes and spent time studying law.

"I made sure I had 1 tool to cling to, my education, because that is the one thing that gives you separation from what people think or say about you, to know that you don't listen to them," he said. "The very same people who once thought I was a psychotic, convicted murderer, thought I was the most beautiful, eloquent speaker they had ever met in their life. It was their perspective all along that had been the challenge to my ego."

Despite all of the horrors and tribulations he described, Yarris still had a hopeful outlook on life.

"Every time you go through a tough experience, that's what's making you a beautiful human being," he said. "We're broken-inside individuals. I've gone through things that would break most men, (but) you take that energy and you create within yourself either a brace or a weakness."



In Malaysia's high court, pathologist testifies Kim Jong Nam was killed by weapon of mass destruction

On Wednesday, pathologist Mohd Shah Mahmood testified before Malaysia's high court in the trial of Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, who stand accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Mohd Shah, an employee of the Malaysian government, testified that VX nerve agent, by international treaty a weapon of mass destruction, caused Kim's death, and Judge Azmi Ariffin officially admitted tissue and fluid samples as evidence. Both Aisyah and Huong are subject to death penalty if convicted of killing Kim.

The samples were sealed in plastic when presented at court, but the judge and lawyers for both the prosecution and defense nonetheless wore protective gloves and masks to examine them. Both the North Korean government and Aisyah's lawyer have said the victim may have died of a heart attack or some cause other than VX nerve agent.

Mohd Shah based his conclusion on VX nerve agent in Kim's system and on the timing of Kim's death: he expired on the way to a hospital, less than 2 hours after encountering Aisyah and Huong. He also testified Kim Jong Nam had 6 different medications in his system, one a common Viagra heart-condition treatment, but no indications of a heart attack when he examined Kim's body. He also said neither this nor the other medicines Kim was taking would have killed him quickly.

Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, argued the autopsy reports indicate only that Kim was killed by chemical poisoning, not necessarily by VX nerve agent, and Mohd Shah admitted under cross-examination he does not have much experience with VX and other nerve agents.

Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, age given as 28 or 29, pled not guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam on Monday, though they do not contest they met him. Both were represented by lawyers hired by their home countries' respective governments. Both women are on video approaching Kim in Kuala Lumpur International Airport where 1 of them sprayed him with liquid, but they both claimed they had been hired to spray travelers with a harmless substance as part of a prank TV show. Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told the press his client had already performed the prank several times, always with oil or pepper. According to the police, the two men who hired Huong and Aisyah were Hong Song Hac and Ri Ji U, North Koreans who avoided questioning by, respectively, fleeing Malaysia and remaining within the North Korean embassy.

Huong's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said after a prosecution phase of probably about 2 months, at the Judge's discretion the defense would proceed. Proceedings earlier this week included testimony from an airport employee, a police officer who spoke to the dying Kim, and pathologists who examined samples from Kim, Huong and Aisyah. Dr. Norashikin Othman of Hospital Kuala Lumpur testified Kim Jong Nam's blood, liver and other tissues appeared to have been depleted of cholinesterase, an enzyme we need to move. "The low cholinesterase level in Kim Chol could be caused by exposure to poisons such as insecticide or nerve agents," he said, and that Huong and Aisyah both had normal levels of cholinesterase. He said the 2 women could have protected themselves by washing their hands, which both women did that day, or by taking antidote.

The alleged poisoning took place at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Gooi Soon Seng told the press the prosecution had not disclosed this information to the defense before Norashikin's testimony: "This piece of evidence was never served to us". South Korean intelligence has maintained this was part of a plan on the part of Kim Jong Un or his government to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, who had once been his father Kim Jong Il's heir apparent. They had a falling out in 2001 and Kim Jong Nam had been living quietly with his family in Macao.

The events surrounding Kim's death have included diplomatic troubles between the formerly friendly North Korea and Malaysia, a hostage exchange, ambassador expulsions, and a break-in at the mortuary that housed Kim's remains.

Earlier statements from Malaysia's health ministry asserted Kim died within 20 minutes of his encounter at the airport, but testimony given this week differed from this.



Death penalty prosecutions in Indonesia nearly doubled over last year, activists call for moratorium----Executions are down but death penalty prosecutions are up over the last year of President Joko Widodo's administration.

Tomorrow, October 10, is World Day Against the Death Penalty, and human rights activists in Indonesia used the opportunity to highlight an alarming increase in death penalty prosecutions over the last year, a trend that runs counter to the narrative that President Joko Widodo is softening his stance on executions.

Under President Jokowi's administration, 14 people were executed in 2014, 4 were executed in 2016 and none have been executed so far this year. But in contrast to the downward trend in executions, the number of cases involving the death penalty has risen sharply over the last year.

From January-June 2016 there were 26 cases in which prosecutors demanded the death penalty and, out of those, judges in 17 of the cases sentenced the defendants to be executed. But from July 2016 to September 2017, there were 45 cases in which prosecutors asked for the death penalty and 33 in which judges handed out the sentence.

"Compared to 2016, the trend of death penalty demands and sentences, based on the number of cases, nearly doubled," said the director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), Supriyadi Widodo, during a discussion in Jakarta on Sunday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Supriyadi said most of the death penalty cases involved drug trafficking, followed by murder cases. But he noted there was a new category of death penalty case, suspects accused of child sexual assault, a crime which became eligible for the death penalty under a new law passed by President Jokowi in 2016, which contributed to the increased numbers.

There are currently 134 people on Indonesia's execution waiting list and the attorney general has stated recently that they are still planning on carrying them all out eventually, although no dates have been mentioned.

ICJR asked that Indonesia declare a moratorium on the death penalty while the process in which criminals can be convicted and appeal the sentence be reviewed for violations of human rights. Supriyadi noted that one of the last people executed by the government, Humphrey Jefferson "Jeff" Ejike, had been denied the ability to exercise all of his appeal options before he was killed.

"Under conditions of uncertainty and doubt regarding executions, the government should immediately conduct a moratorium to avoid the great potential for human rights violations," he said.

Speaking at the same discussion, Ifdhal Kasim, an advisor on political, legal and human rights issues at the Presidential Staff Office, said it was unlikely the administration would declare a moratorium as the government believed that the death penalty was an effective deterrent to fight the so-called drug emergency facing the country.



Reinstate the moratorium

The World Day against the Death Penalty will be observed tomorrow. The day is marked to urge states to abolish capital punishment since it has no place in a modern society. This is primarily because the objective of punishment is to rehabilitate and reintegrate criminals into society and not exact revenge.

More than 2/3 of the world has abolished the death penalty in law or practice. At least 104 countries have abolished it for all crimes, seven countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 30 countries haven't executed anyone in last 10 years and have abolished executions in practice. There are only 57 countries who still uphold the death penalty as a form of punishment.

A report of the World Coalition Against Death Penalty claims that Pakistan was among the top 5 in the list of 23 countries where executions were carried out in 2016. The report also claims that Pakistan awarded the death penalty to the juvenile offenders by violating the principles of the ICCPR and the CRC.

Our criminal justice system is full of such miscarriages of justice where people have been denied the opportunity of a fair trial. And yet, courts in Pakistan can award the death penalty for 27 different crimes, including blasphemy, sexual intercourse out of wedlock and narcotics smuggling. We can't forget when Mazhar Hussain was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan 2 years after his death in the prison. The same court acquitted Ghulam Sarwar and his brother Ghulam Qadir, who were shockingly executed before their appeals could be heard and decided by the Supreme Court. We are still not prepared to accept this bitter reality and find answers to the countless questions that this problem presents.

In addition to the failure of the administration of justice through ordinary courts, Pakistan also has a history of introducing military courts for the trial of civilian suspects of terrorism. These mechanisms have been viewed with suspicion by human rights activists because they are considered to be deficient in fulfilling the components involved in an individual's right to a fair trial.

Since January 7, 2015, military courts have convicted nearly 309 people - including 169 death convictions - while at least 48 others have been executed. All the cases that were reviewed were eventually dismissed by the high courts and the Supreme Court. Only the conviction of Muhammad Imran was set-aside by the Peshawar High Court.

Astonishingly, 93 % of the convictions are based on confessions where the accused were defended by 'military officers' and the families had limited access in these matters.

There are around 3 million cases pending in our courts. In some cases, it takes decades to prove that a person is not guilty. A system with a weak administration of justice, false FIRs, incomplete and outdated investigation, corrupt practices, the unavailability of modern forensics for the investigation process, false testimonies, weak prosecution, limited access to lawyers due to financial or other reasons and overburdened courts where only the rich can afford justice takes between 15 and 20 years to decide a criminal case. It can't guarantee the accused the right to a fair trial.

How can the state legitimise the death penalty when it has failed to guarantee these important components of an individual's right to a fair trial? The state shouldn't execute people on the basis of a deficient and fragile criminal justice system. In order to guarantee the right to a fair trial and make the administration of justice efficient, it is essential that Pakistan work on its police, prosecution, parole, prisons and judicial systems.

When capital punishment is non-reversible, has no special deterrent effect and is based on a system where there is a high probability of a miscarriage of justice, executions can never serve as good options. Therefore, Pakistan should reinstate moratorium on death penalty and should ratify the Second Protocol to the ICCPR. It should also work to improve its criminal justice system by protecting witnesses, lawyers and judges. It should introduce timely reforms in the criminal justice system because after January 7, 2019, problems within this system might be used once again a rational ground to further extend the operation of military courts.

(source: Irshad Ahmad; The writer is a Peshawar-based


Godhra verdict: Gujarat High Court commutes death penalty of 11 convicts to life imprisonment

The Gujarat High Court today pronounced the verdict in 2002 Godhra train carnage.

The High Court commuted the death penalty of 11 convicts to life imprisonment. The court sustained the acquittal of 31 accused and also sustained the life term of 20 convicts.

While awarding compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the victims, which is over and above already paid under various schemes, the court said that the state 'failed to maintain law and order.'

In the horrific incident, 59 passengers were charred to death at the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.

According to the prosecution, the Sabarmati Express was late and as per pre-planned conspiracy, the chain was pulled just outside the railway station and mob armed with lethal weapon and carrying petrol attacked the train.

They pelted stone and locked the doors of the S6 coach from outside. They poured petrol inside the coach and set it on fire.

59 passengers in the coach died after suffering severe burn injuries and suffocation.

According to police investigation, Aman Guest house owner Abdul Razak Kurkur had procured 60 litre patrol from a fuel pump on February 26. He had hatched the conspiracy of attacking the Sabarmati Express train at his guest house along with Bilal Hussain Kalota.

The other accused according to the police investigation was Maulan Umarji. The probe said that on the morning of February 27, he had appealed people from minority community using the mosque loud speaker to gather and rush to railway station.

Interestingly, the trial court has acquitted him. After acquittal he died due to old age.

However, Kurkur and Kalota with 29 others were convicted for hatching conspiracy and for murder.

The special court's additional sessions judge PR Patel while accepting prosecution theory of pre-planned, had passed verdict running in 850 pages in 2011.

The first part of judgment of conviction was announced on February 22 and quantum of punishment on February 25.



Will the Government Abolish Execution by Hanging? Supreme Court Seeks Response----The apex court has asked the central government to respond to the PIL within 3 weeks.

Acting on a writ petition challenging the mode of execution in a death sentence, the Supreme Court on Friday has observed that the legislature could consider another mode rather than the present one in practice, which is hanging by neck till the prisoner is dead.

The apex court sought the central government's response to the plea within three weeks. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed by senior lawyer Rishi Malhotra in his personal capacity.

During the hearing, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said: "What would be the mode will be decided by the legislature".

"Prima-facie with the invention of various modes, the legislature can think of some other mode by which a convict who in law has to face death sentence shall die in peace and not in pain," said a bench headed by Misra.

The petition said that the present practice of execution under 354(5) Criminal procedure code (Cr.P.C) is not only barbaric, inhuman and cruel but also against the resolutions adopted by United Nations Economic and Social Council which had categorically stated that if capital punishment is to occur it shall be carried out so as to inflict minimum possible suffering.

Speaking to Newsclick, the petitioner lawyer, Rishi Malhotra said he welcomed the court's observations. "The Supreme Court has directed the central government and the attorney general to respond in this matter within 3 weeks," he said.

Relying on the judgments in Gian Kaur Vs State of Punjab (1996), Deena Vs Union of India (1983) and 2 reports of the law commission (which established that execution by hanging involves intense pain and suffering) in support of his petition, Malhotra has prayed the court to declare provisions contained under 354(5) Cr.P.C., 1973 to be ultra vires to the Constitution and especially in contravention of Article 21 of the Constitution and to declare 'Right to Die by a dignified procedure of death' as a Fundamental right as defined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The petition also prayed to pass any such further orders or directions the honourable court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.

The petition also said that as compared to hanging, death is less painful and is a matter of minutes in other modes of execution such as intravenous lethal injections, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber.

However, hanging is the most common method of execution across the world with the laws of 60 countries authorising it, according to the Death Penalty Database .



Stop execution of women in Iran

October 10, marks the World Day against the Death Penalty.

Death penalty violates the most fundamental human rights, the right to life and the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The death penalty is also considered discriminatory as it is often used against the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with mental disabilities. It is also used by some governments to silence their opponents.

Iran is the world's leading per capita executioner. It also holds the record in the execution of women and minors.

The Iranian regime is among those governments that execute their opponents. 120,000 people have been executed in Iran since 1981 for their opposition to the government, at least 1/3 of whom have been women. According to the international laws, pregnant women must not be executed, whereas in Iran, at least 50 pregnant women have been executed in the 1980s. Women were also executed en masse in 1988, during the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.

The Iranian regime uses execution as a tool to suppress and silence a disgruntled public the majority of whom live under the poverty line, are unemployed and deprived of freedom of expression.

Execution is a tool which helps the mullahs' regime hold its grab on power. Over 3,200 people have been executed over the past 4 years under Hassan Rouhani. In the same period, 81 women have been executed, 10 since January 2017.

Among the reasons that lead to the execution of women are early forced marriages, being deprived of the right to divorce, domestic violence against women, and poverty.

The international law recommends alternative punishments for imprisonment of women who are mothers and have to take care of their children. In Iran, however, mothers are not only imprisoned but handed death sentences.

Most women do not report violence and rape because judicial authorities might hold the woman, the victim, guilty and accuse her of illicit relations which is punishable by death.

One of the infamous cases of execution of women has been the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari. Reyhaneh was an interior designer, 19 years old, when she was assaulted by one of her clients, a senior official of the Intelligence Ministry. Reyhaneh killed the man in self-defense, however, the court convicted and executed her after 7 years of torture and imprisonment, on October 25, 2014. The Intelligence Ministry and prison officials wanted Reyhaneh to make false confessions to justify the crime of their official in exchange for her life.

On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, we draw attention to the plight of women in Iran who are victims of execution and urge the international community to pressure the Iranian regime to stop the death penalty, especially against women.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Egypt court recommends death penalty for 13 members of disbanded militant group

13 members of disbanded militant group Ajnad Misr were sentenced to death on Sunday by a Cairo criminal court after being convicted of launching attacks on security forces, judicial sources said.

Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, were a group that emerged in January 2014 and targeted security forces in and around the Egyptian capital.

The group's leader was killed by security forces in 2015, and many of its remaining members are held in custody.

The court referred its sentencing recommendation to the country's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding but legally required opinion.

Once that is received, the court will then formally announce its verdict on Dec. 7, after which time the sentence can be carried out.

Egypt is fighting an Islamist insurgency in Sinai that gained momentum in mid-2013 when the military ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against his rule. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed.

The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement but Egyptian security forces do not differentiate between it and groups such as Ajnad Misr and Islamic State, which has led the insurgency in recent years.

(source: Reuters)


'No death penalty means no EJK'

There are no extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines because there is no death penalty, Malacanang said yesterday as it stressed that slain drug suspects either fought with police or were killed by drug syndicates.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has drawn flak after declaring that there is not a single EJK in the country despite the rising number of deaths linked to President Duterte's war on drugs.

Officials have defended the claim, citing Administrative Order 35, which defined EJK as the killing of members of cause-oriented organizations, advocates, media practitioners or victims of mistaken identity. Malacanang has said that the order, issued by former president Benigno Aquino III, has not been revoked so the definition of EJK remains the same.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar insisted that there is no EJK in the Philippines because state-sponsored killings are not allowed under the Constitution

"We do not have judicial killing, we do not have capital punishment. It is prohibited to kill in our country. So why is there extrajudicial killing when there is no judicial killing? Why put 'extra?' So there are no extrajudicial killings in our country. There is no judicial killing, it is not state sponsored, it is not legal, it is not in our Constitution," Andanar told radio station dzBB yesterday.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon described the PNP claim as propaganda, saying over dzBB "they (PNP) are trying to take us for fools. Do they actually think the people will believe them?"

The Commission on Human Rights has also described the government's definition of EJKs as "inappropriate," noting that AO 35 was issued to address politically motivated killings.

Andanar also dared the policemen who went to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines to confess their involvement in EJKs to show proof that the government is behind the killings.

"They should show proof. It is easy to talk and to make allegations ... Gather the evidence, file cases. It's easy to make noise, for example, that there are 13,000 people who were killed. With regard to EJK, the government has real numbers and only 3,000 died because of drug operations," Andanar said.

(source: Philippine Star)


Poverty, Justice - a deadly mix

For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure, as it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice. (Pope Francis)

On Tuesday the World will observe the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty. The theme this year is: Poverty and Justice: a deadly mix. It "aims at raising awareness about the reasons why people living in poverty are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed."

Capital punishment remains in the legal system of 11 English-speaking countries in the region - of which 2 countries retain the mandatory death penalty for murder (TT and Barbados). Although the last hanging took place in St Kitts in 2008 and few death sentences have been handed down in the region, since then, these countries have consistently voted against the UN resolutions on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and have signed the note verbale, dissociating them from the Moratorium. It is to be noted that recent international studies and research show that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent, nor does it foster respect for life in our communities.

The World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP) states: "Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, a trend which continues to this day. According to Amnesty International, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes in 1977. Today, 2/3 of all countries (141) are now abolitionist in law or in practice.

"However, the application of the death penalty is inextricably linked to poverty. Social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who are sentenced to death for several reasons: defendants may lack resources (social and economic, but also political power) to defend themselves and will, in some cases, be discriminated against because of their social status… "In the United States, in 2017, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, 95 % of people on death row have disadvantaged economic backgrounds. A defendant who does not have the financial capacity to hire a private lawyer will have to rely on the free legal aid provided by the government. Such attorneys, however, are often underpaid and unprepared for death penalty cases. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity."

(See: for ten reasons why the death penalty is used discriminatorily, and often against the poor and should be abolished.)

The Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference stated in their 2016 Pastoral Letter: Human Life is Gift from God: "We wish to affirm the Church's teaching in regard to the inherent dignity of every human being. As such, every effort must be made to protect and preserve the sanctity of life. We believe that the protection of society and the common good are assured by a proper functioning justice system that detects and convicts and by a prison system that focuses on rehabilitation.

"We urge our Governments to strengthen the capacity of public institutions, including criminal justice systems, to address crime and violence; to address the risk factors that contribute to crime, for example: poverty, urban decay, social inequality and exclusion, family disintegration, poor parenting, lack of quality education and employment, poor housing, the proliferation of guns, drugs and gangs in the region, human trafficking, domestic violence, and to employ related preventive measures. We stand ready and urge our faithful and all people of good will to work together to this end.

"While we oppose the death penalty, we embrace the victims of violent crimes; those who are hurting and grieving for their loved ones who have been killed, at times in the most heinous ways. We urge each parish to establish victim support groups and seek to meet their physical, mental, spiritual, financial and other needs."

Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of the death penalty which, he says, "is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person ... there is no humane way of killing another person. The commandment 'thou shall not kill' has absolute value and pertains to the innocent as well as the guilty."

Pro-life, means pro-ALL LIFE.

(source: Leela Ramdeen is the chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice and chair of the Greater Caribbean for

OCTOBER 8, 2017:

TEXAS----impending executions

Death Watch: Where's Your Evidence?----Exculpatory testimony, DNA at issue for Rodney Reed, Robert Pruett

Rodney Reed, the Bastrop man who's spent nearly 20 years on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites - a crime he has steadfastly maintained he did not commit - could move 1 step closer to a new trial next week. On Tuesday, Oct. 10, he'll step into Bastrop County's 21st District Court for a 4-day hearing set to address an interview CNN's Death Row Stories conducted in 2016 with Curtis Davis, the Bastrop County Sheriff's investigator and former best friend of Jimmy Fennell Jr., Stites' fiancee, then a Giddings police officer, and the person Reed and his supporters believe to be responsible for her death. The interview, according to Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet, validates longstanding questions concerning whether Fennell provided false testimony at Reed's trial about his whereabouts on the night of Stites' murder.

Most relevant to Reed's effort is the portion of the interview in which Davis admits that on the morning of April 23, 1996, after Stites was reported missing, Fennell confided to Davis that he'd been out drinking by his truck the night before with several other police officers after a Little League practice. Davis said he doesn't know the exact time Fennell returned home, but told CNN: "definitely 10ish, 11 maybe at night." That unassuming nugget stands in direct contrast to Fennell's statement to police and testimony at Reed's trial: that he'd spent the night of April 22 at home with Stites, and was asleep when she allegedly left for work with his truck at 3am.

Davis' reveal is remarkable on its own, but even more striking when stacked next to affidavits filed in 2015 by Werner Spitz, Michael Baden, and LeRoy Riddick - 3 of the country's leading forensic experts - each of which raises questions about the time of Stites' death; essentially, that her condition when investigators found her indicates that Stites must have died at least 4 hours before her official time of death, 3:30am. That time played an outsized role in the state's case against Reed: Prosecutors hung their argument around the assumption that Reed abducted, raped, and murdered her on her way to work, then abandoned Fennell's truck at a nearby high school.

Fennell is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for the in-custody rape and kidnapping of a woman while he was an officer with the Georgetown Police Department in 2007.

Visiting Judge Doug Shaver will preside over the hearing, a recent development. The county docket listed that court's usual judge Carson Campbell as the hearing's judge as recently as July, but District Clerk Sarah Loucks told the Chronicle that Campbell "never was going to hear" Reed's case. It has been Shaver's case since 2014, Loucks said on Sept. 29, and she had "no idea" how it got reported that Campbell was presiding over the hearing. (We reported it in July after seeing Campbell's name listed as the presiding judge on the Bastrop County district clerk's website. See "Rodney Reed Hearing Set for October," July 14. Loucks did not respond to additional requests for clarification.)

Some might recall that Shaver has made a few headlines of his own over the years, including last September, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals instructed him to further investigate Reed's request for additional DNA testing. Once the prosecution and defense submitted their findings - in opposition to one another - Shaver approved both arguments and shipped them off to the CCA. Shortly after, Shaver wrote the court to apologize for what he called an "inadvertent mistake." Curiously, during our interview with Loucks on Friday, someone listening in on the call from Loucks' office interjected to say that Shaver's approval of both sides' findings "wasn't an accident." Asked to clarify, all that person (who declined to identify herself) could say was that Shaver "wanted the Court of Criminal Appeals to make that decision" - another odd development, since Shaver's letter to the CCA stated that he meant to approve only the prosecution's findings. The appeals court affirmed Shaver's decision to deny additional DNA testing, less than 1 month before mandating that the county court hold this upcoming hearing.

After that incident, Benjet told the Statesman that he planned to request a new judge preside over Reed's case. Neither Benjet nor the Bastrop County District Attorney's Office returned requests for comment concerning whether or not a new judge had indeed been requested and – if so – if that request had been denied.

Pruett's Last Stand

While Reed's hearing is going on, another longtime inmate of Texas' death row is slated for execution. Robert Pruett, convicted for the 1999 in-custody murder of Beeville prison guard Daniel Nagle, has a death date of Oct. 12. It's his 5th such date, as questions continue to come up about the murder, and whether Pruett was actually responsible.

The 38-year-old was 20 and serving a 99-year sentence for acting as an accomplice to a murder committed by his father when Nagle was found dead in the prison's multipurpose room. No officers witnessed the killing, and no inmates immediately spoke up. Investigators later found a homemade shank and a torn-up disciplinary note Nagle had issued Pruett earlier that day. They noticed a cut on Pruett's finger during their questioning of him, and splotches of blood on his shirt. Pruett denied any involvement, saying that he cut himself while lifting weights and used his shirt to wipe off the blood. Efforts to get the shank tested for DNA have been repeatedly denied at various levels - most recently on Oct. 2 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Pruett has an outstanding appeal for a stay with Houston District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos; should that be denied, he'll become the sixth Texan executed this year.

But that's just the start: With 5 more executions scheduled for 2017, including 2 more this month (Anthony Shore on Oct. 18 and Clinton Young on Oct. 26), trouble in Huntsville is only heating up.

(source: The Austin Chronicle)


Danville capital murder trial will be delayed----Pierre Dixon originally scheduled to go to trial in December

A capital murder case in Danville will now take longer to get underway.

Pierre Dixon was originally scheduled to go to trial in December, but this week his attorney requested that a neuropsychologist be allowed to testify in the case.

The Commonwealth Attorney's Office objected, but a judge granted the request.

Because this comes so close to the original trial date, the trial will have to be pushed back in order to give both sides enough time to prepare.

Dixon is facing 5 charges related to the 2013 shooting death of Antwan Rucker.

The Commonwealth intends to seek the death penalty.

A woman, Shakira Murphy, is also facing multiple charges related to the death.

She is set to be in court in January to have a trial date set.

(source: WSLS news)


NC high court reviews death penalty of man who beheaded wife

North Carolina's highest court is reviewing whether justice means the death penalty for a survivor of El Salvador's blood-soaked civil war of the 1980s who strangled and then decapitated his estranged wife.

The state's Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on whether the state can execute 41-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 murder of his wife, Maria. The high court automatically reviews death cases.

North Carolina is rare among southern states in that it hasn't had an execution in more than a decade because of various legal challenges. While the state has continued to suffer 500 to 600 murders a year, prosecutors have sought the death penalty only a handful of times each year and juries have condemned killers in only a fraction of those cases.

Rodriguez's children told investigators their father beat and bloodied Maria Rodriguez after she told them she was leaving in November 2010. He tossed the woman's still-breathing body over his shoulder, placed her in his vehicle, and said he was taking her to a hospital. Maria's body and severed head were found at different locations three weeks later, after Juan was already jailed for her kidnapping.

Justices are holding hearings in the case for the 2nd time in almost exactly a year. Monday's hearing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this spring that states needed to use current medical standards in deciding whether a killer is so mentally disabled he can’t be executed. The U.S. constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments," and that has been interpreted to prohibit executing people with severe mental shortcomings.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental handicaps were evident before adulthood.

Prosecutors introduced testimony showing Rodriguez worked as a brick mason meant he competed in the job market and earned a decent salary, was able to fill out forms, sign a lease, and pay bills. But a forensic psychiatrist testifying for Rodriguez said he compensated at work for his inability to learn addition or subtraction by marking a yardstick with common measurements.

Attorneys trying to prevent his execution argue that growing up in rural El Salvador meant Rodriguez was scarred by extreme poverty, malnutrition so severe his mother once told him to eat grass, exposure to neurotoxins in pesticides, and education that ended with seventh grade at age 16. Rodriguez also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the war, his attorneys said.

"In addition to the torture and murder of his brother, young Juan Carlos was regularly exposed to heavy combat, air raids, and the possibility of stepping on land mines," defense attorney John Carella wrote in one court filing.

Prosecutors countered that while psychologists agree that traumatic experiences could contribute to intellectual disability, Rodriguez's "experience of growing up during a particular civil war was collective and not individualized to him." In other words, thousands of other rural Salvadorans survived the ghastly violence without turning into killers themselves.

Despite having one of the world's highest homicide rates, El Salvador allows the death penalty only for exceptional crimes.

There are 144 killers on North Carolina's death row, including Rodriguez and 3 women. He's been one of the most recent additions to the line waiting for their execution day. The longest has been on death row for 32 years. The latest was added in April 2016.

(source: Associated Press)


Lowndes juries to hear 4 murder cases in November

Lowndes County juries will hear 4 murder cases in November, according to court records.

The trials are scheduled to start Nov. 6 in Superior Court.

Altogether, there are 6 defendants charged with murder in the 4 cases, court records show.

Death on Toombs Street

In 1 case, 3 suspects face trial in connection with the death of Jalon Jackson, 20.

Jackson was found dead inside his North Toombs Street residence Oct. 19, 2016, after police performed a welfare check at the request of relatives who had not heard from him.

Austin Eugen Stephens was indicted on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony; Keyolivia Richardson and Anthony Dequnn Jordan were indicted on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault and robbery, according to court documents.

They were arrested in March following information provided by a police tip.

A mother's death

Freddie Finnissee Jr., 40, of Valdosta faces trial in the 2015 death of his mother, according to police and court documents.

At 7:37 a.m., Dec. 14, police officers and firefighters responded to the 100 block of Perry Lane in reference to a report of a residential fire, according to a police department press release. While extinguishing the flames, firefighters found the body of Diane Calhoun-Perry, 61. Her death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy, according to police.

Finnissee was indicted by a grand jury for malice murder and arson in the 1st degree, according to court records.

Police: Death was retribution

Justin Emanuel Brown, 28, was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon during the grand jury's March term, according to court documents.

Brown is accused of killing Emory Austin Carter Jr., said Southern District Attorney Brad Shealy.

Police said on Nov. 14, Carter and another man were believed to have killed Brian Keith Moore, 25, during a robbery. Reportedly, Moore family members learned Carter was the shooter but did not inform the police department, according to police reports. Brown was Moore's brother, said Lt. Adam Bembry of the Valdosta Police Department.

Carter was shot to death Nov. 28 on East Ann Street, and police characterized the shooting as retribution.

Death in prison

The remaining November murder trial involves a former Valdosta State Prison inmate charged in the death of another inmate in December, according to the district attorney.

Chris Lashan Harper, 46, is charged in the Dec. 9 strangling death of inmate Robert Lee Hughes Jr., said Shealy.

Harper is charged with felony murder, malice murder and aggravated assault, according to court documents.

Shealy said the 2 murder indictments could bring Harper life in prison without parole.

"The case doesn't qualify for the death penalty," he said.

Harper is now in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison near Jackson, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

A search of prison records shows Harper has a long string of convictions in Coweta County dating to 1989, mostly for terroristic threats and acts and obstruction of a law-enforcement officer.

(source: The Valdosta Daily Times)


Grand jury to hear stabbing case

A grand jury this month will mull what murder charge, if any, should be sought against a 24-year-old transgendered woman accused of stabbing a Key West business man in the eyes and beating him to death in August.

Justin Tyler Calhoun, formerly of Tampa, is currently charged with 2nd-degree murder in the death of Mark Brann, 67, owner of A&M Rentals Key West, died Aug. 15, at Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

A charge of 1st-degree murder requires a grand jury's indictment by law.

The maximum penalty of 2nd-degree murder is life in state prison, but life is not the mandatory sentence.

Should the grand jury come back with a 1st-degree murder indictment, prosecutors will decide whether they will seek a death sentence at that time, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson.

The decision to seek the death penalty is technically up to prosecutors. State Attorney Dennis Ward said he will seek the grand jury's input in this case if should they recommend a 1st-degree murder charge.

Such cases are rare in Monroe County. The last instance in which the state sought death was in the matter of Jonathan Leo LeBaron, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 in the 2009 stabbing death of part-time Stock Island live-aboard boater Richard Gardner.

The trial jury recommended death, but circuit Judge Mark Jones spared his life at sentencing.

Prior to LeBaron, prosecutors sought the death penalty in the 2006 case of Christopher Bennett, who was convicted of beating his 5-year-old son, Zachary, to death. Bennett was also sentenced to life in prison.

The last defendant to actually be sentenced to death in Monroe County was Michael Tanzi, convicted in 2003 for the 2000 kidnapping, beating, robbery, rape and murder of Janet Acosta, a Miami Herald employee.

Tanzi remains on death row at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

Capital murder cases in Florida are broken down into 2 proceedings if the defendant is found guilty.

The 1st part is the guilt phase; the 2nd part is the penalty phase, in which jurors determine the sentence: life in prison or death.

Calhoun is accused of stabbing Brann in both eyes with a pen, jamming a piece of wood down his throat, and beating him before fleeing with more than $10,000 in cash, an ounce of cocaine and more than 100 painkillers prescribed to Brann.

Calhoun, who is identified by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office as a transgender female who worked as a stripper in Tampa before living on the streets of Key West,was taken into custody after police found her hiding naked on a roof at 2919 Fogarty Ave. Calhoun told police shortly thereafter that she left 1206 12th St. with a backpack containing a dress and "some money," reports say.



Executions in Oklahoma still on hold

The number of death row inmates who have exhausted all their appeals has grown to 16, with still no plan in place to begin executions again.

? The latest inmate to become eligible for an execution date is murderer Richard Norman Rojem Jr., who kidnapped, raped and fatally stabbed a 7-year-old girl in 1984.

Rojem, now 59, was first convicted and sentenced in 1985. He was resentenced - twice - after successful appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined, without comment, to review Rojem's final appeal of his punishment.

"I think we need to move forward, because other states have had problems with their execution protocols," said state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow. "I think we should probably get our act together."

Ritze is on the House Public Safety Committee and has been an author on a number of pro-death penalty measures.

"Every day that goes by that we delay ... is an injustice to families of victims," the legislator said.

Executions have been on hold since the wrong deadly drug was almost used on Sept. 30, 2015. A doctor involved in the process discovered the mistake and the execution was called off.

Officials later confirmed the same wrong deadly drug had been used inadvertently during an execution on Jan. 15, 2015.

A state multicounty grand jury spent months investigating the mix-up. In a report released in May 2016, the grand jury blamed a faulty execution protocol, inexcusable failures by corrections officials and a pharmacist's negligence.

The grand jury recommended a series of changes, and corrections officials have been developing new procedures ever since.

] "We're working on it," said Mark Myers, the Corrections Department communications director. "It's a process. We're working closely with the Attorney General's Office as we develop a protocol."

The task of setting execution dates falls to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The Attorney General's Office has been updating the court monthly since executions were put on hold.

"Although the investigation is complete, it is still not the appropriate time to set an execution date," Attorney General Mike Hunter and Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Miller wrote in the latest status report filed last week.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Funeral Held for 3 West Sacramento Children Allegedly Murdered by Their Father

River Cities Funeral Chapel in West Sacramento is preparing to host as many as 550 people for the funeral of Kelvin, Julie and Lucas Hodges, the 3 West Sacramento children allegedly murdered by their father on Sept. 13.

West Sacramento police said Saturday they have been told to expect as many as 800 people at the service for the 3 young siblings.

Robert and Sheng Hodges' 3 children, 11-year-old Kelvin, 9-year-old Julie and 7-month-old Lucas, were found dead by West Sacramento officers in the family's apartment Sept. 13.

The neighbor who called 911 initially believed the children had been suffocated. Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said their father allegedly used a belt to kill Julie and Kelvin.

Robert Hodges pleaded not guilty to 3 charges of premeditated 1st-degree murder and 1 charge of felony attempted murder against his wife. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Fox News)


Vallejo murder suspects make court appearance ahead of hearing next month

2 men charged with murder in the 2015 death of a 21-year-old Vallejo woman were back in court Friday, where 'IT' issues continue to hold up the case that is set for a preliminary hearing in November.

If convicted, Richard E. Hill, 40, of Vallejo, and Isaiah D. McClain, 29, of Richmond, could face the death penalty. The 2 men are suspects in the Aug. 3, 2015, shooting in Vallejo that killed 21-year-old A'Tierra Westbrook.

According to police, Westbrook was the unintended target of a dispute between the co-defendants and other men. She was gunned down in her car around 7 a.m. near Benicia Road as she drove to work at Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center, police said.

McClain is the alleged gunman, while Hill reportedly drove the 2 men. Upon arrival, officers located Westbrook's Toyota Camry crashed into a light pole near Sperry Avenue. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

McClain was arrested Sept. 5 in Vacaville following a traffic stop. Hill turned himself into authorities less than a month later. A substantial amount of evidence that has yet to be opened continues to hold up the case, with both men's defense councils set to file a motion to compel, court discussions revealed Friday. The evidence in question is several hours worth of wiretaps on blue ray disks. The motion to compel will be addressed Oct. 30.

Both men are ordered back in court Nov. 27 for a preliminary hearing. McClain and Hill remain jailed without bail.

(source: Times-Herald)


At least 100 European Isis fighters 'to be prosecuted in Iraq, with most facing death penalty'----Fate of militants' families remains uncertain

At least 100 European Isis fighters will be prosecuted in Iraq, with most to face the death penalty, the country's ambassador to Belgium has reportedly said.

Jawad al-Chlaihawi said Belgians were among those detained, along with jihadists from Russia, Chechnya and Central Asia.

Fighters from around the world joined Isis's call to arms as the group established its so-called caliphate across Iraq and Syria in 2014.

British fighters, including the notorious Mohammed Emwazi, also known as 'Jihadi John', were among them. He is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria in 2015.

Mr Chlaihawi told Belgium's RTPF there were around 1,400 family members of foreign fighters, including children, of suspected Isis members being held near Mosul.

Many are reportedly from Turkey, and former Soviet countries in Central Asia, but there are also believed to be some French and Germans among them.

It is unclear what will happen to the families and children of members of Isis, also known as Daesh.

"We are holding the Daesh families under tight security measures and waiting for government orders on how to deal with them," Army Colonel Ahmed al-Taie told Reuters.

He added: "We treat them well. They are families of tough criminals who killed innocents in cold blood, but when we interrogated them we discovered that almost all of them were misled by a vicious Daesh [Isis] propaganda."



Back To Godhra: Gujarat HC To Pronounce Verdict On 2002 Sabarmati Express Carnage Tomorrow

The Gujarat High Court on Monday will pronounce its judgement on the 2002 Godhra train carnage. In the horrific incident, 59 passengers were charred to death at the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.

In 2011, the special court in its verdict had concluded that it is rarest of the rare case had convicted 31 accused and acquitted 63 others including main accused Maulana Umarji.

Out of 31 who were convicted, 11 were awarded death penalty and rest 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment. The special court's verdict was challenged by the state government in Gujarat High Court in April 2011.

Out of 31 convicts, 11 were awarded death penalty and the other 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The special court's verdict was challenged by the state government and the convicts before the Gujarat High Court on April 06 2011. The state had appealed for the confirmation of the special court order, whereas convicts had pleaded for quashing of the convictions.



Convict facing death-sentence should die in peace, not pain: SC----SC seeks response on alternatives to death penalty

The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Centre on a plea seeking alternatives to death by hanging for convicts sentenced to death.

Observing that such prisoners must die in peace, it agreed to examine if hanging could be replaced by less painful procedures such as death by lethal injection or shooting.

The Centre was asked to respond within 3 weeks.



On death row

FOR the thousands of prisoners on Pakistan's death row, Oct 10 will pass just like any other day. They will just strike off one more day of their nearly 12-year average jail sentence. It does not fall on a Thursday this year, so they will not have any family come visit them. Ostensibly, there is nothing special about this date to them.

But beyond their literal prison, Oct 10 is World Day Against the Death Penalty - an annual accounting of this punishment that is as irreversible as it is inhumane. Activists around the world reflect on how many lives have been ended by the state and for what, and how to continue the global trend towards abolition.

I would like to think, knowing this day exists, that someone cares about what happens to them; it would be heartening for those who remain in jails, waiting to die.

But until December 2014, they had no reason to expect the arrival of their warrants. Pakistan had a de facto moratorium in place for nearly 6 years. Today, we have executed 480 prisoners in less than 3 years.

We are used to counting bodies in Pakistan. Sometimes in the tens, other times in the hundreds; 480 is a significant death toll, if not a wholly unnecessary one. The numbers are terrifying. The figure has included juvenile offenders, the mentally ill. There are still more who have been executed only to have their corpses acquitted a year later. Many have died waiting to die.

So in 2 days, as we take stock of the way the death penalty is implemented in Pakistan, let's go back to the reasons why it was resumed in the first place. No amount of time or commiseration can mitigate the horror of the attack on the students and staff of the Army Public School, Peshawar. I will always stand with the families of the victims of terrorist attacks, and it is my sincere hope that their memories are honoured appropriately, with dignity.

But this cannot be the case if Pakistan continues to wrongfully execute innocent individuals, the impoverished, juveniles and persons with mental and physical disabilities in their name. In line with this year's theme, the criminal justice system is rigged against those who need it the most.

More worrying still, is the narrative connecting terrorism to resuming executions in Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan has experienced a decrease in terrorism in the past few years, but is it because we have been executing terrorists? The data reveals that less than 17 % of all executions have been for those convicted of terrorism-related charges. In fact, the majority of death sentences have been issued by district and sessions courts that have no jurisdiction over terrorism.

And looking at the courts that do, ie the anti-terrorism courts, this nexus becomes even more doubtful. The Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, bears a definition of terrorism so broad as to include any action or threat that may create a "sense of fear or insecurity in society". ATCs have convicted 'terrorists' for stealing cattle and even once, for flying a kite.

It is no wonder then, that research by Justice Project Pakistan has found that 88 % of all those convicted and 86.3 % of all those sentenced to death under the ATA were for crimes bearing no connections to terrorism.

The ATA makes the death sentences it breeds even more difficult to stomach with its required expedited trials, suspension of fundamental safeguards, admissibility of confessions in police custody and restrictions on bail. Under it, juvenile offenders are sentenced to death (like Iqbal was in Mandi Bahauddin) and have been executed (like Aftab Bahadur was in 2015). Under it, the victim's family's wishes are disregarded. If they do not want the defendant to hang, it does not matter because ATA convictions are non-compoundable.

Until this law is reformed, death sentences and executions will always be near impossible to justify. This was meant to happen in the 2 years before military courts expired. Nothing happened, showing an inherent reluctance to actually resolve the problem at hand and an apathy to the human rights abuses it enables.

Pakistan must introspect. Who are the people in jail? What are the circumstances that put them on death row? Would they be in danger of being hanged if they had the means to adequately defend themselves? Is terrorism being curbed because a mentally ill man was hanged? Does Pakistan want to go against the global tide that wants to abolish the practice?

This reflection won't just take the one day. But World Day Against the Death Penalty (Tuesday), would be a good time to start.

(source: Sarah Belal; The writer is executive director, Justice Project


Death by firing squad - The day 3 Marines were executed on the Hoe----Public execution was witnessed by some 50,000 people

It was 220 years ago that 3 men were marched out from their Citadel cells on to the Hoe – carrying the coffins they would be taken away in again.

The last public execution of its kind to be held in Plymouth, it was attended by about 10,000 military personnel and 40,000 civilians.

Supposedly shot by the men that provided evidence against them, the 3 Marines from Stonehouse Barracks had all been found guilty of mutiny - traitors to the admiralty.

With a full procession and military band, the men were lined up and shot in ways designed to cause them maximum pain before they died - with gaping holes left in their bodies.

A 4th perpetrator, whose sentence was lessened, was given 450 lashings on the same day, until he passed out. The final 50 lashings were given when he regained consciousness.

But it is the view of some that the men were not traitors at all, merely "scapegoats" for a much larger group - who weren't planning anything particularly malicious.

Keith Black of Plymouth Ocean City Tours has been exploring and researching this exact story for 4 years, and has described the execution as "Plymouth's dirty little secret".

And Wesley Ashton, a local military historian with Hidden Heritage, who has spent time transcribing the original court documents from the hearings more than 2 centuries ago, said it is only now the truth has emerged.

"I think opinions are changing now about the execution," said Mr Ashton. "There was really no malice [in their mutiny plot] at all."

Mr Black added: "I do not identify the executed men as anything other than scapegoats of a far larger group involved in behaviour against appalling and delayed wages paid to sailors and Marines at the time.

"In this year of 1797 there had been numerous acts of mutiny along the south coast of England. The demands of the sailors had been met for the 'shilling a day', but unfortunately this news had not reached the sailors and Marines by May 28, when the Marines were detained."

Robert Lee, who is thought to have been shot at least 8 times before he finally died, was the main culprit in the whole affair.

Lee, who moved from Dublin to England to join the Marines after his brothers allegedly stopped him from seeing his sweetheart, wrote a distressing letter from his lonely prison cell on the morning of his execution to one of these same siblings.

Beginning, 'My Dear Brother', it continues: 'Your exertions to save my life cannot now avail, yesterday the order for my execution this day arrived. I have but a few short moments to live, and, I trust, that, therefore, what I wish to impart to you, will be received by you with that seriousness with which it must come from the heart of a dying man.

'Like you l have been misled by the sophistications of those who deny the truths of the Gospel, and deride the evidence of God's word. Like you I gave them implicit confidence; but, the awfulness of my present state has induced a candid examination of them; and the arguments of the enemies of Devine Revelation, appear now to me in the vilest colours.

'I have thought it necessary to seek the aid of a Minister of the Gospel, who, I trust, as a witness to my conversion - to my regeneration - and will testify it - as far as he can be supposed to place a confidence in the sincerity of it.

'On this subject I have no time to add more, than to exhort you to avail yourself of the opportunity you have, to renounce those opinions, which were near proving fatal to my external happiness here after, through the merits of his dear son Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind.

'The Gentleman who has been considerably instrumental in producing my conversion, will I presume at my request, take up the pen to offer you such arguments as his superior abilities and experience will dictate; and, I have no doubt, if you investigate the truth with a due impartiality, your mind will soon acknowledge that conviction I do, and your soul will be filled with it.

'Whatever family claims I have, I transfer to my sister Aldridge, and request you will do all in your power to render the evening of her days as comfortable as possible.

'For ever, Farewell dear brother, - remember my last, dying advice, and consult your eternal welfare - recommend my affection to my sisters and brothers, and all friends. Your sincere brother, Robert Lee.'

Mr Ashton believes this was simply a last-ditched attempt at saving his own life by pretending he had converted from Roman-Catholicism to the Church of England, but Mr Black believes different.

"You could not join the Marines if you were Roman Catholic," explained Mr Black. "It was against the rules, but when taken on, they would never ask if you were or not. The Marines were therefore riddled with Roman Catholics.

"When he came to Plymouth Lee's faith waned, and when he arrived at Stonehouse Barracks he was a bit indifferent, which is when he ends up in communication with Reverend Robert Hawker, who took Lee under his wing.

"When Lee was executed, he had converted to being a Protestant, and wrote to his brother suggesting he did the same.

"He asked in the letter that anything he had left be given to his sister, although she probably would not have got anything, and he was subsequently wiped out the family history."

Keith is writing a novel of the events based on the facts known - and his imagination of the unknown.

From the research he has conducted, including sifting through the National Archives, Irish and Australian historical records and numerous other sources, he believes he has enough of an understanding of the events and circumstances leading to the public execution and beyond.

He said: "I do not see these men as traitors at all and hopefully will be able to persuade otherwise in due course. I think this is Plymouth's worst event in history with the Government and Admiralty of the time intent on making an example of a few men, all Irish and all Catholic.

"Some of the witness testimony was at least dubious with financial reward and advancement offered as inducement to provide testimony where none was forthcoming."

Elaborating, Mr Ashton said: "The local myth is that the group was overheard plotting by a drummer boy, but only 1 out of 22 witnesses suggested a callous side to the plotting, including blowing up the barracks and freeing French prisoners.

"All they were really guilty of was planning to refuse to take orders because their friend was going to get a flogging. However, back then a new law said anyone that took an oath faced the death sentence, which is where they went wrong."

On the execution day itself - which was to act as a brutal example for all of the other Marines, seamen and soldiers, saw the whole of the Hoe - then just a bare cliff - awash with these military personnel and members of the public.

First came John Maginnis, the man who was to receive 500 lashings, followed by the other 3 men later in the day, who were to meet their untimely deaths.

"It is one of the most disgraceful things that has ever taken place in our city," said Mr Black. "It is Plymouth's dirty little secret."

Although there is some disagreement about who the three 'traitors' were shot by, Mr Ashton, who has been posting a snippet of the sordid tale every day on the Hidden History Facebook account, believes they were shot by the very same men who gave evidence against them in court - men who they had taken the oath with.

Describing the execution, he said: "They say one of them missed Lee's head on purpose, to cause him more pain.

"The 3 killed were all under 30 years old. But Maginnis was allowed to live, and was sent to live in Australia in 1799. He received 450 lashings on that day before he passed out.

"By law you had to be conscious, so he was taken back to Stonehouse Barracks where I expect he got some rest and recovered, before the other 50 lashings took place.

"The real twist in the plot is the executioners were made up of co-accused guys who were spared the death penalty.

"There were 12 shots altogether in the first round. Lee didn't appear to have been hit, as they were all through his belly, which winded him and he slumped forwards. The other 2 died instantly.

"The reserve line of men moved forwards and shot, and 1 of these shots hit Lee in the head. He fell onto his coffin, still writhing in pain and twitching, and it was then the officer in charge quickly put a pistol to his head.

"It took 8 balls to kill Lee. It was a proper bloody execution."

It is hoped Mr Black's book The Circle on the Hill will be completed by April 2018.


OCTOBER 7, 2017:


Family of slain priest says Georgia prosecutors have reached a deal with his accused murderer

The family of slain St. Augustine priest, the Rev. Rene Robert, says Georgia prosecutors have reached a deal in the accused killer's case and he will soon be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The move, which has not been confirmed by the Augusta (Georgia) District Attorney's Office, spares Steven James Murray the death penalty, which prosecutors had initially said they would seek.

"We are very happy because this is what my brother would want," Robert's sister Deborah Bedard told The Record on Thursday.

She said a representative from the district attorney's office had informed her of the deal earlier this week.

Murray was arrested in South Carolina in April 2016 - days after Robert was reported missing by friends and family in St. Augustine.

Authorities, with Murray's help, later found Robert's body in a remote part of Burke County, Georgia, just south of Augusta, where Murray is said to have shot the priest.

It is believed that Murray, who was 28 at the time of Robert's death and had been in and out jail and prison, came to know the priest through his active prison ministry.

After Murray's arrest, the case drew the attention of many here when officials with the Diocese of St. Augustine found a document called a "Declaration of Life" signed by Robert that stated his opposition to the death penalty and said that he would not want the death penalty sought against anyone who was ever convicted of killing him.

In response, the Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez, bishop of St. Augustine, published a letter in The Record stating opposition to the district attorney's decision to seek a death sentence.

A group of priests, along with Estevez, later organized a demonstration on the courthouse steps in Richmond County, Georgia, and delivered a petition with more 7,400 signatures from parishioners asking that Robert's declaration be honored.

In a statement from the diocese on Thursday, Estevez praised news of the deal.

"I am pleased an agreement has been reached between the state of Georgia and Steven Murray," he said. "This decision is just and will help Father Robert's loved ones find closure without the anguish of enduring years of court proceedings."

District Attorney Natalie Paine, who was not in office when the initial decision to seek the death penalty was made, did not return calls on Thursday afternoon.

But one Georgia TV station said that Paine's office had not confirmed a deal had been reached.

In a statement, Paine told WRDW News that Bedard, or the diocese, are "not parties to this action and as such, they are not privy to information regarding the case while it is pending."

Murray has not yet pleaded guilty, that story said, but is due in court on Oct. 18.

(source: The St. Augustine Record)

FLORIDA----new and impending execution date

Man convicted in 1991 North Tampa double murder set to die next month

Patrick Charles Hannon, convicted in the grisly 1991 killings of 2 men in a North Tampa apartment, is scheduled to die next month by lethal injection.

Gov. Rick Scott signed Hannon's death warrant Friday. The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 8.

Hannon, 52, has been on death row for 26 years since a jury voted unanimously that he should die. Appeals and pleas for post-conviction relief have all been denied, according to information contained in the warrant.

Hannon was a 26-year-old mason before the Jan. 10, 1991, murders of friends and roommates Brandon Snider and Robert Carter. The 2 men were found dead in their townhome in the Cambridge Woods apartments near the University of South Florida.

Snider, 27, had been stabbed in the chest and had his throat slashed. Carter, 28, was shot 6 times while he hid under a bed in an upstairs bedroom. Relatives said they had grown up together in Indiana and moved to Florida 4 years before their deaths.

2 other men were involved in the murders, Ronald I. Richardson and James C. Acker. Richardson, a 47-year-old Brooksville slaughterhouse worker in 1991, accepted a charge of accessory after the fact and a 5-year prison sentence in exchange for testifying against Hannon and Acker, who had been a billiards repairman.

Acker, now 53, remains in state custody. He was convicted of the killings and sentenced to 2 life sentences in prison before winning a new trial. He was convicted again in 2001 and sentenced to 1 life sentence plus 22 years in prison.

Revenge may have played a role in the killing, authorities have said. Investigators said Snider returned to Indiana a few days before the murders and threatened his ex-girlfriend, Toni Acker, James Acker's sister. He reportedly fired a gun into her home and left a threatening note.

"We think Brandon was the intended victim," said sheriff's Capt. Gary Terry in 1991.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Condemned killer challenges state's execution process

A death row inmate is challenging the state's current method of execution on the grounds that the public should have had a chance to comment on the process put in place 3 years ago.

The Indiana Supreme Court considered the fate of the state's death penalty protocol Thursday after hearing oral arguments in the case of Roy Ward. The case comes after Ward broke into a Spencer County home in 2001 and raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to death in 2007.

Ward's attorney, David Frank of Fort Wayne, argued the state didn't properly follow administrative procedures when it chose the new lethal injection drug cocktail in 2014.

"The General Assembly dictates by law this combination of drugs use," Justice Mark Massa said.

"If a state agency or unelected state agency adopts new protocols, they should do it in front of the public," Frank argued, noting current statute says public comment must be allowed. He says because there was no public hearing, the death penalty protocol adopted in May 2014 is legally void.

The 3rd drug added to the state's cocktail p methohexital - has never been used in the U.S., which makes some wary about how it would affect inmates as they are executed.

Often, death penalty appeals revolve around whether the drug mixture amounts to a violation of the 8th Amendment's provisions against cruel and unusual punishment. Ward isn't arguing that point, focusing instead on the drug not being chosen in front of the public.

But some justices wanted to know why this is being brought up now.

"This issue has never been raised before," Justice Steven David said. "It's not like the Department of Correction changed this in the last 25 years. There has never been a rule making application with what the ingredients of the injection are."

This issue, however, has been raised in other states. In 2010, a Kentucky judge halted executions over concerns about the 3-cocktail injection. In 2012, the state said it would switch to a 2-cocktail injection, which uses a sedative and painkiller.

Indiana State Attorney Stephen Creason argued the statute gives the Department of Correction authority to choose lethal injection drugs like it did 3 years ago.

"Choice of drug only matters as to whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the federal Constitution. If constitutionally valid the opinions of the public, the state agency and the state courts don't matter in choosing a new drug," Creason said.

(source: WTHR news)

MISSOURI----new death sentence

Judge in St. Charles County sentences former Dent County deputy to death for murder

A judge here Friday sentenced a former Dent County sheriff's deputy and state correctional officer to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Annette Durham, in 2011.

Judge Kelly Wayne Parker also sentenced Marvin Rice to life in prison for the murder of Dunham's boyfriend, Steven Strotkamp, 39.

A jury in August found Marvin Rice guilty of 1st-degree murder for Durham's death and and 2nd-degree murder for Strotkamp's. But jurors deadlocked on whether Rice should die for Durham's death, meaning the decision was left to Parker.

The trial was moved to St. Charles County from Dent County because of the publicity attached to the case, and because of Rice's former job there.

The fatal shootings sprang from a custody dispute between Rice and Durham over their son, who was conceived during an affair Rice had while he was a Dent County sheriff's deputy and born while she was serving a prison sentence.

Durham, who struggled with drug addiction, was trying to turn her life around, and was seeking greater time with their son. No custody agreement was in place, and Rice initially allowed her only brief supervised visits.

On Dec. 10, 2011, she was allowed an unsupervised visit and decided that she wanted to keep her son overnight, Dent County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Curley told jurors in his opening statement during the trial.

Rice found out and went to the house outside of Salem that Durham shared with Strotkamp. He argued with Durham, then shot her on the doorstep and shot Strotkamp inside the home. Durham's daughter was in a bedroom with her half-brother, and told jurors that she heard loud noises before Rice entered with a pistol and took the boy.

The shooting sparked a high-speed police chase that ended in a shootout in a Jefferson City hotel during a Christmas party.

Curley had argued for a 1st-degree murder conviction for both shootings. But public defender Charles Hoskins said that Rice "snapped" when Durham told him she was taking their son for good. Rice had a pituitary tumor at the time and the 17 medications he was taking affected his impulse control and made him paranoid, Hoskins told jurors.

Rice's lawyers had argued for a life sentence in the weeks before Friday's hearing, saying that 11 of 12 jurors had voted against the death penalty. They also argued that giving Rice the death penalty would be unconstitutional.

Prosecutors said that jurors had found one aggravating factor in favor of the death penalty, and did not unanimously decide that mitigating evidence outweighed that aggravating circumstance.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Rice sentenced to death for 2011 slayings

Marvin Rice was sentenced to death Friday morning as ruled by Judge Kelly Parker. Rice was previously found guilty by a jury Aug. 10 for the 2011 killing Annette M. Durham on a 1st degree murder charge, and her boyfriend Steven W. Strotkamp on a 2nd degree murder charge. Parker made the ruling after the jury deadlocked 11-1 on Aug. 12 over whether to sentence Rice to execution or life imprisonment without parole for 1st degree murder. They unanimously chose life imprisonment without parole on the 2nd degree charge.

Parker sat in silence with hands clasped tightly to his face prior to reading the decision. Rice did not stoop as the judgment was read, but stood with his head facing Parker while flanked by his attorneys. Rice later spoke with an unbroken voice in answering procedural questions. He declined to make a statement to the court.

Parker said he made his decision after considering the factual findings of the jury, sentencing assessment, issues relating to the proportionality of the punishment when weighed against the crime and other relevant evidence. He succinctly concluded that based upon the totality of the evidence death was justified and the most appropriate sentence.

Durham's sister Tammy Brown addressed the court for the prosecution. Brown said she is still regularly traumatized on the yearly anniversary of her sister's death. She further lamented she remembers helping raise Durham as a child, and is burdened by the fact that following a long absence while serving with the military, she'll never know her sister as an adult.

No one addressed the court for the defense, but a letter from Reverend Vernon Covington was submitted.

Attorney Robert Lundt made 4 post-trial motions for the defense prior to the ruling. They included declaring the trial unconstitutional, challenging the proportionality of the sentence and asking for consideration of the fact the jury deadlocked 11-1. Lundt also objected to the case being tried in St. Charles and asked for retrial in another location. He claimed politics was muddling the process in St. Charles. In dramatic moments, he rhetorically asked Parker when he was next up for election, and further loudly complained of the presence in the court room of Curtis Bohannon, the former Jefferson City police officer who Rice had attempted to shoot during his run from justice following the 2011murders. In rebuttal, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner said Bohannon was a victim of Rice, just like the Durham and Strotkamp families in the room.

Parker took the proportionality motion under advisement in his ruling but overruled the others.

Rice is the 2nd Dent County resident to be sentenced to state execution. Earl Forrest was previously sentenced to death in 2002 for killing Harriett Smith, Michael Wells and Dent County Sheriff's Deputy JoAnn Barned in 2001. He was executed May 11, 2016.

Court documents from the Rice document that he confronted Durham and Strotkamp at a residence on Dent County Road 3300 on Dec. 11, 2011. An argument occurred during which Rice shot the victims multiple times in their chests.

Durham's 6-year-old daughter was hiding in the bedroom with her brother and heard 2 sets of gunshots, according to a highway patrol probable cause statement.

Rice then began fleeing north on Highway 72 before merging onto Highway 63 in Rolla. Police officials began pursuit near Westphalia after identifying his white Subaru station wagon and using Rice's cell phone signal to determine his location. During the chase speeds exceeded 80 miles-per-hour. Rice got as far as Jefferson City. He exited the highway after his tires were ruptured by a spike strip and fled into the downtown Capital Plaza Hotel. A holiday party happened to be occurring in the hotel at the time.

A shootout broke out between Rice, a pursuing Jefferson City police officer and an off-duty Cole County sheriff's deputy who was serving as security for the holiday party. Rice fired several shots toward the officers with a .40 Glock. He was apprehended after being struck by bullets in the abdomen and forearm.

Since the 2011 incident, Rice has been incarcerated in Cole County and St. Charles County while awaiting trial. Proceedings were initially scheduled to begin in November of 2012, but were delayed when the state informed Rice's attorney's that they would be seeking the death penalty. The case was again delayed in 2016 when a jury could not be formed in Wayne County. It was subsequently moved to St. Charles.

Prior to the 2011 shooting, Rice was serving as a correctional officer at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking. From 2004 to 2009 Rice served as a deputy with the Dent County Sheriff's Office.



Penalty trial against man convicted of beheading coworker adjourned until next week

The penalty trial against a man convicted of beheading his coworker is adjourned until Tuesday.

Alton Nolen, 33, is facing the death penalty for beheading his coworker, Colleen Hufford, inside Vaughan Foods in September 2014. He has already been sentenced on assault crimes related to stabbing Traci Johnson during the same incident. Jurors have been tasked with first determining whether or not Nolen is intellectually disabled.

According to Cleveland County DA Greg Mashburn, information came up during expert testimony that was new to both legal counsels which caused the delay in testimony.

"This morning [Friday] we even had some more information come up," explained Mashburn. "Both sides wanted a chance to look at that, see how it may or not affect our case, both sides' cases, before we really go in front of the jury."

The trial first hit a legal snag Thursday after Dr. Jarrod Steffan, a neuropsychologist and expert witness for the state, testified he had concerns over errors in testing conducted on Nolen by Dr. Anita Jeanne Russell. The Tulsa-based psychologist testified for the defense.

Mashburn said delays in testimony are fairly common in death penalty cases.

"What you don't want to happen is rush this part especially because years down the road, the court of appeals is looking at it, and they may say we were in a rush to get it down and nobody wants to have to try this case again," he said.

The state plans to present its final two expert witnesses Tuesday before the jury goes into deliberation on the intellectual disability portion. If he is found to have an intellectual disability, he will not be eligible for the death penalty. Mashburn says they hope to reach a complete verdict by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning at the latest.

The 3 possible punishment options for Nolen as of Friday: life without parole, life with parole, and the death penalty.

(source: KFOR news)


California death row inmate who was near top of execution list dies in prison

A condemned murderer who was 1 of just 16 inmates on California's death row to have exhausted his appeals died of unknown causes, prison officials announced this week.

San Quentin officials are investigating the death of Fernando Belmontes, 56, but say there was no obvious cause. More details about his death have not been released.

Belmontes was 1 of 16 condemned inmates - out of California's nearly 750 - who had exhausted his appeals. As such, he was considered a top priority for execution.

Belmontes was sentenced to die at 20 years old, a year after he murdered 19-year-old Steacy McConnell during a 1981 burglary. It started when he and 2 others broke into McConnell's home in San Joaquin County, just east of Lodi.

Belmontes, who was living in a halfway house at the time, bludgeoned McConnel 15-20 times with an iron dumbell, crushing her skull. In 1979, he had been convicted of being an accessory in a voluntary manslaughter, and he attacked his pregnant girlfriend months before the murder.

California has executed only 13 death row inmates since 1978, including the controversial 2005 execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a Crips gang dropout convicted of a double-murder who'd written books to steer youth away from gang life. The most recent execution was in 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was executed for organizing 3 murders while serving a life sentence for another murder conviction. Allen Spent 23 years on death row.

By contrast, 71 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, and 25 have committed suicide since 1978. In November, voters rejected a measure to overturn the death penalty, and passed a measure designed to streamline the execution process.

Belmontes' death sentence was overturned in 2003, then reinstated in 2006. Belmontes lost his final attempt at a commuted sentence in 2010.

Prison officials say they are conducting an autopsy to determine how Belmontes died.



European envoys call on Japan to abolish death penalty

3 European ambassadors to Japan on Friday called on Tokyo to abolish the practice of capital punishment prior to next week's World and European Day against the Death Penalty.

"As friends, we should share our experience and speak our mind," Viorel Isticioaia-Budura, the European Union's ambassador to Japan, told a press conference in Tokyo. "The EU has, on a number of occasions, called on the Japanese authorities to abolish the death penalty or at least put a moratorium in place and have a debate."

"We regard the abolition of the death penalty as an essential part of the protection of human dignity and, together with our member states, we are therefore working towards a universal abolition," Isticioaia-Budura said. He was joined by Swiss Ambassador Jean-Francois Paroz and Irish Ambassador Anne Barrington.

According to the EU envoy's remarks, only 8 countries had abolished the death penalty in 1945, but in 2016, 140 countries have ended the practice or stopped implementing it through moratoriums.

Isticioaia-Budura also expressed doubts about the crime deterrent effect of capital punishment, saying: "Extensive studies done in different countries and regions of the world have found no proof that the death penalty has a direct correlation with reducing serious crime, or that abolishing it increases serious crime."

"The death penalty eliminates a defendant once and for all," Isticioaia-Budura said. As no court system in the world is perfect, "If a mistake is made, and then discovered, a person who was wrongfully executed can never be brought back."

Based on the EU's stance, Isticioaia-Budura welcomed the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' call for the abolition of capital punishment by 2020.

He also said the 28-member bloc will send a letter to Japan's Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa on the World and European Day against the Death Penalty next Tuesday to ask her to promote "an open public debate" on capital punishment, with a view to its abolition.

In Japan, the death penalty again came into the public eye when a death row inmate seeking a retrial was hanged in July.

Anti-death penalty campaigners have argued the execution breaches Article 32 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of access to the courts, saying some death row inmates were exonerated in postwar Japan after their pleas for retrial had repeatedly been rejected.

Paroz said the death penalty "contravenes human rights" and that it "is not a suitable means of deterrence or atonement," while its abolition promotes human rights, peace and security.

Referring to Ireland's decision to end capital punishment in 1990, Barrington said, "The process to abolish the death penalty is not easy. It took nearly 70 years in our case."

"But we believe that it is the right thing to do and we hope that Japan, our friend and partner, will join us," she said.

According to human rights organization Amnesty International, 23 countries or regions, including Japan, executed inmates in 2016.

(source: Japan Today)


Death penalty disproportionately affects the poor

United Nations human rights experts* are calling for urgent action to end the disproportionate impact of the death penalty on people from poorer communities. They say imposing the death penalty as a result of discrimination constitutes an arbitrary killing and Governments must not stand idly by. Their comments come in a joint statement marking World Day Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday 10 October:

"If you are poor, the chances of being sentenced to death are immensely higher than if you are rich. There could be no greater indictment of the death penalty than the fact that in practice it is really a penalty reserved for people from lower socio-economic groups. This turns it into a class-based form of discrimination in most countries, thus making it the equivalent of an arbitrary killing.

People living in poverty are disproportionately affected by the death penalty for many reasons. They are an easy target for the police, they cannot afford a lawyer, the free legal assistance they might receive is of low quality, procuring expert evidence is beyond their means, tracing witnesses is too costly, and access to appeals often depends on being able to afford extra counsel. Many cannot afford bail and therefore remain in custody before their trials, further hindering their efforts to prepare an effective defence.

Some legal aid systems become active only at the trial stage, meaning that defendants from low socio-economic backgrounds are often interrogated and investigated without a lawyer. By the time the case reaches court, it may already be too late to guarantee a fair trial. Corruption of law enforcement officials is another detrimental factor.

Poverty also compounds obstacles which vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society are already facing. In many countries, this especially includes people of African descent, as well as others who are discriminated against on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, race or migration status.

Meanwhile, migrants who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system face multiple obstacles in effectively challenging charges made against them, including unfamiliarity with legal language and procedures, limited awareness of their rights, financial constraints, and the possible lack of a supportive social network.

They may also face bias by judges, police officers and investigators, which can influence the verdict against them, and leave them at increased risk of receiving the death sentence.

We call on all States to treat all migrants involved in the criminal justice systems with respect and dignity as equal rights holders, regardless of their migratory status.

Women living in poverty are also at a severe disadvantage when faced with the risk of a death sentence. In some States, women face the death penalty, including by stoning, not only in cases of murder, but also for alleged adultery, same sex-relationships and drug-related offences.

Discrimination against women is compounded by intersecting factors, including their socio-economic status. This discrimination based on gender stereotypes, stigma, harmful and patriarchal cultural norms and gender-based violence, has an adverse impact on the ability of women to gain access to justice on an equal basis with men.

We are also concerned that it is extremely rare for domestic abuse to be treated as a mitigating factor. Imposing the death penalty in cases where there has been evidence of self-defence constitutes an arbitrary killing.

Poverty continues to affect prisoners - and their families - even after they reach death row. Living conditions are worsened by difficulties in accessing food, medical care and other services. Relatives who themselves live in poverty are unable to provide financial help. These inmates may even lack the resources to stay in touch with their families and friends while in prison.

Around the world, death sentences continue to be imposed in violation of major international standards, including the right to a fair trial and the principle of non-discrimination. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes clear that all people are entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination, while UN safeguards on the use of the death penalty make clear that people must have received a fair trial, including the right to adequate legal assistance, at all stages.

The disproportionate impact of the death penalty on the poor shows that these international standards are being violated.

We applaud the growing number of countries that have abolished the death penalty and welcome the figures for 2016 showing an overall decrease in its use.

However, the global effort towards its progressive abolition must continue to grow, along with the work to end systemic discrimination against some of the most vulnerable people in our societies."



Activists Demand Death Sentence Of Spiritual Healer To Be Overturned

A group of Iranian activists have demanded the judiciary overturn the death sentence and immediately release Mohammad Ali Taheri, the head of a spiritual group called the Circle of Mysticism.

In an open letter, 18 Iranian human rights and political activists described Taheri's case as one of the most unfair judicial cases and rejected the arguments of the revolutionary court that issued his death sentence.

Taheri was acquitted several times on similar charges but after each acquittal a new case was opened against him in order to "fulfill the will of security agents who were seeking his execution," the letter reads.

In its latest verdict, Iran's Supreme Court had acquitted Taheri on charges of "corruption on Earth," but a similar case was opened again and a lower court had convicted Taheri on the same charges, the activists wrote and asked the Supreme Court to "maintain its integrity" and "prevent more illegal steps in this case."

Taheri was arrested in 2010 and released later after spending 67 days in solitary confinement. He was again confined in 2011. This August, one of his lawyers announced he had been sentenced to execution. Charges against the spiritual leader include acting against Iran's national security, blasphemy, and touching the wrists of unrelated female patients, which is forbidden in Islam.

Some conservative media have published Fatwas -- religious verdicts -- issued by at least 3 renowned Shi'ite scholars declaring Taheri an apostate. As prescribed in Islam, Iranian law provides the death penalty for apostasy.

Taheri's verdict is currently under review by the judges from Branch 33 of Iran's Supreme Court. The same judges reportedly acquitted Taheri in the past.

Thousands of people have voiced their support for Taheri's release and the U.S. has voiced concern over his conviction.

The activists who signed the open letter in Taheri's defense also referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Iranian Constitution, saying that based on both documents "Iran is not allowed to punish or threaten its citizens with the death penalty for having particular beliefs."

Renowned Iranian lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Seifzadeh and political activists such as Mohammad Nourizad were among the letter's signatories.



More Than 100 People Have Been Executed in Saudi Arabia This Year

More than 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year.

According to Amnesty International, since July, the Saudi Arabian government has been executing, on average, 5 people a week. On an Oct. 2, post on their website Amnesty International referred to the killings as, "an execution spree."

The Middle Eastern country is ruled by an absolute monarchy and follows a very strict interpretation of Islamic law. It has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world, with many crimes punishable by death, including non-lethal crimes, such as drug offenses and witchcraft.

Amnesty International says the government hands out the death penalty after unfair trials and confessions obtained by torture. The group wants the kingdom to meet international fair trial standards, without resorting to the death penalty. It added if Saudi authorities want to make reforms, they need to abolish the death penalty.

(source: United News International)


Former death row inmate outlives judge, prosecutor, State witness

A man from Esigodini who was sentenced to death in 1985 has outlived the judge, prosecutor, State witness and his lawyer who were all involved in his case.

In 1985, Mr Albert Gasela, now 69, was convicted for murdering his tenant in Barbourfields, Bulawayo and sentenced to death. At that time, he never thought he would taste freedom once again, little did he know that life had something else in store for him.

Mr Gasela appealed against the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life in jail.

On Tuesday he turned up at the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Week at Bulawayo Prison and told The Chronicle of his story of escape from the jaws of imminent death.

"I was facing a murder charge. After I was charged and convicted of first degree murder I lost hope on everything. My life had ended. I was arrested in 1983 for murdering my tenant and convicted in 1985 but I still insist I never killed him," he said.

He said while in prison, his wife died. He applied to go to bury her, but the process took too long until she was buried in his absence. Mr Gasela says he served in prison for 22 years at Chikurubi in Harare and later Khami Maximum Prison in Bulawayo after his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

He was finally released in 2007 after becoming one of many prisoners who were pardoned by President Mugabe.

Upon gaining freedom, to Mr Gasela's surprise, all the people who were involved in his case had died.

"I was sentenced in 1985 but when I was released from prison, all the people who were connected to my case had died. Judge Muchechetere was late, my prosecutor Brasel Siki, my lawyer Richard Ncube were also late. Even the State witness who was my girlfriend at the time is also late," he said declining to name her.

The ex-prisoner said the person he had wanted to talk to the most was the State witness as he does not understand why she nailed him.

Mr Gasela said his girlfriend testified in court that she found him in bed shaking following the murder and it was this evidence that led to the judge to convict him. He says he has since started a new life; remarried and has been blessed with a child, now 2.

Reflecting on his life in prison, he says he never thought he was going to be alive up to this day.

He said when Justice Simbarashe Muchechetere handed him the death sentence at the High Court in Bulawayo, his life literally ended. Mr Gasela said what made matters worse for him was that he worked at the prison workshop making coffins that were supposed to bury those on death row.

"Word would spread that 10 coffins have been made in the workshop which meant that 10 people will be hanged and that the guards would come at 5AM to collect prisoners selected for the hangman's noose. You wouldn't know if it was your turn," he said.

He said during those years, some welcomed their fate, but others would fight tooth and nail not to be hanged.

"Those who didn't fight were hanged peacefully. However, those who resisted, there was a special place for them, where they were placed in a small corridor that has a trap door to execute them," he said.

Mr Gasela said being on deathrow was a nightmare as one did not know when the time to face the hangman's noose would come.

"I was the 46th prisoner to be on deathrow during our time. But this didn't matter because they were not following any order as prisoners were randomly picked to be hanged. Every time other prisoners were taken the incident left us traumatised, you wouldn't eat on that day," he said.

Mr Gasela says following a successful appeal in 1993 the courts reduced his sentence to life in prison.

He said it was a huge relief to know that he would not worry about being hanged again.

Mr Gasela said freedom finally came in 2007 due to a Presidential pardon. He said before his incarceration he was blessed with six children who are all still alive, but he found his wife dead. Mr Gasela said spending 22 years in prison was not easy but support from family has kept him going.

"The only thing that kept me going was that my family, relatives, didn't desert me. They'd visit me periodically in prison. This made me remain hopeful that one day I'd be reunited with them," he said.

He says having spent 22 years in jail, all is not lost as he has managed to transform his life but what pains him the most is that his 1st wife died while he was still in prison.

On a lighter note, Mr Gasela said due to his long service in prison, he was the head of the welcoming committee for new inmates coming into prison.

He said he now makes a living from making coffins, a skill he learnt in prison. "The only mistake that I have made so far is not making my own coffin," he joked.



2 Kepong men to stand trial for allegedly trafficking 123kg of drugs----The Kuala Lumpur High Court today ordered Ong Chen Yaw, 32 and San Kim Huat, 37 to enter their defence for allegedly trafficking 123 kilogrammes of drugs 2 years ago.

The High Court here today ordered 2 Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah made the order after the prosecution proved a prima facie case against Ong Chen Yaw, 32 and San Kim Huat, 37.

According to the charge sheet, the duo was charged with trafficking 95.016kg of methamphetamine; 26.791kg of Methylenedioxymethaphetamin (MDMA); and 1.245kg of ketamine at 39, Jalan Denai Selatan, Desa Park City, Kepong, at 6.25pm on May 12, 2015.

The offence falls under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, and is punishable under Section 39 (B)(2) of the same Act, which carries the death penalty upon conviction.

Deputy public prosecutor Zalina Awang @ Mamat prosecuted, while the duo was represented by counsel Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh.

The court fixed Nov 14 for trial.

(source: New Straits Times)


Sub-contractor gets death for murdering younger brother in property dispute

An air-conditioning sub-contractor who murdered his younger brother over a property row 2 years ago was sentenced to death by the High Court in Shah Alam.

Judge Datuk Zulkifli Bakar meted out the sentence on M. Nageswaran, 41, after finding that the defence failed to raise reasonable doubt on the charge at the end of the trial.

According to the charge sheet, Nageswaran, from Jalan Kota Raja in Klang, was charged with killing 37-year-old Gunalan at a house in Kampung Jawa at about 5.30pm on May 5, 2015.

The offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code provides for death penalty upon conviction.

In his judgment Friday, Judge Zulkifli said that Nageswaran's defence was a mere denial, which also accused the deceased's wife as the killer or the person who caused death.

By taking into consideration all aspects of findings, he said the court found that the accused's defence was coated with afterthoughts that could not be accepted.

"Therefore, the court found that the prosecution had succeeded in proving the case beyond reasonable doubt, and found the accused guilty as charged.

"You are hereby sentenced to death under Section 302 of the Penal Code," he said.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Fairuz Johari prosecuted while Nageswaran was represented by counsel S. Ravichandran.

A total of 15 prosecution witnesses and 1 defence witness testified throughout the trial.

Gunalan's wife, who did not wish to be name, lauded the judgment.

"One must be punished for the crime he does.

"I am still distraught thinking how could he resort to murder his own brother until this day," she said when met outside the court.



Death penalty for sexual abuse of children: MP chief minister promises to bring bill

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday said his government will bring a bill in the next session of the Assembly to provide death penalty for those guilty of sexual violence against children.

"We will bring this bill in the next session. After the Assembly passes it, it would be sent to the Centre," Chouhan said.

The chief minister was speaking at a function here to welcome Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi's 'Safe Childhood - Safe India' campaign, aimed at spreading awareness about child safety.

"We should be united in uprooting the deadly mentality which gives rise to sexual violence against children....It is very painful when we hear news of sexual assaults on kids as young as 2 years," Chouhan said.

Satyarthi said that his tour, which started on September 11, will cover 11,000 kilometres and pass through 22 states before concluding, on October 16, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.

(source: Hindustan Times)


Hanging to death: Supreme Court to examine mode of execution----Lawyer Rishi Malhotra, who filed the PIL seeking relief under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said the Article must provide for the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution.

Hanging to death sentence, Supreme court on death penalty, hanged to Death and Supreme court news, India news, national news, latest news, India news, national news, Latest news The plea before the Supreme Court said "dying with dignity is part of right of life" and the present practice of executing a death row convict by hanging involves "prolonged pain and suffering".

'Hang by the neck till death.' This legal mode of executing a death row convict on Friday came under the scanner of the Supreme Court which sought the government's response on a plea seeking setting aside of the legal provision. Terming the Constitution as a "compassionate" and "organic" guiding book, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the legislature can think of changing the law so that a convict, facing death penalty, dies "in peace and not in pain".

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, issued notice to the Centre and sought its response within 3 weeks on the PIL, which also referred to the 187th Report of the Law Commission advocating removal of the present mode of execution from the statute.

Lawyer Rishi Malhotra, who filed the PIL in his personal capacity, referred to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution so that death becomes less painful.

The plea said the Law Commission in its 187th Report had noted that there was a significant increase in the number of countries where hanging has been abolished and substituted by electrocution, shooting or lethal injection as the method of execution. "It had categorically opined that hanging is undoubtedly accompanied by intense physical torture and pain," the plea said.

The lawyer also referred to various apex court judgements in which the practise of hanging a death row convict has been assailed.

The plea said "dying with dignity is part of right of life" and the present practice of executing a death row convict by hanging involves "prolonged pain and suffering".

The present procedure can be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber in which death is just a matter of minutes, it said.

The PIL sought quashing of section 354(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that when a person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead.

It said that execution was not only "barbaric, inhuman and cruel", but also against the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The plea also said that execution should be as quick and as simple as possible and free from anything that unnecessarily sharpens the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension.

It sought to declare "right to die by a dignified procedure of death as a fundamental right as defined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India". "This also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death. In other words, this may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when his life is ebbing out," it added.

Drawing a comparison, the petition said that while in hanging, the entire execution process takes over 40 minutes to declare prisoner to be dead, the shooting process involves not more than few minutes. In case of intravenous lethal injection, it is all over in 5 minutes. "The Act of the execution should produce immediate unconsciousness passing quickly into the death. It should be decent. It should not involve mutilation," the plea added.


OCTOBER 6, 2017:


Michelle Tharp's attorneys say she should not face death for starving daughter

A Burgettstown resident who has been incarcerated for nearly 2 decades for the starvation murder of her daughter should not have to face the death penalty, her attorneys said Wednesday after emerging from a conference in the chambers of Washington County President Judge Katherine B. Emery.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered in 2014 Michelle Tharp should be resentenced for the 1998 death of 7-year-old Tausha Lee Lanham, who weighed less than 12 pounds when she died, because the public defender in her trial failed to present evidence of her mental state that might have resulted in a different punishment than the death penalty.

James J. McHugh Jr., first assistant defender in the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said "so much time has passed, some 20 years since the original penalty phase, that significant family members have passed away," so it would be impossible for them to testify about Michelle Tharp's mental state at the time of Tausha's death.

The lack of their testimony would violate Tharp's due-process rights and subject her to cruel and unusual punishment, McHugh asserted.

"If we won, she would be subject to life (in prison) without parole," McHugh said. "We're just saying that they can't execute her."

McHugh and Elizabeth Hadayia, assistant federal defender, have 60 days to file a motion on behalf of Tharp, 48, who is imprisoned in the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Lycoming County. Tharp was not present in Washington County Court Wednesday.

The prosecution will be able to respond to the motion by Tharp's attorneys, presumably seeking to again empanel a jury to hear the death penalty phase.

"I can't talk about negotiations," said District Attorney Gene Vittone. "It's still pretrial. But it's a death penalty case right now."

Emery will eventually schedule arguments before making a decision.

The state's highest court upheld Tharp's 1st-degree murder conviction in 2000. Justice Max Baer called the evidence of Tharp's guilt "overwhelming," writing she not only denied Tausha meals but physically restrained the child so she could not feed herself and "remarkably ... asked others to perpetuate the same abuse upon her own child."

Tausha was born prematurely in 1990 and spent the 1st year of her life in a hospital. Baer wrote, as the 2nd of Tharp's 4 children, "she was the sole target" of neglect and abuse. The other children were healthy and well-fed. In 1996, Tharp began living with Douglas Bittinger, with whom she had her 4th child.

When Tharp was away, she instructed Bittinger not to feed Tausha, and, on several occasions, 2 or 3 days would pass without Tausha getting any food or drink.

Bittinger was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and abuse of a corpse. Prosecutors said Bittinger's crime was not preventing the abuse by his girlfriend, against whom he testified at trial. He is serving his sentence at the state prison in Mercer.

Tharp claimed to have fed Tausha the day before she died, although a medical examiner testified the girl had not eaten for several days, that she suffered from malnutrition and her teeth were worn from grinding, common in juvenile starvation cases.

A psychologist evaluated Tharp and determined she was competent to stand trial, but he diagnosed her with schizoaffective disorder, adjustment disorder with anxiety, depressive personality disorder and passive-aggressive personality disorder. The defense never called him to testify in support of an argument that her mental state should be a factor in the jury sparing her from the death penalty.

Baer, in his 2000 order, noted Tharp's argument that she also had a difficult childhood, was abandoned by her mother, was physically abused by her stepmother and the men in her life, that her father was convicted of both drug dealing and drunken driving, and she had below-average intelligence, repeated 10th grade and graduated nearly last in her class.

Then-Washington County judge Paul Pozonsky took the unusual step of playing a country song in his courtroom at Tharp's sentencing. "The Little Girl" tells of a neglected girl living in a house filled with domestic violence.

(source: Observer-Reporter)


Forsyth County man could face death penalty in shooting of 60-year-old

A Forsyth County man faces the possibility of the death penalty after rejecting an offer to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder and be sentenced to life.

Norman Kennard Carter Jr., 21, of Brentwood Park Place in Rural Hall, was charged with 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of 60-year-old Alphonzo Singletary on Sept. 6, 2016.

Carter was scheduled to plead guilty Thursday in Forsyth Superior Court to 1st-degree murder. He would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill said in court that Carter rejected the plea offer.

What started off as a plea hearing turned into what is known as a Rule 24 hearing, in which prosecutors request to pursue of the death penalty. O'Neill said there were 2 aggravating factors - that the killing was done while in the commission of another felony and that the alleged murder was especially heinous, cruel and atrocious.

O'Neill criticized Carter for rejecting the plea, saying that the evidence against him is overwhelming.

"This case is no longer about guilty or not guilty," O'Neill said in court. "The only issue is whether a sentencing jury will give him life or death."

David Freedman, attorney for Carter, said Carter is a young man struggling with a big decision. He asked O'Neill and Assistant District Attorney Lizmar Bosques to not withdraw the plea offer until December.

After consulting with Singletary's family, O'Neill granted Freedman's request.

Judge Angela Puckett of Forsyth Superior Court granted prosecutors' request to pursue the death penalty.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)


St. Augustine priest killer expected to plead to avoid death penalty

A disturbed Jacksonville man who admitted he abducted and killed 71-year-old Father Rene Robert last year is expected to plead guilty later this month, effectively avoiding trial and taking the death penalty off the table.

The Diocese of St. Augustine sent a statement Thursday morning that an agreement between the state of Georgia and Steven James Murray, who was 28 at the time of the killing, had been reached. District Attorney Natalie Paine has not returned 2 phone calls seeking comment and in a text message to Times-Union sister publication The Augusta Chronical, she said she had no comment.

According to the statement, Murray has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life in prison without the possibility of parole sentence. A sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 18 in Waynesboro, Ga., according to court records.

After dozens of exclusive interviews with the Times-Union last year, the newspaper in its "Road to a Killing" story explored Murray's tragic upbringing and how his moral descent ended in the horrific death of Robert, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Murray has spent about half his life behind bars begining at the age of 11 when he was first sent away. As a youngster, he said he got into trouble intentionally to escape the horrors of his childhood. Murry and his 2 sisters claimed their father was physically and sexually abusive. Police in South Carolina opened up multiple investigations into Bobby James Murray on allegations of sexual abuse. However, charges never went forward because Murray;s sisters would recant their stories. The Times-Union reviewed thousands of pages of documehts from police and the department of social services regarding the allegations and investigations into abuse. 2 police officers in South Carolina told the paper they believe the abuse did occur but their hands were tied because the sisters' routinely recanted the allegations after being senbt to foster care. The sister's told the Times-Union they were frightened what their father would do to their mother if they did't recant.

Bobby James Murray moved from Aiken South Caolina to Jacksonville a few years ago to follow one of his daughters. Here, just like in South Carolina, he was in trouble, as was his son Steven. Bobby James Murray was arrested in Jacksonville on allegations he exposed himself to children at a pool.

Robert, a Franciscan involved in prison ministries, was one of the only adults whom Murray could count on to help him in a time of need.

Murray told the paper that Robert often let him use his car and gave him money. He said last April while driving around with Robert, he decided he wanted to head north to see his children in South Carolina. While en route, Murray said he forced Robert into the trunk of his own car and told him to be quiet. He said he kept hearing Robert's voice telling him he was going to go back to prison. Murray said he panicked, stopped in Georgia and shot him.

A manhunt for Murray and the priest lasted days and through three states. Shortly after his arrest, Georgia officials said they were seeking the death penalty, something that Robert was against. In 1995, Robert signed a Declaration of Life and left it with his personal records. It states that should he ever become a victim of a homicide, he does not want those convicted of the crime to be executed no matter how heinous the crime nor how much he may have suffered. Because of this and that the church as a whole believes the death penalty only contributes to an ever-growing disrespect for the sacredness of human life, the diocese pressed prosecutors in Georgia to no longer seek the death penalty.

"I am pleased an agreement has been reached between the state of Georgia and Steven Murray," said Bishop Felipe Estevez of the diocese in the statement. Murray, the statement says, deserves to be punished. "This decision is just and will help Father Robert's loved ones find closure without the anguish of enduring years of court proceedings."

Crystal Murray, Steven Murray's youngest sister said her brother needs psychological help, something she said he is not getting in the Clayton County jail. Crystal Murray said she received a postcard from her brother the other day that said: "Life sometimes gets tricky when there's drugs in the way. It is going to be all OK. I love you with all my heart."

(source: Florida Times-Union)


Florida executes man convicted of 2 killings

Florida has executed an inmate convicted of killing 2 people after a night of drinking decades ago.

The governor's office says Michael Lambrix died by lethal injection at 10:10 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

He was convicted of killing Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983. Prosecutors said he killed the pair outside his trailer near LaBelle, northeast of Fort Myers. Lambrix said he was innocent.

The 57-year-old Lambrix had filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that his execution should be halted after Florida's death penalty sentencing method was found to be unconstitutional. The state has since required a unanimous jury vote in death cases.

The jury wasn't unanimous in either of Lambrix's death sentence decisions, but Florida's Supreme Court has said the new rules don't apply to cases as old as his.

(source: Associated Press)


State of Florida / First Person: Why I Wrote To A Death Row Inmate And Watched His Execution

Editor's note: 57-year-old Cary Michael Lambrix was convicted in 1984 for 2 1st-degree murders of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in Glades County. Lambrix insisted he was innocent, claiming he killed Moore in self-defense when he found Moore strangling Bryant. He spent 33 years on death row and avoided execution 3 times. Rebekkah Mar, former WUFT journalist and current morning news producer at WINK News in Fort Myers, corresponded with Lambrix from February 2016 to September 2017. In May 2017, she visited him at the Florida State Prison to write his story. She also worked with United Kingdom's Proper Podcasts, to help record the podcast "Regrets Of The Dying: Mike" hosted by Georgina Scull. Once Lambrix’s execution was re-scheduled, WUFT and the Florida Association of Broadcasters reached out to Rebekkah for her to go to his execution. (The following feature does not reflect the beliefs of WINK News.)

The Execution, Oct. 5, 2017

As I waited in the visitation room at the Florida State Prison, one of the journalists sat down next to me with the envelope given to him by the Department of Corrections officials, containing a notebook and 2 pencils. On the left hand corner of the envelope, he wrote in three lines, "Cary Michael Lambrix, 10/5/2017, #74." As I looked at it, he said "This is my 74th execution." I looked at him, pulled out my envelope and wrote "Cary Michael Lambrix, 10/5/2017, #1."

I am not a seasoned journalist. I'm 22 years old. I do not have experience covering executions. But there I was sitting in the 4th row among other media witnesses, waiting to watch convicted murderer Michael Lambrix die.

Before taking a van from the State Prison to the death chamber, the 4 other journalists told me the execution wouldn't be what I expected. They said it would be anti-climatic and short. Still, that's not how I saw it.

We walked into the room at 9:45 p.m., 3 hours later than the expected start time. When we walked in, the 17 people were already seated, including state witnesses and Aleisha Bryant's sister.

Facing the back of the room was a large rectangle shaped window covered by a brown curtain. At 9:53, the curtains went up and there, laying down on a gurney on the other side of the window, was Lambrix and 3 other men standing around the room. One of the men, the execution warden, picked up the phone on the wall talking to the governor's office as Lambrix stared straight at the 1-way mirror. His hands and body were covered, while a brown belt tied down his arms with an IV hooked up to his veins.

The warden asked if he had any last words. He replied in a soft choked-up voice, "Yes sir I do, I wish to recite the Lord's prayer." Ending with the words, "deliver us from evil, amen," the warden began the execution.

Lambrix stared at the window, knowing we were all watching on the other end, and his eyes closed. His chest started shaking sporadically, moving up and down every few seconds. His mouth fluttered and then stayed slightly open turning a shade of light purple. Once his chest stopped moving and he remained still, the warden touched his eyes and with force, shook his shoulders. Once the doctor examined Lambrix, the warden called his time of death at 10:10 p.m.

I stared, knowing all of these steps would unfold based on the other reporters' predictions. I stared back at the window looking at the reflection of the witnesses watching through the window, as we all looked at Lambrix's body in the other room.

The letters

"Dear Michael Lambrix,

....your story is slightly confusing to me. I have tried to research as much as I can but I'm still stumped....Even though I cannot call you, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind writing to me, as I will write to you. I want to tell a nonbiased story of what happened so I need the facts and I want to hear them from you....I know this is hard since you don't know who I am, and I don't know who you are, but I want to try to get to know you. I hope you will let me tell this story the right way."

Those were the 1st words I wrote to convicted murderer, Michael Lambrix, in February of 2016.

When people ask me why I took the time to write to Lambrix, I laugh. I asked that same question to other people who wrote to him. Their responses varied from "I grew to care for him" and "I don't agree with the death penalty."

I started this story because I was curious. When the Supreme Court in January 2016 declared Florida's system for sentencing prisoners to death as unconstitutional, I asked "so does that mean all of the inmates scheduled to be executed will appeal their case?" Before anyone could say that was impossible, I stumbled upon Lambrix. Within days, he was using the Supreme Court's declaration as a window out of his execution. At that time, his execution was only a few weeks away.

Interviewing an attorney following oral arguments in a Michael Lambrix appeal in Tallahassee on Feb. 2, 2016.

Lambrix spent nearly his entire adult life, more than 33 years, behind bars - waiting to die. Several people who wrote to him, some from as far away as the United Kingdom, thought his death an injustice. Lambrix insisted into this week the state was sentencing an innocent man to death. But the Florida Supreme Court, as well as prosecutors, didn't agree. The courts denied every appeal Lambrix filed. He fought for his case during the entirety of his sentence.The courts kept saying no.

The courts kept saying no.

I didn't tediously study Lambrix's case or analyze every handwritten appeal he filed. We went a year without corresponding. But in March, we resumed writing back and forth. In our written interactions, Lambrix was always sweet and kind. He spent most of his free time studying law, talking to people outside the prison who could help him, and writing to his several pen pals.

We will never know if Clarence Moore actually attacked Aleisha. Maybe Lambrix was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he thought he was playing the hero and just was too late in saving Aleisha. But the evidence against him was enough to convict. A jury decided he was guilty, as did a judge.

Below is the last letter I wrote him. I wrote about how our relationship grew over time, but also touched on my biggest regret in this story; not focusing on Aleisha Bryant. I should have tried to reach out to Aleisha Bryant's family. If I could go backward 18 months, I wouldn't focus so much on Lambrix, but focus on the victim - how she ended up at Lambrix's home that night, how she met Moore, and how she died.

I'll never know if he read this final letter. But at the media interview just two days before he died, he said something he's never mentioned to me before.

"As for the Bryant family, I have nothing but sympathy for them. I understand that they need to believe that I killed their daughter. I understand for them, that's what closure is about. But I also know that they're wrong. And if my execution will bring them peace, then maybe that at least comes out of it."

My final letter

Dear Michael,

I apologize for the writing back so late. To be honest, I was very nervous to respond to your last letter. I'm even more nervous to tell you that I was invited to go to the execution. Since this response is delayed, you're probably not going to have time to respond. But I do hope you receive this letter before next Thursday, before you see me. I don't want to shock or surprise you. I also hope you won't be upset either.

To finish covering this story, I'm actually working with WUFT again. They're letting me write a narrative about my experience writing to you. Believe it or not, It's been over a year and a half. It's truly crazy to think about how many things have changed in that span of time. I'm definitely not the same person I was when I started writing to you. the same goes to you.

Looking back at the letters exchanged between us, I noticed that your tone changed towards me. Your first letter was distant and slightly cold. I don't think you trusted me until I called you out for filling your letters with supporter based websites and scripted responses. then You started addressing me by my first name, adding smiley faces as well as insides jokes. You seemed like you were letting a wall down and were finally trusting me.

So for the sake of us talking for so long, and for the trust that we have in each other, I really hope you've been telling me the truth. Because if not, we both wasted a lot of time.

And with that being said, I think I lost sight of what this story is really about. It's not about you or me or the death penalty. It's about the people who died.

I know you told me that you wish you could start that night over again. And if you could respond, you would tell me about the DNA evidence that could prove Clarence attacked Aleisha, but it was thrown out. From all of the letters, research and interviews, it's hard to not to see the holes in this case and possibly your conviction. And if you're right about your innocence, then justice wasn't served. But the sad thing is, you were the only one there when they died. And you're the only one who knows what truly happened. So it all goes back to trust.

If I could this over again, I wish I tried harder in contacting Aleisha's family.


While writing this letter, my sister called me. She told me my grandmother just died. I can't begin to describe how awful it is to lose someone. The pain makes every little thing in my life from broken relationships to failed friendships seem so trivial. I wouldn't want anyone I care for to go through this.

I'm genuinely sorry that your family has to go through it. But my heart goes out to Aleisha's family and even Clarence's family.

Thank you for responding to my first letter.


Rebekkah Anne Mar

(source: Rebekkah is a reporter for WUFT News)


Personal Essay: Witnessing The Last Chapter In Florida Death Row Inmate Mike Lambrix's Story

If Mike Lambrix's case played out today exactly the way it did when he was convicted in 1984, he would not have been sent to death row and executed as he was Thursday night.

For more than a year and a half I exchanged letters with Lambrix, who preferred to go by Mike. I met him and his family to report the radio documentary: "Cell 1: Florida's Death Penalty in Limbo." The death penalty in Florida is no longer in limbo and Lambrix was the second inmate to be put to death since executions resumed at the end of August.

After a 4-hour delay, he recited his final words, those of the Lord's Prayer. 15 minutes later, he was pronounced dead at 10:10p.m.

Over the time I got to know him, we talked a lot about how he would prepare for his execution and what that was like for him and his family. It was a plan that he stuck to as he counted down to his execution.

Lambrix was convicted of murdering 2 people on the same night in 1983: Aleisha Bryant was strangled and Clarence Moore Jr. was hit over the head with a tire iron.

For 34 years, Lambrix has insisted he was innocent of the crimes he was convicted of. His 1st trial ended in a hung jury, it was his 2nd trial that convicted him of the 2 murders.

In Florida, juries take 2 votes, 1 to convict and another on whether to sentence defendants to death.

In 1984, the jurors were divided on his sentence. They swung in favor of the death penalty by 8-4 for 1 murder and 10-2 for the other, neither unanimous.

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court found that sending someone to death without a unanimous jury would be unconstitutional. And before that, the U.S. Supreme Court found Florida’s method of sentencing someone to death unconstitutional because a judge had the final say, not the jury.

But, because Lambrix's case was so old he didn't get the chance that more than 100 death row inmates have gotten over the past year, the chance to be resentenced.

I met Mike Lambrix for the 1st time in April of last year, about 2 months after I sent my 1st letter to him.

He walked into the small interview room with his orange prison shirt on--the death row uniform. He joked around with the guard, almost like they were pals ... except he had to ask him to loosen the chain around his waist that connected with his handcuffs so that he could shake my hand.

At that time, Florida's death penalty had been going through a series of legal challenges and nobody knew what was in store for the almost 400 people on death row. Mike Lambrix was next in line to be executed when the death penalty was thrown into limbo.

He talked to me about what it was like to watch the guy set to die before him, Oscar Bolin, go through the slow process of divvying up his property, try on his death suit and say his final goodbyes to his family. Lambrix talked about what it was like to prepare for his own death.

Lambrix was on death row for nearly 34 years.

"The death penalty is a commentary on who we are as a society," he said at a group interview on Tuesday. "And that's why it's important that those of us on this side of the bars, on my side of the bars, try to help others to understand this side of it. Because, if we forget that the person that we are condemning is still a human being then we make the choice to compromise the sanctity of life."

It's not my place as a reporter to talk about my opinions on the death penalty or lead you to a particular conclusion on one side of the debate or the other.

My job is to help you understand it.

Over the part 3 year, I talked with families of victims. I was never able to get through to the families of Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore, but I did talk to others for the documentary we made.

Mike Lambrix was willing to share his story too.

"We have to be able to understand the dynamics of this from both sides, my side included," he said. "So, the reason I write what I write and I have been very vocal is because even if I'm gone I want to leave something behind. And I'd like to think that one day, maybe not today, but one day, what I leave behind in my writings will be relevant to a society that will evolve."

In Florida, the public and reporters actually have more access to government records than in most other states.

Execution is an exception.

For example, how the state comes up with the method it will use to execute someone ... that's a secret. Who the person is that's actually conducting the execution, that's a secret. Executions are not open to the public, just 10 reporters (usually far fewer) with pencils and pads of paper. Those are the only public eyes in the room.

Gaining access to people on death row is difficult. Florida State Prison and Union Correctional, the 2 facilities where death row is housed, is in the middle of a cow pasture between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Really all you can do is write letters, and once per month a death row inmate is allowed a single hour-long interview.

I don't say this to suggest the state is hiding anything inappropriate, but, executions are a government function, no different than a commission meeting or a parole hearing. Executions are done in the name of the public.

For Lambrix, this was the 4th time he'd had to prepare for his execution. The first 3 were all stayed - 2 in 1988 and a 3rd in Feb. 2016.

This week, again, he was planning his last meal.

"I want a Thanksgiving dinner because I am going to share it at Thanksgiving dinner with my mother," explained Lambrix.

"His thing is when he got out of prison he wanted to have Thanksgiving dinner, homemade Thanksgiving dinner by me and then he wanted to go over to his sister and have another Thanksgiving dinner," said Lambrix's mom, Lorita Yeafoli, during an interview last year. "You know, the turkey, the dressing, the sweet potatoes, the mashed potatoes, dressing, olives, deviled eggs, all the stuff he likes."

The prison version of that consisted of a turkey breast and drumstick, giblet gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and brown sugar, mixed vegetables with butter, a soft dinner roll with honey and butter, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, chocolate milk and vanilla caramel gelato ice cream.

It's his family, and his mom especially, that had Lambrix worried leading up to his death.

"My mom has stood by me for so many years and I am so blessed, and my family too," said Lambrix. "It's very hard on them, and I just wish I could reach through that glass and give her a big hug."

After a sleepless night, he had that Thanksgiving meal the morning of his execution as his mom sat on the other side of a pane of glass.

Ever since I met him, Lambrix has tried to keep things upbeat for his family, to try and keep them from suffering too much.

Even when he talked about his funeral arrangements--who would pick up his remains, where he'd be buried--he cracked jokes about his 12-day hunger strike to protest his scheduled execution.

The suit for his execution didn't fit anymore.

"Because he'd lost 18 pounds, the trousers promptly fell to the floor, they had to be taken away to be taken up." Jan Arriens recounted Lambrix telling him last week.

Arriens, who lives in the UK, had been exchanging letters with Lambrix since the early 1990s.

"So I said to Mike, you've got to eat a lot of those burgers you get in the visitors' room and then get so fat the trousers won't fit and they would have to be taken away again at the last minute."

On Tuesday, Lambrix repeated that line in front of corrections administrators.

"...and that way we can get another couple of days. But I shouldn't say that. Now they know," joked Lambrix.

I wrote another letter to Lambrix last week. I thanked him for telling his story, for trusting me with it.

His response arrived the morning of his execution. It's waiting for me back in Miami.

(source: Wilson Sayre, WLRN news)


Records show Ohio has plenty of execution drugs

Ohio has been able to replenish part of its lethal drug supply in recent months, and could carry out nearly 20 additional executions under certain conditions, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction took in new supplies of midazolam, a sedative administered first to condemned inmates, and potassium chloride, which stops prisoners' hearts, in December and January, several weeks after receiving previous supplies of the drugs, the records show.

The records don't indicate whether the department received fresh supplies of the 2nd drug in Ohio's method called rocuronium bromide, which paralyzes inmates.

But even relying on previous supplies, Ohio still has enough drugs for 18 more executions, according to drug logs which the AP obtained exclusively through an open records request.

Over the past decade, execution drug supplies nationally have dried up as manufacturers, under pressure from death penalty opponents, started putting them off limits for capital punishment. The shortage of drugs stopped executions in the state between January 2014 and July.

Getting any information about Ohio's execution drug supply has become increasingly difficult in recent years, thanks to a secrecy law that shields almost all details about the drugs, including their source and their expiration date. Death penalty supporters said the law - similar to laws in other states - was necessary to protect drugmakers from threats of violence if their role in capital punishment was made public.

Through records requests, the AP has twice been able to document the amounts Ohio receives, though not the source of the drugs.

The number of upcoming executions is not guaranteed. Court rulings and clemency decisions could spare some inmates.

Drug supplies also expire, which could also decrease the actual number of executions Ohio could undertake. The secrecy law shields such information, though a recent court filing indicated the drugs hadn't expired as of July 26, when Ohio executed child killer Ronald Phillips.

In addition, if Ohio had to use extra amounts of drugs during an execution - should the 1st dose of the sedative not work, for example - that could also reduce the amount available for future procedures.

After executing Dennis McGuire in January 2014, Ohio - like many states - looked unsuccessfully for years for a new source of lethal drugs.

The state won't say where it obtains its drugs. Attorneys for Ohio have said in court filings the drugs are from federally regulated manufacturers and are not being compounded in specialty doses, as in some states.

Ohio announced a year ago it had obtained new supplies of drugs. After courts cleared the way to use them, Ohio put Phillips to death in July and executed Gary Otte in September for killing 2 people in Parma, in suburban Cleveland, in robberies over 2 days.

JoEllen Smith, an Ohio prisons department spokeswoman, declined comment.

Several drugmakers wrote Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr in July, shortly before the Phillips execution, demanding information about the state's source for its drugs.

"Mylan takes seriously the possibility that one of its products may have been diverted for a use that is inconsistent with its approved labeling," Brian Roman, the company's General Counsel, wrote to Mohr on July 14, requesting a prompt reply. The AP obtained the letter through a records request.

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Mylan makes rocuronium bromide. The state never responded, Mylan spokeswoman Julie Knell said.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based B. Braun Medical Inc.; New York City-based Pfizer; Princeton, New Jersey-based Sandoz Inc.; and Eatontown, New Jersey-based, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, sent similar letters.

The next execution is scheduled for Nov. 15 for Alva Campbell, sentenced to die for killing 18-year-old Charles Dials during a 1997 carjacking in central Ohio.

Attorneys for Campbell argue midazolam still raises an unconstitutional risk of serious pain because it may not render inmates so deeply unconscious that they don't feel the second 2 drugs.

(source: 10tvcom)


Serial killer Anthony Kirkland has 2nd chance to avoid death row----Facing new sentencing hearing soon

Trial killer Anthony Kirkland has a 2nd chance to avoid death row.

He was convicted of 4 murders, including the death of 13-year-old Esme Kenney, but a successful appeal has brought his case back before a judge.

Motions were heard Thursday before Judge Patrick Dinkelacker as prosecutors and the defense prepare for an unusual re-sentencing hearing next month.

Kirkland was convicted of murder and a list of other charges in the deaths of Cassonya Crawford, MaryJo Newton, Kimya Rolison and Esme Kenney. The jury that heard the case in 2010 recommended the death penalty in 2 of those murders.

After an appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Kirkland was entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

The jury that considers his fate will get to hear about the horror of his crimes, including visiting the crime scenes.

"This is one case where I think it's particularly important for the jury to actually go and see where this happened," prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said.

Because of the unusual circumstances, the sentencing hearing will play out much like a brand new trial for Kirkland.

(source: WLWT news)


Condemned killer challenges state's execution process

A death row inmate is challenging the state's current method of execution on the grounds that the public should have had a chance to comment on the process put in place 3 years ago.

The Indiana Supreme Court considered the fate of the state's death penalty protocol Thursday after hearing oral arguments in the case of Roy Ward. The case comes after Ward broke into a Dale, Spencer County, home in 2001 and raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to death in 2007.

Ward's attorney, David Frank of Fort Wayne, argued the state didn't properly follow administrative procedures when it chose the new lethal injection drug cocktail in 2014.

"The General Assembly dictates by law this combination of drugs use," Justice Mark Massa said.

"If a state agency or unelected state agency adopts new protocols, they should do it in front of the public," Frank said, noting current statute says public comment must be allowed. He argued because there was no public hearing, the death penalty protocol adopted in May 2014 is considered void.

The 3rd drug added to the state's cocktail - methohexital - has never been used in another state, which makes some wary about how it would affect death row inmates.

Often, death penalty appeals revolve around whether the drug mixture amounts to a violation of the 8th Amendment's provisions against cruel and unusual punishment. Ward isn't arguing that point, focusing instead on the drug not being chosen in front of the public.

But some justices wanted to know why this is being brought up now.

"This issue has never been raised before," Justice Steven David said. "It's not like the Department of Correction changed this in the last 25 years. There has never been a rule making application with what the ingredients of the injection are."

This issue, however, has been raised in other states. In 2010, a Kentucky judge halted executions over concerns about the 3-cocktail injection. In 2012, the state said it would switch to a 2-cocktail injection, which uses a sedative and painkiller.

Indiana State Attorney Stephen Creason argued the statute gives the Department of Correction authority to choose lethal injection drugs like it did 3 years ago.

"Choice of drug only matters as to whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the federal Constitution if constitutionally valid the opinions of the public, the state agency and the state courts don't matter in choosing a new drug," Creason said.

There have been no execution dates set for the 12 death row inmates at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. If Ward's appeal prevails, then the state would be left without legal means of carrying it out.

However, if the change enacted by the Department of Corrections was considered a rule, then it would have to go through the administrative process - if not, it stands as is.

The state's high court is expected to decide the case in the next several months.



Bell indicted, could face death penalty

A Pulaski County grand jury has returned a multiple-count indictment against the transient accused of killing Carolyn New.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery has confirmed that Dwight Mitchell Bell, 41, of Lexington, was indicted Wednesday on charges of murder; 1st-degree robbery; theft by unlawful taking over $10,000; tampering with physical evidence; and persistent felony offender.

Montgomery told the Commonwealth Journal that the murder and robbery charges taken together qualifies as a capital crime (potentially punishable by the death penalty). The prosecutor intends to file such notice at Bell's arraignment, most likely to occur on October 26.

Bell is charged in connection to the death of the 70-year-old New, whose body was found August 24 in Denham Street Baptist Church's activity center.

Bell was identified as a person of interest early in Somerset Police Department's investigation, as someone who had been hanging around the church - claiming to be homeless and in need of help - for the last couple of weeks before New's murder.

After first being tracked to Indianapolis, Bell was ultimately arrested in Dandridge, Tennessee, on September 12. SPD Detective Larry Patterson testified that Bell admitted the crime when questioned. Bell reportedly told the detectives that he was at the Denham Street Baptist Church on August 22 - the last day for which New was accounted. He had told the woman (who was there to clean the facility) that he was hungry, so she took him into the activity center in order to give him a bag of chips.

According to Det. Patterson, Bell described putting the chips down and accosting New - taking her to the back room where he eventually killed her. Patterson said that New had been killed by a laceration to the neck and that Bell admitted to taking her purse, cell phone and keys to New's 2014 Toyota Corolla.

Bell has been charged as a persistent felony offender because he had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 10-year sentence in connection to the 1999 fatal shooting of his father, 49-year-old Roger Bell, in the Murl community of Wayne County.

Bell has been lodged at the Pulaski County Detention Center since September 13.

(source: Commonwealth Journal)


AR Death Row Inmate Calls Himself 'Totally Competent' for Upcoming Execution----"They started making me out to be a total idiot and retard from day one."

The oldest Arkansas death row inmate and his victim's family agreed on one thing Wednesday: Jack Greene is "totally competent" for his upcoming execution.

However, Greene's attorneys have argued he is too mentally ill to legally be put to death.

Now the decision is in the hands of the Arkansas Parole Board, who will send its recommendation to Gov. Asa Hutchinson in the next 72 hours.

"I've been jacked up like this for 12 out of the last 13 years," Greene told the board during his clemency hearing at the Varner Unit Wednesday morning.

Instead of sitting in a chair next to his attorney, the 62 year old stood for the entire hour and a half, breathing heavy, contorting his body in pain and leaning against the table in front of them. He frequently touched his left ear and nose, which were both clogged with tissue.

"They [attorneys] started making me out to be a total idiot and retard from day one," he said. "I am totally competent to be executed. This is not a competency hearing. It's a clemency hearing."

Greene's attorney, John Williams, was on a different page, arguing conspiracy theories dominate his client's thoughts so much that he does not understand the world or his scheduled Nov. 9 execution.

"I want to object verbally to everything this attorney is saying," Greene interrupted.

A forensic psychologist, Dr. Dale G. Watson, told the board he has never seen anyone as delusional as Greene.

"I believe him to be psychotic," Watson said. "His pain could be a physical hallucination."

Dr. Watson explained he examined Greene first in 2009. When he returned to Arkansas for further examinations in 2011 and 2015, Greene refused to see him.

The next time they saw each other was at a competency hearing when Dr. Watson said Greene was "doing headstands literally in court."

Greene also interrupted Dr. Watson, calling him a "nut doctor." He argued he has never received the proper medical treatment for his sharp ear pain and brain and back injuries.

"I have been tortured nearly to death," he said. "It's by the grace of God and sheer will that I've lived this long."

Greene was sentenced to death for the murder of 69-year-old Sidney Burnett, a husband, father, WWII Air Force veteran and preacher from Johnson County.

"I knew what I was doing to him," he said. "I couldn't stand what I was doing to him. And I put the gun to his head and killed him."

"He brutally murdered my father," Carolyn Walker, who came in from Indiana, told the parole board Wednesday afternoon. "He shot him, stabbed him and cut him from his mouth to his ear. Jack Greene has no integrity, no morals, no respect for life and no remorse."

Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons said Greene inflicted injury on Burnett for the sole purpose of torture and mental anguish.

"I am not opposed to the death penalty," Gibbons told the board. "But I think it should be reserved for the worst of the worst. This case presents the worst of the worst."

Burnett's daughters said their dad gave Greene money, a job, even a place to stay.

"He treated him like family," said Irene Burton. "Dad gave him life. What did he give my dad?"

Their torture continues 26 years later.

"This really hits me today," said Linda Miller, who came in from Michigan. "It hits me because I am now the age that my dad was when he was cruelly taken away from us. It invaded our emotions, our souls and stole more from us than you could even imagine. I still weep when I think of the torture dad was put through and I wonder what his thoughts were, what his last words were. I will not know. I'll never know."

An act of murder Burnett's daughters will never blame on Greene's mental state.

"Jack is doing this because he fears death," Burton said. "I believe that with my whole heart. I don't believe he's mental. He, to me, his whole life has manipulated people. If he could not get his way, he took revenge. He threw a fit like a little child."

Burton read a message to Greene from her mother, Edna:

"I hope Jack repents so that he doesn't burn in Hell. He needs to be dead so this never happens again. No one, not our family or even Donna Johnson, his girlfriend, can find peace until he is dead."

"These are good, God-fearing Christian people," Greene said. "None of this should have ever happened. What I did was horrible. What I did to Mr. Burnett was horrible. What I did to my own brother was horrible, too."

Greene also killed his brother in North Carolina before moving to Arkansas.

"It wasn't out of hate but hurt," he told the board. "I swore upon my mother's grave that I would kill Tommy and anyone else for letting her die."

The parole board asked him if he wants clemency.

For Greene, it came down to 2 options. If he can go back to a North Carolina prison for medical treatment, he will take clemency. If not, he will see them Nov. 9.



Arkansas judge barred from execution cases sues high court

An Arkansas judge who was barred from considering any execution-related cases after blocking the use of a lethal injection drug and participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration is suing the state's highest court, saying justices violated his constitutional rights.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the 7 members of the state Supreme Court who disqualified him.

"Judge Griffen has been materially harmed by the loss of prestige, job satisfaction, and job duties suffered as a result of the Arkansas Supreme Court's Order, by virtue of being barred and disqualified, forever, from hearing the most serious cases a judge can hear in Arkansas," attorneys for the judge said in the lawsuit.

Though photographs of Griffen strapped to a cot outside the governor's mansion April 14 evoked images of a condemned inmate awaiting lethal injection, the judge has said he was portraying Jesus and participating in a Good Friday vigil with his church. The judge, who is also a Baptist pastor, wore an anti-death penalty button and was surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions.

Griffen's lawsuit argues that the disqualification violated his constitutional rights to free speech and exercise of religion, and said the move broke a 2015 state religious objections law. The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission is investigating a complaint against Griffen over the demonstration, along with a complaint the judge filed against the court over the disqualification. Griffen has asked the commission to dismiss the complaint against him, a request he renewed last week.

Earlier, on the same day as the demonstration, Griffen had issued an order blocking Arkansas from using vecuronium bromide in lethal injections. McKesson Corp. had sought the temporary order, saying it was misled by Arkansas that the vecuronium bromide sold to the state would be used for inmate care. The Supreme Court later lifted that order and barred Griffen from hearing any death penalty cases.

Another judge later assigned the case also blocked the drug's use. The state Supreme Court also lifted that order, allowing Arkansas to execute 4 inmates over an 8-day period in April.

The lawsuit over the company's claims is still pending before the state Supreme Court.

Arkansas is set to execute another inmate on Nov. 9.

(source: The Republic)


Kansas considers moving execution site to El Dorado

Kansas is considering moving its execution chamber from Lansing to El Dorado.

The state has not executed anyone since the 1960s, but the death penalty was reinstated in 1994 and a future execution remains at least theoretically possible.

Currently, Kansas would conduct any executions by lethal injection at Lansing Correctional Facility. The state Department of Corrections is pushing to rebuild the prison, prompting talk that the agency may move its execution site.

"We have not decided that. There is a group that would maybe like to look at doing that at El Dorado where death row is, but that has not been finalized," Mike Gaito, KDOC director of capital improvements, told lawmakers on Thursday.

Some 10 men in Kansas have death sentences against them, but their cases remain in the appeals process.

The current lethal injection site at Lansing will be affected if the state chooses to rebuild a portion of the prison. That's led to fresh discussion about the viability of the death penalty in Kansas, where individuals have been sentenced to death but the penalty has not been carried out in decades.

"Not only does it cost us half a million dollars anyway just to have the death penalty on the books - this would add an additional cost in having to build a new chamber," said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

Lawmakers have come close to advancing a death penalty repeal before. A 2010 repeal bill failed in a 20-20 Senate vote.

A 2003 study by state auditors found that cases where the death penalty was sought and imposed could cost about 70 percent more than cases where the death penalty wasn’t pursued. The estimated median cost of a death penalty case was $1.2 million compared to $740,000 for a non-death penalty case.

"It's something that we should think about if we're talking numbers and how much it costs to run government. That's another area that we could address," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

On Thursday, Gaito also revealed that KDOC is in negotiations with two companies to rebuild Lansing: CoreCivic and GEO Group.

Both are private prison companies, though KDOC has emphasized that the rebuilt facility would be state-operated. Previously, the agency had declined to reveal the names of the bidders, though the Kansas Department of Administration had released the names of companies that had expressed interest.

A 3rd company that had been named earlier, Lansing Correctional Partners, is not a bidder. Little was known about the organization.



Prison Rebuild Plans Might Prompt New Kansas Death Penalty Debate

Proposals to rebuild part of the prison at Lansing could prompt a new debate over the Kansas death penalty. Plans for the prison include closing the facility that houses the state's death chamber.

Kansas hasn't executed anyone since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1990s. At a committee meeting Thursday, Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn said instead of building a new death chamber, legislators might want to consider eliminating the death penalty.

"It costs us a lot of money and we don't finish the job," McGinn said. "We're housing them anyway, and they're costing us more because they have to go down 2 paths. They have to go down a life in prison [path] and they have to go down a death penalty path."

Department of Corrections staff said the state could also build a new death chamber at the El Dorado prison, which houses the state's 10 death row inmates.

(source: KMUW news)


Utah double-murderer Ron Lafferty loses another challenge of his death sentence----Prosecutor calls federal court ruling a "major milestone in terms of moving the case forward."

After a decade of litigation, a federal judge has rejected Utah inmate Ron Lafferty's challenge of his murder convictions and death sentence for the slayings of his sister-in-law and her baby daughter in 1984.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson dismissed a petition that sought to vacate the convictions and sentence on the grounds that they violated Lafferty's federal constitutional rights.

"This is a major milestone in terms of moving the case forward, at very long last," Utah Assistant Solicitor General Andrew Peterson said.

Dale Baich, a federal defender who represents Lafferty, said he plans to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lafferty's challenge, filed in October 2007, included numerous claims of ineffective assistance by trial and appellate attorneys, prosecutorial misconduct and violation of his constitutional rights.

In addition, the now-76-year-old Lafferty alleged the death penalty was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, saying he has spent years "under brutal prison conditions, experiencing daily trauma of facing death."

But Benson, in rejecting that claim, quoted a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that says there is no support for "the proposition that a defendant can avail himself of the panoply of appellate and collateral procedures and then complain when his execution is delayed."

According to court documents, the gruesome murders appear to have been triggered by Lafferty's unorthodox religious views, which had caused his wife to divorce him in early 1984 and take their 6 children with her to Florida.

Lafferty, in turn, blamed the end of his marriage on 4 people, including sister-in-law Brenda Wright Lafferty and her daughter, "who he believed would grow up to be just as despicable as her mother," court documents say.

In spring 1984, Lafferty claimed he received a revelation from God ordering that the 4 be removed "in rapid succession" and shared the revelation with several other members of his small unorthodox sect, including his brother Dan Lafferty, court documents say.

On the morning of July 24, 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty forced their way into their sister-in-law's American Fork home and severely beat her, strangled her with a vacuum cord and slit her throat, court documents say. Dan Lafferty then killed 15-month-old Erica Lafferty by slitting her throat.

The brothers then broke into the home of a friend of Ron Lafferty's wife, who was the next intended victim, but no one was there, court records say.

And after missing the turnoff to the home of the 4th intended victim - the divorced couple's ecclesiastical leader, whom Ron Lafferty believed was responsible for his excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the brothers headed to Nevada.

The Laffertys were arrested in Reno, Nev., several weeks later.

In 1985, both men were convicted of murder, and Ron Lafferty was sentenced to death. Dan Lafferty, now 69, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 10th Circuit later overturned Ron Lafferty's capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial after finding that the wrong standards had been used to evaluate his mental competency. Lafferty was convicted and sentenced to death again for the murders in 1996.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Nevada Supreme Court upholds death penalty conviction

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the convictions and death sentences for Donte Johnson in connection with a 1988 quadruple homicide in Las Vegas.

Johnson raised multiple issues in his post-conviction appeal, but the court unanimously upheld the lower court decision, which found no merit to the claims.

Johnson was sentenced to death for killing Jeffrey Biddle, 19, Tracey Gorringe, 20, Matthew Mowen, 19, and Peter Talamantez, 17.

The men were bound with duct tape while Johnson and two other men searched their east valley home. Before they left, Johnson shot each man in the back of the head. The robbers made off with about $240, a pager, a videocassette recorder and a video game system.

The trial jury deadlocked in 2000 during the penalty phase, and a 3-judge panel later handed down a death sentence. But that sentence was overturned.

A jury again sentenced Johnson to death in 2005. He is on death row at Ely State Prison.

The post-conviction appeal covered issues both in his 2000 conviction and later 2005 death sentence.

Among the claims were that the jury selection process in his 2000 trial was flawed because there was an under-representation of African Americans in the jury pool. Johnson also argued that his attorney should have challenged the introduction of evidence, including autopsy photos.

The Supreme Court rejected all of the claims.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


2 death row exonerees share their stories at CWU panel

When Sabrina Butler-Smith took her 1st steps as a free woman after spending more than 5 years on death row for a crime she didn't commit, she literally kissed the ground and hugged the trees.

"I was so happy," Butler-Smith said. "That is a great feeling. I watched TV until I had seen every movie I missed. I couldn't sleep that night. It just makes you appreciate everything."

Butler-Smith and Randal Padgett were both convicted of murder, sentenced to death and later exonerated, but not before irreparable damage was caused to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The 2 spoke at Central Washington University on Tuesday, sharing their stories about what it was like to be on death row, how the system doesn't always look for the truth, and why they are a part of Witness To Innocence, an organization that works across the country to abolish the death penalty. The event was organized through CWU's Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

In 1989, a 17-year-old Butler-Smith was accused of killing her son in Mississippi. Her child had stopped breathing in the middle of the night. She ran around her apartment complex, yelling and screaming, begging anyone to help her. Finally, someone drove her to the hospital, and during the car ride instructed her on how to give CPR.

"I applied adult CPR on a 9 month old," Butler-Smith explained, saying that infant CPR is much different.

Hospital officials wouldn't allow Butler-Smith to accompany her infant, and soon came out to tell her nothing could be done. She was told to go to the police station, where she gave her statement and then was sent home. The next day, Butler-Smith went back to the hospital to try to find more details about what had actually happened to her son, but she was met by detectives who took her back to the police station and interrogated her for 3 1/2 hours until she finally just agreed to everything they had said.

"You have to be interrogated to understand how police officers get a confession," Butler-Smith said. "That was the confession they ultimately used to convict me."

Butler-Smith had 2 court-appointed attorneys, 1 of whom she said was drunk the whole time. The other wasn't much help. No witnesses were brought in on her behalf, no medical records were admitted from the hospital and her attorneys refused to let her take the stand.

"The (district attorney) just had a field day with that," Butler-Smith said. "They found me guilty - the jury took an hour to deliberate."

Butler-Smith was sentenced to die July 2, 1990.

Waiting to die

Butler-Smith was not told how the process of death row works, and how the state must exhaust all possibilities before a prisoner could be executed, so all she knew was that once July 2, 1990 rolled around, that was it.

She recalled seeing scenes on television with walking down a long hall and a priest beside her, so she when she woke up that morning, she was waiting for that scene to play out.

"I thought that was how it really went," Butler-Smith said. "I wouldn't wish that on nobody, one of worst day of life. ... I paced floors, listened for every sound, every chain ... I thought that was the day I was going to die."

She didn't die that day, however. Eventually her conviction was overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct, but the process left her in county jail for another 3 years before she was finally released.

It turned out her son had myriad medical problems, including a rare kidney disease that her 1 of her current children also has.

Randal Padgett

Padgett said he doesn't tell his story to many people he doesn't know, mostly because of the trust issues he's developed. He explained how he told his story to police he didn't know, and was arrested for capital murder. He then told his story to a jury full of people he didn't know, and they convicted him. A judge he didn't know heard the same story, and sentenced him to the electric chair.

After what Padgett recalled was a pretty normal life, including getting a business degree and raising a family in a rural Alabama town with a population no larger than 8,000, he made a terrible mistake.

"I had an extramarital affair," Padgett said. He and his wife separated, and he moved about 7 miles away.

One night, on the eve of a trip to Florida with his new partner, his children were spending the night. That was the night his ex-wife was stabbed 47 times and raped. Padgett received a call his 1st night in Florida, and became physically ill when he heard the news.

"I threw up 2 or 3 times and drove all night to get back home," he said. When he arrived at the police station, he waited until he could talk to an investigator to see what happened. The police immediately told him he was a suspect.

"I was the spouse, the 1st place they look, plus the affair," Padgett said. "I tried to tell them, 'You're looking at the wrong person.' I wanted them to find who killed my wife."

DNA had never been used in Padgett's county, and a blood-type test was used by prosecutors, as well as a DNA test on the semen found in his wife's body. After waiting 12 weeks for the results, the test came back a match for Padgett.

"I was scared to death," Padgett said.

Padgett hired an attorney, who recommended they do their own DNA test, which the lab employee said was much quicker. The lab employee said he would testify to the fact that Padgett didn't even have the same blood type as the suspect, let alone the same DNA. Unfortunately, the lab employee who was set to testify became terminally ill, and was unable to show up in court on Padgett's behalf.

"We had the guy's reports, but it wasn't as good as him testifying," Padgett said.

After about a week of testimony, including his son testifying he was with his father the night of the murder. On the last day of the trial, Padgett's attorney discovered the state had performed a 3nd DNA test, which also came back with the same results as Padgett's test - it wasn't him. They asked for a mistrial, but the judge wouldn't allow it, and the jury ended up convicting him and recommended life without parole. The judge sentenced him to die.

Padgett's case was eventually retried, and he won his appeal on the very 1st day, after spending 2 1/2 more years in prison. He now tells his story to try to enlighten people that have belief systems about the death penalty similar what he used to hold.

"It's easy as pie to get convicted of something you didn't do," Padgett said. "Once you're convicted, nobody wants to believe otherwise."

Life on death row

Death row was a totally foreign place for both Padgett and Butler-Smith. They were easily identifiable because of the special red uniforms they had to wear.

"I can't describe the feeling," Padgett said. "It plays on your mind if you're innocent. People think you're some kind of monster that needs killing."

Butler-Smith said she was told by guards that she would never make it out alive, and that she had to fight every day just to survive. She was the 1st woman in the United States to ever be exonerated, and is currently 1 of 159 death row inmates to have their convictions overturned since 1973, including 3 in 2017.

"That's a lot of mistakes," she said. "Something is wrong with the system. How can you make that many mistakes, not including ones that were killed that were innocent?"

Both now work with the Witness To Truth organization, trying to open people's eyes to the reasons why the death penalty should be abolished. Besides the chance of killing innocent people, WTI director of communications Stefanie Anderson said the process of executing a person sentenced to death is far more expensive than life without parole, and convictions are often carried out after trials filled with junk science, eyewitness misidentification and false confessions.

"I know there's bad folks out there, but we can bring them to justice and sentence them for what they did," Butler-Smith said. "Lock their behinds up and they can stay there forever until they rot."

(source: Daily Record)


Trump UN Ambassador attempts to smear Obama in gay death penalty row

The US Ambassador to the United Nations has made false claims about Barack Obama as she struggles to justify a controversial vote.

The US recently sparked anger when it sided with the Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Iraq in voting against a measure at the United Nations Human Rights Council that condemned the imposition of the death penalty for homosexuality.

The motion, which passed despite the US opposition, condemned the use of the death penalty "arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner", including for homosexuality.

It called for the death penalty to be banned "as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations", as well as criticising its use on minors, mentally ill people and pregnant women.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who was appointed by Donald Trump, has defended herself amid the row, claiming that it was long-standing US policy to vote against measures relating to the death penalty.

She tweeted: "Fact: There was NO vote by USUN that supported the death penalty for gay people. We have always fought for justice for the LGBT community.

"Fact: The vote that took place in Geneva is the same US vote that took place under the Obama admin. It was not a vote against LGBT #Fact"

However, her #Facts are not actually facts, and are actually #Complete #Falsehoods.

Though the UN did vote on a measure on the death penalty in 2014, during Obama's term of office, it contained no such measure relating to LGBT people.

The vote last week was the 1st time that condeming the death penalty for homosexuality had been part of a Human Rights Council motion.

In addition, the US didn't cast "the same vote" under Obama on the motion incorrectly identified by Haley.

The US abstained on the 2014 motion, while in 2017 it cast a vote against.

And despite her claims that the Trump administration is opposed to the executions of gay people around the world, a key Trump aide has this week refused to make any such condemnation.

Sam Brownback, who Trump has nominated as a 'religious freedom' Ambassador, was asked about the issue during his confirmation session this week.

He was asked: "Is there any circumstance under which criminalizing, imprisoning, or executing people based on their LGBT status could be deemed acceptable because somebody asserts that they are religiously motivated in doing so?"

Brownback declined to make an explicit condemnation, saying: "I don't know what that would be, in what circumstance, but I would continue the policies that have been done in the prior administration in working on these international issues."

Of the 47 countries on the Human Rights Council, 27 voted in favour while 13 states voted against.

The United States voted against the motion, alongside Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Cuba, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya all abstained.

Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global told PinkNews: "Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships.

"While the UN Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure.

"This administration's blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful."

Andre du Plessis, Head of UN Programme and Advocacy at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) explained to PinkNews: "No votes on this resolution as a whole are generally best-interpreted as a position by a country on the death penalty as a whole.

"It is important to point out that a 'no' vote on the resolution is not addressing same-sex relations, but the wider application of death penalty generally. "The United States, for example, has the death penalty and has a consistent record of voting no on resolutions that are against it."

He added: "We are grateful for the leadership of the eight countries that brought this resolution - Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland - countries that come from every corner of the globe showing truly cross-regional support."

There are currently 6 countries where the death penalty is enforced for same-sex relations - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, plus some regions of Nigeria and Somalia.

The death penalty is also carried out by ISIS-controlled areas in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

5 further states - Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and the UAE - permit the death penalty technically, but it has not publicly been invoked. Brunei changed the law in 2014 to allow the death penalty for homosexuality, but is yet to enact the change.

Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of ILGA, said: "It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love.

"This is a monumental moment where the international community has publicly highlighted that these horrific laws simply must end."

Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General at ILGA, added: "The entrenched patriarchy and gender stereotyping behind adultery laws are the same causes behind laws that seek to criminalise and execute persons for consensual same-sex relations.

"These laws don't just affect those with non-normative sexual orientations. Trans and gender non-conforming persons also face oppression and violence because of them. We stand together in solidarity."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently released a report on the question of the death penalty where he examined its disproportionate impact on different groups and its discriminatory use based on gender or sexual orientation.

He wrote: "The imposition of the death penalty for offences relating to consensual homosexual conduct continues to be provided for in the legislation of many States.

"While few cases of executions for consensual same-sex conduct have been carried out recently, the existence of such laws discriminates against the conduct of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons."

(source: Pink News)


Former energy exec appeals death penalty after massive graft trial in Vietnam

A former chairman of state fuel giant PetroVietnam has appealed against the death penalty he received last week from a court in Hanoi for his role in the infamous multi-million-dollar graft case at OceanBank.

On September 29, the court sentenced Nguyen Xuan Son, chairman of the board at the oil and gas group from 2014 until his arrest in 2015, to death for appropriating VND246 billion ($13.6 million) from OceanBank.

PetroVietnam had acquired a 20 % stake in OceanBank during that time, meaning Son had stolen VND49 billion in government money, prosecutors said. The 55-year-old was found guilty of embezzlement, abuse of power and deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.

The court on Friday said it had received Son's appeal, in which he claimed he was innocent of embezzlement and charges of abusing his power to steal money, local media reported.

He admitted in the appeal that he had broken lending regulations at credit institutions and accepted the charge of deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.

But he said he would like the court to reconsider the case and reduce his sentence.

After the sentence was announced last Friday, Son called it "an unjust verdict", and Reuters quoted his lawyer as saying that he would appeal.

Judges at the 1-month trial also sentenced Ha Van Tham, former chairman of the board at OceanBank, to life in jail on charges of embezzlement, deliberately violating state regulations on economic management and breaking regulations on lending activities at credit institutions.

Tham is accused of offering deposit rates above those set by the central bank to various customers including PetroVietnam between 2010 and 2014, causing losses of nearly VND1.6 trillion ($70.4 million).

Other bankers received up to 22 years in jail.

OceanBank was founded in 1993 with a 20 % stake from Ocean Group, which also invests in hospitality, securities, media and retail. It was taken over by the central bank in April 2015 after the scandal broke out.

The high-profile trial, with 51 bankers and businessmen in the dock, could go down as the biggest fraud trial in Vietnam's history.

The Ministry of Public Security has launched a separate investigation into who else benefited from the illegal money.

According to the indictment, more than 50,000 individuals and nearly 400 organizations and businesses received preferential deposit interest payments from the bank, including many state-owned units besides PetroVietnam. But only 19 businesses have admitted to having received a combined VND3 billion, while 124 have denied taking any money and the rest have remained silent.

At least 3 PetroVietnam units were put under investigation earlier this month for colluding with OceanBank execs to appropriate $5.2 million.

PetroVietnam and the banking sector are at the center of Vietnam's sweeping corruption crackdown that has ensnared scores of high-ranking officials, including Dinh La Thang, a former member of the Communist Party's decision-making Politburo who headed PetroVietnam from 2005 to 2011.



Supreme Court issues notice to Centre asking for alternatives to death by hanging----A petition said that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes the right of a convict to have a dignified mode of execution

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea seeking alternatives to death by hanging for prisoners sentenced to die. The top court asked the government to give a detailed reply within 3 months.

The plea said that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution on the right to life includes the right of a convict to have a dignified mode of execution. The petition also challenged the constitutional validity of a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code, which specifies hanging by the neck as the mode of executing a death penalty, PTI reported.

"Our Constitution is a compassionate one, which recognises the principle of the sanctity of life," the Supreme Court said while hearing the plea. "The legislature can think of some other means by which a convict, who under law has to face a death sentence, should die in peace and not in pain," Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in the order.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice Misra and justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar, said that since other more painless methods of causing death exist in modern science, the legislature could think of using these other methods to execute the death sentence.



Court awards death penalty, 53 years' jail to murder convicts

A court awarded a death sentence to a murder convict and 53 years imprisonment to his accomplice for their involvement in a murder case in Faisalabad on Thursday.

The judgment was announced by Additional Sessions Judge Inamul Haq. The prosecution told the court that accused Ghulam Rasool, Shafqat Ali and Shahbaz had gunned down Nazar Abbas during a robbery bid.

'Prison officials must ensure convicts' appeals are filed'

The local police registered a case against the accused and presented the challan before the court. After hearing the arguments, the judge handed down death sentence to Ghulam Rasool and awarded 53 years jail term to Shafqat Ali. However, the court acquitted Shahbaz giving him the benefit of doubt.

The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 0.5 million on Ghulam Abbas and Rs0.3 million on Shafqat that would be paid to legal heirs of the victim.

Earlier in July, a court awarded death sentence to a murder convict and life term to 2 others for their involvement in a murder case in Sargodha.

The prosecution told the court that accused Ramzan, Ahmad Nawaz, Ahmed Khan, Ejaz, Lakh Mir and Haq Nawaz had gunned down Mehr over a property dispute in 2015.

After hearing the arguments, the judge handed down death sentence to Ramzan and awarded life term to 2 of his accomplices. However, the court acquitted 3 co-accused due to lack of evidence.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Mr President, how can you hang a man who cannot even stand?

Abdul Basit, a former administrator at a medical college, was sentenced to death in 2009. On 1 August, 2010 whilst in Central Jail, Faisalabad, Basit contracted tubercular meningitis which, due to lack of action on behalf of the jail authorities, has left him paralysed from the waist down.

As a result of his paralysed condition, jail authorities have determined that there is no way to carry out the execution in accordance with Pakistan Prison Rules. His execution has been stayed pending further instructions. The jail authorities as well as Justice Project Pakistan have made clemency appeals on his behalf to the President of Pakistan. This is the testimony of Basit's wife, Musarrat Nausheen.

I married Abdul Basit in 2002. He was an administrative assistant at a local medical college, handsome, and promised me a good future. He liked to wear good clothes, and loved cologne. We had two sons. Today, they are 13 and 9.

My eldest son has known his father for only the first four years of his life. The younger one was barely a year old when Basit left us.

His arrest was sudden, to say the least. He has always maintained his innocence for the murder that saw him sentenced to death in 2009. A gun was fired in the middle of an altercation, with the family of a woman he knew.

We don't know who shot it. Basit insists that it was not him. I believe, in my heart, that he is right. He had no reason to kill that man. We were stable, we were happy and Basit was neither angry nor violent.

But a man did die, and Basit was arrested for it. When he went to jail, we had no idea what hit us. It was only me and Basit's mother, facing a judicial system we did not understand, and a lawyer who was only interested in money.

And everything cost far more than we could afford. Getting to the courthouse - which was 4 hours away in Okara District, would cost us a few thousand rupees just in travel costs. Then there were the lawyer's fees and the demands of the policemen themselves.

There were days when I did not have money to buy milk for my infant son and I would dissolve sugar in water, and feed him through a bottle. He would cry. But eventually he would sleep, even if I would not be able to.

We were 2 women with little understanding of our rights, and unsure about whom to turn to for help. To make matters worse, we were harassed and abused by our opponents, every time we appeared at the court.

They would warn us to not show up at the next hearing, following us all the way to the bus stop. They would tell me that they would kidnap my sons if I did not heed their warnings.

We were alone, poor, female and so, easy targets.

I thought that was it. That his death sentence was a death sentence for all of us.

But Basit was not done being punished. He had spent the first 18 months of his detention in Sahiwal Jail, before being transferred to Central Jail, Faisalabad in 2010.

In August, I received a phone call from the jail hospital. Basit was in a coma, and we were told that in all likelihood, he would not wake up again. Perhaps we should come say goodbye.

How had this happened? Riots had broken out in the prison, to protest the use of use of torture by the jail authorities. Basit, and many other inmates were confined to a "punishment wing," a small room in filthy conditions. He became ill, collapsed and received medical attention too late.

When we got to the hospital, we were told that he had tubercular meningitis. He would never walk again as a result.

He lies like a corpse in his bed, directly as a result of jail negligence.

And if that wasn't humiliation enough, the Government of Pakistan issued two execution warrants for him after he was paralysed. The only reason Basit is alive today (if even barely) is simply because prison authorities do not know how to hang a man who is unable to stand. What they hope to gain from hanging a cripple is beyond me.

Each time I visit him in prison I see how he is deteriorating, but there is nothing I can do for him. When we meet, when he speaks, he makes little sense and barely recognises me. He is also in considerable pain, and of course, the conditions of the prison only make matters worse.

I feel tired. The burdens have increased - the rent, the children's school fees, their private tuition costs, and the general cost of living is making things harder. I have 2 jobs now just to keep things going, keep my head above water.

I worry about the boys - not having a father has adversely affected them. They are reserved and silent. People talk, and I know the children hear.

So a healthy, fully able man walked into a jail - and today, he requires a catheter, and prison authorities to regularly turn him to prevent bed sores. To the guards, for all intents and purposes, Basit is nothing more than a heap of inconvenient flesh.

If this isn't grounds for mercy, I'm not sure what else is.

As narrated to Asim Rafiqui, who put it in the form of an article.

This article is 1st of a 3-part series, curated in collaboration with Justice Project Pakistan, in lead up to The World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th.



'Time for Defense Minister to deliver on death penalty promise'

Bereaved families from the Almagor terror victims organization plan to launch a campaign after the holidays that will call on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to fulfill his promises to promote the death penalty for terrorists who murdered Jews.

Dr. Aryeh Bachrach, the father of Ohad Bachrach, who was murdered by terrorists in Wadi Kelt in 1995, said that "Liberman has been in office as Defense Minister for a year and a half, and has not yet ordered the military prosecution to demand the death penalty."

"In his field and in his shift, the military prosecution plays its game as if there is no defense minister, and the defense minister is silent on the one hand and sends belligerent statements through his party at the same time."

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Robert Ilatov submitted a bill several days ago to make it possible to seek the death penalty for a person convicted of a nationalistic murder by a military court.

The bereaved families at Almagor view the bill as nothing more than spin. Ron Kerman, whose daughter Tal was murdered in a terror attack in Haifa, said that "this is another spin on the backs of the victims of terror. This time it is not for election purposes, but to make it feel as though the absence of a law is what is not allowing Liberman to act."

Kerman recalled the announcement by the Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Sharon Afek, that he will not seek to impose the death penalty on the terrorist who murdered three members of the Salomon family in Neve Tzuf-Halamish.

Yossi Zur, also a bereaved father, conveyed a clear message to Liberman: "You do not need the death penalty legislation to apply the death penalty within the framework under your responsibility. Use the existing law under military law - today. The Salomon's murderer should be the 1st of the killers to deserve the death penalty."



Death sentence marks the end to Lebanese cleric's dramatic rise and fall

There has been little outcry in Lebanon after a military tribunal sentenced a once-popular cleric and at least 6 of his followers to death last week for their roles in a gun battle that killed 18 soldiers.

The cleric, Amhed Al Assir, was convicted of terrorism in the deaths of the soldiers, which occurred during 2 days of fighting in June 2013 in the coastal city of Saida. At least 20 of Al Assir's followers died as well.

Along with Al Assir, more than 30 other defendants stood trial, with 15 of them receiving life sentences, according to Amal Shamseldin, Al Assir's wife. She put the number of death sentences handed down by the court at nine.

The sentencing is the latest chapter in the meteoric rise and fall of Al Assir, who had been the preacher at a mosque near his house in Saida's Al Abra neighbourhood for nearly 20 years before quickly rising to prominence after the beginning of the rebellion against Syrian president Bashar Al Assad in 2011.

Al Assir openly supported the rebellion and called on Lebanese Sunnis to travel to Syria to fight, personally visiting the Syrian city of Qusayr in April 2013, where he was filmed patrolling a front line with an assault rifle and firing weapons.

He also tapped into a sense of disenfranchisement among many Lebanese Sunnis with his public criticisms of Hizbollah, the Shiite political party and militia that wields considerable influence within the Lebanese government and has been fighting openly in Syria in support of Mr Al Assad since 2013.

Al Assir also drew attention by engaging in high-profile stunts that sometimes bordered on the comical, such as taking his Salafist followers skiing in the majority Christian town of Faraya or riding around on a BMX bicycle at a Hizbollah rally. He staged a high-profile sit-in in central Beirut to call for Hizbollah's disarmament and won over Lebanese pop singer Fadl Shaker as a follower. Shaker received a 15-year prison sentence in absentia from the court.

"He had charisma and he was accepting of everyone," Ms Shamseldin said, arguing that her husband's outspokenness was his undoing. "If anyone talks about the Syrian revolution, they are sent to jail. Hizbollah wanted to finish him."

But Al Assir's attempts to present himself as a moderate flailed as his calls for jihad in Syria and even in Lebanon grew louder and tensions rose between his supporters and Hizbollah's. Smaller clashes preceded the June 2013 battle, and though Al Assir had called for the disarmament of Hizbollah within Lebanon, he and his supporters were heavily armed by June 2013.

In the years since, criticism of Hizbollah for its role in Syria faded inside Lebanon, as has support for Al Assir. The radicalisation of the Syrian rebellion and bombings inside Lebanon attributed to Al Qaeda-affiliated groups and ISIL since 2013 have also contributed to that shift. Hizbollah has more recently received praise even from some of its detractors for its role in helping drive those groups from the country.

Hostility towards the presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon has also grown in recent years, as well as the sense that Mr Al Assad has more or less won the war.

In Al Abra this week, there were no signs of the destruction the neighbourhood suffered in 2013, and most of the opposition to the sentencing has been small demonstrations by families of the men who stood trial. Last week, Ms Shamseldin and others demonstrated in Al Abra, and another demonstration was planned for Friday.

Families of the soldiers who died in the fighting have also demonstrated, blocking roads last year in Beirut to protest against delays in the trial and reiterate demands for harsh sentences for the accused.

"We will follow him to his grave," the mother of George Bou Saab, one of those soldiers, told the Lebanese paper The Daily Star after a court hearing in 2015. "If I wasn't present at a court ... I would've killed him and drank his blood.

"This criminal cannot remain alive while 18 men are buried underground," she added.

Many of the facts surrounding the battle remain murky. Ms Shamseldin and others claim the fighting was provoked by Hizbollah militiamen in the neighbourhood, while others say Al Assir's supporters started the fighting when they attacked an army checkpoint. Ms Shamseldin and others also accuse Hizbollah of participating in the battle alongside the army.

"No one was allowed to investigate," Ms Shamseldin said. "No witnesses were allowed in court. ... There were many people who witnessed the involvement of Hizbollah."

Umm Mahmoud Al Halabi, whose son was killed in the fighting, made similar claims. "My son was shot in the back by Hizbollah," she said.

Omar and Mohammed Al Assir, 2 of the couple's 3 sons, also received life sentences in absentia for their roles in the fighting. Omar was 17 at the time of the battle, and Mohammed was 20. Ms Shamseldin said lawyers for the family would appeal the sentences in the coming week.

Al Assir had also initially escaped capture and went in to hiding after the fighting, but was arrested while trying to leave the country in 2015 though Beirut's airport.

The lack of due process in Lebanon's military tribunals, as well as the military's use of torture, are issues that have been raised by rights activists. It was even difficult for journalists to obtain the exact number of defendants in the trial and who had received what sentence. On Wednesday, an army spokesman said he had "no information" regarding the proceedings.

"Our major concern about the tribunal is that it's not an independent court that does not have the guarantees of a fair trial," said George Ghali, the programmes manager at ALEF, a Lebanese human rights group. "The court is not impartial. You have military people judging civilians. In the case of Al Assir, he's being tried for attacking the Lebanese army."

The mother of Omar Al Baraka, a 24-year-old man who received a 10-year prison sentence, said her son had been a bystander and was attempting to check whether his cousins, who lived in the neighbourhood, were safe. He was arrested, along with more than 100 other people in the area, after the fighting.

Rights groups also collected evidence of torture by the military after the fighting, and a 36-year-old man named Nader Al Bayoumi died in military custody after the battle.

"That death has not been investigated properly," Mr Ghali said.

Though the Lebanese government has not carried out an execution since 2004, Mr Ghali said he was concerned that Al Assir's death sentence might actually go ahead.

Earlier this year interior minister Ibrahim Machnouk called for the state to resume carrying out the death penalties of those convicted.

"I know we would have European, Western, or even international opposition," Mr Machnouk said. "But we have a situation of deranged people carrying weapons."

Mr Ghali said there are about 80 people in Roumieh prison that have been sentenced to death, and approximately another 40 who have received death sentences in absentia, a number that has risen in recent years.

"We are certainly concerned with the hike in sentences with the guise of counterterrorism," Mr Ghali said. "The public is supportive of the death penalty, and we are worried politicians seeking support will return to it."

More recently, the families of 9 Lebanese soldiers who died after being captured by ISIL and Al Qaeda-linked militants in northern Lebanon in 2014 have also demanded the death penalty for defendants in that case.

"Whatever he may have done, executing Mr Al Assir would be a step backwards for Lebanon's human rights record, and wouldn't deter crime or make Lebanon any more safe," said Bassam Khawaja, the Lebanon and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch.

While 58 countries still have death penalty laws on the books, 23 were believed to have carried out executions in 2016.

There have been multiple proposals since 2004 by members of the Lebanese government to fully abolish the death penalty, though none have gained enough traction to be passed.

(source: The National)


EU delegation visits Luzira death-row inmates, promises to support them

The European Union Ambassador designate to Uganda H. E Attilio PACIFICI has promised to do whatever is possible to support inmates on death row in Uganda.

The commitment was made during a solidarity visit to the inmates on death row at Luzira Maximum Security Prison where he led a delegation of the European Union (EU) Heads of Mission in Uganda.

Meanwhile the Ambassador of France to Uganda, H.E Stephanie RIVOAL, in a message to the female death row inmates said they do not believe in execution, but rather in redemption, arguing that the death penalty does not prevent crime.

The visit was organised in partnership with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative as part of activities to mark the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty set for Tuesday next week, under the theme "Poverty and Justice: A deadly mix".

The delegation included Ambassadors and representatives from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.



Death penalty dread lingers on farmhands who killed white farmer in Botswana

2 legal brains have joined to put on a spirited fight to save their convicted killer clients from being hanged by the Botswana government.

Earlier this year, Lobatse Judge Abednego Tafa convicted Tshiamo Kgalalelo (32) and Mmika Mpe (28) for murdering and then setting their Afrikaner boss', Reinette Vorster, body on fire in her car.

In Botswana, the death sentence is usually issued upon murder under aggravated circumstances and is carried out by hanging. Experienced lawyer Themba Joina represents Mpe while Kgalalelo is relying on Archibald Gijima to save him from the gallows.

The latest on the case is that the 2 lawyers had already submitted written mitigating and extenuating circumstances to deliver their clients from the dreadful hangman.

On 24 November the 2 lawyers will plead for the last time and explain why their clients should be shown mercy.

In the last court session the 2 convicts said they killed their employer out of anger, because the deceased had subjected them to slave conditions on the farms of Okwa Valley in Gantsi, a village 667 kilometres away from the capital, Gaborone.

The duo said they experienced hardships and barbaric and harsh treatment at the hands of the white lady they brutally murdered and burnt, inside her Toyota D4D.

This attracted other charges besides murder like: abduction, robbery, motor vehicle theft and arson.

In the last court sitting Kgalalelo testified that: "I worked at Okwa Valley for several years despite the harsh treatment from my employer.

We could not report the ill-treatment to labour or any other department because the farm was too far from where [those] offices are. There was also no labour inspection."

Both lawyers agreed that their clients were ill-treated by Vorster.

Kgalalelo's lawyer, Gijima, said his client did not murder Vorster. Mpe's lawyer, Joina, said his client was young when he committed the offence and the court should take that factor into consideration. Another thing that shows Mpe was immature, Joina said, is the court findings that show he strangled Vorster to death.

Botswana citizen Patrick Gabaakanye is the last man to receive the death penalty. He was the 4th inmate to be executed in Botswana in the last 20 years after the 1999 execution of South African immigrant Mariette Bosch, for murder.

Bosch's hanging, which caused international attention and mixed reactions, was followed by another South African national Lehlohonolo Bernard Kobedi's execution in July 2003.

In 2008 Modise Mokwadi Fly, a Motswana, was hanged for killing his son.

This means that current President Ian Khama has seen at least 2 executions while in power.

According to the Botswana Constitution, after the courts of Botswana have confirmed a death penalty, the case must still be referred to the Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, who in turn shall advise the president if there are grounds for him to exercise his powers under Section 53 of the Constitution to "substitute a less severe form of punishment".

The membership of the Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy consists of either the Vice-President or a minister appointed by the President, the Attorney-General; and a person qualified as a medical practitioner in Botswana, who is appointed by the President.

After Botswana's last execution, which was exercised on Gabaakanye, the European Union (EU), which is anti-death penalty, issued a statement condemning Botswana. The EU said the use of capital punishment can never be justified. "The European Union believes that the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment and has consistently called for its universal abolition," it said.

(source: The African Independent)


Hairdresser to Die by Hanging for Stealing Laptop, Phone

Justice Kudirat Jose of an Ikeja High Court Wednesday sentenced to death Izunna Ajaere, a 25-year-old male hairdresser for stealing a laptop and a mobile phone at gunpoint.

Ajaere was found guilty based on the 2-count charge of conspiracy and armed robbery and was sentenced to death by hanging.

The judge in her judgment, noted that the evidence of the victim of the crime, Mr Uchenna Ukah, was overwhelming and pivotal in convicting Ajaere.

"The evidence of the prosecution witness proved that the defendant was one of the armed robbers, therefore, all the ingredients of the crime of armed robbery has been shown.

"The prosecution has proved the charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery beyond reasonable doubt.

"The defendant is hereby sentenced to death for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and sentenced to death for armed robbery.

"He is to be hanged by the neck till he is dead, may the Lord have mercy on his soul," the judge said.

The prosecution led by Mrs A.B Awosika had told the court during trial that the convict committed the offences at 9.30p.m. on June 22, 2012 at No. 12, Vincent Eze, St., Ajao Estate, Lagos.

According to the prosecution, the convict alongside an accomplice had accosted Ukah at gunpoint outside his flat.

"Ukah led them to his flat where they stole a laptop, a modem and a blackberry mobile phone.

Ajaere and his accomplice after the robbery, locked the complainant in his apartment with the intent to also rob his neighbours.

"The complainant managed to get out of his apartment to raise an alarm leading to Ajaere and his accomplice being apprehended.

Ukah's laptop and modem were recovered from the duo, however, his blackberry mobile phone was never recovered," Awosika said.

However, while testifying in his defence during the trial, Ajaere denied robbing the complainant, he claimed he went to Ajao Estate for hairdressing work and was arrested by policemen during a raid.

The convict claimed that he was falsely charged with conspiracy and armed robbery by officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The offences violate Sections 295(2) and 297 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.



Babu Owino: Government Planning to Hand Me a Death Sentence

Embakasi East Member of Parliament Babu Owino claims that there is a scheme by Jubilee government to hand him a death sentence.

Speaking in an interview on Hot 96FM on Wednesday, the youthful MP accused the government of mistreating him and was planning to charge him with treason, which attracts a death penalty.

There are plans to charge me with treason and hand me a death sentence." He claimed.

The penal code states that "any person who is guilty of the offence of treason shall be sentenced to death."

The youthful was arrested on Monday last and was charged with subversion, offensive language and incitement to violence. This was after making a slur directed at President Uhuru Kenyatta during a National Super Alliance rally in Nairobi.

He was rearrested shortly after he was released on sh 500,000 cash bail, and was charged with assaulting a voter the following day.

Last week, the former Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU) chairman alleged that police officers tried to inject him with mercury after sending street children to harass him while at the cell room.



Uncertainty Over Progress On Capital Punishment Plans

Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said Tuesday he does not know if the Minnis administration has made progress in its plans to allow capital punishment to be resumed in the Bahamas.

After demanding in opposition that the law on capital punishment be enforced, the Minnis administration has, since its election victory in May, done nothing to suggest it has begun movement on the issue.

"I don't know if or when that will happen," Mr Newbold said yesterday when asked what the administration's plans are to allow capital punishment to resume.

"I will say this: the Attorney General's Office is pretty busy right now doing a lot of things, like preparing the anti-corruption agenda the prime minister has talked about. The attorney general spoke last week about the fact that our money laundering laws are a total mess. Is something being prepared to deal with capital punishment? I can't say at the moment.

"I don't know when or if, the prime minister hasn't said anything to me certainly about capital punishment. In light of what's happening, it's certainly one I will ask him."

107 people have been murdered so far this year, a number that outpaces last year's rate up to this point when about 76 people had been killed, according to The Tribune's records.

In February, while in opposition, Dr Minnis said unless the government is willing to enforce the death penalty, "criminals will continue to ravage our country and keep citizens in fear."

Although the law allows for capital punishment, the death penalty has not been carried out since January 2000. That year, David Mitchell was executed for stabbing 2 German tourists to death.

In 2006, the London-based Privy Council ruled that the Bahamas' mandatory death sentence for convicted murderers was unconstitutional.

In 2011, after a ruling from the Privy Council, the Ingraham administration amended the death penalty law to specify the "worst of the worst" murders that would warrant execution.

Under the amended law, a person who kills a police or defence force officer, member of the Departments of Customs or Immigration, judiciary or prison services would be eligible for a death sentence. A person would also be eligible for death once convicted of murdering someone during a rape, robbery, kidnapping or act of terrorism.

Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley said last year that the chances of ever imposing the death penalty under present laws are nil, adding that a massacre is a kind of event that may allow the death penalty to take place.

Last year, however, Dr Minnis said it's time to pop the necks of "murderous scumbags."

"Our economy, Mr Speaker, will not grow until we solve the issue of crime and as you know crime is a multifaceted issue, which requires multifaceted approaches (involving) the family, the church, civil society and the government. (They) must all join forces to combat this societal mess," Dr Minnis said in the House of Assembly in June 2016.

"Just the other day, a young man was gunned down at the ATM machine. We must, as hanging is on our books, we must hang these criminals. These murderous scumbags must be hung by the neck until they are dead."

He continued: "The murderous scumbags must be hung as that is on our laws. Hang, hung, whatever...pop their necks."

Later that month, he told The Tribune if elected as prime minister, he would immediately seek to amend the Constitution to remove the UK-based Privy Council as the highest court of appeal for murder convicts.

He said last year in the case of such convictions, Supreme Court judges, if they believe the nature and circumstance of a murder merit a death sentence, should not have their ruling appealed to any court outside the country if the Court of Appeal upholds their ruling.

"I want to amend the Constitution so murder cases will only go as far as the Court of Appeal right here and would no longer go to the Privy Council," he told The Tribune last year.

"I will do everything to carry out the law and the law says hang so that is what I will do.

"This issue will be discussed and debated in the House of Assembly and then taken to the people. We will have this referendum because I am a strong advocate and believer of hanging.

"The crime has to stop and this is just one way we will attempt to stop it.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that we start hanging these murderers," Dr Minnis said in June 2016.


OCTOBER 5, 2017:


Irving killer who shot his baby girl, 3-year-old son wins death row reprieve

An Irving father sentenced to death for the revenge killing of his children after their mother left him has been granted a new punishment trial.

Hector Rolando Medina, 38, shot 3-year-old Javier and 8-month-old Diana in the head and the neck after his girlfriend left him in March 2007. He then shot himself in the neck outside his Irving home.

Medina was convicted of capital murder in 2008 and sent to death row, after defense attorney Donna Winfield didn't call a single witness or present closing arguments during the punishment phase of the trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that Medina should be granted a new punishment trial because of his defense attorney's "deficient performance."

The Dallas County district attorney's office will decide whether to again seek the death penalty against Medina. The automatic sentence for capital murder in Texas is life without the possibility of parole.

"These cases are very expensive and very time-consuming," said First Assistant District Attorney Michael Snipes. "Those two factors have to be taken into consideration, not only in this case but in every case where a defendant is death penalty-eligible."

The district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Antonio Cochran, who is accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Zoe Hastings in 2015.

Justice Michael Keasler wrote in a concurring opinion that granting Medina a new punishment trial gives the convicted child killer "a 2nd bite at the apple."

Keasler expressed "profound disgust" at Winfield's handling of the punishment phase of the trial, saying that the attorney "intentionally torpedoed" the case.

There was a six-week break after Medina was convicted before the punishment phase began. Winfield asked for more time to bring expert witnesses to the courthouse, but the judge denied the request.

In response, Winfield refused to call any witnesses or rest her case during punishment. She was thrown in jail for being in contempt of court.

During a hearing requesting a new trial after Medina was sentenced, Winfield said, "I wasn't going to put on a disjointed defense of Mr. Medina. ... That wasn't fair to him or to the jury."

Justice Sharon Keller wrote in a dissenting opinion that Medina's defense attorney had "fully participated in the state's punishment case, including cross-examining witnesses."

Prosecutors say Medina killed his children as revenge after his longtime girlfriend left him.

Elia Martinez-Bermudez testified that Medina would hold her down and force her to have sex with him. He begged her to come back after she left him in January 2007. When she did, he threatened to kill her, the children and himself if she ever left him again.

In March 2007, Medina borrowed a friend's gun and a box of bullets and then refused to let Martinez-Bermudez see her children when she asked. Later that day, he shot Javier and Diana and then himself.

Diana "had a tombstone before she could talk," prosecutor Felicia Oliphant said during the trial. "Is there anything sadder than that?"

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Convicted murderer Randall Mays found competent to be executed

A Henderson County man found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of two East Texas sheriff deputies, has been found competent to be executed.

Randall Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County Sheriff Deputy Tony Ogburn and Paul Habelt and seriously injuring Deputy Kevin Harris in May of 2007.

The ruling of competency was made by visiting Judge Joe Clayton, of Tyler and a date has not been set for Mays' execution.

Prior to the imminent execution scheduled for March 18, 2015, Mays filed a motion regarding competency to be executed.

According to court documents, Mays was examined by several doctors. What the court ultimately determined was that Mays' mental illness does not deprive him of his understanding. The court's findings were detailed in documents filed in Henderson County:

After consideration of all the credible evidence, the Court has concluded that Randall Mays has failed to meet his burden by a preponderance of the evidence, and the Court rules as follows:

While Randall Mays does have some form of mental illness, it does not deprive him of the rational understanding of the connection between his crime and the punishment received.

"Since Mr. Mays has been sitting on death row, he has not been diagnosed, treated or received prescribed medications for any mental illness or obsession that has any bearing on this inquiry," the court found.

During Mays' trial, jurors heard more than a week of testimony. It took jurors just under three hours to hand down Randall Mays' death sentence for the murder of Ogburn and Habelt. Mays was sentenced by Judge Carter Terrance to the death penalty by lethal injection after the death penalty was recommended by an Athens jury.

Mays initially entered a not guilty plea. In Mays' letter dated January 6, 2013, to his wife, he described the crime scene and provided specific details of the officers' actions. Also, less than a month prior to the original execution date of March 18, 2015, Mays wrote a detailed letter to his sister regarding the cost of necessary materials needed to build "the wood box" and gave information on where to obtain the supplies. In the same letter, he informed her of the burial plots purchased for the Mays family in Dunbar cemetery.

A 911 tape was played from the day of the shooting and pictures of the crime scene were also shown in court. At one point Mays became visibly shaken and began to weep during the proceedings.

The Court allowed the testimony of 2 mental health experts on the subject of Mays' state of mind during the shootings. They testified about Mays' paranoia and depression leading up to when he allegedly shot the Henderson County deputies.

It was also revealed in court that Mays' older brother, Noble Mays, was executed in 1995 for a capital murder offense.

The Henderson County District Attorney's Office confirmed to KLTV that on Monday Mays was found competent by a judge to be executed.

District Attorney Mark Hall, who was joined by First Assistant Nancy Rumar in arguing the competency case in August, released a statement saying that he believes the Judge made the correct call.

Hall intends to file a motion for the Court to set an execution date but anticipates that before it is carried out, Mays will make a motion that the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) review Judge Clayton's order and enter a judgment of whether to adopt the order, findings, and recommendations.

The CCA will determine whether any existing execution date should be withdrawn and a stay of execution issued while the court is conducting its review. Otherwise, the execution will be carried out as ordered.



Leaving the death penalty behind

With 17 executions to date, plus 13 scheduled for the remainder of 2017, the U.S. may see a historically low number of executions this year, according to a mid-year review by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Death sentences, executions, and death penalty support has been waning since capital punishment's heyday in the late 1990s, and it appears that this trend will continue far beyond 2017. As capital punishment undergoes a historic decline and its constitutionality is challenged, states are adopting death penalty reforms, while some are abandoning the practice altogether, which is making executions and death sentences ever more rare.

Recently, the Florida Supreme Court required the Sunshine State to cease its longstanding unconstitutional practice of delivering death sentences without a unanimous jury decision. As a result, the Florida legislature passed a bill requiring unanimous jury recommendations in order to sentence someone to die, bringing the state in compliance with past court rulings. Roughly 200 Florida death row inmates must be resentenced following the invalidation of their death sentences due to non-unanimous jury recommendations. Previously, judges were allowed to sentence defendants to death without a unanimous jury recommendation. Judges could even override a jury's recommendation altogether. But following Perry v. State, which struck down this statute, Alabama is left as the only state where judges may still impose death sentences despite a jury's recommendation.

Yet, even as Alabama maintains the death penalty, its lawmakers are also looking to alter the state’s death penalty practices, which may significantly curtail use. The Alabama legislature sent the Governor a bill that would ban judges from delivering death sentences in cases where the jury recommended life incarceration. This process of judicial override has resulted in politically motivated decision-making in which 92% of all judicial overrides since 1976 were used to overrule life sentences in favor of the death penalty. This violates a bedrock principle of the criminal justice system whereby a jury of our peers retains the final authority in trials. The legislature's desire to end judicial overrides signals a greater commitment to the role of jurors in the criminal justice system and may result in fewer death sentences.

It's not just sentencing changes in states like Alabama and Florida that are causing our record low death penalty usage - the public at large is simply losing faith with the system. According to a 2016 PEW research survey, national support for the death penalty is below 50% for the 1st time in decades. In light of this development, we've seen a number of states walk away from the death penalty. Connecticut and Delaware have continued to empty their death rows after their death penalty statutes were declared unconstitutional. Adding to the concerns about the system, 3 people have been exonerated from death row in 2017 so far, bringing the total number of exonerations up to 159 since 1973. However, despite apparent breakthroughs on the issue, there is still reason for concern.

While executions are waning in most places, there are a few outlier states that may witness an uptick in executions. Despite executing the fewest people in 2 decades in 2016, Texas has already executed 4 individuals in 2017, and Ohio is potentially set to execute 5 people between now and the end of the year. Gov. Kasich of Ohio even announced an astounding 27 new execution dates through 2021, despite Ohio's history with botched executions and wrongful convictions. In Ohio, 9 people have been exonerated from death row. Those same exonerees are now urging the Governor via petition to consider the consequences of potentially executing 27 people in the next few years. They know firsthand that the death penalty poses a great risk due to its irreversible nature.

Capital punishment is not going away just yet. Undoubtedly, there will be challenges to face in 2017 and the years to come. But it's becoming increasingly likely that remaining states will continue to drastically curtail or even eliminate their death penalty programs altogether. The evidence is clear. Wrongful convictions, botched executions, miscarriages of justice, and the death penalty's high costs have caused the public to lose their support for the death penalty. It's hopeful that states will respond to this growing sentiment by leaving the death penalty behind once and for all.

(source: Brian Bensimon, a government major at the University of Texas, is a Charles Koch Institute Communications Fellow with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a Project of EJUSA----The (Univ. Texas) Daily Texan)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida man asks US Supreme Court to halt planned execution

A Florida inmate convicted of killing 2 people decades ago has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt Thursday's scheduled execution.

Attorneys for Michael Lambrix filed the appeal Tuesday. Lambrix was convicted of killing Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant. Prosecutors said he killed the pair in 1983 outside his trailer near LaBelle, northeast of Fort Myers, after an evening of drinking.

Lambrix argued that the execution, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, should be halted after Florida's death penalty sentencing method was found to be unconstitutional. The state has since required a unanimous jury vote in death cases.

The jury was not unanimous in either of Lambrix's death sentence decisions, but Florida's Supreme Court has said the new rules do not apply to cases as old as his.

(source: Associated Press)


Vigil for Shropshire man's death row pen pal

A British pen pal of a convicted Florida killer on death row will be holding a vigil as he waits to hear if a last-ditch appeal has succeeded.

Mike Lambrix is due to be executed tonight by lethal injection after 33 years on death row.

Speaking to US media, Lambrix said recent changes to the law meant his death sentence was unconstitutional.

Jan Arriens, from Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, has been writing to Lambrix since 1991.

Mr Arriens said Lambrix currently has 3 appeals before the US Supreme Court, including one handwritten by the killer himself, running to 25 pages.

It is possible Lambrix won't find out if 1 of his appeals has been successful "until he's on the gurney waiting for the lethal injection to be applied," Mr Arriens said.

"We're having a vigil with a small number of people here in Bishop's Castle," he said.

"We'll be sitting here not knowing what's happened unless a stay comes through. If it goes ahead, we won't know until we get a text from a witness."

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, Lambrix murdered a couple he had invited to his trailer for dinner.

He was accused of attacking Clarence Moore Jr when they were alone outside the trailer, then calling Aleisha Bryant outside, where she was kicked in the head and strangled.

Mr Arriens said Lambrix claims he hit the man in self defence after finding Ms Bryant strangled.

But the Florida state's version was he killed both victims intentionally.

'Deliberate murder'

Under recent changes to the law in Florida, Mr Arriens said Lambrix would not have been sentenced to death because jurors did not vote unanimously for his execution.

Lambrix told US media: "It won't be an execution. It'll be a deliberate act of murder.

"Myself and everybody sentenced to death since 1974 who had anything less than a unanimous jury verdict were illegally and unconstitutionally sentenced to death."

Mr Arriens won't know if his pen pal has died until after Lambrix's scheduled execution at 23:00 BST (18:00 local time).

He added: "He knows the end could well come today."

(source: BBC News)


Push for stay of execution for Michael Lambrix

Michael Lambrix has maintained his innocence for 34 years, but he said he won't repeat the claim, out of respect for the victims' families, if it comes time for him to make a final statement at his execution.

Michael Lambrix is a Plant City high school dropout. He had run-ins with the law at an early age.

"Just stupid stuff. writing bad checks, and stealing a couple cars," Lambrix explained.

Lambrix was arrested after his girlfriend was stopped in Tampa driving the victim's car.

"A witness that the jury in my 1st trial found so un-credible that they couldn't reach any verdict," he said.

Florida's Catholic Bishops have sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott, asking him to stop the pending execution. It cites both constitutional and moral grounds.

Ingrid DelGado of the Florida Catholic Conference said, "Had Mr. Lambrix been sentenced after 2002, his case would be eligible for resentencing, but also Mr. Lambrix has indicated he was offered a plea deal, which had he accepted it, he would have already returned to society."

During an hour-long interview, Lambrix repeatedly professed his innocence.

"In fact, I'll be the only honorably discharged disabled veteran Governor Scott has ever killed," he said.

But the death row inmate says he will not repeat his claims of innocence if it comes to making a final statement at his execution.

Lambrix said, "The last thing I want to do is cause any more pain or suffering to the Bryant family."

Instead, Lambrix will say the Lord's Prayer

Lambrix said, "I have no doubt whatsoever that I'm going to wake up to a better existence."

Lambrix's family, including his mother, stepfather, sisters, and children are all at the prison. All are being counseled about grief in what could be the final hours of Michael Lambrix's life.

A spokesman for Governor Rick Scott said, "Signing death warrants is one of the governor's most solemn duties. The governor's top concern is always with the families of the victims of these horrible crimes."

(source: WJHG news)


Prosecutors seek death penalty for mother, daughter charged in toddler's beating death

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for an Orlando mother and daughter accused in the beating death of a toddler on July 7.

A grand jury in late August indicted Callene M. Barton, 58, and Lakesha Lewis, 29, on charges of 1st-degree murder, witness intimidation and child neglect.

The 2 are accused of beating 3-year-old Xavier Mokarzel-Satchel with a plastic wand from window blinds before Barton threw the boy against a wall. Xavier died hours later from blunt-force trauma to his head.

In court documents, prosecutors listed Xavier's young age and the fact that he was "particularly vulnerable" among the case's aggravating circumstances to justify seeking the death penalty if they are convicted.

Xavier was the son of Lewis's live-in girlfriend, Brandi Marie Mokarzel, 23, of Orlando.

Mokarzel previously testified that the abuse that led to her son's death began back months before. She said the women beat him with slippers, plastic spoons and the wand ultimately used in Xavier's death.

Xavier's fatal beating was a punishment for helping himself to yogurt and milk and making a mess, Mokarzel told investigators. Photos from the scene showed a milk jug on the kitchen floor with the cap off and little pieces of the plastic wand scattered around the living room.

As Xavier laid dying, Mokarzel said Lewis and Barton told her they would have her and Xavier hurt or killed if she told officers about the abuse.

Mokarzel is charged with child neglect.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Florida to seek death penalty against suspect in "killer clown" cold case

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a woman accused of dressing up like a clown in 1990 and fatally shooting the wife of her future husband.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement Wednesday saying he will seek the death penalty against 54-year-old Sheila Keen Warren, who was ordered held without bond at a court hearing.

She was extradited Tuesday from Abingdon, Virginia, where she lived with her husband Michael Warren for years.

Sheila Warren was arrested last month. Officials say Marlene Warren was shot in the face by a clown delivering carnations and balloons. Investigators say a new DNA testing gave them what they needed to make an arrest.

Attorney Richard Lubin said Sheila Warren "vehemently denies" the killing.

Detectives who were giving the case a fresh look in 2014 learned that in 2002, Keen Warren had married the victim's husband, Michael Warren. A cold case detective said several witnesses told police that Keen Warren -- then Sheila Keen -- and Michael Warren were having an affair. Both, however, have denied that they were romantically involved at the time of the 1990 murder.

Michael Warren was with his now wife when she was arrested in Virginia and was re-interviewed in the case, police say.

He has not been charged, but police refused to rule him out as a suspect.

Detectives vowed to "work diligently" to determine if anyone else was involved in the slaying.

(source: CBS News)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Divided court opens door for Alabama execution

In a brief order entered yesterday afternoon, the Supreme Court allowed the execution of an Alabama inmate to go forward. The state had asked the court to intervene after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit put the execution on hold; the ruling means that the execution of Jeffrey Borden can proceed as scheduled this evening.

Borden was sentenced to death for the murders of his estranged wife and her father on Christmas Eve 1993. He shot Cheryl Borden in the back of her head in front of their children; he then shot his father-in-law in the back as he attempted to run to safety. Borden's challenge to his execution has been a common one in death-penalty cases in recent years: He argues that the 3-drug protocol that the state plans to use to execute him violates the Constitution's bar on cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, he contends, the 1st drug in that protocol - midazolam - will sedate him but cannot guarantee that he will not feel excruciating pain from the drugs that follow.

A federal district court in Alabama dismissed his claims, but the 11th Circuit reversed and ordered the district court to order an evidentiary hearing. Last week the court of appeals put the execution on hold to give the lower court enough time to consider Borden's claims. That prompted Alabama to go to the Supreme Court on Monday, where it told the justices that "Alabama has already carried out 4 executions using this protocol. Any questions concerning 3-drug midazolam protocols have effectively been answered."

3 justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor - indicated that they would have denied the state's request, leaving Borden 2 justices short of the support that he needed to block his execution.



U.S. Supreme Court clears Thursday execution in Alabama

The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday cleared the way for Alabama's planned execution Thursday of inmate Jeffrey Lynn Borden for the Christmas Eve 1993 shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her father in Gardendale.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order granting the request of the Alabama Attorney General's Office to vacate the injunction blocking the execution that had been issued by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The Attorney General's Office had appealed the 11th Circuit's order to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

In the order from the U.S. Supreme Court 3 associate justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor - said they would have denied the Attorney General's request and kept the injunction blocking the execution in place.

The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

Borden has been on death row 22 years, and was convicted of the murders of Cheryl Borden and her father Roland Harris. The murders took place at a family gathering in Gardendale on Christmas Eve 1993.

On Tuesday morning attorneys for Borden filed a response to the Alabama Attorney General's Office motion saying the stay of execution should remain in place.



Inmate asks high court to keep execution on hold

An Alabama inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to keep his execution on hold.

Lawyers for 56-year-old Jeffery Lynn Borden on Tuesday asked justices to uphold the injunction currently blocking Borden's execution scheduled for Thursday.

Borden has challenged the humanness of Alabama's lethal injection procedure. His lawyers said the state is making a "macabre and cynical attempt" to end that legal challenge by executing him.

Alabama asked the high court to overturn an injunction issued last week by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state argued justices have allowed other executions to proceed using the same drug combination, and Borden's should go forward as well.

Borden was convicted of killing his estranged wife, Cheryl Borden, and her father, Roland Harris, during a 1993 Christmas Eve gathering.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)


Urgent Action


The State of Alabama has asked the US Supreme Court to lift a stay of execution granted to Jeffrey Borden, and to be allowed to execute him before midnight on 5 October. While the stay relates to a challenge to the state’s lethal injection protocol, Jeffrey Borden is said by his lawyers to have a severe mental disability and to be "actively psychotic".

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

* Call on the governor to stop this execution of Jeffrey Borden and to commute his death sentence;

* Note with deep concern the evidence of Jeffrey Borden's serious mental disability;

* Explain that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime or the suffering caused

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

Contact below official by 5 October, 2017:

Governor Kay Ivey

Alabama State Capitol, 600 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, Alabama 36130


Fax: +1 334 353 0004


(If you are not based in the US, please use Amnesty's New York office as your address:

5 Penn Plaza, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001)

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Former death row inmate John Thompson, who became advocate for the exonerated, dies at 55

John Thompson, a former death row inmate who narrowly escaped execution in 1999, then won his release from prison and a fleeting $14 million judgment against the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office over a shocking case of prosecutorial misconduct, died Tuesday at a local hospital.

The cause was a heart attack, said local prison reform advocate Norris Henderson, a friend who knew Thompson from their years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Thompson was 55.

After his release in 2003, Thompson became a national voice for victims of prosecutorial abuses. Locally, he founded Resurrection After Exoneration, a re-entry and support program for released inmates on St. Bernard Avenue.

"John was a good person. All he wanted to do with the rest of his life was kind of give back," Henderson said. "He traveled across the country, educating public defenders about the attorney-client relationship - how they have to listen to their clients. When you hear a bunch of stories about 'I didn't do it,' people get jaded."

Thompson's own prosecution involved hidden blood evidence in a carjacking case that former District Attorney Harry Connick's office used to help secure his conviction and death sentence in the high-profile murder of New Orleans hotel executive Ray Liuzza Jr.

Thompson was accused in both crimes, which took place a few months apart in 1984.

Connick's office tried him first in the carjacking. A jury convicted him, and a judge handed Thompson a 49-year prison sentence. Thompson then declined to take the witness stand in his murder trial, knowing the earlier conviction would come into play if he testified.

He'd spent 14 years on death row and was just 30 days from an execution date that appeared certain when an investigator discovered blood evidence from the carjacking victim's clothes that the state never revealed. It was the carjacker's blood, but it wasn't Thompson's.

A former prosecutor then revealed that Gerry Deegan, one of the prosecutors who tried Thompson, confessed on his death bed in 1994 that he intentionally hid the blood evidence.

Both convictions were thrown out, and Thompson was acquitted in a 2003 retrial for Liuzza's murder. Thompson testified in his own defense, along with new witnesses who contradicted the state's evidence. He was released that day and later won a federal jury verdict for $14 million in 2007.

But in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court dissolved that award, ruling in 2011 that a district attorney's office can't be held liable for a single violation of Brady v. Maryland, the 1963 decision that requires prosecutors to turn over all favorable evidence to the defense.

Thompson had failed to show there was a pattern of violations in Connick's office that would demonstrate "deliberate indifference" in failing to train prosecutors, the court found in an opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thompson wasn't shy afterward in accusing Connick's office of criminal acts, in his case and others.

"I don't care about the money. I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn't do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves," Thompson wrote in a 2011 editorial published in The New York Times. "There were no ethics charges against them, no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued."

Thompson was always clear that, while he was not a killer, he was no angel at the time of his arrest.

He was a hustler and small-time drug dealer when police fingered him in Liuzza's killing. He said he had sold a marijuana joint laced with PCP to a customer who paid him with the murder weapon and a ring that had belonged to Liuzza.

When Thompson first arrived on death row in 1987, he entered his assigned cell to find the belongings of Sterling Rault, who had just been executed - 1 of 8 executions that year in Louisiana, all by electric chair.

"My mind would light with images of me being strapped to the chair, the sound of electricity ringing in my head," Thompson wrote later.

At first, he was hot-headed and regularly disciplined by prison officials. Older prisoners such as Mwalimu Johnson and Robert King Wilkerson helped him break the pattern, Thompson said.

"When I got out of the hole, Mwalimu would say, 'When you gonna stop that? You can't win that war,'" Thompson said.

"You use that ink pen, use that pencil," Wilkerson told him, advising Thompson to fight the system in court.

Thompson lost his grandmother, who raised him, and his father while he sat on death row in the mid-1990s. His sons, Dedric and John Jr., were 6 and 4 when he was arrested. They grew up thinking he was a killer, and during visits to Angola, they spoke with their father through a steel-mesh window the size of a cereal box.

Thompson, though, was intent on maintaining contact.

"I remember one time, when he was talking with me on the phone, I had complained about the school shoes my mom had bought me. Not a week later, a brand-new pair of sneakers arrived at my house, from him," said Dedric West, who's now 38.

West also recalled a visit to Angola when Thompson was nearing 1 of his 6 execution dates.

"He asked me to promise him that I wasn't going to be angry with the system and then do something that he didn't approve of," he said. "He wanted to make sure that I didn't have any ill feelings toward society. And I understood that. So I promised him."

When a court assigned Thompson his last execution date, for May 1999, he sold his belongings to other prisoners to raise money for his family. Those inmates sent money orders to Carol Kolinchak, one of Thompson's lawyers, with directions.

"To the last, he wanted to do his best to support them," Kolinchak said. "That's what he was thinking about in those moments."

After his acquittal, Thompson got back in touch with a childhood friend, Laverne Thompson. They wed in June 2003 and moved into a Habitat for Humanity-built house in the St. Roch neighborhood.

Though he devoted himself to exposing prosecutorial corruption, Thompson maintained a sense of humor that revealed itself in easy laughter at the antics of his grandchildren. A gifted mimic, he often would parrot the voices of arrogant public officials.

Still, he said he continued to feel the effects of his time inside prison.

"I'm still struggling," he said often. "I'm still struggling every day."

Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, described Thompson as "an amazing force in the world" and a "national legend" who fought for justice as a New Orleanian, not only as a death row survivor.

"He was nearly murdered by the state, so Clarence Thomas taking away a jury verdict was nothing for John, except that it said in the halls of power your life still doesn't matter," Maw said hours after Thompson's death.

"He was always strong and thoughtful and defiant. I can't say it didn't affect him, that it wasn't gut-wrenching for him to be formally told that he did not matter enough ... that none of that mattered enough," she added.

"But he did what he always did with the dreadful injustices life threw at him over and over again: He decided to use it to fight for accountability and more justice for people who came after him."

Thompson is survived by his wife and 2 sons.

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)


John Thompson, Cleared After 14 Years on Death Row, Dies at 55

On May 20, 1999, the day before his younger son's high school graduation, John Thompson was scheduled to be electrocuted in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He had survived 6 other execution dates, but he was running out of miracles.

Early in 1985, when he was 22, Mr. Thompson had been arrested in New Orleans for a carjacking and for the separate murder of a local hotel executive.

By 1999, he had spent 14 years on death row at the notorious maximum-security prison farm known as Angola, named for the nation from which blacks who worked on a former plantation there had been abducted by slave traders.

Just 30 days before his scheduled execution, a private investigator hired by his lawyers stumbled upon a forgotten microfiche.

The film included images of a laboratory report that had been received by the district attorney 2 days before Mr. Thompson's trial was to begin. The report categorically undermined the prosecution's case, revealing that the blood type of whoever committed the carjacking did not match Mr. Thompson's.

Moreover, in a deathbed confession, a former assistant prosecutor admitted he had deliberately hidden the blood evidence from Mr. Thompson's trial lawyers.

After tests confirmed that Mr. Thompson's blood type and DNA did not match the perpetrator's, his robbery conviction was overturned. In 2002, the murder verdict was reversed. A year later, he was retried and acquitted after the jury deliberated for 35 minutes.

Mr. Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages by a Louisiana jury in 2007 - $1 million for every year he was isolated for 23 hours a day in a windowless cell, awaiting his execution.

But in 2011, an ideologically split United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Mr. Thompson was not entitled to damages after all.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented, said at least 5 prosecutors had been complicit in violating Mr. Thompson's constitutional rights because "they kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense."

But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Mr. Thompson had not demonstrated that the office of District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. (father of the singer) had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence, particularly from black defendants, or had not trained his assistants sufficiently.

"The role of a prosecutor," Justice Thomas wrote, "is to see that justice is done. By their own admission, the prosecutors who tried Thompson's armed robbery case failed to carry out this responsibility.

"But the only issue before us," he added, "is whether Connick, as the policy maker for the district attorney's office, was deliberately indifferent to the need to train the attorneys under his authority."

Mr. Thompson died of a heart attack on Tuesday in a New Orleans hospital, according to Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which helped represent him in his appeals. He was 55.

In the decade since he was exonerated, Mr. Thompson had married, become a churchgoer and established an organization called Resurrection After Exoneration to help and house former inmates in similar predicaments.

"I don't care about the money," he wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2011. "I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn't do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves.

"There were no ethics charges against them," he continued, "no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued."

Mr. Thompson was born in New Orleans on Sept. 6, 1962. By the time his mother, Josephine Thompson, gave birth, John's father, Charles Jackson, was serving a life sentence for murder.

Raised mostly by his grandparents in the Central City neighborhood, he dropped out of high school and fathered 2 sons by 2 different girlfriends while still a teenager.

On Jan. 17, 1985, the police kicked in the door of his grandmother's house while Mr. Thompson was there and as his girlfriend, mother and 2 sons - John Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 - huddled in terror.

The carjacking of a vehicle carrying young siblings had occurred a few weeks before, on Dec. 28, 1984. Mr. Thompson was charged with that crime and also, along with a co-defendant, Kevin Freeman, with murdering a local hotel executive, Ray Liuzza Jr., on Dec. 6. Mr. Freeman implicated Mr. Thompson.

"A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun," Mr. Thompson said of Mr. Freeman in the Op-Ed article. "It turned out that the ring belonged to the victim and the gun was the murder weapon.

"My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children," Mr. Thompson continued. "Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery 1st. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted based on the victims' identification.

"After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn't testify at the murder trial. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty."

After being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the carjacking that he insisted he did not commit, Mr. Thompson was convicted of murder and received the death penalty.

Less than 2 months after he was released in 2003, after a total of 18 years in prison, he married Laverne Jackson, with whom he had grown up and who attended church with his mother.

He is survived by his wife; his mother, Josephine Casey; two half-brothers, Jermaine and Charles Jackson; a half-sister, Shermaine Jackson; 5 stepchildren; and 12 grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.

At various points in his appeals and civil suit, Mr. Thompson was represented without fee by, among others, Michael L. Banks and J. Gordon Cooney Jr. of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia and Ms. Maw of the Innocence Project. She was assisted by Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project nationwide.

In a 2003 interview on the website, Mr. Banks said, "The initial linchpin to our success was proving that John was not responsible for an unrelated carjacking that effectively prevented him from testifying in his own defense during the murder trial."

Mr. Scheck said in a phone interview that initially "his lawyers didn't necessarily think he was innocent; they were just trying to save his life." But, he added, "the more they went into it, the whole thing unraveled."

Similar cases have continued to emerge in New Orleans as recently as this year, Mr. Scheck said.

In the Thompson case, after the blood test results pointed to Mr. Thompson's innocence, a former prosecutor, Michael Riehlmann, disclosed that several years earlier, an ailing junior assistant, Gerry Deegan, as he was nearing death, had confessed that he gone into an evidence room and removed the pants from which the bloodstains were taken in order to keep them from the defense.

Mr. Connick, the district attorney, did not seek re-election in 2003. His successor, Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., expressed relief when the Supreme Court reversed the civil award. With interest, it would have amounted to nearly $20 million - more than the annual budget of the prosecutor's office.

Mr. Thompson was stunned.

"If I'd spilled hot coffee on myself, I could have sued the person who served me the coffee," he said. "But I can't sue the prosecutors who nearly murdered me."

Ms. Maw, of the Innocence Project, recalled that Mr. Thompson had maintained his commitment to reforming the judicial system from the moment he was released.

"He was angry, and yet he had astounding strength from the moment he got out and a need to channel his anger to doing good in the world," she said in a phone interview. "And that is what he did until he died."

(source: New York Times)

OHIO----death sentence overturned

Ohio court overturns death sentence in bartender's death

The knife collection of a man accused of raping and killing a female bartender should not have been introduced into evidence at trial because the weapons weren't used in the slaying, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday as it overturned the conviction and death sentence of the accused.

The ruling sends the case of defendant Joseph Thomas back to northeastern Ohio's Lake County for a new trial.

Thomas, 33, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012 for the slaying of Annie McSween 2 years earlier.

Prosecutors say Thomas attacked the 49-year-old McSween by her car after she asked him to leave the bar where she worked.

Writing for the majority, Justice Terrence O'Donnell said the trial judge improperly allowed into evidence a knife collection belonging to Thomas but not involved in the killing. Allowing the 5 knives was misleading given the circumstantial case against Thomas, O'Donnell said.

"This evidence painted Thomas as someone with bad character and allowed the jury to convict him on the basis that he acted in conformity with it," O'Donnell said.

Justice Patrick Fischer, writing for the minority, noted that prosecutors argued Thomas was known to carry a blue knife, and that knife was missing from his collection. Fischer acknowledged it was a "close question" whether introducing that evidence was a mistake.

Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said Wednesday he'll ask the court to reconsider its decision.

The knife collection "was introduced because the defendant had a blue knife, people saw the defendant having a blue knife that night, when we go to his collection, the blue knife is missing," Coulson said. "So that's circumstantial evidence toward part of the crime."

The prosecutor has 30 days to file for reconsideration.

John Parker, Thomas' defense attorney, said he was happy with the ruling.

(source: The Republic)


Hearing to dismiss murder case urged for former Arkansas death row inmate

The attorney for former death row inmate Rickey Dale Newman has asked a judge for an Oct. 11 hearing to dismiss the 16-year-old murder case against her client.

Julie Brain of Philadelphia made the request Monday to Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell after special prosecutor Ron Fields wrote Cottrell that he would be prepared to file statements and motions in Newman's case by the end of next week.

Brain's letter to Cottrell said she expected the Arkansas Supreme Court to issue a mandate Oct. 10 on its ruling Sept. 21 rejecting Fields' appeal of Cottrell's order that barred Fields from using at Newman's first-degree murder trial confessions he made after his arrest in 2001.

Cottrell ruled the confessions were inadmissible because the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Newman was mentally incompetent at the time and could not knowingly waive his Miranda rights.

Also on Sept. 21 Cottrell wrote a letter to Fields instructing him to advise him within 10 days whether he planned to continue prosecuting the murder charge against Newman, given the state Supreme Court's ruling.

Fields responded Monday that he was preparing "written statements and motions" to file by Oct. 13 barring revisions to the opinion before the mandate is issued or other actions by the Arkansas attorney general's office, which handled the appeal.

Brain wrote to Cottrell that Fields' response ignored Cottrell's instructions and "is the latest in a long line of attempts by the state to delay the resolution of the case by any means necessary."

Newman, 60, was convicted of capital murder and condemned to death in a 1-day trial in June 2002 in the mutilation slaying of 46-year-old fellow transient Marie Cholette at a transient camp on the west end of Van Buren.

Brain told Cottrell in her letter Monday that the confessions were "the only meaningful evidence" against Newman. Brain had argued in earlier motions there was no other evidence linking Newman to Cholette's death.

The only evidence that put Newman and Cholette together was a surveillance video of the two at a Fort Smith liquor store on the last day Cholette was seen alive.

"It would be grossly unjust to require Mr. Newman to remain incarcerated for even one single day beyond the issuance of the mandate so that the state can file unspecified 'written statements and motions,'" she wrote.

In the state Supreme Court's 2014 opinion, the court threw out Newman's conviction and death sentence and ordered him back to circuit court in Crawford County to be restored to competence and retried.

Acting as his own attorney, Newman told jurors he killed Cholette and wanted the death penalty. He successfully waived his appeals and was scheduled to be executed July 26, 2005. Brain and another attorney persuaded Newman to seek a stay, which Newman agreed to four days before his execution date.

A federal judge granted the stay after evidence was presented questioning Newman's mental competence and he, through Brain, took up his appeals.



High Court upholds Gleason death penalty

The United States Supreme Court Monday rejected convicted killer Sidney Gleason's appeal of his death penalty sentence, Barton County Attorney Amy Mellor announced Tuesday afternoon.

Gleason, 38, was convicted in 2006 of capital murder in the 2004 deaths of Mikiala "Miki" Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Barton County. Mellor said was charged with capital murder for killing Martinez and Wornkey, the aggravating kidnapping of Martinez, attempted 1st-degree murder and aggravated robbery of a 3rd person, and criminal possession of a firearm.

Gleason was convicted in Barton County District Court on all counts except the attempted 1st-degree murder charge, Mellor said. The jury also determined that a sentence of death should be imposed.

However, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court approved the convictions but reversed Gleason's death sentence, finding error in the jury instructions. The Kansas Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in February of 2016 that court reversed the decision of the Kansas Supreme Court regarding the death sentence.

When the case was returned to the Kansas Supreme Court, the justices affirmed the death penalty and Gleason appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a brief, 1-line sentence, the United States Supreme Court denied Gleason's appeal of the death sentence. As is traditional, the 9 justices did not give a reason for their decision.

Mellor said Gleason's direct appeals are over but he will probably attempt to exhaust other avenues in the courts before an execution date is set.

According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Gleason remains incarcerated at Eldorado Correctional Facility.

An accomplice in the killings, Damien Thompson, agreed to plead guilty to the 1st-degree murder of Martinez and testify against Gleason in exchange for a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

(source: Great Bend Tribune)


My Voice: Executions of intellectually disabled continue

In the United States, it's believed those with intellectual abilities far below average aren't executed. In 2002, the Atkins v. Virginia decision, ruled it unconstitutional to carry out death sentences against the intellectually disabled. However, the practice continues, revealing a pattern characterizing many cases in the justice system.

How can an unconstitutional practice continue? Just as it happened in a pivotal case in 1986, by treating a psychologist's evaluation of the prisoner as though it were free from bias, totally objective, when that was simply not the case. In that instance, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which heard the final appeal to reverse the death sentence of Jerome Bowden, the Board ignored the perfectly valid intelligence test showing Bowden at age 14 to had an I.Q. of only 59. They brought in a psychologist of their choice, Dr. Irwin Knopf, had him evaluate the I.Q. of Bowden, who was poor, African American, and a gentle soul with no history of violence.

The board heard Knopf's report in closed session, after which the board's chair and other members spoke freely to the press about what Knopf had said, which amounted to the claim that Bowden's I.Q. was not low enough to warrant removing his death sentence. Their comments revealed serious problems with Knopf's conclusion. Bowden's attorneys immediately asked for a copy of the evaluation results, the Board said they would put them in the mail, and the lawyers replied that Bowden would be dead by the time they received them. Indeed, Bowden was killed the next morning, even before his beloved sisters had been notified. They heard about it from strangers.

There are at least 2 major limitations of the Atkins decision. The Bowden case reflects that administering and scoring of I.Q. tests is far from objective. Rules about how many correct answers yield a particular I.Q. score are based on tests of thousands of people throughout, but those have not included inmates of maximum security prisons where they eat terrible food, rarely see the sun, and have every reason to believe they will die there. To assign an inmate a number representing their intelligence with formulae derived from people in vastly different circumstances makes neither scientific nor moral sense.

The scoring booklet specifies which answers warrant 2 points, which only one, and which zero; but giving an I.Q. test requires judgment calls about responses that fail to fall clearly into any point-category. And instruction booklets prescribe test administration using specific words in a standardized way, but variations in a psychologist's voice, facial expressions, or tension can enhance or impede the prisoner's performance.

A psychologist's feelings about the death penalty can introduce distortions, as can whether the psychologist is an advocate or opponent of the death penalty, is racist or not (people condemned to death come disproportionately from racialized groups), is biased against poor people (the condemned are likely to be poor), is skilled at test procedure and interpretation, and likes or dislikes the prisoner. Psychologists favoring the death penalty can conceivably be so warm, supportive, and patient when administering the test and generous in their scoring that prisoners' scores will be overestimates of their pre-prison functioning, when few on death row had people treat them that way. Psychologists opposed to the death penalty might make prisoners uncomfortable to ensure they score low, but those whose reports always read, "The prisoner's I.Q. is below 70" won't keep their jobs for long and could lose their licenses.

Another life-or-death limitation of the Atkins decision is that different states set different criteria for classifying people "intellectually disabled," so there is a significant lack of equal protection under the law. A condemned person with a 67 I.Q. score qualifies for execution in a state with a cutoff point of 65 but not in a state with a cutoff of 70. For other criteria that may be taken into account - such as areas of difficulty in "adaptive functioning" - the room for subjective conclusions is even greater. Furthermore, many factors can lead to an individual's scoring 73, whereas taking the same test one day later or while hungry, they might have scored 68.

Few, if any, judges enjoy making life-altering decisions - whether in capital cases or child custody disputes in which young people's emotional, physical, and sexual welfare can be jeopardized by the biases of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers who do the "psych evals." What is alarming is the increasing trend for judges, traditionally and rightly skeptical people, to transfer the weighty burdens of making decisions from their own shoulders onto to those of mental health researchers and practitioners, whom they mistakenly treat as objective individuals who use behavioral sciences and psychological assessment to arrive at the Truth.

(source: Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., a clinical and research psychologist, expert on psychological assessment and methodology, author of 11 nonfiction books, winner of 3 top awards for nonfiction writing, and filmmaker, is an associate at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University. She is a keynote speaker for this Saturday's conference, sponsored by South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penlaty, about the death penalty and mental illness, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Room 120, Salisbury Science Building, University of Sioux Falls----Argus Leader)


Jury calls for death in slayings of 5 at Long Beach homeless encampment

A Los Angeles County jury has called for the death penalty for a gang member who was convicted last month of the 2008 murder of 5 people at a Long Beach homeless encampment.

The jury deliberated for about 2 hours before deciding late Monday that David Cruz Ponce, 37, should be sentenced to death, Deputy Dist. Atty. Cynthia Barnes said.

Ponce was scheduled to return to court on Nov. 27 for sentencing.

Ponce and co-defendant Max Eliseo Rafael, 31, were found guilty in September of 5 counts of murder and 1 count of kidnapping. The jury also found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a kidnapping and murder by an active member of a criminal street gang.

The Long Beach Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff's departments pieced the case together in a 3-year investigation.

In November 2008, police say, the 2 gang members were looking for a man who apparently owed them money for drugs. They located him in the encampment near the intersection of the 405 and 710 freeways and opened fire, killing him.

The gunmen then turned to 2 men and 2 women at the encampment, authorities say, killing them because they saw the 1st slaying.

They "were executed ... to ensure there were no witnesses to the crimes," Long Beach Police Lt. Lloyd Cox said.

The victims were Vanessa Malaepule, 34; her boyfriend Lorenzo Perez Villacana, 44; Katherine Verdun, 24; Hamid "Sammy" Shraifat, 41; and Frederick Neumeier, 53.

The 2 defendants talked about the murders in jailhouse conversations that were recorded, the prosecutor said.

Ponce also was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Tony Bledsoe on March 23, 2009.

Rafael faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Death penalty still debatable

The state of Washington proposed to eliminate the death penalty this past year. Politicians did not move forward on the issue, apparently not sensing a clear mandate from their constituents. In this case, it means that criminal proceedings continue as part of a deeply flawed system that does not insure justice.

The death penalty is a long and expensive process and can involve many factors and outright mistakes when determining guilt and decision to execute. Race of the victim or the accused, social economic status of the victim, news media surrounding the crime, poor police work, an inexperienced defense lawyer, aggressive prosecutors determined to get a guilty verdict, a case of mistaken identification by the witness, inadequate jury instruction and information, even the appearance of the defendant can be an influence.

These considerations make guilt uncertain and innocent people are wrongly executed. To avoid this injustice, many of us favor a system of life imprisonment and restorative justice program. The idea that killing someone will somehow satisfy a need for justice and retribution has to be examined. Let's encourage our politicians to abolish a dangerously imperfect way of dealing with capital crimes.

(source: Bob Delastrada; Letter to the Editor, The Olympain)


Suspect in kidnapping of U. of I. scholar from China facing potential death penalty

Former University of Illinois graduate student Brendt Christensen could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted on new charges filed Tuesday alleging he kidnapped and killed a visiting scholar from China in June.

Christensen, 28, of Champaign, was charged in a superseding indictment with 1 count of kidnapping resulting in a death stemming from the disappearance of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, whose body has not been found.

The federal grand jury returned the 4-page indictment with the special finding that Christensen committed the offense "in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner, in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim," and that the crime occurred after "substantial planning and premeditation."

The indictment also charged Christensen with two new counts of making false statements to FBI agents.

Christensen could face the death penalty if convicted on the new kidnapping charge, although the decision whether to seek it will be made at a later date by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Urbana. If the death penalty is not sought, a conviction on the kidnapping count would call for mandatory life without parole.

Christensen, who is being held without bond, is tentatively set to go to trial Feb. 27 before U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce. Reached by telephone Tuesday, his lawyer, Robert Tucker, said he had not seen the superseding indictment and had no comment.

The new charges were the latest twist to a case that rattled the University of Illinois campus and sent shock waves throughout China.

Prosecutors allege Zhang, who began her research appointment in April was on her way to sign a lease at an apartment building the afternoon of June 9 and unsuccessfully tried to flag down a bus before walking to another stop. Shortly after, federal authorities allege that Christensen approached Zhang in his car and lured her inside.

Surveillance video from a nearby parking garage captured the exchange in which Zhang could be seen speaking to the driver for several moments before getting into the front passenger seat. One of Zhang's professors reported her missing by that evening, after several calls and texts went unanswered.

The investigation homed in on Christensen after police concluded his Saturn Astra was the car seen in the footage. He initially told the FBI he was home all day playing video games on the day Zhang disappeared. When he was questioned a 2nd time 3 days later, Christensen changed his story, telling agents he was driving on campus, came across an Asian woman looking distressed and offered her a ride because she said she was late to an appointment.

Christensen said the woman panicked after he made a wrong turn, and he let her out of his car a few blocks from where they met. Meanwhile, police also searched his car and determined that the area where Zhang would have been sitting had been cleaned in a way to conceal evidence, FBI agents alleged in court documents.

Police also searched his phone and found visits to a sadomasochism fetish website with discussion threads on kidnapping fantasies.

The FBI also conducted audio surveillance on Christensen for several days, including when he attended a campus walk and vigil in Zhang's honor on June 29. There, Christensen was caught on tape pointing out people in the crowd and describing his "ideal victim."

Other surveillance tapes recorded Christensen allegedly admitting to having kidnapped Zhang, and describing how she fought back as he held her against her will, prosecutors said.

Police and prosecutors have not revealed the source of the recordings.

(source: Chicago Tribune)


Denouncing United States Vote Against Death Penalty Ban at the United Nations

On Friday, September 29, the Human Rights Council voted in favor of a resolution which condemned the "imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."

The Independent reported that the resolution, proposed by Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland, denounced the use of the death penalty against persons with "mental or intellectual disabilities, persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, and pregnant women," expressing "serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women."

The United States cast its support behind 2 amendments proposed by Russia which both ultimately failed, but claimed that the death penalty was "not necessarily 'a human rights violation' and that it is not a form of torture, but can lead to it 'in some cases.'"

Despite this opposition from the United States, 27 members of the 47 in the Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution, and it passed.

There are currently 6 countries where the death penalty is used for people in same-sex relationships: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. This number rises to 8 if the ISIS-occupied territories of Iraq and Syria are included.

A spokesperson for the State Department, Heather Nauert, told The Independent: "The headlines, reporting and press releases on this issue are misleading. As our representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva said on Friday, the United States is disappointed to have to vote against this resolution. We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully, as the United States does. The United States voted against this resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances and calling for its abolition. The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalisation and certainly not crimes for which the death penalty would be lawfully available as a matter of international law."

The 13 states to oppose the resolution were Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office's analysis of this vote is that it is deplorable that the United States again voted against friends and allies who favor the strengthening of global human rights laws, and with some of the world's worst human rights violators. US actions in supporting Russian failed amendments to state that the death penalty is not necessarily a human rights violation or a form of torture, again, puts the United States on the wrong side of the divide which separates those nations working for human rights and those working against them.

The ban clearly protects "specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations." Even the State Department's statement that it is "disappointed to have to vote against this resolution," does not absolve the US for not working to protect these "specific forms of conduct." It is true that the U.S. vote in Geneva is consistent with past U.S. votes on the issue of abolishing the death penalty. Prior administrations have voted in similar ways against the growing United Nations consensus that the death penalty should be abolished. Despite U.S. Government views to the contrary, the UU-UNO feels that the September 29 resolution was not a global condemnation of the death penalty, but restricted to "imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."

As the United States does not impose the death penalty for such forms of conduct as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, consensual same-sex relations, it should have been able to vote in favor of the resolution. The fact that the United States joined human rights violators to vote against this important resolution is, in our view, deplorable.

(source: Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations


Nikki Haley says U.S. did not vote for gay death penalty

After siding with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Botswana and Qatar, Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is denying that the U.S. voted in favor of the death penalty for gay people.

The United Nations' Human Rights Council voted 27-13 last week to condemn capital punishment in a variety of cases including against those in same sex relationships, though the U.S. was not in a majority.

While 7 countries also abstained from the vote, Haley's delegation voted against the measure along with other death penalty countries such as China.

Beyond condemning the state killing of LGBTQ people, the resolution also stood against the execution of those who were children at the time of the crime and called for study about racial bias in the death penalty, a frequent criticism of capital punishment in the U.S.

The vote gained renewed attention Tuesday after the Human Rights Campaign said that the Trump administration had shown a "blatant disregard" for the lives of gay people around the world.

"Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships," the organization's Ty Cobb said.

Susan Rice, ambassador to the UN under Barack Obama, said "shame on US!" in reaction to the vote.

"I was proud to lead U.S. efforts at UN to protect LGBTQ people, back in the day when America stood for human rights for all," she said.

The resolution was hailed as an international effort to protect LGBTQ people from persecution. Above, a gay pride demonstrator in Mexico City.

Haley later took issue with her critics on Twitter, saying "Fact: There was NO vote by USUN that supported the death penalty for gay people. We have always fought for justice for the LGBT community."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert had told reporters earlier in the day saying that the U.S. condemns executions for and the criminalization of homosexuality, and that suggestions to the contrary are "misleading."


OCTOBER 4, 2017:


Texas Man's Death Sentence Thrown Out Over Racist Testimony

Duane E. Buck barged into his girlfriend's Texas home after she broke up with him and killed her and a friend. Later that morning in July 1995, he fired a rifle at his stepsister, who survived because the bullet just missed her heart.

His guilt was never in doubt, and Mr. Buck, 54, who is black, was sentenced to death by lethal injection. But concerns about testimony from a psychologist in the sentencing phase - that black people were more dangerous than white people - raised concerns about the role of race in the jury's decision and led the case to reach the Supreme Court.

In February, the Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing trial for Mr. Buck, calling the psychologist's testimony racist. In a Houston courtroom on Tuesday, Mr. Buck pleaded guilty to 2 counts of attempted murder, including the shooting of his stepsister, in a deal that exchanged the death penalty for a life sentence plus 2 60-year terms.

"This case can accomplish something," said Kim Ogg, the Harris County district attorney. "It can close a chapter in the history of our courts, in that they will never again hear that race is relevant to criminal justice or to the determination of whether a man will live or die. Race is not and never has been evidence."

After Mr. Buck's conviction in 1997, his lawyer called Walter Quijano, a former chief psychologist for the state prison system, to the stand during the sentencing phase. Mr. Quijano, who had evaluated Mr. Buck, testified that race could be a factor in predicting whether a person posed a future danger to society.

A prosecutor asked Mr. Quijano, "The race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons - is that correct?"

"Yes," the psychologist replied.

The psychologist's answers became the basis of an appeal claiming that Mr. Buck had not been properly represented by his lawyer.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the Supreme Court's majority in a 6-to-2 ruling, said Mr. Quijano's testimony "appealed to a powerful racial stereotype - that of black men as 'violence prone.'"

Mr. Buck will be moved from death row in Texas, where more than 230 inmates await lethal injection, and he will be eligible for parole in 2035. Ms. Ogg said her office would work to ensure he is never granted release.

Over the years, Mr. Buck had an unusual advocate in his stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, who had forgiven him and had argued for his release from death row. Ms. Taylor said in a statement on Tuesday she was thankful that Ms. Ogg had reached a deal to avoid another sentencing trial.

"The thought of going through another trial was just too much to bear," Ms. Taylor said.

(source: New York Times)


New charges filed on death row inmate Duane Buck

Duane Buck, whose 1997 death penalty case went to the U.S. Supreme Court and was sent back to Harris County for a retrial because of concerns about racially-biased testimony, is expected in court Tuesday on new charges.

2 additional charges of attempted murder were filed last week by the Harris County District Attorney's Office in connection with the 1995 shooting rampage that landed Buck on death row.

Buck, 53, was sentenced to death for the slaying of his girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler, after Buck and Gardner had an argument. He returned to her home after a night of drugs and alcohol in July 1995, broke in and started shooting, witnesses said.

In the new charge, he is accused of attempting to kill his sister, Phyllis Taylor, who was shot and survived. The 2nd new charge alleges that he attempted to kill Harold Ebenezer, who was also at the home when Buck returned and started shooting.

He is expected in court Tuesday, where he will be arraigned by state District Judge Denise Collins on the new charges.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this granted Buck a new sentencing hearing because of testimony from an expert who testified that he was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black.

The hearing means he could be re-sentenced to death or life in prison.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


'The Exonerated': A Play At UVM Presents Stories From Death Row

The Exonerated tells the story of 6 death row inmates who were wrongfully convicted and later had their convictions overturned and were released. We're talking to the director and an actor from a new production of the play at the University of Vermont. We'll discuss the play itself and the big issues it explores around incarceration and the justice system.

We're joined by Gregory Ramos, chair of UVM's theater department and director of the production. And by Randall Harp, who plays the character of Robert Earl Hayes and is also a UVM philosophy professor.

The Exonerated will run at UVM beginning Wednesday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 8.


FLORIDA----impending execution

2 days before execution date, death row inmate speaks out----Convicted killer Michael Lambrix of Plant City is set to die Thursday

2 days before his scheduled execution, Michael Lambrix decided he won't go quietly.

For an hour at Florida State Prison Tuesday, the convicted murderer talked about life and death, his last meal and upcoming funeral, and criticized a court system that he has long insisted would not consider evidence that would spare his life in the killings of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983.

"It won't be an execution," Lambrix told reporters. "It's going to be an act of cold-blooded murder."

Lambrix, 57, who dropped out of school in Plant City, said he killed Moore in self-defense after Moore killed Bryant during a long night of drinking near LaBelle. He was convicted largely on the testimony of a friend, Frances Smith, who was with him that night. They borrowed a neighbor's shovel and he buried both victims.

Lambrix had walked away from a prison work release program and said he didn't report the killings to police because he knew he faced a long sentence for his escape.

His 1st trial ended in a hung jury, and he was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder at a retrial in 2 divided jury recommendations (8-4 and 10-2) that are now unconstitutional. Smith subsequently said she had an affair during the trial with an investigator for the state attorney's office.

Lambrix has been on death row for nearly 34 years. The governor who signed his first death warrant, Bob Martinez, left office in 1991.

Prison rules allow for a condemned inmate to hold a press conference or group interview before an execution, but most do not.

Lambrix was in handcuffs and leg irons, and a corrections officer loosened the metal chain around his waist and fitted him with a microphone. He sat at a wooden table that featured the Florida Department of Corrections' motto: "Inspiring success by transforming one life at a time."

Lambrix went on a hunger strike last month to protest his death sentence, but ended it after 12 days. He said his final meal will be a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner, which is what his mother promised to cook if he was exonerated.

As Thursday's scheduled execution by lethal injection draws closer, Lambrix and his lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Attorney William Hennis of Fort Lauderdale said he filed a motion with the court Tuesday and Lambrix, a prolific writer, sent a 25-page handwritten request to the nation's highest court from his cell.

Lambrix's case has wound through state and federal courts for more than 3 decades. Gov. Rick Scott signed Lambrix's death warrant on Nov. 30, 2015, but the state Supreme Court postponed his execution after the groundbreaking decision known as Hurst v. Florida in January 2016.

The state court decided that Hurst did not apply to Lambrix's case because he was originally sentenced before 2002, under a policy that death penalty lawyers have described as "partial retroactivity." Various other legal challenges were dismissed on procedural grounds.

"We have a process that's more about the politics of death than the administration of justice," Lambrix said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has repeatedly and successfully argued that Lambrix should be executed.

At various points Tuesday, a rambling Lambrix voiced regret at not giving police a statement when he was first arrested in 1983, and for not later accepting a deal offered by prosecutors of a sentence of up to 24 years if he pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder.

Had he accepted that offer, Lambrix would have been released from prison more than a decade ago.

The state released a list of 43 relatives and friends who are visiting Lambrix at the sprawling state prison in Starke, including his parents, 3 children, close friends and pen pals. The state's Catholic bishops have called on Scott to stop the execution, and prayer vigils are scheduled around the state this week.

Lambrix, who smiled and made small talk with the officers guarding him, said he's "spiritual" but not religious. As he faces death, he said Tuesday: "I have no doubt whatsoever that I'm going to wake up into a better existence."

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama seeks to proceed with execution of death row inmate Jeffery Borden

Alabama on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it proceed with an execution of a man convicted of killing his estranged wife and father-in-law in 1993.

The Alabama attorney general asked the nation's high court to overturn an injunction blocking Thursday's execution of Jeffery Lynn Borden, 56.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday stayed Borden's execution through Oct. 19. Borden is challenging the humaneness of Alabama's 3-drug lethal injection combination that begins with the use of the sedative midazolam. The 3-judge panel ruled that there should be time to let Borden's challenge play out in court.

"We recently held that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Alabama's current method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and remanded for further proceedings," the panel wrote.

State lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed several executions to proceed using the same drug protocol, and that Borden "presents nothing new that would justify a stay."

"Alabama has already carried out 4 executions using this protocol," lawyers for the state wrote in the Monday court filing. "Any questions concerning 3-drug midazolam protocols have effectively been answered."

Borden was convicted of killing his wife, Cheryl Borden, and her father, Roland Harris, during a Christmas Eve gathering in Jefferson County in 1993.

The state attorney general's office wrote that trial testimony showed Borden, who was separated from his wife, brought their 3 children to the gathering at Harris' house after a weeklong visit. As his estranged wife was helping to move the children's belongings, Jeffrey Borden shot her in the back of the head in front of their kids, state attorneys said.

An attorney for Borden said previously that the Alabama inmate is mentally ill after a head injury and had a diminished ability to control himself or understand the full implications of his actions.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty possible for man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend

A man has been indicted on several counts of aggravated murder in the case of a pregnant woman found dead in Goshen Township.

Natasha Wilson and her unborn child were found dead in Wilson's home the morning of Aug. 30.

Steven Todd Mages has been indicted on a slew of charges in the case, including 3 counts of aggravated murder, all of which include the death penalty specification. Other charges include attempted murder, 2 counts of kidnapping, domestic violence, and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Mages' bond was set at $3 million.

(source: Fox News)


Man prosecutors say killed Southport police officer appears in court on death penalty motion

The man accused in the shooting death of Southport Police Officer Lt. Aaron Allan is waiting to learn if his own life will be in the balance.

Marion County Sheriff's deputies escorted Jason Brown to court for a hearing Monday morning on the prosecutor's request for the death penalty. Brown kept his head down as the deputies escorted him to court.

Superior Criminal Court Judge Sheila Carlisle heard the formal motion filed by prosecutors asking for a death penalty trial. If granted, the death penalty trial would happen if Brown is found guilty during his murder trial. A jury would have the responsibility of deciding if he should receive a death sentence.

Monday morning's hearing lasted only a few minutes.

"The judge just pretty much advised him of the filing that the state made, read it to him. He already knew about it and that was pretty much it," said Brown's attorney Denise Turner said.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced last week he would seek a capital punishment. Curry believes there are enough aggravating circumstances to warrant the death penalty.

Court documents filed by Curry's office say when Lt. Allan tried to rescue Brown from his overturned car, Brown opened fire on the Southport officer.

Brown's family attended the hearing, seeing him for the 1st time since the shooting.

"I am trying to get my client and his family through it," said Turner.

After the hearing, the judge ordered Brown returned immediately to the Department of Correction for safety reasons.

Eyewitness News asked his attorney why Brown remained so subdued in court.

"That's a tough question. That's hard to describe. He has never been in any kind of trouble before," Turner said.

Turner also expressed sympathy for the Allan family in the wake of his death as a police officer and public servant. She is working to put together a defense team to help her defend Brown.

(source: WTHR news)


Former death row inmate advocates in Carter County

Former death row inmate Ray Krone was in Carter County recently to talk about being sentenced to death in Arizona for a crime he didn't commit. Krone was later cleared by DNA evidence. Submitted photo.

On a recent night at the Carter County Public Library, Ray Krone told his story of being convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit in the state of Arizona.

Krone, who spent 10 years in prison for murder, was spared the death penalty when DNA testing exonerated him. After 3 years on death row, innocence proven, Krone endeavored to take his story to the forefront of the fight to abolish the death penalty. Partnering with anti-death penalty advocate Sister Jean Prejean in 2003, the Witness to Innocence organization was founded.

The organization is led by innocent death row survivors, and their loved ones, to bring an anti-death penalty message to the forefront of society and politics.

There was a meet and greet prior to Krone sharing his story with the guests.

"We should have a sense of protection, and safety and security in our country when we didn't do anything wrong," Krone stated. "They took me downtown in an interrogation room for 3 hours and grilled me," he added.

Krone was a patron at the bar where the murder victim in question was employed. Krone went after work with his teammates to the bar to practice throwing darts. The murder victim also played darts with Krone and his friends, but was never romantically involved. However, a co-worker said the victim was dating Krone.

This led police to Krone's home for questioning. Within a very short time, Krone had hair and blood samples taken for testing.

"They said you're under arrest for murder," Krone said, describing the day of his arrest. This began his 10-year quest to prove his innocence. Krone credits the advances in DNA testing and technology for saving his life.

After further testing, the DNA evidence on the clothing of the victim matched the DNA of another person within the database. This proved his innocence, which he had maintained throughout his entire travail.

Krone previously supported the death penalty before the circumstances that led to his harrowing story. The experience has caused him to shift his focus towards a movement that he hopes will bring about the abolishment of the death penalty. Krone was the 100th person exonerated from the death penalty since its reinstatement. Krone, and Witness to Innocence, are touring Kentucky to bring their message to the people of the Bluegrass State. The event was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence. A book is being written about Krone, entitled "Jingle Jangle," authored by Jim Rix. For more information about Krone and Witness to Innocence, visit

(source: Daily Independent)


Jury calls


Federal Death Penalty Trial Starts For Ailing Inmate In Springfield

A death penalty trial has started for an ailing man charged with an attack at a federal prison hospital in Missouri that killed one fellow inmate and injured another.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that 61-year-old Ulysses Jones Jr. went on trial last week on charges of using a makeshift knife to kill 38-year-old Timothy Baker as he slept in 2006 at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield. Court records say the other inmate survived.

Defense attorney Thomas Carver says Jones is slowly dying of end-stage renal disease. Jones already is serving a life sentence for 2 robberies and murders in 1979 and 1980 in Washington, D.C.

Baker, who is from Ohio, had served about 1/2 of his 6-year sentence for a cocaine-related conviction when he was killed.

(source: Associated Press)


South Korean student once lined up for death penalty now acquitted after cop lied

A South Korean student, once in line for an automatic death sentence for drug trafficking, has seen a reversal in fortunes after he was acquitted today. The ruling occurred after the suspect’s defense team was able to prove that the police officer had lied several times while under oath.

Kim Yun Soung was subsequently freed by Seremban Judge Abu Bakar Jais, after being held in remand for nearly a year.

Kim had been charged with trafficking 219 grams of cannabis from an apartment in Bandar Baru NIlai, an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur, last October 19.

Earlier, the prosecution had asked Judge Abu Bakar for a discharge, making the case a contender for re-opening at a later date.

However, Kim's attorney, Gobind Singh Deo, successfully argued that after a year in lock-up, his client should not have the charge looming over his head.

Deo had proved that the police officer who led the raid was no longer a credible witness, after having been caught red-handed in contempt of court lying about who was present at the time of the arrest. When challenged with a potential charge after CCTV footage contradicted his version of events, the inspector buckled under pressure and admitted to lying.

Video clearly showed that another individual had been handcuffed - though never arrested - despite the fact that throughout the trial, the police officer had maintained only Kim had been handcuffed.

Lessons learned all-round! Don't sell drugs out of your apartment, and also, don't lie under oath.




Ali, Dawood and Abdullah are facing imminent execution. They were arrested after allegedly participating in pro-democracy protests and sentenced to death. They were all children at the time. They were all tortured into 'confessions' and convicted in secret trials.

Executioners Wanted: 5 alarming facts about executions in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been 1 of the 5 top executing countries in the world for more than a decade. So far this year, the Saudi authorities have put 100 people to death. Last year they killed 154 people. The year before that, 157 people.

Here are 5 incredible facts about one of the world's most prolific executors:

1. In 2015 Saudi Arabia advertised for 8 new executioners to cope with the rise in executions.

The advert specified no special qualifications and described the main role as "executing a judgment of death". Performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences was also part of the role. That year, the authorities executed 157 people.

2. Saudi Arabia's main method of execution is beheading with a sword.

Some reports suggest that executions can be carried out by 'crucifixion', which involves beheading and public display of the body on a cross.

3. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is regularly imposed for offences including attendance at political protests.

The Kingdom retains the death penalty for non-lethal 'crimes' like adultery, drug offences and sorcery. In 2015, a Palestinian poet was sentenced to death for apostasy for publishing a book of poetry.

Ali al-Nimr, just 17 when sentenced to death by beheading. He was accused of participation in an illegal demonstration and other offences such as "explaining how to give first aid to protesters"

4. Executions are either carried out in complete secrecy or in public.

One of the locations in Riyadh for executions is known locally as 'Chop-Chop Square'.

5. In January 2016, the Saudi authorities carried out a mass execution.

The Saudi authorities killed 47 people in just one day. Among them were at least 4 juveniles, including Ali al-Ribh, who was arrested at his school, tortured into a false 'confession' to protest-related charges, and beheaded. His body was never returned to his family for burial.



'5 people put to death per week': Saudi Arabia carries out 100th execution this year----Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

A Saudi was executed in Riyadh on Monday bringing the number of people put to death in the kingdom so far this year to 100.

The man was sentenced to death for murdering another Saudi man and an appeals court upheld the ruling, the official SPA news agency reported, without elaborating.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International condemned what it called Saudi Arabia's "execution spree".

"Since July 2017, the Saudi Arabian government has been on an execution spree with an average of 5 people put to death per week. This sets the country firmly on track to remain one of the most prolific executioners on the planet," said Lynn Maalouf, director of research for Amnesty in the Middle East.

"If the Saudi authorities are truly intent on making reforms, they must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely."

40 % of the executions carried out so far this year were related to drug-related offences, which do not fall into the category of "most serious crimes". The use of the death penalty for such offences violates international human rights law, Amnesty added.

Death penalty as a tool

At least 33 members of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslim community currently face the death penalty, the rights group reported. Among them are Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawood al-Marhoon who were arrested for alleged offences committed when they were under 18 and who said that they were tortured in order to make them "confess". They were accused of activities deemed a risk to national security.

On 11 July, Yusuf al-Mushaikhass, along with 3 other Shia men, were executed in the country's eastern province of Qatif for terror-related offences in connection with their participation in anti-government protests between 2011 and 2012. Amnesty says Mushaikhass was convicted following a grossly unfair trial which hinged largely on a "confession" obtained through torture.

"Saudi authorities have been using the death penalty as a tool to crush dissent and rein in minorities with callous disregard for human life. They should immediately quash these sentences and ensure that all trials meet international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty," Maalouf added.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution with more than 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2016. Suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty.



Woman gets death penalty for killing stepdaughter

A Dhaka court has sentenced a woman to death for killing her 6-year-old stepdaughter in the capital's Jatrabari area in 2014.

The convict, Sumaya Islam Sharmin, 30, was present at the court when Judge Shamim Ahmed of Dhaka Special Judge’s Court 8 delivered the verdict on Tuesday.

The court also fined her Tk1 lakh. 9 witnesses testified in the case during the trial.

According to the case, the victim, Maymuna Akhter, used to live with her father Razzak Hawlader, his 2nd wife Sumaya and their 2 children in Dhalpur, Jatrabari.

On October 10, 2014, Maymuna's body was recovered from a bathroom in their residence.

Her father Razzak, a storekeeper at Dhaka Wasa, was visiting their village home in Madaripur when the incident took place.

When he learnt of his daughter's untimely death, Razzak filed a case with Jatrabari police station accusing Sumaya of killing her.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


China votes against UN resolution to condemn death penalty for gays and lesbians

In 2005, Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were publicly hanged after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old boy. Critics of the decision have said that the 2 were executed for consensual homosexual sex.

On September 29th, China joined 12 oth