and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

APRIL 27, 2015:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Response to 'S.C. and the Death Penalty'

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Robert Scott's last narrative on the death penalty was timely. This nation is undergoing a radical change in its national culture. In spite of Biblical teachings and laws that we say are based on its teachings, human emotions lead us to execute/kill in the name of vengeance. Professions that laws are grounded in the Bible is simply to give the appearance of following God's Word because appearance is everything! Quite frankly, as I see how Christianity is played out in our nation, I see very little following of the intent of God's Word.

Mr. Scott is right. The death penalty has played no role in deterring those who themselves kill. If it worked, then killing would be all but absent. That individuals kill in spite of the death penalty proves that state-sanctioned killing is nothing more than a retaliatory measure because the person being executed certainly doesn't learn a lesson. He/she's dead! The only word that comes to mind is hypocrisy. God never delineated between government and individuals when he declared, "Thou shall not kill." The declaration did not say, "Thou shall not kill with the following exceptions." In other words, God declared no exceptions to this law. Once humans interpreted this teaching, who could kill and circumstances varied from state to state. Why do we? Because people have placed themselves above God's law. People choose to interpret the statement to suit their political, emotional or personal world view. Mr. Scott infers that we are no better than those who kill if we turnaround and kill them. How sad but true!

Sameera Thurmond

(source: Letter to the Editor, Edgefield Advertiser)

MISSOURI:

Death penalty sought again for St. Louis County killer

Prosecutors will try again this week to send Gregory Bowman to Missouri's death row for the murder of a teenager 38 years ago.

A retrial of the penalty phase of Bowman's trial was to begin in St. Louis County Circuit Court Monday morning. It is the latest turn in a twisting legal path for Bowman, who theoretically also faces retrial in Metro East for 2 more killings from that era.

Bowman was convicted in 2009 in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Velda Joy Rumfelt, 16, who disappeared from the Brentwood area in 1977. The girl, strangled and with her throat slit, was found in a remote area.

Acting on a jury recommendation, a judge ordered a death sentence for Bowman. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned that sentence in 2011, saying the proceeding was tainted by the prosecution's mention of murder convictions in Illinois.

Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch decided to try again for a capital sentence, which puts the matter back into Judge David Vincent III's court. McCulloch has said he found no mention of convictions in the transcript, only of evidence linking Bowman to the Illinois crimes.

Bowman was never a suspect in the Rumfelt killing when it happened, even though he was a headline suspect in similar slayings in the Belleville area in the same period.

He was arrested in 1978 after trying to kidnap a woman in Belleville, who escaped. He had a record for similar behavior and soon was charged with the kidnap-murders of Elizabeth West, 14, and Ruth Jany, 21, who separately disappeared earlier that year from the streets of Belleville.

In those cases, Bowman made a deal not to present a defense at trial if St. Clair County prosecutors agreed not to seek a death penalty. He was convicted and sentenced to life terms without parole. He had served about 20 years before a Post-Dispatch investigation showed that his lawyer was not informed that Bowman had been tricked into providing an undercover officer with the confession that was the main evidence against him.

In 2001, an Illinois appeals court ordered new trials. But with the confession now inadmissible, and without witnesses or forensic evidence to link him to West or Jany, prosecutors had little to work with. Bowman was released on bail in 2007, and investigators went into high gear looking for new evidence against him.

That's when a DNA comparison linked him to semen on Rumfelt's clothes. That helped lead to his conviction in her murder.

After Bowman was convicted of killing Rumfelt, Illinois prosecutors said they did not intend to try Bowman again in the West and Jany murders, although they could.

Prosecutors said last year that Bowman, now 63, is terminally ill.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

OKLAHOMA:

Restoring Justice holds 2nd annual Public Confession for involvement in the "Culture of Death"

Restoring Justice Oklahoma will hold its 2nd annual Pubic Confession for Involvement in the Culture of Death on Tuesday, April 28 at 8 p.m. It will be held at the Jesus Wept statue between St. Joseph's Old Cathedral and the OKC Bombing Memorial at NW 5th and Harvey in Oklahoma City.

RJO co-organizer, Zachary Gleason, pastor at Joy Mennonite Church will speak. The event is open to people of all faiths or of no religious faith.

The event, sponsored by the Joy Mennonite Church of OKC and supported by the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is a public confession apologizing for the culture of violence that reveals itself through capitol punishment.

"A ceremony of confession and repentance will be held for our actions and inaction, individually and as a society. It has contributed to the creation of a mindset that quickly turns to violence and death as a solution to our problems," said Gleason.

Confession is borrowed from Christianity, but the event itself is not religious.

"Much of our thinking and behavior is built around violence and death," said Gleason. "Public policies like mass incarceration and capital punishment are taken for granted as a fact of life.

"Change begins by realizing that alternatives to these self-destructive institutions are possible," Gleason added. "As we confess our contributions to a death-oriented culture, we allow ourselves to imagine healthier, more effective, and ethical practices so that we can begin to make them into reality."

RJO co-organizer, Dr. Britney Hopkins said, "It is worth noting that the Confession will include a signing of the 'Declaration of Life,' a document that states that should you be killed as a result of a violent act, you do not want the death penalty sought. There will be a notary there as a witness."

This is not mandatory of participants Hopkins noted.

Founded on April 29, 2014, RJO is a grassroots Oklahoma effort to address criminal justice reform through citizen awareness and action.

"Vigils, petitions, and protests are important responses to injustice, but there is more," said Gleason. "We seek to empower informed decisions and positive action. The Public Confession project gives death penalty opponents a way to confess our common guilt of participation in the system of killing to punish killing, and to remove the possibility that our death will become a motive for revenge by the state."

RJO held its inaugural Public Confession event in May 2014.

Oklahoma lawmakers voted recently to reinstate the gas chamber as a backup execution method to lethal injection.

The Oklahoma Senate voted 41-0 in favor of HB 1879, which legalizes execution by nitrogen hypoxia. Supporters contend that it is more humane than gases previously used in executions. Nitrogen hypoxia causes death when nitrogen gas pumped into the chamber depletes the oxygen supply in the blood.

The house bill was approved 85 to 10 in March and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Thursday, April 17.

The nitrogen gas chamber would be employed as a secondary method should lethal injection drugs become unavailable, or if the state's protocol is deemed unconstitutional when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on its legality later this month.

"We as a culture have to take responsibility for living in a society that cultivates violent behavior that time and time again leads to horrendous atrocities," Hopkins said. "It's time to get to the heart of the problem and stop attempting to prevent violence with violence and the 1st step is acknowledging our participation in a justice system that is simply not working."

Gleason added. "We choose to publicly voice our desperate need for more thoughtful, responsible, and creative ways of finding healing."

For more information, call 405-823-4155 or email restoringjusticeok@gmail.com.

(source: The City Sentinel)

NEBRASKA:

Family of Victims from a Deadly Norfolk Bank Robbery Upset Over Push to Abolish Death Penalty

New legislation working its way through Nebraska's Senate could repeal the state's current allowance for the death penalty. For the eleven inmates awaiting execution, this may be good news, but the people who fought to put some of those killers behind bars say the state is making a big mistake.

"Put them to death. That's what the jury said to do so let's do it," said Vivian Tuttle, Evonne Tuttle's mother.

Vivian Tuttle has been waiting for more than 10 years for the 3 men who killed her daughter to be put to death, but now, Nebraska legislators are talking about taking away the death penalty which, for Tuttle, means the men who took her daughter's life and 6 others that day may not be put to death.

"I thought of all the others that wanted justice that wouldn't get justice. And I thought, do I start campaigning? It's not like Ferguson where I can march out in the streets but do I write letters?" Vivian said.

Vivian's daughter, Evonne Tuttle, was 1 of 5 killed in less than a minute at a Norfolk bank in 2002, by Eric Vela, Jose Sandoval and Jorge Galindo. The trio had already killed w others before they hit the bank. They and 8 others have been waiting on death row for years now, some as long as 35 years.

"There's I believe 11 people on death row now. All of them did absolutely terrible things. Where we're at here, very few of these people, none of them died easy. Mr. Pearson didn't die easy, Mr. Lundell certainly didn't die easy. But that's typical of the people on death row," said Joe Smith, Madison County Attorney.

"They truly are the worst of the worst, you know, they're held to a high standard. They're convicted by a jury, three judges have to agree that they're going to be sentenced to the death penalty. And then they go through the appeals process, and when the appeals are affirmed, they're guilty. They've done it. Let justice be served," said Rick Eberhardt, Pierce County Sheriff.

Eberhardt says taxpayers will pay to punish offenders either through the death penalty or by funding their long term incarceration, including health care, legal fees and more. it's something the Tuttle family agrees with.

"I know one of the big arguments is cost, But these men that committed this crime were so young, I find it hard to believe that it costs more to execute them than to house them," said Christine Tuttle, Evonne Tuttle's daughter.

For Christine and Vivian, they say this is about fulfilling the jury's verdict more than a decade later and without that, they say it doesn't feel as though justice has been served.

"They don't believe they're going to be punished for what they've done," Vivian said. "Which is really, you know, it could happen," Christine said.

"The death penalty is used sparingly but it's out there. Police know it's out there, citizens know it's out there and people who want to kill should know it's out there. If you take that away, you cheapen up the price of killing people," Smith said.

Everyone I spoke with today say they'll be fighting hard to let legislators know this isn't something they want to see taken away in Nebraska. They're hoping to force legislators to put the fate of the death penalty on the ballot and let Nebraskans decide what's right for the state once and for all.

Those Norfolk bank murders were committed one hundred years after the murders in Pierce County that spurred the state's very 1st death penalty verdict.

Senator Ernie Chambers introduced LB 268 - a bill that would move to abolish the state's death penalty. The bill made it through its 1st round of approval in a 30 to 13 vote...gaining support from both sides of the aisle. The bill will move along for further debate in the unicameral legislature. Governor Ricketts has promised to veto the measure should it reach his desk.

(source: siouxlandmatters.com)

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Nebraska Could Become the First Republican Controlled State to Abolish the Death Penalty in Decades

State lawmakers passed Nebraska Legislative Bill 268 last week in an effort to abolish the state's use of death penalty. The bill passed by a vote of 30-13. Surprisingly, 17 of the 30 votes in-favor of the bill were cast by Republicans, reports The Omaha World-Herald.

Despite a wealth of support by state legislators, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts has vowed to veto the legislation:

The threat from the Governor hasn't stopped the majority of Nebraskans from having negative feelings towards capital punishment. According to Fox News:

"Some Nebraska conservatives called the death penalty unfair to victims' families, which often have to wait for years to see a punishment carried out. Others called it antithetical to their antiabortion beliefs, while others mentioned the risk of wrongly executing the innocent.

Many said that the system has essentially ground to a halt. Nebraska doesn't have the drugs it needs to execute any of its 11 death-row inmates, and its last execution came in 1997."

Nebraska is a unique state, considering their state legislature has a unicameral design, versus a bicameral one, and the legislative body is "officially nonpartisan."

State Sen. Al Davis echoed the unique nature of Nebraska's legislature as a reason the bill has seen success, Al Jazeera America reported:

"The people that serve here are not reliant on a party to tell them how to vote. This bill has come up and is making that kind of progress because people are free from their party obligations. We’re able to talk these things through from our own experiences and perspectives."

In a statement last week, Gov. Ricketts said:

"Sen. Chambers' plan to repeal the death penalty is out of step with Nebraskans who tell me that they believe the death penalty remains an important tool for public safety.

If this legislation comes to my desk, I will veto it. I urge senators to reconsider their decision and to stand with law enforcement who need all the tools we can give them to protect public safety."

If Gov. Ricketts does indeed veto the legislation, Nebraska legislators could override that veto with another roll call of 30 votes.

(source: LJ Review)

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Death Penalty Debate Continues

An opponent of the death penalty in Nebraska asserts it undermines justice, even when it isn't applied.

One of the Beatrice 6 is also lending her voice to those calling for repeal of the death penalty in Nebraska.

Ada Joann Taylor was among the 6 people wrongfully convicted in the murder of Helen Wilson of Beatrice. Taylor says daily threats that she could be put to death led her to confess to a crime she didn't commit.

DNA evidence eventually exonerated the 6 and led investigators to conclude drifter Bruce Allen Smith killed Wilson.

State lawmakers have given 1st-round approval to a bill to repeal the death penalty. The bill must clear 2 more rounds to win approval.

(source: WNAX news)

USA:

Aurora shooting survivors prepare for trial: 'This tragedy does not define us' ----Almost 3 years after James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 70 during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, his trial begins on Monday

It has been 1,011 days since a man wearing a gas mask and body armor walked into an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire on the audience. 12 people died and 70 were wounded.

From Monday, a jury of 12 must decide the fate of the gunman, James Holmes. What the jury must decide is whether the shooting was a calculated mass killing or an act of insanity.

For those who were in the theater on 20 July 2012, the trial is both a source of trepidation and relief - relief in that it may bring closure to this terrible ordeal that shook a Denver suburb to its core.

"It's hard to say how I'm going to feel when I get on the stand," said Marcus Weaver, a survivor of the movie theater shooting. "I've been playing that and replaying that in my head for about 2 1/2 years and now that we're getting close, the anxiety is building up."

That night, Weaver was with a friend. Earlier that morning, the 2 had met for breakfast. Rebecca Wingo, a single mother of 2, reminded him he was supposed to take her to the midnight premiere.

Weaver admitted that he had completely forgotten, and promised to get tickets. That evening, he arrived before Wingo. He retrieved his tickets for the movie, which was showing in theater 9 at Aurora's Century 16 multiplex. He found seats in the 5th row, saved them with a red hoodie, and went to buy some snacks.

Just before the movie started, Wingo joined him. The lights dimmed and the movie began. About half an hour into the film, Weaver said, he saw what he believes was a smoke bomb go off.

"One of the last thing's I said to Rebecca was, 'I can't believe someone is doing a smoke bomb. They're ruining the movie,'" he said. "I thought it was a prank."

Then the gunfire began.

"The sound of that AR-15 rifle is the thing I can't forget and the thing that keeps me up at night," Weaver said.

He remembers diving to the floor under a rain of bullets, choking on smoke and still not fully grasping what was happening. He said he pushed Wingo to the floor too, but felt that she was lifeless.

It wasn't until he had left the theater and Holmes had been arrested, Weaver said, that he realized he had been shot, twice in the right shoulder. The hours that followed were a daze. At some point after he left hospital, Weaver said, he learned that Wingo hadn't made it out of the theater alive.

Holmes' lawyers admit that the former University of Colorado neuroscience graduate student killed Wingo and 11 other people, and wounded 70. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other offenses. Under Colorado law, people who are acquitted under this defense are committed to a state hospital.

District attorney George Brauchler is seeking the death penalty.

"Justice is death," Brauchler said in April 2013 when he announced that prosecutors would seek the ultimate penalty.

To prevent their client from landing on death row, the defense team will seek to prove that Holmes was legally insane at the time of the attack.

In a 2013, Holmes's lawyers wrote in a court filing that he suffered "from a severe mental illness and was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers on 20 July 2012".

The jury is expected to hear conflicting assessments on Holmes's mental state, from experts recruited by either side. In total, Holmes underwent 3 psychiatric tests, the results of which have not been publicly disclosed.

Most important and controversial, however, may be a second independent evaluation of the accused that was carried out for the court after judge Carlos Samour ruled a 1st to be "incomplete and inadequate".

Prosecutors had accused Dr Jeffrey Metzner, a psychologist appointed by the Colorado Mental Health Institute to examine Holmes, of bias.

"There is so much humanity in actually finding him insane," said Iris Eytan, an attorney in Denver who specializes in representing mentally ill defendants. "And that's going to be part of the defense lawyers' job, to really make that a prominent part of the case. To show that his illness isn't who he is, that it's a part of who is. And that he is a human being."

About 9,000 prospective jurors, thought to be the biggest pool in US judicial history, were summoned to Arapahoe County district court. The pool was eventually whittled to 12 jurors and 12 alternates, among them a lawyer, a special needs teacher and a survivor of the 1999 Columbine high school shooting, which occurred just 30 miles from Aurora.

"That we were going to find a fair jury after these tragedies in Colorado was always going to statistically be a huge challenge," Eytan said.

The jurors who were selected were asked at several turns if they would be able to set aside their biases and preconceptions about the case to serve impartially. They will be asked to decide whether Holmes was indeed insane when he plotted the attack.

If he is convicted, the jury will be asked to decide in a 2nd phase of the trial whether he should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. If he is found not guilty, he will be sentenced indefinitely to a state facility.

Even though Colorado's constitution allows the death penalty, only 1 person has been executed there since 1976, when the US supreme court ended a brief moratorium on the death penalty in the state. Colorado currently has 3 men on death row. 1 was set to be executed in 2013, before the governor, John Hickenlooper, granted "an indefinite reprieve".

In an open letter published by the Denver Post, Holmes's parents, who have mostly avoided speaking to the media and declined to speak to the Guardian, pleaded for their son’s life.

"He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness," they wrote. "We have always loved him, and we do not want him to be executed."

'This tragedy will always be with us'

Holmes's case has been beset by delays, pre-trial disputes, an avalanche of legal paperwork and the appointment of a replacement judge. That judge, Carlos Samour Jr, has said he would like the trial to finish by Labor Day, Monday 7 September.

Residents admit that the next few months will be difficult ones, as a crush of media returns to the city, ensuring that photos of Holmes, who has in the past appeared in court with wild eyes and dyed orange hair, will be splashed across every newspaper and television station. But for those affected, the trial brings with it the hope for closure.

In a statement to the Guardian, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and responders as they move into this very difficult time.

"Our community continues to heal and care for each other. And, while this tragedy will always be with us, it does not define us."

"People are going to be happy when it's done, whether it's because they might be found a sense of closure in it, or because it's going to just stop being promoted everywhere," said AJ Focht, a member of Aurora Rise, a charity founded to help those affected by the tragedy.

Focht, who works at a comic-book store in Aurora, was in the theater the night of the attack, but had seats near the back. He said joining the nonprofit, founded by the owner of the comic store, was his way of processing the events that night.

"I wanted to see how I could help everyone else because I walked out of the theater just fine," Focht said. The charity hosts events and benefits to raise money for the victims and their families.

"Hopefully," he said, "when the trial ends and everything is set and done, it will help the shadow pass over Aurora."

Marcus Weaver said that in the more than 2 1/2 years since the shooting he has completely changed, both mentally and physically.

He underwent surgery to help stop the numbness he felt in his arm many times a day. He married a woman he met through his church. They are expecting a daughter.

There's not a day, an hour or a second that I don't think about what happened that night on the floor of that theater.

"As time went on, the theater got this small and my life got this big," he said, gesturing with his hands.

He added: "I don't have nightmares as much anymore ... but I still think about the theater. There's not a day, an hour or a second that I don't think about what happened that night on the floor of that theater."

Weaver said he expected to testify during the trial and said he planned to be in court for the opening statements on Monday. He said he has gone back and forth on what punishment he believes Holmes should receive. In the end, Weaver said, he would rather wait and see what the jury decides.

"It's not up to me," he said. "I'm just a piece of a bigger puzzle ... I'm going to play my part and once I play my part I'm going to do the best I can to move away from it a little bit and enjoy life for a while and not just have this constant feeling and all these emotions about this person."

Ultimately, Weaver said he hoped the case would bring closure for the survivors and families who needed it. As for him, he's doing his best to untangle his life from Holmes.

"I am OK with whatever happens," he said. "My happiness will not come from that, It comes from seeing my wife every day. It comes from hanging out with my son ... That's where my happiness really comes from."

(source: The Guardian)

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US top court to weigh key lethal injection case

The US Supreme Court is on Wednesday set to consider the constitutionality of a controversial lethal injection technique, in a key case that could have broader implications for capital punishment in America.

The court is considering the issue just 7 years after "Baze vs. Rees," in which it ruled that lethal injection did not violate the Eighth Amendment's protection against "cruel and unusual" punishment.

But a lot has changed in the meantime. The companies that produce the drugs most commonly used in lethal injections, many of them European, now refuse to supply them if they are to be used in executions.

Shortages have prompted officials in 32 states where the death penalty is in force to come up with new lethal "cocktails" suspected of causing pain and suffering during some recent executions.

"Given the lack of transparency, it's not surprising we saw three badly botched executions just in 2014," lethal injection expert Megan McCracken said.

The case now before the Supreme Court is being brought by three death-row inmates in Oklahoma, who are challenging an untested triple combination of drugs -- known as a "three-drug protocol" -- used in earlier botched executions.

Last April, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett took an agonizing 43 minutes to die and could be seen writhing in pain during the prologed execution.

On January 16, 2014, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die, and Arizona death row convict Joseph Wood took 117 minutes to die on July 23.

Lethal injection executions are expected to take 10 minutes, and in all three cases, the men could be seen gasping for air.

Executioners had used midazolam, a sedating drug that is sometimes used before surgery.

The court must now decide whether the drug fully sedates inmates to ensure they do not feel pain from the other drugs used to paralyze and kill them.

Some experts, including anesthetist David Waisel, have warned that midazolam might not put a person into a "deep coma state."

Dale Baich, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said botched executions were to be expected "in this climate of unchartered territory."

"They arose in an environment of experimentation and inadequate care by state officials with no scientific oversight," Baich said.

The question before the court is whether the 3-drug protocol "could cause severe pain and suffering ... where the 1st drug has no pain-relieving properties and cannot reliably produce a deep, coma-like unconsciousness."

The plaintiffs in the case, Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole and John Grant, say the execution method carries an "intolerable risk of harm."

But Oklahoma will argue that a large dose of midazolam produces a deep unconsciousness that renders one unable to feel "even extremely painful stimuli."

New York Law School professor and death penalty advocate Robert Blecker said he is not too concerned about the possibility of pain.

"Should Benjamin Cole feel some pain, I must admit it wouldn't concern me greatly. It's human nature to say someone who murdered his 9-month-old daughter by snapping her spine in half... the remote possibility that they might feel pain is not something we really care about," he told AFP.

Strictly speaking, the Supreme Court is only supposed to rule on Oklahoma and possibly the other states using midazolam or are planning to do so.

But "the court always has the opportunity to get broader if they want to," said Deborah Denno, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law.

"If they want to make a broader statement about lethal injection, they can use this case as a vehicle for doing that," Denno said.

Should the Supreme Court rule against it, Oklahoma already has a backup for executions, as it has approved death by nitrogen gas.

Denno noted that it was unusual for the court to consider a 2nd lethal injection case in 7 years.

"It doesn't help the death penalty that the court is looking at this case," she said. "The court thinks there's some problems there."

John Marshall Law School professor Steven Schwinn said that while the case "does not test the death penalty itself, the court's ruling will, as a practical matter, put a heavy thumb on the scale either for or against the death penalty."

(source: Yahoo News)

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Sr. Helen Prejean: The 30-year fight against the death penalty

2 years after the photos flooded media worldwide, a jury in a non-death penalty state must decide whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, should be given the death penalty.

As debates about capital punishment resurface in the media, Sr. Helen Prejean, a famed activist against the death penalty, continues to speak on campus this week about issues of incarceration and death row as part of her mission to "wake up" Americans and end the practice.

Prejean is known for her famed book "Dead Man Walking" that was adapted to film in 1995. What began as written correspondences between death row inmates in the 1980s became a 30-year project fighting for the abolition of the death penalty.

Her papers, including letters from inmates, photographs and drafts of her book, are stored in the DePaul Library's Special Collections and Archives.

"My annual visits to DePaul have become a very special part of my year," Prejean said in a DePaul press release.

"Because I have dedicated my life to working with poor people and with people who are outcast, I feel right at home coming to this center of the Vincentian values of service to the disadvantaged and appreciation for the dignity of each and every person," Prejean said.

Prejean said the current case in Boston is similar to other cases she's worked with.

"It boils down to this: That no human being can ever be identified completely with the worst act of their life," Prejean said. "Life is fluid. There's a transcendence in us. We can change."

More than 260 people were injured and three killed in the April 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted the bombs and fled, which led to a police chase that ended in the deaths of a police officer and the older Tsarnaev.

Jurors convicted the younger Tsarnaev of all 30 charges, 17 of which can be used for the death penalty. Massachusetts outlawed the death penalty in 1984, but the case has been moved to the federal level to be tried as a death penalty case. Emotional testimonies from 17 witnesses have been heard in the last three days after already 6 weeks of hearings, and the trial will continue through this week.

"To punish people for crimes is one thing, to take away their life, and to feel you have the authority to know when you can make (that) decision is arrogant, really," Prejean said.

She said imprisonment for life wouldn't excuse Tsarnaev from his actions.

"Dzhokhar was guilty of killing innocent people," Prejean said. "So to bring to him the effects of his actions is just part of what justice is."

DePaul senior Estelle de Vendegies heard Prejean speak last week and felt affirmed in her stance against the death penalty.

"My opinion yet is not fully formed," de Vendegies said. "Initially I want to say no, (the death penalty) doesn't provide peace that some people say it does." In the end de Vendegies said, "we're debating whether or not to take someone's life. I think it's sick and twisted."

Prejean said public opinion of the death penalty is changing largely because pharmaceutical companies are withdrawing their products that are used for executions.

Earlier this year, Akorn, a company that manufactures a drug used in lethal injections, midazolam, said in a statement that it would no longer sell its product to prisons to be used for capital punishment.

Drug companies may have an effect on public opinion, but the debate still does not split 50-50. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans (56 %) support the death penalty.

According to the March 2015 survey, 38 % of Americans overall are opposed to the death penalty. 6 % more of Americans (62 %) supported the death penalty in 2011, and in 1996, as much as 78 % were in favor of it.

The numbers differed when the death penalty was applied to cases of murder, in which 63 % found the death penalty morally justified. Only 35 % of Americans thought the death penalty deterred serious crime.

"People (who are for the death penalty) use more economic reasoning, like that it costs more to imprison someone for their whole life," de Vendegies said. "For (Prejean,) (the death penalty) is a loss of potential. These are things you can't explain to everyone. People want those cold hard facts."

Prejean said the death penalty is not only inhumane to inmates, but that it also has a negative effect on the families who have to relive the trauma through the additional trial and appeals.

The Richard family, who lost their 8-year-old son Martin in the Boston Marathon bombings, wanted to end the ordeal once and for all.

"We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," the family said in a letter to the Boston Globe.

Yet some families, like Liz Norden whose 2 adult sons each lost a leg in the bombings, said her family deserves justice.

"(Tsarnaev) destroyed so many families that day," Norden told the Associated Press. "I want the ultimate justice."

A factor that will play into Tsarnaev's sentence is his age, Prejean said.

"You expect young people to do stupid things," Prejean said. "When you kill someone, you are bascially saying 'you are so corrupt and evil, you can never change, we are going to end your life now.'"

DePaul history education major Samantha Gonzales worked with Prejean's papers last year for a history project. After reading letters from the families of victims of death row inmates, Gonzales said she thought most of the opinions were based on emotional rhetoric instead of empirical evidence.

"I'm always going to be against (the death penalty), even though (Tsarnaev) took that many lives," Gonzales said. "Killing him (with the death penalty) might be an easy way out for him instead of seeing all the stuff he's done. It would be better to keep him in jail for life."

Prejean said the death penalty is symbolic in the U.S. system of justice, where pain and punishment are emphasized as means for justice.

"What we always say is we're going to do this for victims' families," Prejean said. "I think (the government) does it out of that feeling of necessity, that we must do this or we will look callous or that we don't care about the victims' families. Once it's off the table you just don't have it as an option and you'll spare everybody,"

Moving forward in the case, Prejean said the defense will have to appeal to each of the jurors as individuals.

"(The defense) is going to say to each and every one of (the jurors), 'you have the power in your hands to save this man's life.'" Prejean said. "'If you don't vote for death he is going to live. Each one of you. It only takes 1.'"

(source: The (DePaul University) DePaulia)

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

Capital punishment further degrades us

Susan Estrich, in her column, "Punishment for Tsarnaev," said that "perhaps the most powerful argument against the death penalty ... is that our system is not perfect enough to justify executing convicted criminals."

Actually, the most powerful argument against the death penalty is that all life has inviolable value, even that of the most heinous criminal. Hard as it is to repress the instinct toward vengeful punishment, our common humanity calls for just this to preserve our human values from further degradation.

The Rev. Benjamin Fiore, S.J.

Buffalo

(source: Letter to the Editor, Buffalo News)

EGYPT:

Ibrahim Halawa's trial adjourned for a 6th time----Dublin teenager, Ibrahim Halawa, has had his trial adjourned for the sixth time after appearing in court In Cairo on Sunday; Ibrahim Halawa faces the death penalty if convicted.

The 19-year-old has been in an Egyptian prison since August 2013, when he was arrested along with hundreds of others at a protest at the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo.

Human rights activists expressed concern at the ongoing detention of the teenager, saying that the Dublin native is nothing more than a "prisoner of conscience".

Following a hearing in Cairo on Sunday, the trial was further adjourned until 6 June. An application for bail was also refused.

This is a 6th time Mr Halawa has come before the courts, as his case was either postponed or adjourned on previous occasions. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International has again called for the "immediate and inconditional" release of the teenager.

"Today marks Ibrahim's 616th day in an Egyptian prison on cut and paste charges despite the fact that there is no evidence connecting him to any crime. Amnesty International observers were on the ground during the violence that forced Ibrahim and his sisters to seek refuge in the back of the Al Fath mosque.

"We know that it is simply not possible for them to have committed many of the crimes that they have been charged with. We have also examined the case file. There is absolutely no evidence linking Ibrahim to any of these crimes. He faces 'cut and paste' charges, in a mass trial process that meets none of the standards of a fair trial," he said.

Minister Flanagan also expressed his disappointment that Ibrahim Halawa's application for bail, an application supported by the Irish government, has been refused along with all the other bail applications in the case.

"Our objectives in this case remain clear - to see this young Irish citizen released by the Egyptian authorities, and to provide consular support while he remains in detention.

"With the Taoiseach's full support, I remain committed to taking all appropriate action in pursuit of our 2 objectives towards achieving a positive outcome for this young Irishman and his family.

"While this is a case before the court in another jurisdiction to which foreign law applies, we keep all developments in this case, and our own approach to it, under constant review. We will continue to engage actively with the Egyptian authorities at the highest level to highlight our concerns, and to work in the best interests of this Irish citizen," he said.

(source: utv-ie)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan Has Hanged 82 People, But Does This Include Any Terrorists?

82 hangings have taken place in Pakistan in the last 4 months, including 17 on the night of April 21, and earlier, a dozen on March 17. 2 hangings took place on April 22.

Although fighting militancy is the reason why capital punishment has been resumed since December 17, 2014, most of those hanged were convicted for domestic crimes such as murder and rape.

Pakistan has ignored an urgent appeal made last month by the United Nations. The European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to re-impose its moratorium on the death penalty.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on hanging after 6 years on December 17, a day after Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar and killed 134 students and 19 adults.

The government, keen to be seen as strong after the school massacre, has resorted to carrying out hangings of those convicted of 'lesser' crimes, thus pandering to populist demands based on emotion and fear. Unsurprisingly, the executions are being welcomed by the public.

Initially, the government said only militants would be executed. But by mid-March, it emerged that officials had quietly widened the policy for all prisoners on death row whose appeals had been rejected. The hangings carried out are those of people convicted for crimes other than terrorism.

Militancy/terrorism has only been a ruse, critics and human rights bodies have noted. Actually, Mumtaz Qadri's conviction by an anti-terror court for killing former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was upheld by the high court, but he was cleared of the charge of being a terrorist.

In effect, he would remain on death row; but with the terrorism charge dropped, can appeal to the Supreme Court, to the president for mercy. He may not be hanged.

There are an estimated 8,000 Pakistanis on death row. The federal government has asked the provincial governments to update their data.

"The UN is concerned at the government's recent announcement that it has now withdrawn its moratorium on the death penalty for all cases, not only those related to terrorism," the world body said in a statement.

Urging the government to re-impose the moratorium on hanging, the UN expressed concern at the hanging spree and took note of the fact that those who were minors, below 18, at the time of their alleged crime, were being hanged.

One of those hanged included Mohammed Afzal who, according to Amnesty International, was only 16 when convicted. A vast majority of those in prison, whether under sentence of death or not, are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The hanging of Shafqat Hussain was stayed by the court after his mother, Makhni Begum, appealed to the president. He was 15 when he was convicted in 2004 for the kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old boy in an apartment building of Karachi where he worked as a security guard.

Pakistan was 1 of only 8 countries in the world (China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United States and Yemen), that since 1990 executed prisoners who were under 18 years old at the time of committing a crime. Pakistan along with the US and Yemen has since raised the minimum age to 18 in law to be eligible for execution.

Dawn newspaper said in an editorial: "It seems, the bloodlust of the terrorist has met its match in the bloodlust of a wounded nation.

"No one with a modicum of awareness can deny that the criminal justice system in Pakistan is deeply flawed, and hence profoundly weighted against the poor and marginalised segments of society.

"From the filing of an FIR, the investigation of a crime, the trial and appeals process, to the conditions of incarceration - the outcome of every step is often directly co-related to the financial and/or political clout of the parties involved. While one result of this broken justice machinery is that some crimes go unpunished, the other side of the coin is that many accused do not get a fair trial.

"Their defence is often in the hands of state-appointed counsel, who are overburdened, underpaid and usually not the brightest stars in the legal fraternity," the newspaper said.

Human rights groups say convictions in Pakistan are highly unreliable because its antiquated criminal justice system barely functions, torture is common and police are mostly untrained.

Convicts with no connection with terrorism are being hanged even as militant groups defy the state and target the religious minorities and smaller Muslim groups.

Citing Qadri's case, Najam Sethi writes in his editorial in The Friday Times: "The definition of a 'terrorist' in the Anti-Terrorist Act is focused squarely on 'religious' cause and effect: 'Terrorism means the use or threat of action where the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic case ... involves serious violence against ... a public servant."

(source: Eurasiareviews.com)

IRAN:

115 executions in 2 weeks

The murderous mullahs fascism has sharply increased executions to delay its fall

Following the wave of executions in different cities in Iran, the anti-human clerical regime sent another 30 prisoners to the gallows from April 22 to April 26. 9 prisoners were collectively hanged on April 22 in Vakil Abad prison in Shiraz. On April 23, 16 other prisoners in Bandar Abbas, Kerman and Jiroft were executed. On April 25 and 26, 3 prisoners in Rasht prison and 2 other prisoners were executed in the cities of Zanjan and Abhar.

As such, the number of executions over 2 weeks, April 13 to April 26, reaches 115. The real number of those executed is much more than this. According to some reports in recent weeks, a large number of prisoners have been executed secretly in Arak.

Criminals ruling Iran, surrounded by growing political, social and economic crises, and worried about the consequences of the nuclear negotiations, have resorted to execution, torture and killing of the Iranian people more than any other time in order to create an atmosphere of fear and repression and to prevent the spread of social protests by abusing the silence and inaction of the international community against the brutal and systematic violation of human rights in Iran.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

ASIA:

ASEAN governments urged to abolish death penalty

Civil society organisations from ASEAN countries are urging the grouping's governments to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view of completely abolishing the form of penalty, said civil society groups at the ASEAN People's Forum in a statement issued last Friday, 24 April.

The "Death Penalty In Southeast Asia: Towards A Regional Abolition" workshop, held in conjunction with the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People's Forum (ACSC/ APF) 2015 in Kuala Lumpur this week, saw anti-death penalty advocates in the region calling for a cease in using the death penalty. The workshop was jointly organised by FORUM-ASIA, Amnesty International Malaysia, KontraS, Think Centre, and Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN).

The workshop also allowed anti-death penalty advocates in ASEAN countries to exchange knowledge and best practices to move forward possible policy dialogues member states.

Mr Ted Tan, executive secretary of Singapore's human rights group Think Centre, gave an overview of the use of the death penalty in Singapore, and said that the latest statistics recorded 21 executions since 2007.

He shared that the moratorium on executions (2011-2014) did not occur because of Singapore undergoing the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011, but more likely due to the negotiations with the European Union over a free trade agreement. Indeed, there were 4 executions in 2011, prior to the UPR session.

"We can expect executions to still continue in Singapore, since the government tightened the definition of capital punishment's usage and the amended laws were enacted in 2013," he said. "Additionally the negotiations on the FTA were mostly completed by then. So to the Singapore administration's mind, it was probably business as usual."

He concluded that the death penalty is now likely to be imposed on cases of heinous crimes like murder, and the number of executions for convicted drug traffickers should be smaller in the future.

"At the ASEAN level, a strict application of the non-interference principle, which emphasises on the respect for state sovereignty, in the context of the death penalty is no longer relevant as the death penalty is an issue of all countries," said Rafendi Djamin, the Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

He noted that a regional trend towards a moratorium had begun. Singapore had taken a step towards a moratorium and Malaysia had expressed intentions to consider it. He added that the AICHR would continue its thematic study of the right to life which will be accompanied by awareness-raising activities within ASEAN countries, including organising a workshop with the judiciary in ASEAN.

Within Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Viet Nam are retentionist countries that actively use the death penalty. Philippines and Cambodia abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2006 and 1989, respectively, while Brunei, Laos, and Myanmar have had de facto moratoriums on the death penalty for decades.

In closing, Atnike Nova Sigiro, ASEAN Programme Manager of FORUM-ASIA, emphasised "the importance of institutional and legal reform as well as a change of culture and values that encourage retaliation and vengeance, for which regional solidarity is indispensable".

"The ASEAN People's Forum is one important venue to bring solidarity in abolishing death penalty in this region," she added. "Now in Indonesia, a Philippines citizen, Mary Jane Veloso is one among the list of persons to be executed soon. The conference calls for solidarity from the people of ASEAN to call on the government of Indonesia to stop the execution of Mary Jane and also for other inmates on the list" Atnike concluded.

Death penalty in other countries

The Deputy Secretary of Policy, Law and Complaints of SUHAKAM, Nurul Hasanah Ahamed Hassain Malim, said that the belief of some government officials that death penalty is a deterrent to crime and that abolishing the death penalty would be going against Syariah law are the 2 main challenges to abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia. A positive development, she added, was that the Attorney-General's Chambers was conducting a study on the use of the mandatory death penalty for drugs.

On abolition, the Philippines' Human Rights Information Centre's Executive Director, Dr Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan, said that a crucial strategy which led the Philippines to abolish the death penalty - making it the 1st country in Asia to do so - was active mobilisation of stakeholders. This, she said included civil society organisations, the Catholic church, members of the diplomatic community including the European Union, anti-death penalty champions in the Philippine Congress, families of death row inmates and victims' families against the death penalty.

"Another key strategy that resulted in abolition was comprehensive research on crime statistics and the history of the death penalty's use that made up a legislative kit used during debates in Congress," she said. "Public awareness and education campaigns as well as case studies of women on death row were among other effective strategies which led to abolition", she added.

The workshop's speakers presented various practices and trends in the region's use of the death penalty and discussed the possibility of bringing the agenda of abolishing death penalty to the ASEAN level, especially via the AICHR as the body with the mandate to promote and protect human rights in the ASEAN region.

Puri Kencana Putri of the Commission for the Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS) briefed the workshop participants of its 6-month fact-finding mission on recent executions in Indonesia, where serious loopholes were found with how the death sentence was meted out. "Elements of torture, mistaken identity, and delay in deaths for up to 15 minutes during an execution were recorded," she said.

Puri noted Indonesia's strong policy on how the government interprets "most serious crimes", where the definition encompasses drug trafficking, adding that "anti-death penalty activists cannot rely on rhetoric to win the battle against the death penalty in Indonesia." The way forward, she said, should include an evaluation of anti-drug agencies in relation to their donors, as well as an increase in public education programmes. "6 individuals were executed within his first 100 days in office. Another 10 individuals currently housed in the Nusa Kambangan Island prison are expected to be executed in the near future. If plans move forward with the next round of executions, which include French nationals, there would be a bigger hit back to the Jokowi policy."

(source: The Online Citizen)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9: decade of turmoil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran nears a gruesome end ---- The youthful drug smugglers who quietly reformed themselves while Indonesia's legal, political and diplomatic currents swirled around them now face imminent death

The legal challenges have been exhausted, the pleas for mercy ignored. On Saturday, in line with the macabre bureaucracy, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were granted 72 hours' notice, after which - barring an unlikely reprieve - they will be tied to a pole on the jungle island of Nusa Kambangan and shot dead.

Neither appeared in those first videos from Denpasar airport, of the young men stripped to their underwear, eyes wide with horror, as Indonesian police peeled sheets of tape and straps from their stomachs and thighs.

Chan was arrested later that day aboard a flight bound for Australia, carrying no drugs, just mobile phones. The police found Sukumaran in a Kuta beach hotel room with 350g of heroin and 3 accomplices. It was 17 April 2005, and the group - quickly dubbed the Bali 9 - had been under surveillance for a week, after a tip-off.

Sensational media reporting fuelled tough public judgments. Chan was the "godfather" of the operation. Sukumaran, a hulking "martial arts expert", was the enforcer. What little sympathy the public could muster was saved for the drug couriers they had recruited, such as 19-year-old Scott Rush.

A wayward kid from Sydney, Rush had told his parents he was camping up the coast. But messages on his family's answering machine indicated he had bought a ticket to Bali. His father, Lee, grew worried. "Scott never had a passport. He certainly didn't have the finances to be able to participate in such a trip," he later told the ABC.

Through a lawyer, Robert Myers, Rush contacted the Australian federal police. Myers warned that Scott could soon make a trip to Bali, that he feared the young man was being paid to smuggle drugs. Speaking to the ABC, Lee Rush swore the police had assured them: "Scott would be spoken to and asked not to board the flight."

In court and in subsequent inquiries, police have denied any such assurance was made. "The AFP ... had no lawful authority to stop Scott Rush," Mike Phelan, then the AFP's international network manager, has insisted.

The tip was passed to the Indonesian drug squad. Rush was among the first arrested in Denpasar airport. He later said an Australian officer was present at the scene, that he made a phone call, saying, "We've got 'em."

Easily cast as villains

The trials opened in October 2005. All but Chan and Sukumaran pleaded guilty. Evasive, unrepentant, absurdly insisting their innocence, the pair were easily cast as villains.

In truth, the "godfather" Chan was a 22-year-old still living with his parents in western Sydney, a drug user working a dead-end job. A reputed drug kingpin, he drove a 1991 Hyundai coupe.

Sukumaran, also living with his parents in Sydney, had turned 24 the day of his arrest. He had wanted to escape his job in a mailroom, maybe use his cut of the deal to buy a car, or start a business. "You see all these people in night clubs with nice BMWs, and nice Mercedes, and there's always chicks there," he reflected later. "And you think, fuck, how do you do this on a mailroom salary?"

In February 2006 the 7 couriers were each sentenced to life in prison. The court found no evidence to back claims by some that they had been forced to carry the drugs after threats by Chan and Sukumaran to harm their families.

For the duo, who were found to have supplied cash and booked flights and hotel rooms, it was death by firing squad. Anti-drug demonstrators outside the court reportedly cheered at the verdict.

Little outcry was heard in Australia. "No sympathy", trumpeted the front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph the day of the sentence. "Their drug operation would have destroyed thousands of lives - now they'll pay with theirs."

Years of legal challenges followed. Renae Lawrence, the sole woman in the gang, had her sentence reduced to 20 years. Appeals by 4 couriers, including Rush, to the Indonesian supreme court returned a staggering outcome: their sentences were upgraded to death.

Though they would be scaled back to life within 5 years, the sentences revealed the strength of resentment in Indonesia towards drug crimes, particularly those committed by foreigners. Few were surprised, then, when 2 appeals to spare Chan and Sukumaran's lives in 2006 foundered.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, a group of activists and lawyers fiercely opposed to the death penalty coalesced around the men's case. In Kerobokan, Sukumaran picked up a paintbrush and Chan began to attend Christian services.

There were shoots of hope in Indonesia. The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had overseen only a handful of executions, including those of the Bali bombers in 2008, and campaigned hard against the 2012 beheading of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia. From 2009 he instituted a virtual moratorium, carrying out no killings for 4 years.

By the time Chan and Sukumaran gave their 1st in-depth media interview, to SBS in 2010, they were noticeably changed men. Gone were the hard expressions, the denials. "More or less for me it was just a quick payday," Chan admitted. What impact the 8.3kg of heroin might have on the users and their families had never crossed his mind.

He had become a committed Christian and, though he declined to speak effusively about his faith, he now spent much of his day in prayer or religious study, and led mass for other prisoners.

Sukumaran had poured himself into running English and computer lessons in the prison, which he funded by selling his and other prisoners' art. The reputed muscle of the operation was soft-spoken and had a wry sense of humour, designing souvenir T-shirts branded "Kingpin", a wink at his portrayal in the press.

Remarkably, at a 2010 judicial review into their death sentences, the governor of Kerobokan prison, Bapak Siswanto, appeared, testifying to the men's character and positive influence on other prisoners. "Instinctively my spirit says, can't he be pardoned?" he told judges. "Can't state officials show mercy?"

Yet again the challenge failed. 2 years later, in May 2012, the volunteer legal team led by Julian McMahon took their last chance, appealing directly to Yudhoyono for clemency.

The papers lingered on the presidential desk along with several other appeals. Executing drug traffickers is hugely popular among Indonesians. Yudhoyono could quietly keep Chan, Sukumaran and some of the estimated 62 other drug offenders on death row alive, but no more.

'No forgiveness'

On 9 July 2014, Joko Widodo, a wiry Javanese former furniture salesman, was elected Indonesia's 7th president. Hopeful international observers dubbed him "Indonesia's Obama", the headbanging, cleanskin governor of Jakarta, whose ascension might signal a new chapter in the archipelago's politics. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Joko Widodo

Events this year moved quickly. On 7 January, Sukumaran was informed his bid for clemency had been denied. Chan received the same notice a fortnight later. Reports by Fairfax Media suggested Widodo had little knowledge of the men's case, only a list of names on a sheet.

The initial public response by the Australian government was careful. "We obviously respect the legal systems of other countries," the prime minister, Tony Abbott, said. "But where there is an attempt to impose the death penalty on an Australian, we make the strongest possible diplomatic representations."

On 18 January, Indonesia killed 6 prisoners. Brazil and the Netherlands, whose citizens were among the dead, withdrew their ambassadors in response. Clearing Indonesia's death row of drug criminals - as Widodo has said he intends - would necessarily mean killing foreigners. Estimates suggest about 41 are still condemned to die for drug offences.

Meanwhile, activists in Australia involved in the Mercy Campaign rallied support for Chan and Sukumaran. A snap concert was held in Sydney’s Martin Place. Signatures on a petition pleading with Widodo to show mercy swelled: first to 65,000, then 150,000, now to 250,000.

February brought grim details of how the men's lives could end. Ten prisoners taken to a clearing, tied to poles, offered a blindfold. Firing squads of 12 executioners are be assigned to each. 3 will have live ammunition, the rest blanks. On 7 February the Indonesian foreign ministry announced Chan and Sukumaran would be dead by the end of the month.

The calls to spare the men by Abbott and the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, grew more strident. Perhaps unwisely, on 18 February, the prime minister invoked Australia's generous aid to Indonesia after the devastating 2004 tsunami. Indignant Indonesians left coins outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta as "payback". A flurry of legal challenges continued throughout February, including a request for a 2nd judicial review - known as a Peninjauan Kembali, or PK - based on evidence of the pair's rehabilitation. All were rejected, the latest one on 6 April.

Chan and Sukumaran survived the month, but on 3 March, shackled, escorted by soldiers, the pair were moved to Nusa Kambangan, a prison island off the Javanese coast. The Australian government lodged an official complaint at the ostentatious display of force.

2 days later, in Sydney, in his 1st public address, the new commissioner of the AFP faced a barrage of old questions. Like his predecessors, Andrew Colvin tersely insisted the force would not have Chan and Sukumaran's "blood on its hands".

What had felt like a plummet suddenly jerked still on 6 March. The Indonesian attorney general, Muhammad Prasetyo, announced a temporary halt to the process, to allow some of the nine condemned men and 1 woman, Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines, to exhaust their appeals.

Last week, she too was moved to Nusa Kambangan, and all 10 prisoners were in place. Late on Saturday, Chan and Sukumaran were informed the official 72-hour countdown - after which they could be executed at any time - had commenced.

Their indefatigable lawyers have lodged another challenge with Indonesia's supreme court. But Widodo is unmoved. The notice period ends late on Tuesday.

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Diplomatic effort intensifies for Australians and other foreigners due to face firing squad ---- Along with 1 Indonesian, 2 Australians, 4 Nigerians, a Brazilian and a Philippines citizen could be shot as early as midnight on Tuesday local time

Last-ditch diplomatic efforts to spare some of the 8 foreign nationals scheduled to face a firing squad in Indonesia for drug offences have intensified as the end of a 72-hour notice period looms.

Along with Indonesian Zainul Abidin, 4 Nigerians, 2 Australians, a Brazilian and a Philippines citizen could be shot as early as midnight on Tuesday local time.

The condemned include Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, for their part in the plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali in 2005. Amnesty International has made a direct plea to Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president, asking him to grant clemency to the nine drug offenders.

In a letter signed by 13 directors of the group from around the world, they acknowledge Indonesia's need to punish and deter criminal acts, but argue that there is no evidence the death penalty is effective.

Hopes were raised that 30-year-old Filipina Mary Jane Veloso could be spared following lobbying on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur by the Philippines president Benigno Aquino.

Veloso was visited by her 2 sons, aged 6 and 12.

"She tried to explain again," Veloso's elder sister Marites Veloso-Laurente told AFP. "If Mumma does not go home, just think Mumma is in heaven."

A statement on Monday from Widodo indicated he was sympathetic to her case and would consult with the country's attorney general before "resum[ing] the conversation" with Aquino. The attorney general however said the execution would go ahead, Reuters reported.

Veloso's supporters, who have held rallies in Manila, claim the single mother was unaware her suitcase contained about 2.6kg of heroin when she flew into Yogyakarta in 2010. Philippines boxer and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao joined the calls to show Veloso clemency on Sunday.

"I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution," Pacquiao said in an appeal to Widodo.

Relations between Jakarta and Canberra have frayed over plans to execute Chan and Sukumaran. The Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has been trying to speak with Widodo by phone for seven weeks, and wrote a letter to the Indonesian leader at the weekend, appealing for mercy.

"This is not in the best interests of Indonesia, let alone in the interests of the young Australians concerned," he said on Monday.

Widodo brushed aside a last-minute plea for a stay of execution of the two Australians, saying reports that their trial had been tainted by corruption needed to be investigated. Such concerns should have been raised years ago when the case went through the courts years ago, he said.

Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, warned on Monday that carrying out the mass execution would "harm Indonesia's international standing".

Protesters massed outside the Indonesian consulate in Sydney on Monday evening. The former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yuhyohono has cancelled an address to the University of Western Australia that was scheduled for Friday, citing "sensitive timing".

Controversy also surrounds the Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, whose lawyers claim suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, joined the chorus of opposition to the executions on Sunday, asking that Widodo "urgently consider declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia, with a view toward abolition".

Serge Atlaoui of France won a temporary reprieve at the weekend after officials agreed to wait until his legal challenges have been exhausted. The French president, Francois Hollande, had warned of severe "consequences with France and Europe" if the Frenchman were killed.

The Indonesian president has otherwise refused to be swayed by the international pressure, pledging to clear the country's death row of drug offenders as part of a crackdown on the "national emergency" of narcotics. Official figures are unreliable, but it is estimated around 41 foreigners are currently on death row in Indonesia for drug crimes.

6 people, including 5 foreigners, were shot in the first round of executions on 18 January, among them a Dutch and Brazilian citizen. Both countries pulled their ambassadors from Indonesia in retaliation. Brazil has also refused to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador.

It was revealed on Monday that the king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, had personally appealed to Widodo to spare the Dutchman, 52-year-old Ang Kiem Soe.

(source for both: The Guardian)

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Veloso's 2nd PK rejected

The Sleman District Court (PN) on Monday rejected a second appeal for a case review (PK) submitted by Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a death row inmate from the Philippines.

"PN Sleman has declared that Mary Jane's 2nd PK request is rejected," the court's spokesperson, Marliyus, told journalists on Monday.

Agus Salim, a member of Veloso's legal team, submitted the 2nd PK request with the PN Sleman on Monday morning. After a string of discussions, PN Sleman head Rochmad decided that Veloso's 2nd PK request could not be accepted.

"This is based on Supreme Court (MA) Circular No.7/2014 on the PK submission procedure for criminal cases, which stipulates that a PK request can be submitted only once," said Marliyus.

Agus confirmed that the PN Sleman had rejected Veloso's 2nd PK request. With the rejection, Veloso will likely face a firing squad early on Tuesday.

Agus said that in the 2nd PK request, Veloso, via her lawyer, presented a new finding, or novum, obtained from an investigation conducted by a national drug agency in the Philippines. "Results of the investigation reveal that Mary Jane is not a courier in the international drug trade. This finding has been confirmed by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN)," said Agus.

He asserted that Veloso was not aware at all that a suitcase she brought from Malaysia to Yogyakarta contained 2.6 kilograms of heroin. "It seems that the judicial panel did not want to include the novum in their considerations," said Agus.

He said during Veloso's trial the identities of the heroin's supplier and seller and its cost had never been revealed.

"The death sentence for Mary Jane is too much. Initially, prosecutors sought only a life sentence for her, but the judicial panel decided to sentence her with the death penalty," said Agus.

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The 10 death-row inmates and their stories

6 months into the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, a 2nd group of death-row inmates found guilty of smuggling narcotics is slated for execution probably as early as Tuesday. The 1st round was carried out on Jan. 18, during which 6 inmates from Indonesia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Nigeria, Vietnam and Malawi were killed by firing squad.

The upcoming executions will be the 1st time since the reform movement of 1998 that police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel will have to pull the trigger on 10 inmates at the same time on the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java.

Here are the stories of how drugs led 10 individuals, originating from 5 different continents, into the abyss in Indonesia.

Amid the widespread pleas for clemency for foreign citizens listed in the upcoming executions, defense and support for Zainal, 50, has gone largely unheard. No street marches or viral campaigns in social media have been held for him. On 21 Dec. 2000, Zainal was arrested at his residence in Palembang, South Sumatra, for the possession of 58.7 kilograms of marijuana, the possession and consumption of which has been declared legal in several developed countries.

He now faces the supreme punishment amid recent scientific studies and implicit acknowledgment by US President Barrack Obama indicating that marijuana has health benefits, when used in a controlled manner.

Zainal was initially given a 15-year prison term on drug trafficking charges but had his sentence increased to the death penalty after the Palembang Administrative Court filed an appeal in 2001. This sentence was confirmed by a Supreme Court cassation the following year.

President Jokowi has shown no mercy having rejected Zainal's appeal for clemency earlier in the year. He had filed for a judicial review of the case in 2005 but it was only picked up recently, with the Attorney General's Office (AGO) currently awaiting a response from the Supreme Court on whether or not to go ahead with the execution. The AGO is expected to hear from the court on Monday.

Although he is still awaiting the Supreme Court's decision, Zainal was recently transferred from the Pasir Putih Prison in Nusakamba-ngan to an isolation cell in Besi Prison in the same complex.

Zainal received notification of his impending execution on Saturday, and is expecting his family to visit and pray together on Monday morning.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, AustralianAndrew Chan, 31, and 34-year-old Myuran Sukumaran were apprehended by customs authorities along with 7 other Australians on April 17, 2005, at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Badung, Bali, for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin out of the country into Australia.

Identified as ring leaders of the so-called Bali 9, Chan and Sukumaran were both sentenced to death on Feb. 14, 2006, while the rest of the group - Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush and Martin Stephens - either received 20 years in prison or life sentences.

The 2 were detained in Kerobokan Prison and went through several rehabilitation programs involving art and computer workshops, cooking classes and tennis lessons. In 2010, Chan and Sukumaran filed an appeal against their sentences. Both appeals were rejected in July and June, respectively, of the following year. At the end of last year, the President rejected Sukumaran’s plea for clemency, while Chan's appeal was rejected on Jan. 22.

The pair lost another chance to avoid the death penalty in a 2nd case review after they were both rejected by the Denpasar District Court in February.

Serge Areski Atlaoui, French

Atlaoui, 51, was arrested after officials broke up a secret facility for producing ecstasy in Cikande, Tangerang, Banten, on Nov. 11, 2005. He was found guilty of possessing 138 kg of crystal meth, 290 kg of ketamine and 316 drums of precursor substances. He was sentenced to death 2 years later.

Imprisoned on Nusakamba-ngan prison island since 2007, the father-of-4 has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory. As many as 12 other people were involved in the same case as Atlaoui, 9 of whom received the death penalty at the Supreme Court.

Atlaoui's appeal for clemency was rejected by Jokowi late in 2014, prompting him to lodge a case review with the Supreme Court for the 1st time since he was detained.

The court rejected the review last week. A panel of judges stated in their ruling that Atlaoui had "been found guilty of distributing, transferring and brokering drug transactions with evidence including pure heroin".

Atlaoui was granted a temporary reprieve a few days ago, with the AGO claiming that there was an outstanding legal complaint in his case.

Rodrigo Gularte, Brazilian

On July 31, 2004, Gularte, 42, was arrested by the authorities at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten. The Brazilian was caught smuggling 19 kg of heroin encased in his surfboard and was found guilty at Tangerang District Court on Feb. 7, 2005. He never lodged an appeal to a higher court. His plea for clemency was rejected by Jokowi on Jan. 5.Gularte's case garnered much attention from rights activists due to the fact that he has been diagnosed with a mental illness on several occasions. Because of his illness, NGOs and civil society groups have maintained that Gularte was unfit for trial and have demanded a reprieve.

According to a medical examination report from the Cilacap general hospital dated Feb. 11, 2015, Gularte was confirmed as suffering from schizophrenia.

Another report - a medical certificate signed by neurologist Erasto Cichon in 2004 - stated that Gularte had been suffering from cerebral dysrhythmia since 1982, causing him to commit involuntary acts.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo, however, has insisted that death row convicts suffering from mental conditions must still be executed as there are currently no specific regulations exempting them from death.

Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Nigerian

Nwolise, 47, otherwise known as Mustofa, was caught by the National Police's narcotics directorate in 2003 for attempting to smuggle 1.2 kg of heroin into the country. He was found guilty by Tangerang District Court and was sentenced to death a year later.

Nwolise's plea for clemency was rejected by Jokowi earlier this year.Even after he was detained, he was repeatedly questioned by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) for continuing to operate a drug ring from within the confines of prison. On Nov. 27, 2012 he was found to have dealt drugs while in detention in Batu prison on Nusakambangan Island. A year later, he was found to be dealing again in Pasir Putih prison in the same prison complex.

He was returned from police custody to the Nusakambangan authorities on Feb. 26 and placed once more in Batu prison, but in an isolation cell.

Mary Jane Veloso, Filipino Veloso, 30, who used to work as a housemaid in the Philippines, was arrested with 2.6 kg of heroin at Adisucipto International airport in Yogyakarta on April 25, 2010. Sleman District Court sentenced her to death on Oct. 11, 2010.

She challenged the verdict at the Yogyakarta High Court but to no avail after the court rejected her appeal on Dec. 23, 2010.

The Supreme Court confirmed her sentence on May 31, 2011.

Jokowi rejected clemency for the mother-of-2 last December. On March 16, the Supreme Court rejected her 1st case review.

Martin Anderson, Ghanaian

Anderson, 50, was caught in 2003 at his lodging in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, where the authorities found him to be in possession of 50 grams of heroin.

He was sentenced to death at his trial at the North Jakarta District Court, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004.

In March, Anderson lodged a case review for the 1st time since his plea for clemency was rejected by Jokowi at the beginning of the year.

Anderson's legal team sought to reduce his sentence by referring to a previous case, in which Nigerian death row convict Hillary K. Chimezie, who was caught with 5.8 kg of heroin, had his sentence reduced to 12 years. Anderson's case review was dismissed by the judges as he had already asked for clemency, meaning that he admitted his guilt.

Okwudili Oyatanze, Nigerian

Oyatanze, 45, was apprehended by customs as he attempted to smuggle 1.15 kg of heroin from Pakistan. He was caught at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on Jan. 28, 2001.

He had been involved in the garment business in 1999, travelling to Indonesia to buy clothes and then reselling them in Nigeria. The business collapsed, however, and Oyatanze became heavily indebted, forcing him to accept the job of bringing "a product" from Pakistan to Indonesia, which he claimed to have realized only later was heroin.

On Aug. 13 of that year, Tangerang District Court handed Oyatanze the death penalty and this was confirmed by the Supreme Court on Aug. 28, 2002.

Oyatanze's application for judicial review was also rejected. He admitted to his crime and pleaded for clemency, which was eventually rejected by Jokowi on Feb. 5.

Raheem Agbaje Salami, Nigerian

Salami, 42, was arrested at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, in 1999 as he attempted to smuggle 5.2 kg of heroin. However, he claimed that his real identity was Jamiu Owolabi Abashin. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1999, which was reduced to 20 years on appeal. Prosecutors challenged the sentence at the Supreme Court, which in 2006 sentenced Salami to death.

He pleaded for clemency in September 2008 only to have it rejected by Jokowi earlier this year.

(source for both: Jakarta Post)

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

Indonesia once intervened to save maid from execution in Saudi Arabia

The Indonesian government, currently under international pressure to spare 8 foreigners, including a Filipino, from the death sentence, is no stranger to making appeals on behalf of a citizen facing execution overseas.

Last year, Indonesian officials found themselves scrambling to save the life of Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, an Indonesian maid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for killing and robbing her Saudi Arabian employer.

According to a report on CNN, Ahmad was sentenced to death in 2011 after she reportedly admitted to killing her 70-year-old female employer and stealing approximately $10,000, allegedly in self defense.

The same report said the execution was initially scheduled for August 2011 but was postponed five times due to the intervention of the Indonesian government.

But in April 2014, the execution was set aside altogether, after the Indonesian government announced that it would pay the seven million Saudi riyals ($1.8 million) asked for by the family of Ahmad's employers as blood money.

Mary Jane Veloso

Now, Indonesia is set to execute by firing squad on Tuesday eight foreigners convicted for drug-related charges. One of them is Mary Jane Velosos, a 30-year-old mother of 2 who said she was duped into serving as a drug mule by her recruiter.

Veloso was arrested after authorities found 2.6 kilograms of heroin sewn into her suitcase at the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010. She has maintained that she did not know that there were drugs in her luggage.

Double standard?

Indonesia's supposed double standard has been criticized by the group Human Rights Watch (HRW.)

"The Indonesian government's pursuit of clemency for Ahmad in Saudi Arabia while ignoring its own continued use of the death penalty is more than just about hypocrisy on the right to life. It's an expression of recently elected President Joko Widodo's avowed support for the death penalty as an 'important shock therapy' for drug law violators," said an article by Phelim Kine, HRW's deputy director.

Kine also noted the disconnect between Widodo's continued denial of clemency for those on death row in his country and the scramble to save the life of an Indonesian in a similar situation.

"Widodo denied [several] petitions for clemency on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had 'destroyed the future of the nation.' [But] international human rights law limits use of the death penalty to only 'the most serious crimes,' typically crimes resulting in death or grievous bodily harm," he said.

Kine also criticized Indonesia's hard line stance on implementing the death penalty for drug-related offenses, saying the United Nations Human Rights Committee does not recommend the execution in these cases.

"The United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN expert on unlawful killings have condemned using the death penalty in drug cases, and the UN high commissioner for human rights and the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have likewise expressed grave concerns about the application of the death penalty for drug offenses. All this makes Indonesia's application of the death penalty for drug-related convictions particularly odious," he said.

(source: GMA News)

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

Hikmahanto: Show Strength by Ignoring Death Penalty Outcry

For the sake of proving that nobody can interfere with Indonesian sovereignty, the government should ignore the growing global outcry and push ahead with the execution of drug convicts on death row, an outspoken international law professor from the nation's top university said on Monday.

Hikmahanto Juwana said Indonesia is currently in the spotlight, after hosting the 60th commemoration of the Asian-African Conference, and has to show that it is not only willing to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk.

"The principle of non-intervention in Asian and African countries as outlined in the Dasa Sila [results of the first Bandung Conference in 1955] is still relevant today, including when Indonesia carries out the death penalty," Hikmahanto said in a press release, adding that if the government bows out now, the nation will become a global laughing stock.

Indonesia is set to execute 9 people, possibly as soon as Tuesday, for drug offenses. 8 out of 9 are foreign nationals. A 10th convict, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, has been granted a temporary reprieve due to an outstanding legal matter.

Just for show

Besides opposition to the death penalty in principle, the international criticism generally centers on alleged irregularities in the Indonesian justice system.

France has been among the harshest critics of the pending killings, with its foreign minister speaking of "serious dysfunction" in the legal system.

The Australian government, too, has consistently raised its objection against the execution of 2 of its nationals, 'Bali 9' ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Indonesian relations with Brazil are at a low, with the president of the Latin-American powerhouse refusing to accept the credentials of a new Indonesian ambassador. Brazilian national Marco Archer was executed for drug offenses in January and another Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte - diagnosed with a mental illness - is set to face the firing squad this week.

But according to Hikmahanto, a professor at the University of Indonesia (UI), the governments of France and Australia are merely protesting because their voters expect them to, and that everything will be fine once the executions are over.

"No foreign government dares to put good and mutually profitable relations at stake to defend a national who committed a crime," Hikmahanto said.

He added that domestic political considerations also play a role in the stance of countries like Australia and France, and that the Australians were not nearly as outspoken against China as they have been against Indonesia.

"Late last May, China executed an Australian citizen, but Australia didn't exert pressure [on China] like it is on Indonesia," the professor said.

Ban Ki-moon gets an earful

Hikmahanto also criticized Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, for calling on President Joko Widodo to cancel the pending executions.

According to Hikmahanto, the UN chief had no business giving orders like a head of state.

Ban's spokesman said in a statement on Saturday that "if the death penalty is to be used at all, it should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, namely those involving intentional killing, and only with appropriate safeguards."

"Drug-related offenses generally are not considered to fall under the category of 'most serious crimes'," the spokesman added, as reported by Reuters.

But according to Hikmahanto the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly allows states to decide what qualifies as a serious crime, and it doesn't exclude drug-related offenses.

"The Indonesian also have to right to ask why there was not statement from the UN secretary-general recently when 2 Indonesian domestic workers were executed in Saudi Arabia," Hikmahanto said.

Also, the international law expert said it was strange that Ban took issue with the death penalty in Indonesia while his own country, South Korea, continues to use it.

"When we look at Ban Ki-moon's statement, don't be surprised if President Jokowi says the UN doesn't reflect the interests of Asian and African nations," Hikmahanto said. "The interests and voices represented are those of the European nations, Australia and America. It's understandable if Jokowi questions the universality of the UN."

Joko called for reform in a speech at the Asian-African Conference in Jakarta last week, saying that the UN and the world's leading financial institutions were responsible for Western-leaning imbalance of global economic and political power.

(source: The Jakarta Globe)

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

Bali 9: Chan marries fiancee in final hours

Bali 9 convicted drug smuggler Andrew Chan has married his fiancee Feby Herewila in what could be his last hours alive on death row.

Chan's brother Michael returned from Nusakambangan on Monday night and announced the news.

"Feby and Andrew had a bit of a celebration this evening," he said.

"It was celebrated with some family and close friends. We'd just like to celebrate that with him tomorrow as well so hopefully the president will still show some compassion, some mercy so that these 2 young people can carry on with their lives.

"It's in the president's hands."

Unless President Joko Widodo has a change of heart, Chan will likely face the firing squad around midnight on Tuesday (0300 Wednesday AEST), alongside Myuran Sukumaran.

Chan and Sukumaran, who were arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs out of Indonesia, are spending what could be the last several hours of their lives with their families, as the clock ticks towards their impending deaths.

Late on Monday, Indonesia's Constitutional Court agreed to consider a last-ditch legal challenge to the country's clemency laws on May 12.

However, the court ruling won't affect the executions of the pair, unless Mr Widodo or Attorney-General HM Prasetyo step in.

On Saturday, the Bali Nine ringleaders received formal notification from Indonesian authorities that they will soon be shot for trying to export more than 8 kilograms of heroin to Australia.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave a strongly-worded press conference on Monday over the imminent execution of the duo, saying she is "very disappointed" in the Indonesian government.

Ms Bishop said her representations to Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi had been ignored, including that the men not be given notice of their execution on Anzac Day.

"I am profoundly dismayed that the Indonesian authorities have given Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran 72 hours' notice of their executions," Ms Bishop said.

"We did make representations to request that they not do this on our national day of remembrance but they proceeded."

To add to the despair, the Chan and Sukumaran families lost more than 3 hours of precious time with their sons and brothers on Monday over bureaucratic red tape.

They were turned away at Cilacap port followed by Australia's consul-general to Bali, Majell Hind, and lawyer Julian McMahon, after being told the visitation rules had changed.

They were later allowed passage to Nusakambangan for what would be their 2nd-last visit.

It is understood they have been advised to say their last goodbyes on Tuesday afternoon.

Sukumaran's brother, Chinthu, also issued another desperate plea for President Joko Widodo on behalf of his brother.

"I spent the last 5 hours watching young children playing with their parents," he said.

"I ask the president to not make orphans out of children, widows ... there are family members just crying inside the prison, as we count down the hours, to please step up and have mercy."

Amnesty international and Sydney Bali 9 activists held a vigil.

Vigils were held in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne on Monday night for the convicted drug smugglers.

Candles were lit and paintings of the men were carried by about 50 supporters outside the Indonesian consulate in Sydney.

The 2 men were arrested at Denpasar airport in April 2005 and sentenced in 2006 to execution by firing squad.

The pair have been refused clemency by Indonesian President Joko Widodo as part of a hardline stance on the death penalty for convicted drug criminals.

'Corruption allegations'

In a further development, a former lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran told Fairfax the judges who sentenced the pair to death were willing to give a lighter sentence.

Bali-based Mohammad Rifan alleged the judges initially asked for a payment $130,000 in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

Chan and Sukumaran's Australian lawyer Peter Morrissey said the planned executions must be postponed while the allegation of judicial corruption is investigated.

Indonesia's Judicial Commission said it would investigate the allegations, but said its findings would have no bearing on the pair's cases.

But on Monday afternoon Mr Widodo questioned why bribery claims around the death sentences of Chan and Sukumaran were only being aired hours before their executions are due.

"Things like this should have been conveyed years ago. That's my answer," Mr Widodo said.

Mr Widodo is under pressure from governments and rights groups globally to stay the executions of the Australians and 7 others expected after midnight on Tuesday.

He was returning from an ASEAN meeting in Malaysia where Philippine President Benigno Aquino sought clemency for his death row citizen Mary Jane Veloso.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott wrote to Mr Widodo at the weekend to make another plea for clemency for the pair.

Ms Bishop has revealed Mr Abbott also spoke to Mr Widodo about the pair in March, while attending the funeral of Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew.

(source: The New Daily)

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

Blanks in firing squad rifles, shot to head for sure death

Indonesia is set to execute eight foreigners convicted of drug offences, despite international outrage and desperate appeals for mercy from relatives.

Authorities have given formal notice to the 8 - from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines - that they would face a firing squad imminently. If the executions go ahead, the 7 men and 1 woman will be led to a clearing on a prison island to be shot by police marksmen - after authorities have placed a black mark on their clothing to mark the heart.

Here are key questions and answers about the process:

Q: Where do the executions take place?

A: Indonesia executes death row inmates at Nusakambangan, a rugged island off Central Java that has served as a high-security jail since Dutch colonial rule. Those sentenced to death are eventually transferred to Nusakambangan, where they wait until being led to a nearby clearing to face the firing squad.

Q: How much notification do prisoners receive before being shot?

A: Authorities must provide a minimum 72 hours' notice. Once this is given, the prisoners are moved to isolation cells to wait. If they are foreigners their governments are informed of the impending execution.

Q: What happens next?

A: 1 hour before the scheduled execution time, a team of 12 specially-trained policemen assembles at the site.

They take position 5 to 10 metres (16 to 32 feet) from where the condemned inmates will be positioned and lay out their rifles.

A commander loads each rifle with 1 round but only 3 of the rounds are live. The rest are blanks, meaning it cannot be determined who fired the fatal shot.

Prisoners sentenced to death for the same crime - like the 2 Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali 9" heroin-smuggling gang - must by law be executed at the same time but by a different shooting group.

Q: How are the prisoners executed?

A: The condemned inmates are marched to the clearing, where their hands and feet are bound and they are placed in front of individual posts. They are given the option of sitting, kneeling or standing and can wear a blindfold if desired.

The prisoners then have a final three minutes with a religious counsellor, before a commander draws a black mark on the inmate's clothing over the heart.

The squad commander then raises a sword. The marksmen take aim and fire when he swishes the blade down.

Q: Do Indonesians support the death penalty for drug use?

In a nationwide survey last month by pollster Indo Barometer, 84% of respondents supported the death penalty for drug traffickers, while just 12 % disagreed.

The broad public support partly explains why President Joko Widodo - who believes Indonesia faces a drugs emergency - has been so unwavering in his determination to put drug dealers to death.

Many in Indonesia view drug dealers as akin to terrorists, mass murderers or rapists.

The country has some of the world's toughest anti-drugs laws and sentences for possession of even minor quantities of narcotics can be harsh.

(source: Hindustan Times)

PHILIPPINES:

Aside from Mary Jane Veloso, 77 other Pinoys facing death penalty abroad

Aside from Mary Jane Veloso, the 30-year-old Filipina facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, over 70 other Filipinos are on death row in other countries for various crimes, most of them involving illegal drugs.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are 77 Filipinos on death row abroad, most of them in Saudi Arabia.

In a text message to GMA News Online, DFA spokesperson Charles Jose enumerated the Filipinos facing executions abroad as follows:

Saudi Arabia: 27 (26 for murder and 1 for drugs)

Malasyia: 24 (18 for drugs, 4 for murder, and 2 for murder with rape)

China: 19 (all for drugs)

USA: 2 (both for murder)

Vietnam: 2 (both for drugs)

Kuwait: 1 (for murder)

Indonesia: 1 (for drugs)

Thailand: 1 (for murder, rape, and theft)

Executed Pinoys

Since 2010, 7 Filipinos were executed, most of them in China.

In 2011, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo, Elizabeth Batain were executed by lethal injection in China for drug smuggling. Ordinario-Villanueva and Credo were executed in Xiamen, while Batain was executed in Shenzhen.

In the same year, a 35-year-old unnamed Filipino male was also executed China, specifically in Liuzhou County, Guangzi, also for drug trafficking.

In 2013, a 35-year-old Filipina who was convicted in China for carrying 6 kilos of heroin in January 2011 was executed.

The following year, Carlito Lana was executed in Saudi Arabia for killing his Saudi employer in 2010. He was beheaded.

Earlier this year, Joven Esteva, 39, convicted for killing his employer and injuring his employer's son in 2007, was executed in Saudi Arabia.

(source: GMA News)

APRIL 26:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

S.C. executioners, get your guns?

And it's been national-mockery business as usual since state Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Piedmont, filed a bill Wednesday to make firing squads an alternative for dispatching death-row inmates from this mortal coil.

Even S.C. House Democratic spokesman Tyler Jones aimed sarcastic scorn at the idea, suggesting that Putnam also consider "adding a guillotine option." Jones further asserted that Putnam's proposal "just makes South Carolina look medieval."

Hey, going "medieval" on very bad guys is sadly underrated in this hypersensitive era.

Anyway, Putnam's bill also would restore the much more recent means of execution via electrocution.

Meanwhile, with drugs formerly used for lethal injections unavailable, carrying out a death sentence demands other methods.

What about morphine? Isn't it frequently used to halt the pointless suffering of terminal patients in terrible pain?

Still, the supposedly merciful final act of putting a fatal potion into the bloodstream has drawn criticism after a series of botched U.S. executions in recent decades.

That grisly list includes the long good-bye of Michael Elkins on June 13, 1997. Due to ailment-driven swelling of his liver and spleen, his executioners had a tough time finding an accessible vein. It took nearly an hour before the needle was finally inserted in his neck.

But lest you waste much pity on Elkins, review this Associated Press account of the brutal crime to which he admitted - a stabbing murder he committed with 8 knife wounds in a good Samaritan to facilitate a robbery:

"Elkins was convicted of killing Patricia Whitt, 59, of Largo, Fla., on July 9, 1990, after she stopped to help him and another man who feigned car trouble along Interstate 95 near the Georgia border."

Sure, there have been more gruesome examples of American lethal injections gone long and wrong as the condemned writhed in extended agony before taking their last breaths.

That has made pharmaceutical companies increasingly reluctant to supply the stuff required for this imposition of the ultimate justice.

And that has made for those of us still lingering in the dwindled ranks of death-penalty advocates frustrated.

One way or the other

Capital punishment hasn't been administered in South Carolina since May 6, 2011.

That's when Jeffrey Motts, who got 2 life sentences for murdering two aging relatives (one 79, the other 73) in 1995, was lethally injected for strangling a cellmate to death in 2007.

2 years after Motts' execution, the S.C. Department of Corrections' stash of death-penalty drugs expired. Now 2 years after that, Putnam's trying to solve that problem.

Oklahoma and Utah already have passed legislation reviving the use of firing squads.

Nazi war criminals executed after the Nuremberg Trials requested - and were rightly denied - to be executed by firing squads because they deemed that a more honorable end than being hanged like common killers.

And when you kill killers with bullets from guns instead of drugs from needles, you don't need an accessible vein.

OK, so capital punishment in the U.S. has long been gagging toward a slow death of its own.

So while our Founding Fathers clearly didn't deem the death penalty a "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment, it's so belatedly, rarely and randomly applied these days that this can reasonably be branded as not just unusual but uneven.

Still, if it's OK for our state to kill killers with deadly doses of drugs, why shouldn't it also be OK to kill them with live rounds of ammunition?

And regardless of your view on whether, why, when, where and how capital punishment should be administered, remember, it's still the law of the land, er, state, here.

So don't too hastily dismiss Putnam's firing-squad notion.

Don't worry, either, about finding folks to serve on armed death panels. Our Palmetto State packs plenty of gun enthusiasts, many of whom are also diehard death penalty fans.

So there should be no shortage of volunteers to carry out that grim but necessary duty. We could even supplement now-meager Corrections Department funding by putting shots at firing-squad participation up for auction to certified marksmen - and markswomen.

Going out in style

This column's last words come from Englishman Robert Erskine Childers.

Author of the breakthrough 1903 spy novel "The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service," he somehow metamorphosed from staunch defender of British imperialism to ardent Irish nationalist.

Sentenced to death on Nov. 20, 1922, under the Army Emergency Powers Resolution for possessing a semiautomatic pistol (what? no Second Amendment?), Childers shook hands with every member of his firing squad a mere 4 days later in Dublin, then told them:

"Take a step or 2 forward, lads. It will be easier that way."

(source: Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier)

FLORIDA:

Florida's death row could see vacancies if Supreme Court rules juries must be unanimous

Very few people in Jacksonville have heard of Timothy Hurst. But the Panhandle man may soon be responsible for getting dozens of people from the Jacksonville area off death row.

The scenario could happen because of the way Florida sentences convicted killers to death. Hurst, 36 and on death row for killing an Escambia County fast-food manager, claims his death sentence violates the Sixth Amendment because only 7 of his 12 jurors recommended he get the death penalty. The other 5 said he should get life without the possibility of parole.

Florida, Delaware and Alabama are the only states that don't require juries in death-penalty cases to reach a unanimous decision when sentencing someone to death. In Florida, a jury must unanimously vote to convict someone of 1st-degree murder and then decides whether to recommend death after a separate sentencing hearing.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider Hurst's case. Oral arguments are expected to occur this year, with a ruling likely in the spring of 2016.

Public Defender Matt Shirk said he believes in the death penalty, but not the way Florida practices it. He hopes the Supreme Court throws out Hurst's death sentence.

"In this state, we're just getting it wrong when we don't require a unanimous jury verdict," Shirk said.

75 people are on death row for murders committed in Duval, Clay, Nassau, Putnam or St. Johns counties. Only 13 got sentenced to death after a jury unanimously recommended it.

That means 62 people on death row from Northeast Florida could have their death sentences thrown out if the Supreme Court rules in Hurst's favor. People who could be affected include Rasheem Dubose, convicted of the murder of 8-year-old Dreshawna Davis, Paul Durousseau for the murder of Tyresa Mack, and Alan Wade, Tiffany Cole and Michael James Jackson for the robbery, kidnapping and murders of Carol and Reggie Sumner.

Ring vs. Arizona

Ronald Clark, 47, knows Hurst very well. Hurst lives down the hall from him on Florida's death row. There since 1991 for the murder of Ronald Willis in Jacksonville, Clark sees Hurst as perhaps his best chance to die of natural causes. The jury that convicted Clark recommended death on an 11-1 vote.

"I think this case is way overdue," Clark said in a letter to the Times-Union. "Florida, in ignoring the court's ruling in Ring vs. Arizona basically was slapping the U.S. Supreme Court in the face, saying it's our way or the highway, we run things down here in the dirty South, not you do-gooders in Washington."

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Network, said death-penalty opponents have been waiting a long time for a case like Hurst's. In fact, they've been waiting since 2002.

That was the year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ring vs. Arizona that a jury - not a judge - must make the factual findings required to sentence someone to death.

The 7-2 majority opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said juries must find beyond a reasonable doubt each factor considered in determining whether a death sentence should be imposed.

To involve jurors any less, she said, violated defendants' Sixth-Amendment right to a trial by jury.

"We all took note of Ring when it was decided," said former Jacksonville Public Defender Bill White. "It was obvious that without a unanimous jury recommendation, there were going to be Sixth-Amendment issues in Florida."

The ruling essentially invalidated Arizona's death-penalty law, which had trial judges decide whether someone should be sentenced to death with no jury feedback. Dieter said it also should have invalidated Florida's death-penalty law because the court ruling required the jury to decide whether someone should be sentenced to death.

"Florida does not allow for such a determination," Dieter said. "Instead, the jury makes only an advisory recommendation to the judge that aggravating factors exist [thus indicating eligibility for the death penalty] and that the person should be sentenced to life or death."

The factual determination of death-penalty eligibility is left to the judge, not the jury, and that violates the Sixth Amendment as interpreted in Ring, Dieter said.

But in 2005, the Florida Supreme Court ruled it did not violate the Constitution. However, in his majority opinion upholding the law, Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero called on the Legislature to revisit Florida's death-penalty statute to require unanimity for jury recommendations of death.

Nothing happened. Legislation was introduced multiple times, but it has never come close to passing.

Jacksonville lawyer Frank Tassone defended death-penalty clients for decades at trials and appeals. He thinks there's a good chance the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst.

"Common sense says that the Supreme Court isn't going to issue a ruling that lets thousands of people out of prison," Tassone said. "But they may be willing to do this."

No one would get out of prison. It would just mean some people would get off death row and be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, he said.

The Hurst case is a strong appeal because the jury recommended death on a 7-5 vote and he had no previous criminal record, said Gainesville-area Chief Assistant Public Defender Al Chipperfield, who previously defended death-penalty clients as an assistant public defender in Jacksonville.

"It's possible the Supreme Court has been waiting for the right case," Chipperfield said. "And this is it."

An unexpected emotion

Even when his son’s killer got the death penalty, Glen Mitchell was pretty certain he would never be executed.

"I had done research and saw that other murders much worse than what happened to Jeff had been overturned," Mitchell said. "So even during the trial, I thought the death penalty wouldn't hold up."

Jeff Mitchell, then 14, was shot and killed during a robbery attempt outside Terry Parker High.

Omar Shareef Jones, now 41, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and originally sentenced to death for shooting Mitchell as he waited outside school for a ride home. Also sentenced for 1st-degree murder was Edward Jerome Goodman, 41, who received life in prison. 2 others involved in the shooting were convicted of 2nd-degree murder.

When the Florida Supreme Court overturned Jones' death penalty in 1998 and ordered him resentenced to life, Mitchell experienced an emotion that he'd never expected to have.

"It seemed like Jeff's life had just been cheapened," Mitchell said. "It wasn't the case, but even though I knew this was likely to happen, that's what it felt like."

The feeling went away at the end of the day, but it's something Mitchell said he always remembered because it was so unexpected.

While Mitchell will never experience that feeling again, many other people may soon deal with similar emotions.

Cecil King was convicted of beating 82-year-old Renie Telzer-Bain to death with a hammer. The jury recommended death on an 8-4 vote.

Telzer-Bain's daughter-in-law, Lysa Telzer, said it was "unnerving" to think King may get his death sentence thrown out.

"The law was followed in putting him on death row," she said. "There was never any doubt that he was guilty."

To put her family and other families who lost someone to violent crime through this isn't fair, and it isn't justice, Telzer said.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst, it shouldn't be retroactive, she said. Everyone now on death row should remain, and new rules requiring a unanimous jury verdict of death should only factor into future cases.

Retroactive

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules for Hurst, the 62 First Coast death row inmates who had at least one juror recommend life will likely all claim they should have their death-penalty sentences thrown out. But Stephen Harper, a Florida International University law professor who previously worked as an assistant public defender in Miami, believes that most of them won't be happy with what happens next.

After Ring vs. Arizona was decided in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a follow-up ruling in 2004 that said the Ring decision couldn't be applied retroactively. That means anyone sentenced to death before 2002, such as Clark, is probably out of luck.

But since 2002 every lawyer of someone facing a potential death row sentence always makes a motion to declare Florida's death-penalty rules unconstitutional, citing the Ring case. The motion is always denied by the trial judge, but by making that motion the issue is preserved for an appeal.

So, in layman's terms, this means that everyone sentenced to death after 2002 has a chance of getting off death row.

The Florida Department of Corrections lists about 30 First Coast death row inmates who've arrived on death row since 2002, although a few of them were originally sentenced before 2002 but had to be retried or resentenced after that date.

Shirk said he hopes that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hurst, the justices will explain in detail what it means for other people on death row in Florida. He said he thinks prosecutors will be more reluctant to seek the death penalty if a unanimous jury recommendation of death is required.

"But I can't say that will apply to our own prosecutor," Shirk said, referring to State Attorney Angela Corey, who has put more people on death row than any other prosecutor in Florida since she took office in 2009.

The effect

State Attorney Senior Managing Director Bernie de la Rionda, who has put more people on death row than just about any other prosecutor in Florida and spoke on behalf of Corey to the Times-Union, said the office would not change how the death penalty is sought if the ruling goes through.

But de la Rionda expressed hope that justices would recognize that the current system is fair.

A jury has already made a unanimous finding that a person is guilty of 1st-degree murder before they decide whether someone deserves death, and that's the most important finding a jury makes, he said.

De la Rionda also cited Ted Bundy, 1 of the most notorious serial killers in Florida history, as an example of why the death penalty is fair even without a unanimous jury verdict of death.

Bundy was executed for the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach of Lake City, but he might have killed up to 30 women. The Orlando jury who convicted Bundy recommended death on a 10-2 vote.

"I think the most anti-death penalty person would struggle with keeping him alive," de la Rionda said.

But former Jacksonville State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the Bundy argument has been used for years, and it's not really valid.

"If that jury had to be unanimous, I think it would have been," he said. "Those 10 jurors would have gotten the other 2 to change their votes."

If that hadn't happened, Bundy would have ended up being executed for another murder, Shorstein said.

While prosecutors argue that many majority verdicts recommending death would become unanimous verdicts if that was the requirement, Chipperfield isn't so sure.

When picking juries, defense lawyers always seek assurances from potential jurors that they will stick to what they believe even if other jurors disagree with them, and most jurors say they will do that.

"I know prosecutors say the other jurors would wear the holdouts down," Chipperfield said. "But in other states, all you need is 1 juror opposed to death and you've got a life sentence."

De la Rionda said a lot of the 9-3 or 10-2 recommendations of death should be taken with a grain of salt because some people vote no because they know they;re outvoted and don’t want a death sentence on their conscience.

De la Rionda said it would be more difficult if the Supreme Court requires a unanimous jury to call for death. But he doesn't think it will reduce the number of people his office puts on death row.

Juror selection will take more time and trials might also take longer, but the results will likely remain the same, he said.

De la Rionda also said if the Supreme Court throws out the death-penalty convictions of people in Jacksonville based on a jury not being unanimous, his office has the option of seeking another penalty phase with a new jury that puts those people back on death row.

"I think Ms. Corey would seek to put all of them back on death row," de la Rionda said.

His office hasn't spoken to victims' families yet in detail about this, although de la Rionda said a few have contacted them.

"It's too early to talk about this," de la Rionda said. "We don't want to add to their stress."

But the Hurst case already is making an impact. Attorneys for Lance Eugene Kirkpatrick, convicted this month for killing 38-year-old Kim Dorsey, asked Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey to delay his death-penalty phase until after the court rules on Hurst's case.

"This court should strike the death notice and move to protect Mr. Kirkpatrick from a trial under a scheme which, as shown below, the Supreme Court is virtually certain to find unconstitutional," said attorney Julie Schlax in her motion. "To allow a death sentence in these circumstances would waste scarce judicial resources and, more important, subject the defendant to constitutionally infirm capital proceedings."

Hulsey refused to delay the sentencing phase, and the jury rejected prosecutors' calls to execute him and recommended life without parole.

De la Rionda said at least one other death-penalty case is getting the same motion, but it's not realistic to wait for the Supreme Court to rule.

"We have to try these cases," he said. "It gets more difficult to prove your case the longer you wait."

***

Not unanimous

First Coast death row inmates who could have sentences affected if U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Timothy Hurst include:

2014

Death on 8-4 vote for Rodney Newberry in Duval County murder of Terrese Pernell Stevens

2013

Death on 8-4 vote for Kim Jackson in Duval County murder of Debra Pearce

2012

Death on 9-3 vote for Arthur Martin in Duval County murder of Javon Daniels

Death on 8-4 vote for Timothy Fletcher in Putnam County murder of Helen Key Googe

Death on 8-4 vote for Terrance Phillips in Duval County murders of Mateo Perez and Renaldo Antunez-Padilla

Death on 8-4 vote for Billy Sheppard in Duval County murder of Monquell Deshaun Wimberly

2011

Death on 7-5 vote for Thomas Brown in Duval County murder of Juanese Miller

Death on 8-4 vote for Cecil King in Duval County murder of Renie Telzer-Bain

Death on 8-4 vote for Terry Smith in Duval County murder of Berthum Gibson and on 10-2 vote for Smith in the murder of Kennethia Kennan

2010

Death on 8-4 vote for Rasheem Dubose in Duval County murder of 8-year-old DreShawna Davis

Death on 10-2 vote for Justin McMillian in Duval County murder of Danielle De-Ann Stubbs

Death on 9-3 vote for David Martin in Clay County murder of Jacey Lynn McWilliams

2009

Death on 7-5 vote for Robert Peterson in Duval County murder of Roy Andrews

Death on 8-4 vote for Raymond Bright in Duval County murders of Randall Brown and Derrick King III (trial judge threw out death sentence and ordered Bright resentenced because his trial lawyers were ineffective; Bright technically remains on Death Row while prosecutors appeal)

2008

Death on 7-5 vote for Galante Phillips in Duval County murder of Chris Aligada

Death on 10-2 vote for Donald Banks in Duval County murder of Linda Sue Volum

Death on 10-2 vote for James Turner in St. Johns County murder of Renee Boling Howard

Death on 9-3 vote for Tiffany Cole in Duval County murders of James "Reggie" Sumner and Carol Sumner

Death on 11-1 vote for Alan Wade in Duval County murders of James "Reggie" Sumner and Carol Sumner

2007

Death on 8-4 vote for Michael James Jackson in Duval County murders of James "Reggie" Sumner and Carol Sumner

Death on 8-4 vote for Jason Simpson in Duval County murders of Kimberli Kimbler and Archie Crook Sr.

Death on 10-2 vote for Paul Durousseau in Duval County murder of Tyresa Mack

Death on 10-2 vote for Norman McKenzie in St. Johns County murders of Charles Johnston and Randy Peacock

2006

Death on 8-4 vote for John Mosley in Duval County murder of Jay-Quan Mosley

2005

Death on 8-4 vote for Pinkney Carter in Duval County murder of Glenn Pafford and a 9-3 vote in death of Liz Reed

Death on 8-4 vote for Thomas Bevel in Duval County murder of Garrick Stringfield (jury also recommended death 12-0 for murder of Phillip Sims)

2003

Death on 11-1 vote for Gerald Murray in Duval County murder of Marilyn Vest

2002

Death 11-1 vote for Luther Douglas in Duval County murder of Maryann Hobgood

2001

Death on 7-5 vote for Richard McCoy in Duval County murder of Shervie Ann Elliot.

Death on 9-3 vote for James Belcher in Duval County murder of Jennifer Embry.

2000

Death on 8-4 vote for John Reese in Duval County murder of Sharlene Austin.

1999

Death on 10-2 vote John Taylor in Clay County murder of Shannon Carol Holzer.

Death on 11-1 vote for Connie Irael in Putnam County murder of Esther Hagans.

Death on 11-1 vote for Maurice Floyd in Putnam County murder of Mary Goss.

1998

Death on 10-2 vote for Donald Bradley in Clay County murder of Jack Jones.

Death on 9-3 vote for Jason Stephens in Duval County murder of Robert Sparrow.

Death on 7-5 vote for David Miller in Duval County murder of Albert Floyd.

1997

Death on 9-3 vote for Andrew Lukehart in Duval County murder of Gabrielle Hanshaw.

Death on 9-3 vote for David Jones in Duval County murder of Lori McRae.

1996

Death on 9-3 vote for Pressley Alston in Duval County murder of James Coon.

1995

Death on 11-1 vote for Toney Davis in Duval County murder of Caleasha Cunningham.

Death on 11-1 vote for Michael Shellito in murder of Sean Hathorne. Florida Supreme Court threw out death sentence due to incompetence of trial lawyers and ordered him resentenced. Shellito technically remains on death row until he is resentenced.

1994

Death on 9-3 vote for Marvin Jones in Duval County murder of Monique Stow.

Death on 11-1 vote for William Thomas in Duval County murder of Rachel Thomas.

1993

Death on 9-3 vote for Kenneth Hartley in Duval County murder of Gino Mayhew.

Death on 11-1 vote for Ronald Clark in Duval County murder of Ronald Willis.

Death on 7-5 vote for Anthony Mungin in Duval County murder of Betty Jean Woods.

Death by 9-3 vote for Thomas Moore in Duval County murder of Johnny Parrish.

1991

Death on 10-2 vote for Steven Stein in Duval County murders of Dennis Saunders and Bobby Hood.

Death on 10-2 vote for William Sweet in Duval County murder of Felicia Bryant.

Death on 10-2 vote Steven Taylor in the Duval County murder of Marilyn Vest.

Death on 10-2 vote for Randall Jones in Putnam County murders of Matthew Brock and Kelly Perry.

1989

Death on 8-4 vote for Ernest Downs in Duval County murder of Forrest Harris.

Death on a 7-5 vote for Tony Watts in Duval County murder of Simon Jurado.

Death by 8-4 vote for Richard Randolph in the Putnam County murder of Minnie McCollum.

1988

Death on 9-3 vote for John Freeman in Duval County murder of Leonard Collier.

Death on 9-3 vote for Mark Asay in Duval County murders of Robert McDowell and Robert Lee Booker.

1987

Death on 9-3 vote for Jacob Dougan in Duval County murder of Stephen Orlando. A judge threw out Dougan's conviction and death sentence on allegations his original lawyer was incompetent, but Dougan technically remains on death row while prosecutors appeal ruling to Florida Supreme Court.

Death on 11-1 vote for Grover Reed in Duval County murder of Betty Oermann.

1986

Death on 7-5 vote for Etheria Jackson in Duval County murder of Linton Moody.

Death on 7-5 vote for John Hardwick in Duval County murder of Keith Pullam.

1983

Death on 9-3 vote for Joel Wright in Putnam County murder of Lima Smith.

(source: St. Augustine Record)

OKLAHOMA:

U.S. Supreme Court to consider constitutionality of Oklahoma's death penalty----On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the state's execution protocol, specifically the use of 1 of the 3 drugs in Oklahoma's lethal cocktail. The court's decision could have a lasting impact on the use of the drug across the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on Oklahoma's execution protocol, specifically whether or not the use of a particular drug in the state's lethal cocktail is constitutional.

Midazolam has been at the center of much debate and legal wrangling since 2014, when the sedative was used in a few problematic executions across the country, including the lethal injection of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett that April.

A state investigation later concluded that problems that occurred during Lockett's execution, which lasted 43 minutes and caused him to writhe and speak during a time he was supposed to be unconscious, were largely caused by an improperly placed IV. But expert testimony in a December federal court hearing suggested midazolam was a potentially dangerous drug to use in lethal injections.

The federal judge in that case found the use of midazolam did not violate inmates' Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. But a 5 to 4 Supreme Court vote denying the final appeal of Charles Frederick Warner, an inmate who was put to death in January using the drug and the last prisoner to be executed in Oklahoma, was enough for the justices to hear arguments on the constitutionality of midazolam's use. The court later granted a request by state Attorney General Scott Pruitt to stay all of the state's scheduled executions.

Focus on midazolam

Since the court will be looking specifically at midazolam, the case likely will only be significant to states that also use the drug, such as Ohio, Arizona, and Florida, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The case is not an indictment of lethal injections as a whole, Dunham said, and, in fact, the court could very likely focus not on the use of the drug itself, but instead how it is administered.

"The court could say that it's unconstitutional because midazolam is an inappropriate drug to be using and make it so that midazolam itself would be an Eighth Amendment violation," he said. "But, they could say that the use of midazolam without particular safeguards or in particular circumstances is unconstitutional. So, I think the states are rightly waiting for the court to act so that they can respond intelligently after the decision is announced."

If the court finds the drug or its application to be unconstitutional, Oklahoma still has two other lethal combinations that do not require the use of midazolam. However, those combinations utilize the drugs sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, 2 drugs that have become increasingly difficult to obtain.

3 more doses

The Department of Corrections has access to the ingredients of at least 3 more doses of the 3 drug cocktail that includes midazolam, spokeswoman Terri Watkins confirmed Thursday. She said the state also continues its search for a reliable source of pentobarbital.

Dale Baich, one of the federal public defenders representing the inmates who are challenging Oklahoma's execution protocol, argues the expert testimony in federal court in December was conclusive; midazloam is not an adequate anesthetic and does not properly sedate inmates for lethal injection purposes. He said other states, such as Texas and Georgia, have successfully been able to obtain pentobarbital, and it is unclear why Oklahoma cannot obtain the drug due to a lack of transparency in the state Department of Corrections.

Pruitt contends the use of midazolam has been upheld by multiple courts, and he has no doubt the Supreme Court will rule similarly.

"All previous courts have ruled that the lethal injection protocol used by Oklahoma is constitutional," he said in an emailed statement. "My office believes the U.S. Supreme Court, after considering these facts, will also find that Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol is constitutional and thus allow the sentences for these heinous crimes to be carried out in accordance with the law."

Death penalty support

Joseph Thai, presidential professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, said while shining a light on the execution process is an important part of the democratic process, he agrees with Pruitt that the Supreme Court will likely rule to affirm the state's use of midazolam.

"Unlike bans on same-sex marriage, public opinion has not turned against the death penalty with the same swiftness and sweep, and support remains entrenched in states like Oklahoma that retain the death penalty," Thai said. "If the Court upholds the execution method at issue, debate over the death penalty will likely remain at a stalemate nationally, leaving its fate to state politics."

The court is expected to make a final decision sometime this summer.

(source: The Oklahoman)

NEBRASKA:

Death penalty a failure

I hope our legislators will continue to listen to the numbers of families of murder victims and conservatives who have said that its time to let go of the death penalty ("Death penalty repeal passes first round," April 16). If the 1st vote on LB268 is any indication, the legislators heard this message loud and clear. Nebraska is full of smart independent thinkers, and our unique Legislature creates an atmosphere where honest and introspective dialogue can occur.

People across the aisle in the state and in the Legislature know that the death penalty is a failed government program. It fails victims' families, fails to guarantee innocent people are not executed and wastes needed resources. I really hope the Legislature finally ends the death penalty this year.

Jo Crowl, Lincoln

(source: Letter to the Editor, Lincoln Journal Star)

USA:

Questions of insanity, death at heart of Aurora theater shooting trial

When James Holmes stormed an Aurora theater in July 2012 and began firing into the crowd, Alex Teves made a split-second decision to shield his girlfriend.

"He had to make a choice to save his girlfriend and die, or let her die," said his father, Tom Teves. "That's not a choice you should have to make at a movie."

Alex was killed, his girlfriend lived. The 24-year old had just completed his master's degree in counseling psychology.

Tom said he thinks about Alex constantly, "And on a good night I don't wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning, doubled over in pain that I'm never going to see my son again."

The trial of the gunman begins with opening statements Monday, nearly 3 years since Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 at a midnight premier of the The Dark Knight Rises. His legal team admits he was behind the massacre. The key questions are: Was he insane, and should he be put to death?

Slow-moving trial

Tom and his wife Caren live in Phoenix and plan to travel to Colorado to be in court as often as they can. Like many families they are frustrated by the slow pace of the trial.

"Part of the travesty of this taking so long is the people that are allowed to moved forward, that can move forward, are going to be right back to that day," said Caren.

She places blame squarely on the gunman's lawyers. Former Colorado prosecutor Bob Grant said Holmes is represented by some of the best trained and financed public defenders in the country.

"Look they have one job, in cases like Holmes, and most death penalty cases," said Grant. "Their 1 job is to save the life of their client. Every delay is another day he or she lives."

The shooter has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and 1 big reason for the delay is a battery of psychological testing from multiple experts.

It's a high bar to prove legal insanity, not just that the defendant has some mental illness, but that he lacked the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time of the shooting.

"On a good night I don't wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning, doubled over in pain that I'm never going to see my son again." - Tom Teves, father of victim Alex Teves Colorado defense attorney Forrest "Boogie" Lewis said Holmes' attorneys may be playing the long game by raising the issue of sanity.

Even if the jury finds he's not legally insane, they may spare him the death penalty because they believe he is mentally ill, according to Lewis.

This trial is unique for many reasons, particularly because there is a trial at all. Mass shooters tend to die in the act or plead guilty and beg for the death penalty, according to Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University.

In this case, there will be a trial spanning 6 months, with extensive psychological evaluations.

"I think we will learn from this trial," said Levin. "And that's one of the few positive things you can say about it."

One big question for Levin: Why did the gunman target a movie theater? Mass shooters tend to focus on familiar places like work or school.

"He instead targeted people he didn't even know," Levin said.

Little comfort for families

Even if the trial can answer why this happened, it would be cold comfort to the families of victims.

Closure will not come in the form of a verdict for Tom Teves and his wife Caren, whose son was killed in the theater.

"If at the end of the trial Alex walks out alive, yes. Otherwise, no," said Tom. "We both know that Alex isn't going to come out of that trial alive. There is no closure. That was my 1st born son."

(source: Colorado Public Radio)

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

Boston Marathon bomber's lawyers prepare case for life

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will begin presenting witnesses this week in the penalty phase of his trial as they try to make their case that he should be sentenced to life in prison - not death - for his role in the deadly 2013 attack.

Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 federal charges in the twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013. Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Prosecutors called 17 witnesses over 3 days, mainly victims who lost loved ones or limbs in the explosions. The defense case begins Monday in federal court. Here are some things to expect:

DEFENSE STRATEGY

Legal analysts say the defense strategy - first and foremost - will be to humanize Tsarnaev. Prosecutors have depicted Tsarnaev as a callous and heartless terrorist who placed a bomb just feet from a group of children and targeted the marathon for maximum bloodshed.

In the 1st phase of the trial, the defense tried to show that Tsarnaev was then a 19-year-old college student who was flunking out of school and heavily influenced by his radicalized older brother, Tamerlan, 26. In the penalty phase, the defense is likely to continue to emphasize that theme, but may also focus on his seeming aimlessness to show that he did not appear to be motivated by political concerns and that his brother was the driving force behind the attack, aimed at punishing the U.S. for its wars in Muslim countries.

WITNESSES

The witness list has not been made public, but legal experts expect the defense to call family members and friends who will describe Tsarnaev as a well-behaved child who appeared to adjust well to his life in the U.S. after moving here with his parents and siblings from Russia about a decade before the bombings, when he was 8 or 9. Tsarnaev attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, was on the wrestling team and won a $7,500 college scholarship from the city of Cambridge.

Other witnesses could include friends who may be asked to describe the relationship between Dzhokhar and Tamerlan. During the 1st phase of the trial, a friend of Dzhokhar's testified that he told him Tamerlan was strict and opinionated, and said: "You don't want to meet my brother."

The defense also is expected to call experts who can testify about the political climate in Kyrgyzstan and the volatile region of Dagestan, Russia, an area bordering Chechnya where the Tsarnaev family lived before moving to the U.S.

Other witnesses may testify about problems in the Tsarnaev family. Tsarnaev's parents had divorced and moved back to Russia, leaving Tamerlan as his closest family member at the time of the bombings. During her opening statement to the jury, prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini offered a possible glimpse of the defense case when she told jurors they may hear about dysfunction in the Tsarnaev family. Trying to counter that, she said many people have dysfunctional families. "Who among them murders a child with a bomb?" she said.

TIMELINE

Judge George O'Toole Jr. told the jury he expects the penalty phase to last about four weeks. Since the prosecution case took less than a week, that leaves 2 to 3 weeks for the defense to present its case. Prosecutors will be allowed to present rebuttal witnesses. Both sides will get the chance to give closing arguments. The jury of 7 woman and 5 men will then get instructions from the judge, then begin deliberating. The jurors have only 2 choices: life in prison or the death penalty.

JURY'S TASK

The jury will be asked to weigh aggravating factors presented by prosecutors against mitigating factors presented by Tsarnaev's lawyers.

Some aggravating factors outlined by prosecutors include their contention that the crime was committed in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner; that there was a particularly vulnerable victim, an 8-year-old boy who was killed; that Tsarnaev intended to kill more than 1 person; and that he committed the crime after substantial planning or premeditation to cause death or to commit an act of terrorism.

Tsarnaev's lawyers have not revealed what mitigating factors they will cite, but they have already sought to emphasize that he was only 19 at the time of the attack and that he was influenced by his brother.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

4 sentenced to death in Indian-held Kashmir

A court in Indian-held Kashmir on Friday sentenced 4 men to death after they were convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl in the northern Kupwara district in 2007.

The District and Sessions court called it a "rarest of rare cases" to justify resorting to capital punishment.

Tabinda Gani, an 8th grade student from the Langate area in northern Indian-held Kashmir, or IHK, was abducted, raped and murdered by the four convicts while she was on her way home from the school on July 7, 2007.

"It was a Friday and the schools closed early at noon for the Friday prayers. And Tabinda was passing through a less frequented stretch of road when these 4 people abducted her," Ghulam Mohammad Shah, the public prosecutor told The Anadolu Agency. "When she failed to return home for a couple of hours, her family started looking for her and what they found was heartrending."

Tabinda's family and villagers, Shah said, found in an orchard bottles of alcohol and soft drinks and nearby a shoe belonging to Gani and then a piece of her dress.

"Then they found her naked body half buried under a small mound of earth and covered by hay. Her throat had been slit and she had been raped and brutalized," Shah said.

The police in the IHK arrested the 4 people sentenced Friday in August 2007. After a trial of 8 years in which the statements of more than 80 witnesses were recorded, the court gave them the death penalty.

While 2 of the convicted were locals from the same district, the other 2 were from India.

The courtroom, which was jam-packed with hundreds of people, saw numerous emotional outbursts when the verdict was delivered. Gani's family broke down and hugged each other. They said that they hoped the verdict would bring closure to a painful journey and the unspeakable loss.

"For the last 8 years, we have waited to hear these words. But we continue to wait for the day when they will all be hanged," Mohammad Iqbal, Gani's brother said.

The death sentence was a first for the District and Sessions judge, Mohammad Ibrahim Wani, who told The Anadolu Agency that he hoped that it would also be his last.

"It is extremely difficult to sentence someone to death. Life and death are in God's hands alone, but I followed the law. It was the rarest of rare cases and that is why I gave them capital punishment," Wani said.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.

(source: turkishweekly.net)

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

'Hang them all'----The verdict is a relief to all Tabindas waiting for justice

Kupwara Court awards death penalty to all four convicts involved in the gang rape and murder of Tabinda Ghani, a 13-year old minor. 'Pain' will be too mild a word to describe the feelings of victim's parents all these years and 'relief' will be even milder to capture their emotion after the judgment was pronounced. Hail Judiciary. Hail justice. We can only hope that the verdict is upheld at all levels and the criminals are hanged soon to let justice practically prevail and let Tabida's soul rest in eternal peace. Any more appeals and any more reviews will only let the pollution sustain on the earth in the form of those four wolves in human guise.

In such deaths lies life for humanity. Thus says Quran Valakum Fil Qisasi Hayat (and life for you is in the retribution). Letting such predators live any longer imperils the prospect of life on earth. Such punishments may not undo what has been done, but for sure, leave a message. By this we deter potential criminals from executing their intent. Tabinda is a symbol of innocence and now Tabinda will live as a symbol of justice. Every time a rapist is punished, every time the flag of humanity will wave with all majesty. Tabida case is not a gender issue, it's a human tragedy and is to be seen from human angle only. There is no need to make gender politics out of it. Such bowel-shaking stories are beyond any interpretation of gender. Even beasts won't dispute this reality, not to speak of men.

To hail the decision is to say the obvious. One can only wish that such 'rarest of the rare' cases be decided within an equally 'rarest of the rare' time frame. Faster the trial, harsher the punishment, stronger the faith people will repose in the institution of justice. There are many similar (if not the same) cases where the only mercy shown to the convicts can be to be merciless with them. Though we can't be uniform in the quantum of punishment in all crime cases, but when a story is as grave as this, any punishment less than execution will amount to absolving the criminal.

One such story is the recent acid throwing incident that has spoilt the life of an innocent girl whose parents are going through hell. Going by the ideal principles of eye-for-eye, head-for-head, retribution, the only way to do justice would have been to do the same to the criminals what they have done to the victim. Though it may not fit in the technical scheme of justice but the least one expects is to clean the earth of such scum. Sooner they go, lighter shall the world feel.

(source: Ajaz ul Haque, Greater Kashmir)

MALAYSIA:

PH embassy allays fears of execution in Malaysia

While Mary Jane Veloso is set to face firing squad on Tuesday, the Philippine Embassy here assured the public that the 18 Filipinos in death row in Malaysia won't be executed anytime soon.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya said that while a number of Filipinos, mostly involved in drug-related cases, have been meted the death penalty, not one has been executed by Malaysian authorities.

"It is to the good fortune of the Philippines there has not been a carrying out of execution of any of this death penalty convictions involving Filipinos," Malaya told INQUIRER.net in an exclusive interview. "And that is something that I think we ought to recognize and be thankful for."

Malaya said that while Malaysian authorities, like the Philippines, view drug offences "with deep seriousness," public sentiment pertaining to the death penalty has seemingly discouraged executions.

"There has not been an execution. It is also because there is an emerging sentiment here that maybe the carrying of death sentences is too harsh a measure for this or for any type of offense," he explained.

There have been groups within Malaysia calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are 18 Filipinos in death row in the country.

Malaya confirmed that most of them were jailed because of drug trafficking charges.

He said consular personnel regularly visit Filipinos in Malaysian jails. Working together to address their concerns are the assistance to nationals (ATN) officer, the Department of Social Welfare attache and non-government organizations.

Death penalty has been abolished in several countries like the Philippines on humanitarian grounds. Problems with the justice system also raise concerns that innocent individuals might erroneously be meted the death penalty.

Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, however, continue the practice.

On Saturday, Veloso's family confirmed that the Filipino would be executed on April 28 in Indonesia. Veloso was sentenced to death after she was found guilty of drug trafficking. She was arrested in 2010 after being caught carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin.

President Benigno Aquino III has repeatedly wrote to the Indonesian government to appeal for Veloso's life. He will fly to Malaysia on Sunday afternoon to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit where he will try to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo for another attempt to save Veloso.

(source: inquirer.net)

PAKISTAN:

Court rejects his bail plea in Pakistan flag-hoisting case

A Budgam court today rejected separatist Masarat Alam's bail plea in the Pakistani flag hoisting case in which he had been charged with sedition and waging war against the country.

While rejecting the bail plea, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Budgam, observed that the law restraints courts for bailing out the accused charged for offences under section 121 RPC (sedition), which carries death penalty or life imprisonment.

Masarat, who has already been slapped with the Public Safety Act and shifted to the high-security Kot Bhalwal Jail on April 23, was arrested by the J&K Police on April 17 from his Habbakadal home following an FIR against him for raising pro-Pakistan slogans and hoisting Pakistani flag during the April 15 rally to welcome hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

In the FIR registered on April 15 at the Budgam police station, Masarat, Geelani and others were charged under sedition (121), waging war against the country (124-A) and other offences.

"At this stage of investigation, only merits of bail application are to be taken note of and also appearance of reasonable grounds for believing that he (Masarat) has been guilty of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life," CJM, Budgam, observed in his orders passed today.

The CJM further said this was not the stage where prima facie case was to be made out as if the accused was required to be charged or discharged from the allegations.

"More so, the offences 121 RPC carries the punishment of death or life sentence, regarding which section 497 clause 1 CrPC puts legal restraint on the court for bailing out the accused. The bail is rejected," the court said while disposing off the bail application of Masarat Alam.

Masarat was released from the Baramulla sub-jail on March 7 after serving over 4 years in administrative detention.

(source: The Tribune)

INDONESIA----impending executions

Executed on the stroke of midnight: Seven coffins laid out and Wednesday's date painted on to wooden crosses, confirming Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have just hours to live----A local funeral director inscribed the names of those to be shot on crosses

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be executed just after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, it has been confirmed.

The date - April 29 - became official when a local funeral director in Cilacap, the nearest port to Nusakambangan, or Death Island, was instructed to inscribe the names of those to be shot by firing squad and the date of their deaths.

Funeral director Suhendra Putro, on Sunday was busily stencilling crosses and putting finishing touches to writing the names of the Christian victims and the dates of their deaths, reports The Herald Sun.

As well as the names of the two Australians, the names of Brazilian national Rodrigo Gularte, Nigerian, Okwudili Ayotanze, and Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines, were also written in white on the wooden crosses. The date '29.04.15' was also written in white ink and the letters 'RIP'.

It meant the condemned men and the lone female will be killed after the stroke of midnight on Tuesday night-Wednesday morning.

This was further confirmed by Utomo Karim, the lawyer for a Nigerian prisoner facing the firing squad, and also in a letter sent to Filipina maid Veloso.

'Each convict on death row was called in 1 by 1, for between 30 minutes to 1 hour, it varied,' Mr Karim said.

'My client (Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami) was notified of the day of the execution, it will be (just after midnight on) Tuesday night.'

Mr Karim added that the six others were also told the countdown to their execution had started.

'My client has received a notification letter that in 72 hours there will be an execution,' said Mr Karim.

'Families will have time to visit Nusakambangan until Tuesday 2pm ... it will be carried out on later on Tuesday after midnight.'

Sukumaran's last wish is to paint for as long as possible, while Chan's is to go to church with his family in his final days.

The men were issued with a 72-hour deadline on Saturday to face a 12-man firing squad, and both the Australian government and their families have pleaded with Indonesia to spare the convicted drug smugglers.

In previously unreleased interviews, Chan has told of the anguish he feels for his family, saying that it is not right that his mother will have to bury him.

Despite his impending execution, Sukumaran has not stopped painting, with the pair's Australian lawyer Julian McMahon coming off a boat from the island clutching a small collection of eerie new self-portraits.

One of them even had '72 hours just started' etched on it after he and Chan were told they are likely to be executed within days.

In a brief interview on arriving at Wijaya Pura port in Cilacap, Chan's brother, Michael, and Sukumaran's brother, Chintu, made more pleas to authorities to spare their brothers' lives.

'The 2 boys are holding up pretty well. Somewhere in the legal system there's got to be mercy. Please ask the (Indonesian) Prime Minister to show mercy,' Michael Chan said.

In interviews that have surfaced for the 1st time, the Australians spoke about facing the death penalty, but also of hope and their genuine efforts at rehabilitation in 2011.

The emergence of the interviews comes as their families have been seen making the journey over to Nusakambangan, Indonesia's 'Death Island', to spend their final hours with the pair.

Sukuraman's mother Raji and siblings Brintha and Chunthu were among those to visit him on Sunday.

Joining them were Chan's mother Helen, brother Michael and fiance Feby, among other friends.

It is unclear how many of the 10 prisoners Indonesia's has readied for execution will face the firing squad, with reports Frenchman Serge Atlaoui has been granted a reprieve.

Chan's comments from 4 years ago reflected the grief seen on his loved ones' faces as they made one of their final journeys to see the convicted drug smugglers.

Chan told AAP their imprisonment had 'obviously affected our families the most'.

'Imagine your mother, or you know, your father picking up that telephone call,' he said.

'It's heartbreaking. It's obviously harder on them than it is on yourself.

'You obviously look at yourself and you say to yourself, "I've really screwed up big time".

'It's not right you know. A mother's not supposed to bury their kid. Obviously a kid is supposed to bury their mother.'

At the time, Chan and Sukumaran were about to lodge their bids for clemency.

They spoke about making mistakes and paying for them.

'Everyone makes mistakes in life,' Chan said.

'No one's perfect. Yeah, we screwed up big time, and you know, we're obviously paying the price for it right now.

'The death penalty. You can think about it, you can let it lay within your mind but we choose to continue doing what we're doing.'

Sukumaran said in prison 'you have a lot of time to reflect on all the stupid things you've done'.

'You don't see what you're doing is really that bad,' he said.

'Working with all these people, like inside here teaching ... you get something out of it. I think that makes you a stronger person as well.'

Despite testimonials to their rehabilitation behind bars from prison governors to politicians, academics and Australian artist Ben Quilty, repeated legal appeals and calls for a reprieve have failed.

Chan and Sukumaran, convicted in 2005 for their role in a plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia, were given the official 72 hours notice on Saturday that means they could face the firing squad on Tuesday.

Although the date has not been set, Indonesian authorities said the pair will be among a group of death-row prisoners executed this week.

It has also been revealed the undertaker in the port of Cilacap has been asked by the police chief to prepare the coffins for transport to the island, which will happen 'soon'.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the executions will be scheduled imminently on Saturday, but called on the Indonesian government to show mercy to the pair.

'The thoughts and prayers of many Australians would be with Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran,' a statement from Ms Bishop read.

'I spoke to Mr Sukumaran's mother Raji yesterday and assured her the government would continue to seek clemency from Indonesian President Widodo for both men.

'Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these 2 young Australians are executed. I again respectfully call on the President of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency.

'It is not too late for a change of heart.

'Australia asks no more of Indonesia than it has asked of other nations where Indonesian citizens on death row have been granted clemency including for serious drug offences.'

Last ditch efforts to save the pair have also been launched by not-for-profit organisations, such as Amnesty International.

Thousands of flowers will be used to spell out the words KeepHopeAlive at a reserve overlooking Sydney Harbour in an appeal for Chan and Sukuraman.

Amnesty International says the floral message will be displayed from Monday at Blues Point Reserve.

'Today in Indonesia, up to 9 people - including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - face imminent execution in as little as 72 hours,' Amnesty said in a statement.

'More than 140 countries around the world have now abolished the death penalty for good. It's not too late for Indonesia to join them.'

Members of the public are encouraged to contribute to the appeal by purchasing flowers from Amnesty's website.

Earlier, Australian embassy officials were called to Cilacap, the port town closest to Nusakambangan where the Bali 9 pair are now jailed, for a meeting about Indonesia's execution plans.

'I fear the worst,' Ms Bishop told reporters in Brussels. 'I fear that Indonesia will seek to proceed with the execution of the 2 Australian citizens.

'I am deeply and profoundly concerned by this.'

Chan and Sukumaran, who were arrested over a heroin smuggling plot in 2005, can be executed 72 hours after being given notice, according to Indonesian law.

A former inmate of Kerobokan prison has told of how he was baptised by Bali 9 drug smuggler Andrew Chan who helped him kick his 20-year drug addiction, told Daily Mail Australia he is heartbroken and struggling to cope with the news.

'I am really disappointed with the government and how they deal with this issue,' Matius Arif Mirdjaja said.

'It would be better to make sure justice rather than execute, better to secure rights rather than take them.

'It's definitely really hard for me to cope with this. I have to keep my faith.'

Mirdjaja also accused the Indonesian government of using the executions the 2 Australians as a distraction.

'This is not about law enforcement - it is a tragedy presented for public consumption,' he said.

'Government have lost their mind to gain popularity by execution; they use the drugs war to hide other issues that are more serious.' Mirdjaja said he spoke with Chan and Sukumaran two weeks ago, and the 2 were 'good'.

'Andrew is OK, Myu starting making a sketch. But they were attacked by mosquitoes.'

The 40-year-old started a bible group with Chan inside Kerobokan prison.

Since he was released in 2013, Mirdjaja has preached at churches in south-east Asia, while trying to roll out rehabilitation programs started by the Australians to help others at 17 different prisons around Indonesia.

Filipina Mary Jane Veloso's transfer from Yogyakarta prison is considered an ominous sign for the other prisoners, after Indonesian Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said the 10 death-row inmates would be executed together for the sake of 'efficiency.'

News website Rappler reports the executions will take place on Tuesday.

Veloso's sister Marites told Rappler her sister called her with the news.

She had been told the date in the presence of embassy officials, hours after her family had visited, according to the website.

The embassy of the Philippines was called to the same Saturday meeting, along with France, Brazil and Nigeria, who all have citizens listed to face the firing squad.

While admitting the summons has her worried, Ms Bishop said there was still time for President Joko Widodo to show mercy towards the 2 rehabilitated Australian men.

'He is the leader of a great nation, a dear and close friend of Australia,' she told reporters. 'We ask that he take into account our considerations.'

Ms Bishop's office says the Foreign Minister is seeking a phone call with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, who was unavailable on Friday with Indonesia hosting the Asian African Conference.

Indonesian officials say the Cilicap meeting signals the beginning of the 'execution process'.

On Thursday, Indonesia's head of General Crimes sent letters to the prosecutors of all 10 prisoners and ordered preparations be made for their executions.

The lawyer for Nigerian man Raheem Salamim, who is sharing a cell block with Chan and Sukumaran on Nusakambangan, confirmed Thursday the Nigerian Embassy had also received a letter summoning officials to Cilacap.

'Based on experience from the previous execution, they're going to tell them the date for the execution,' lawyer Utomo Karim said.

President Widodo told Indonesian news agency Antara while he would not interfere with the inmates' outstanding legal appeals, the executions would take place upon their conclusion.

'When it will be done is no longer a question,' he said. 'It is only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time.'

In Gallipoli, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said efforts to save Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 34, would continue.

'I guess there's always hope while there's life but obviously these are late days.'

Chan and Sukumaran's families will fly to Indonesia on Saturday and their lawyers, who have lodged a challenge with the constitutional court, are also on the way.

The Attorney-General has already suggested that a Constitutional Court challenge will not be taken into account, believing the pair have exhausted their appeals options.

'My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for that mistake every single day since then,' says Sukumaran's younger sister Brintha in an emotional plea his life to be saved.

Sukumaran's sister, Brintha, has pleaded for her older brother's life in a short YouTube video.

'My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for that mistake every single day since then' she says, clutching a photo of Sukumaran as a boy.

'My family and I have also paid for this mistake as well.'

But he's become a good man after 10 years in jail, she says.

'He has taught so many Indonesian prisoners about art and how to live outside in the world and have a good and productive life,' she said.

'From the bottom of my heart, please President Widodo, have mercy on my brother.'

(source: Daily Mail)

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

Mary Jane to family: No resentments----A day after being given her 72-hour execution notice, Mary Jane is still in high spirits. Outside prison, efforts to save her grow.

It was like a typical Sunday family gathering. Mary Jane Veloso and her family spent some 6 hours together joking and laughing, having a picnic lunch of sorts, and hearing mass in an open courtyard.

It didn't seem as if the 30-year-old Filipina was going to face the death penalty soon. She hugged each of her family members - all 7 of them - tight when she saw them, including her brother Christopher and former husband, Michael Candelaria, who arrived in Cilacap only the previous night.

"Nothing changed. If anything changed, she said it was good because she was able to sleep well last night," sister Marites Veloso-Laurente told Rappler shortly after leaving Nusakambangan prison island.

But something did change: Between the family's first visit on Saturday and on Sunday, April 26, Mary Jane received the official 72-hour notice of her execution.

The mother of 2 has always maintained she was tricked into bringing drugs into Indonesia, but Marites said her sister is at peace with whatever her fate will be.

And she wants her family to do the same. "No resentments," Mary Jane said, according to Marites.

"Before she is buried, she wants us to be able to wholeheartedly accept her fate so that she won't feel burdened and reach heaven faster," said Marites of Mary Jane, who is Catholic like 8 out of 10 Filipinos.

Even within the maximum-security walls of Nusakambangan, where high-profile terrorists are also incarcerated, Mary Jane continued to be her usual friendly, cheerful self.

One of the Australians also on death row, Myuran Sukumaran, told a Philippine embassy official: "Look at her (referring to Mary Jane). I see her, she’s like a little girl… the way she speaks, the way she moves, the way she laughs. How can they execute her?"

Growing support

Outside the so-called execution island, support for the Filipina is growing as the fight to save her life intensified.

Philippine embassy officials in Cilacap said Indonesian prosecutors on Sunday officially received a copy of the second case review request for her, which they hope will convice Indonesian officials to order a stay on her execution.

On Monday, Filipino lawyer Edre Olalia from the National Union of People's Lawyers said 4 institutions will file legal briefs as amicus curiae (friend of the court) for Mary Jane, including from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Reprieve, and the International Commission of Jurists.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III also said he would try to speak to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to seek clemency for Mary Jane while in Malaysia for a regional summit on Monday.

Protests in support of her were also held in Jakarta and in front of Indonesian embassies in Manila and in Hong Kong, notably by Indonesian migrant workers.

(source: rappler.com)

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

Brazil battles Indonesia execution plans

The Brazilian government says it is pressing ahead with diplomatic efforts to prevent the execution of a Brazilian sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia.

Rodrigo Muxfeldt Gularte was among nine foreign drug convicts, including Australia's Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, whose death sentence was confirmed on Saturday by Indonesia.

A spokesman for Indonesia's attorney general said an exact date had not yet been set for the firing squad executions.

The Brazilian foreign ministry told the G1 news website that the government would pursue 'high-level' contacts to press Indonesia to suspend the execution for humanitarian reasons, saying Gularte suffers from schizophrenia.

The 42-year-old's family has presented several doctors' reports to the Indonesian authorities attesting to the fact that he is a schizophrenic.Gularte was caught entering the country in 2004 with 6 kilograms of cocaine hidden in surf boards, and was sentenced to death in 2005.

The foreign ministry said Brazilian diplomats would continue to provide consular assistance to Gularte 'as far as possible', but stressed its respect for Indonesia's sovereignty and recognised the seriousness of his crime.

Brazil's charge d'affairs in Jakarta, Leonardo Carvalho Monteiro, was with Gularte when he was notified that he would be executed, the ministry said.

If the sentence is carried out, Gularte would be the 2nd Brazilian executed in Indonesia this year.

In January, Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira was put to death after being convicted of drug trafficking, which touched off a diplomatic crisis between Jakarta and Brasilia.

(source: skynews.com.)

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

Indonesia Gives 72-Hour Execution Notice to Drug Traffickers

Indonesia notified 9 foreigners and a local man convicted of drug trafficking that their executions will be carried out within days, ignoring appeals by the U.N. chief and foreign leaders to spare them.

Authorities also asked the 4 Nigerian men, 2 Australian men, a Filipino woman, and 1 man each from Brazil, France and Indonesia for their last wish, the spokesman for the attorney general, Tony Spontana, said Sunday.

He said the legal options of 9 of them have been exhausted, while Frenchman Serge Atlaoui still has an outstanding legal complaint over the procedure followed in his request for clemency. Spontana said he expects the Supreme Court to rule on it Monday.

The 72-hour notice indicates the executions by firing squad in Besi prison on Nusakambangan Island will be carried out at the earliest on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The pending executions have caused an international outcry, particularly in Australia, France and the Philippines, which are opposed to the death penalty.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to "urgently consider declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia, with a view toward abolition."

French President Francois Hollande has warned of diplomatic consequences if Atlaoui is executed, and said Saturday that there could be possible economic fallout as well.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose government has been pressuring Indonesia to spare the two Australians, arrived on a visit to Paris on Saturday night and was expected to discuss the situation with Hollande.

Australian heroin traffickers Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, were the ringleaders of a gang of 9 Australians arrested in April 2005 while trying to smuggle more than 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin from the resort island of Bali to Sydney.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said Sunday that he would again appeal the case of Filipino convict Mary Jane Veloso to Jokowi when they meet at an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Malaysia on Monday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila issued over the weekend Veloso's handwritten letters from her Indonesian prison where she pleaded to Aquino and other officials to continue efforts to save her. She repeated that she was tricked by a compatriot into carrying illegal drugs in a luggage as she traveled in the hope of landing a job as a house helper.

"Please save my life, I have 2 children who need the love of their mother," Veloso wrote to Aquino. "We're poor and I wanted to change our life but I could never commit the crime they have accused me of."

About 100 left-wing activists from women's and migrant workers' groups carried Veloso's portraits, lit candles and demanded that Jokowi spare her life in a vigil late Sunday at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila. They held up placards that read: "Stop execution" and "Mercy and compassion for Mary Jane."

Consular officials and relatives were arriving on Sunday at a town near Nusakambangan, the high-security prison island, for the last visit to the convicts.

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws and often executes smugglers. More than 130 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes. About 1/3 of them are foreigners.

In January, 6 convicted drug smugglers, including 5 from Brazil, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Nigeria and Malawi, were executed at the same prison, prompting the Netherlands and Brazil to recall their ambassadors in protest.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Widodo to lose standing as rights champion as Dinky says only 'miracle' will save Mary Jane

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will lose his standing as a champion of human rights in Southeast Asia if Filipina Mary Jane Veloso is executed, a member of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Philippine NGOs, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman said "only a miracle can save Veloso" from death after the 1st-time overseas worker was transported to Nusakambangan, the island where executions are held, with the Philippine embassy informed of the development.

The international watchdog Human Rights Watch, in a statement, urged Widodo to "urgently commute" the death sentences of Veloso and nine other convicts, all but one foreigners, saying, "Indonesia's use of the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law, statements of UN human rights experts, and various UN bodies."

Rafendi Djamin, the Indonesian representative to the AICHR, also appealed to Widodo to commute the death sentence on Veloso, who was found guilty of trying to smuggle in 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia in 2010.

Asked how Widodo’s reputation in the ASEAN will be affected by Veloso's execution, Djamin said: "Jokowi will be losing his credibility as one of the key actors in ASEAN promoting democracy and human rights."

The Indonesian president, a folksy governor of Jakarta before he won the presidential elections last year, ran on the platform of democracy. His win against a former military official was widely seen, locally and internationally, as a popular vote for "new" and "clean" leaders.

The impending execution of the 30-year-old mother of 2 is "upsetting for the human rights community and as Indonesian representative to AICHR, my position is to save lives."

Veloso "is more a victim of trafficking in persons who was dragged into drug trafficking," Rafendi said.

He suggested that the Indonesian President review his policy on capital punishment and the judicial system, which Indonesian human rights groups describe as corrupt.

"Fighting drugs and crimes is good, but not through execution of people. He needs to address the corruption issues" in the police and the judiciary, the AICHR official said.

Mugiyanto, senior program officer of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, said police officials and judges in Indonesia can be bribed.

'Different political wind'

Rafendi noted that Veloso did not get a fair trial when as an "accused, she was not accompanied by an attorney and she did not understand the language" -- very basic requirements in a fair judicial system.

Widodo needs to listen to the human rights community and to the Indonesian Constitution, which contains principles that ensure the protection of life, he said.

"It is only that some laws contain death penalty," Rafendi said.

"Before this government, a de facto moratorium on the death penalty has been enforced for the last 4 years. Now, a different political wind is blowing. Jokowi (Widodo's nickname) believes that executions of drug traffickers will work, which is wrong and unacceptable to international standards."

Meanwhile, Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, said by sparing the lives of the 10 convicts, "Widodo can demonstrate true leadership by ending capital punishment as unacceptable state brutality."

The imminent executions follow those of six other convicts earlier this year, also on drug charges.

HRW noted that "Widodo has sought to justify the death penalty spree on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had 'destroyed the future of the nation'," and also cited a talk he gave students in December justifying the execution of drug traffickers as an "important shock therapy."

However, Kine argued that Widodo "should recognize that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent but an unjustifiable and barbaric punishment," and should, instead, "promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment."

(source: interaksyon.com)

APRIL 25, 2015:

TEXAS:

New Book Probes Ethical Issues That Led to Death Sentence for Darlie Routier

In the wake of more than 1,500 exonerations across the country (150 of which were for inmates on death row) and growing demands for reforms within the justice system, award-winning journalist Kathy Cruz uses a new lens to examine the controversial Darlie Routier case - and what may be a true Texas mystery.

In Dateline: Purgatory, Cruz enlists current day legal experts to weigh in on the shocking transgressions that resulted in one of the country's most troubling death penalty convictions. With the help of the infamous death row inmate and a former FBI Special Agent known as "Crimefighter," the veteran journalist would find that her journey through Purgatory was as much about herself as it was about the woman dubbed "Dallas's Susan Smith."

Under a starry sky on the snowy slopes of Purgatory, Colorado, Darlie Lynn Peck linked her destiny with that of an ambitious young man from Lubbock, Texas named Darin Routier. 10 years later, a horrific crime known as "6-6-6" would thrust the couple into the national spotlight.

The brutal murders of young Devon and Damon Routier in the early morning hours of June 6, 1996 would put their mother - Darlie Routier - at the heart of one of the most notorious murder cases in modem Texas history - despite her own throat having been slashed to within 2 millimeters of her carotid artery.

The actions of a small town police department and Dallas County's justice system created a perfect storm that swept up the young mother and landed her on death row. There she has remained, in a 9-feet- by-6-feet cell, despite claims of her innocence by those who know her, findings about the alarming fallibility of bloodstain analysis - and her husband's admission that at the time of the murders he was soliciting help to stage a home burglary to commit insurance fraud.

"Everybody knows the Texas criminal justice system doesn't work, but few know why and how. Kathy Cruz does, and Dateline: Purgatory proves it. This richly detailed and well-narrated book affords a view of the Texas system rarely seen by the outside world. It shows how ambitious prosecutors, compliant judges, and naive jurors can make for a lethal combination. It also shows the terrible human cost involved when justice becomes what it is in Texas: a team sport in a rigged game. Anyone who wants to understand the true nature of Texas injustice should read this book. Ms. Cruz has done the world a favor by writing it," says Jeff Blackburn, founder and chief counsel, Innocence Project in Texas.

(Kathy Cruz is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News, now working as a staff writer at the Hood County News in Granbury, Texas. She has won numerous Journalists of the Year honors from the Texas Press Association, as well as many other awards from regional, state, and national press associations. She is the co-author of You Might Want to Carry a Gun: Community Newspapers Expose Big Problems in Small Towns. Cruz is the recipient of 5 awards for excellence in legal reporting, including a Texas Gavel Award and four Stephen Phibin Awards from the Dallas Bar Association - tow of which were grand prizes.

Books may be purchased by calling 1-800-826-8911, visiting www.prs.tcu.edu, or visiting your local bookstore.

(source: Freestone County Times)

ALABAMA:

With 2 condemned inmates freed in 1 month, another Alabama death row inmate claiming innocence

Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 28 years on Alabama's death row for two murders despite his claims of innocence, walked free earlier this month after prosecutors admitted they couldn't prove his guilt.

Another inmate who maintains he was wrongly convicted in a separate killing is now challenging his death sentence in a case with eerie similarities to Hinton's, down to allegations of botched ballistics evidence, a questionable eyewitness identification and the judge and prosecutor who handled both trials.

Donnis George Musgrove, who been on death row for 27 years but says he is innocent, is asking a federal judge to overturn his case - the 1st step toward what his lawyers hope will be freedom for a man they contend was wrongly convicted during a trial fraught with unconstitutional errors, cooked-up evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, inept defense work and outright lies.

Experts have proven that a shell casing used during the trial to link Musgrove to the Sept. 27, 1986, slaying of Coy Eugene Barron had nothing to do with the crime, the defense claims, and police pressured Barron's wife to identify Musgrove as the shooter even though she first told police she saw nothing.

The Jefferson County prosecutor at Musgrove's trial used bogus evidence to win the conviction against an overmatched defense lawyer, just as he did to Hinton a few years earlier, the defense contends.

"We believe there were constitutional errors in his trial and they were so great he deserves a new trial," said Cissy Jackson, an attorney for Musgrove. "He was wrongly convicted."

While the state attorney general's office hasn't yet responded to Musgrove's arguments in court and declined comment this week, it has defended the conviction for nearly 30 years and once got the Alabama Supreme Court to reverse a lower state appellate court that overturned the case.

Musgrove's claims come at a time when capital punishment is under scrutiny in Alabama. Just in the weeks since Hinton was freed, another man who spent years on Alabama's death row also was released.

A ruling by a state judge cleared the way for the release on April 16 of William Ziegler, initially convicted in a 2001 killing in Mobile. A judge overturned Ziegler's conviction in 2012, and Ziegler was released after reaching a deal to plead guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting a slaying in return for his release after more than 15 years behind bars.

Hinton was convicted of killing 2 workers during robberies at 2 fast-food restaurants in Birmingham in 1985. A survivor at a 3rd restaurant robbery picked Hinton out of a photo lineup, turning investigators' attention toward him.

The only evidence linking Hinton to the killings were bullets that state experts at the time said had markings that matched a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Hinton's mother, and the defense said Hinton was working at a locked warehouse 15 miles away at the time of the slayings.

A defense analysis during appeal showed that bullets did not match the gun, but the state wouldn't re-open the case. A breakthrough came last year when Hinton won a new trial after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled his trial attorney was "constitutionally deficient."

Faced with Hinton's claims of innocence, the Jefferson County district attorney's office this month moved to drop the case after their forensics experts agreed that the crime-scene bullets couldn't be matched to the gun.

Musgrove and co-defendant David Rogers were convicted of capital murder on Feb. 11, 1988, a few years after Hinton. Just as in Hinton's case, the 2 were tried before Jefferson County Circuit Judge James Garrett, who has since retired, by then Assistant District Attorney Bob McGregor, who has since died.

Police in north Alabama arrested Musgrove and Rogers - both convicted car thieves who had fled a state work-release center - following an auto chase weeks after Barron's slaying.

Barron's wife Libby initially told police she couldn't identify the men who entered their darkened home late at night and shot her husband in the bedroom, and at first she failed to select Musgrove out of a lineup, according to the defense. But the woman quickly identified Musgrove and Rogers after meeting privately with the detective, Musgrove's lawyers contend.

Prosecutors said a 9 mm shell casing found at the scene of Barron's slaying was linked to a pistol Musgrove used in an assault 3 months earlier, and jurors heard from a supposed jailhouse informant who claimed that Rogers told him about Barron's killing and implicated Musgrove.

But the informant, Billy Don Springer, later recanted in a sworn statement that said he'd been put up to the testimony by police and McGregor, the assistant district attorney who had prosecuted Hinton earlier.

The defense says in court documents that later scientific tests prove the 9 mm casing used as evidence against Musgrove was planted at the scene and wasn't tied to the crime at all. And besides, Musgrove's lawyers contend: Witness testimony and phone records showed he was in Florida, hundreds of miles away, at the time of the killing.

Add it all up, the defense claims, and Musgrove should be set free.

"To successfully plead actual innocence, a petitioner must show that his conviction resulted from a constitutional violation," Musgrove's lawyers wrote in court documents submitted to U.S. District Judge David Proctor, who is considering the case. "Here, the evidence shows decisively that Mr. Musgrove is innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death."

The challenge comes too late for help Musgrove's co-defendant Rogers, who died in prison.

While McGregor also is dead, he self-published a book in 2009 depicting both Hinton and Musgrove as cold-blooded killers. The book, titled "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound," has a gun and a bottle of whiskey on the cover. The book depicts prosecutors as "white hats" and defense lawyers as "black hats" taking up for "bad men and blood spillers."

McGregor, whose zealous tactics were attacked by lawyers for Hinton and Musgrove, described Hinton's case as a favorite cause of "anti-death-penalty gangsters." Hinton, he wrote, "just radiated guilt and pure evil" - words that seem ironic now that Hinton is free based on a claim of innocence.

In the book, the prosecutor described Musgrove and Rogers as being "thugs" employed by a drug dealer who wanted Barron killed over suspicions he stole 40 pounds of marijuana.

"This act of ultimate violence was somewhat out of character since both were professional car thieves by trade," McGregor wrote. "But no one doubted that they were capable of murder if the price was right."

The man mentioned by McGregor as the alleged drug didn't testify against Musgrove and Rogers and was never prosecuted in the slaying.

"They had 2 guys on death row. That was all they needed," said Jackson, Musgrove's lawyer.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Death penalty upheld in Oklahoma case

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has let stand a death sentence for a Del City man convicted of murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old son by brutally beating and burning him.

An appeals court has let stand a death sentence for a Del City man convicted of murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old son by brutally beating and burning him.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the claim of Richard Fairchild that he did not receive a fair trial in Oklahoma County District Court for the 1993 child-abuse murder of Adam Scott Broomhall.

Judges of the Denver-based appeals court ruled 3-0 Thursday in a lengthy decision against Williams on 6 issues raised to support his claim.

Court records state Fairchild admitted hitting the child several times with strong blows and holding his body against a hot wall heater because the boy wouldn't stop crying after waking up. "The more he screamed the more I just kept on hitting him," Fairchild, who was 33, was quoted as telling a detective at the time of the crime.

Fairchild and the boy's mother had been drinking heavily that night, police said.

Fairfield's attorney argued that Fairchild's constitutional rights were violated because instructions to jurors purportedly did not adequately explain a possible sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

The attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Randy Bauman of Oklahoma City, also raised the issue that Fairchild's rights were violated because the instructions did not include a possible verdict of a lesser crime than 1st-degree murder. Bauman also argued that Fairchild's previous attorneys in earlier stages of the case were ineffective in representing him.

(source: The Oklahoman)

USA:

After years delay, theater shooting trial starts Monday

Nearly 3 years after police arrested James Holmes outside a suburban Denver movie theater where he shot and killed 12 people, prosecutors are set to lay out why they believe jurors should order his execution.

Opening arguments begin Monday afternoon in the slow-moving case against Holmes, who is also accused of injuring about 70 others as he rampaged through the movie theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Night Returns. Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and defense lawyers argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he entered the theater and opened fire.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Holmes planned and prepared for weeks if not months, accumulating ammunition, practicing with his weapons, and building explosives that he used to booby-trap his apartment.

Exactly what evidence and arguments will be made have remained largely a secret thanks to a gag order dropped on the case within hours of Holmes' arrest. Under Colorado law, the same 12-member jury that will decide Holmes' guilt or innocence also will decide whether he should be executed if he's convicted.

Barry Slotnick, a New York-based defense lawyer famed for defending clients such as subway shooter Bernhard Goetz, casino magnate Steve Wynn, and former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, said the stakes could not be higher in this case. The pressure on both sides will be intense.

"The death penalty is extreme as you can get," he said.

"You have to keep an open mind throughout the trial, remembering that Mr. Holmes is presumed innocent."

Judge Carlos Samour, 18th Judicial District Court, Arapahoe County, Colo.

The trial is expected to last as long as 4 months, as prosecutors call potentially hundreds of witnesses from police officers to first responders in their efforts to prove the more than 150 charges Holmes faces. The charges include 1 count of murder with deliberation and 1 count of murder with extreme indifference for each person killed.

Holmes' parents say their son suffers from mental illness and previously begged prosecutors to agree to a plea deal that would see him locked up for life and spared execution. Prosecutors declined, saying they believe only his death can bring justice for the victims and their loved ones.

"In this case, for James Egan Holmes, justice is death," District Attorney George Brauchler said in April 2013.

Holmes has undergone 2 formal - and still confidential - mental-health evaluations. His mental health will play a central role in the trial, but prosecutors, defense attorneys and Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. all have warned jurors that they'll see terrible photos and videos and hear harrowing stories of death, loss and injury.

The court will make mental-health counseling available to jurors following the trial.

"They're in for a rough ride," said Max Wachtel, a Denver psychologist and mental-health consultant for KUSA-TV. "They're going to have a really hard time with this."

One of Wachtel's then-students, Alex Teves, was killed in the shooting while shielding his girlfriend from gunfire.

At a January 2013 preliminary hearing, prosecutors presented seemingly overwhelming evidence that showed Holmes methodically planning his July 20, 2012, attack at Aurora's Century 16 theater complex. He bought an assault rifle, shotgun, 2 semiautomatic pistols, more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition, bomb-making material and other gear for nearly 2 months before the shootings.

Photos from his cellphone showed he had staked out the rear of the theater and exit doors before the shootings. Aurora police arrested Holmes in the rear of the theater parking lot minutes after the attack.

Holmes' demeanor and appearance have changed since the attack. When arrested, he had bright orange hair and wore a red jail jumpsuit to court appearances. But to avoid tainting the jury, the judge has permitted Holmes to wear street clothes - usually a button-down shirt and khaki pants - to court.

His hair appears to have returned to its natural red-brown color, and he wears reddish tortoiseshell glasses and occasionally interacts with his defense team. Unseen by jurors, Holmes will be shackled to the floor for security reasons.

"You have to keep an open mind throughout the trial, remembering that Mr. Holmes is presumed innocent," Samour told the jury after it was sworn in earlier this month. "Folks, we are depending on you to uphold the oath you have taken."

Scott Robinson, a prominent Denver defense lawyer who has watched the case closely, said the trial likely will provide some answers, including about the kind of mental-health care Holmes had before the shooting and what might have been done to prevent the carnage.

"We will learn a lot about why," Robinson said. "We won't be able to understand it, I guarantee."

(source: USA Today)

BELARUS:

Until recently Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to execute prisoners

Until recently Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to execute prisoners However, after reintroducing capital punishment in territory they hold, pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels have sentenced at least 1 man to death since September 2014.

Belarus executed 3 people by shooting in 2014 after a 24-month break in state killings, Amnesty International told EurActiv. It is the only European and Central Asian country which uses the death penalty.

The executions were secret with lawyers and family only being told after the prisoners were dead, Amnesty, which on 1 April published its annual Death Penalty Report, said.

Authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenka hosted the February Minsk talks to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. They were attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande.

Ukraine abolished the death penalty in 2000. In August last year, pro-Russian rebels in the so-called Donetsk People Republic, in eastern Ukraine, introduced a criminal code in August, reserving the death penalty for the "gravest crimes". The same session approved the setting up of military "courts" in the territories they control.

The Lugansk People's Republic has also re-introduced the death penalty. On 26 September, rules were introduced that homosexual rape could be punished by death.

In October, a YouTube video surfaced which appeared to show a "people's court" of about 300, judging 2 alleged rapists of women. After gunpoint confessions and a vote by the kangaroo court, one was sent to the frontline.

The other was sentenced to death by firing squad, with only his mother speaking out for mercy. Amnesty International has not been able to confirm if he was shot, but the sentence did not appear to be carried out immediately.

While there have been numerous reports of summary executions in Ukraine, they were not committed within the pseudo-legal framework of the criminal code.

European Union

The European Union does not recognise either the Lugansk or Donetsk republics, branding November elections held in the territories "illegal and illegitimate". It has called for the rule of law and order to be reestablished, so that human rights violations can be prevented and investigated.

"Capital punishment cannot be justified under any circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity," an EU official said.

Every EU member state has abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The last country to do so was Latvia, which banned capital punishment in wartime in 2012. The absolute ban on the death penalty is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Lukashenka, described as leading "Europe's last dictatorship", was able to play the international statesman at Minsk, shoring up his position at home, campaigners told EurActiv.

But there was little choice in the location for the summit if EU leaders wanted to stop the fighting. The EU can leverage hardly any influence over the police state, which is heavily backed by Russia.

A lack of interest from the west, hastened by the Ukraine crisis, have also ruled out any Maiden-style revolution in Belarus, according to analysis by Belarus Digest, published in The Guardian. Lukashenka has been in power since 1994.

"Legal" executions

The EU has urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a step towards its universal abolition. Despite repeated EU condemnations, Belarus continues to execute by shooting, and to sentence prisoners to death.

In April 2014 Belarus secretly executed Pavel Selyun, sentenced in June 2013 for a 2012 double murder. The UN Human Rights Committee had requested a stay in execution, which was ignored.

Such requests are legally binding on state parties to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Belarus agreed to in 1992.

In May, the Mogilev Regional Court in Belarus confirmed that Rygor Yuzepchuk had been executed. He was sentenced to death in 2013 for a 2012 murder. The authorities have not made public the date of his execution or the location of his grave.

Aliaksandr Haryunou was executed in October. He was sentenced to death in 2013 for a murder committed in 2012. Haryunou appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee in April, arguing that his trial had been unfair.

The Committee asked the Belarusian authorities to stay his execution until it had considered the case. They ignored the legally binding request. Neither his relatives nor lawyer were given the chance to have a final meeting with Haryunou.

In March 2015, Siarhei Ivanou was sentenced to death by the Homel Regional Court of the Republic of Belarus. The EU's foreign policy bureau called for his right to appeal to be guaranteed, while expressing sympathy to the family of the victim.

Counter-terrorism

Worldwide, there was a sharp spike in the handing down of death sentences in 2014, up more than 500 on the previous year to at least 2,466. This was due to more governments in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan using sentences handed down on trumped up terror charges to quell dissent, Amnesty International said.

Writing exclusively in EurActiv today, it warned that "mainstreaming counter-terrorism" into EU foreign policy in the guise of "international cooperation" could undermine its principled stance on the death penalty.

Targeted and upgraded security dialogues with countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, were dialogues with countries that executed as a matter of course, warned Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International's European Institutions Office.

"In the wake of the sharp spike in death sentences, and closer security cooperation with many state perpetrators, the burning question the EU needs to answer is whether and how it is making sure partners stop using the death penalty," she said.

Russia and the Council of Europe

Ironically, Belarus' sponsor Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2009. All 47 member-states of the Council of Europe, including Russia, have stopped using capital punishment due to commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Becoming a member of the international organisation for cooperation, human rights and rule of law, would mean Belarus would have to give up the death penalty. It would also be open to legal challenges over its dismal human rights record.

Council spokesman Andrew Cutting stated, "The Council of Europe is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. The Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called upon non-member countries including Belarus, the United States and Japan to cease using the death penalty and move towards abolition."

Japan (3 executions last year) and the United States have observer status at the Council. Executions in the US dropped from 39 in 2013 to 35 in 2014, Amnesty International said.

China again carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together. Amnesty International believes thousands are executed and sentenced to death there every year, but with numbers kept a state secret the true figure is impossible to determine.

Without China, there were 602 executions in 22 countries in 2014. The world's top 5 executioners apart from China in 2014 were Iran (289 officially announced and at least 454 more that were not acknowledged by the authorities), Saudi Arabia (at least 90), Iraq (at least 61) and the USA.

(source: eurobelarus.info)

INDONESIA:

Planned executions "a shameful stain" for President Widodo

The planned execution of 10 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses is a shameful stain on President Joko Widodo's policymaking, FIDH and its member organization KontraS said today. The 2 organizations reiterate their appeal to President Widodo for a halt to all executions and the commutation of all death sentences.

"President Widodo's green light for more executions despite massive international calls for clemency is a shameful stain on his policymaking," said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. "He must immediately end this barbaric practice and ensure that Indonesia complies with its international human rights obligations."

10 individuals are scheduled to be executed by firing squad within days in Nusakambangan prison in Central Java. They are: Rodrigo Gularte (Brazil), Serge Atlaoui (France), Okwudili Oyatanze (Nigeria), Raheem Agbaje Salami (Nigeria), Sylvester Obiekwe (Nigeria), Martin Anderson (Ghana), Mary Jane Veloso (Philippines), Andrew Chan (Australia), Myuran Sukumaran (Australia), and Zainal Abidin (Indonesia). On 23 April, the Attorney General Office instructed authorities to prepare for the executions, after many of the 10 drug convicts repeatedly failed to secure a judicial review of their cases.

"President Widodo's tough stance on capital punishment for drug convicts is a disgraceful ploy to shore up his sinking approval ratings," said KontraS Executive Director Haris Azhar. "It's time for President Widodo to heed the international communities' repeated calls for an end to executions."

Instead of implementing a moratorium on executions, President Widodo has repeatedly ruled out an amnesty for drug traffickers facing execution. In early December 2014, President Widodo refused to grant clemency to 6 inmates, including 2 women, who had been found guilty of drug trafficking. On 18 January 2015, the 6 were executed by firing squad in Nusakambangan prison.

Ironically, and in a move that exposes the Indonesian government to hypocritical double standards on capital punishment, President Widodo's administration protested the execution of 2 Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia on 14 and 16 April 2015.

On 2 April 2015, it was reported that the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) had downgraded Indonesia to 'E', on a scale of 'A' to 'E', for its failure to respond to the HRC's call in August 2013 to stop executing prisoners for drug-related crimes. The HRC monitors implementation by states parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The 'E' rating indicates that Indonesia took measures that went against the HRC's recommendations related to the death penalty. The HRC has repeatedly stressed that capital punishment for drug-related offenses is a clear violation of Article 6 of the ICCPR on the right to life.

FIDH and KontraS, both members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), reiterate their strong opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances. Our organizations insist that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty on drug-related offenses.

(source: FIDH)

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

Bali 9: Indonesia issues execution orders

At least 3 of 10 people on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling have been given formal notice of their imminent execution.

2 Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and a Philippines woman, Mary Jane Veloso were notified by Indonesian officials on Saturday.

Under Indonesian law, convicts must be given 72 hours' notice of execution, but no formal date has yet been set.

The appeals process for a French national is still under way.

The group is being held on the prison island of Nusakambangan.

Appeals for clemency

"Indonesian authorities today [Saturday] advised Australian consular officials that the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be scheduled imminently at Nusa Kambangan prison in central Java," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement.

She said she would continue to press for clemency. However, Indonesia's government has rejected all appeals so far.

Veloso's parents, 2 sons and sister travelled to the island on Saturday to see her.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were the leaders of the "Bali 9" group arrested in 2005 while attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia.

A court ruled that they had organised a 9-member smuggling operation and they were sentenced to death in 2006.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, has taken a tough stance on drug crime.

In January he authorised the executions of 6 people, including 5 foreigners, convicted of drug offences.

The group of 10 awaiting execution also includes Brazilian and Nigerian nationals.

Who are the Bali 9?

The 8 men and 1 woman were arrested in April 2005 at an airport and hotel in Bali, Indonesia after a tip-off from Australian police. They were trying to carry 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin back to Australia

In 2006 a court ruled that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had recruited the others and paid their costs. They were sentenced to death

The other 7 are serving sentences of between 20 years and life, after some had death sentences revoked on appeal

Chan and Sukumaran have repeatedly appealed against their sentences and say they are reformed characters - Chan teaches Bible and cookery classes in prison while Sukumaran is an artist.

(source: BBC news)

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

Mary Jane set to be shot on Tuesday

Mary Jane Veloso told a group of Filipino lawyers in Indonesia on Saturday (April 25) that she has already received a letter setting the date of her execution - April 28.

Veloso said she received the letter early Saturday evening and the 72-hour period will therefore fall on Tuesday.

According to Atty. Cris Yambot of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), Veloso received the notice a few minutes past 6 p.m.

Atty. Minnie Lopez added that executions in Indonesia were usually carried out at midnight.

Meanwhile, Migrante International chairman Gary Martinez said an emergency press conference will be held later in the evening at the Migrante office in Cubao, Quezon City.

For his part, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose noted that the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur has not yet received the 72-hour notice.

Veloso was arrested at the Yogyakarta Airport in March 2010 for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage. In October of the same year, she was given the death sentence.

(source: CNN)

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

Stop Imminent Executions ---- Death Penalty for Drug Crimes Violates International Law

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia should urgently commute the death sentences of 10 people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking, Human Rights Watch said today. Following the exhaustion of legal appeals on April 24, 2015, Indonesian authorities advised foreign diplomats and the prisoners' family members to convene on the island of Nusa Kambangan, where the executions are slated to occur.

"President Widodo has an important opportunity to signal Indonesia's rejection of the death penalty by sparing the lives of the 10 people facing looming execution," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. "Widodo can demonstrate true leadership by ending capital punishment as unacceptable state brutality."

The 10 prisoners include one Indonesian and nine foreign nationals, from Brazil, Australia, France, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines. The pending executions have provoked a diplomatic firestorm from foreign governments whose nationals are scheduled to face the firing squad. The Brazilian government has expressed concern that its citizen Rodrigo Gularte faces execution despite evidence that he has bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. In 2000 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights expressed its opposition to imposing the death penalty "on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder." The UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, stated in December 2014 that imposing the death penalty on people with mental disabilities violated the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

6 other convicted drug traffickers were recently executed in Indonesia. Widodo has sought to justify the death penalty spree on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had "destroyed the future of the nation." In December he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an "important shock therapy" for anyone who violates Indonesia's drug laws.

According to the Attorney General's Office statistics, 136 people were on death row in Indonesia at the end of 2014, of whom 64 have been convicted of drug trafficking, 2 for terrorism, and the rest for murder and robbery. Indonesia ended a 4-year unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty on March 15, 2013, when it executed by firing squad Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawian national. An Indonesian court had convicted Wilson in 2004 of smuggling 1 kilogram of heroin into Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Indonesia's use of the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law, statements of UN human rights experts, and various UN bodies. Human rights law upholds every human being's "inherent right to life" and limits the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. Indonesia should join with the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly's December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty.

In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses while urging countries to take an overall "human rights-based approach to drug and crime control." The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of "most serious crime."

"President Widodo should recognize that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent but an unjustifiable and barbaric punishment," Kine said. "Widodo should promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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

Rise in Indonesia executions bucks global trend: Amnesty

Indonesia has sharply increased executions, bucking a global trend of fewer death sentences being carried out, Amnesty International experts said, as Jakarta prepares to execute nine foreign drug convicts.

Amnesty said that the number of executions carried out globally went down to 607 in 2014 -- a reduction of 22 % from 2013 -- even though capital sentences handed out increased 28 % to 2,466.

In Indonesia, no convicts were executed in 2014 but 6 have been so far this year and the government has promised to bring that total to 20 -- an unprecedented level for the country in recent years.

This number of executions would bring Indonesia to the 2014 level of countries like Yemen (22), Sudan (23) or the United States (35), although far below the hundreds killed every year in China and Iran.

An Amnesty report showed there were 5 executions in Indonesia in 2013, then none 2009-2012 and 10 in 2008.

Indonesia is not alone in justifying the death sentences as part of a crackdown on crime.

The rapid rise in death sentences in 2014 was mainly caused by Egypt and Nigeria where hundreds of Islamists have been convicted in terror cases.

Below are comments made by 2 Amnesty experts in interviews with AFP:

- Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues, Amnesty International -

"We've seen a reduction thankfully in executions globally... The long-term trend in the world is definitely towards abolition even though each year we see some negative developments that cause us concern," she said.

"We have very significant concerns in Egypt because of the mass death sentences which have followed extremely unfair trials and in Nigeria we're concerned about the way the military courts have imposed death sentences."

"There is a trend of countries using the death penalty and saying it's to combat terrorism, it's to combat violent crime. There is no evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime or terrorism than other forms of punishment like imprisonment."

"It becomes an excuse, a justification for imposing death sentences."

"The death penalty isn't the solution to these problems, the death penalty isn't justice."

- Papang Hidayat, Indonesia researcher, Amnesty International -

"I think the Indonesian government will continue with the 2nd wave of executions because they don't want to lose face in front of the population. A majority of Indonesians are in favour of the death penalty and execution, particularly in drug cases."

"I think the international outcry is playing an important role and will prevent them carrying out all 20 executions this year.... I think the reaction of the international community made President Widodo a bit surprised. They thought the death penalty was a small issue that could not hamper the bilateral relationship with any country."

"To execute more than 10 in a year would not be usual."

"If Indonesia executes 10 people, it means that the number would be 16. It puts Indonesia between the top 10 and top 15 countries in terms of executions. It's very uncommon in Indonesia."

"They want to be seen as strong on law enforcement but more educated people are now joining the anti death-penalty movement, which is getting larger."

"There was a very good manoeuvre made by the Australians when they sent a famous Islamic cleric to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterparts and he shared his view that according to Islamic teaching the death penalty should be abolished. It received a positive reception -- unlike if Amnesty condemned through a press release or report. They would consider us a Western organisation trying to interfere with Indonesian values."

(source: Amnesty International)

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

There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent ---- Joko Widodo argues that Indonesia needs to execute drug offenders like Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to deter others, but he can produce no evidence to support this claim.

Australia has executed no-one for half a century. Following the abolition of the death penalty by various states, the federal government abolished capital punishment in 1973.

Nevertheless, Australian citizens - like all of those from abolitionist jurisdictions - face the death penalty when they commit serious crimes in countries that retain it. Bali 9 pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are facing execution in Indonesia following their convictions on drug trafficking charges almost 10 years ago. On Saturday, they and 7 others were given official notice that they will be killed by firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan. Under Indonesian law, the minimum period between receiving notice and execution is 72 hours.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has insisted all along that he will reject clemency petitions for drug traffickers on death row. In January, 6 were executed - 5 of them foreigners - straining Indonesia's diplomatic relations with Brazil and the Netherlands. These countries abolished the death penalty in the 19th century.

Jokowi claims that Indonesia is in the grip of a national drug "emergency". He argues that it needs to execute drug offenders to deter others and thereby reduce the rate of deaths following illicit or illegal drug use. However, he, like others who support the death penalty, can produce no evidence to support this claim.

Because it would be morally repugnant to conduct random experiments in the use of capital punishment, it remains difficult - if not impossible - to find empirical data on the deterrent effects of the threat of capital punishment that would persuade a committed proponent of the death penalty to change their mind.

As far as some crimes punishable by death in several countries are concerned - such as importing or trading in illegal drugs, economic crimes, or politically motivated violence - there is no reliable evidence of the deterrent effects of executions. What evidence there is - which is mostly from the US - should lead any dispassionate analyst to conclude that it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.

One rather unsophisticated way of considering deterrence is to analyse homicide rates before and after the death penalty is abolished. This at least can show whether countries that abolish capital punishment inevitably experience more murders, as those who support the deterrent argument claim.

In Australia, where the last executions occurred in the mid-1960s, the reported murder rate has, a few fluctuations aside, fallen.

Prior to the abolition of the death penalty in Canada in 1976, the reported homicide rate had been rising. But in 2003, 27 years after abolition, the rate was 43% lower than it was in 1975, the year before abolition.

Likewise, the homicide rate in countries of Central and Eastern Europe declined by about 60% after abolition in the 1990s. In most countries, abolition, and a strengthening of the rule of law, results in a decline in the homicide rate.

While recent studies on deterrence in the US are inconclusive as a whole, and many suffer from methodological problems, they do not produce credible evidence on deterrence as a behavioural mechanism.

Therefore, the issue is not whether the death penalty deters some - if only a few - people where the threat of a lesser punishment would not. Instead, it is whether, when all the circumstances surrounding its use are taken into account, the death penalty is associated with a marginally lower rate of the death penalty-eligible crimes than the next most severe penalty, life imprisonment. There is no evidence that it is.

As far as Indonesia's claims for a deterrent effect are concerned, Oxford scholar Claudia Stoicescu has shown that this claim is based on inaccurate statistics on the number of drug users that need rehabilitation and the number of young people that die each day as a result of drug use.

Quite simply, rigorous analysis of the available data does not support the claims made for the need to retain the death penalty to reduce social harms.

About 1/2 of the people on death row in Indonesia have been convicted of drug-related offences. Many are foreigners.

Secrecy surrounds the administration of the death penalty in Indonesia. Prisoners learn about the exact time of their execution only 72 hours in advance.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have not been able to persuade Jokowi that his belief in deterrence is misguided. However, they could perhaps remind him that his apparent approach to clemency is in breach of Indonesia's binding obligations under Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indonesia became a party to this in 2006.

Clemency should always be considered on a case-by-case basis for each and every prisoner. Jokowi's statement that he will reject clemency for all prisoners sentenced to death for drug offences is in clear contradiction of that principle.

(source: Carolyn Hoyle, Director of the Centre for Criminology at University of Oxford; Roger Hood, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at University of Oxford----The Conversation)

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

Foreign minister fears worst for Australians on death row

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Friday (April 24) she feared the worst for 2 Australians facing execution on drug charges in Indonesia and appealed to President Joko Widodo to show mercy.

"I fear the worst, I fear that Indonesia will seek to proceed with the execution of the two Australian citizens. I'm deeply and profoundly concerned by this, I have sought to make contact with Foreign Minister Marsudi to register a concern and to speak with her to see if there is any opportunity for Australia to persuade Indonesia to change its mind," Bishop told reporters during a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

"I am asking of President Widodo what he asks of other countries in relation with Indonesian citizens who face death row overseas. Australia opposes the death penalty, whether at home or abroad, and we again appeal to President Widodo to show mercy," she added.

Bishop registered her concern on Friday with her Indonesian counterpart after Jakarta asked foreign embassies to send representatives to a maximum security prison ahead of the expected execution of 10 drug convicts, including 2 Australians.

The executions, which will be the 2nd round under President Joko Widodo, have drawn international criticism and sparked diplomatic tensions with Australia, France, the Philippines and Brazil, which have nationals on death row.

Widodo has pledged no clemency for drug offenders, citing a "drug emergency" in the world's fourth-largest country, but has said he was open to abolishing the death penalty in the future.

No date for the executions has yet been announced.

(source: Reuters)

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

Do the Right Thing and Show Mercy, President Jokowi

A day that no rational, compassionate human being could ever wish for appears to be at hand: the day that 10 fellow human beings, nine of them foreign nationals, are gunned down in a hail of bullets because the Indonesian government wants to make a barbarous point.

The Attorney General's Office, which seems to be taking an awful lot of pleasure in organizing the executions, has summoned officials from foreign embassies to the prison island of Nusakambangan on Saturday. The AGO is required to give the inmates 72 hours' notice about their execution, so it appears that the killings - yes, killings; make no mistake, this is state-sanctioned murder - could take place as soon as Tuesday.

But the AGO has said it will carry out the executions once all the inmates' appeals have been exhausted. And 1 of the 10, Indonesian Zainal Abidin, still has an appeal to be heard on Monday.

If, as appears likely, Zainal avoids the firing squad at the last minute, the government will have confirmed what everyone already suspects: that the executions are a stunt - bloody and grotesque - to impress upon the rest of the world the Indonesian government's disturbingly nationalist bent.

Why persist with a practice as savage as the death penalty when much of the world cries out against it? What can Indonesia gain from this?

It is in the president's power to end this shameful travesty and grant these individuals clemency. So it is to President Joko Widodo that we beseech mercy for Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso; for Serge Areski Atlaoui; for Myuran Sukumaran; for Andrew Chan; for Rodrigo Gularte; for Raheem Agbaje Salami; for Martin Anderson; for Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise; for Okwudili Oyatanze; and for Zainal Abidin.

We stand for mercy, Mr. President. Will you stand with us?

(source: Editorial, Jakarta Globe)

PHILIPPINES:

Lacson confirms presidential bid: Wants death penalty back

"My platform of government remains to be what I started as a Senator and that is to eradicate graft and corruption in the government," former Senator Ping Lacson said today confirming that he is running for president next year as an independent candidate, Philippine government-owned news agency reports.

He also stated his views on several issues that the country is currently facing. On the issue of peace talks in Mindanao, he said sub-regions should be established to cater different needs of tribes like Tausug, Maranao and the Maguindanao. He added that Bangsamoro Basic Law has flaws and should be looked into prior to approval.

Lacson also said death penalty, once protected the Filipino people against crimes, should be restored.

The only confirmed opponent of Lacson next year is Vice President Binay, while Secretary Mar Roxas is yet to officially confirm. Among the possible opponents are Davao Mayor Duterte, Senators Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago, Alan Cayetano and Bongbong Marcos.

(source: angmalaya.net)

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

Not all cases of OFWs on death row are equal

As predictable as rain, and as tedious, is the usual response of Philippine newspaper columnists and editorial writers whenever Filipinos end up on death row in foreign prisons for various alleged offenses, including drug trafficking.

They will ask the government to educate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the perils of serving as drug couriers, or "mules." This suggests that those OFWs who have been convicted of drug trafficking knew what they were doing, but thought they could get away with it, or were ignorant of the host country's laws.

In some cases they squarely lay the blame on the OFW, or imply that he or she deserves execution for breaking the laws of the country whose courts have sentenced him or her to death. Seldom do they take the time and effort to look at the specifics of each case.

True, one or all of these assumptions are valid in many cases of OFW convictions for drug trafficking. The excuse that they did not know the contents of the package containing the drug often strains credulity for its disingenuousness.

In other instances, the alleged drug mules were not familiar with the laws of the country into which they were bringing the package, or else thought that they would not be detected, perhaps because they think the same impunity rampant in the Philippines reigns as well in other countries.

The prospect of easy money is usually the reason some OFWs agree to bring prohibited drugs into another country. In not a few cases, it’s not the first time that the OFW has served as a drug courier.

The case of Mary Jane Veloso is entirely different, but has elicited practically the same response from the Philippine media, which have implied that she knew what she was doing, but did not know that the death penalty has been restored in the new administration of Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo - and that, in any case, appeals for either a stay or a stop to her execution gloss over these essential points, as well as the fundamental one of the need for OFWs to respect the laws of the countries to which they have been deployed or through which they're transiting.

Veloso was in the first place not entrusted with any package, but was given a "gift" - by a quasi-relative who was also her recruiter - of a suitcase the lining of which, it turned out, concealed 2.6 kilograms of heroin. While it seems only common sense to those of us who are more skeptical of human motives and acts never to carry for anyone, whether for love or money, any package, bag or suitcase the contents of which we don't know, Veloso apparently trusted this individual, whom her family has identified as a certain Christine, or "Tintin," and who was known to her as the wife of the son of her godfather.

In feudal Philippines, ties of kinship bind not only blood relatives but also those individuals with whom one has developed such relationships as Veloso had with "Tintin." Not only are godfathers (ninong) and godmothers (ninang) treated as members of the family, so are their children (Filipinos even have a name for them: kinakapatid) - and their children's spouses. To Veloso's implicit trust of "Tintin" was apparently added her sense that she owed her a debt of gratitude (utang na loob). Her lawyers from the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) have pointed out how excessive the death sentence on Veloso is, given these issues.

If there are reasons to doubt that Veloso knew she was carrying illegal drugs into Indonesia, there are equally sound reasons to doubt that her trial was fair. The NUPL argues that "she was denied her basic right to due process; the death penalty is too harsh given her disputable participation in the crime; and humanitarian considerations militate against the taking of her life through execution by firing squad." (Yes, they still do that in Indonesia.)

Veloso, continued NUPL Secretary-General Edre Olalia, was not represented by a competent lawyer during her 2010 trial, and the interpreter she was provided with was a student whose own competence in either Bahasa Indonesia or English could be questioned. (Veloso did not then know Bahasa Indonesia; neither was she fluent in English.)

Olalia also questioned the court's failure to apply in Veloso's case the Indonesian Law on the Eradication of the Criminal Act on Trafficking in Persons, which, he said, contains a "non-punishment" clause for criminal acts committed by trafficked persons. (Philippine anti-human trafficking groups point out that Veloso, by being exploited as an unwitting drug courier, was a victim of human trafficking.) Olalia has also asked the Indonesian government for leniency on humanitarian grounds. Veloso, who is from a poor family, is a young single mother with 2 small children.

Incidental to the Veloso case, but crucial to Veloso's fate nevertheless, is the political situation in Indonesia, where President Widodo is apparently using his mindless advocacy of the death penalty for drug-related crimes as a platform from which to enhance his domestic political support. It helps explain why he's made much of his supposedly uncompromising stand on drug trafficking by refusing to heed appeals for a stay of execution not only from the Philippine government and various local groups, but also from such international bodies as the United Nations and Amnesty International.

But Filipinos have to ask why the Philippine embassy in Jakarta did not provide Veloso a competent lawyer and interpreter to begin with, rather than allowing her to be represented by a lawyer designated by the Indonesian government and to have a less than able interpreter. Apparently, as in many other instances involving Filipinos in trouble with the laws of other countries, Philippine embassies are hardly of any help, even if only by seeing to it that the rights of Filipinos accused of crimes in foreign places are protected.

One would have expected the Philippine foreign service - after years and years of seeing OFWs hanged, decapitated or killed through some other method across the planet - to have developed by now those mechanisms of support that can make the difference between life and death. Too little and too late are the (self-) publicized efforts of the Aquino administration to save Veloso 5 long years after she was convicted.

The question of State accountability aside, the flaws in Veloso's trial alone should be enough grounds for a mistrial. Together with the other unique circumstances surrounding her case, that glaring possibility suggests that hers deserves closer scrutiny on the part of both the public, and, what's even more crucial, the Philippine media. Surely among the "lessons from a drug case" rather than the usual cliches is the need for the media to look closely at every case of OFWs landing on death row, rather than lumping them all together as if they were the same. They're not.

(source: bulatlat.com)

INDIA:

4 Get Death Penalty in J and K Teen's Rape-murder Case

a court in Srinagar on Friday awarded death penalty to 4 men, convicted in the brutal gangrape and murder of a 13-year-old girl, Tabinda Gani, in 2007. Mohammad Ibrahim Wani, district and sessions court judge, Kupwara, handed down the death sentence to 4 men -- Sadiq Mir, Anzar Ahmad (both locals) and 2 non-locals -- Jahangir Ansari of West Bengal and Suresh Kumar of Rajasthan -- for raping and killing the class 8th student, in the Langate area of the border district of Kupwara.

Wani upheld the death sentence awarded to the 4 by the trial court, saying the offence committed falls in the category of rarest of rare cases. The convicts are in jail since August, 2007.

"Death reference is accepted. Death sentence awarded by the trial court is affirmed and appeals of the convicts are dismissed," the court said. Wani said there is no scope for sympathy for their barbaric crime. Subject to confirmation of the death sentence by the J&K High Court in terms of Section 368 CrPC, he directed that the convicts be hanged.

The court had on April 18, held the 4 guilty of offences of murder (302 RPC), gangrape (376(G)), abduction with intention to kill (364 RPC) and crime done with common intention (34 RPC) but scheduled the pronouncement of the quantum of punishment for Friday.

A total of 86 witnesses including medicos, forensic experts, police men and civil society members, had deposed before the court during the trial. On July 20, 2007, the teenaged girl was abducted as she was on her way back from school at Batpora in Kupwara. Her decapitated body was recovered from an apple orchard in the area in the evening. Medical tests had confirmed that before slitting her throat, she had been brutally raped by her abductors.

The incident had triggered massive protests across the Valley with people demanding the arrest of the culprits and awarding of death sentence to them.

As part of protests, the native place of the victim remained shut for 21 days. In view of the tremendous public pressure, police intensified the investigation and a month later, arrested 4 men, who, during the interrogation, confessed to their involvement in the crime. The J&K Government has instituted a bravery award for children in memory of Gani.

The public hailed Friday's verdict and chanted pro-judiciary slogans.

(source: New Indian Express)

SINGAPORE:

EU urges Singapore to reinstate halt on executions

The European Union (EU) has called on the authorities in Singapore to reinstate its halt on capital punishment, following the execution of a convicted murderer here last week.

Reiterating its opposition to the use of capital punishment, the EU said in a statement yesterday it has consistently called for universal abolition of the penalty, which it describes as "cruel and inhumane".

"The European Union calls on the Singaporean authorities to stop all pending executions and to reinstate its earlier moratorium on capital punishment as a 1st step towards definitive abolition of the death penalty," it added.

The statement came after Muhammad Kadar, 39, was executed on April 17 at Changi Prison Complex after he was convicted of stabbing a 69-year-old neighbour to death in her flat while robbing her. He is the 1st murderer to be sentenced to death after the law was changed to give judges discretion to mete out life imprisonment and caning instead for certain murder offences.

A statement released by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) last week said Muhammad had been accorded full due process under the law and was represented by a lawyer throughout the legal process.

"The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction on July 5, 2011," said the SPF. "On Sept 29 last year, after hearing further arguments, the Court of Appeal dismissed his application for re-sentencing under the new death penalty regime and affirmed the sentence of death." The SPF added that Muhammad's petition for clemency was also rejected.

(source: Today)

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

EU stresses opposition to death penalty after Singapore execution

The European Union reiterated its opposition to the use of capital punishment following the execution of another convict in Singapore.

"The European Union calls on the Singaporean authorities to stop all pending executions and to reinstate its earlier moratorium on capital punishment as a 1st step towards definitive abolition of the death penalty," the statement said.

Muhammad bin Kadar was executed on April 17 for the murder of a 69-year-old woman during a botched robbery in 2005. The execution was the 3rd since the end of a 3-year moratorium on the death penalty in the city-state last year.

Death penalty opponents said Muhammad's sentence should have been commuted because of his low IQ and influence under the drug Dormicum.

"Imposing the death penalty in cases like these has the opposite effect of justice by disproportionately punishing the marginalised," the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign said.

The number of death row inmates in Singapore is estimated to be about 25, according to campaign activist Rachel Zeng. Official statistics are not available.

(source: DPA)

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

Statement on the execution of Muhammad bin Kadar

Muhammad bin Kadar, 39, was executed on 17 April 2015. He received the death sentence for killing a 69-year-old woman during a robbery in the victim's flat that occurred in May 2005. Muhammad had a low IQ of 76 and was under the influence of Dormicum when he entered the flat of Mdm Tham Weng Kuen and repeatedly attacked her with a knife and later a chopper from her kitchen. The victim later died of blood loss from the profuse wounds she suffered.

In 2009, Muhammad was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court. His appeal for diminished responsibility rejected by the Appellate Court in 2011. After amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime were introduced in late 2012, Muhammad applied for a re-sentence. The apex court determined that he had caused death with the "intention to kill" and upheld the death penalty. The final appeal for presidential clemency was rejected a week before Muhammad's execution.

We at the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) believe that Muhammad's death sentence should have been commuted in view of his low IQ and the influence of Dormicum. The defence psychiatrist had stated that the drug likely led to a "major reduction in self-control and regulation" of Muhammad's actions and that the intention to silence the victim was likely to have formed under the disinhibitory effects of Dormicum. So while Muhammad had planned to forcefully rob Mdm Tham and consumed Dormicum to embolden himself, the fatal attack was not premeditated and very much an afterthought influenced by the drug.

The death penalty is often and instinctively put forward as an effective deterrent of crime. Yet in the circumstances, we find great difficulty in seeing how this tragedy could have been prevented by the threat of execution given Muhammad's state of mind. Muhammad was a part-time odd job labourer with a history of substance abuse who was desperate for money to feed his drug habit. With a low IQ and only primary school education, Muhammad was socio-economically vulnerable to substance abuse and attendant problems. Imposing the death penalty in cases like these has the opposite effect of justice by disproportionately punishing the marginalised.

Media reports on the case have highlighted and even headlined the brutal manner of the murder. The SADPC maintains our opposition to the death sentence even for such cases. The death penalty is an ethically questionable choice of punishment as it shares the intentionality and instrumentality of violence with every act of murder. Judicial executions are in effect the most premeditated of all murders, even if they are aimed at achieving peace and security. We reject the death penalty because justice requires the congruence of means and ends.

SADPC continues to call for the abolition of the death penalty. We urge the country to look deeper into the roots of crime and find more humane and holistic ways to rehabilitate and reintegrate people like Muhammad. We strongly believe every person deserves a chance at atonement by contributing back to society.

(source: theonlinecitizen.com)

CHINA:

Society Review hearing set for murder conviction 20 years after execution

A court in the eastern province of Shandong will review a controversial 1994 rape and murder case that saw a man executed, only for another to later confess to the crime.

Nie Shubin was 21 in 1995 when found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman in Hebei's capital, Shijiazhuang, and executed. In 2005, another man named Wang Shujin confessed to the attack.

Wang, 48, was apprehended by police in 2005 for three unconnected rape and murder cases, and confessed to a rape and murder with similar facts to Nie's case.

Hebei Higher People's Court approved the death penalty for Nie in 1995, rejected Wang's request for a retrial in 2013 and still holds that Nie was guilty. Last December the Supreme People's Court ordered the case be moved out of the province and reviewed in Shandong.

Five judges from Shandong higher court have reviewed Nie's case and the attorneys acting for Nie have seen the case files. In March, the attorneys claimed to have found several "evident errors" while duplicating Nie's case files, most of which involve legal procedure.

Nie's family, their legal team and officials representing those involved in the original trial will attend the hearing, scheduled for April 28, said a statement from the court. Other than the 2 parties, 15 people, including lawyers, lawmakers, political advisors and representatives of the public, will attend the hearing as independent witnesses and ask questions to both parties.

To protect the identity of the victim, the hearing will not be open to the public but proceedings will be documented via the court's official microblog account.

Normally in China, for the review of a murder conviction, the court goes through case files rather than holding an actual trial.

Prof. Bian Jianlin of the China University of Political Science and Law told Xinhua that this kind of hearing is very rare and may be be an attempt to promote judicial transparency and raise the credibility of the judicial system.

"We want to conduct a fair and just review of the case with adequate transparency," Zhu Yunshan, presiding judge of the the review team, said. "A hearing of this kind is our best option to hear both sides of the story and inform the public without compromising the victim's privacy."

Nie's case drew public attention following the acquittal of an executed convict in another rape-murder case last December.

A teenager named Huugjilt from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was executed for the rape and murder of a woman in June 1996. A few years later a self-confessed serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, admitted to the murder when arrested in 2005.

(source: ECNS)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executes Jordanian drug trafficker

Saudi Arabia executed a Jordanian man on Friday for drug trafficking in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Mohammed Abu Samak was arrested "as he was smuggling a large amount of banned amphetamine pills," said a ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

His beheading in the northwestern region of Tabuk is part of a surge in executions that has alarmed human rights activists.

Saudi Arabia has already executed 68 people so far this year, after 87 in all of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Amnesty International's 2014 global report on the death penalty ranks Saudi Arabia among the top five executioners in the world.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

NIGERIA:

Alleged Killer-Bride Has Case to Answer, Says Judge

A high Court in Gewaza, Bauchi State on Tuesday rejected a motion to have murder charges against a child bride accused of killing her husband dismissed, saying there was enough evidence for the case to proceed.

Wasila Tasi'u was 14 when she married Umar Sani, 35, in Nigeria's deeply conservative, mainly Muslim north last year, and could face the death penalty if convicted of using rat poison to kill him.

"I am of the opinion that there is a case against the accused," High Court Judge Mohammed Yahaya said. "As such, I overrule the submission of no-case from the defence counsel."

The AFP reported that Tasi'u's lawyers had argued that the state failed to establish her intent to kill Sani and questioned the reliability of a key prosecution witness.

The witness, a 7-year-old girl named Hamziyya who was identified as the sister of Sani's other wife, testified that Tasi'u gave her money to buy the poison on April 5 last year, the day Sani died.

The defence said that relying on testimony from a minor contravened Nigeria's Evidence Act and that the state's case should therefore be thrown out.

The murder trial has highlighted the range of attitudes towards child marriage in Nigeria, especially in the impoverished north.

The families of both the deceased and the accused have rejected claims that she was forced to marry a man more than twice her age, noting that 14 was an appropriate age to marry and that Tasi'u chose Sani from a range of suitors.

Some locals have called for Tasi'u to face stiff punishment to discourage other girls from taking similar action if they become unhappy in their marriage.

But rights activists have demanded that Tasi'u be rehabilitated as a victim of a forced marriage, which likely included incidents of rape.

Laws regarding both sexual and marital consent are complex in northern Nigeria, given the coexistence of both secular and Islamic law, creating contradictions in the justice system.

Tasi'u has remained largely stoic through her appearances in court so far, crying when charges were first read against her, but otherwise sitting silently, often with her head bowed.

On Tuesday she stood quietly in the dock, with her head fully covered in a sky-blue hijab.

Sani died after eating food that Tasi'u allegedly prepared for a meal to celebrate their marriage. Three others who reportedly ate the food also died, but prosecutors have combined the three deaths into a single murder charge.

The state has concluded its case and following Tuesday's ruling the defence was instructed to move forward with its own evidence when the trial resumes on April 29.

(source: The Guardian)

MAUIRITIUS:

Mauritius urged to reintroduce death penalty

People in Mauritius have been calling for the reintroduction of the death penalty after numerous sexual abuse cases on children, including the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl earlier this month. Police have registered some 17 cases of sexual assaults in April, including the murder case as well as one where a father is accused of having raped his 4-year-old daughter for months.

Vice Prime Minister Shawkutally Soodhun told the press Thursday that he also is in favor of the death penalty as sentence to some sexual offenders.

"We have all seen what they did to that 11 year old girl. We cannot just send them to jail and pay for their living costs. There is a need for strong punishment," he said.

(source: spyghana.com)

APRIL 24, 2015:

TEXAS:

Prosecutors consider pursuing death penalty against husband accused of killing wife

The trial of a husband accused of killing his wife will wait at least another 6 weeks as prosecutors look at the possibility of seeking the death penalty.

Jesse Perales is facing a capital murder charge for allegedly shooting his wife in front of their children back in February 2014.

According to police, the husband kicked in the door of the home where Krystal Perales was staying. She was chased to the backyard and shot in the head. Their son and family witnessed everything.

Attorneys were granted 6 weeks to prepare for another hearing on the case.

(source: KRIS TV news)

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

Exonerated death row inmate visits Texas Tech

17 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

Juan Melendez exonerated in 2002 now works with the Innocence Project to eliminate the very social issue that nearly eliminated him. He's shared his story in multiple documentaries bringing to light the fallacies of the death penalty. Melendez has made it his life mission to speak to young adults which he fulfilled this week on the Texas Tech campus.

"I'm trying to motivate them to get involved in social issues and problems in the community and I think the death penalty is a problem," Melendez said. "The law is made by human beings and carried out by human beings."

Melendez is the 99th death row prisoner nationwide to be exonerated since 1973.

(source: myfoxlubbock.com)

ALABAMA:

Former death row inmate talks about his new freedom

The Birmingham man who spent nearly 30 years on death row before he was released from prison is slowly adjusting to his new life. Anthony Ray Hinton's case was dropped by prosecutors after new tests on a gun originally believed to be used in 2 murders did not match bullets from the crime scenes. The weapon had been found in his mother's home.

3 weeks after his release Hinton met ABC3340 for an exclusive interview. Hinton said when he first walked out of jail he thought of Martin Luther King's words: "Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, I'm free at last."

"I felt relieved, I felt great but after the cameras leave reality sets back in. That's the part you or nobody else can capture." We talked with Hinton at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. The non-profit group worked for years to clear Hinton's name. Their involvement began with a letter to attorney Bryan Stevenson.

"If he would come see me I told him I would pay his gas but I couldn't pay for his time. I received a letter 2 weeks later that he would come talk to me. I had faith in God that he had sent me his best people," explained Hinton.

Without those people Hinton says an innocent man would have been executed. "The fact that we don't have a perfect system should eliminate the death penalty because mistakes are made."

That mistake put Hinton in a solitary cell for 1/2 his life on death row. Sometimes going weeks without a walk outside and reading books to pass the time. "You have to find something to carry you to another place. I went to New York. I went to Hawaii," recalls Hinton.

He also remembers the stench of death watching inmates lead away for their executions. "No man should be put in place where you smell the flesh of a man that's been executed."

We asked Hinton about his 1st stop after leaving prison: his mother's grave. He could not say goodbye to her or attend her funeral. Through tears he explained his visit to her gravesite: "When I got to the grave I kissed the headstone. I felt I let her down. The love I had for my mother was like no other... She was my best friend."

Hinton isn't sure what the future holds. For now he's living with a friend in Birmingham working on necessities like getting a drivers license and learning new technology. He was most amazed by his friend's GPS which lead them straight to Montgomery with that woman's voice guiding the way! A friend has taught him to text and send pictures via cellphone.

Even with freedom, he says there is a feeling of being locked up. "Still to this day I cry because people look at the outside and can't see the inside. I feel I'm scarred."

Convicted for the 1985 murders of 2 restaurant managers, Hinton feels anger towards a justice system that took so long to test crucial evidence. "Was their hated so bad for a poor black man that they didn't care at all? They knew the gun never matched that's why they never tested it 16 years ago. What would it cost to test it? Justice is supposed to be about the truth," remarked Hinton.

"I just want somebody to say Mr. Hinton 30 years ago a grave mistake was done on you and we apologize," says Hinton. He believes the victim's families have suffered even more and they also deserve an apology. Under state law, Hinton could petition to be compensated for his time in prison. But at this point he has not pursued that.

Hinton's attorneys hope with so many convictions in question, states like Alabama will set up committees to speed up reviews where there are real concerns about someone's innocence on death row. They say it should not have taken 16 years of work to free Hinton.

(source: ABC news)

MISSISSIPPI:

On Death Row for the Wrong Hair

Hair analysis helped to send Willie Jerome Manning to death row 21 years ago. The science proved to be wrong but not before hundreds of men had been convicted or even executed.

For 21 years, death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning has waited for a DNA test to prove his innocence. In 1994, he was convicted in the murder of 2 white Mississippi State University students, who were kidnapped outside a frat house and later found shot in the head.

Manning was a black man facing an all-white Southern jury, and the cards were already stacked against him. The prosecutor's case relied on testimony from a jailhouse snitch and a woman who wanted to see her own criminal charges disappear - and an FBI expert who said a hair sample linked Manning to the crime. Manning was convicted and sentenced to death.

But on May 7, 2013, he got an 11th-hour stay of his execution. The reprieve came days after the Department of Justice delivered letters calling the Federal Bureau of Investigation's microscopic hair comparison analysis flawed.

"We have determined that the microscopic hair comparison analysis ... included statements that exceeded the limits of science and was, therefore, invalid," read one DOJ letter to Oktibbeha County District Attorney Deforest Allgood.

While there wasn't a positive match, the FBI expert "stated or implied ... that a questioned hair could be associated with a specific individual to the exclusion of all others."

Rob Mink, an attorney for Manning, told The Daily Beast that the FBI's hair analysis was drilled into jurors during closing arguments. "The hair testimony was emphasized repeatedly by the prosecutor who tried the case," said Mink, a trial attorney in Jackson, Mississippi. The DA echoed the FBI's claim that the sample likely belonged to a black man.

"We should all be very concerned and frightened that this sort of thing can happen," Mink added. "A person can be convicted and sentenced to death, and science later shows the conviction is invalid and not reliable."

Manning's case is only 1 among thousands from the 1980s and '90s that used the FBI's pseudoscientific analysis - which may have resulted in death sentences or decades-long imprisonment for innocent people.

"There was massive scientific illiteracy at the FBI crime lab for multiple decades, or this was done deliberately. There's plenty of evidence of both, really."

Microscopic hair comparison is not a DNA test. Rather, follicles are put under a microscope and inspected against hair samples of parties involved in a crime. In 2009, the National Academy of Science called it "highly unreliable."

To date, 74 of the country's 329 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence involved the hair analysis, according to the Innocence Project.

On Monday, the DOJ and FBI acknowledged that its experts provided faulty and exaggerated testimony favoring the prosecution for 2 decades - a scandal that's propelled the largest post-conviction review in the country.

As early as 1984, the FBI acknowledged that microscopic hair comparison couldn't positively determine whether hair belongs to a certain individual. The admission, however, didn't stop its experts from using it.

Now the feds are slated to review thousands of cases where FBI experts submitted reports or testified in trials using the method. An ongoing review is being conducted in tandem with the Innocence Project and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and so far, it is shocking:

All but 2 of 28 FBI examiners testifying in 41 states provided testimony or lab reports that contained erroneous statements.

-- Of the 268 cases where FBI analysts provided testimony, 96 % contained erroneous statements.

-- In 35 cases where defendants received the death penalty, 33 contained errors. 9 of the defendants have been executed, while 5 more died in prison.

These figures only represent cases involving the FBI's reports. There's no telling how many state experts - including those who received training from FBI examiners - are still using the dubious method or how it has influenced their cases.

"The [FBI] examiners gave false and misleading testimony ... but what's worse, they released a virus from the FBI's hair unit to the criminal justice system," Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project, told The Daily Beast.

"There are only 2 conclusions that can be drawn from this," he added. "There was massive scientific illiteracy at the FBI crime lab for multiple decades, or this was done deliberately. There's plenty of evidence of both, really."

State courts are following the FBI's lead

Some cases put people behind bars for decades - even when the evidence was hanging by a single hair. George Perrot has spent 30 years in prison for rape because an FBI examiner convinced a jury that a strand of hair belonged to him, his attorneys charge.

In 1984 and '85, authorities in Springfield, Massachusetts, grappled with a series of rapes targeting elderly women. Perrot was only 17 years old when he was put on trial for the rape and robbery of one 78-year-old - who repeatedly told police and prosecutors he looked nothing like her attacker.

There was no blood or semen or other materials to test for evidence, but Perrot was put away for life. His attorneys are requesting a new trial.

For Claude Jones, a DNA test came too late. In 1989, Jones was convicted in the killing of a liquor-store owner during a robbery in Texas. His 2 conspirators testified against him, but under Texas law, accomplice testimony isn't enough to seal a conviction. State experts presented the hair, which they said likely belonged to Jones.

Before his 2000 execution, Jones asked then-Governor George W. Bush for a stay of execution and to conduct a DNA test. Bush refused. The Innocence Project later learned, through an open records request, that Bush's staff didn't include the DNA testing possibility in their memos to him. A decade later, testing finally proved that the hair - the only physical evidence in the case - never belonged to Jones.

In Oklahoma alone, between 1998 and 2012, 8 people whose cases involved hair evidence were exonerated. Three were on death row, according to a recently published paper co-authored by Fabricant.

Still, courts nationwide continue to accept hair comparison analysis as evidence - even as scientists call it bunk.

The Florida Supreme Court last summer rejected the appeal of death row inmate James Duckett, an ex-cop convicted for the 1987 sexual battery and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The court said Duckett never objected to now-discredited FBI expert Michael Malone's testimony at trial, and even pointed to the FBI's continued usage of the method.

"The field of forensic hair analysis has not been discredited, and the FBI has not discontinued the use of such analysis," the court wrote in its June 26, 2014, opinion, adding that Malone's testimony was "well within the bounds of the field."

Fabricant and the Innocence Project are advocating for national standards in microscopic hair comparison analysis, as well as other pattern-matching disciplines including ballistic evidence, tire tread and shoe print analysis.

"Smaller jurisdictions that don't have the resources to do DNA testing are under no legal obligation to discontinue the use of this evidence," Fabricant told The Daily Beast. "There is nothing to preclude them from doing so."

The case against Willie Manning

As the courts debate, Willie Manning is still in jail, waiting and swearing that he's innocent, just like he has for 21 years. The university student case isn't Manning's only capital conviction - his other murder charge was tossed this week.

Manning had been convicted for the 1993 killing of a 90-year-old woman and her daughter. But in February, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted Manning a new trial, saying the state violated his rights by failing to provide "favorable, material evidence."

On April 20, Deforest Allgood, the DA who also prosecuted Manning's student slaying case, announced he was dropping the charges.

The state's key witness, who testified during trial that he saw Manning enter the victims' Starkville apartment, recanted his statements in sworn affidavits. It was also revealed that police withheld notes that showed the apartment where the witness claimed to have lived was actually vacant.

"In my mind, the state had written Willie off," said Tucker Carrington, founding director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and law professor at the University of Mississippi. "'Who gives a fuck about this guy? He's already condemned. We know he's the type of person who's capable of doing this. It's him.'"

Carrington is referring to Manning's previous conviction for the murder of the coeds. Weeks before Manning's 2013 scheduled execution in that case, the state denied a request for DNA analysis of hair, fingerprints and other untested evidence, meant to prove his innocence.

Manning's attorneys scrambled to pursue an injunction that would prohibit the state from destroying the evidence, even after he was executed. "We wanted to test the material at our own expense, even posthumously," Carrington said. "We're not afraid of the results. The results will stand for themselves, whatever they may be."

But the injunction wasn't submitted. After the FBI sent letters admitting its hair analysis errors, the court stayed the execution and later granted a DNA test - though it never cited the feds' mea culpa.

Manning's attorneys and supporters are now waiting to see if a Dallas forensic lab can generate DNA profiles from the evidence in the university case.

"Even if the DNA and fingerprint evidence is inconclusive, we're not finished arguing about whether he's entitled to a new trial," Mink said. "The fact that he's essentially been exonerated from the other 2 murders should make everyone concerned about the reliability of convictions like this - especially when the convicted person is going to be killed at the behest of the state."

(source: The Daily Beast)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska legislature leads charge to abolish death penalty ---- If bill overcomes veto threat, Nebraska will be the first GOP-dominated state in decades to end capital punishment

Nebraska's Republican-dominated legislature is leading the charge to abolish the death penalty in the state, potentially making it the 1st GOP-controlled state in decades to ban the practice and setting up a confrontation with Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

State lawmakers approved Legislative Bill 268 late last week, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, in a lopsided 30-13 vote, enough to overcome Ricketts' promised veto if support holds. Backers of the bill, including several Republican advocates, are now trying to wrangle additional supporters to overcome the remaining legislative hurdles. 2 more rounds of voting must take place under the rules of Nebraska's unicameral legislature - the only one of its kind in the nation - and 33 state senators may be needed to break debate at the next stage.

"I'm actually very optimistic that we can get the votes we need for cloture to end the filibuster," said Stacy Anderson, the executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an advocacy group that has been lobbying legislators on the issue. "There are senators in the body who don't support the repeal, but they support this being given an up-or-down vote. They believe a vote should be taken."

The rejection of the death penalty in Nebraska shows that more Republican lawmakers at the state level feel free to express their qualms about capital punishment and champion abolishment efforts. Similar legislation has been introduced in Kansas and Arkansas, but in those states, the bills have not made it out of committee.

"It makes sense for Republicans to support repeal. It's antithetical to life," said Marc Hyden, the director of the national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. "What's happening in Nebraska is what we're seeing nationwide - more and more people are seeing the death penalty as a broken system that doesn't line up with their values."

If the proposal succeeds in Nebraska, it will be the 1st solidly red state to abolish capital punishment in decades. (Blue states Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland repealed the death penalty in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.) In 32 states, however, executions are still legal, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

"There's strong conservative leadership in the body to actually get the repeal bill passed," Anderson said. "We're in a race with several states to be the 1st red state repeal, so I think it's just a matter of time before we see that happening."

Although Nebraska's legislature is officially nonpartisan and elected officials run for office without party affiliation, the party IDs of lawmakers are widely known. In the death penalty vote, 17 Republicans joined 12 Democrats and 1 independent to advance the bill.

State Sen. Al Davis, a Republican who supports the bill, said that the unique nature of the Nebraska legislature has allowed the issue to transcend hardened partisanship.

"The people that serve here are not reliant on a party to tell them how to vote," he said. "This bill has come up and is making that kind of progress because people are free from their party obligations. We're able to talk these things through from our own experiences and perspectives."

Davis said that he came to oppose the death penalty when he was made aware of cases in which false confessions were extracted from defendants after they were threatened with the death penalty by prosecutors.

"I thought, 'Boy, this is really not an appropriate punishment, because there's no way to take it back," he said.

Sen. Ernie Chambers, an independent who sponsored the bill and who is the only African-American serving in the state legislature, has been introducing similar legislation intermittently for more than 40 years, since he was first elected in 1970. The politics have changed dramatically in that time, he said. If Nebraska is the 1st Midwestern state in a generation to abolish capital punishment, he hopes others will follow.

"There were senators who told me if they could vote their conviction, we would've been rid of the death penalty a long time ago," he said. "If Nebraska is viewed as backward, as it really is, and it would take this step, there could be people who say, 'If those people did it, everybody should be able to do it.'"

Nonetheless, the bill faces stiff opposition from Ricketts and the state attorney general, who will be fighting the repeal and lobbying lawmakers. Legislators opposed to the bill have been strident in their views, saying they will erect any roadblocks they can to prevent the legislation from being enacted.

"Sen. Chambers' plan to repeal the death penalty is out of step with Nebraskans who tell me that they believe the death penalty remains an important tool for public safety," Ricketts said in a statement shortly after last week's vote. "If this legislation comes to my desk, I will veto it. I urge senators to reconsider their decision and to stand with law enforcement who need all the tools we can give them to protect public safety."

(source: Al Jazeera)

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

Uphill battle -- Death penalty repeal may be difficult

State senators advanced legislation Tuesday to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska and at least one official thinks the bill faces an uphill battle before becoming law.

The bill, LB 268, advanced out of select file with 30 votes in favor, 13 against and 6 either abstaining or absent. District 44 Sen. Dan Hughes was among the 13 opponents to the legislation and said this morning Gov. Pete Ricketts had indicated he would veto the legislation.

Supporters will need 30 votes to override the gubernatorial veto, however, maintaining that level of support may be difficult, according to Hughes. He said some senators commit support for a bill yet are unwilling to extend that support to a gubernatorial override, a game Hughes says he prefers not to play.

"Being coy with your vote is not how I operate," said Hughes.

Sen. Hughes said the cocktail of drugs used in state executions has historically been manufactured in Europe, coming from countries which abolished the death penalty years ago. Recently implemented export bans have eliminated the supply and left Nebraska and other states searching for options. Nebraska's supply of execution drugs has expired. Utah recently reinstated the firing squad.

Sen. Hughes indicated much of the support to abolish the death penalty came from legislators weary of the layers of delays and roadblocks placed on the death penalty process by opponents to the law.

"We are a nation of laws, have a process and need to follow that process to remove some of the hurdles that have been placed in front of us," said Hughes. He said advances in DNA testing had not only exonerated some placed on death row, but also increased the certainty that those remaining were guilty.

Hughes said none of the individuals exonerated in recent years were convicted in Nebraska and that same technology should serve as further proof the individuals on death row in Nebraska committed the crimes they were convicted of.

Sen. Hughes said he believed the death penalty served as a deterrent and those who choose to take the life of others should pay the ultimate price.

LB 268 was introduced by District 11 Sen. Ernie Chambers.

(source: McCook Gazette)

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Beatrice 6 member speaks out against death penalty Thursday

1 of the Beatrice 6 who was wrongfully convicted of murder spoke out against the death penalty in the Capitol Thursday.

Ada JoAnn Taylor joined members of the Innocence Project to tell lawmakers that errors happen in Nebraska. She said prosecutors and law officers constantly told her she would be the first woman executed if she didn't confess, which is why she said capital punishment needs to be repealed.

"So that no other innocent Nebraskan would be threatened with the death penalty, causing them to confess to a crime that (they) didn't commit and allow the actual murderer to murder again," Taylor said.

Last week, lawmakers advanced a bill on a 30-13 vote that would replace a death sentence with life in prison. It still has 2 more rounds of debate and must overcome a veto promised by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

(source: KETV news)

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

Loved Ones Killed By Homicide Rally Against The Death Penalty

Families of loved ones killed by homicide held a rally Thursday night against the death penalty.

The group Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation held an anti death penalty rally at the, "Tree of Healing," at 1176 SW Warren Avenue.

The cottonwood tree was planted 21 years ago by victims families, when Kansas reinstated capital punishment.

50 years has passed since the last execution in the state.

Organizers of Thursday's event says the time has come to do away with the death penalty all together.

(source: WIBW news)

SOUTH DAKOTA----stay of impending execution

Judge delays execution of South Dakota inmate

A South Dakota death row inmate's execution has been delayed pending resolution of his latest appeal.

Circuit Court Judge Douglas Hoffman signed a stay of execution late Thursday afternoon for Rodney Berget.

Berget had been scheduled to be executed the week of May 3 for the death of a South Dakota prison guard.

Berget filed a habeas appeal to stay his execution on April 16. Attorney General Marty Jackley asked for additional documents from Berget's defense team on his wishes.

Berget and another prisoner, Eric Robert, killed Ronald Johnson, a senior correctional officer, during an escape attempt in 2011 from the South Dakota State Penitentiary. At the time, Berget was serving two life sentences for attempted murder and for raping a convenience store clerk.

After the inmates killed Johnson, Robert put on Johnson's uniform and tried to move a large box with Berget inside it toward the prison gate.

They were caught before making it out of the prison.

Robert was executed in 2012.

A 3rd inmate, Michael Nordman, was sentenced to life in prison for providing the plastic wrap and a pipe used to kill Johnson.

Attorney General Marty Jackley had opposed the stay of execution but acknowledged the court may need more time to consider Berget's appeal.

"While I have opposed the stay on various legal grounds," Jackley said, "I recognize that as a result of these recent filings, due process may require additional proceeding before the warrant is carried out."

Berget's initial appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court claimed that the lower court should have accepted the additional evidence he wanted to present. His case was remanded for a limited re-sentencing in 2013 after the high court found that Judge Brad Zell had improperly considered evidence from a psychiatric report that hadn't been admitted into evidence. The admission of the evidence violated Berget's right against self-incrimination.

Berget did not call the psychiatrist as a witness at the re-sentencing, but sought having new evidence admitted. He was again sentenced to death by lethal injection.

In March, the nation's highest court declined to hear his appeal.

Earlier this month, Judge Zell again denied Berget's motion, finding that it was outside of the court's jurisdiction.

Death row inmate Charles Rhines, the longest serving death row inmate, has a continuing federal habeas appeal for the 1992 stabbing death of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer during a burglary at a Rapid City doughnut shop.

(source: Argus Leader)

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

Judge issues stay of execution for death row inmate Berget

A Circuit Court Judge has issued a stay of the warrant of execution for the man sentenced to death for his role in the death of a correctional officer at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in 2011.

Circuit Court Judge Douglas Hoffman delayed the execution of Rodney Berget on Thursday, according to Attorney General Marty Jackley. That decision puts a hold on Berget's execution, which had been scheduled for next month, to give the court more time to consider Berget's appeal.

Berget is facing the death penalty for his role in the death of correctional officer Rodney Berget during an escape attempt. Another inmate in that incident, Eric Robert, was executed back in 2012.

The court has requested the parties to prepare a proposed scheduling order in relation to the habeas proceedings. Berget had been sentenced to be executed on the week of May 3.

"It remains that State's position that due process has been satisfied and the interest of justice requires these proceedings to move forward in a timely fashion," said Jackley, in a statement.

(source: KSFY news)

CALIFORNIA----death row inmate dies

California inmate dies of unknown causes after 25 years on death row

A California inmate who spent 25 years on death row for the murder of a brain-damaged woman has died of unknown causes, making him the 3rd condemned prisoner to die this year in a state that has not carried out an execution in nearly a decade.

Raymond Edward Steele, 67, was found unresponsive in his cell in San Quentin prison and pronounced dead at about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

If his death is determined to be from natural causes, Steele's case is likely to add fuel to an ongoing controversy about the death penalty in the most populous U.S. state, where nearly 70 inmates have succumbed to old age and other ailments since 1978.

The 2 other death row inmates who died this year passed away of natural causes. One was 70 years old and the other 54.

Last year, a federal judge declared the state's use of capital punishment unconstitutional because inmates lingered on death row for years or even decades.

Steele had been on death row since 1990, when he was convicted of the 1988 murder of Leann Thurman, who had suffered from brain damage since birth, the state said. Steele had previously been convicted of raping his aunt's neighbor and killing his 15-year-old babysitter by stabbing her 8 times, the state said.

The death penalty was voided in numerous states, including California, by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972, but many soon adopted sentencing reforms that met the high court's requirements. Among them was California, which reinstated its death penalty in 1978.

But a lengthy appeals process, along with a lack of political pressure to carry out executions, has left California with more than 750 people on death row. Since the penalty was reinstated, 13 inmates have been executed, 24 have committed suicide and nearly 70 have died of natural causes, the state said. One was executed in Missouri.

California has not put an inmate to death since 2006.

(source: Reuters)

USA:

Death penalty sought for man accused in deadly Cairo bank stabbing

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois is seeking the death penalty for a man accused in a deadly attempted bank robbery in Cairo, Illinois.

On Tuesday, April 21, Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. Attorney for the Southern Dist. of Illinois, George A. Norwood and James M. Cutchin, Assistant United States Attorneys filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for James Nathaniel Watts if he is convicted of attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death.

Watts appeared in court on Thursday, April 23 for a status conference. He will be back in court on May 27 at 10 a.m. at the Benton Courthouse for a pretrial conference.

Back in May 2014 2 employees died after a violent stabbing at the First National Bank in Cairo, Ill.

Those employees were bank branch president Anita J. Grace, 52, of Olive Branch, Ill., and bank customer service representative Nita J. Smith, 52, of Wickliffe, Ky.

A 3rd employee, a 23-year-old woman was also stabbed. She was treated and released from the hospital.

(source: KFVS news)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Should South Africa reinstate the death penalty?

New data from Amnesty International shows which countries were the biggest killers through the sanctioned execution of criminals in 2014, and why the practice should be abolished.

This week, over 4,000 people in Port Elizabeth marched to the Kabega Park police station, protesting the death of Eastern Cape teacher Jayde Panayiotou.

Panayiotou was allegedly abducted outside her home on 21 April, and her body was reportedly found near KwaNobuhle Township in Uitenhage the following morning.

As part of the march, protesters called for the teacher's murderers to be brought to justice - with a cry for the reinstatement of the death penalty in South Africa.

Crowds of people chanted "Enough is Enough", "Ons is Gatvol" and "Bring back the death penalty".

South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995, as it went against the country's new-found constitution.

Between 1959 and 1989, when the last execution took place, South Africa executed almost 3,000 people by hanging, with over 1,200 in the 1980s alone.

As of 2014, 98 countries in the world, including South Africa, had abolished the death penalty by law. In total, 140 countries have abolished it in practice.

Poorly executed

According to Amnesty International, countries who execute people commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime.

However, this claim has been repeatedly discredited, and there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than imprisonment, the group said.

"The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it," it said.

The group added that the death penalty goes against the universal declaration of human rights, is open to abuse in skewed or failing justice systems, and will undoubtedly target the poor.

"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," said Amnesty International.

"Poor and marginalised groups have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves."

Who still kills for crime

Were South Africa to reinstate the death penalty, it would join 58 countries across the world that use the practice as a method of punishment.

We would join nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Japan, and the USA.

The latter 2 countries are the only G8 nations that execute - with the USA the only country in the Americas that uses the practice.

(source: Business Tech)

IRAN----executions

Iran regime hangs 70-year-old man after 14 years of imprisonment

On Thursday, the Iranian regime's henchmen hanged a group of 9 men including a 70-year-old who had been held in prison for the past 14 years, allegedly for drug-related offences.

The prisoners were all hanged in the main prison in the city of Bandar Abbas in the southern province of Hormozgan.

The mullahs' judiciary in the southern province of Hormozgan confirmed the execution of the nine prisoners but did not identify them.

According to the information received, Heydar Mardani, 70, was executed as he was serving his 14th year of imprisonment.

The other victims are: Hossein AliKhah, Ahmad Qurashi, Farhad Kianian, Mohamad Ahmadi, Mehrdad Azmand, Qassem Maziar, Heydar Moridani and Mohamad Naroui. The youngest victim was 25 years old.

In recent days there has been a sharp increase in the number of executions taking place in Iran. In a 7 day period between 12 to 18 April at least 81 prisoners were hanged in several prisons, meaning 12 executions per day.

The sharp increase in the wave of executions after an agreement was reached on the framework of a nuclear deal is a clear indication of the mullahs' desperate need to create an atmosphere of fear in society in order to confront the explosive situation.

Inmates in prisons in the city of Karaj staged protests on April 12 following the transfer of their cellmates to solitary confinement in preparation for carrying out the criminal execution sentences. Protesting prisoner chanted: "We shall not let you kill us." Similarly, families of the prisoners on the verge of execution also gathered in front of the prisons and shouted: "We shall not let you execute them."

The Iranian Resistance has called on brave Iranian youths to express their solidarity with prisoners and the families of those executed, and urged them to protest against these brutal killings in the country.

(source: NCR-Iran)

INDIA:

Kupwara: 4 sentenced to death for rape, murder of 13 year-old girl

4 persons were on Friday sentenced to death by a sessions court in Kupwara for the gangrape and murder of a 13-year-old girl 8 years ago while she was returning from school.

Terming it as a rarest of rare case, Principal District and Sessions Judge Kupwara Mohammad Ibrahim Wani awarded the death penalty to convicts Sadiq Mir, Azhar Ahmad Mir, both residents of Langate in Kupwara, Mochi Jahangir Ansari of West Bengal and Suresh Kumar of Rajasthan, who had gangraped the child and slit her throat, before burying her. Emotional scenes were witnessed in the court as relatives of the victim broke down when the judge read out the verdict against the 4 for gangraping and murdering the class 8th student on June 27, 2007.

After hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence, the court agreed with Senior Public Prosecutor Ghulam Muhammad Shah, who sought death penalty for all 4 convicts, terming it a rarest of rare case.

Shah said 88 witnesses had recorded their statements during the seven-year-long trial in the case.

"It was a Friday when she was killed and it is on Friday when our wounds have been healed. Justice has been done," an uncle of the victim said. He also thanked the state government for instituting a bravery award in her memory.

The state government in 2012 had instituted an award in her name to recognise the acts of bravery of children.

(source: Daily News & Analysis)

MALAYSIA:

Mexico to campaign against execution of brothers in drugs case

The government of Mexico plans to rally support from death penalty opponents to dissuade Malaysia from executing 3 Mexican brothers convicted on drug charges. Mexico "will turn to various local and international groups opposed to the death penalty," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Malaysia's Federal Court on Thursday upheld the death sentences imposed on Luis Alfonso, Simon and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal.

The 3 men heard the court's decision accompanied by relatives and Mexico's ambassador to Malaysia, Carlos Felix. "We are in the final part of the judicial process. Today was a very serious setback," Felix told Mexico City's Radio Formula, adding that the defence team was considering filing a request for reconsideration by the Federal Court.

Once legal remedies are exhausted, the men's only hope of avoiding the noose would be a royal pardon. Felix said that the sultan of Johor, where the men were convicted, could substitute a prison sentence for the death penalty on "strictly humanitarian grounds".

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy where traditional monarchs in the country's various regions retain certain powers. Malaysian jurisprudence offers no precedents for a case like this one, and the process could grind on for another 2 years, the ambassador said. "They won't hang them in the next few days," said Felix, who has visited the 3 brothers monthly since his arrival in Malaysia 18 months ago.

Mexico "maintains a position contrary to the death penalty" and will continue providing consular assistance to the Gonzalez Villarreal brothers, the foreign ministry said.

The brothers, who range in age from 37 to 47, and 2 other men - a Singaporean and a Malaysian - were arrested in a December 4, 2008 raid that resulted in the seizure of 29kg of methamphetamines worth RM44 million (US$15 million). The 3 Mexicans testified at their May 2012 trial that they were merely cleaning the clandestine drug-making factory where they were detained. None of the brothers has a criminal record in Mexico.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan Sets Execution Date for Man Arrested as Juvenile

The Pakistani government has issued a so-called Black Warrant for the execution of a man who was a juvenile when he was arrested and tortured into a 'confession'.

Death-row prisoner Shafqat Hussain was arrested in 2004 as a juvenile and sentenced to death on the basis of a 'confession' extracted after 9 days of torture. The Pakistani government has attempted several times to issue orders for his execution since resuming hangings at the end of last year. A total of 99 prisoners have been killed since December, including 17 this Tuesday alone.

Pakistan's Interior Minister, Chaudry Nisar, had recently granted a stay of execution for Mr Hussain and ordered the government's Federal Investigations Authority (FIA) to investigate evidence of Mr Hussain's torture and juvenility, raised by lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Reprieve. However, last week, after concerns were raised about the neutrality of the probe, the Islamabad High Court ordered officials to appear at a hearing in early May to answer questions about their approach. Ahead of that hearing, lawyers for Mr Hussain have submitted evidence to the court of his forced confession and juvenility.

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, with some 8,500 prisoners awaiting execution. Police torture and forced confessions are "systematic" in parts of the country, according to a 2014 report by Yale Law School and JPP. There are concerns that many death-row prisoners could have been forced into 'confessions', and that hundreds may have been arrested as juveniles.

Today's stay of execution sets Mr Hussain's hanging for May 6th.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "It is deeply disturbing that, in the face of concern from both the international community and the Pakistani courts, the authorities in Pakistan are sending ever more prisoners to the hangman's noose. Given the strong evidence that some of these prisoners were illegally convicted as juveniles - and in Shafqat's case, tortured into a dubious 'confession' - the decision to continue issuing execution warrants is perverse. The Government of Pakistan must change course and admit it may have made a terrible mistake, before more lives are lost."

[Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.]

(source: commondreams.org)

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

Hundred Executed in Pakistan Since Resumption of Death Penalty

With the hanging penalty today of 2 convicted of murder, 100 people were executed in Pakistan, following the end of a moratorium on death penalty 4 months ago.

The highest amount of convicts executed was reached this week, as 21 prisoners were taken to the gallows, all of them charged with murder except for 2 prosecuted for raping a minor.

In Pakistan the moratorium was in force since 2008, but around the middle of December 2014, Talibans killed 149 people in a military academy in Peshawar city, mostly children, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ordered to resume executions in cases of terrorism.

Without further explanations, death penalties were also executed on convicted of murder and other crimes punishable by death.

(source: Prensa Latina)

CHINA:

China, in Suspending Woman's Death Sentence, Acknowledges Domestic Abuse

A court in the Chinese province of Sichuan suspended the death sentence on Friday of a battered woman who had killed her husband, in a case that drew international attention because it appeared to flout new rules allowing spousal abuse as a defense in murder cases and to set back China's shift away from the death penalty.

The ruling by the Sichuan Higher People's Court upheld the murder conviction against the woman, Li Yan, but acknowledged that she had been the victim of domestic violence. The suspension means that after 2 years of good behavior, the sentence will be commuted to life in prison. Later, it may be reduced further.

The ruling was still a shock to lawyers and feminists who have closely followed the case and who expected a lighter penalty after the Supreme People's Court ordered a retrial last year.

"This is a very heavy sentence," said Wan Miaoyan, Ms. Li's lawyer. "I'm disappointed. I failed in my defense."

But the courtroom in rural Anyue County erupted in angry shoving and shouting when Judge Huang Tianyong announced the decision. Family members of Ms. Li's husband, Tan Yong, who have demanded her execution, threw shoes and papers at Ms. Li and her lawyer, shouting "tramp" and "traitor," according to Xiao Meili, an observer in the courtroom.

The Tans could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The killing took place in 2010 in the couple's home in Anyue, where they ran a noodle stall, after what Ms. Li described as more than a year of abuse.

Mr. Tan seized her hair and hit her head against the wall, stubbed out cigarettes on her face and legs, and locked her outside on cold nights, Ms. Li told the court at her retrial in November. Often after beating her, he abused her sexually, she said.

She sought help from the police, a hospital, the local justice department and the local branch of the All-China Women's Federation, a government organization tasked with defending women's rights. All, according to her lawyers, advised her to just "bear it."

Then one night, she said, Mr. Tan struck her with an air rifle in a drunken rage, threatening to kill her. She grabbed the weapon and slammed the barrel against his head twice, killing him, she told the police at the time.

She cut off his head and put it in a pressure cooker, saying she feared his angry eyes even in death, then chopped up his body and boiled some of the pieces before reporting the death to a neighbor.

She was sentenced to death by the Ziyang Intermediate People’s Court, a verdict upheld on appeal by the Sichuan Higher People's Court.

Hundreds of Chinese lawyers and feminists petitioned the state not to execute her, an outpouring reflecting the increasing recognition of the problem of domestic violence in China.

"A death sentence was not justified in this case, given the domestic violence Li suffered," said Chi Susheng, a lawyer in Qiqihar in China's far northeast and a former delegate to the National People's Congress, who signed the petition.

Women in China who killed abusive spouses were once routinely executed, but as the scale of domestic violence began to emerge in the early 2000s - officials say 1 in 4 marriages is affected, activists say 1 in 3 - lengthy prison sentences became the norm instead. Over time, the sentences have grown lighter.

Last year, the Supreme People's Court in Beijing ordered Ms. Li's case retried because of evidential problems.

In March, the Supreme People's Court, along with the Public Security Bureau and two other government departments, issued a detailed opinion explaining for the 1st time the concept of "justified defense" in domestic violence cases. The opinion made spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense, and it established new rules providing privacy protection for victims and allowing protection orders against abusers.

The new approach dovetails with China's attempts to increase public respect for the judiciary, which is widely seen as corrupt and unfair, and coincides with an effort by the central government to curb the number of executions, estimated to be as high as 12,000 in 2002.

In 2006, the former chief judge of the Supreme People's Court, and other like-minded judges, began to advocate a policy of "kill fewer, kill cautiously." Facing international pressure, Beijing accepted the policy, and in 2007, the court began reviewing every death penalty case.

Dui Hua, a human rights group based in San Francisco, estimates that the number of people put to death in China fell to about 2,400 in 2013, still more than the rest of the world combined.

The precise number is not known as the government considers it a state secret. "Only 3 to 5 people in the entire country know how many executions take place," said He Weifang, a legal scholar at Peking University.

Susan Finder, a legal scholar based in Hong Kong and author of the Supreme People's Court Monitor blog, said, "It seems the Supreme People's Court is making progress in reducing use of the death penalty."

She continued, "And the fact that they issued these rules on domestic violence shows that it's a huge, horrible issue that needs to be cleaned up immediately."

But progress has been mixed, she said.

According to the new rules, said Feng Yuan, a leading feminist, Ms. Li's "crime is not one of deliberate murder, and she should have received a more just sentence."

"There is certain progress here," she acknowledged. "There is a significant difference between the death penalty and suspended death. But over all, it's getting better on paper more than in reality, and this case shows that we need to see how these new rules can be implemented."

Lawyers say that "social stability" is also a factor that courts consider in handing down harsh punishments and that it may have played a role in this case.

"The courts are still under a lot of pressure to hand down sentences that won't get anyone upset," said Joshua Rosenzweig, an expert on human rights in China who lectures at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "1 of the things they're trying to do is to satisfy the victim's family, so they get the victim's family to accept the verdict so they won't petition and keep this case alive. They're trying to satisfy all sorts of different imperatives here, not all of which necessarily have to do with the law."

The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People's Court declined to comment. Reached by telephone, a spokeswoman at the Anyue court declined to take questions.

Ms. Li was not permitted to speak in court on Friday, but she did speak at her retrial in November, the only time she has been allowed to testify.

Standing barely 5 feet tall, her hair chopped short, she held up her right hand to show the judge a truncated middle finger, cut off in a fight with her husband, she said.

"I did not kill him on purpose," she said quietly.

She begged for forgiveness from Mr. Tan's family, adding she was wrong to kill him and should be punished, but not with death.

"I apologize to Mr. Tan's family," she said, "and if they are willing, will pay my respects to them."

(source: New York Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi beheads 2 of its citizens

Saudi Arabia executed 2 of its nationals Thursday, bringing to 67 the number of Saudis and foreigners executed in the kingdom this year despite activists' concerns.

Sulaiman al-Jahni, convicted of trafficking amphetamines, was executed in the northern region of Jawf, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Authorities in the east separately beheaded Faisal al-Utaibi, who was convicted of murder.

The surge of executions in the kingdom this year compares with 87 death sentences carried out in all of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Amnesty International's 2014 global report on the death penalty ranks Saudi Arabia among the top 5 executioners in the world.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia orders preparations for Bali 9 executions----The Indonesian government has ordered preparations to be made for the executions of 2 Australian drug smugglers as well as 8 others on death row.

Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney-general, said the head of General Crimes had issued letters ordering prosecutors to start preparing for the executions.

Mr Spontana said orders were sent on Thursday but it was unclear when the prosecutors would receive them or how quickly the executions could be arranged.

He said the letters were not the final notification that must be given to the condemned inmates.

L Indonesian prosecutors will give 3 days' notice to the men before they face a firing squad.

Indonesia has also asked foreign embassies to go to a maximum security prison ahead of the expected executions, Reuters news agency has reported.

The request was disclosed by foreign ministry officials in Jakarta.

A source at one foreign embassy confirmed representatives had been advised to go to the prison tomorrow.

However, she said the date of the executions was still not known, but they were expected to be within days.

Peter Morrisey, a lawyer for the pair, said while not the 72 hours' notice, the recent development was a worrying sign.

He said the legal process was not yet finished, with both a constitutional court challenge and a judicial commission still in progress.

"That looks as if the attorney-general's office is determined to press ahead and hustle through," Mr Morrisey said.

"That's the zone we're in now. We haven't got the 72-hour knock but that could be imminent.

"He's [the attorney-general] saying that he's going to press ahead, and he's saying that all the legal proceedings are finished and that they've had their go.

"And that's just not the case, there are still 2 cases there."

Another lawyer for the pair, Julian McMahon, said the families of Chan and Sukumaran were travelling to Indonesia.

"There's 1 mother in Indonesia and I think the families are all going to be travelling straight away, the ones who aren't already there," he said.

In another sign that plans are underway, Mr Spontana also confirmed that Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, who is due for execution alongside Chan and Sukumaran, will be moved to Nusakambangan today.

Nusakambangan is the island near Cilacap on the south coast of Java, where the Australian pair are being held ahead of the executions.

Veloso, who says she was tricked into carrying luggage containing drugs into Indonesia, has been in a prison in Yogyakarta.

Mr McMahon said Veloso's transfer to Nusakambangan was an indication the executions were imminent.

"If she has been transferred, that is significant because it's difficult for a woman to be kept as a prisoner at the relevant prison where people are taken from to be executed," he said.

Authorities had planned to execute Chan and Sukumaran in February, but it was put on hold until all legal challenges were completed.

The pair were sentenced to death in Indonesia for attempting to smuggle heroin home from Indonesia 10 years ago.

They were denied a chance to have their clemency bids reviewed and the Indonesian government said they had run out of legal options.

On Tuesday, Indonesia's government-owned news service Antara quoted president Joko Widodo as saying it was "only a matter of time" before the executions happened.

"When it will be done is no longer a question," he said.

"It is only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in."

Earlier this month, the pair's lawyers filed a constitutional court challenge questioning the Indonesian president's process of refusing to pardon them from the death penalty.

The appeal was rejected when 3 judges from Indonesia's state administrative court said clemency fell under the constitution but not under administrative law, and so was not in their jurisdiction.

Indonesian attorney-general Muhammad Prasetyo told 1 of the pair's lawyers, Todung Mulya Lubis, the case would not be enough to stop the pair from being executed.

(source: Radio New Zealand News)

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

Australia appeals to Indonesia over preparations to execute drug smugglers----Filipino maid Mary Jane Veloso, 1 of 10 drug smugglers facing death, transferred to island prison where execution will take place

The Australian government says it is "gravely concerned" by apparent preparations for the executions of 10 drug smugglers.

A Filipino maid facing the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking was moved yesterday to an island prison in Indonesia where the execution will take place.

Mary Jane Veloso is among 10 drug smugglers whose planned executions last month were postponed due to last-minute appeals. The others are 3 Nigerian men, 2 Australian men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and a man each from Brazil, Ghana, France and Indonesia.

An armoured personnel carrier and a car were seen arriving at a port on Friday for the short trip to Nusa Kambangan, and prison officials said Veloso was inside the car. Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general, confirmed that Veloso had been moved.

Warren Truss, the Australian deputy prime minister, said on Friday: "I am aware of growing concerns that these executions may now be being brought forward. The Australian embassy is endeavouring to gather as much information as they can so that we are better able to respond to the circumstances.

"Our position, obviously, hasn't changed. We are appealing and will continue to appeal to the Indonesian government not to proceed with these executions. We abhor the drug trade but the death penalty is also unacceptable to Australians. That's a message we have conveyed in the past and will continue to do so, so long as there's hope."

A spokesperson for Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said she had "made contact with Indonesian foreign minister Marsudi to register her concern at recent developments, following her further written representation to her this week."

"Minister Bishop has been informed that foreign minister Marsudi is attending the Asia-Africa conference and is unavailable to speak with her. Therefore, our embassy has lodged a formal request for a telephone call to take place."

Appeals have been exhausted for all but 1 of the 10, Raheem Agbaje Salami of Nigeria, who is awaiting the outcome of his request for a judicial review.

Salami's lawyer confirmed on Thursday that the Nigerian embassy had received a letter asking it to go to Cilacap, the port closest to the execution site, on Saturday. Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte's lawyer confirmed that the Brazilian embassy had received the same letter.

"Based on experience from the previous execution, they're going to tell them the date for the execution," Salami's lawyer said.

"Last time when we were asked to gather in the district prosecutor's office we were then taken to Nusa Kambangan to tell the convict about the execution time," he said. "And 3 days after that, they were executed."

Indonesian officials have not said when the executions by firing squad will take place. Indonesia has vowed to go through with the executions despite various appeals from the countries of the convicted.

Veloso's case has caused a public outcry in the Philippines. She travelled to Indonesia in 2010 where her godmother's daughter reportedly told her a job as domestic worker awaited her. She alleges that her godsister provided the suitcase where the drugs were discovered when Veloso arrived at an airport in Java, Indonesia.

Her move to the island prison comes after Indonesia's supreme court earlier this week turned down the final appeals by prisoners from France and Ghana.

The appeals for judicial review by Serge Areski Atlaoui of France and Martin Anderson of Ghana were rejected by Indonesia's highest court in closed-door hearings on Tuesday, said Suhadi, the court spokesman and a member of the 3-judge panel.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran, 2 of the so-called "Bali 9", have lodged a new appeal in the constitutional court but the attorney general says the pair have exhausted their legal avenues and he will not recognise the latest action.

Spontana confirmed reports on Thursday that his office had sent letters to prosecutors advising them to prepare for the executions.

Asked if a date was set, he replied: "Up to tonight, not yet."

The letters asked prosecutors to make preparations and were not the notification letters for the convicts themselves, he said.

The planned executions have soured relations between Indonesia and other countries. President Joko Widodo has vowed not to grant mercy to drug offenders because Indonesia is suffering a "drug emergency".

In Paris, the French president Francois Hollande urged Indonesian authorities to grant clemency to Atlaoui, telling a news conference that executing Atlaoui "would be damaging for the relations we want to have with Indonesia".

Jakarta executed 6 drug convicts, including 5 foreigners, in January, brushing aside last-minute appeals from Brazil and the Netherlands. More than 130 people are on death row in Indonesia, including 57 drug convicts.

Indonesia is required to give 72 hours' notice of the executions.

(source: The Guardian)

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

AGO orders execution of death penalty

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) has released an official letter instructing prosecutors to prepare for the execution of a number of drug convicts, an official said on Friday.

"The letter is dated April 23," Attorney General Office's spokesman Tony Spontana said as quoted by Antara news agency.

The AGO confirmed on Thursday that the execution of 10 death row convicts would be conducted shortly after the conclusion of the 60th Asian-African Conference Commemoration.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

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

France condemns 'shocking' death row case in Indonesia

Paris has accused Indonesia of "serious dysfunction" in its legal system that led to a Frenchman being sentenced to death, deepening a diplomatic spat over the upcoming execution.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, lost his final appeal against his death sentence for drug offences this week, taking him closer to execution by firing squad.

French President Francois Hollande warned Indonesia that executing Atlaoui would damage ties between the 2 nations and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius summoned the Indonesian ambassador to discuss the case.

Fabius also wrote a letter to his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in which he said Atlaoui had been the victim of a hasty trial and was sentenced "in a ruling containing erroneous statements".

"The eventual execution of Mr Atlaoui would be even more incomprehensible to the government and French people as, due to serious dysfunction in the Indonesian legal system, he did not benefit from his due rights," wrote Fabius.

Atlaoui was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and was sentenced to death 2 years later.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-4 has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

Fabius said it was "particularly shocking" that the Supreme Court decision was handed down in only a few weeks without calling witnesses, while the Indonesian ringleaders' case had been subject to hearings for over a year.

"This is a discriminatory procedure against 1 of our citizens who does not benefit from the same guarantees as Indonesian citizens in the same case."

Fabius said the death sentence contained errors describing Atlaoui as a chemist while witness statements proved he was working as a welder in the factory where the drugs were being produced.

France "urgently requests that Indonesia respect its own rule of law and international obligations of the convention to which it belongs," said Fabius, urging the country to grant Atlaoui clemency.

Responding to the letter, Marsudi said she would discuss it with Fabius by telephone on Thursday evening.

"I will explain the legal system in Indonesia and I will explain the emergency situation caused by drug crimes in Indonesia," she said.

"This is a legal affair. If there's indeed a concern on the legal system then it should be proven legally."

The EU also weighed in on the case, saying it takes a "strong and principled position against the death penalty in all cases".

"While we acknowledge the fact that Indonesia has to cope with a growing drugs problem, experience in other countries strongly suggests that capital punishment is not the answer," said foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in a statement.

"The EU is prepared to explore ways of supporting Indonesia's efforts in the fight against drugs."

Atlaoui is one of several foreign drug convicts, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who recently lost appeals for presidential clemency, typically a last chance to avoid the firing squad.

(source: 9news.com.au)

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

EU 'completely opposed' to Frenchman's death sentence in Indonesia

The EU on Thursday attacked the death sentence imposed on a Frenchman in Indonesia, which is expected to be carried out shortly, saying it was no answer to drug trafficking.

"The European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty. It cannot be the answer to drug trafficking," EU president Donald Tusk said, adding that he was referring to Serge Atlaoui who lost his final appeal against his death sentence earlier this week.

The Indonesian government said earlier Thursday it had ordered officials to make preparations to execute a group of drug convicts, most of them foreigners, amid mounting international criticism.

10 convicts -- from Australia, France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia -- will face the firing squad after losing appeals for presidential clemency.

There have been especially sharp exchanges between France and Indonesia in recent days over Atlaoui's fate, with Paris saying his trial had not been properly conducted.

French President Francois Hollande said he "would do everything possible up to the last moment" to prevent Atlaoui's execution.

"Abolishing the death penalty is for us an absolute principle. For Serge Atlaoui, death cannot be the ultimate sanction," said Hollande after attending an emergency EU summit on migrants in Brussels.

Atlaoui was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and was sentenced to death 2 years later.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini issued a statement earlier Thursday saying the 28-nation bloc was ready to work with Indonesia on drug trafficking.

"The recent rejections in Indonesia of retrials, including in the case of a French citizen, bring closer the regrettable prospect of further executions," Mogherini said.

(source: Daily Mail)

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

Lawyers prepare final appeal for death sentence grandmother

Lawyers for a British grandmother facing death by firing squad are preparing her final appeal against execution.

Representatives of Lindsay Sandiford, 58, from Cheltenham, but originally from Redcar, in North Yorkshire, said her predicament was dire with the Indonesian authorities apparently preparing to execute 9 convicted foreign drug smugglers, including 2 Australian ringleaders of a heroin-smuggling gang this weekend.

Barrister Craig Tuck said given the circumstances "there may be a need for us to fill the appeal papers soon and start triggering the appeal process."

Sandiford, 58, who spent part of her childhood in Bridlington, was found with cocaine estimated to be worth 1.6m pounds as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok in Thailand in May 2012. She was convicted of trafficking after admitting the offences, but claimed she had been coerced by threats to her son's life. She co-operated with the police, leading to 4 arrests.

Supporters say while Sandiford faces the death penalty, syndicate members whom she helped convict received jail terms of 1 to 6 years. She lost a previous Supreme Court appeal in 2013.

Mr Tuck said his client "had been to hell and back" and that the court system hadn't given her a "fair shake."

"It is fair to say she had some good days and some bad days as anybody would if they were locked up in a jail miles from home potentially facing the firing squad." He added: "There's no question she’s a vulnerable person and in the weeks and months to come some of these features will be put out into the public to give a full picture."

(source: Yorkshire Post)

INDIA:

Death penalty is judicially sanctioned murder - it doesn't tackle crime or terrorism

"Mukesh Singh just made the case for death penalty stronger," ran the headline of a news report on a BBC documentary on the 2012 Delhi gang-rape. The film India's Daughter was banned by the Indian government, but people logged onto the internet anyway to see the rape-murder convict defending himself and blaming the victim for the sexual assault. His lack of remorse sparked widespread outrage in the country, with the mainstream and social media erupting with calls for Mukesh Singh to be hanged. Once again.

A similar demand for the death penalty had come from certain sections of society in the immediate aftermath of the gang-rape in December 2012. Although those calls were resisted by several rights organisations, feminist groups and scholars, the most definitive statement against the extreme measure of death penalty had come from the Justice Verma Committee, which noted that, "In our considered view ... the seeking of death penalty would be a regressive step in the field of sentencing and reformation ... [I]n the larger interests of society, and having regard to the current thinking in favor of abolition of the death penalty ... we are not inclined to recommend the death penalty."

The numbers speak for themselves - in 1945, when the United Nations was founded, only eight countries had abolished the death penalty, while today 140 states are abolitionist in law or practice.

Let's be clear - advocating the abolition of capital punishment does not mean that crimes should go unpunished. The question is whether punishment by the state should descend into something akin to revenge or barbarity. The anger or hurt felt by the victims' families is understandable. The public outrage against terrorism and the demand for improving women's safety is also justified. But let us not be under any illusion that a death sentence will more successfully deter rape, murder or any other crime for that matter.

A worldwide trend

Executions kill the criminal, not the crime. There is no evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. This fact has been confirmed in multiple studies in many regions around the world, including by the United Nations. The Justice Verma Committee came to the same conclusion, noting that "there is considerable evidence that the deterrent effect of death penalty on serious crimes is actually a myth".

The key to deterrence is the likelihood of detection, arrest and conviction for a crime. The conviction rate for rape in India was 27% at the end of 2013. Thousands of crimes against women go unreported, or do not lead to investigations and chargesheets, or are delayed in trial for years. When the swiftness and certainty of punishment is so low, its severity by itself has little preventive effect.

Lawmakers in India often find it convenient to hold up capital punishment as a symbol of their resolve to tackle crime, and choose to ignore more difficult and effective solutions like improving investigations, prosecutions and care for victims' families.

Unfortunately, the same trend was evident last year across the world - with governments using the death penalty in a misguided, often cynical, attempt to tackle crime and terrorism. Amnesty International's latest annual report on the death penalty worldwide found that an alarming number of countries used the death penalty to tackle real or perceived threats to state security posed by terrorism, crime or internal instability in 2014.

In December 2014, in the wake of the Peshawar school terrorist attack that killed 149 people, mainly children, Pakistan lifted a 6-year moratorium on executions. More than 50 people have been put to death since.

Executions for terrorism-related offences continued to be recorded in China, Iran and Iraq. Jordan started using the death penalty again, and Indonesia moved close to carrying out executions - both justifying their actions as responses to crime.

In a year when abhorrent summary executions by armed groups were branded on the global consciousness like never before, it is appalling that governments are themselves resorting to more executions in a knee-jerk reaction to terrorism.

Self-perpetuating cycle

The death penalty is little more than judicially sanctioned murder. Far from deterring crime, it can create more misery, perpetuating the cycle of violence and reprisal.

Amnesty International's report reveals that last year, 112 people were exonerated in nine countries after they were sentenced to death - this is a significant number of innocent lives saved. We found that in majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the capital punishment was imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards.

In several countries - including Afghanistan, China and Saudi Arabia - death sentences were based on "confessions" made under duress, and were awarded for non-lethal crimes, such as drug-related offences, corruption, committing adultery, "insulting the prophet of Islam", and "witchcraft".

Crime must be prevented and punished, but in full respect of human rights and dignity. Society has come a long way from the middle ages, when justice was meted out with floggings and public hangings. But a civilised society needs to tackle crime based on reasoned forms of punishment. As the French philosopher Michel Foucault observed, "It is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime."

Gratefully, not all is grim. There is some good news as well. Excluding China, at least 607 executions were recorded in 2014, down by almost 22% from 2013. 22 countries were known to execute in 2014, the same number as the year before. This is a significant drop from 20 years ago, when Amnesty International recorded executions in 41 countries, and highlights the clear global trend of states moving away from the death penalty.

Those governments that continue to execute need to realise that they are on the wrong side of history. They need to join the vast majority of countries who have dropped the ultimate cruel punishment. Campaigning for an end to the death penalty remains an uphill task, but Amnesty International and many others are determined to make the world free of this extreme punishment. By this time next year, we hope that we will have more good news to report.

(source: Opinion; Divya Iyer--The author is Research Manager, Amnesty International India----scroll.in)

APRIL 23, 2015:

FLORIDA:

Supreme Court vacates death sentence for killer of Tampa police corporal

The Florida Supreme Court has vacated the death sentence of Humberto Delgado, who was convicted in the 2009 killing of Tampa police Corporal Mike Roberts.

In an opinion issued Thursday, the court ruled that Delgado's extreme mental illness at the time of the crime made a death sentence disproportionate to the severity of the crime. The court ordered the case back to the circuit court for Delgado to be resentenced to life in prison.

Delgado, 40, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in 2012 in Roberts' death.

The Tampa police corporal encountered Delgado on Aug. 19, 2009, as Delgado pushed a shopping cart full of guns down Nebraska Avenue. He fought the officer, shooting him once before running away.

At his trial, doctors testified about Delgado's history of delusions and psychotic behavior. All diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. Their examinations revealed that in his early adulthood, Delgado was plagued by the beliefs that police were out to kill him and that people were following him and sitting in trees outside his home. He was known to wander the streets at night, saying that demons, the Masons, and the rapper 50 Cent were trying to kill him.

On the day he shot Roberts, Delgado had walked nearly 15 miles from his uncle's home in Oldsmar, en route to a veterans hospital in Tampa. Roberts saw him with the cart in an area that had seen a rash of shopping cart thefts by homeless people.

Delgado gave Roberts his identification card. When Roberts started to search Delgado's belongings, he tried to run. Roberts shocked Delgado with a Taser. Delgado then hit Roberts several times before drawing a gun and shooting him.

He ran to a local park, where officers soon found him hiding behind a wood pile and arrested him.

In its opinion, the supreme court noted that the death penalty is meant for cases in which the aggravating factors greatly outweigh any mitigating factors presented by the defense. In Delgado's case, substantial weight was given to his impaired mental state at the time of the crime.

"We do not downplay the fact that Corporal Roberts lost his life as a result of Delgado's actions," the justices wrote. "However ... we are compelled to reduce Delgado's sentence to life imprisonment because death is not a proportionate penalty when compared to other cases."

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9 Executions: Indonesian Prosecutors Prepare Death Penalty For Australian Drug Smugglers Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran

Indonesian prosecutors were instructed Thursday to officially begin preparing to execute the leaders of the Bali 9 drug ring. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, plus 8 other death row inmates, are expected to soon face a firing squad. The date of their executions has not yet been announced.

This could indicate that Chan and Sukumaran, who were convicted in 2006 for trying to smuggle $4 million of heroin out of Indonesia, are out of options. Other members of the Bali Nine received imprisonment for their crimes, but the courts repeatedly turned down Chan and Sukumaran's appeals to reduce their sentence. President Joko Widodo also rejected their clemency pleas. "We already gave the maximum legal avenues to find the most fair legal verdict," he said this month. "It is only a matter of time."

The death sentences for Chan, Sukumaran and the others have been delayed since February, but Indonesia Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana said the courts have only one legal matter left to resolve. It concerns another inmate and should be wrapped up within the next few days.

As such, on Thursday he said the government sent letters to prosecutors for "preparation, implementation and reporting after the execution," according to news.au.com. Death row inmates must be given three days' notice before they are killed.

Widodo has previously said that sentencing smugglers to death represents an "important shock therapy" for people considering violating Indonesia's laws. In December 2014, 64 of the 136 people on Indonesia's death row were convicted for drug trafficking, according to Human Rights Watch.

People worldwide have criticized the Indonesian courts over perceived inconsistencies in handing down sentences. For example, inmates in a similar case to the Bali 9 -- Iranians Mosavipour bin Sayed Abdollah and Moradalivand bin Moradali? -- successfully had their death sentences commuted to life last month. They had been caught picking up bags of methamphetamines.

(source: IB Times)

TEXAS:

Execution drug supplier secrecy bill moving forward in Texas House

Legislation that would keep secret the names and addresses of manufacturers and suppliers of the drugs the state uses to execute death row inmates, is moving fast in the Texas Legislature.

On Wednesday, a week after the House Government Transparency & Operation Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 3846 Rep. John Smithee authored, the 7-member panel voted 5-2 to send the proposed legislation to the full House for consideration.

The measure, which Smithee, R-Amarillo, filed shortly before the March 13 bill-filing deadline, is expected to pass easily in the 150-member chamber because Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 2-1.

Next week, the Senate is also expected to approve a similar bill Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, filed - shortly before the bill-filing deadline, too.

There is a sense of urgency to pass the proposed legislation because it is a bill the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton - a former House member and state senator - and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the agency in charge of state executions, asked Smithee to carry.

The bill request came in the aftermath of drug suppliers being threatened with violence for supplying the lethal drugs to the state.

Moreover, in early April the American Pharmacists Association adopted a policy of not supplying pentobarbital - a sedative and sleep-inducing drug injected to the inmates - to Texas and 7 other states that use it to execute prisoners.

Adding to the sense of urgency, the Department of Criminal Justice said at the end of March the agency had dosage only for its April executions.

"This bill isn't really about the merits or the lack of merits of capital punishment," Smithee told the Government Transparency & Operation Committee when he laid out HB 3846 last week.

"The purpose of this bill is to give a level of confidentiality, a level of protection under the public information laws" to the manufacturers, distributors of the lethal drugs, Smithee said.

"Many of these vendors who supply these doses to the state have refused to do it any further," he explained. "It's just not worth the risk of violence."

There was no doubt the committee would vote for the bill because in an exchange with a witness, panel chairman Gary Elkins said the threats of violence made to the drug manufacturers or suppliers were serious.

"People have become begin demonstrating violence against people that they don't agree with or have made contributions to causes that they don’t believe in," Elkins, R-Houston, said.

Although advocates of transparent government criticized HB 3846 at the public hearing, once the proposal goes to the House floor, most - if not all - the criticism is expected to come from Democrats, particularly from death penalty opponents.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Texas has carried out more than 1/3 of all state-ordered executions in the United States.

Smithee said he is ready for such criticism.

"On balance, we are faced with a very difficult situation here in Texas," he said in an interview. "If we are going to have capital punishment, as I told the committee, we've got a problem that we need to resolve.

"If this isn't the way to resolve it, I am open to any changes but we definitely need to get the problem resolved," Smithee said.

"The attorney general and TDCJ are looking for clarity," he added. "All they are trying to do is carry out the policy that the Legislature has directed them to do, and that is to use capital punishment as an enforcement tool for certain very limited crimes.

"They are feeling frustrated that they are being prevented from carrying out the task that the Legislature has given them."

If the bill passes with at least a 2/3 vote in each chamber, it would become law immediately. Otherwise, it would become effective on Sept. 1.

(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

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Death Watch: Killer or Fall Guy?----Was Daniel Nagle murdered by a man acting alone, or was it part of a larger conspiracy?

On the afternoon of Dec. 17, 1999, in Beeville, Texas, correctional officer and local AFSCME union president Daniel Nagle was found stabbed to death inside his office. No witnesses immediately came forward.

Part of the reason for that was staffing at Beeville's McConnell Unit had grown so thin that guards often worked alone. In fact, according to a 2013 report in The New York Times, the situation at McConnell had grown so dire by late 1999 that, just 2 weeks before his murder, Nagle was in Austin at a rally urging the Legislature to do something. "Someone will have to be killed," he said, "before the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does anything about the shortage of staff in Texas prisons."

Not only did no officer witness the murder, but none of the surveillance cameras stationed around the complex pointed toward Nagle's office. A handful of McConnell inmates - who would later step forward - proved the murder's only onlookers.

Found at the scene of the killing was a homemade knife fashioned out of a metal rod. It was free of fingerprints. Investigators also found a torn disciplinary report that had been delivered to Robert Pruett, a 20-year-old inmate serving 99 years for acting as an accomplice to a murder his father committed when he was just 16. Pruett had been disciplined by Nagle that week for taking a sandwich into the complex's recreation area. But no fingerprints were found on the report, and a palm print found on the document belonged to a 3rd party. Though inmate witnesses testified to seeing a violent skirmish in Nagle's office, the only blood samples taken from the scene belonged to the deceased.

Officers who questioned Pruett after the murder noticed that he had a cut on his thumb, which Pruett said he got while weight lifting. Blood found on his clothing came from that injury. He told authorities that on the day of the murder, he returned to his cell after cutting his thumb, then went to the prison's gym, where he washed whatever blood remained off his hand. He said it was at the gym that he first heard of Nagle's murder.

Nagle's death was not the end of problems at McConnell. The entire unit was put on lockdown, but three days later, at roughly 3:45am, an inmate jimmied the lock on his door and broke out of his cell. He attacked a guard with a six-inch shank, then forced him into the unit's control center, where another guard was stabbed in the forearm. The inmate then unlocked the unit's doors. Eighty inmates broke out and destroyed the complex. It took more than 100 guards to retake the cellblock. They battled prisoners for over 2 hours before regaining control. TDCJ spokesman Glen Castlebury told the Houston Chronicle: "We would see no relationship between the 2 incidents."

Others were not so certain, and believed that Nagle's murder and the riot were part of a larger conspiracy by a prison gang in league with corrupt corrections officers. As the Texas Observer reported in a March 2000 story, "About a month before his death, Nagle's name was reportedly discovered on a 'kite,' a clandestine note from one inmate to another. The warden reportedly warned Nagle that the note was a hit list, and that one or another prison gang wanted the officer dead." News just weeks after the murder that 3 Beeville prison guards had pleaded guilty to laundering money on behalf of McConnell inmates only made observers of Pruett's case more skeptical about the official version of events.

However, the disciplinary report, Pruett's injury, and the inmate witnesses' testimony were enough for a grand jury to indict Pruett for Nagle's murder, even though the prosecution could produce no physical evidence tying him to the crime. All evidence of Pruett's involvement was gleaned from five inmate witnesses, some of whom admitted to being granted credit toward early parole in exchange for their full testimony. Some said they saw Pruett kill Nagle themselves, others claimed that Pruett admitted his guilt to them.

Pruett was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2003. None of his appeals have resulted in his conviction or sentence being overturned, although in 2013, just 12 days before his scheduled execution, prosecutors agreed to a 60-day reprieve to allow touch DNA testing (a science not available during Pruett's trial) on the disciplinary report. Ultimately, the tests succeeded only in delaying Pruett's execution, not stopping it: The trial court held that it was "not reasonably probable that [Pruett] would have been acquitted had the new results been available at trial." He received a new execution date: April 28, 2015.

Pruett hasn't had much luck organizing his final appeals. His chief counsel, well-respected Houston death penalty attorney David Dow, is currently facing a yearlong suspension after filing documents late in the case of Miguel Paredes (see "Death Watch: San Antonio Gun Brother," Oct. 24, 2014), and appeals filed this month with the state and 5th Circuit have been unsuccessful. Pruett was in line to be the 8th Texan executed in 2015; however, Richard Vasquez received a stay of execution on April 20 in order to give the Court of Criminal Appeals more time to decide whether to grant his habeas petition (see "Death Watch: Deficient Counsel, but Not Prejudicial," April 17). Should Pruett be executed on the 28th, he'll be the seventh Texan executed in 2015, and the 525th since the state's reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

Pruett has remained upbeat in the face of execution, writing in late January that "there's lots of reason to remain hopeful and optimistic" on a website he updates monthly. That same website details that he helped start a game called "Death Row Idol," a singing and talent competition designed much like American Idol, only with death row inmates. "We all casted our votes to see who'd be voted off of the gurney," he wrote. "We laughed and cried together, sharing intimate memories, regrets, hopes and dreams. I grew to love those guys like brothers."

Recently, Pruett has started a relationship with a British woman named Kate Hughes, with whom he has corresponded regularly since March 2014. Hughes firmly believes in his innocence, and considers him a "really positive person" who's "quite happy in himself." She's taken to Photoshopping Pruett into photos of various locations around the world - the Vatican, Sydney Opera House, her hometown of Liverpool - plus 1 print that finds Pruett hanging out with Radiohead. "We talked about the places he would like to visit and I just wanted to take him out of his reality," she wrote. "He knows where he is and he knows what's happening in his life, so I wanted to take him away from that."

(source: Austin Chronicle)

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

Continuance granted for James Calvert defense; jury selection begins Thursday

A continuance was granted in the capital murder trial of James Calvert during a pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon.

The latest hearing got underway with Calvert addressing the Smith County District Attorney's Office's decision to pursue the death penalty. Calvert argued against the possibility by citing a list of chemicals used in the execution process by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; none of which are currently used. The state uses pentobarbital, which was not included in the list.

Calvert later argued the use of the drug, saying injection chemicals affect people differently, saying "death is not a light switch."

"Lethal injection is a good idea, if you want to kill somebody," Calvert chuckled in court Wednesday.

Calvert complained Smith County Judge Jack Skeen, Jr. was "short-circuiting" him.

"You don't sit in here and dictate the proceedings," said Skeen.

Calvert has a history of disruptions and arguing during court proceedings. He was held in contempt Tuesday, which threatened his ability to represent himself during his capital murder trial.

Calvert is accused of killing his ex-wife and kidnapping their son in October of 2012. Smith County DA Matt Bingham has said they intend to seek the death penalty in the case. Calvert is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Bingham offered Calvert a continuance to seek a mental health evaluation for his insanity motion, which was filed months ago, but never received expert testimony for his case. Calvert agreed to the terms.

Despite the agreement, jury selection is still scheduled to begin Thursday. Opening statements have been rescheduled to begin August 25.

(source: KTRE news)

PENNSYLVANIA:

FBI: We Gave Flawed Testimony in 6 Pennsylvania Death Row Cases----Part of an ongoing review of the agency's use of "microscopic hair comparison analysis" which has affected 90 % of trials examined, including at least 29 total in the state.

FBI analysts gave testimony that contained serious scientific errors in hundreds of trials over the course of 2 decades, including 29 in Pennsylvania, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The FBI and Justice Department, alongside the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, have been conducting a review of cases where "microscopic hair comparison analysis" - a process in which analysts examined hair found at crime scenes to try and match its color and patterning to a suspect - was used as evidence. Prior to 2000 - at which point DNA testing of hair became routine - the FBI relied heavily on this kind of analysis. Nowadays, the National Academy of Sciences considers microscopic hair comparison analysis "highly unreliable." So far, the review has looked at 268 trials, and found that 257 of them - over 90 % - contained incorrect testimony.

29 of those trials took place in Pennsylvania. The groups conducting the review are currently not releasing the names of the defendants in those trials, saying that defendants and lawyers should be able to make their own decision about going public. The Innocence Project confirmed, however, that a large portion of the defendants were on trial for sexual assault or murder.

6 of the trials in Pennsylvania sent people to death row. (Other reports had that number as 5, and the Pennsylvania total at 28, but Paul Cates at the Innocence Project confirms that an additional death penalty case was discovered subsequently.) As of now, all of those defendants are still alive, according to the Innocence Project. But it's a sure thing that death penalty opponents will point to Monday's announcement as further damaging the case for the death penalty and justifying Governor Tom Wolf's moratorium.

"What is shocking about this is that there was a systemic use of unreliable testimony used to implicate defendants," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center. "It is part of an emerging pattern that shows that there is an enormous amount of inaccurate testimony in our courtrooms."

The FBI review is ongoing, and the agency plans to examine thousands more cases in the coming months. That might just be the tip of the iceberg, however.

The FBI says that it helped train police departments all over the country, including Pennsylvania, in microscopic hair comparison analysis. It's hard to know how many prosecutions used that analysis as evidence, but with several hundred of investigators using this technique over more than 20 years, it's certainly a lot, according to Dunham, and there's no guarantee every single error will be uncovered. "Even if we find out about some of these cases, we're going to find out too late for some people," he said.

(source: phillymag.com)

DELAWARE:

Interfaith group calls for Delaware death penalty repeal----Delaware's top clergymen came together to call on lawmakers to repeal the state's death penalty.

Delaware's top clergymen came together Wednesday in Dover to call on lawmakers to repeal the state's death penalty, calling the punishment unjust and ineffective.

"It has often been felt that the death penalty brings justice, we often quote the Bible, 'An eye for an eye," said the Rev. John Deckenback, of the Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ Central Atlantic. "Those type of responses tend to alleviate our emotional need for revenge, but we would question whether they bring about true justice."

Deckenback, Bishop W. Francis Malooly, from the Diocese of Wilmington; Bishop Wayne Wright, from the Episcopal Church of Delaware; and Rabbi Yair Robinson spoke during a press conference Wednesday afternoon supporting the push to repeal Delaware's death penalty.

Backers of the repeal effort have increased their presence in Legislative Hall as the controversial measure heads to the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing on Senate Bill 40 has yet to officially be scheduled, but House prime sponsor Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said he was told it would be during the 2nd week of May.

"We are hearing that the people in our pews believe that this is the right time for the death penalty to end here in Delaware," Wright said.

Earlier this week, a poll commissioned by the Delaware Center of Justice found that 63 % of Delawareans support the death penalty. In a follow-up question, 64 % said life with or without parole was a better option than death for those convicted of murder. About 1/2 the 573 people polled said they supported the measure to repeal the death penalty.

"There is no justice in the death penalty," Robinson said. "There is no peace in the death penalty and the time to repeal this form of punishment is now."

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently sitting on Delaware's death row, who would still face execution by lethal injection. The Senate passed the legislation 11-9 earlier this month.

Gov. Jack Markell has yet to weigh in. A spokeswoman for Markell has said that the governor is following the debate, but would not take a position. The clergy said they are planning to try and meet with Markell Wednesday afternoon.

Police groups strongly oppose repeal and are expected to step up opposition in the House, where they have an ally in powerful Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D- Rehoboth, a retired state trooper.

Delaware is one of 32 states that employs capital punishment. The last inmate put to death was Shannon Johnson, 28, in April 2012 by lethal injection.

Advocates for the death penalty have long argued that it is a fair penalty for the most heinous of prisoners and deters crime, but opponents say execution violates human rights, is expensive, encourages a cycle of violence and is used disproportionately against minorities and the poor.

(source: delawareonline.com)

FLORIDA:

FBI errors could impact Jacksonville man facing death penalty

A Jacksonville man gets the death penalty for the brutal rape and murder of a woman in her Mandarin home - but news that the FBI admits to flawed hair analysis in hundreds of cases nationwide change that.

This week, the Justice Department and FBI pledged a full review of FBI laboratory protocols and procedures. An investigation found flawed hair analysis testimony in hundreds of criminal cases, with hundreds more still under review.

WOKV confirmed with the State Attorney's Office that one local case, that of Gerald Murray, could be affected.

Murray is currently on death row for the 1990 rape, burglary, and murder of 59-year-old Alice Vest. According to the conviction, Vest was strangled with a cord or belt, stabbed at least 2 dozen times, and beaten with a metal bar, candlestick holder, and broken bottle. Murray and another man, Steve Taylor, were accused of the crime. Pubic hair on the scene was found to have the same "microscopic characteristics" as Murray, according to the case layout by the Florida Supreme Court. He was also linked to jewelry stolen from the victim's home.

Murray allegedly confessed his involvement to a man he escaped prison with, saying he broke in to the house after Taylor convinced him to, had the victim perform oral sex on him, and then went to find items in the home to steal. He claimed he came back and found Vest had been stabbed, but wasn't dead, so together the men strangled her to death.

This death sentence is actually the result of the fourth trial Murray has faced on these charges. The Florida Supreme Court timeline of the case shows that in 1994 Murray was first convicted and sentenced to death, but that was ultimately reversed because of "erroneous qualification of an expert witness who testified as to DNA evidence and the improper admission of DNA evidence at trial." Murray's 1998 trial ended with a hung jury. He was again tried in 1999, convicted, and sentenced to death. Again, however, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction because of the improper admission of DNA evidence.

The ruling dealing with the 1999 conviction shows specific concerns about the handling of the hair evidence in the case.

Murray's 4th trial was in 2003, and he was again convicted of first-degree murder, burglary with assault, and sexual battery.

The conviction was again appealed by Murray's defense, but the Florida Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence. The ruling we've obtained shows hair evidence was again an issue raised on appeal, but the Court believed the prosecution presented new evidence in the 4th trial which cleared up prior issues that warranted overturning the conviction.

The State Attorney's Office tells WOKV they were notified about the potentially flawed FBI hair analysis in this case in 2013. At that time, there was already a hearing set for a motion by the defendant for post-conviction relief. This potential analysis issue was added on to that pending hearing, which is scheduled for November.

(source: WOKV news)

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

Serial killer's appeal of death sentence slogs on

After a Leon County jury recommended serial killer Gary Michael Hilton be sentenced to death for the brutal 2007 murder of Crawfordville nurse Cheryl Dunlap, her cousin begged the presiding judge to see the jurors' will carried out.

"What will it take to stop this monster?" Gloria Tucker implored Leon Circuit Judge James Hankinson at Hilton's April 2011 sentencing hearing. "There is no question he should pay with his own life."

4 years later, as Hilton's appeal of his sentence grinds on, Tucker has changed her mind.

"I think the death penalty should be abolished," she said this week, in advance of Hilton's latest judicial pirouette in Leon Circuit Court Thursday. "If a person gets life in prison, you never have to attend another hearing. I've been to 6 hearings. It's excruciating for the victim's family. It's just too much."

So far, Hilton's efforts to see his Florida conviction and death sentence overturned have been rejected once by the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, he is into his 2nd-round of seeking post-conviction relief. More rounds could follow for the now 68-year-old living on Florida's death row.

"Even families that are pro-death penalty, once they get into the process, many of them have to change their minds," said Tucker, who wrote a book about her experience as a family member in the courtroom. "It's just too much emotional trauma to deal with."

Dunlap's murder came in the middle of a months'-long 3-state killing spree by Hilton.

It began in October 2007 with the kidnapping and killing of Bob and Irene Bryant, an elderly couple hiking in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. Then came Dunlap, 46, who was missing for 2 weeks before her body was found Dec. 15, 2007, in the Apalachicola National Forest in southern Leon County. In early January 2008, Hilton captured, killed and dismembered 24-year-old hiker Meredith Emerson on Blood Mountain, Georgia. He was arrested soon after at an Atlanta-area convenience store as he tried to rid his van of blood-soaked camping gear.

Hilton confessed to killing Emerson in exchange for a life-sentence in Georgia and was extradited to Florida to face trial in the Dunlap case. He later pleaded guilty to killing the Bryants and the federal government meted out another life-prison.

At Thursday's hearing, known as a Huff hearing, Hilton's attorney Robert A. Morris will argue an evidentiary hearing should be held in September to present evidence that his public defenders ineffectively represented him and his death sentence should be set aside and a new sentencing trial be held.

Morris contends Hilton's court-appointed trial attorneys were overworked, had no strategy, failed to present key information to the jury and did not inform him of his right to enter a guilty plea, which would have spared jurors from hearing of his acts during both the guilt and sentencing phase.

Hilton kidnapped Dunlap at Leon Sinks Geological Area, kept her alive for days, then killed her, cut off her head and hands and burned them in his camp fire. Testimony in the 3-week trial was graphic and gut-wrenching. The jury unanimously recommended the death sentence.

"(Hilton) was always of the belief that he had no choice but to proceed to trial and was not advised of the options and alternatives," Hilton's relief motion said. "(His) understanding was that he must plod along forward to trial with no option but to fight against the crushing weight of evidence against him."

State prosecutors argue even if the alleged errors were made - which they contend were not in this case - the outcome would have been the same because of the heinous nature of the crime.

"The bottom line is that Hilton committed the brutal kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Cheryl Dunlap," the response from Office of the Attorney General said. "The fact is that the aggravating circumstances proved in this case were completely overwhelming."

Hankinson is again overseeing the proceedings and will decide if a hearing is needed. No matter the outcome, additional appeals are expected. The process could take a decade more - or longer - and again wind through the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts as well as federal district court and federal appeals courts.

"It's been going on and on and on and it still has a long way to go," Tucker said. "It's a total waste of emotions and time. They bend over backwards to protect his rights, but who protected Sherry’s rights?"

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)

ALABAMA:

Mother's request to U.S. Supreme Court denied

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to review the death penalty sentence of a Franklin County woman accused of starting a fire that killed her 6-year-old son in 2008, authorities said.

Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said he received information Wednesday that U.S. Supreme Court justices denied the request from attorneys representing Christie Michelle Scott.

According to reports, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, filed a petition on Scott's behalf asking the U.S. Supreme Court to convert the death penalty sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Scott, 36, of Russellville, was convicted of capital murder in July 2009.

On Aug. 5, Scott became the 1st woman in Franklin County to be sentenced to death. Franklin County Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey overrode the jury's recommendation that she be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Scott was found guilty of starting the Aug. 16, 2008, fire at her family’s home on Signore Drive in Russellville.

A message left for a comment from Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative was not returned Wednesday.

Rushing said the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was based on the fact that Dempsey gave Scott the death penalty after the jury recommended life without parole.

"The petition contended that the judicial override (by Dempsey) was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and that it should be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court," Rushing said. "The justices refused to review the case."

Rushing said this was just "another step" in Scott's efforts to appeal the jury's conviction and the judge's sentence.

"So far, she has been unsuccessful on every level," Rushing said.

He said the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling and conviction. In September 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the decision, and "now the U.S. Supreme Court has denied this request," he said.

Scott's trial lasted four-weeks, the longest criminal case tried in Franklin County. She testified she had no idea how the fire might have started in the bedroom where her son was sleeping.

During the trial, Scott said she tried to get her son out of the house, but couldn't because of heat, smoke and fire. She and her younger son escaped by jumping from a window. Her husband was out of town when the fire occurred.

During the trial, prosecutors contended Scott started the fire to collect on a $100,000 life insurance policy.

"We're pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to even consider the issues because the death penalty was the appropriate sentence in this case, based on the crime committed," Rushing said.

Scott is being held on death row at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.

(source: Times Daily)

MISSISSIPPI:

Charges effectively dropped against Manning for '93 double homicide

Prosecutors will not move forward with a new murder trial against Willie Jerome Manning, who previously stood accused of killing 2 women 22 years ago, court documents show.

An order effectively dropping the charges was filed Monday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court after the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Manning's 1996 conviction and sentencing in February.

Justices ordered a new trial after determining the state violated Manning's due-process rights "by failing to provide favorable, material evidence."

Emmoline Jimmerson and her daughter, Alberta Jordan, were found dead at their Brookville Gardens apartment in 1993. Police theorized they were killed during a robbery.

A jury convicted Manning of the murders 3 years later, but the state's main witness who testified during the trial, Kevin Lucious, later recanted his statements in a sworn affidavits, the order states.

Since the material witness changed his story, "the state is unable to meet the burden of its proof," the order states.

"It's not a matter of if (Manning) did it or didn't do it, it's a matter of how we can't go forward," said district attorney Forrest Allgood. "He was functionally the way we proved our case. There was corroborating evidence, but there were no other witnesses that heard Manning admit (the crime) or go into the apartment."

Lucious previously told then-Sheriff Dolph Bryan and then-Starkville Police Department Capt. David Lindley that Manning admitted he killed the 2 victims and provided specific details of the incident.

An affidavit recanting the claims states Lucious testified "only because he was afraid of being charged with the 2 murders," that the information he provided was prepared by law enforcement and that Manning never said "he would not have killed the old ladies if he had known the (sic) didn't have money," Monday's order states.

Lucious also withdrew testimony saying he saw Manning enter the victims' apartment near the time of the murders.

Manning, 46, remains behind bars at the Mississippi State Penitentiary after he was convicted of 2 capital murder charges stemming from the 1992 deaths of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.

Manning was scheduled for lethal injection 2 years ago, but the Supreme Court issued a stay before the procedure was executed.

Lucious is serving 2 life sentences without parole in Missouri.

A secretary for attorney Mark Williamson, who is listed as Manning's representative on Monday's order, said counsel would offer no comment.

(source: The Dispatch)

MISSOURI:

MU professor critical of secrecy in Missouri execution protocol

A University of Missouri journalism professor wants more transparency in Missouri's execution process.

The identities of those who carry out executions are protected by law in states that allow capital punishment, but many states also have laws protecting the identities of the makers of lethal injection drugs. Professor Sandra Davidson says these laws prevent transparency and Missouri is not alone.

"This umbrella of secrecy has been broaden, so that also now in Missouri, it is being interpreted as including the source of execution drugs," said Davidson. The State of Missouri says that law also covers the identity of the makers of its lethal injection drugs because they are part of the "execution team." Davidson said doctors and anesthesiologists are not taking part in executions, and many pharmacists are also considering it to be a violation of ethics to take part in the process.

Davidson said she understands why executioners' identities are kept private, but argues protecting the identities of execution drug makers is extending the umbrella of secrecy too far.

"I would like to see more transparency in the system, I would like to see the public know where these drugs are coming from," said Davidson. "The problem is one of public oversight. These executions are done in the name of all of us, but yet we have no transparency in the system."

Davidson said Missouri has not had a track record of botched executions, but reports in other states have been made public about lethal injections taking too long to work. Davidson said these kinds of executions could be classified as cruel and unusual punishments, but the public does not know for sure because the information about how those drugs work is kept private.

Davidson said Missouri, like many other death penalty states, has altered its lethal injection protocol because of a nationwide shortage of execution drugs.

"More and more states are having to turn to compounding pharmacies, which are not as heavily regulated as regular pharmacies by the FDA," said Davidson. "So, the question becomes where are these drugs coming from, and also then, what about their efficacy?"

Davidson said the hope might have been that lethal injection would be more humane, but examples of botched executions in other states leave that in doubt. There have been multiple suggestions made as to how Missouri should change its execution process to get around the problems with execution drugs. One Missouri lawmaker has proposed the use of firing squads. Attorney General Chris Koster has suggested the state manufacture its own execution drugs or return to using lethal gas.

Missourinet reached out the Governor Jay Nixon's office for comment, but it declined. Missouri Department of Corrections Communications Director David Owen also declined comment and only cited Missouri law, which says "any portion of a record containing identifying information related to a member of the execution team is privileged and not subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion, or subject to disclosure."

(source: missourinet.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Mental Exam Ordered for Man Accused in Deadly Machete Attack

A judge has ordered a northern Oklahoma man accused of nearly beheading a 19-year-old friend to undergo a psychological and physical evaluation.

21-year-old Isaiah Marin is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Oct. 29 machete attack that killed Jacob Andrew Crockett in Stillwater, about 65 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. A police affidavit says Crockett had multiple stab wounds and his head was "mostly severed" from his body.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Marin's attorneys last week filed an application requesting the competency exam, saying he is not capable of standing trial.

Payne County District Judge Katherine Thomas reviewed the application Monday and ordered the tests.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska highlights growing movement against death penalty - on the right; 17 Republican lawmakers seek abolition of capital punishment in the state as Christians, conservatives and libertarians band together for change

A growing coalition of Christian, fiscally conservative and libertarian lawmakers are pushing to repeal the death penalty in some of America's reddest states. And after years of working against state-sponsored executions, historically a Democratic platform, some conservatives say they believe the efforts are gaining traction.

The push for reform was on full display last week in Nebraska, as 17 Republican lawmakers in the 1-house legislature advocated for passage of abolition bill LB268.

"I know many of you, when you went door to door, you said to the constituent you talked to: 'You send me to Lincoln, [Nebraska,] and when I get down there I'm going to find government programs that don't work, and I'm going to get rid of them,'" Senator Colby Coash told fellow lawmakers. "And that's exactly what LB268 does ... We can get justice without this method."

The bill passed its 1st hurdle with a 30 to 12 vote in favor of repeal, potentially enough to override Republican governor Pete Ricketts' veto threat. 2 more successful votes are needed to send the bill to the governor's desk, and there is strong opposition, including filibuster threats, to overcome. Still, conservative advocates said they believe it is one of the most promising developments in decades.

"We're probably in the best position we've been in since the bill passed in 1979," said Stacy Anderson, the conservative executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, about the last time the state's legislature passed an abolition bill. "From the conservative standpoint, the death penalty fails on all of our core values."

National support for the death penalty has dropped over the last 20 years, falling to 56% in favor of capital punishment and 38% opposed, according to a March poll by Gallup. But Republicans are still the most likely group to support capital punishment, with 77% in support of the death penalty.

Still, conservative activists point to the 10% decrease in Republican support over 20 years, growing support for life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, and the issue's low priority ranking among voters.

The most widely cited reasons for opposing the death penalty seem in line with some of the most fervent strains of American Republicanism: fiscal conservatism, pro-life principles and small government ideals.

And with increasing scrutiny on states that continue to execute prisoners despite a shortage of lethal injection drugs, the issue appears poised to continue to attract attention.

"It's a government program that risks innocent life, costs more than the alternative, and is certainly not about limited government," said Marc Hyden, an outreach specialist with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

"When I'm first speaking, I think conservatives give me kind of a weird look," said Hyden. "But about halfway through the presentation, it starts clicking with them - that this is a program that just doesn't mesh with conservative ideals."

The campaign has seen growing interest in red states such as Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas and Tennessee, both Hyden and abolitionists said.

In Montana, a fiercely conservative state, a death penalty abolition bill made it out of the House judiciary committee for the 1st time perhaps ever, according to death penalty abolition advocates there.

"I was shocked," Moore told the Missoulian. "I didn't expect it to come out of committee." At the time that the bill passed to the floor, a stunned Moore described it as having "a tiger by the tail".

The abolition bill failed in a vote on the house floor, but many see its progress out of the judiciary committee as nothing short of stunning.

"We were very excited," said Jennifer Kirby about the bill's progress. "It's about time."

(source: The Guardian)

CALIFORNIA:

Convicted drug dealer faces possible death penalty in killing 20th Century Fox executive

A convicted drug dealer could face the death penalty after being indicted Wednesday on a capital murder charge in the killing of a 20th Century Fox executive.

John Creech pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court to the elevated charge after prosecutors brought new allegations that he lay in wait to kill Gavin Smith 3 years ago.

Creech was previously charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Smith, whose remains were found in a shallow grave in the desert last fall.

Creech, 42, is serving an 8-year prison sentence for selling or delivering drugs.

Creech's lawyer has said his client defended himself when attacked by Gavin Smith and could have caused a fatal injury.

Smith, 57, vanished in May 2012 after leaving a friend's home in Ventura County. His Mercedes-Benz was found 10 months later in a Simi Valley storage facility linked to Creech. Smith's blood and body tissue, including skin stuck to the car's seat, were found inside.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player and father of 3, had worked for Fox's movie distribution department and was branch manager for several theatres.

Smith was believed to have had a romance with Creech's wife after meeting her in drug rehabilitation, a law enforcement official previously told The Associated Press.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Gavin Smith Case: Accused murderer eligible for death penalty

John Creech, a convicted drug dealer accused of murdering Fox executive Gavin Smith, was charged with one count of capital murder Wednesday. He is eligible for the death penalty.

A Grand Jury indictment was unsealed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and charges Creech with the special circumstance of lying in wait in the murder of Smith.

Smith, 57, was last seen May 1, 2012 leaving a friend's home in Ventura County. In February 2013, his black Mercedez-Benz was found in a Simi Valley storage unit that belonged to Creech.

Last October, Smith's remains were found in a shallow grave in a remote area just south of Palmdale.

Creech, 42, was arrested in connection to Smith's murder in January. He is currently in prison serving an 8-year sentence for the transportation and sale of drugs.

Prosecutors will decide at a later date to seek the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 27 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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

Sirhan Sirhan sentenced to die, April 23, 1969

On this day in 1969, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant born in Jerusalem into a Christian family in 1944, was sentenced to die in the gas chamber after being convicted of killing Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.).

Sirhan's sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972 after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. He currently is imprisoned at the Richard Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.

On June 5, 1968, Kennedy, having just won California's Democratic presidential primary, was making his way toward the Ambassador Hotel kitchen in Los Angeles to greet supporters when Sirhan shot him at close range with a .22 caliber revolver. Kennedy died the following day at age 42.

Sirhan was convicted of murder after a 3-month trial. His lawyers sought to show that Sirhan had acted impulsively and was mentally unstable. But when Judge Herbert Walker admitted into evidence pages from 3 of the journal notebooks that Sirhan had kept, it became clear the murder was premeditated.

In 1989, Sirhan told David Frost: "My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians." He has maintained since then that he has no memory of committing the crime. At a 2003 hearing, in an attempt to win Sirhan a new trial, his lawyer claimed Sirhan had been hypnotized in a conspiracy.

Sirhan's parole requests have been denied more than a dozen times. His next hearing is scheduled for 2016 when he will be 72. Although he and his family came to the United States when he was 12, Sirhan has retained his Jordanian citizenship.

(source: politico.com)

USA:

Manufacturer Asks Prisons To Return Supply Of Controversial Lethal Injection Drug

Death penalty states are continuing to deal with the fallout after a major U.S. drug manufacturer announced that it will no longer sell corrections departments a sedative used for lethal injections. The company also asked departments to return any supply of the drug they had purchased.

The Arizona Department of Corrections confirmed to the Arizona Republic Tuesday that Akorn, an Illinois-based drug company that manufactures midazolam, asked the department to return the supply it purchased in 2014. The sedative -- which is commonly given prior to surgery -- is the 1st drug used in 3-drug lethal injections, while states with a single-drug protocol commonly use the sedative pentobarbital.

A spokesman with the Alabama Department of Corrections also confirmed to The Huffington Post Wednesday that "our department did receive a letter” from Akorn. However, he would not say whether any of the department's midazolam supply had been purchased from Akorn, and therefore whether it had returned any chemicals to the manufacturer.

Death penalty states have faced dwindling supplies of chemicals used for lethal injections in the past several years, as manufacturers make their supplies unavailable to prisons. In March, Akorn announced it would no longer directly ship to prisons and condemned the use midazolam for executions, saying:

Akorn strongly objects to the use of its products to conduct or support capital punishment through lethal injection or other means. To prevent the use of our products in capital punishment, Akorn will not sell any product directly to any prison or other correctional institution and we will restrict the sale of known components of lethal injection protocols to a select group of wholesalers who agree to use their best efforts to keep these products out of correctional institutions.

The same day, the company also sent letters to attorneys general and the heads of corrections departments in death penalty states like Kentucky and Alabama, requesting they return any remaining supply of drugs procured through Akorn for a refund.

Neither Akorn nor the Arizona Department of Corrections immediately returned requests for comment.

In the 32 states that have the death penalty, lethal injections are comprised of either a three-drug combination or a single drug. As companies like Akorn join major drug manufactuers like Hospira and refuse to supply prisons directly, corrections departments have increasingly turned to local compounding pharmacies to mix chemicals for lethal injections. At the same time, states are fighting to keep the identities of drug suppliers a secret from the public.

Other states have approved backup methods for capital punishment, should they run out of the necessary chemicals or the lethal injection methods are found unconstitutional by courts: Oklahoma recently legalized a new form of the gas chamber, while Utah brought back the firing squad.

Professor Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University in Texas, told The Huffington Post that it's unlikely that departments will actually send back the Akorn products, especially since the drug company has no authority to enforce the request.

"I'd be shocked if they complied with it. I think it's naive to think that states would return that drug if they're hell-bent on killing people with it," Halperin said. "I don't think any states are going to suddenly find the moral conscience to willingly return a supply of [hard-to-find] drugs."

Despite the controversy, the role of midazolam drug manufacturers in the lethal injection debate could soon become irrelevant: In just 1 week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether midazolam can be legally used in executions at all.

Halperin said drug manufacturers getting ahead of the SCOTUS decision "makes good press" and the intentions may be good, but it's "too little, too late."

"Drug companies should have stopped supplying prisons long ago," Halperin said. "They should have had some professional ethics long before this," he said. "Where was this morality on their part decades ago? I don't think the good intention of drug manufacturers now in 2015 lets them off the hook."

(source: Kim Bellware, Huffington Post)

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

Tsarnaev sentencing gauges shift on death penalty----When jurors return with a sentence, it will likely be read as a judgment on the death penalty itself

In recent years, public support for the death penalty in the U.S. has waned. A March Pew Research poll found that 56 % of Americans favor the sentence for those convicted of murder - a decline of 6 % points since 2011. Since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty, support for it peaked at 78 % in 1996. As the appetite for the death penalty has diminished - spurred, in part, by revelations of wrongful convictions - juries have become more reticent to hand down the ultimate punishment. In 2014 judges and juries issued 72 death sentences, the fewest in the 40 years of the modern death penalty, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Moreover, executions actually carried out stood at a 20-year low of 35.

A sentence of life without parole for Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of all 30 counts he was charged with, would be an indication of where the country is headed on the issue, said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"On the level of severity of murders, this ranks pretty high. If the jury, given those facts and the enormous effort made by the federal government to obtain death penalty, ends up rejecting the death penalty, that is pretty significant," he said. "It would reflect the sea change in public attitude about the death penalty in the last generation."

Even with the horrifying nature of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's weeklong rampage in Boston with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, during which they killed 4 people, injured 260 and left Bostonians locked down in their homes during a prolonged manhunt, residents of the city and the rest of the state have shown a reticence to embrace the death penalty.

Only 33 % of surveyed Massachusetts voters said they favor the death penalty for Tsarnaev, according to a Suffolk University poll released this week. Among Boston voters, a poll conducted by Boston's WBUR radio station found that only 27 % of respondents said they supported the death penalty in the case. The Bay State abolished the punishment in 1984, but it is an option for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because he is being tried in federal court.

Views among the victims and their family members have been mixed, but some have said they strongly prefer life without parole.

"We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it," Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombing attack, wrote in an editorial in The Boston Globe. "We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives."

Tsarnaev's federal trial was always going to be a capital case. Potential jurors who said they were categorically opposed to the death penalty were dismissed.

"You have a jury, by the very nature of the manner which it is selected, is incapable of reflecting the conscience of the Boston community," Dunham said. "Will they be influenced by their perception of the public attitude of the death penalty? They're not supposed to be, but they may be."

Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law who specializes in criminal sentencing, said that jurors, consciously or unconsciously, are inclined to do what they believe public wants when it comes to sentencing in such a highly charged, emotional case.

"I certainly think ... the national mood and the Massachusetts mood and the Boston mood may free the jury up in some sense not to worry quite so much about what the community might think if they were to return a life sentence rather than a death sentence," he said. "I do think it's hard to avoid the sense 'If I get this wrong, I will be forever as one of those jurors that got this wrong.'"

Berman said that prosecutors, arguing for capital punishment, will emphasize the heinous, premeditated nature of the crimes and the widespread destruction, whereas defense attorneys, seeking life imprisonment, will focus on mitigating factors for Tsarnaev, who was a teenager at the time of the bombing and was, according to the defense, following the orders of his older brother.

Regardless of the specific merits of those arguments, because it is such a high-profile terrorism case, the sentence will likely be interpreted as a larger statement on society's view of the appropriate kind of punishment for the worst of the worst when there is little ambiguity regarding guilt.

A death sentence requires unanimity among the 12 jurors. "It'll be easier to read a death verdict than a life verdict. It would be a repudiation of all the arguments for something less than death," Berman said. "A life verdict just leaves you with some certainty - which one of those arguments against death swayed 1 juror or multiple jurors?"

(source: Al Jazeera)

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Death penalty doesn't serve any real purpose

More than 2/3 of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice, according to the Amnesty International website.

The website also states that, in 2010, "the overwhelming majority of all known executions took place in 5 countries China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen and United States."

Some death penalty opponents feel nobody deserves to die, no matter how vicious the crime and the criminal.

Those who are for it believe the worst of the worst deserve to die.

According to the Council of State Government article, "Lethal Injection Drug Shortage," written by Jennifer Horne, "Texas has 317 inmates on death row, but only enough of a key lethal injection drug to execute 2 of them."

Death penalty opponents feel as though these drugs, often untested, might cause a condemned killer to feel pain as he dies.

I, too, am against the death penalty.

The reason I am against it is because I feel as though having the death penalty solves absolutely none of our problems.

In Kevin McSpadden's Time magazine article, "America's Largest Death Row Has Run Out of Room," he writes, "708 out of 715 death row cells at San Quentin are occupied."

He continues to write that California has not seen an execution for nearly a decade and, with an anticipated 20 new arrivals per year, it has run out of room for inmates.

Since we live in a country that has always had capital punishment, most Americans can't imagine what it would be like not to have it.

I believe that people are afraid that if they abolished the death penalty, the crime rates would suddenly rise rapidly.

This is obviously not true and having the death penalty does not deter people from committing crimes.

America should definitely look to Europe to set an example.

According to theguardian.com article, "Europe taught America how to end the death penalty. Now maybe it finally will," Europe has been trying to bring its anti-death penalty stance to the United States.

The article states that the European Union believes that the death penalty "is cruel and inhuman, and has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime."

Basically, having the death penalty does not stop people from committing crimes.

There also needs to be more focus fixing the prison system in this country.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative website, "The death penalty is infected with racial bias."

In Ed Pilkington's guardian.com article, "Research exposes racial discrimination in America's death penalty capital," states that black inmates in Houston are more than 3 times as likely to face death sentence than whites."

Texas has the most executions to date in this country and has had 5 executions this year, according to Death Penalty Information Center website.

Pilkington's article was published in 2013 and he discussed an academic study that "exposes the extent of racial discrimination inherent in the administering of capital punishment in Harris County, the ground zero of the death penalty in the U.S."

Pilkington wrote that University of Maryland professor Raymond Paternoster, author of the academic study, "was commissioned by defense lawyers acting in the case of Duane Buck."

Buck was a death row prisoner from Houston and the Texas courts are currently reconsidering his 1995 death sentence.

Paternoster, whose report is based on the latest "quantitative methods," looked at 504 cases involving adult defendants who had been indicted for capital murder in Harris County between 1992-99.

This was during the time when Buck was charged for murdering his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and a man named Kenneth Butler.

Paternoster found that "Harris County juries imposed death sentences on 4 of the 7 African-Americans put on capital trial, while also sentencing to death the only white defendant."

Pilkington also wrote that although the county is only 19 % black, "African-Americans represent almost 50 % of the people detained in its jails, while 68 % of the past 34 executions to emerge from the area involved black inmates."

The reality is, America might not ever agree on the topic of the death penalty, let alone admit that it is a racially biased system.

According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, states without the death penalty have lower rates of homicide compared to states with the death penalty.

The North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty website says that the state's murder rate declined after executions stopped.

The fact that the death penalty does not stop people from killing other people is one of the biggest reasons I am against the death penalty.

I do not believe that killing a criminal will make their victims family feel better.

In order for us to change the way we think about the death penalty we need to change the way we think about humanity.

Killing someone because they killed another person totally defeats the purpose of advanced society.

(source: Commentary, Jerica Lowman; spartandaily.com)

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Death penalty isn't justice

If ever there were a model case for the death penalty, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would top the list ["Bomb victim's kin: No death penalty," News, April 18]. The elements of the crime and the certainty of his involvement are clear and not in dispute.

Should we then apply the death penalty in this case or any case that meets the legal standard? We should not, because the death penalty is about revenge, not justice, which are vastly different things.

The purpose of revenge is to satiate hatred and contempt, and to achieve closure. Justice is the attempt to make things right, to return to normalcy -- impossible in a case such as Tsarnaev's. Life for the victims and the rest of us will never be the same.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold; however, it should never be served by civilized people and their elected officials, lest they descend into the darkness. Justice should always be sought.

The best sentence for Tsarnaev would be life imprisonment, without parole, preferably in solitary confinement. This would be the most powerful statement we could make without crossing that pernicious line. Tsarnaev has demonstrated that he is not fit to live among us, so sentence him to virtual death with only his thoughts to keep him company.

Edward Weinert, Melville

(source: Letter to the Editor, Newsday)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Man accused of raping masseuse at hotel ---- Alleged victim says 44-year-old manager put towel over her face and she lost consciousness

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a manager accused of raping a masseuse after drugging her in a landmark hotel's massage centre in Dubai.

The 44-year-old Syrian manager, M.R., was said to have put a towel over the 33-year-old Burmese masseuse's face, she then lost consciousness for 30 minutes during which time he is believed to have raped her at the massage centre of one of Dubai's most famous hotels in October 2013.

Prosecutors are seeking the implementation of the toughest punishment (death sentence) applicable against M.R. as per article 354 of the Penal Law.

The defendant, who is out on bail, failed to appear before the Dubai Court of First Instance to enter a plea on Wednesday.

The masseuse told prosecutors the incident happened during the massage session.

"Once he arrived, I gave the defendant the required dress to put on. I massaged his back for 15 minutes before he asked for his legs to be massaged. Five minutes later, he told me that he needed to get something from his clothes. I waited for him and kept my eyes glues to the floor and did not watch or see what he took from his clothes. When he went back to the massage bench, I resumed massaging his legs. He asked me for a small towel, when I asked him what he needed it for, he did not answer ... I gave him the towel. 5 minutes later, he suddenly placed the towel on my face ... I lost consciousness and slept for nearly 30 minutes, during which I did not realise what had happened. Once I regained consciousness, the suspect was already dressed and was sitting on a chair. I had a bad and unprecedented pain in my uterus. When I asked him what he did to make me lose consciousness, he did not reply. He simply said 'I am done'. I did not understand what he meant. Surprisingly, he put Dh1,000 in my hand and left. I suspected that he might have raped me. When I rushed to the washroom where and saw blood in my undergarment, I recognised that he had raped me. I had severe pain. I washed quickly and didn't inform anybody about what happened. The next day I told my friend what happened, and she took me to the centre and we told our supervisor what happened. Then I reported it to the police," the Burmese testified to prosecutors.

The friend confirmed the masseuse's statement before prosecutors.

"She also told me that the suspect asked her not to tell anybody what happened. She cried while she spoke about the alleged rape to the police," said the friend. Presiding judge Fahd Al Shamsi will hand out a ruling in absentia against the suspect on April 29.

Records did not specify why the case was referred to court on Wednesday although the masseuse's complaint was lodged in October 2013.

(source: Gulf News)

CHINA:

European Parliament Wrestles With Accountability for Organ Harvesting in China

After passing a resolution that condemned organ transplant abuses in China in late 2013, the European Parliament returned to the issue recently, with a detailed examination of China's practices and promises for reform, and ideas for what member states can do to tackle the practice.

China is unique among countries for running an organ transplantation system built upon abuse. China's transplant authorities claim to primarily use organs from death row prisoners, which according to international standards is a grave violation. But many researchers challenge this claim, saying the main source of organs comes from prisoners of conscience who are expressly slaughtered for the purpose.

In other countries, transplant abuses typically happen on an individual scale, with the poor trading a kidney, for example, for a five figure sum.

Challenges

The Chinese state's involvement in the practice, and the difficulty of determining whether abuses have been thoroughly stopped or merely papered over, poses challenges for policymakers in Western countries who seek to prevent abuses and get accountability for what has passed.

"We need to remain fair, but critical, both in terms of the track record of China on the matter, and the allegations and evidence," said Miroslav Mikolasik, a Slovak member of the European Parliament and a member of the subcommittee on human rights.

"That means several thousands died from his research." - Huige Li, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting

Mikolasik spoke at a workshop titled Organ Harvesting in China organized by the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety. Held in Brussels on April 21, it featured European officials, medical researchers, and outside doctors and experts.

"We also have need to be responsible, constructive, and come up with timely legislative measures that would stop European patients from being complicit in any way with this practice," Mikolasik said.

The "practice," such as it has been known to take place in China, has 2 problematic components, according to Joelle Hivonnet, an official who deals with China at the European External Action Service, the diplomatic and communications department of the European Union.

One is "the policy of removing organs from executed prisoners without consent," she said. "Quite clearly someone who's about to be executed might not be in a position to give real consent."

Then there is the more grisly "extrajudicial killings and harvesting of prisoners not sentenced to the death penalty."

"The extrajudicial killings result from ill treatment and torture of prisoners. Prisoners can basically be disappeared, either in the regular prison system, without even the family members being aware," she said.

She added that practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice, "are clearly targeted as a group, and until the abolition of the re-education through labor system, they formed the major group in the system of re-education through labor. The system has been replaced by a system even less transparent: black jails."

Hivonnet said she once asked a Chinese delegation "What do you do with Falun Gong followers now that the system has been abolished?" She continued: "Needless to say we did not get an answer to this question."

Reforms Claimed

Chinese officials claim reforms are now taking place in the Chinese transplantation system.

These include, most prominently, the cessation of the use of organs from death row prisoners.

Huang Jiefu, the former vice minister of health and current head of the Organ Transplantation Committee, China's peak body for coordinating transplant policies, made clear in March that this was the intent behind the new reforms.

"Prisoners can basically be disappeared, either in the regular prison system, without even the family members being aware." - Joelle Hivonnet, European External Action Service

This was a distinct change in the official posture, which had previously allowed the continued use of prisoner organs, as long as the individuals were consenting. In March Huang closed even this avenue, ruling out prisoners as a source of organs entirely.

Some researchers are wary of this updated promise, saying that it is virtually impossible to independently verify these claims, given the lack of transparency of the Chinese transplantation system, the obfuscatory explanations of organ sourcing by officials like Huang, and a lack of clarity about whether military hospitals are also beholden to the new rules.

International engagement with China on transplant policy will nevertheless resume, according to Dr. Francis Delmonico, the former head of The Transplantation Society who led discussions with Huang Jiefu in previous years. Speaking at the workshop, he said that international medical organizations would hold a conference in China this summer, helping the authorities there with their establishment of an ethical transplantation system.

And yet there appear to be no plans by these groups to hold Chinese authorities accountable for what has been termed the "slaughter" of tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience for commercial reasons.

'Several Thousands Died'

Huige Li, a representative from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, a medical advocacy group, spoke in detail at the workshop about how these transactions took place, providing a case study of the former police chief of a northern Chinese city.

Wang Lijun, the chief of police of Jinzhou in Liaoning Province, ran a research center attached to the city's Public Security Bureau. His research focused on organ transplants. One of his papers, for example, was titled "Research on organ transplantation from donors subjected to drug injection." In a 2004 award speech, Wang boasted of the research being done "on site" and involving "several thousand cases."

"That means several thousands died from his research," Dr. Li said.

He ran through the statistics: in all of China over the years of Wang's research, roughly 6,000 executions took place. Jinzhou, with a population of about 3 million people, would have executed about 14 criminals, Dr. Li said. But Wang said his organ transplantation experiments - almost certainly coincident with death of the donor - involved thousands of subjects.

Dr. Li said the population that made up this shortfall - people who were not death row prisoners, but were killed extrajudicially for their organs all the same - were most likely practitioners of Falun Gong. There is no conclusive proof of the identity of those killed in this fashion, or of Dr. Li's inference, though it is one that conforms with a mosaic of other known facts.

Delmonico appeared to acknowledge the overall veracity of the information Dr. Li presented. "It's not a debate," he said, shortly after Dr. Li's presentation. "Mr. Chair, there's no debate. We accept everything that has been said by Mr. Kilgour, Dr. Li, etcetera. It's not a debate. What we do from here forward is what becomes the central issue for us all."

And among those concerned with the matter, there is spirited disagreement about precisely what that ought to consist of.

(source: The Epoch Times)

INDONESIA:

Frenchman to face firing squad

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday a case review requested by convicted drug trafficker Serge Atlaoui, 51, confirming his death sentence issued in 2007.

A panel of judges consisting of Artidjo Alkostar, Surya Jaya and Suhadi stated in its verdict that Atlaoui had "been found guilty of distributing, transferring, brokering drug transactions, with evidence including pure heroin".

Because of the court rejection of the review, Atlaoui's execution and that of other foreigners - including citizens of Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria - could occur very soon.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said prosecutors had not yet set a date for the executions, but indicated that they would be carried out after the Asian-African Conference and before the holy month of Ramadhan, which will start in mid-June.

French Ambassador Corinne Breuze said last week that France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981, was opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances.

"If the execution is carried out, it will not be without consequence for our bilateral relationship," Breuze said.

Atlaoui was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 at a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and sentenced to death 2 years later. Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-4 has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

(source: AsiaOne)

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Indonesia's Jokowi Vows Strict Policy, Death Penalty for Drug Crimes

Indonesia's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeals of 2 prisoners from France and Ghana currently on death row for drug smuggling. In an email interview, Gloria Lai, a senior policy officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, discussed Indonesia's zero-tolerance approach to drugs.

WPR: What factors are pushing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to continue Indonesia's strict anti-drug policies?

Gloria Lai: When Indonesia passed new drug laws in 2009, introducing measures to divert people who use drugs away from prison and toward drug treatment programs, the government showed signs of shifting toward a health-based approach to drug use. However, it continued to impose severely disproportionate penalties for other drug-related activities, culminating last December with Jokowi's announcement that people on death row for drug offences will be executed. He referred to a state of emergency on drugs in Indonesia, which he claimed were causing around 50 deaths each day. But such statistics have been seriously challenged, calling into question the extent and nature of drug-related problems in Indonesia.

As is often the case with such approaches to drug issues around the world, commentators have suggested that Jokowi is insisting on the executions as a political strategy to appear uncompromisingly tough on Indonesia's security and sovereignty to domestic audiences.

WPR: What is domestic opinion toward Indonesia's drug policies?

Lai: Media polling in Indonesia shows a clear majority of respondents in favor of Jokowi's stance on the death penalty for drug traffickers. Islamic religious leaders have also voiced their support for it. International criticism may have helped to mobilize nationalist sentiment in support of Jokowi's stance.

As with other parts of Asia, the prevailing approach toward drugs in Indonesia has long been one of zero tolerance, viewing the availability of drugs as a scourge and drug use as a moral failing. Despite decades of punitive, law enforcement-driven policies that have failed to achieve their objective of eradicating drug use and supply, there appears to be little appetite for open, honest and rational dialogue about effective policies for managing drug problems. Such dialogue is sorely needed to constructively deal with the challenges of drug use and supply that Jokowi identified as emergencies.

WPR: How has international pressure influenced Indonesia's drug policies, particularly with regard to the case of the Bali 9 - a group of 9 Australians arrested for smuggling heroin in Indonesia in 2005?

Lai: The past century of international drug control, firmly grounded in a zero-tolerance approach and aided by the United States' declaration of a war on drugs in 1971, has definitively shaped national policies around the world. Indonesia is no exception.

But the death penalty has become a divisive issue in global drug policy forums, and governments enforcing it are under increasing pressure to abolish capital punishment. In refusing to yield to such pressure, including for 2 members of the Bali 9, the Indonesian government may be capitalizing on populist, nationalistic fervor, but it is also staying the course for a policy that has proven a failure. In the lead up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem in April 2016, tensions will likely continue to build. Perhaps by 2016, governments can reach an agreement to abolish the death penalty.

(source: World Politics Review)

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

Mary Jane Veloso's lawyers to file petition for 2nd judicial review

The Indonesian lawyers of Mary Jane Veloso is set to file the 2nd petition for judicial review on Monday, April 27.

Edre Olalia, head of the Philippine private lawyers of the Veloso family, said the "newly-discovered evidence" will include Veloso's sworn statement, where she stated that she is a victim of drug trafficking.

The said affidavit, which is currently being translated to Bahasa Indonesia, was executed during the Mar. 29 visit of officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Veloso has maintained that the bag, where the 2.6 kilograms of heroin was stitched in, was lent to her by her recruiter. She said in her account, furnished to Bulatlat.com by her lawyers, that Veloso repeatedly checked the bag and found nothing. She also asked her recruiter, her godsister Ma. Kristina Sergio, why the bag was unusually heavy but was told that it is because the bag was brand new.

Olalia, who is also secretary general of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, said the Indonesian lawyers are also "receptive" on grounds that Veloso is, primarily, a victim of human trafficking.

"In accordance with international and parallel local laws, (Veloso) must not be penalized for any alleged crime which was integral and in connection with such human trafficking scheme, and must instead be repatriated back to the Philippines," Olalia said in a statement.

Veloso was recruited upon the premise that she would work as a domestic helper in Malaysia. Upon arriving there, however, she was told that her employer has already hired someone else and that another job was waiting for her in Indonesia.

For the said second ground, the lawyers need a certificate from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking that it received their letter-complaint on the human trafficking issue, which the Veloso family, through the NUPL, filed last Apr. 16.

The filing of the 2nd petition for 2nd judicial review, however, does not translate to a stay or stop of the execution. He said the execution may push through as long as the mandatory 3-day notice to Veloso, her family, the prosecutors and the court is complied with unless a positive judicial decision is handed to the Filipina on death row in time, Olalia stressed.

This, he added, could be between this Sunday, Apr. 26, or as long as 6 months after the submission of the petition for review as carrying out of death sentence is a "political decision and not a judicial act."

The temporary reprieve for Veloso's execution would end tomorrow, Apr. 24.

Veloso's Indonesian lawyers, during their 1st petition for judicial review, cited the issue of the translator not being duly-accredited, but was denied by its Supreme Court last March.

Olalia, along with colleague Minerva Lopez, met with the Philippine embassy-retained Indonesian lawyers yesterday, Apr. 22, after Veloso's sister Maritess and Migrante Sectoral Party chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado arranged the said meeting. In an earlier interview, the lawyer said they have requested, among other things, the Department of Foreign Affairs to link them with the Indonesian lawyers so they could collaborate with them in a bid to save Veloso from execution.

The DFA, however, did not budge on the said request, forcing the lawyers, along with Veloso's father, to leave for Jakarta to meet the Indonesian lawyers.

The Indonesian lawyers, meanwhile, have already filed a request before the prosecution to allow family members, the 2 lawyers and 3 migrant organization leaders to pay Veloso a visit.

(soure: bulatlat.com)

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

Death Penalty for Drug Crimes

This week Indonesia's police arrested a foreign national in Jakarta in connection to the discovery of 2.2 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine (meth) in a boarding house in Srengseng (West Jakarta). Jakarta Police spokesman Budi Widjanarko said that police action was taken based on intelligence about a syndicate that smuggles crystal meth into Indonesia from Nigeria. Reportedly, this syndicate is led by a Jakarta prison inmate. Recent history shows that Indonesian authorities are very strict on drug-related crimes.

Indonesia is 1 of the countries that still upholds capital punishment (death penalty) for convicted drug traffickers. After having a moratorium on executions between 2008 and 2013 (supported by then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who was against the use of capital punishment), Nigeria-born drug trafficker Adami Wilson was the 1st convicted person to be executed again by Indonesian authorities in March 2013.

New Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office in October 2014, takes a harder stance on drug abuse and drug trade as he wants to protect the health of the Indonesian people (each year between 40 and 50 people die from drug-related reasons in Indonesia). Therefore, foreign drug traffickers should not expect to get clemency. Joko Widodo, often referred to as Jokowi, proved his tough stance when - amid international pressure - he ignored pleas for clemency and allowed the execution of 5 foreigners (from Brazil, the Netherlands, Malawi, Nigeria, and Vietnam) and one Indonesian citizen in January 2015. These executions temporarily led to diplomatic tensions as the Netherlands and Brazil recalled their ambassadors back to their home countries for discussion.

1 month later, Jokowi ignored requests for clemency from the Australian government when Indonesian authorities started to prepare the executions of two Australian citizens: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Although fierce foreign opposition to these executions (including Australian threats to boycott holidays to Bali) did succeed in delaying the executions, there seems to be little chance that Indonesia will cancel the executions. Chan and Sukumaran, who have been on death row in Indonesia since 2006, have been identified as leading the 'Bali 9', a group of 9 people (arrested on the island of Bali in 2005) that were found guilty of attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia.

Indonesian Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo stated that Indonesia has postponed the executions of several foreign drugs convicts as the country is host of the 60th Asian-African Conference (19-24 April 2015).

This month, it was French President Francois Hollande who warned Jokowi that diplomatic relations between Indonesia and France are to be damaged if Indonesia goes ahead with the execution of Serge Atlaoui. Earlier this month, Indonesia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal implying that preparations for Atlaoui's execution can be made. Atlaoui has been imprisoned for over a decade for his role in an ecstasy lab in Jakarta. However, Atlaoui has always denied these charges.

International appeals are unlikely to change Jokowi's mind. In Indonesia capital punishment enjoys considerable support among the elite and population at large. Moreover, Jokowi understands that Indonesians want a strong leader who can resist foreign influences. As such, it is in the interest of Jokowi himself to go-ahead with the executions and refuse presidential clemency. Moreover, the disturbance of international relations is only a temporary matter. For instance, the Dutch and Brazilian diplomats that were recalled back to the home countries after their citizens had been executed in January 2015, returned back to Indonesia after a few weeks and there have been no permanent consequences. After all, is it worth jeopardizing billions worth of trade for the life of one drug trafficker?

In January 2015 it was reported that 138 people are currently on death row in Indonesia, most of them - 64 - on drug-related crimes.

(source: Indonesia-Investments.com)

IRAN----executions

3 Prisoners Executed For drug-Related Charges

3 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Ardebil (Northwestern Iran), reported the Iranian state media. The 3 prisoners who were not identified by name, were convicted of drug-related charges in 3 different cases. The charges were: buying and possession of 231 grams of heroin, participation in possession and trafficking of 1400 grams of heroin and possession of about 1 kilogram of heroin, said the report.

The executions were carried out on Tuesday April 21.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

ITALY:

City of Maddaloni with Hands Off Cain

On Friday, April 17, the Conference "Death penalty and death by penalty" with the presentation of the Report by Hands Off Cain was held in Maddaloni (CE) at the Centro Polifunzionale ex Macello - Via Napoli. The event was organized by Hands Off Cain in cooperation with the city's Cultural Council, and obtained the official support of the city of Maddaloni.

Participants included: Rosa De Lucia (Mayor of Maddaloni), Daniele Napolitano (President Maddaloni Cultural Council), Vincenzo Farina (Italian League for Human Rights), Elisabetta Zamparutti (Treasurer of Hands Off Cain), Antonio Stango (Italian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights), Arturo Diaconale (Director of "L'Opinione" and "Tribunale Dreyfus"), Giuseppe Ferraro (activist of Hands Off Cain). I myself introduced and moderated the event.

The City Council and its current administration decided to strongly commit itself strongly to the enhancement of human and civil rights. An important fact therefore is that Mayor Rosa De Lucia and Councillor for Culture Cecilia D'Anna decided to become members during the debate.

The entire event is available (in Italian) on: Radio Radicale [see: http://www.radioradicale.it/scheda/439041]

(source: radicalparty.org)

MALAYSIA:

Court upholds death sentences for Malaysian, Singaporean for drug trafficking

Malaysia's highest court on Thursday upheld the conviction and death penalty of three Mexican brothers, a Singaporean and a Malaysian in a high-profile drugs case.

The Gonzalez Villarreal brothers - Luis Alfonso, 47, Simon, 40, and Jose Regino, 37 - were arrested in March 2008 at a factory in southern Malaysia where police found 30kg of methamphetamine and equipment to make drugs. The siblings insist that they were merely working as a cleanup crew and that they were unaware drugs were being made in the factory.

Drug trafficking carries a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction in Malaysia. They were sentenced in May 2012 and the ruling was affirmed a year later.

"Our decision is unanimous. Appeal dismissed against all 5 defendants," Federal Court judge Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin told the court in Putrajaya.

The Mexican foreign ministry has said it had "repeatedly expressed (to Malaysian authorities) Mexico's position against capital punishment".

The brothers are from Culiacan, capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, which is known as the bastion of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

The defendants included Singaporean citizen Lim Hung Wang, 56, and Lee Boon Siah, 51, of Malaysia.

Lawyers for the Mexican brothers said they would seek a judicial review of the case by the Federal Court. Failing that, they may consider seeking a royal pardon from Malaysia's monarchy. Success in both cases is extremely rare.

(source: themalaysianinsider.com)

PAKISTAN----executions

Pakistan hangs 2 more death row convicts

Pakistan on Thursday sent 2 more death row convicts to the gallows, taking the number of executions in 3 days to 23, a report said.

The 2 convicts were executed in Sargodha and Sahiwal jails early on Thursday, IANS reported citing Geo News.

A total of 17 death row convicts were hanged by Pakistan on Tuesday, marking the highest number of executions in a single day since the moratorium on death penalty was lifted on March 10.

The moratorium was lifted in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar in which more than 140 people, mostly children, were killed.

The UN, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to re-impose the moratorium on the capital punishment.

(source: India Today)

APRIL 22, 2015:

TEXAS:

Capital murder suspect argues death penalty in final pretrial hearing

A final pretrial hearing for capital murder suspect James Calvert was held Wednesday afternoon, 1 day before jury selection was scheduled to begin. The hearing got underway with Calvert addressing the Smith County District Attorney's Office's decision to pursue the death penalty. Calvert argued against the possibility by citing a list of chemicals used in the execution process by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; none of which are currently used. The state uses pentobarbital, which was not included in the list.

Calvert later argued the use of the drug, saying injection chemicals affect people differently, saying "death is not a light switch."

"Lethal injection is a good idea, if you want to kill somebody," Calvert chuckled in court Wednesday.

Calvert complained Smith County Judge Jack Skeen, Jr. was "short-circuiting" him.

"You don't sit in here and dictate the proceedings," said Skeen.

Calvert is accused of killing his ex-wife and kidnapping their son in October of 2012. The Smith County DA has said they intend to seek the death penalty in the case. Calvert is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

(source: KLTV news)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Boston's Last Brush with Capital Punishment

Last Monday, a few days after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of helping his late brother, Tamerlan, plant and set off 2 bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, a local cable station invited a man named Bob Curley on air to discuss whether Tsarnaev should be put to death. Curley was once a vocal proponent of capital punishment. In 1997, his 10-year-old son, Jeffrey, was kidnapped, murdered, and then raped. It was among the city's most talked-about crimes since the days of the Boston Strangler, in the early 1960s, and Curley and his allies inundated state representatives with requests to reinstate the death penalty, which had been effectively banned in Massachusetts since 1984. And yet, when he appeared on television last week, Curley argued against Tsarnaev's execution, a position that, according to recent polls, his fellow-Bostonians share by a factor of more than 2 to 1. What made Bob Curley and the citizens of Massachusetts change their minds?

For those who were following the news in Greater Boston at the time, the Curley murder seemed like the crest of a wave of gruesome and high-profile crimes. In 1995, a local mother was stabbed 98 times by her adolescent neighbor. In 1996, in a northern suburb, 2 men dragged a woman into some bushes and bludgeoned her to death with a rock. In the fall of 1997, a woman and her 2 young sons were strangled by her former boyfriend, who stuffed the boys' bodies into his locker at the Air National Guard base on Cape Cod. And then came the murder of Jeffrey, the lively boy from a working-class neighborhood in Cambridge. Unbeknownst to his parents, he had been befriended by a 23-year-old pedophile named Charles Jaynes. One day, Jaynes and another man, Salvatore Sicari, took Jeffrey to buy a bicycle. Later, in the car, Jaynes smothered him with a gasoline-soaked rag. Then the men put the boy's body in a plastic tub, weighted it with concrete, and dumped it in a river in Maine.

In truth, 1997 was a peaceful time in Massachusetts, with the homicide rate at a 34-year low. The state was heavily liberal and Catholic, as it remains today, and both groups were opposed to the death penalty. But the image of the freckle-faced boy in a Little League uniform, a Louisville Slugger perched on his shoulder, was everywhere in the press. His father, Bob, a fire-engine mechanic, became part of the coverage, too - at first reluctantly, as a stricken parent, and then passionately, as an advocate for the death penalty. Within days of the killing, some 60,000 people had signed petitions demanding that executions be made legal again. One representative, from a liberal suburb, received 2,000 phone calls urging the same. The issue split families. Tim Toomey, a state representative from Cambridge and a longtime death-penalty opponent, became the 1st of his colleagues to publicly reverse his position, much to the disappointment of his brother, a Catholic priest who had presided at Jeffrey’s funeral. The Massachusetts Senate easily passed a reinstatement bill, and the House of Representatives narrowly passed its own version, 81 votes to 79. All that was left was for the 2 houses to come up with a compromise bill and send it to Paul Cellucci, the state's Republican governor, who had pledged to sign it.

The intervening 9 days were among the most fraught in the history of the State House, as the Boston Globe reporter Brian MacQuarrie wrote in his book "The Ride: A Shocking Murder and a Bereaved Father's Journey from Rage to Redemption." No prisoners had been executed for half a century, and Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a pair of Italian-born anarchists who were sent to the electric chair under dubious circumstances in 1927, still held a place in the public mind. (In 1977, Governor Michael Dukakis had declared Sacco and Vanzetti's trial flawed and said that "any disgrace should be removed from their names.") Members of the American Civil Liberties Union and a group called Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty - one of its founders was Sarah Ehrmann, whose husband had been on Sacco and Vanzetti's defense team - flocked to the State House to make a stand against a measure that they saw as useless and barbaric.

When the final vote was taken, on November 6th, it was not religious or moral arguments that held sway but a growing distrust of the American justice system. By the end of 1997, the Innocence Project had reversed the convictions of 50 people, 13 of whom had been wrongfully convicted of murder. John Slattery, a Democratic representative from the northern coastal town of Peabody, cast the decisive vote. Though he had supported reinstatement when the House drew up its bill, he had subsequently spent several days interviewing legal experts and constituents, and what he learned about the fallibility of the legal system was enough to change his mind. Before the vote, he made a speech on the House floor. He explained that he did not want to be lying awake, fifteen years in the future, knowing that someone had been wrongfully executed because of a law that he had helped create. "I need to be able to look myself in the mirror the next day and like the person that I see," he said.

The House split evenly on the bill, eighty to eighty, which under Massachusetts law effectively killed it. That vote was a tipping point: never again would the Commonwealth come close to reinstating capital punishment. In 2005, Governor Mitt Romney proposed a bill that would set a "gold standard for the death penalty in the modern scientific age.” Sentencing would require a "no doubt" standard of proof, reinforced by DNA and the most advanced forensic techniques. The bill lost in the House by nearly two to one. The truth is that, in a state with one of the lowest murder rates in the nation (tied with Oregon for eighth lowest), capital punishment has ceased to seem necessary. "There's a self-reinforcing quality of these policies," Phyllis Goldfarb, a George Washington University Law School professor who taught at Boston College at the time of the Curley hearings, told me. "If you haven't had the death penalty for a long time, the appetite for it kind of dissipates."

2 years after his son's murder, Bob Curley appeared on a local talk show to debate Bud Welch, a death-penalty opponent whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, in 1995. Later, in getting to know Welch and meeting other parents of murdered children, Curley began to change his mind. In 2001, at the first national conference of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, held at Boston College, Bob Curley "came out" as being against capital punishment. This stance, he told the television interviewer last week, "is solely based on the inequities of our criminal-justice system," which he has witnessed firsthand. Jaynes, who could afford an excellent lawyer, was convicted of 2nd-degree murder and kidnapping; his sentence included the possibility of parole. Sicari, whom Curley called "just a tag-along stooge," had no financial resources; he was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. "These guys are scum - the worst of the worst," Curley said, including Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his comment. "But how do you decide which one is worth the death penalty and which one is not?"

Given capital punishment's history in the state, it seems strange to many Bostonians that Tsarnaev could be executed. Yes, he was tried and found guilty under federal antiterrorism statutes, and as such legally faces the death penalty, which would likely be carried out at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. But, in order to make that punishment a possibility, the judge had to "death qualify" each member of the jury - that is, confirm that each person was prepared to vote in favor of lethal injection. In a state that made the death penalty illegal more than 30 years ago, and in a city whose citizens overwhelmingly oppose it, to what extent does that jury represent the community?

Several days after Curley's TV appearance, the Boston Globe ran a front-page editorial by Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of Martin, an 8-year-old boy who died in the Marathon bombing. They urged the U.S. Department of Justice to "take the death penalty off the table" and sentence Tsarnaev to life without parole. To sentence him to death, they argued, would force them to relive the tragedy with each inevitable appeal. Curley, one of the few people in the state who can honestly claim to understand their feelings, agreed. "I could care less what happens to this kid," he said of Tsarnaev. "He should just be gone, and that should be the end of it." The next time people hear of him, he added, "should be when they read his obituary."

(source: Douglas Starr, The New Yorker)

PENNSYLVANIA:

York DA asks Gov. Wolf not to commute death-row killer's sentence

York County's district attorney has sent a 3-page letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, asking him not to issue a reprieve to death-row inmate Hubert Michael Jr., whose execution is scheduled for this summer.

Wolf has issued what he calls a moratorium on death sentences in Pennsylvania, and has said he will issue reprieves to inmates scheduled for execution.

State law requires a sitting governor to sign a death-row inmate's death warrant within 90 days after judicial appeals end, unless a pardon is granted or the person's sentence is commuted.

Wolf has said he will not sign death warrants.

It was state Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel who on Tuesday signed Michael's death notice, according to the department's website.

Michael, 58, formerly of Lemoyne, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 5, according to the department.

A call to Wolf's staff seeking comment was not immediately returned.

DA's letter: In his letter to the governor, dated Wednesday, District Attorney Tom Kearney, wrote, "I urge you, in the name of justice, to allow the execution to proceed."

16-year-old Trista Eng, who lived in the Dillsburg area, "was a totally innocent victim" who was kidnapped, raped and killed because Michael "was angry about his Lancaster County rape case then pending, and wanted to take his anger out on a woman," according to the letter.

Trista's family "feels very strongly that the sentence should be carried out," Kearney wrote in the letter, and both former DA Stan Rebert and Michael's trial prosecutor, Christy Fawcett, oppose commutation of the sentence.

'Poster child': Taking a page from his predecessor's playbook, Kearney described Michael as "the poster child" for the death penalty. When Rebert was in office, he used the same phrase to describe cross-state spree murderer Mark Newton Spotz, who in 1995 killed 3 women in 3 counties in 3 days while on the run for killing his brother.

Kearney's letter notes there is no doubt about Michael's guilt.

"(The) crime is heinous," he wrote, and Michael has never "made a full disclosure of the magnitude of his conduct," except privately to his own defense attorney.

The murder: Michael told his former defense attorney, York County chief public defender Bruce Blocher, that he offered Trista a ride as she was walking to her job at Hardee's in Dillsburg on July 12, 1993.

At some point during the ride, Michael stopped the car and used the electrical cords to tie up Trista, then drove her to state game lands in Warrington Township, according to Blocher.

He raped her, put a bag over her head and shot her 3 times, Blocher has said, and then hid her body in a wooded area.

Blocher revealed details of Michael's confession when called to the stand during a 1997 appeals hearing in the case.

Michael fled the state 10 days after murdering Trista. At the time, he was free on bail for a Lancaster County rape charge.

Captured: He was captured July 27, 1993, in Utah. Police found the murder weapon in the car he was using, officials said. He was charged with homicide in late August 1993.

Trista's body was found by Michael's own family members after he confessed the murder to his brother.

In November 1993, Michael escaped from Lancaster County Prison but he was captured in New Orleans in March 1994, according to the Department of Corrections. He was later sentenced to 10 to 20 years for the Lancaster County rape.

He pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder for killing Trista and was sentenced to death.

Previous stay: Michael was scheduled to die at the state prison in Rockview in Centre County on Sept. 22, but the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of execution in August so his case could be reviewed. It was the 4th stay Michael's attorneys have obtained on his behalf.

Kearney's open letter to Wolf notes "you and I have taken an oath to support the laws enacted by our legislature," and argued that granting a reprieve to Michael "makes a mockery of the judicial system."

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, Pennsylvania has put to death 3 death-row inmates, all of whom had abandoned their appeal rights.

(source: York Dispatch)

DELAWARE:

Interfaith group calls for Delaware death penalty repeal

Delaware's top clergymen came together Wednesday in Dover to call on lawmakers to repeal the state's death penalty, calling the punishment unjust and ineffective.

"It has often been felt that the death penalty brings justice, we often quote the Bible, 'An eye for an eye,'" said the Rev. John Deckenback, of the Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ Central Atlantic. "Those type of responses tend to alleviate our emotional need for revenge, but we would question whether they bring about true justice."

Deckenback, Bishop W. Francis Malooly, from the Diocese of Wilmington; Bishop Wayne Wright, from the Episcopal Church of Delaware; and Rabbi Yair Robinson spoke during a press conference Wednesday afternoon supporting the push to repeal Delaware's death penalty.

Backers of the repeal effort have increased their presence in Legislative Hall as the controversial measure heads to the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing on Senate Bill 40 has yet to officially be scheduled, but House prime sponsor Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said he was told it would be during the 2nd week of May.

"We are hearing that the people in our pews believe that this is the right time for the death penalty to end here in Delaware," Wright said.

Earlier this week, a poll commissioned by the Delaware Center of Justice found that 63 % of Delawareans support the death penalty. In a follow-up question, 64 % said life with or without parole was a better option than death for those convicted of murder. About 1/2 the 573 people polled said they supported the measure to repeal the death penalty.

"There is no justice in the death penalty," Robinson said. "There is no peace in the death penalty and the time to repeal this form of punishment is now."

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently sitting on Delaware's death row, who would still face execution by lethal injection. The Senate passed the legislation 11-9 earlier this month.

Gov. Jack Markell has yet to weigh in. A spokeswoman for Markell has said that the governor is following the debate, but would not take a position. The clergy said they are planning to try and meet with Markell Wednesday afternoon.

Police groups strongly oppose repeal and are expected to step up opposition in the House, where they have an ally in powerful Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D- Rehoboth, a retired state trooper.

Delaware is 1 of 32 states that employs capital punishment. The last inmate put to death was Shannon Johnson, 28, in April 2012 by lethal injection.

Advocates for the death penalty have long argued that it is a fair penalty for the most heinous of prisoners and deters crime, but opponents say execution violates human rights, is expensive, encourages a cycle of violence and is used disproportionately against minorities and the poor.

(source: The News Journal)

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

Take the lead on death penalty repeal

I respond to the April 7 letter, "There's a price to pay for breaking the law," whose author asserts that God invented the death penalty and, therefore, it should not be fiddled with. Unfortunately, the death penalty is not perfect, and does not uphold the sanctity of human life in the way that anyone's God could have intended.

I'm not a member of the clergy, but I am a person of faith. As a member of the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, I am proud that the Unitarian Universalists of America have long opposed the death penalty, holding capital punishment as inconsistent with the sanctity of human life on account of its retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character.

It's comforting to me that Delaware bishops and leading clergy of the following faith groups are all advocating strongly for repeal: The Roman Catholic Church, The African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church, The United Methodist Church, The Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, as well as the leading Jewish clergy members in our state.

It is clear from the experience of our neighbors in New Jersey and Maryland that we do not need the death penalty in order to be safe from violent offenders or to hold them accountable.

I urge Speaker of the House Pete Schwarzkopf to take the lead on this issue and help get SB40 passed.

Don Peterson,Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware

(source: Letter to the Editor, Cape Gazette)

NORTH CAROLINA:

6 face death penalty after suspected gang hit killed couple

6 suspected Charlotte gang members now face a possible death penalty in the October killings of a Lake Wylie couple. 4 of those charged in the connection with the murders of Doug and Debbie London were already in custody.

2 more suspects were arrested Wednesday after an early morning FBI raid on the Charlotte cell of United Blood Nation, an East Coast gang with strong criminal ties across the region.

7 UBN members were taken into custody Wednesday on a variety of charges.

Jamell Lamon Cureton, Nana Yaw Adoma, David Lee Fudge, Daquan Lamar Everett, Randall Avery Hankins II, Malcolm Jarrel Hartley, Nehemijel Maurice Houston, Briana Shakeyah Johnson, IBN Rashaan Kornegay, Centrilia Shardon Leach, Ahkeem Tahja McDonald and Rahkeen Lee McDonald are the gang members listed in the federal indictment.

The indictment said the members engaged in criminal activity including murder, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, firearms possession, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to commit these crimes, among others.

The 12 members listed in the indictment agreed to commit at least 2 acts of racketeering activity for the gang, according to the document.

The indictment outlines gang activity, and what each member had to do in order to be initiated. It outlines crimes dating back to August 2012.

2 have been implicated in a 2nd murder, the August 2013 killing in York County of Kwamne Clyburn, whom authorities say was killed by UBN after trying to pass himself off as a member of the gang.

1 of the 2, Jamell Cureton, is accused by federal authorities of ordering the gang hit on the Londons from behind bars. The couple was shot to death in their home in October.

In February, pictures found in Cureton's jail cell prompted the protection of 2 judges and Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

Police said Doug London was the only witness to the robbery of a south Charlotte mattress store last May. Cureton was 1 of 3 men charged in the mattress store robbery.

Timeline of events:

--Apr. 22, 2015: FBI raids Charlotte cell of United Blood Nation, arrests seven gang members on variety of charges. Four of those arrested are charged in Connection with murder of Londons.

--Jan. 30, 2015: Police said that Malcolm Jerrel Hartley, 22, and Brianna Johnson, 18, are arrested in connection with the double homicide investigation of the Londons.

--Dec. 2, 2014: Cureton and Adoma plead not guilty in the armed robbery case, officials said. David Fudge, who drove the getaway car, was sentenced to probation after his guilty plea earlier in the year.

--Oct. 30, 2014: Federal prosecutors take over the armed robbery case that accuses Jamell Cureton and Nana Adoma of robbing the Londons' mattress store.

--Oct. 23, 2014: Doug and Debbie London are found shot to death in their Lake Wylie home.

--May 25, 2014: 2 men rob the Wholesale Mattress Warehouse on South Boulevard owned by Doug and Debbie London. One of the robbers and Doug London exchange gun fire, police said.

(source: wsoctv.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

S.C. lawmaker proposes firing squad as death penalty option ---- With lethal-injection drugs in short supply, convicts could choose a 5-man firing squad over the electric chair

State Rep. Joshua A. Putnam (R-Anderson) introduced a bill today that would allow South Carolina to administer the death penalty by firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available. State law already provides electrocution as an alternative to lethal injection in death penalty cases, and inmates are allowed to pick which method of execution is used.

"You would have three options compared to two right now. That would be electric chair, lethal injection, or firing squad," Putnam says. "And then, if you were to have picked lethal injection, and for some reason the drugs or whatever substance we use for that is not available to the state, then instead of defaulting back to the electric chair, you would at least have another option to pick." The state of Utah enacted a similar piece of legislation in March.

According to the Post and Courier, S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told the House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee earlier this month that the state's last set of lethal injection drugs had expired in September 2013 and that the state had no way of executing death-row inmates unless an inmate chose the electric chair. There are currently 44 inmates on death row in South Carolina.

Originally, counties administered the death penalty by hanging in South Carolina. The electric chair became available in 1912, and lethal injection became an option in 1995. Currently, convicts on death row are allowed to choose between lethal injection and electrocution, which are both carried out in the death chamber at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia. The state has carried out 282 executions since 1912, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections. All but 3 of the 39 executions since 1995 have been by lethal injection.

Putnam's bill comes as state governments nationwide deal with an ongoing shortage of drugs including sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic that is often used 1st in lethal-injection cocktails. The pharmaceutical company Hospira Inc., which was the only U.S. manufacturer or the drug, ceased production in January 2011 following pressure by worldwide opponents of the death penalty. The European Union banned the export of the drug for lethal injections the same year.

The most recent execution in South Carolina took place in May 2011. In that execution, for the 1st time, the state replaced sodium thiopental with pentobarbital as the 1st drug in a 3-drug process. The Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck announced in June 2011 that it would no longer sell pentobarbital for the purpose of executions, and states including Texas have since announced shortages of the drug.

Rep. Putnam says he introduced his bill because death by firing squad is "probably the most humane way [of execution], above even lethal injection and the electric chair." (As the Washington Post recently pointed out, some evidence suggests that death by firing squad could be quicker and less painful than lethal injection, particularly in cases where the injected drugs do not work as intended.)

Putnam's bill would authorize the Department of Corrections to "promulgate regulations related to procedures that must be followed in administering the death penalty by firing squad," but Putnam says he does intend to include a few procedures in the bill.

"What would happen is it would be 5 people, trained marksmen, the best and most precise marksmen within the state we have," Putnam says. "Four of their rifles would have blanks in them; only 1 rifle would have a live round. I'm sure it would be a very high-caliber type of rifle." Blank cartridges have traditionally been used in firing squads to prevent individual members of a firing squad from knowing whether they fired the fatal shot.

Putnam's bill, H. 4038, was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee today. Putnam is the only listed sponsor of the bill. Tyler Jones, spokesman for the S.C. House Democrats, has already come out against Putnam's bill. "Since Republicans are always in a time warp, we're wondering if Rep. Putnam will offer a death by guillotine option as well," Jones says.

Ron Kaz, a James Island resident and member of the advocacy group South Carolinians Abolishing the Death Penalty, says he was unaware of Putnam's proposal before it was introduced today.

"It's obviously unnecessary, and I'd like to think it's unlikely to go anywhere, but given the nature of some of the strange things that come out of our legislature, we'll never know for sure," Kaz says.

Putnam says he is not going to try to change anyone's mind on whether the death penalty is right or wrong.

"I know people that are against capital punishment altogether, and I understand where they come from, and I'm not trying to change their beliefs," Putnam says. "We currently have capital punishment on the books, we currently do capital punishment, and I'm trying to No. 1 find a solution to the problem the state faces right now, and also find a more human way of doing it."

(source: charlestoncitypaper.com)

USA:

The death penalty's destructive morality exposed: "We must overcome the impulse for vengeance" ---- Capital punishment supporters talk about victims' need for closure. So then why are many victims staunchly opposed?

On June 11, 2001, the federal government put Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to death. "Today, every living person who was hurt by the evil done in Oklahoma City can rest in the knowledge that there has been a reckoning," President George W. Bush declared.

Actually, some of McVeigh's victims can't rest in the knowledge that the government took his life. Ditto for the parents of an eight-year old killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, who have pleaded with federal authorities to spare the death penalty for convicted murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

You rarely hear voices like these amid the drumbeat for capital punishment, which stresses victims' psychological need for "closure" after losing a loved one. But if we listened more closely, we would see that the victims themselves - like Americans overall - are deeply divided on the issue. And we'd question why 1 victim's wish for a killer to die should take precedence over another's desire to see him live.

Victims' suffering and loss lay at the heart of the death-penalty argument in the Oklahoma City attack, which marked its 20th anniversary last Sunday. In the sentencing phase of McVeigh's trial, jurors heard testimony from 26 relatives of people who were killed in the attack plus 3 injured survivors. "There are 168 people, all unique, all individual," the prosecution declared, recounting the death toll. "All had families, all had friends, and they're different."

But the families differed about whether McVeigh should get the death penalty, too. Some said that death was too light a penalty for McVeigh, who would suffer more if he was forced to spend the rest of his days in prison. Others said that taking a life - even of someone as evil as McVeigh - was simply wrong.

Their leading voice was Bud Welch, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Julie in the bombing. During the first month after that, Welch recalled, he wanted McVeigh and his accomplices to be "fried." But then he remembered Julie's opposition to the death penalty, and started to campaign against it.

While Timothy McVeigh was strapped to a gurney in an Indiana prison, waiting for the lethal injection that killed him, Bud Welch was protesting outside. Since then, he has campaigned against capital punishment in 47 states; he has also continued to maintain a friendship with McVeigh's father, whom he met 3 years after the bombing. In short, fighting the death penalty has become Bud Welch's way of keeping his daughter's memory alive.

To be sure, most family members of the murdered Oklahoma City victims insisted that McVeigh should die, too. 10 of them watched his execution at the limited spectators' space in the prison; dozens of others viewed it back in Oklahoma via closed-circuit television, which was provided by federal authorities so that more victims could witness it.

But in Boston, a few days ago, Bill and Denise Richard marked the 2-year anniversary of that city's bombing by pleading for federal authorities to spare the life of the man who killed their 8-year-old son Martin. A death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would inevitably bring many years of appeals, the bereaved parents wrote, which would prolong rather than relieve their own suffering.

Then a newlywed couple who each lost limbs in the attack also asked prosecutors to take capital punishment off the table in sentencing trial of Tsarnaev. "In our darkest moments and deepest sadness, we think of inflicting the same types of harm on him," Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes admitted. "However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance."

So do we all. Executing Timothy McVeigh didn't avenge the 168 lives he destroyed; it simply destroyed another life, leaving 2 more parents grieving for their lost son.

Let's not make the same mistake with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His victims lost more than the rest of us can possibly understand. But don't pretend that killing Tsarnaev will bring them justice, if they say the opposite. There's no justice in that.

(source: Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education at New York University----salon.com)

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America's death row population is shrinking----Death row population falls since 2000

America's complicated, conflicted relationship with the death penalty is once more in the news, for a couple of reasons. First, the penalty phase for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began this week. Although Massachusetts abolished capital punishment in 1984, Tsarnaev is being tried in federal court, where the death penalty is still an option for more than 40 federal crimes. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Glossip v. Gross, in which 3 prisoners on Oklahoma's death row are challenging the constitutionality of that state’s three-drug execution protocol.

While a majority of Americans continue to favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder - 56%, according to a new Pew Research Center survey - far fewer people are receiving death sentences nowadays than in years past. As a result, fewer U.S. prisoners are facing the possibility of execution than at any time in the past 2 decades.

Though the number fluctuates almost daily, there are roughly 3,000 inmates on the nation's death rows. An annual report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics put the total death row population at 2,979 as of Dec. 31, 2013. (A quarterly reckoning by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund put the number at 3,019 as of Jan. 1, 2015, using somewhat different methodology.)

Either way, there are about 600 fewer prisoners now than there were at the end of 2000, when the total death row population peaked following steady growth since 1976 (when the Supreme Court effectively reinstated capital punishment).

Death Sentences Are Becoming RarerAbout the same time as public support for the death penalty began to fall, so did the number of newly imposed death sentences - slowly at first, then accelerating around the turn of the 21st century: From 2001 through 2013, an average of 126 prisoners were sent to death row each year. In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, just 83 inmates were sent to state and federal prisons under sentence of death, tied for the smallest number of death row admissions since 1973 (when there were 44). Also in 2013, 45 condemned prisoners had their sentences or convictions overturned; 39 were executed; and 31 died in prison from some other cause.

The 1990s, it turns out, were a high-water mark both in support for the death penalty (which peaked at 78% in 1996) and in imposing it: An average of 293 people entered death row each year from 1990 through 2000.

Most of the 32 death-penalty states have fewer people on their death rows now than they did in the peak year of 2000. The big exception is California, where dozens of convicted criminals have been sentenced to death in recent years (25 in 2013) but no one has been executed since 2006, when court rulings forbade the state from using its 3-drug lethal-injection protocol. According to the Los Angeles Times, as of last month 751 inmates were on California's death row, by far the most of any state; since the last execution, 49 of these inmates have died in prison of other causes. As the state's main death row facility at San Quentin State Prison nears capacity, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $3.2 million to make more cells available.

The other notable exception to the trend of smaller death rows: the federal government. In 2000, only 20 prisoners were facing federal death sentences. That figure has more than tripled since, to 62 as of the beginning of this year, according to the NAACP report.

Who's on death row? According to the BJS data, 56% of prisoners under sentence of death at the end of 2013 were white and 42% were black; 14% were of Hispanic origin. All but 56 were men. About 2/3 had at least 1 prior felony conviction, and 28% were on probation or parole at the time of their capital offense, though blacks and Hispanics were more likely to have been on probation or parole (31% and 32%, respectively) than whites (24%). On average, the inmates had spent 14.6 years on death row.

(source: Pew Research Center)

SOMALILAND:

Activist Who Questioned Executions Detained ---- Free, Drop Charges Against Prominent Rights Lawyer

Somaliland authorities on April 18, 2015, detained a prominent human rights activist, apparently for criticizing the government's execution of 6 prisoners, Human Rights Watch said today. Police arrested Guleid Ahmed Jama after he made statements on the radio denouncing the executions, the 1st in Somaliland in nearly a decade. The authorities should immediately release him and drop the charges against him.

Guleid, 29, is a lawyer and the chairman of the Human Rights Centre, one of Somaliland's few independent human rights monitoring organizations. He has been charged with "anti-national" propaganda and other crimes, and faces up to 6 years in prison or longer. Police initially held him in isolation and denied him contact with his family.

"Human rights activists shouldn't face prosecution for voicing their concerns," said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Every day that the authorities keep Guleid in jail is another day of setbacks for human rights in Somaliland."

The criminal charges against Guleid violate his right to free expression and appear intended to intimidate and silence criticism of the government, Human Rights Watch said.

Police arrested Guleid, on the order of a regional court judge, on the morning of April 18 as he was representing clients at the regional court in Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital. Police initially took him to the Central Investigation Department and then transferred him to Hargeisa's central police station.

Guleid's arrest came 2 days after the BBC Somali service broadcast an interview with him in which he criticized the government's April 13 execution of the six men, who had been convicted of murder. Guleid raised due process concerns in death penalty cases, particularly those handled before the military courts. He also called for judicial, police, and legislative reforms. The Regional Court judge who ordered his arrest questioned him about his interview comments, a source close to Guleid told Human Rights Watch.

The death sentences were the first carried out in Somaliland since 2006. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment.

On April 19, the state attorney contested the order of the Hargeisa Regional Court to release Guleid on bail. In a letter to the Regional Court of Appeal, he alleged that Guleid had committed a range of criminal offenses, including "anti-national" propaganda, intimidation of the public, and publication of false information. He also accused Guleid of running an unregistered human rights organization, even though the Human Rights Centre's registration was renewed as of January 1. The Court of Appeal suspended the lower court's release order.

On April 20, Guleid appeared before the Regional Court, which ordered his detention for another seven days and transferred him to Hargeisa Central Prison. Guleid's lawyers were able to meet with him there. An April 20 charge sheet lists as evidence to support the charges the comments made by Guleid in his BBC Somali service interview and the Human Rights Centre's December 2014 annual report.

Somaliland's independent human rights groups have faced obstruction from government authorities before. In 2007, under the previous government, the Somaliland Human Rights Organization Network was effectively dismantled after a leadership struggle that was characterized by overt government interference.

For years, Somaliland had no human rights monitoring organization. The Human Rights Centre was established in 2012. The current government has arrested journalists, particularly those reporting on corruption or on developments in the contested border regions of Sool and Sanaag, and harassed staff of popular newspapers. On April 21, 2015, Somaliland's national electoral commission announced that national elections would take place in June 2016.

In 1998, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that individuals and associations have the right "to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

"Somaliland's government should ensure there is space for dissenting views and public debate on critical issues of public concern, especially as elections draw near," Lefkow said. "The authorities need to recognize that organizations such as the Human Rights Centre are an asset to Somaliland, not a threat."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Indian beheaded in Saudi for murdering boss

Saudi Arabia beheaded 2 people for murder Wednesday, one of whom was from India, the interior ministry said.

Sajada Ansari, a shepherd, was convicted of robbing his Saudi boss as he slept and beating him to death with a hammer, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The other convict, Saudi Mater al-Rowaeeli, was condemned for shooting dead his ex-wife and 2 of their children.

Both executions were carried out in the kingdom's north.

They bring to 65 the number of beheadings by the sword this year in Saudi Arabia, a surge that compares with 87 death sentences in all of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Amnesty International's 2014 global report on the death penalty ranks Saudi Arabia among the top five executioners in the world.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment and says executing murderers aims "to maintain security and realise justice".

(source: Agence France-Presse)

PHILIPPINES:

Revisiting the death penalty for drug offenses

Not discounting the power of prayer, the execution of Filipina OFW Mary Jane Veloso seems inescapable considering that Indonesia has made a seriously hard stand to arrest its increasingly severe drug problem, and has vowed not to give in to international pressure in meting out its tough drug laws.

Despite this foreboding scenario, however, we join in supporting the optimistic view that the Indonesian court should reconsider its decision due to the merits of Veloso's statement of innocence that she did not knowingly agree to act as a courier, and that her recruiter underhandedly placed the drugs in her luggage. China has similarly done the same and several Filipinos have been executed due to drug related cases. Like Indonesia, it has also refused to listen to our government's appeals for clemency, underscoring the argument that it needed to enforce its laws to arrest the incidence of illegal drug trade in the country.

According to the latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs, about 787 Filipinos are facing drug-related cases around the world. There are 116 cases in the Americas, 104 in Europe and 244 in the Middle East and Africa, but the majority, 343 of which are in Asia. This reflects the seriousness and gravity of the illegal drug epidemic. Notwithstanding the merits of Veloso's case, we should emulate what these countries are doing to discourage the drug trade in their jurisdiction. While it is true that the death penalty did not entirely eradicate the drug problem in these countries, it has nevertheless offered a strong deterrence. In the Philippines, the severity of the drug epidemic can be readily surmised just by realizing that 60 % of our inmates are incarcerated due to drug related offenses. Further supporting this concern is the advisory given by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) under the section "Drug-related Crimes" in its "Philippines 2014 Crime and Safety Report": "Production, trafficking, and consumption of illegal drugs are issues of concern...Transnational organized crime groups both exploit under-staffed and under-resourced law enforcement and a weak judicial system to establish clandestine drug laboratories and import wholesale quantities of methamphetamine to supply the domestic market...Regionally, the Philippines is an identified source of methamphetamine for Guam and a transit point from Africa to Southeast Asia (emphasis mine)".

This cancer continues to grow and root itself in the very foundations of our society while simultaneously, boldly mocking the weight of our criminal justice system. Having said this, I strongly feel that we need to draw on both China and Indonesia's iron-hand approach to arrest this menace. Even in our own national experience, no one can deny the high deterrent psychological effect of the execution of Lim Seng during the Marcos administration when capital punishment was still being enforced in the Philippines. Lim Seng was a Chinese drug lord that was tried and sentenced to die by firing squad in December 1972. His execution was a good example which put terror in the hearts of other big-time pushers during the time.

The concept of capital punishment in the Philippine context has had a varied history. Many Filipinos oppose it due to religious and humanitarian arguments, while its proponents view it as an effective way of deterring crimes. Although I do not subscribe to the opinion that the death penalty is the only solution to the problem of the drug menace in our country, I am firmly convinced of the fact that its absence has emboldened many local and foreign operators and syndicates to perpetuate and broaden their activities here. As a result, many of our countrymen have directly and indirectly fallen victims to this scourge.

Indeed, the life of every individual is priceless and valuable, but we should not hesitate to choose the ruin of one to deter the ruin of greater populace.

(source: Commentary; Danilo Suarez----Manila Standard Today)

THAILAND:

Give graft court death penalty powers: Veera

The charter drafters have been urged to set up a corruption court empowered to give corrupt officials the death penalty if the damage to the state from their crimes exceeds Bt5 million.

Veera Somkwamkid, secretary-general of the People's Network against Corruption, made the suggestion in a letter submitted to Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Borwornsak Uwanno yesterday.

Veera said his long fight against graft made him realise that lax and ineffective laws caused anti-corruption efforts to fail. He proposed that corruption cases have no statute of limitations and a special court be set up to try them.

He said politicians convicted for corruption must be banned from politics for life and have all assets confiscated if their cases proceeded through three courts. Politicians or state officials convicted of corruption with less than Bt1 million must be jailed for 20 years, allowed no pardon, or have their sentences commuted, he said.

If damage to the state was above Bt1 million, they must be given a life-sentence without right of pardon. Veera said those convicted should also face civil suits, which force them to pay compensation - double the amount of damage to the state.

All political office holders must declare their assets to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. They must not run in elections for more than two consecutive terms, he proposed.

Veera also said that members of civic groups should declare their assets. Independent agencies in charge of corruption cases must finish graft probes within 1 year.

(source: The Nation)

ISRAEL:

Why Israeli courts refuse the death penalty for terrorists

If you ask Sara Kimchi, life in Israeli prison doesn't sound so bad.

"They have [a] good life," she says of the prisoners. "In the jail they have books, they have television, they have everything. They came skinny, they are going out like this - fat."

And that's why she's angry. Kimchi's husband was killed in a suicide bombing in 2002, and she doesn't want other attackers living what she considers the high life in jail. "It's not fair," she says.

Kimchi wants them put to death. And when I meet her at community center for Israelis whose relatives were killed in terrorist attacks, she's far from alone: She and all of the other volunteers, who are celebrating Kimchi's birthday, say they support the death penalty for terrorists. Every single one of them.

The death penalty is technically legal for such crimes in Israel. But the nation has held only 1 highly publicized execution - that of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who played a key role in the Holocaust. Eichmann was hanged in 1962.

The state has prosecuted Palestinian bombers for decades, but none has received the death sentence - though, ironically, Israeli law does permit targeted military assassinations of would-be Palestinian attackers if there's no other way to arrest them or foil their attack. And that's certainly happened many times.

And while many Palestinian attackers have gotten life sentences, many of them have also been freed. Hamas, for example, exchanged captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

That's one reason many bereaved Israelis support capital punishment - they don't trust that Israel will actually keep convicted killers behind bars. Another one hits even closer to home.

Abie Moses and scars from the burns he suffered in the 1987 firebomb attack that killed his wife and 5-year-old son.

"My [34-year-old] wife, she was pregnant, she died instantly - burned to death in front of the whole family," says Abie Moses, a volunteer at the center. His 5-year-old son also died in the attack, which took place in the late 80s.

Moses went on television, saying that he wanted the attacker to get the death penalty. Then he got a call from the prisoner's own mother. "She gave me a call saying if they touch my son, I am going to kill you. I am going to finish the job that he didn't," Moses says.

Emanuel Gross, an Israeli legal expert, says that's what worries Israelis. "If we are going to use the capital punishment, they will do it also. The other side, the terrorists." It's a catch-22: A death penalty could lead to retaliation, but a life sentence might not deter attackers because they know there's always a chance Israel could release them.

And even Moses says that while he still supports the death penalty in theory, he'd be open to keeping attackers alive - even the one who killed his wife and son. It's worth it, he says, if one day a prisoner exchange could really lead to a lasting peace.

(source: pri.org)

INDONESIA:

Cops nab 3, seize RM20,000 syabu

3 men, including an IMM13 card holder, are expected to face a drug trafficking charge that carries the mandatory death penalty after they were caught with about 200 grams of methamphetamine or syabu worth RM20,000 yesterday.

City police chief ACP M. Chandra said the suspects, in their 20s and 30s, were nabbed by police during an operation at a car park at Bandaran Berjaya here around 1.45pm.

"Police received a tip-off of a drug activity in the area and immediately deployed a team of narcotics police to the scene.

"As police arrived, they spotted a Nissan Navara vehicle which tried to speed off but rammed into a garbage bin.

"The suspects then tried to escape by exiting through the driver's side window but were apprehended by the police," he said yesterday.

Chandra said police investigation found four plastic packets of crystal-like substance believed to be Methamphetamine or syabu weighing around 200 grams and worth RM200,000.

However, he said preliminary urine tests of the suspects, who were from Sandakan, Inanam and Kota Marudu, came back negative of any drug abuse.

The suspects have been remanded for investigation under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952, which carries the death penalty on conviction.

(source: The Borneo Post)

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'New evidence' in death row Filipina case

Lawyers for a Filipina scheduled to be executed alongside two Australians are racing to file a new appeal, this time arguing she was a victim of human trafficking.

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, 30, says she was tricked into travelling to Indonesia with 2.6kg of heroin in 2010 by a woman who promised her work as a domestic helper.

Her 1st bid for a Supreme Court judicial review, which pointed out the fact she had no qualified Tagalog translator at her trial, was rejected.

Indonesia has been waiting for this week's Asian African Conference to close before announcing an execution date for Veloso, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, and 7 others.

It has also been waiting for all 10 prisoners to exhaust their legal appeals, and all but 1 - Indonesian Zainal Abidin - has.

Lawyers for the Bali 9 pair have lodged a challenge in the constitutional court but the attorney-general says he won't recognise it.

Philippine lawyers and advocates have joined Veloso's Indonesian legal team, and will apply for another judicial review on Monday.

Lawyer Edre Olalia says documents for the appeal are being urgently translated.

They include a new interview from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency with Veloso.

Other prisoners have been denied judicial reviews because no new information was put forward, but Mr Olalia says he doesn't want to give false hope.

"The question of her being a victim of trafficking was never raised in the first application, so in that sense it's new," he told reporters.

"There are no guarantees.

"Even if we file a 2nd judicial review and even if the new grounds are very solid and convincing, and even if the new angle of human trafficking, vis-a-vis drug trafficking is included ... we have to manage our expectations."

Mr Olalia was in Jakarta on Wednesday to pursue the case along with Veloso's father Cesar and sister Marites.

Other family members, including Veloso's sons, aged 6 and 12, will follow on Thursday if they get permission to visit their mother in her central Java jail.

Of the 10 prisoners slated for execution, she is the only 1 yet to be moved to Nusakambangan Island, where Chan and Sukumaran are in semi-isolation.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay met with his counterpart, Jusuf Kalla, and Indonesian Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly in Jakarta on Wednesday, where he was expected to make a plea for Veloso's life.

(source: The Australian)

OMAN:

Death penalty introduced for drug offenders in Oman ---- Efforts to combat drug abuse intensify due to increasing number of abusers in the country

For the 1st time, Oman may introduce the death penalty against drug traffickers in an effort to curb the drug menace that affects many youths.

The decision highlights the increased threat that drug crimes pose on society, since Oman halted the death penalty in 2004.

Under the new Combating Narcotics and Pyschotropic Law, 10 out of the 72 articles, introduce stiff penalties for drug peddlers.

Article 43 of the amended law introduces the death penalty or life sentences for dealers and fines of up to OMR 25,000. It also stipulates the death penalty for anyone who has a connection with international gangs for drug trafficking.

Article 56 says anyone who assaults a drug enforcement officer can face up to ten years in prison and will be fined up to OMR 3,000. A life sentence could be implemented if the assault permanently disables the officer and a death sentence can be issued if the officer is killed.

The new law will be raised soon to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for final approval.

Observers say that such a stiffening of punishments will help to decrease the number of drug cases in Oman.

Ahmad Al Hinai, a social worker, told Gulf News that introducing that will be a deterrent for drug dealers and will think twice before committing such crime.

Regarding the drug cases among Omani youth, Al Hinai said that there is an increase in the number of young Omani women who drug addicts, compared to the past 5 years.

A governmental source told Gulf News that the number of drug cases increases more than ten per cent every year.

The government is building more rehab centres across the country to accommodate the rising number of drug cases. Milions of Omani riyals have been spent in treating drug abusers in the the country.

Oman's long coastline and proximity to drug producing countries poses a big challenge to the country. An official with the Royal Oman Police told Gulf News that the majority of those arrested for drug related offenses are expatriates.

Heroin is the number one drug seized by the ROP.

(source: Gulf News)

MISSISSIPPI:

State Fights Execution Drug Disclosure While Compensating Wrongfully Convicted

At the same time the State of Mississippi continues fighting the release of details about where it gets drugs used in executions, Mississippi taxpayers will have to compensate people wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, including several who were sentenced to death.

Last week, a lawyer for Richard Jordan and Ricky Chase wrote in a lawsuit filed in United States District Court in Jackson that Mississippi prisoners face risks of excruciating pain and torture during an execution that violates the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

A prison spokeswoman declined to comment.

Mississippi plans to execute prisoners by mixing pentobarbital from ingredients it purchased from a compounding pharmacy in Grenada. Lawyer Jim Craig said Mississippi doesn't seem to have ever used the drug in an execution before and questioned whether the state can mix a safe and effective anesthetic for prisoners.

Even if it can, Craig warns that the drug may act more slowly than drugs used previously, meaning that prisoners could be conscious as a paralyzing agent is injected, causing them to know they're unable to breathe. They might remain conscious as potassium chloride is injected to stop their hearts.

"The defendants' untried and untested drugs create a substantial risk that plaintiffs will suffer unnecessary and excruciating pain, either by injection of the compounded pentobarbital causing a painful reaction itself, or by the compounded pentobarbital failing to work, resulting in a torturous death by live suffocation and cardiac arrest," the suit states.

The prisoners also allege using pentobarbital is illegal under state law, because it doesn't meet the legal mandate for an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate. Mississippi formerly used a different drug, but the supplier cut off use in executions.

"Craig has fought the state corrections department in court seeking information about Mississippi's suppliers of execution drugs. The new lawsuit argues that the secrecy is a separate constitutional violation, because it retards prisoners' ability to mount Eighth Amendment challenges.

"Under the due process clauses of the United States and Mississippi constitutions, plaintiffs are entitled to notice of the defendants' intended method of execution," the suit states.

Craig argues that under evolving standards of decency, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate should bar Mississippi from using the paralytic agent and potassium chloride, though state law requires them. He said executing people using only barbiturates, as Texas now does, could meet these standards.

Jordan was convicted of capital murder committed in the course of kidnapping Edwina Marta in Harrison County in 1976. At 68, Jordan is the oldest inmate on Mississippi's death row, having won 3 successful appeals, only to be resentenced to death. He's also the longest serving death-row inmate, having spent 38 years there. What would likely be Jordan's final appeal is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hood's office could ask the state Supreme Court to set an execution date within weeks if Jordan's appeal is refused. That's important, because Mississippi's current supply of pentobarbital is supposed to expire May 20.

Chase was convicted and sentenced to death in 1990 for the 1989 killing of an elderly vegetable salesman in Copiah County.

Information from the Death Penalty Information Center estimates that the death penalty costs states approximately $1.26 million per case; on average, it costs $90,000 per year more to house a death-row inmate than a prisoner in the general population.

As DNA science improves, and courts exonerate more and more people, states have also started paying settlements to victims. Among them are more than a dozen people who the state of Mississippi will compensate this year for being wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Some of the cases made headlines: Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, both of Noxubee County; Arthur Johnson of Sunflower County; and Cedric Willis of Hinds County.

Some are getting compensation for the first time. Others are receiving annual installments as provided by law.

Mississippi law provides $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, up to a maximum of $500,000. The compensation must be sought within three years after a pardon or overturned conviction. It is retroactive. A stipulation for accepting the money is that the wrongly convicted person can't sue the state.

Mississippi's compensation program went into effect on July 1, 2009. That same year, a new law took effect requiring the state Crime Lab or local law enforcement agencies to preserve biological or DNA evidence gathered in felony investigations. Many law enforcement agencies across the state gather DNA during investigations, but the samples weren't always preserved.

The new laws were inspired, in part, by the 2008 exoneration of Kennedy Brewer, who had been convicted of capital murder in the 1992 rape and strangulation of his former girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. Brewer spent 15 years in prison, part of it on death row. DNA tests proved his innocence in February 2008.

Brooks served 18 years for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl. Johnson was convicted of a 1993 rape and sentenced to 55 years. He served 16 years. Willis was convicted in 1997 in the death of Carl White Jr., and for robbing White's wife and daughter. He was sentenced to life plus 99 years but was exonerated in 2006 after serving 12 years. In 2012, the city of Jackson City Council authorized a $195,000 settlement with Willis for his wrongful arrest but denied culpability.

Each will receive $50,000 this year as provided in Senate Bill 2837, which is a catch-all bill of deficit appropriations and additional spending authority to a variety of agencies and programs. Also in the bill are funds the attorney general's office requested to pay for outside legal assistance, expert witness fees, judgments and settlement agreements.

Others receiving compensation in the bill are:

-- Sabrina Butler Porter, exonerated in the death of infant son in Lowndes County, $50,000

-- Rodney Demetrius Sands, whose Jefferson Davis County conviction in the fatal shooting of 2 men was overturned, $39,998.

-- Larry Ruffin, Bobby Ray Dixon and Phillip Bivens, exonerated in a rape and capital-murder case in Forrest County, $50,000 each. Money for Ruffin and Bivens is going to their estates.

-- John Randall Alexander, whose Panola County murder conviction was tossed after testimony against him was recanted, $50,000.

-- Matthew Norwood, whose Hinds County carjacking conviction was overturned, $50,000.

-- Jimmie Bass, whose Bolivar County aggravated assault and armed robbery convictions were thrown out, $50,000.

-- Frank Sanders Tipton, whose Jackson County extortion conviction was overturned, $50,000.

-- Derrick Luckett, whose Rankin County embezzlement conviction was overturned, $20,000.

(source: Jackson Free Press)

KANSAS:

Death penalty opponents to rally Thursday around 'Tree of Healing'----Tree planted 21 years ago when Kansas restored death penalty

A coalition of death penalty opponents will rally Thursday evening at a Topeka site established 21 years ago when Kansas restored its death penalty law.

The 6 p.m. rally will observe the anniversary of the "Tree of Healing," a cottonwood planted on April 23, 1994, at 1176 S.W. Warren. The tree symbolizes the nonviolent efforts of 2 groups, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, to oppose state-sponsored executions, organizers of the event scheduled at the tree site said in a news release.

Kansas last carried out an execution in 1965, but currently has prison inmates who have received death sentences.

(source: The Capital-Journal)

OKLAHOMA:

New Law May Bring Controversial Form Of Capital Punishment To Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma isn't about to let something like a Supreme Court decision prevent it from executing inmates.

On Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) signed legislation establishing that death row inmates will be asphyxiated with nitrogen gas if the state is unable to obtain lethal injection drugs or if the Supreme Court strikes down that method of execution. The bill responds to 2 developments that currently stand between the state and its desire to kill several inmates - a shortage of execution drugs and a Supreme Court case that could potentially limit the kinds of drugs Oklahoma may use in executions.

The shortage arises largely from opposition to the death penalty among drug manufacturers and foreign governments. Many pharmaceutical companies, especially European and Asian companies that have historically made drugs used in executions, refuse to distribute their products if they will be used to kill inmates. Meanwhile, foreign bodies such as the European Commission imposed tight restrictions on the export of many drugs that can be used in executions. As a result, many states have turned to less-reliable drugs - or to drugs produced through unreliable methods - in order to carry out executions.

That's why the Supreme Court is now involved. Earlier this year, the Court agreed to hear three Oklahoma inmates' cases challenging the state's plan to use a drug called midazolam during their execution. Oklahoma, like many states, uses a 3-drug protocol in its executions - an anesthetic to ensure that the inmate does not feel pain, a paralytic and then a 3rd drug that actually kills the inmate. The state intends to use midazolam as the 1st part of this protocol, but it is not at all clear that the drug is effective when used for this purpose. Rather, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in a dissenting opinion last January, research indicates that midazolam has a "ceiling effect" - it is effective as a pain-killer up to a certain point but higher doses beyond that point do not increase its effectiveness.

Yet, while the Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's use of this drug, there are 2 reasons to suspect that a majority of the Court will ultimately hold that it is acceptable to use midazolam in executions despite concerns that it may not adequately dull inmates' pain. The 1st is that, while the Court did agree to hear 3 inmates' cases, there were actually 4 inmates who petitioned the Court. The justices allowed that 4th inmate, Charles Warner, to be executed before they ultimately took the remaining 3 cases and stayed those executions - although the Court's 4 more liberal members did dissent from the decision to allow Warner to die.

Simply put, the fact that the justices permitted Oklahoma to kill Warner is not a hopeful sign that a majority of the Court viewed his execution as constitutionally doubtful.

The other sign that the Court may not strike down Oklahoma's execution protocol is a 2008 decision called Baze v. Rees. Baze involved a challenge to a somewhat different execution protocol used by the state of Kentucky prior to the execution drug shortages. Though the legal issues presented by Baze are somewhat distinct from the issues presented by the Oklahoma case, it is worth noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes votes with the Court's left-of-center bloc on death penalty cases, did not crossover in Baze. This suggests that Kennedy may be less sympathetic to challenges to a state's method of execution than he is to challenges alleging that certain classes of people - such as juvenile offenders or the intellectually disabled - may not be executed.

In any event, the law Fallin signed on Friday will likely permit the state to move forward with the 3 inmates' executions regardless of how the justices rule.

(source: thinkprogress.org)

NEBRASKA:

Flaws in death penalty

The death penalty should be repealed for several reasons ("Death penalty repeal passes first round," April 16). The first is that since 1970, 150 people on death row have been exonerated before they were put to death. That begs the question, how many innocent people do we accidentally put to death? Even one is unconscionable. To be convicted, someone has to be "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," but the standards must be higher for the death penalty. To get the penalty of death someone must be guilty beyond any doubt and that is hard to prove.

Death penalty cases go through many appeals and it takes years to carry out the penalty. It is more expensive for the state to carry out a death penalty decision than a life in prison decision. At the hearing for this bill, several loved ones of victims came forward to support the repeal of the death penalty because death penalty decisions have caused them to go through years and years of trauma as the case goes through years and years of appeals. They said that a life in prison decision would at least give them closure.

The most important factors in whether or not someone gets the death penalty is the quality of their representation, the color of their skin, and the color of their victim's skin. African Americans are much more likely to get the death penalty than are white Americans. This points to a broken justice system that is given the power to determine whether someone lives or dies.

Nebraska senators, the death penalty is just a bad law. Get rid of it and don't let the fact that you don't like Ernie Chambers, who proposed the bill, get in the way of making a good decision.

Gwendolen Hines, Lincoln

(source: Letter to the Editor, Lincoln Journal Star)

NIGERIA:

Nigeria court dismisses challenge to 'child bride' murder case.

A Nigerian court on Tuesday rejected a motion to have murder charges against a child bride accused of killing her husband dismissed, saying there was enough evidence for the case to proceed.

Wasila Tasi'u was 14 when she married Umar Sani, 35, in Nigeria's deeply conservative, mainly Muslim north last year, and could face the death penalty if convicted of using rat poison to kill him.

"I am of the opinion that there is a case against the accused," High Court Judge Mohammed Yahaya said. "As such, I overrule the submission of no-case from the defence counsel."

Tasi'u's lawyers had argued that the state failed to establish her intent to kill Sani and questioned the reliability of a key prosecution witness.

The witness, a 7-year-old girl named Hamziyya who was identified as the sister of Sani's other wife, testified that Tasi'u gave her money to buy the poison on April 5 last year, the day Sani died.

The defence said that relying on testimony from a minor contravened Nigeria's Evidence Act and that the state's case should therefore be thrown out.

The murder trial has highlighted the range of attitudes towards child marriage in Nigeria, especially in the impoverished north.

The families of both the deceased and the accused have rejected claims that she was forced to marry a man more than twice her age, noting that 14 was an appropriate age to marry and that Tasi'u chose Sani from a range of suitors.

Some locals have called for Tasi'u to face stiff punishment to discourage other girls from taking similar action if they become unhappy in their marriage.

But rights activists have demanded that Tasi'u be rehabilitated as a victim of a forced marriage, which likely included incidents of rape.

Laws regarding both sexual and marital consent are complex in northern Nigeria, given the coexistence of both secular and Islamic law, creating contradictions in the justice system.

Tasi'u has remained largely stoic through her appearances in court so far, crying when charges were first read against her, but otherwise sitting silently, often with her head bowed.

On Tuesday she stood quietly in the dock, with her head fully covered in a sky-blue hijab.

Sani died after eating food that Tasi'u allegedly prepared for a meal to celebrate their marriage. 3 others who reportedly ate the food also died, but prosecutors have combined the 3 deaths into a single murder charge.

The state has concluded its case and following Tuesday's ruling the defence was instructed to move forward with its own evidence when the trial resumes on April 29.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

BELARUS:

Samoseiko: Belarus interested in acceding to more Council of Europe conventions

Belarus would like to accede to more conventions of the Council of Europe, chairman of the permanent commission on international affairs of the House of Representatives Nikolai Samoseiko said at the hearing on Belarus in the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy on 21 April, BelTA has learned.

"The Republic of Belarus is interested in further accession to the conventions of the Council of Europe, particularly in criminal law. The inter-parliamentary dialogue, frank and constructive discussion of the issues of mutual interest is important in this respect,” the MP said.

Nikolai Samoseiko noted that the number of the legal instruments of the Council of Europe, to which Belarus has acceded, is gradually increasing. Belarus has already joined 13 documents. The MP recalled that Belarus was the first among the countries non-members of the Council of Europe to accede to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons in March 2014. In December of the same year, it ratified the additional protocol to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.

Belarus also welcomes the decision of the Council of Europe to invite the country to join the Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products. "At the same time I would like to express my regret at the refusal of the Council of Europe to allow Belarus to accede to the conventions on cybercrime, on the conservation of the architectural heritage, on the convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Such decisions of the Council of Europe and its countries do not encourage Belarus and pushes it away from the process of harmonization of the national legislation with the standards of the Council of Europe," Nikolai Samoseiko said.

The Mp added: "We are open for the discussion of such difficult issue as the abolition of the death penalty. We are aware of the importance of this topic for the Council of Europe."

In response to the questions from other participants of the meeting, Nikolai Samoseiko said: "I would like to remind you that both the Constitution and the Penal Code of Belarus read that the death penalty in the Republic of Belarus is awarded for the gravest crimes connected with the assault on human life. They also provide for the cancellation of the death penalty in the future. In other words, the death penalty will be abolished in Belarus no doubt, but let's say this is a matter of time."

According to Nikolai Samoseiko for this issue to get positive traction in the future, Belarus counts on PACE's support.

The MP also said that Minsk is planning to hold a roundtable or a conference (format has yet to be determined) on the death penalty. As expected, PACE representatives will be invited to attend the event.

(source: Belarusian News)

INDONESIA:

Govt to give donation to executed woman's family

A delegation from the Manpower Ministry and the Association of Labor Export Companies (Apjati) will make a visit to the family of Karni binti Medi Tarsim, an Indonesian migrant worker who was executed last Thursday in Saudi Arabia for murdering her employer.

The director general for overseas labor placement and protection affairs at the ministry, Reyna Usman, said she would lead a delegation representing the government and labor supplying companies to visit Karni's family in Brebes, Central Java, on Saturday. "The government will provide a donation to express its solidarity to Karni and simultaneously call on locals not to send unqualified workers to work overseas," she told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Apjati chairman Ayub Basalamah said his side would donate Rp 10 billion to Karni's family and provide scholarships for elementary and secondary education for her only son.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

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

Indonesian court rejects death row Ghanaian's appeal----Martin Anderson's request for a judicial review was rejected on Tuesday, the same day the court dismissed an appeal by Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman on death row.

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a Ghanaian on death row, an official said Wednesday (Apr 22), one of several foreign drug convicts expected to face the firing squad soon.

Martin Anderson's request for a judicial review was rejected on Tuesday, the same day the court dismissed an appeal by Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman on death row, said a spokesman for the attorney-general's office. Death row convicts can pursue appeals in other courts - and several in the group facing execution are doing so - but they are seen as having little chance of success, and authorities say such efforts simply amount to condemned prisoners seeking to buy time.

"I give 2 thumbs up to the Supreme Court's decision," said spokesman Tony Spontana, referring to the rejection of Atlaoui's and Anderson's appeals. Spontana said he hoped they would not try any other "manoeuvres" to avoid their impending execution.

There is now only one convict, an Indonesian, in the group of drug offenders who still has an appeal outstanding at the Supreme Court, said Spontana, adding he hoped the legal bid would be rejected this week. He said authorities would wait until a gathering of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta finishes on Friday before setting a date for the executions.

Jakarta originally said the group of 10, including 9 foreigners, would be put to death by firing squad at the same time in February, but following an international outcry it was agreed to let outstanding legal appeals run their course. The group includes 2 high-profile Australian inmates and nationals from the Philippines, Brazil and Nigeria.

All the convicts recently lost appeals for presidential clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad. If executed, Atlaoui would be the first French citizen to be put to death anywhere in the world for almost 40 years.

Foreign countries have been heaping pressure on Jakarta to change course on the executions but President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty.

(source: Channel News Asia)

MALAYSIA:

Mexican brothers in last-ditch effort to avoid Malaysian death penalty

3 Mexican brothers who were sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug trafficking in 2012 will have a final court hearing on Thursday in their bid to avoid the hangman's noose. Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the men have "exhausted all their legal options", except for a last appeal before Malaysia's highest court, which will hear defence arguments.

Luis Alfonso, Simon and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal were arrested in March 2008 at a factory in southern Malaysia where police found 30 kilograms of methamphetamine and equipment to make drugs.

The siblings - 2 are in their 30s and 1 is in his 40s - insist they were merely working as a clean-up crew and were unaware that drugs were being made in the factory.

Drug trafficking carries a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction in Malaysia. They were sentenced in May 2012 and the ruling was ratified a year later.

The Mexican foreign ministry said it has "repeatedly expressed (to Malaysian authorities) Mexico's position against capital punishment".

The brothers are from Culiacan, capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, which is known as the bastion of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

(source: The Malaysian Inisder)

BANGLADESH:

Death for acid-thrower

A man has been sentenced to death at Rangpur for throwing acid at a school girl.

Rangpur District and Sessions Judge Manjurul Basid handed maximum penalty to Ariful Islam on Wednesday while his 2 associates Alal Miah and Dulal Hossain got life sentences.

Masuda Akhter was left blinded after the attack on the night of Aug 13, 2012.

She was a 9th-grader who lived in Dakkshin Babukha.

Each convicts have been fined Tk 100,000. The court has ordered the money to be given to the victim.

2 more accused, 'Arefin and Rasel', have been acquitted.

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

'Self-confessed' serial killer Rasu Khan gets death penalty for 2008 Shahida Begum murder

The court of Chandpur's Additional District and Sessions Judge Arunav Chakravarty delivered the verdict on the 2008 murder on Wednesday.

Khan has been also fined Tk 50,000, said Additional Public Prosecutor Md Saidul Islam Babul.

In a separate charge, he has been sentenced to 8 years in prison and fined Tk 10,000.

On Aug 18, 2008, Khan had raped Shahida Begum, who hailed from Khulna, before killing her at Chandpur's Faridganj.

Police had found the body with hands and legs tied.

The then Chandpur Model Police SI Nazrul Islam filed a case accusing unidentified assailants. The final report was given later on since police could not make any headway.

Nearly a year later, on July 20, 2009, Khan was arrested by Faridganj police for theft of a fan from Nirashpur Mosque in Tongi.

Police then started unravelling 1 murder after another and Khan was accused of murder of 11 women.

In a confession before Chandpur's Judicial Magistrate Amirul Islam, Khan described how he executed the murders. He said he started his killing spree after 'failing in love'.

He would charm and lure mostly garment workers and bring them to Chandpur. He raped the women he found attractive before killing them. The others would die straightaway.

The serial killer said in his confession that he targeted to kill 101 women and then spend the rest of his life as an ascetic in a Sylhet shrine.

After Khan admitted to killing Shahida, the case was reopened and proceedings started against him.

The hearing in the 8-year-old case ended last Monday and verdict was given 2 days later.

Additional Public Prosecutor Saidul Islam said, "We are satisfied with the verdict. Serial killer Rasu Khan has got what he deserved getting after a long time."

Noymul Islam, who was assigned as Khan's defence lawyer, said whether proper judgment had been delivered will be decided at the High Court. "This is an initial sentencing."

(source for both: bdnews24.com)

PAKISTAN----executions

Pakistan hangs 4 death row convicts in Punjab

4 death row prisoners were executed in Pakistan early Wednesday morning, ARY News reported.

Lahore, Sahiwal and Bahawalpur cities of Punjab province of Pakistan saw 4 hangings as four death row convicts namely Zahid Hussain, Nazeer Ahmed, Rizwan and Moazzam Khan were executed.

Zahid Hussain was sent to the gallows in Central Jail Sahiwal. He was convicted of killing a police officer Fida Hussain back in the year 2000.

Bahawalpur Jail had convict Nazeer Ahmed hanged to death. Ahmed killed a citizen named Mushtaq over a property dispute.

2 convicts were executed in Lahore city's Kot Lakhpat prison on murder charges

Rizwan was executed for murdering 6 people including Seth Abid's son in 2006. The other convict Moazzam Khan was convicted of killing a man named Nasir Iqbal in 1995.

Pakistan lifted the moratorium on death penalty on Dec. 17, a day after Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked Army Public School in Peshawar and killed 134 students and 19 adults.

The moratorium, in force since 2008, was initially lifted only in terrorism cases. But the government extended the order in March, directing provincial governments to proceed with hangings for all death row prisoners who have exhausted their appeals and clemency petitions.

(source: arynews.com)

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

Pakistan hangs 21 convicts in 2 days

A day after 17 condemned prisoners were hanged in various jails in Pakistan, marking the highest number of executions in the country since the lifting of the moratorium on capital punishment in December last, 4 more convicts were sent to the gallows on Wednesday.

4 condemned prisoners were hanged to death on Wednesday across Punjab, The News International reported.

2 death row prisoners were sent to the gallows for murder at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore.

Besides, a convict each was hanged for murder in New Central jail Bahawalpur and Sahiwal Central Jail, respectively.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10. Initially, the moratorium was lifted and executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar in which more than 140 people, mostly children, were killed.

The latest executions on Wednesday took the toll of hanged convicts to at least 85.

The UN, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to reimpose the moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: IANS)

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

UN rights experts welcome Pakistan Supreme Court decision to suspend death penalty

A group of United Nations independent experts today welcomed a recent decision made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to suspend death sentences imposed by military courts.

In a statement released today by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the experts said they had previously expressed concern at an earlier decision by Pakistan to rescind its unofficial six-year moratorium on the death penalty for non-military personnel in terrorism-related cases.

"Terrorism attacks should not prevent States from complying with the stringent requirements of international law for the imposition of the death penalty,” the independent experts noted.

International law requires that the death penalty may be imposed only in the context of a stringent functioning of the law and order system, so as to ensure the highest respect of due process and fair trial guarantees for the defendants.

"Only full respect of these guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from an arbitrary execution," the experts stressed. “The administration of justice through military tribunals raises serious questions, particularly in terms of access to justice, independence and impartiality of the court, and respect for the fair trial rights of the accused."

The experts, known as Special Rapporteurs are part of the 'Special Procedures' of the Human Rights Council, which is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Among the experts, who work on an individual, voluntary, unpaid basis and are not UN staff, were the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and on the independence of judges and lawyers. The Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Chair of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearance were also part of the team.

They said that using military tribunals to try civilians in the name of national security, a state of emergency or counter-terrorism, runs against all relevant international and regional human rights standards and established case law.

"Military tribunals should have jurisdiction only over military personnel who commit military offences or breaches of military discipline," they said. "And then only when those offences or breaches do not amount to serious human rights violations, and they should never have the power to impose the death penalty."

They stressed that they had repeatedly called on States to assess whether the use of the death penalty is compatible with the right to life, as well as the inherent dignity of the human person, and to consider if the severe mental and physical pain or suffering it causes could constitute a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture.

"We hope that the decision of the Supreme Court will provide an opportunity for all relevant actors in Pakistan to pursue a critically important dialogue aiming to address the questions relating to the legality of military tribunals, and the use of the death penalty, in line with Pakistan's international human rights obligations," the experts said, stressing that ensuring a safe environment for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other members of the justice system is of fundamental importance.

(source: UN News Centre)

IRAN----executions

4 prisoners hanged in northwestern city

The Iranian regime's henchmen in a prison in the northwestern city of Orumiyeh hanged at least 4 inmates on Monday.

The executions were carried out despite protest by the members of families of the prisoners who had gathered outside the prison from Sunday. The angry protesters clashed with guards as they tried to enter the prison to prevent the execution of their loved ones.

The latest reports from Iran reveals that at least 81 prisoner have been hanged in Iran from 12 to 18th of April reached 81.

A group of 12 prisoners were hanged collectively in Mashhad on April 16. Other 4 were executed in Birjand on April 17.

Based on this figures on the average 12 prisoners have been hanged each day in a 7 day period.

(source: NCR-Iran)

APRIL 21, 2015:

USA:

Small band of death penalty opponents rally to spare Tsarnaev's life

Through snow, rain and occasional hecklers, Joe Kebartas stood outside the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse and protested against the death penalty.

Often he stood outside the federal court alone.

Today, before the opening arguments in the death penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's terrorism trial, 12 other protestors stood with Kebartas with a variety of signs urging jurors to spare the Boston Marathon bomber's life.

"It's been great. We've had a big turnout today and we've galvanized in force agains the death penalty," said Kebartas, a retired veteran who lives in South Boston. "It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope we influenced the jury to spare his life. If so, we will be victorious."

Kebartas said passersby would occasionally walk by and yell "Fry him!" referring to Tsarnaev, who on April 8 was found guilty on all 30 counts he faced. Sometimes people would tell him to put up the money to keep Tsarnaev alive - for the rest of his life - in federal prison.

"Other than that, I've had a lot of thumbs up," he said. "There has been more positive than negative reactions to my signs against the death penalty. It's Massachusetts - there's more people against it than for it."

Kebartas outlasted the Tsarnaev supporters, who had conjured up conspiracy theories about the 2013 twin bombings. He said they were only there for a few days, and for the most part they didn't interact with him or other protestors who joined him.

Tsarnaev's defense team, which will spend the next few weeks trying to save their client's life, would walk by and "give me a smile," Kebartas said.

"It was encouraging for me," he said. "It was a positive experience for me, and I'm glad I did it. If I wasn't out here, there would be no one."

Cornelia Sullivan, of Boston, and Amy Hendrickson, of Brookline, who started leafletting alongside Kebartas last week, said the experience has been important and hope jurors are paying attention.

"We're trying to persuade people not to kill the guy. I don't know if we will be able to, but we feel it is our moral duty to do this," said Hendrickson. "This just extends the chain of violence. It dehumanizes people."

(source: Boston Herald)

CHINA:

2 sentenced to death for drug trafficking in NW China

2 people were sentenced to death in the northwest province of Shaanxi on Monday for trafficking and selling narcotics, while 3 others received the death sentence with reprieve, said local authorities.

The Intermediate People's Court in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi, heard that Song Nanyan hired Chen Jin to transport 7.96 kilograms of methamphetamine from the southern province of Guangdong to Xi'an. They also found 1.17 kilograms of Ketamine in Song's hotel room.

The court sentenced Song to death, while it ruled Chen should be sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve.

In a separate case, Wang Hui was found guilty of trafficking and selling 1.44 kilograms of methamphetamine and received the death penalty. 2 accessory offenders, Zhang Le and Zhang Zheng, were sentenced to death with reprieve.

(source: Xinhua News Agency)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan's execution surge carries hard-line message for foreign leaders

At least 17 prisoners were executed in Pakistan on Tuesday in an apparent effort to show visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping that the country is serious about improving public safety.

The prisoners were hanged in jails across Pakistan as Xi was in Islamabad to announce a $46 billion aid and development package for the energy-starved and cash-poor country.

In December, the government lifted a 6-year-old moratorium on capital punishment after the Pakistani Taliban slaughtered about 150 teachers and students at an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar. But while the threat of terrorism was initially cited as the reason for lifting the moratorium, Pakistan is now executing prisoners for a host of other violent crimes.

Several of the prisoners executed Tuesday had been convicted of rape, while others had committed murders that do not appear to be linked to Islamist militant groups.

Pakistan is now executing prisoners at such a pace that public safety officials said Tuesday that they had lost track of how many had been killed since late December. As of late March, however, the Interior Ministry estimated that 61 executions have been carried out since the moratorium was lifted.

And death row appears to be more active when a foreign dignitary is visiting the capital.

In January, when Secretary State of John F. Kerry made a two-day visit here, Pakistan hanged 7 prisoners in 1 day. Last month, as Pakistan was preparing to welcome the emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, it executed 12 people in 1 day.

The 17 executions on Tuesday occurred shortly before Xi addressed a joint session of Parliament.

Xi said his visit showed that "no one can destroy" the historical ties between the 2 countries.

On Monday, Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finalized a deal for massive new Chinese investment in highways, energy projects and maritime research in Pakistan.

But the full implementation of that deal, including a highway that will link China to the Arabian Sea, could depend on whether Pakistan can dislodge terrorist groups from their havens here.

For years, Chinese leaders have been urging Pakistan to crack down on militants who they suspect have ties to Muslim separatists in northwestern China. There also have been concerns about Pakistan's ability to ensure the safety of Chinese engineers and project managers working in the country.

After meeting with Xi, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain said the army will assign 10,000 soldiers to oversee security for Chinese workers in the country.

In his speech to Parliament, however, Xi praised the Pakistani military for its ongoing operation against Islamist extremists in the country's northwestern tribal areas.

"It has made tremendous efforts and endured enormous sacrifices," Xi said. "Pakistan is the front-line state which is battling terrorism."

But human rights activists and some Pakistani legal scholars are increasingly alarmed by Pakistan's push to execute those on death row.

Last week, the Supreme Court blocked the planned executions of 6 prisoners convicted in newly created military courts. The plaintiffs had argued that the sentences had been handed down out of public view and without an opportunity for an appeal.

Late last month, Pakistan's Interior Ministry issued a 30-day reprieve for a prisoner whose scheduled execution generated international outrage. Shafqat Hussain had been convicting of kidnapping a 7-year-old boy in 2004. His family and attorneys say Hussain was only 14 at the time and had been tortured into making a confession, which he has since retracted.

According to Reprieve, a London-based organization that is against the death penalty, 8,261 people are on death row in Pakistan, including more than 800 juveniles.

Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper reported Tuesday that an additional 10 executions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

At its current pace, Pakistan is likely to emerge as one of the global leaders in state-sanctioned executions this year.

Based on a recent report by Amnesty International, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States carried out the most executions in 2014. There were 289 reported executions in Iran, 90 in Saudi Arabia, 61 in Iraq and 35 in the United States.

China considers executions to be a state secret, but Amnesty International said that country carried out "thousands" last year.

(source: Washington Post)

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

UN rights experts welcome Pakistan Supreme Court decision to suspend death penalty

A group of United Nations independent experts today welcomed a recent decision made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to suspend death sentences imposed by military courts.

In a statement released today by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the experts said they had previously expressed concern at an earlier decision by Pakistan to rescind its unofficial 6-year moratorium on the death penalty for non-military personnel in terrorism-related cases.

"Terrorism attacks should not prevent States from complying with the stringent requirements of international law for the imposition of the death penalty," the independent experts noted.

International law requires that the death penalty may be imposed only in the context of a stringent functioning of the law and order system, so as to ensure the highest respect of due process and fair trial guarantees for the defendants.

"Only full respect of these guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from an arbitrary execution," the experts stressed. "The administration of justice through military tribunals raises serious questions, particularly in terms of access to justice, independence and impartiality of the court, and respect for the fair trial rights of the accused."

The experts, known as Special Rapporteurs are part of the 'Special Procedures' of the Human Rights Council, which is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Among the experts, who work on an individual, voluntary, unpaid basis and are not UN staff, were the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and on the independence of judges and lawyers. The Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Chair of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearance were also part of the team.

They said that using military tribunals to try civilians in the name of national security, a state of emergency or counter-terrorism, runs against all relevant international and regional human rights standards and established case law.

"Military tribunals should have jurisdiction only over military personnel who commit military offences or breaches of military discipline," they said. "And then only when those offences or breaches do not amount to serious human rights violations, and they should never have the power to impose the death penalty."

They stressed that they had repeatedly called on States to assess whether the use of the death penalty is compatible with the right to life, as well as the inherent dignity of the human person, and to consider if the severe mental and physical pain or suffering it causes could constitute a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture.

"We hope that the decision of the Supreme Court will provide an opportunity for all relevant actors in Pakistan to pursue a critically important dialogue aiming to address the questions relating to the legality of military tribunals, and the use of the death penalty, in line with Pakistan's international human rights obligations," the experts said, stressing that ensuring a safe environment for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other members of the justice system is of fundamental importance.

(source: UN News Centre)

MALAYSIA:

2 Turkish Cypriots sentenced to death in Malaysia

2 Turkish Cypriots, reportedly from Limassol, have been sentenced to the death penalty in Malaysia after a large quantity of drugs was found in their luggage.

Interpol notified Cypriot authorities on Monday, who in turn informed the Ministry of justice.

Muhammet Osman and Mehmet Ucaner Oktay, said to be aged 67 and 57, were arrested in November 2011 at Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia after a flight from Dubai where the illegal substances were found. They have been in prison since.

The ministry of foreign affairs said they had since taken action helping them pay their legal expenses and having discussions with the Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairs in Malaysia through diplomatic officials.

A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from New Delhi visited the country 6 times to meet with local officials over the case and gave financial assistance to Osman and Oktay for any of their needs.

Officials said Osman and Oktay thanked the Cyprus government in March for the help and support they received.

The court decision, taken on April 15, ruled they will be hanged for possession and drug trafficking. The death sentence is mandatory in Malaysia for those found guilty of drugs trafficking.

(source: cyprus-mail.com)

INDIA:

HC commutes death sentence of rape-murder convict into life

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today converted the death sentence of a rape and murder convict into life imprisonment. M

Dharampal, resident of Sonepat district, was to be executed on April 15, 2014 inside Ambala jail but his hanging was stayed on April 10 by the High Court after hearing a petition moved by him.

The convict had taken the plea that he has earned a right to get the sentence converted into life imprisonment, due to delay in execution of death penalty.

He had also taken the plea of the Supreme Court verdict, passed in January 2014 by a full bench, headed by then Chief Justice P Sathasivam, in which the apex court had held that death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding the mercy pleas.

In 1991,Dharampal was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment for raping a girl in Sonepat.

After his release on parole in 1993, Dharampal had murdered the 5 family members of the girl, when they were sleeping at their house.

He was sentenced to death by Session's court in May 1997, which was retained by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 29,1998.

His death sentence was also upheld by the apex court in 1999.

His mercy petition was rejected by the union home minister in 2000. Later, Dharampal filed a mercy plea to the President in 2005 which was rejected after about 8 years, in 2013.

He is presently lodged in central jail Ambala.

(source: Business Stnadard)

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

State delays execution of child killer Richard Vasquez

Richard Vasquez was sentenced to death for the killing of a 4-year-old girl in Corpus Christi.

The man who beat his 4 year old stepdaughter to death won't be executed this week. Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka says Richard Vasquez has just received a stay of execution. There's no word yet on why.

Vasquez was set to be put to death on Thursday for the death of Miranda Lopez in 1998. According to court records the girl was beaten with a fist several times. She took a nap and later fell off a stool while brushing her teeth. The girl died the next day

This is the 2nd time this year his execution has been delayed.

(source: KRIS news)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----6

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----524

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

7-----------Apr. 28--------------------Robert Pruett--------525

8-----------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------526

9-----------June 3----------------------Les Bower------------527

10----------June 18-------------------Gregory Russeau------528

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Capital murder trial begins in Red Wing store clerk's killing

The capital murder trial of a 22-year-old Arlington man accused of killing a shoe store clerk during a robbery in 2014 began Monday, WFAA reported.

Jacob Everett faces the death penalty if convicted. He pleaded not guilty to the murder charge but pled guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery.

On Feb. 25, 2014, the clerk, Randy Pacheco, 23, was working his shift as a manager at the Red Wing Shoes store on Cooper Street in Arlington, when Everett shot and killed him while stealing $200, police have said.

During opening arguments Monday, a prosecutor said Pacheco was shot once between the eyes.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

DELAWARE:

Poll shows Delawareans open-minded to death penalty alternatives

As Delaware legislators debate a bill that would repeal the death penalty, a recent survey provides some insight on how Delawareans feel about the issue.

When asked what the appropriate punishment for murder should be, a majority of those polled were in favor of an alternative to the death penalty.

"A significant majority of Delaware residents, 64 %, support some form of life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty," said Eugene Young, with the Delaware Center for Justice.

However, in a separate question, 63 % of those polled say they still strongly support or somewhat support the death penalty.

The survey was conducted among 573 registered voters in all 3 counties in Delaware.

This is the 1st time the Delaware Center for Justice has conducted a public policy poll on the death penalty.

The Senate passed the death penalty repeal bill earlier this month. It now heads to the House.

Lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill in 2013 but it stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.

(source: WDEL news)

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

Delaware residents support death penalty unless given alternative

A recent poll found that 63 % of people in Delaware initially support the death penalty, but its support decreases when alternatives are given.

About 34 % of people polled either strongly opposed or somewhat opposed the death penalty, but a follow up question found that people favor life imprisonment over the death penalty.

"A significant majority of Delaware residents, 64 %, support some form of life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty," Eugene Young, advocacy director at the Delaware Center for Justice, said.

Young said support for capital punishment decreases when alternatives are given.

The Public Policy Polling firm was hired by the Delaware Center for Justice, one of several groups attempting to cease the death penalty in the state. Legislators are currently debating a bill that would repeal capital punishment.

The bill passed the state's Senate earlier this month and now faces voting in the House.

The poll asked 17 questions to 573 Delawareans on the phone between over a 2-day period in April.

It is the 1st time the Delaware Center for Justice conducted a poll on the death penalty.

"This issue has lingered in the ether for far too long," Democratic Rep. Sean Lynn said. "The death penalty is morally bankrupt, legally bankrupt and it is intellectually bankrupt."

Support for the death penalty in the United States has reached a 40-year low -- with 56 % of people favoring the death penalty for murder convictions and 38 % opposing, according to Pew Research Center.

(source: United Press International)

GEORGIA:

DA Slater seeks death penalty in Connor case

Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater is seeking the death penalty against a Columbus man charged with killing his girlfriend and their son.

35-year old Brandon Conner is charged with 2 counts of murder and arson for the deaths of Rosella Mitchel and their 6-month-old son Dylan.

Their bodies were found burned beyond recognition in their Winifred Lane home in August of last year.

An autopsy revealed Mitchel was stabbed several times before the house was set on fire.

On Monday, Slater and Chief Ricky Boren discussed the decision to seek the death penalty.

Conner was found by a police officer with blood on his face, and clothes less than an hour after the fire sitting in his car near his workplace at Cedar Avenue and Wynnton Road.

He was questioned and released; then he later turned himself in a week after the murders.

This is the 2nd time during Slater's tenure as district attorney that she has sought the death penalty.

(source: WLTZ news)

FLORIDA:

Motion to delay trial denied in Volusia triple murder case

A judge denied a motion on Monday to delay the trial of a man accused of killing his wife and her 2 daughters.

Luis Toledo is accused of killing Yessenia Suarez and her two children in 2013.

A hearing in the case started Monday morning.

Toledo's attorney made a strong argument as to why he believes the U.S. Supreme Court will change Florida's law when it comes to the death penalty, and he asked for the judge to wait to try the case.

Suarez and her 2 young children's bodies were never found, and Toledo has been awaiting his trial for their killings ever since.

Felicia Perez, the mother of Suarez, said the deaths of her daughter and grandchildren is constantly on her mine.

"It's every day. You wake up, you go to sleep, through the whole day. I know I keep going, but it's not easy," Perez said.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take on another death penalty case where Florida's death penalty scheme is being challenged.

Specifically, the Supreme Court will look at the constitutionality of not requiring a unanimous jury to sentence someone to death if they are convicted of murder.

Florida is one of only a few states that do not require a unanimous jury.

Toledo's attorney said not knowing what Florida's law on the death penalty will make it difficult to advise Toledo through his trial.

The judge didn't agree and said Toledo would be entitled to an automatic appeal if he is convicted and sentenced to death.

"He's going to get what he deserves, OK? What he deserves , that's what he's going to get," said Perez.

(source: WFTV news)

ALABAMA:

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear death row inmates' appeals in Auburn and Franklin County cases

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear appeals by 2 Alabama inmates who were sentenced to death by judges who overrode jury recommendations for life without parole.

Justices - with 2 dissenters - declined to hear the appeals of Courtney Lockhart and Christie M. Scott based on Alabama's judicial override - a practice that has become part of the debate over the death penalty.

Lockhart is on death row at Holman prison for his conviction in Lee County for the March 2008 slaying of Auburn student Lauren Burk.

Scott is on death row at Julia Tuwiler prison for her conviction in Franklin County for the August 2008 arson fire that killed her 6-year-old autistic son, Mason.

The juries in both the Lockhart and Scott cases had recommended they be sentenced to life without parole. But the judges in both of the separate cases overrode the juries' recommendations and sentenced Lockhart and Scott to death.

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative represented both Scott and Lockhart in their appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court attacking the Alabama practice of judicial overrides.

Efforts to reach Stevenson for comment prior to the publication of this story Monday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile on Monday a Jefferson County judge was faced with whether to override, for the 2nd time, a jury's recommendation for life without parole.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Clyde Jones had overridden a jury's recommendation (a vote of 10-2) for life without parole and he sentenced Jeffery Tyrone Riggs to death after Riggs' 1st conviction in the case in 2010. Riggs won a re-trial based on an appeal regarding jury instructions given at the first trial.

At Riggs' 2nd trial this year a jury again convicted him of capital murder and in an 8-4 vote recommended Judge Jones sentence Riggs to life without parole. Jones at Monday's hearing, however, did not override a 2nd time after a prosecutor told him they were now pushing for life without parole to get closure for family in the case.

Riggs had been convicted in the 2008 shooting death of his estranged girlfriend, who also was his cousin.

In Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer were the only 2 on the high court to argue for a review of the Lockhart and Scott cases.

While a written dissent by Sotomayor and Breyer was not available, the 2 justices had dissented when the court refused in 2013 to review a similar judicial override in Alabama in the case of Mario Dion Woodward.

Woodward was convicted by a jury of capital murder in the shooting death of Keith Houts, a city of Montgomery police officer. The jury, by a vote of 8 to 4, had recommended he be sentenced to life without parole instead of death.

Justice Sotomayor, who wrote the dissenting opinion in the Woodward case, stated that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 upheld the Alabama law allowing judicial overrides but she still holds deep concerns that the practice is unconstitutional. "18 years have passed since we decided Harris, and in my view, the time has come for us to reconsider that decision," she stated.

"Since Alabama adopted its current statute, its judges have imposed death sentences on 95 defendants (including Riggs) contrary to a jury's verdict. 43 of these defendants remain on death row today," she wrote in the 2013 dissent.

One of Riggs' defense attorneys, Deputy Jefferson County Public Defender Texys Morris, cited the dissent by Sotomayor and Breyer in a sentencing memorandum arguing for a life without parole sentence for Riggs.

"2 other states, Delaware and Florida, allow judicial override but the override in favor of death is rarely- if ever- applied," Morris wrote. "Delaware has no one on death row due to judicial override and Florida has had no override for death since 1999."

"The standard required for judicial override in Florida reflects a far greater respect for the jury's verdict and the sanctity of life than the system used in Alabama," Morris wrote.

(source: al.com)

TENNESSEE:

Man convicted, sentenced to death for killing Tennessee officer petitions court for new trial

A man convicted of killing an East Tennessee police office is seeking a new trial.

The Bristol Herald-Courier (http://bit.ly/1P51oKf ) reports that lawyers for 36-year-old Nikolas Johnson are petitioning for post-conviction relief, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated.

Johnson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2007 in the killing of Bristol police officer Mark Vance, who was shot in the face in 2004 while responding to a domestic call.

The 155-page petition filed with Sullivan County court argues that Johnson's original attorneys were incompetent, his jury was racist, that there was prosecutorial misconduct and that lethal injection is unconstitutional.

It also argued that he should be exempt from the death penalty because he suffers from mental illness. The petition states previous attorneys did not present evidence from mental health experts and did not continue to evaluate Johnson's mental health after he was found competent.

"Due to his severe mental illnesses, Mr. Johnson suffers diminished capacities that are substantially similar to the diminished capacities of intellectually disabled defendants," the petition stated. "Accordingly, Mr. Johnson should be categorically exempt from the death penalty."

A hearing in the case was set for June 23.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Rape added to charges against man accused of murder, cannibalism

A count of rape has been added to the charges against a man accused of killing a woman and eating her organs.

According to court records, Joseph Oberhansley initially confessed to police that he stabbed 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton in September at her home in Jeffersonville, then removed her organs and ate them.

But in subsequent court appearances, Oberhansley has maintained his innocence.

When Blanton was killed, an autopsy was performed -- including a rape kit.

The results from the kit just came back.

According to new court documents, evidence found on Blanton is indicative of sexual intercourse, prompting prosecutors to file a rape charge.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Oberhansley.

Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said Blanton's family was not surprised by the addition of the rape charge.

"The family has been understanding of the process. I just they are devastated by the events that have occurred, but they've been very brave," Mulls said.

Prosecutors said a few things in this case could help them get the death penalty for Oberhansley.

The 1st, they said is that the intentional murder happened during the course of a burglary.

The 2nd, Blanton's body was dismembered.

Authorities said Blanton was raped before she was killed.

Oberhansley was convicted in Utah of killing his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend. He also shot himself and his mother in that incident. He was released from prison in 2012 and moved to Southern Indiana.

(soruce: WLKY news)

OKLAHOMA:

The Trouble with Oklahoma's New Execution Technique----A more humane way to die? The history of American executions says don't bet on it.

On Friday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a law giving the state a new tool to use in executions: a chamber filled with nitrogen gas. If lethal injection - Oklahoma's preferred execution method - is declared unconstitutional or becomes unavailable due to a drug shortage, the law would authorize use of a gas chamber that executes inmates by depleting the oxygen supply in their blood.

In her signing statement, Fallin reiterated both her support for the death penalty as well as her belief that nitrogen hypoxia would deliver death "effectively and without cruelty." As Fallin put it, "The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard" and insures that execution is painless and humane.

Oklahoma's revival of the gas chamber is a response to the well-documented crisis now plaguing lethal injection, arising from drug shortages and a series of botched executions. Other states reliant on lethal injection have revived long-abandoned execution methods as well: Tennessee last year brought back the electric chair, and Utah recently reinstated the firing squad.

Compared to those, nitrogen seems humane. Coverage since Fallin's announcement has focused on the fact that nitrogen is an inert gas that would be administered directly by having the condemned breathe it in through a device like those used when anesthesia is given before surgery, simply putting the inmate to sleep.

But we have been down this road before. Each new technology for execution used in the United States - the electric chair, the gas chamber, lethal injection - was introduced with claims and promises about its humanity. Lethal injection itself was adopted for its ease of administration, with claims that it would be "more humane relative to other methods."

It has not worked out that way.

In fact, every method of capital punishment used in the United States has suffered from a significant failure rate. In recently completed research, I examined every American execution from 1890 to 2010 and found that, during that period of time, 3 percent of those executions were botched. In raw numbers that means that about 300 executions involved some kind of prolonged suffering or significant technological failure.

It might seem frivolous to worry about the humanity of capital punishment. After all, these offenders are handed the worst sentence our legal system can mete out. But the Constitution guarantees even criminals liberty from cruelty in punishment. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the legitimacy of capital punishment depends precisely on the belief that there is a way to insure that executions will be safe, reliable and humane.

Yet the long history of American executions suggests that no such magic bullet exists - and the gas chamber itself is an excellent illustration. What is now being said in Oklahoma about nitrogen gas has eerie parallels to what was said almost a century ago when the gas chamber first became part of America's panoply of execution techniques. That occurred in 1921, when 2 Nevada Assemblymen, J.J. Hart and Harry Bartlett, introduced the so-called "Humane Execution Bill" to replace hanging with new gas-chamber technology. So convincing was the gas chamber's promise of humane execution that the Hart/Barlett bill passed the state assembly almost unanimously, before being sent on to the Nevada Senate, where it was approved the very same day. Less than 2 weeks later, Governor Emmett Boyle, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, nonetheless signed the bill into law.

The Nevada law - in line with the most advanced thinking of its time - called for executions to take place while the condemned was asleep. Death row inmates were to be housed in air-tight, leak-proof cells, separate from other prisoners. On the day of the execution, valves would be opened that would fill the chamber with gas, killing the prisoner painlessly.

Around the same time that Nevada embraced the gas chamber, the Medical Society of Pennsylvania, reviewing that state's execution methods, also focused its attention on gas as the most humane way to extinguish life. A Medical Society committee recommended that carbonic acid be used as the lethal agent in all Pennsylvania executions. At the time, a doctor named J. Chris Lange wrote in the Pennsylvania Medical Journal, "Death will happen quickly after the gas ascends to a level with the mouth and nose of the prisoner. To insure the absence of all punishment but death itself it is a necessity that the action of the heart be stilled during natural sleep. ... Experiments on animals have convinced the committee that the gas does not act as a poison in the usual sense of the word; it merely deprives the animal of oxygen by displacement of the air, the consequent death being the result of an auto-intoxication, at least in large part. ... It is a species of starvation which is fatal in from 3 to 8 minutes."

Lange concluded that such a death - "without preliminaries" and "without the possibility of accidents" - would "leave the criminal little more to dread of the future than the common lot of all mankind." While Pennsylvania did not end up adopting the gas chamber, 11 other states did so.

As it turned out, the actual practice of execution by lethal gas diverged substantially from the promises of its proponents. Many of those who died in the gas chamber did so neither quickly nor painlessly. Instead, they suffered grisly, prolonged, agonizing deaths as they slowly suffocated. By the close of the 20th century, my research shows, 5 out of every 100 executions by lethal gas had been botched, and the eventual demise of the gas chamber came as death penalty proponents, propelled in part by gruesome spectacles of the people dying by oxygen deprivation, sought new alternatives.

The lesson of this history is that, no matter their views about capital punishment, Americans should be wary of those who now would have us believe that nitrogen - or any execution method - will do what no other technology of execution has been able to do, namely insure that the deaths we impose are neither gruesome nor cruel. The American belief in scientific progress has helped to legitimate the death penalty, reassuring citizens that somewhere, behind the wall, a death is taking place that meets constitutional standards of punishment.

Sometimes it does. But it is statistically certain that sometimes it won't - and that a policy of executing prisoners is simply inseparable from occasionally botching those executions. Despite the reassuring pronouncements of politicians like Fallin, the revival of the gas chamber reveals more about the lengths to which some states will go to retain the death penalty as a criminal punishment than about their concern to minimize the suffering of those we execute.

(source: Austin Sarat, associate dean of the faculty and William Nelson Cromwell professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, is author of Gruesome Spectacles: Botched executions and America's Death Penalty----politico.com)

USA:

FBI Gave Flawed Testimony For Decades, Including 32 Death Penalty Cases

"The FBI's 3-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster," according to Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld. The Justice Department and FBI recently admitted that almost every examiner in the elite forensics team exaggerated their findings. What this will mean for the wrongfully convicted remains to be seen.

According to the Washington Post, Neufeld added "We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn't stopped much sooner."

The Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) are collaborating with the federal government in a massive review of suspected problems with forensic microscopic hair comparisons. They've found 26 out of the FBI's specialized 28 person unit exaggerated their findings in a way that benefited the prosecution. The flawed testimony was present in over 95 % of the 268 convictions reviewed so far.

The project aims to analyze 2,500 cases, but the results are already deeply disturbing, according to Senator and former prosecutor Richard Blumenthal.

"These findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for potentially innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law."

Experts even exaggerated testimony in 32 convictions that led to the death penalty. 9 of those death row inmates have already been executed; another 5 died while waiting in prison.

Microscopic hair analysis was considered the cutting edge of crime forensics before DNA testing became mainstream. Nevertheless, finding a match between a defendant and hair found at a crime scene comes down to the subjective opinion of the analyst. Deutsche Welle reports that there is no scientific protocol to support an analyst's testimony.

Furthermore, there's a conflict of interest with having such experts working in the same offices as the prosecutors, according to Penn State University's forensic expert David Kaye.

"You've got a laboratory in the FBI working with a prosecutor from the Department of Justice in which the FBI sits - they have a relationship. You want to please people. It's easy to see how people could be overconfident."

The subjectivity of the tests and blind authority given to the experts created a perfect storm of flawed testimony and perjury.

Still, that might not mean much for the hundreds of people convicted in trials using erroneous testimony. Of course, many of the trials utilized other evidence to convict the defendant.

Defense attorneys who did not object to the FBI testimony during the trial will also have more difficulty challenging previous rulings.

Kaye told Deutsche Welle the future is still "very unclear."

"The FBI, the Innocence Project, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are going around telling the old defense lawyers here's a problem with the testimony, but whether they're going to get relief from that is very unclear."

FBI hair analysis has largely gone out of fashion because of modern DNA testing, but the review still has major implications for expert testimony on ballistics, bite marks, fibers, tool marks and other forensic fields.

(source: inquisitr.com)

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

Victims in Boston Marathon Bombings Are Split on Death Penalty

The jury in the Boston Marathon bombing trial reconvenes Tuesday at the federal courthouse here to decide whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber, to death or to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The 1st phase of the trial, which lasted a month, was a foregone conclusion, once Mr. Tsarnaev's lawyers admitted he was involved in the bombings and all but told the jury to find him guilty. But the penalty phase will be far more contentious, emotional and unpredictable, with Mr. Tsarnaev's life on the line at a time when the debate over the death penalty is intensifying.

Prosecutors will argue for death, even as some of the survivors and the families of victims who died have asked that Mr. Tsarnaev's life be spared. A few days ago, the parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed at the marathon, asked the government to take the death penalty off the table because it would mean endless appeals and delay their ability to move on.

The Richard family helped Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston unveil a banner at the site of 1 of the blasts that hit the 2013 Boston Marathon, on the 2nd anniversary of the attack.

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a newly married couple who both lost legs during the 2013 bombings, made a recent statement, saying: "We must overcome the impulse for vengeance." And the sister of an M.I.T. police officer whom Mr. Tsarnaev killed has said she thought that the death penalty would bring neither peace nor justice.

Calls by survivors or victims' families for the death penalty, however, have been more muted. Among those who feel strongly is Liz Norden; 2 of her sons each lost a leg in the blasts. She has said that because he destroyed so many lives, Mr. Tsarnaev deserves "the ultimate justice."

These expressions both pro and con have presumably not reached the ears of the jurors, who have been ordered to avoid all media coverage of the case and were even told not to attend this year's marathon on Monday.

Carmen Ortiz, the United States attorney who is prosecuting the case, is pursuing the death penalty, arguing that Mr. Tsarnaev acted in a heinous, cruel and depraved manner, betrayed the United States after becoming a citizen, and has shown no remorse. The government is expected to argue that if the death penalty were ever justified, it is justified in this case.

The debate here is particularly intense because Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984, but this is a federal case and so federal law applies.

On April 8, the jury found Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, guilty on all 30 charges against him in connection with the 2013 bombings, which killed three people and wounded 264 others. The same jurors are now settling in for the sentencing phase, which will unfold like a regular trial. Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. of Federal District Court, who is presiding, has said it could take about 4 weeks.

The defense will have broad leeway to argue the "mitigating" circumstances that it says should spare Mr. Tsarnaev from execution. One will be his age: He was 19 at the time. Another will be the powerful influence of his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, whom the defense has cast as a violent jihadist bent on revenge against Americans for the killings of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tamerlan was killed a few days after the bombings after a shootout with the police and after Dzhokhar drove over him in a getaway car.

In her closing argument in the guilt phase of the trial, Judy Clarke, Mr. Tsarnaev's lead defense lawyer, said that while her client's actions were inexcusable, the bombings would not have taken place if not for his elder brother.

George Kendall, a New York lawyer who has handled hundreds of death penalty cases but is not representing Mr. Tsarnaev, said he expected that to be Ms. Clarke's central theme in the penalty phase.

"She will explain how this guy goes from cradle to crime," Mr. Kendall said. "The jury will receive a lot of information about him, his life, how he grew up, where he was emotionally." And that information, he said, will become the building blocks to her larger thesis that Mr. Tsarnaev's brother carved out the path that led to the bombings.

The point is to show that Mr. Tsarnaev, while culpable, is less culpable than his brother.

"In highly aggravating cases, juries often see differences between the levels of responsibility for each person," Mr. Kendall said.

The prosecution, which argues that the 2 brothers were equal partners, will probably reject any gradations of responsibility and lay the blame squarely on Mr. Tsarnaev.

As in the guilt phase, the prosecution, which has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, will be the 1st on Tuesday to make opening statements and present its case.

Neither side has made its witness list public. From court filings, most of which are under seal, it is possible to glean that some foreign witnesses will be testifying, but their identities are not known.

It is not clear whether Mr. Tsarnaev's parents, Anzor and Zubeidat, who are believed to be living in Dagestan, a Russian republic, or his sisters, Bella and Ailina, who live in the New York metropolitan area, will be testifying or whether they will even be in court; so far, they have not attended the trial.

In federal cases, the odds favor life sentences. Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, federal juries have considered it in 230 cases and opted 2/3 of the time for life sentences instead, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. In that time, only 3 people in federal cases have been executed, including Timothy J. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

A vote for the death penalty must be unanimous.

(source: New York Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheaded for murdering Indonesian maid

Saudi authorities executed a citizen today after convicting him of sexually harassing and brutally murdering his Indonesian maid.

Shayea al-Qahtani was found guilty of killing the maid by beating her with a cane and pouring boiling water over her, the interior ministry said.

His execution in the southwestern province of Abha was the 63rd in the kingdom so far this year.

That compares with 87 in the whole of 2014 in what Amnesty International has called a "macabre spike" in the kingdom's use of the death penalty.

The London-based human rights group ranked Saudi Arabia among the top 3 executioners in the world last year.

The interior ministry has said that the death penalty provides an important deterrent.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Zee News)

IRAN----executions

16 Prisoners Were Hanged in Mashhad and Birjand

16 prisoners with drug related charges were hanged in Mashhad and Birjand during April 16 and 17.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 12 prisoners were hanged in Mashhad on April 16 and 4 others in Birjand on April 17. All of these prisoners were sentenced to death for drug related charges.

While execution of prisoners in Iran has speed up during recent weeks, official authorities not only have not clarified the cause, but have prevented from informing the families and have cut the contacts from inside to outside of the prison.

According to HRANA, the execution of prisoners, specifically prisoners with drug related charges, has speed up, while based on previous hearings, a bill for cancellation of execution for drug related charges was supposed to be submitted to the parliament in May.

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

4 Prisoners Hanged in Zahedan Prison

4 prisoners were hanged in Zahedan prison on the charge of drug trafficking.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the execution of 4 prisoners who were charged with drug smuggling was performed in Zahedan prison.

No official publicizing has been made and there is no information regarding the identity of the prisoners. HRANA can just confirm the number of prisoners who have been hanged.

According to HRANA, during the recent weeks the number of executions, especially on the drug related charges has increased dramatically, which has caused serious concerns for human rights activists and international human rights organizations.

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

Video Footage Showing the Last Words of a Death Row Prisoners

Barat Zahmatkesh is 1 of the 11 prisoners who were executed on 14th April in Qezelhesar prison, in Karaj. The following video was recorded just a few days before his execution, in Qezalhesar prison, in Karaj, in which he provides an explanation of his case for the last time and calls for help to rescue him.

By release of this seeking help video of "Barat Zahmatkesh", this prisoner of drug related crimes, who was executed along with 10 other prisoners in Qezalhesar, on 14th April this year, HRANA tries to get the public attention to the execution and the importance of a fair trial for prisoners.

Mr Zahmatkesh, in a conversation with HRANA, believed that to support his family, he had to accept the responsibility for the crime which he had no part in it. He believed that he was deprived of a fair trial.

Although the information about this prisoner's case is not publicly available, and his execution reports has not been announced clearly by the relevant authorities, the death penalty in connection with the drugs is one of the biggest challenges in the field of human rights for Iranian government. The challenge that by the Iranian regime after more than 3 decades, is going to take steps towards a more promising in the future, by the bill, which is going to be provided next month for the elimination of the death penalty for drug offenses.

HRANA News Agency, in this occasion, invites all Iranian compatriots to participate in the reporting violations of human rights. The people may be interested can send their reports and documents among its video reports to this human rights organization, through Facebook page, website or HRANA's email address; info@hra-news.org of the human rights organizations.

(source for all: HRANA News Agency)

LEBANON:

Lebanon's ex-minister Samaha pleads guilty to all terrorism charges

Former Information Minister Michel Samaha pleaded guilty to all terrorism charges against him on Monday, admitting in court that he had transported explosives from Syria for use in attacks in Lebanon and in order to assassinate Lebanese officials, according to a report by MTV.

But Samaha claimed that he had been the victim of entrapment because he was not aware that his co-conspirator was a Lebanese security services informer.

Samaha, who was once an adviser to Syria's President Bashar Assad admitted also receiving $170,000 from the Syrian.

"I received from the Syrians $170,000 inside a bag ... and put it in the trunk of my car with the explosives," he told the military court

He said he drove the money and explosives to Beirut in August 2012 and handed them over to a man named Milad Kfouri, who he was unaware was working with Lebanese intelligence.

"I fell into the trap laid by Milad Kfouri, who was tied to the intelligence services," Samaha confessed

"True, I made a mistake, but I wanted to avoid sectarian strife." He said

Samaha's lawyer Rana Azoury confirmed that the former minister had acknowledged transporting the explosives under pressure from Kfouri.

Azoury said Samaha explained he had been "harassed" for 4 months by Kfouri to transport the explosives to be used in blasts on the Lebanese border.

The explosions were intended to force the closure of the border and stop the passage of Lebanese fighters who wanted to join rebels fighting against the Syrian regime, he said.

"Under Lebanese law, if you acted because of the encouragement of an agent provocateur, that is exculpatory and a legitimate self-defense," Azoury said in explaining Samaha's testimony.

The trial was adjourned to May 13.

Samaha faces the death penalty if convicted in the trial.

Samaha's driver will be summoned by the court to give his testimony.

The former minister and 2 Syrian officials (Syrian National Security Bureau Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk and his assistant whose first name was identified as Adnan ) were indicted for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders.

Earlier this month, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr approved the separation Samaha's case from Mamlouk's because of Syria's lack of cooperation in handing over Syrian suspects to Lebanon.

Last February Lebanon Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi confirmed that a plot to kill Samaha has been thwarted.

Rifi told al-Liwaa newspaper that he had received information from a highly credible security agency that Samaha would be killed during his transfer to hospital for having information about the Syrian regime.

The minister said he told Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq about the plot as soon as he was informed by the agency.

Saudi newspaper al Watan also reported last February that Damascus had asked Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to liquidate Samaha.

But Hezbollah which is closely allied with the Syrian regime denied the media reports describing them as 'baseless accusations'.

Hezbollah's rejection of the reports was expected according to analystsbecause Samaha is known for being a staunch ally of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. He was among several pro-Syrian Lebanese officials who were sanctioned in 2007 by the United States for "contributing to political and economic instability in Lebanon."

This is what Bashar wants

"This is what Bashar wants," Lebanese security sources quoted Samaha as saying in August 2012 of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a video shot by a Lebanese undercover agent for the Internal Security Forces Information Branch.

He was referring to bombing plan that was meant to be carried out in north Lebanon.

The security sources also said that, in the video, Samaha can be seen and heard saying that ( Syrian Director of the National Security Bureau Maj. Gen. Ali ) Mamlouk, had handed him the bombs in addition to the $170,000 cash that was meant to be distributed to would-be executors of the attacks in Lebanon.

(source: yalibnan.com)

INDONESIA:

'Only a matter of time' before Bali 9 pair executed: Indonesian President

The Indonesian President has warned that it is "only a matter of time" before 10 drug felons including Bali 9 organisers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are executed.

His grim announcement comes the same day that it was revealed the High Court had commuted the death sentences of 2 Iranian drug smugglers to life imprisonment.

"When it will be done is no longer a question. It is only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time," President Joko Widodo said in an interview on Monday with Indonesian news wire Antara.

On the same day the Bandung High Court published a decision on its website to commute the sentence of 2 Iranians, found guilty of smuggling 40 kilograms of methamphetamine in Indonesia, to life imprisonment.

It said that sentencing was not about revenge, but a form of education so that in the future the defendant wouldn't conduct another criminal act, according to news website Rappler.

Mr Joko has repeatedly claimed that the death penalty for drug felons is a necessary "shock therapy" for a country facing a drug emergency.

He denied claims that the delays to the executions, which were scheduled to have been held in February, were due to international pressure, including the possible impact of the executions on Indonesians on death row overseas.

Mr Joko told Antara the execution had been postponed due to the ongoing legal cases.

These were not the authority of the President so he had decided not to intervene in the process.

However he pointed out that all the requests for clemency had been rejected.

10 drug offenders including Sukumaran and Chan are facing imminent death by firing squad in Indonesia.

The date has not yet been fixed but the Attorney-General said it would be unseemly to kill them while the Asian African conference was being held this week.

The Iranians, Mosavipour bin Sayed Abdollah, 36, and Moradalivand bin Moradali, 32, were arrested by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) on February 26, 2014.

They were caught picking up the methamphetamine in bags, which had been buried in the Tangkuban Perahu Nature Reserve in West Java.

The Iranians were sentenced to death in January, even though the prosecutors only sought sentences of 15-20 years.

But the death penalty was overruled by the Bandung High Court on March 30, according to the decision published on the court website on Monday.

The inconsistency of the application of the law in Indonesia is deeply distressing for those on death row, and one of the reasons advanced for the abolition of capital punishment.

Meanwhile, 1 of the 10 felons on death row, Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami, had his appeal thrown out of the Administrative Court on Monday.

The court said clemency was the prerogative of the President and it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

This was the same reason given in a similar appeal mounted by lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran.

A man purporting to be Raheem Agbaje Salami, from the southern Spanish city of Cordoba, was arrested in 1998 for smuggling 5.3 kilograms of heroin into Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city.

However Raheem's passport was false. His real name is Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, a Nigerian national. And although he was arrested 17 years ago, Indonesian authorities continue to use the fake name in prison on Nusakambangan.

Raheem's lawyer, Utomo Karim, argued the prosecution of his case was illegal because his fake identity was used from his arrest to his conviction in the district court right through to the rejection of his clemency plea.

Mr Utomo is considering lodging a request for a judicial review of his client's case in another court.

However he said funding it was a problem because the Nigerian embassy can't help pay for it.

(source: Brisbane Times)

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

Bali 9 executions 'must be civilised'

Indonesia's president has warned it "is only a matter of time" until Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are executed.

Jalarta has postponed the executions of the 2 Australians and 8 other drug offenders for this week, while it hosts foreign dignitaries for the Asian African Conference.

But the stay is only temporary, with President Joko Widodo telling Indonesian wire service Antara the executions are "only a matter of time".

Philippines Vice President Jejomar Binay is expected to raise the issue in Jakarta meetings this week as concern grows over the fate of condemned domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso.

Former Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda says a more "civilised" approach could help avoid diplomatic strife in future.

He said he isn't troubled by Indonesia's use of the death penalty, but more by the language officials are using when explaining it.

Mr Wirajuda says the foreign protests are legitimate, but Indonesia must project a better image of its death penalty regime.

"We already gave the maximum legal avenues to find the most fair legal verdict," he said on Tuesday.

"But when the (death) sentence is final, the way we do it, maybe we can be more civilised.

"We shouldn't showcase the executions ... Why must we describe in detail the process of the execution? That's not necessary ... China is also doing this without showcasing it like they're enjoying the executions.

"That's what I mean when I say that we need to do it in more civilised manner."

Chan and Sukumaran are among the prisoners still pursuing legal challenges.

The Bali 9 pair, who remain in an isolated cell on Nusakambangan Island, have a case lodged with the Constitutional Court that challenges the clemency process, but it's yet to be registered.

Indonesian Zainal Abidin, Ghanian Martin Anderson and Frenchman Serge Atlaoui have applied for Supreme Court judicial reviews.

Veloso and Nigerian Raheem Salami plan to follow, while a relative for Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who suffers schizophrenia, is pursuing guardianship before other legal moves.

In the interview with Antara, Mr Joko said he wouldn't interfere with the outstanding legal appeals of the group awaiting the firing squad, but confirmed the executions will take place on their conclusion.

Meanwhile, the high court in the West Java city of Bandung has commuted the death sentences of 2 Iranian drug offenders.

The pair was sentenced to death in January after they were caught in February 2014 trying to pick up a delivery of 40 kilos of methamphetamine.

A National Narcotics Agency spokesman said he regrets the new sentences at a time when the government is taking a tough stance by executing death row drug offenders.

But the judges disagreed, reportedly saying in their decision that sentencing is "not about revenge but more a form of education".

(source: The Daily Telegraph)

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

Indonesian court rejects death row Frenchman's appeal

Indonesia's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a Frenchman on death row for drug offences, taking him and a group of other foreigners closer to execution by firing squad.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and was sentenced to death 2 years later.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-4 has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

He is one of several foreign drug convicts on death row in Indonesia who recently lost appeals for presidential clemency, typically a last chance to avoid the firing squad. They are expected to be executed once final legal appeals are resolved.

In a further bid to avoid execution, Atlaoui filed a request for a judicial review of his case at the Supreme Court.

However Suhadi, one of the judges assessing his case, said the court rejected his application on Tuesday.

"A panel of 3 judges has rejected (the request) for a judicial review from Frenchman Serge Atlaoui," said Suhadi, who goes by 1 name and is also the Supreme Court spokesman.

He said there was no new evidence presented - a requirement for a judicial review - and the reasons put forward were not sufficient.

Several other death row convicts also have legal bids outstanding, including 2 high-profile Australian drug traffickers who have lost several appeals but are now taking their case to the Constitutional Court, although authorities insist they have no more options.

A Ghanaian among the group is appealing to the Supreme Court.

The French ambassador to Indonesia warned last week that executing Atlaoui would have "consequences" for relations between Paris and Jakarta.

Australia has issued a similar warning.

"Neither France nor Australia can tolerate the death penalty being imposed on our citizens at home or abroad," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Paris after meeting her counterpart Laurent Fabius.

"We respectfully request that he (President Joko Widodo) show the same clemency towards the French and Australian citizens as Indonesia seeks other countries to show towards Indonesian citizens who are facing death row in other countries."

Drug laws in Indonesia are among the world's toughest.

Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of putting drug traffickers to death, saying the country is facing a narcotics emergency.

However Indonesia has been actively trying to save its own citizens on death row abroad - Jakarta last week protested at the execution of 2 Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia.

(source: The Sun Daily)

PAKISTAN----executions

17 death row convicts executed countrywide

At least 17 murder convicts were sent to the gallows on Tuesday morning in prisons across the country, Express News reported.

Tight security arrangements were made in and around the jails to avoid any untoward incident.

Faisalabad

Nizamuddin and Muhammad Yaseen, were executed in Faisalabad Central and District Jail for murdering 3 people in the city, while Azam was hanged for being involved in the murder of 7 other victims including his mother-in-law and father-in-law in 2004.

Gujranwala

3 convicts were hanged in Central Jail Gunjranwala in several murder cases. Inayat was convicted of killing 6 members of his family in 2002 while Zafar and Latif were in the murder of 4 people.

Lahore

Allah Rakkah and Ghulam Nabi were sent to the gallows in Kot Lakhpat Jail for committing a murder in 1996 and 2003 respectively.

Sialkot

2 death row prisoners were hanged in Sialkot jail for killing a woman after sexually assaulting her.

Mach, Multan and Gujrat

At least 3 murder convicts were executed in Mach, Multan and Gujrat central jails today. Riaz Ahmed and Sultan were issued black warrants for committing a murder in 2004 and 2000 respectively, while Azhar Mehmood was sentenced to death in 1995 for killing a person due to personal enmity.

The interior ministry had lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases, on March 10, after restarting executions for terrorism offences in the wake of Peshawar school massacre.

Prisons Inspector General Mian Farooq Nazeer said 75 prisoners have been executed since the moratorium on executions was lifted on December 17, last year.

(source: The Express Tribune)

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

Pakistan executes 14 convicts

14 death row convicts were executed in various jails in Pakistan's Punjab and Balochistan province on Tuesday, said a media report.

2 convicts were hanged in Lahore central jail, Geo News reported.

2 prisoners, convicted of sexually assaulting a girl in 1999, were executed in Sialkot district jail.

1 condemned prisoner was executed in Sahiwal central jail.

3 were hanged in Faisalabad central jail and 2 were convicted for killing 3 people in 1998, while 1 convict was sentenced for killing 7 people in 2004.

3 prisoners were hanged in Gujranwala central jail, 1 in Multan central jail while 2 in Mach.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially, executions were resumed only for terrorism offences in the wake of the Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar which claimed around 150 lives, mostly school children, on December 16, 2014.

(source: IANS)

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

Punishable offences: Top court rejects plea against death penalties

The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea challenging the number of crimes punishable by the capital punishment in Pakistan.

In Pakistan besides murder, there are 27 offences which carry capital punishment, but as per Sharia law the death penalty can be awarded for 3 crimes only - murder, rape and apostasy, the petitioner contended.

A 3-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, on Monday took up the 4-year-old petition, filed by Barrister Zafarullah, a representative of the Watan Party. The bench, however, asked the petitioner that if he considers the death penalty laws in the country un-Islamic, he should approach the Federal Shariat Court.

Zafarullah also claimed that the award of the death penalty is against Article 9 of the Constitution.

The petitioner while talking to The Express Tribune said he will file an appeal against the top court's order to dismiss his plea. He pointed out that he had filed the petition 4 years ago, when the moratorium on the death penalty was in place.

While it was initially decided that only condemned terrorists will be executed, the government later gave the nod to go ahead with execution of all death sentences where appeals and clemency pleas were no longer an option.

(source: Express Tribune)

SINGAPORE:

2 death-row traffickers get life term instead

5 years on death row ended yesterday for convicted Malaysian drug traffickers Cheong Chun Yin and Pang Siew Fum after a High Court re-sentenced them to life in prison.

Cheong, now 31, arrived at Changi Airport from Myanmar on June 16, 2008, with a black trolley bag which he handed to Pang, 57, before the 2 parted ways.

They were arrested separately later that day, and the bag was found to contain 2,726g of heroin.

They were convicted of drug trafficking after a joint High Court trial in 2010 and sentenced to death - the mandatory penalty at the time for trafficking more than 15g of the drug.

(source: The Straits Times)

EGYPT:

Ex-president Mohammed Morsi spared death in Cairo sentence

Egypt's ex-president has been sentenced to 20 years in jail in connection with the deaths of protesters nearly two years after his fall from power.

A Cairo criminal court spared Mohammed Morsi from capital punishment, after prosecutors demanded he be put to death over the killing of 3 protesters in 2012, when he was at the helm of the country.

Judges dropped murder charges related to the deaths that occurred during clashes between supporters of Morsi's now banned Muslim Brotherhood movement and opposition demonstrators outside of the Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace on 5 December, 2012.

The former leader and 12 of his associates were however handed a lengthy jail sentences over accusations of excessive "show of force" and unlawful detention associated with the case.

Morsi, who was toppled by the army led by his successor Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013 amid mass protests, stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a courtroom at the national police academy building in the capital as the sentence was read out.

After the verdict he and the rest of the co-defendants raised 4 fingers, a defiant gesture symbolising the deaths of hundreds Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were killed as in August 2013 Egyptian security forces swept protest camps erected in the capital after the power-takeover.

The verdict was the 1st of 3 expected against the ex-president as Morsi faces the death penalty in another 2 trials that are due to come to a conclusion in May.

(source: IB Times)

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

Egypt confirms death sentences against 22 Morsi backers

An Egyptian court confirmed death sentences against 22 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on Monday over an attack on a police station in which 1 officer was killed.

The judgement comes ahead of an expected verdict on Tuesday against Morsi himself on charges of inciting the killing of protesters in December 2012 when he was president.

The attack in the town of Kerdasa on the outskirts of Cairo on July 3, 2013 came on the same day that then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced he was overthrowing Morsi.

Since his ouster, the authorities have cracked down hard on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement with at least 1,400 of his supporters killed.

Hundreds more have been sentenced to death and thousands jailed, often in speedy mass trials that have been criticised by human rights groups.

Monday's court ruling confirmed the death sentences it handed down against the 22 defendants in March after they had received the statutory approval of the country's highest Muslim religious authority, the mufti.

14 of the 22 defendants are in custody, while 8 are on the run, a court official said.

The defendants were convicted of "illegal assembly, vandalism, murder and attempted murder".

(source: yourmidleeast.com)

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

Egyptian death sentence for football fans puts president's iron grip to the test

Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's iron grip on dissent is likely to be put to the test with the sentencing to death of 11 football fans for involvement in a politically loaded football brawl 3 years ago that left 74 militant supporters of storied Cairo club Al-Ahly SC dead.

The brawl and the subsequent sentencing to death, in an initial trial 2 years ago, of 21 supporters of the Suez Canal city of Port Said's Al-Masry SC sparked mass protests by Al-Ahly fans demanding justice in the walk-up to the court hearings, and a popular revolt in Port Said and other Suez Canal cities once the verdict was issued that forced then-president Mohamed Morsi to declare an emergency and deploy military troops to the region.

Although the judge in the retrial lowered the number of Al-Masry supporters facing a death penalty, the verdict is certain to spark renewed anger in Port Said where many see the fans as scapegoats in what was likely an effort that got out of hand by the military and security forces to punish the Al-Ahly supporters for their key role in the 2011 popular revolt that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak and subsequent mass protests against military rule.

The 11 fans are part of a group of 73 defendants that includes nine polices officers and three Al-Masry executives charged with responsibility for the incident in which police and security forces stood by as the Al-Ahly fans died in a stampede after their team's match against Al-Masry in a Port Said stadium whose gates had been locked from the outside. The court is expected to issue its final verdict on 30 May.

Suspicion of some association of police and the military in the incident, the worst in Egyptian sporting history, was further fuelled by circumstantial evidence, including lax security in advance of the match, the signalling of a group of men armed with identical batons in the stadium, and threats exchanged on Twitter between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly fans in advance of the game.

Al-Sisi's brutal suppression of dissent since he toppled Morsi in a military coup in 2013 that has led to more than 1,400 deaths and the incarceration of thousands raises the stakes for protesters and could lead many in Port Said to think twice before taking to the streets. Supporters may also wait until Egypt's Grand Mufti rules on the death sentences.

All death sentences in Egypt are referred to the Mufti for his non-binding ratification. A decision by the mufti to reject the death sentences could lower temperatures in Port Said but spark anger among Al-Ahly fans who celebrated when the initial court sentenced the 21 to death.

The initial indictment of the 73 served to effectively put the blame for the incident on Al-Masry fans and evade a thorough investigation of potential involvement of security or military personnel despite the presence of 9 local police officials among the defendants. The framing of the case in this fashion made it however impossible to achieve a verdict that would be perceived as equitable by all. The sentencing of the Al-Masry fans was always going to leave Port Said unhappy, while acquittal or the imposition of light sentences would have infuriated the thousands of supporters of Al-Ahly.

The court verdict comes at a sensitive moment in Egyptian football politics. The death sentences came days after Egypt moved closer to banning as terrorist organisations militant soccer groups that form the backbone of opposition to Al-Sisi's autocratic rule with the arrest and pre-trial detention of 5 alleged members of the Ultras White Knights (UWK), the highly-politicised, street battle-hardened support group of Al-Ahly's arch-rival Zamalek SC. The 5 men were arrested on charges of joining a "terrorist entity" and attempting to topple the regime of Al-Sisi.

The verdict also followed the start of a trial against 16 people, including UWK members, charged with violent acts, arson and rioting that led on 8 February to a stampede outside Cairo's Air Defence Stadium, in which 20 people were killed. The deaths are widely believed to have been the result not of UWK provocation but of violence by a police and security force that has no experience in crowd control and is notorious for its brutality.

Finally, the court issued the death sentences at a time that football fans are at the core of anti-government protests in universities that are controlled by security forces and popular neighbourhoods of Egyptian cities. Leaders of fan and student groups warn that the post-2011 generation is on the one hand more apathetic and on the other more hopeless and nihilistic than the one that participated four years ago in the popular revolt.

The crackdown on football fans at a time that league matches are played behind closed doors to pre-empt violence and prevent stadia from re-emerging as venues for the expression of dissent is certain to deepen a sense of frustration. "When the opportunity arises they (the new generation) will do something bigger than we ever did," said a founder of the UWK who has since distanced himself from the group.

(source: James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-­-director of the University of Wurzburg's Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist; Daily News Egypt)

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

Can Egypt's death penalty be taken seriously?

Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi faces being sentenced to death on Tuesday on charges of inciting the killing of protesters. If a verdict is announced, it will be the 1st since he was ousted from power in July 2013 with Morsi also standing trial in 2 other cases.

While it is difficult to anticipate what will happen at the court hearing, some experts say that the death sentence cannot be ruled out.

"Although, the trials we have seen so far are devoid any proper standards and the [President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi rhetoric of fighting a war on terror [against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood] is running thin on facts, I believe that there is a real risk that the court could impose such a sentence," international law specialist Toby Cadman told Middle East Eye.

Morsi also faces the death penalty in 2 other trials, including 1 in which he is accused of spying for foreign powers, and escaping from prison during the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt.

Separate verdicts in those 2 cases are due on 16 May.

"There is grave concern that the carrying out of such executions is part of a state policy. It may be that Sisi is looking to gain politically by symbolically sentencing his opponents to death without carrying out the executions," Cadman said.

While there is a concern that a death sentence may be handed down to the former president, observers believe that the death penalty in Egypt cannot be taken seriously.

"Even if there is a death sentence, we don't know how seriously we should take it. It is likely that some of these death sentences won't actually be implemented at the end of the day since they are more political than anything else," Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid said.

Hamid does admit that "with the Sisi regime anything is possible", but he also finds that based on current trends, "It is pretty much unprecedented in the Middle East to have a recent president executed."

Furthermore even if he is sentenced to death, Morsi's lawyers should be able to appeal the verdict.

Egypt's most recent execution happened in early March 2015, when Mahmoud Ramadan who was seen in amateur footage carrying a black flag and pushing 2 teenagers from a ledge on to a terrace below - a video which caused shockwaves among Morsis's opponents at the time - was hanged in spite of his lawyers demanding more witnesses to prove his involvement in the murder.

The execution was the 1st time that Egypt enacted any of the death sentences given to hundreds of people taking part in the unrest that followed the removal of Morsi in July 2013.

Yet, thousands of Morsi supporters have been sentenced to death for their alleged roles in violence in 2013, including Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie. The sentences, often handed down in mass trials, were widely criticised by the West as well as the African Union.

While some have been commuted to life, human rights organisations continue to campaign on their behalf.

Badie, who was sentenced to death earlier this month, appeared in a Cairo court on Sunday in red-coloured garb - usually worn by inmates on death row - which was seen by some as signalling towards an imminent enactment of the death sentence.

Despite heightened fears, however, Hamid said that if a sentence is given out during Morsi's Tuesday court hearing, international pressure will likely push to commute these sentences.

"In the lead up to any planned execution, there would be an effort on the part of the US and other allies of Egypt to encourage Sisi to commute the sentence."

"I can even imagine the Saudis not being as supportive of Sisi; they would not be particularly comfortable with executing a Muslim Brotherhood Murshid [Badie] for the sake of their own domestic reasons," he told MEE.

Furthermore, enacting a death sentence for Egypt's former president could lead to further unrest, despite Sisi's efforts to create stability in the country, analysts explained.

"To sentence the 1st democratically elected leader of Egypt to death would in my opinion lead to widespread unrest across Egypt and elsewhere," said Cadman.

With increasing instability and unrest across Egypt, specifically in Sinai, this is something Sisi would like to avoid, analysts say.

However, even if Morsi escapes the death penalty, he could still face life in prison.

"Justice is highly politicised and verdicts are rarely based on objective elements," Karim Bitar from the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations told AFP.

Morsi's supporters were the target of a government "witch-hunt", he added.

The expected court ruling comes after an Egyptian court sentenced 22 members of the Muslim Brotherhood - accused of carrying out an attack on a police station in the Kerdasa district near Cairo in 2013 - to death on Monday.

That same day, another court sentenced 11 football fans to death. Originally, 70 defendants were sentenced for setting off violent protests during a 2012 football match in which 74 people were killed.

While lawyers of the defendants can appeal the sentences, the Egyptian judicial system has come under deep criticism for not providing due process for the repeal of the verdicts, such as in yet another case of 6 Egyptians who were sentenced to death, including one in absentia, on 21 October, 2014.

In a statement released on 9 April by Alkaram, a human rights organisation based in Geneva, the judges deliberately ignored the fact that the men were accused of crimes they could not have committed since they were secretly detained in the Azouli military prison during the time which the crimes took place.

In what has been dubbed the "Arab Sharkas cell case", the judgement was solely based on confessions extracted under severe torture, after which the Grand Mufti of Egypt approved their respective sentences, said the statement.

The Grand Muftis's approval is non-binding, yet the approval of Egypt's highest religious authority of a death sentence has significant implications for the judicial system as it seemingly gives a religious justification to the verdict.

Although the death sentence has not been carried out yet, it is plausible that the court will indeed enact the sentences as legal observers say that the 6 men have exhausted all legal avenues - within the Egyptian judicial system - to repeal the sentences, according to Alkarama.

The total of Egyptians sentenced to death regardless of the Grand Mufti's review is unclear but the death sentence was handed down to at least 1,000 people in 2014, according to Thomas Guinard of Alkaram. Not all were Muslim Brotherhood supporters or political prisoners.

"At least 456 of the cases handed a death sentence have been reviewed and approved by the Grand Mufti. Most of them, their appeals are ongoing," said Guinard.

According to several international lawyers, the mass sentencing exercised in Egypt over recent months cannot be justified.

On the other hand, they act to underline an argument that the judicial process is being used as an extension of executive authority and a political tool aimed to silence dissent.

"The past few months have seen thousands of death sentences handed down in Egypt in mass trials that are a mockery of justice," said Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve.

"We've also seen unprecedented numbers of juveniles wrongfully arrested and tried as adults - young people like Ibrahim Halawa, who is facing a potential death sentence alongside nearly 500 other people for the 'crime' of attending a protest," added Foa.

Despite the grave concerns over Egypt's human rights records, global powers have maintained their support for Sisi's government. Just days before the Morsi verdict was due, US Central Intelligence Agency Director, John Brennan held talks with Sisi during an unannounced visit to Cairo.

A quickening rapprochement between the long-time allies has been taking place after Washington in March lifted a partial freeze on its $1.5bn annual aid to Egypt that it imposed when then-army chief Sisi ousted Morsi.

"This wave of repression hasn't stopped global leaders from lining up to reaffirm ties with the Sisi government - and sending a worrying message at a time when hundreds of lives hang in the balance," Foa said.

(source: Middle East Eye)

APRIL 20, 2015:

TEXAS:

Arlington shoe store murder trial begins with death penalty on the table

The trial of a man accused of killing a shoe store clerk during an Arlington robbery back in 2014 began on Monday.

Jacob Everett, 21, is charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty if convicted. He pleaded not guilty as his trial began, but pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery.

On Feb. 25, 2014, Randy Pacheco, 23, was working his shift as a manager at the Red Wing Shoe Store on Cooper Street in Arlington, when police say Everett shot and killed him while stealing $200.

During opening arguments on Monday, the prosecution revealed Pacheco was shot once in between the eyes.

There was surveillance video of the suspect, and it was broadcasted widely on television at the time of the murder. Dozens of tips led police to learn the vehicle involved in the crime had been traded in. Police eventually tracked down the owner of that vehicle and arrested Everett.

By lunchtime Monday, the prosecution had already called 3 witnesses -- the 1st officer on scene, a crime scene investigator and the store's owner.

The prosecution says it plans to call 12 witnesses in total, and the defense announced during opening statements that Everett would also be testifying in his own defense.

(source: WFAA news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Raleigh man could face the death penalty if convicted of pregnant girlfriend's murder

A Wake County district court judge on Monday told a 25-year-old Raleigh man he could be put to death if he is convicted of the 1st-degree murder of his pregnant girlfriend.

Daniel Joseph Steele, who lives on Snowcrest Lane, made his 1st court appearance after he was charged late Saturday with the shooting death of Kimberly Dianne Richardson.

Emergency dispatchers alerted police at 9:40 p.m. Saturday about a shooting in the 3600 block of Sumner Boulevard near the Triangle Town Center mall in North Raleigh.

Police found Richardson, who was 6 months pregnant. Emergency workers rushed her to WakeMed in Raleigh, where she later died.

Richardson's baby, a girl, survived the shooting. She remained hospitalized Monday at WakeMed. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not comment about the child's condition because the family has requested privacy.

Investigators arrested Steele at his home later that night.

Police have not disclosed a motive for the slaying. They have not yet said if Steele is the father of Richardson's baby.

Richardson lived in Raleigh, but grew up in Youngsville, according to her Facebook page. She also posted on her Facebook page that she worked at Zales jewelry store at the mall where she was shot, as well as being a freelance videographer and trained cosmetologist.

Richardson was behind Party City, a retail store, where she used her cellphone to dial 911 and ask a dispatcher for help.

"I been shot," she told the dispatcher, in a weak, fading voice. "I can't talk. He shot me."

(source: newsobserver.com)

GEORGIA:

Man Charged in 4 Deaths Driven by 'Bloodlust,' Document Says

A man accused of killing 3 men as they slept outside and a woman walking to her car near Atlanta initially set out to rob people but was driven by a "bloodlust" after killing his 1st victim, according to a court filing.

Aeman Presley, 34, faces charges including murder in the killings of 2 homeless men in Atlanta, a man sleeping outside a shopping center in neighboring DeKalb County and a hairdresser who was heading home after a dinner out with friends in a nearby suburb. The Fulton County and DeKalb County district attorneys have both said they intend to seek the death penalty against him.

Presley is due for his 1st appearance before a DeKalb County judge Monday.

Presley took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Atlanta in May 2014 "hoping to rejuvenate his beleaguered acting career," according to a sworn statement by an investigator with the Fulton County district attorney's office. The statement was made in support of a request for a search warrant to obtain Presley's cellphone records.

Presley moved into a homeless shelter in Atlanta and took odd jobs at a restaurant and catering company to make money. But as his money began to run out, he sought other ways to earn a living, the statement says. He bought a Taurus .45 revolver "from someone on the street" in August and took a bus to DeKalb County on Sept. 26 intending to find someone to rob, the statement says.

He saw a man, later identified as 53-year-old Calvin Gholston, sleeping in a breezeway at a shopping center, and instead of trying to rob him, Presley shot him three times, killing him, the statement says.

"Immediately thereafter, Presley experienced a self-described adrenaline fueled high," the statement says. "This high manifested into a 'bloodlust' which compelled Presley to commit 2 more murders in Fulton County."

Presley approached 42-year-old Dorian Jenkins on Nov. 23 as he slept wrapped in blankets on a sidewalk in Atlanta and shot him 3 times in the chest, the statement says. A few days later, on Nov. 26, he shot and killed 68-year-old Tommy Mims as he slept under a railway bridge, the statement says.

As he walked back to a transit station after shooting Mims, he saw 2 more homeless men, the statement says.

"Since he was 'getting off on killing people,' he wanted to kill them, too," the statement says. "He decided, however, that doing so would increase his chances of apprehension."

He also wasn't sure he had actually killed Mims, so he went back and shot Mims 2 more times in the head, the statement says.

On the night of Dec. 6, Presley went to downtown Decatur, right next to Atlanta, looking for someone to rob, the statement says. He spotted 44-year-old Karen Pearce walking alone near a parking garage. He pulled out his gun, ordered her to the ground and asked for her wallet. Even though she obeyed all his orders, he shot her once in the chest, the statement says. But he didn't feel the same rush when he killed Pearce as when he killed the others, the statement says.

Presley told investigators he never meant to kill a woman, so he felt remorse and decided to stop killing and pursue his acting career. He was arrested Dec. 11 as he tried to pass through a turnstile at a train station downtown without paying. He was on his way to see a photographer for headshots, the statement says.

Atlanta police Detective David Quinn interviewed Presley for about 6 hours after his arrest. Presley confessed to the 4 killings and told the detective about his life, the statement says.

Presley didn't believe he was "a biologically malevolent person," but he felt that some of his experiences gave him a "murderous spirit," the statement says. Those experiences included: his father's early death, his mother's illness when he was young and seeing others abuse her, his involvement in the Gangster Disciples street gang in Chicago, and the violent lyrics of rap music.

Also in Presley's court file is a handwritten letter to the court clerk asking for a new preliminary hearing. He said he didn't understand what he was doing when he waived his hearing on the advice of his public defender.

"I wanted to be present. I did not want to waive my preliminary," Presley wrote. "They talked me out of it."

Overton Thierry, the public defender named in the letter, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday. New lawyers specializing in death penalty defense have taken over Presley's case.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Local defense attorneys to represent Brandon Conner in death-penalty case

Defense attorneys for Brandon David Conner today said he maintains his innocence in the 2014 deaths of his girlfriend Rosella "Mandy" Mitchell and 6-month-old son Dylan Conner, and his lawyers J. Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick will defend Conner as District Attorney Julia Slater seeks the death penalty.

Slater in a news conference this afternoon told reporters she expected the state Capital Defenders Office would have to assume Conner's defense, as the law requires attorneys meet specific qualifications to handle such cases.

But Shelnutt said he meets the standards to act as Conner's lead defense counsel, assisted by colleague William Kendrick.

"I've handled a number of death-penalty cases," Shelnutt said, of his client adding: "Mr. Conner's maintained his innocence from the beginning, and that hasn't changed."

Conner last week was indicted on 2 counts of malice murder, 2 counts of felony murder, and 1 count each of aggravated battery, 1st-degree arson and using a knife to commit a felony in the Aug. 21 slayings of Mitchell, 32, and the couple's infant son. He's accused of stabbing Mitchell to death and killing the baby before setting their 1324 Winifred Lane home afire.

Police arrested Conner, then 35, on Aug. 26.

Investigators described the case as particularly gruesome, noting the bodies were burned beyond recognition, requiring dental records for identification. Muscogee Coroner Buddy Bryan said a crime lab examination showed Mitchell was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and torso. The lab later reported the child also suffered traumatic injury before the blaze, Bryan said.

Firefighters found the 2 face-down in a back bedroom of the house after extinguishing the fire around 12:30 a.m.

Winifred Lane is in south Columbus, off Amber Drive north of Buena Vista Road.

Within an hour of the fire, a police officer confronted Conner at Cedar Avenue and Wynnton Road in Midtown after watching him sit immobile in his 2001 BMW for about 10 minutes. Authorities said the officer found Conner to be sweating and nervous, with blood on him.

Police said Conner had blood on his face, chin and shirt. They initially charged him only with misdemeanors such as giving police false information, stopping in the street and having unsafe tires. He was released that same day.

Later, after obtaining a search warrant, investigators found bloodstained clothes and a large serrated knife in the car, they said. Conner surrendered to authorities when they issued warrants for his arrest on murder charges.

Conner's indictment alleges he stabbed Mitchell in the throat and torso with a knife that had a blade longer than 3 inches. His malice murder charges allege he deliberately killed his girlfriend and child, and his felony murder counts accuse him of killing the mother and child while committing the felony offense of aggravated assault. The indictment does not specify how the child was killed.

This would be the second time that Slater, first elected in 2008, has sought the death penalty. The 1st case was the fatal shooting of Heath Jackson, killed during a burglary at his Carter Avenue home on Sept. 7, 2010.

In May 2013, defendant Ricardo Strozier pleaded guilty to Jackson's homicide and a string of related crimes. Judge Gil McBride sentenced him to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

(source: Ledger-Enquirer)

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

DA lists reasons state is seeking death penalty for Brandon Conner

Chattahoochee Circuit District Attorney Julia Slater announced on Monday that her office will seek the death penalty for a man accused in the August 2014 murder of his girlfriend and infant son, and the arson of their home.

On April 14, a Muscogee County grand jury indicted Brandon Conner, 35 on murder, arson and other related charged on the two deaths. On Monday, Slater filed a notice of the state of Georgia intent to seek the death penalty.

The reason for the filing to seek the death penalty were listed by Slater during a press conference:

--Conner committed murder during the commission of another murder, both of which are capital offenses.

--Conner committed the murders during an aggravated battery.

--Conner committed the murders in "an outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhumane manner."

"I found in this case that the statutory aggravating circumstances necessary to seek the death penalty," Slater said. "I also carefully considered the facts and circumstances of the murder, the strength of the evidence available, and the law applicable in this case."

Slater did not discuss any details about this case or the reasons further to seek the death penalty.

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren said that he believed Slater's decision the seek the death penalty is "strong" and supports the filings.

"I think this sends a very strong message for individuals that are coming into our community and killing our citizens," Boren said. "We're with her [Slater] and we stand in support of her."

Conner is accused of killing his girlfriend, Rosella Mitchell, and his 6-month-old son, Dylan, on Aug. 21, 2014 before setting the home they lived in on Winifred Lane on fire.

The 2 were found dead following a house fire on Aug. 21. Mitchell was found burned beyond recognition with stab wounds to her torso and neck.

Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said in December 2014 that Dylan Conner's manner of death was homicide. The cause of death was an inflicted violent injury prior to the home he was in being set on fire. However, due to the extensive burns to his body, the exact cause of those injuries is still unknown.

Conner turned himself in to police on Aug. 26, 2014 following a murder warrant.

The night of the fire, Conner was pulled over by law enforcement and arrested for an unrelated crime. He was described as sweaty, nervous and covered in blood. A search of the Lexus he was driving revealed more bloody clothes and a knife.

When Conner's family was reached for comment, his father, Carl Conner declined. Slater said during the press conference that the family asked to respect their privacy.

(source: WTVM news)

ALABAMA:

Man won't return to Alabama death row for killing his estranged girlfriend, who also was his cousin

A Birmingham man won't be returning to Alabama's death row for his 2nd conviction in the 2008 shooting death of his estranged girlfriend, who also was his first cousin.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Clyde Jones on Monday morning sentenced Jeffery Tyrone Riggs, 45, to life without the possibility of parole for his Feb. 4 conviction on capital murder. The jury at that trial had recommended in an 8-4 decision that Riggs serve a life without parole sentence.

Judge Jones in 2010 had sentenced Riggs to death after Riggs' 1st capital murder conviction, overriding the 1st jury's 10-2 recommendation for life without parole.

Riggs was convicted in the Jan. 10, 2008 shooting death of 40-year-old Norber Payne. The couple had been in an on-again-off-again seven-year relationship and had a child together. Riggs, who was married at the time, had been accused of being angry that Payne was seeing another man.

Payne and Riggs also were first cousins who were both sexually abused as children, the defense attorneys argued as a mitigating factor.

When Riggs was about 10 years old he and Payne were sexually abused by the boyfriend of his great-aunt, according to testimony in February and a defense sentencing memorandum.

"This older adult repeatedly forced Mr. Riggs and his female cousins, including the victim, Ms. Norber Payne, to engage in sexual acts," according to the memorandum from Assistant Jefferson County Public Defender Texys Morris. "These were Mr. Riggs' 1st sexual experiences. The aunt's boyfriend also showed pornography to Mr. Riggs and his cousins."

Morris also argued among other things that Riggs, according to one expert, had an intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation) and also he had no prior criminal record.

We thank the judge. He did the proper thing here" - Deputy Jefferson County Public Defender Bill Dawson

Riggs had won a new trial in 2013 after the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his death sentence and capital murder conviction. The appeals court stated Judge Jones should have included comments about the state's burden of proof on whether Riggs was provoked and killed Payne in the heat of passion, which applied to the lesser charge of provocation manslaughter.

At Monday's sentencing Deputy Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton told Judge Jones that he believed the appropriate sentence was still death, but he still recommended the judge hand down life without parole so everyone in the case a chance to move on.

"The life of Norber Payne was taken for no other reason than he got his feelings hurt," Anderton said.

Payne was shot 4 times with a .50-caliber pistol while in her bed, Anderton said. He said he believes Riggs was trying to hide behind some kind of mental incapacitation defense, but it was based solely on what Riggs reported about himself.

Despite any mental challenges he might have up until the shooting Riggs had no criminal history and had been able to hold down responsible jobs for long periods of time, Anderton said.

"But this family has been through enough," Anderton said. "I don't want to see the case back in a courtroom because we learned we didn't cross some "T"."

After Anderton presented his argument, Judge Jones turned to the defense attorneys and told them he had already made up his mind and didn't need to hear their arguments against imposition of the death penalty. The judge then handed down the life without parole sentence and ordered Riggs to take an anger management course while in prison.

"We thank the judge. He did the proper thing here," said Deputy Jefferson County Public Defender Bill Dawson, who also defended Riggs.

Riggs' mother, Patricia Riggs, said she was relieved that the judge gave her son life without parole rather than the death penalty again. But she said she said she still wants her son to appeal his guilty verdict because she doesn't feel like he committed burglary during the shooting incident, an underlying offense for the capital murder charge.

(source: al.com)

OKLAHOMA:

New Law May Bring Controversial Form Of Capital Punishment To Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma isn't about to let something like a Supreme Court decision prevent it from executing inmates.

On Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) signed legislation establishing that death row inmates will be asphyxiated with nitrogen gas if the state is unable to obtain lethal injection drugs or if the Supreme Court strikes down that method of execution. The bill responds to 2 developments that currently stand between the state and its desire to kill several inmates - a shortage of execution drugs and a Supreme Court case that could potentially limit the kinds of drugs Oklahoma may use in executions.

The shortage arises largely from opposition to the death penalty among drug manufacturers and foreign governments. Many pharmaceutical companies, especially European and Asian companies that have historically made drugs used in executions, refuse to distribute their products if they will be used to kill inmates. Meanwhile, foreign bodies such as the European Commission imposed tight restrictions on the export of many drugs that can be used in executions. As a result, many states have turned to less-reliable drugs - or to drugs produced through unreliable methods - in order to carry out executions.

That's why the Supreme Court is now involved. Earlier this year, the Court agreed to hear 3 Oklahoma inmates' cases challenging the state's plan to use a drug called midazolam during their execution. Oklahoma, like many states, uses a 3-drug protocol in its executions - an anesthetic to ensure that the inmate does not feel pain, a paralytic and then a 3rd drug that actually kills the inmate. The state intends to use midazolam as the 1st part of this protocol, but it is not at all clear that the drug is effective when used for this purpose. Rather, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in a dissenting opinion last January, research indicates that midazolam has a "ceiling effect" - it is effective as a pain-killer up to a certain point but higher doses beyond that point do not increase its effectiveness.

Yet, while the Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's use of this drug, there are 2 reasons to suspect that a majority of the Court will ultimately hold that it is acceptable to use midazolam in executions despite concerns that it may not adequately dull inmates' pain. The 1st is that, while the Court did agree to hear 3 inmates' cases, there were actually 4 inmates who petitioned the Court. The justices allowed that 4th inmate, Charles Warner, to be executed before they ultimately took the remaining 3 cases and stayed those executions - although the Court's 4 more liberal members did dissent from the decision to allow Warner to die.

Simply put, the fact that the justices permitted Oklahoma to kill Warner is not a hopeful sign that a majority of the Court viewed his execution as constitutionally doubtful.

The other sign that the Court may not strike down Oklahoma's execution protocol is a 2008 decision called Baze v. Rees. Baze involved a challenge to a somewhat different execution protocol used by the state of Kentucky prior to the execution drug shortages. Though the legal issues presented by Baze are somewhat distinct from the issues presented by the Oklahoma case, it is worth noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes votes with the Court's left-of-center bloc on death penalty cases, did not crossover in Baze. This suggests that Kennedy may be less sympathetic to challenges to a state's method of execution than he is to challenges alleging that certain classes of people - such as juvenile offenders or the intellectually disabled - may not be executed.

In any event, the law Fallin signed on Friday will likely permit the state to move forward with the 3 inmates' executions regardless of how the justices rule.

(source: thinkprogress.com)

USA:

Shocking revelations about flawed FBI hair evidence - another reason to end the death penalty

Here are 3 numbers that should shock and appall you:

32 and 14. The 1st is the number of defendants who were sent to death row nationwide in a 2-decade period before 2000 based on what was revealed Monday to be the flawed testimony of elite FBI forensic examiners.

The 2nd is the number who were put to death or who have died in prison on the basis of that testimony.

32 and 14.

As The Washington Post reported Monday, "the findings confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques -- like hair and bite-mark comparisons -- that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989."

Yet when you talk to proponents of capital punishment, they will tell you the only thing that's wrong with the functioning of America's macabre death penalty machinery is that the appellate process, which can sometimes grind on for years before an inmate is put to death or sometimes exonerated, is too long.

Monday's report is another argument in favor of repealing Pennsylvania's death penalty statute.

Not that the system is often rigged in favor of the prosecution.

And not that poor and minority inmates routinely receive substandard representation that can lead to the innocent being railroaded onto death row.

The shocking admission Monday by the U.S. Dept. of Justice and FBI that nearly every examiner in an elite forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost every trial in which they offered evidence is an offense against justice.

And it should rightfully serve as grounds for the reopening of scores of criminal cases.

According to The Post, of the 28 examiners working for the FBI's microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 "overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials" involving 2,500 cases being jointly reviewed by the government and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project.

The two units are assisting the government in what is being described as the nation's largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence, The Post reported.

Those death row cases were included in the 1st 200 cases to be made public under and agreement between the government and the 2 criminal justice groups, The Post reported.

In all, there were 268 cases with evidence involving hair samples that were used against defendants. Reviewers have so far found examiners gave flawed testimony in 257 of those cases, which involved 284 defendants, the newspaper reported.

There were 231 state, and 53 federal, convictions, including 21 from Pennsylvania that resulted in 5 people being sent to death row, The Post reported.

As The Post also notes, the FBI errors "do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict's guilt."

But they are blindingly bright warning flares signaling deep and worrisome problems in our judicial system.

Justifiably, defendants and prosecutors in 46 states and Washington D.C. are being notified, so they can determine whether there are grounds for appeal. 4 defendants were previously exonerated, the newspaper reported.

Monday's admission adds to the growing mountain of evidence that capital punishment has outlived its usefulness as both a deterrent and instrument of justice.

To review, more than 250 Pennsylvania death sentences have been reversed since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1978, according to The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C.

And in 6 of those instances, the evidence ultimately showed that a condemned inmate was entirely innocent.

Nationwide, 150 people have been freed from death row.

Make no mistake, victims of violent crime and their surviving family and friends deserve justice. No one should have to suffer the horror visited upon them.

But life imprisonment, without possibility of parole, has not only been shown to be less expensive than execution, but it also enjoys popular support.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has been criticized for imposing a moratorium on executions until a special commission returns a report on the cost and effectiveness of Pennsylvania's death penalty law.

Monday's report not only provides support for Wolf's decision to put the brakes on a broken system, it is also another argument in favor of repealing Pennsylvania's death penalty statute.

The only question confronting the 253-member General Assembly is not whether they should take that vote, but, rather, when.

(source: Editorial, pennlive.com)

GUINEA:

Guinea prosecutor demands death penalty over Ebola murders

A prosecutor called Monday for the death penalty for 15 people accused of the murders of a nine-member Ebola education team in southern Guinea, judicial sources said.

The victims, including local health officials and journalists, went missing after their delegation came under attack from angry locals during an outreach visit to the southern town of Womey in September last year.

8 bodies were recovered from the septic tank of a nearby primary school 2 days after the attack.

Williams Fernandez, prosecuting at the trial in the southern city of N'Zerekore, said 26 defendants had been accused of a raft of offences including murder, criminal conspiracy, robbery, assault and theft.

He called for 15 accused to be sentenced to death and for the remaining 11 to be acquitted.

Michel Labile Sonomou, who is defending 1 of the accused, told AFP the 5-week trial was due to sum up at the end of the week. Closing arguments for the defence begin on Tuesday.

The deadliest Ebola epidemic on record has killed nearly 11,000 people in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

The virus emerged in Guinea in December 2013 and quickly spread, accompanied by fear and paranoia among villagers who felt the government and the international community could not be trusted.

Many Guineans believed local and foreign healthcare workers were part of a conspiracy to deliberately introduce the outbreak, or invented it as a means of luring Africans to clinics to harvest their blood and organs.

A police lieutenant told AFP the Womey outreach team was targeted by protesters who had come "to kill them because they think Ebola is nothing more than an invention of white people to kill black people".

At least 21 people were wounded during violent scenes in which the team was pelted with stones, according to local police.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

IRAN:

Executions in a week reaches 81

Coincident with mass executions in the prisons of Ghezel-Hessar, Karaj and other cities, the anti-human regime of mullahs sent 16 other prisoners to the gallows in Mashhad and Birjand (northeastern Iran). 12 of them were hanged collectively in Vakilabad prison of Mashhad on April 16, and the other 4 were executed in Birjand prison the following day. Thus, the number of executions from 12 to 18 April reached 81, meaning 12 executions per day.

The unprecedented increase in the wave of executions after the Lausanne nuke framework is a clear indication of the mullahs' desperate need of creating an atmosphere of fear in the society to confront the explosive situation.

Iranian Resistance calls on Iranian brave youths to express their solidarity with the families of the executed and prisoners, and to protest against this criminal move in the country. It also underscores the need for ousting this bloodthirsty and fascist regime from the world community.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

INDONESIA:

Bali nine executions: Iranians on Indonesia's death row have sentences commuted to life in prison

2 Iranians found guilty of smuggling 40 kilograms of methamphetamine in Indonesia have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The Bandung High Court said in its decision that sentencing was not about revenge, but a form of education so that in the future the defendant wouldn't conduct another criminal act, according to news website Rappler.

This ruling is at odds with Indonesian president Joko Widodo's repeated claims that the death penalty for drug felons is a necessary "shock therapy" for a country facing a drug emergency.

10 drug offenders, including Bali nine organisers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, are facing imminent death by firing squad in Indonesia.

The date has not yet been fixed but the Attorney-General said it would be unseemly to kill them while the Asian African conference was being held this week.

The Iranians, Mosavipour bin Sayed Abdollah, 36, and Moradalivand bin Moradali, 32, were arrested by the National Narcotics Agency on February 26, 2014.

They were caught picking up the methamphetamines in bags which had been buried in the Tangkuban Perahu Nature Reserve in West Java.

The Iranians were sentenced to death in January, even though the prosecutors only sought sentences of 15-20 years.

However the death penalty was overruled by the Bandung High Court on March 30, according to the decision published on the court website on Monday.

The inconsistency of the application of the law in Indonesia is deeply distressing for those on death row and one of the reasons advanced for the abolition of capital punishment.

Meanwhile, 1 of the 10 felons on death row, Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami, had his appeal thrown out of the Administrative Court on Monday.

The court said clemency was the prerogative of the president and it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

This was the same reason given in a similar appeal mounted by lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran.

A man purporting to be Raheem Agbaje Salami, from the southern Spanish city of Cordova, was arrested in 1998 smuggling 5.3 kilograms of heroin into Surabaya, Indonesia's 2nd largest city.

However Raheem's passport was false. His real name is Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, a Nigerian national. And although he was arrested 17 years ago, Indonesian authorities continue to use the fake name in prison on Nusakambangan.

Raheem's lawyer, Utomo Karim, argued the prosecution of his case was illegal because his fake identity was used from his arrest to his conviction in the district court right through to the rejection of his clemency plea.

Mr Utomo is considering lodging a request for a judicial review of his client's case in another court.

However he said funding it was a problem because the Nigerian Embassy can't help pay for it.

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

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

Indonesia court rejects death penalty for 2 drug smugglers----'Sentencing a defendant is not about revenge, but more a form of education and lesson so that in the future the defendant won't conduct another criminal act'

Not all drug smugglers in Indonesia are sentenced to death, even under the current administration, which has taken a hard-line stance on drug trafficking.

The Bandung High Court, for instance, did not agree with the death sentence given by a lower court to two Iranian nationals found guilty of smuggling 40 kilograms of crystal methampetamine.

"Sentencing a defendant is not about revenge, but more a form of education and lesson so that in the future the defendant won't conduct another criminal act," the court decision stated, according to a report on Detik.com on Monday, April 20.

The March 30, 2015 Bandung court decision saved the lives of Seyed Hashem Mosavipour bin Sayed Abdollah (36) and Moradalivand bin Moradali (32). The pair was reportedly arrested by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) on February 26, 2014, after they took drug-filled travel bags buried in the Tangkuban Perahu Nature Reserve in Sukabumi, West Java.

In January 2015, the Cibadak district court in Sukabumi, West Java, sentenced the 2 Iranians to death, even though the prosecutors only sought sentences of 15-20 years.

Instead, the pair will serve life sentences, which according to the Bandung High Court should also serve as a deterrent and discourage others from violating the law.

BNN protest

BNN said it regretted the high court decision, which it said did not take into consideration the amount of drugs smuggled.

"If you estimate that 1 gram of meth is used by about 7 people, then almost 280,000 people could have used those drugs," BNN spokesperson Slamet Pribadi was quoted as saying.

He added BNN hoped an appeal would reverse the decision again.

The news comes as Indonesia prepares to execute up to 11 people, 8 of whom were convicted of drug cases. These include Filipino citizen Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso and the Australian "Bali 9" pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has rejected their clemency requests, claiming that Indonesia is in a drug emergency, and has ignored calls from foreign governments and human rights activists to reconsider.

On Monday, he reiterated his call again for other countries to respect Indonesia's laws.

"We will practice our constitution. The law does allow for execution, and I think other countries should respect Indonesian laws," he said in an interview aired by Philippine broadcast network ABS-CBN.

(source: Rappler.com)

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

Philippines VP to visit Veloso in prison

Vice President Jejomar Binay is planning to visit Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on death row in Indonesia, in prison on the sidelines of his visit to Indonesia this week to attend the Asian-African Conference Commemoration (AACC), a senior diplomat from the Philippines has said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Jesus Domingo, the assistant secretary for office of UN and international organizations at the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, said Vice President Binay was hoping to save Veloso from the firing squad.

"We've requested the opportunity to visit her," he said on the sidelines of the Asia-Africa Ministerial Meeting (AAMM) on Monday. "Our Vice President is seeking the chance to visit her and to speak with the proper officials in the Indonesian government to see if there are any other legal remedies that can be exhausted to secure her release, or at least spare her from the death penalty."

Veloso, who was involved in trafficking 2.6 kilograms of heroin via Adi Sutjipto Airport in Yogyakarta in 2010, is one of several foreign nationals set to be executed by the Attorney General's Office (AGO).

The 30-year-old woman is currently awaiting transfer from Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta to the Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap, Central Java, where she will face a firing squad in the near future, together with 9 other convicts.

Last month, Veloso filed for a 2nd case review with the Sleman District Court after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo rejected her clemency request. The Supreme Court later rejected her 2nd request.

Binay, a front-runner in the 2016 Philippines presidential race, is set to fly to Indonesia on Wednesday to attend the AACC, held in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, from April 19 to April 24.

(source: Jakarta Post)

INDIA:

Death penalty demanded for murderer

Expressing serious concern over the murder of suspended CPM leader's wife Kalpana Das, Tripura Pradesh Mahila Congress on Sunday demanded capital punishment for the guilty persons.

"It's a horrifying incident that Kalpana Das was brutally killed by her husband, who was a leading CPM leader and that's why we want capital punishment for all those who have committed the heinous crime", said Kalyani Roy, president of Tripura Mahila Congress Committee at a press conference here.

Roy said the killer husband, former Sabhadhipati of Paschim Tripura Zilla Parisad, Jiten Das is a very influential leader who can influence the investigation into the gruesome murder.

"We want the government to undertake trial of the case in the fast-track court for speedy justice. Besides, we also want the trial process should be ended keeping all the accused persons in jail keeping in mind of Jiten Das's political influence", she said.

Roy said the alleged mastermind - Jiten Das - claimed that Kalpana had committed suicide but later it turned into a murder case. "Sensing trouble, the CPM had to take action against the party leader for his alleged involvement in the murder case", she said.

Around one month back, Kalpana, who was a teacher, met one of the Ministers of Left Front Government and revealed misdeeds of her husband Jiten Das but nobody knows if the Minister took any step against the leader, she alleged.

Jiten Das was suspended only to save the party image but not for justice to the victim. "He (Jiten) was a man of ill-repute since long. Inspite of his dirty background, the party had not taken any action against him before the gruesome murder", she also alleged.

The 62 year-old woman was found in a pool of blood in her bed-room at Bridhinagar, near the capital town on April 16. Later, a murder case was lodged against the former CPM leader and 3 of his close relatives for their hand in the murder. All the suspected killers are in police remand for investigation.

(source: Assam Tribune)

OKLAHOMA:

'No guarantee nitrogen gas execution is painless'

Oklahoma has added the gas chamber to its execution methods. The head of the Death Penalty Information Center, Robert Dunham, told RT the decision was made hastily, with no medical research and that nitrogen was "inappropriate for use on humans".

RT:What was your reaction to the news?

Robert Dunham: I think my reaction is the one of disappointment. It shows first that the legislature in Oklahoma and the government of Oklahoma are out of step with the views of vast majority of Americans and are certainly out of step with the views of the rest of the world. Oklahoma moved very very swiftly because their lethal injection protocol is under attack to come up with some alternative method of execution. But in doing so there is no medical research, there is no indication of a very very fast legislative response here.

There is no indication that they looked into what the experience has been with the veterinarians, and animals and things along those lines. And it turns out if you look at what the American Veterinarian Association has said, nitrogen gas is inappropriate for use among most mammals, and particularly large mammals which of course human beings are.

RT: State officials say the new method is painless. But it has never been tested on humans - so how do they know?

RD: It has not been tested on humans because it is unethical to test it on humans. But I think what is really instructive is the language used by the Oklahoma legislatures and the Oklahoma governor drawing this entire process. It is virtually identical to what the legislatures were saying when they went into lethal injection. They without a whole lot of research and without medical experience to back it up were saying that the lethal injection is going to be swift, is going to be painless, and is going to be effective. So this is the same rhetoric. There is no guarantee whatsoever. It may work. It may be painless, but we don't know. And it is unethical to experiment and find out.

RT: Are there any humane ways of executing people?

RD: I don't know what the answer to that is. I can tell you that the people of good will, whether you're for the death penalty or against the death penalty, if it is going to get carried out you want it to get done in a manner as quick and as painless as possible. And recent polls in the US show that among the death penalty proponents that view is held by over 70 % of people who say that they support the death penalty. As Pope Francis recently said, "the is no humane way to execute somebody." At its core the death penalty is a violent act. The execution of a person, the taking of their life against their will is a violent act. And I think the failures of lethal injection and the swift but not particularly thoughtful reaction by states like Utah with their firing squad proposal and Oklahoma with the gas proposal just kind of illustrates that when legislatures are having these really fast, thoughtless responses, they're not taking into consideration things you would expect a careful legislature would.

RT: How do you believe this sensitive subject should be handled?

RD: I think there is a rising concern about the problems with the death penalty in the United States. And that concern - there're a lot of reasons for it. With the innocence revolution, with the development of DNA technology, there have been more and more instances we've seen people who are innocent coming off the death row. In the last month alone in the US there have been two death row exoneration. And one of the scariest things about this is, you know with DNA you're able to examine whether somebody did the offense or did not do the offense. DNA is not present in vast majority of these cases. It is available as an evidentuary tool in maybe 10-15 % of the cases.

And what we have learned with the DNA cases is, every other piece of evidence that was used to convict the person is wrong. And so we have seen a disturbing number of confessions that are either false or fabricated. We have seen eye witness identification that simply is incorrect. We have seen things like prison informants giving false information, and an extraordinary amount of preceptorial or police misconduct. So what the DNA has shown us is that you can't really have a whole lot of confidence in the rest legal process in capital cases. And I think the folks in the US are very concerned about that and it is one of the reasons why support for the death penalty is at a forty year low in our country.

(source: rt.com)

USA:

More marathon survivors come out against death penalty----Penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial to begin Tuesday

2 people who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombing have come out in opposition of the death penalty for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Married couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes join the parents of 8-year-old victim Martin Richard, who died in the 2013 blasts, in asking the federal government not to put Tsarnaev to death.

In a statement to The Boston Globe, the couple says "If there is anyone who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the defendant. However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance."

They call their position "intensely emotional and profoundly practical."

Like the Richards, they call for life in prison without parole or appeals to ensure that Tsarnaev "disappears from our collective consciousness as soon as possible."

The penalty phase of the trial starts Tuesday.

(source: WCVB news)

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

FBI admit to scores of forensic errors, including death penalty cases

The FBI on Sunday admitted "errors" spanning several years in evidence provided in court by its forensic lab to help secure criminal convictions, including in death penalty cases.

The admission follows a report by the Inspector General's Office (OIG) last July probing "irregularities" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation lab.

The OIG's report found that the flawed forensics were used in at least 60 capital punishment cases, including three in which the defendants were put to death.

In a statement acknowledging the flawed forensics, the FBI said it is "committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance".

The statement admitted "errors made in statements by FBI examiners regarding microscopic hair analysis in the context of testimony or laboratory reports. Such statements are no longer being made by the FBI," the statement said.

It added that the FBI "is also now employing mitochondrial-DNA hair analysis in addition to microscopic analysis".

The statement, co-signed by the Department of Justice, added that "the department and FBI have devoted considerable resources to this effort and will continue to do so until all of the cases are addressed".

(source: Agence France-Presse)

IRAN----executions

13 Unreported Executions in Different Cities During Last 2 Weeks

During the last 2 weeks, 13 prisoners who had been sentenced to death, were hanged in different cities in Iran, which has not been mentioned in any report, so far.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), these executions have not been announced by the authorities or the media, and its report just recently has been given to HRANA.

According to HRANA, 3 prisoners of drug related crimes were hanged on 26th March, in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad and on 29th March, one prisoner alleged with drug crimes, named Hashem Firouzi was executed in Shiraz.

On 30th March, 2 prisoners in Bushehr prison, who were sentenced to death, in retaliation of murder, were executed. On 31st March, a prisoner who had been charged with homicide was executed in prison of Dizelabad, in Kermanshah. Also, 4 prisoners who had been charged with drug related crimes, in Shiraz, were executed on 5th April, and on 9th April, 2 prisoners with homicide charges, named Eisa Ali Zehi and Manochehr Ghafori were executed in prison of Bandar Abbas.

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

6 Prisoners Hanged in Esfahan and Shiraz

6 prisoners were hanged in Shiraz and Isfahan.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), on Monday 13th April, 4 prisoners with drug-related charges were executed in Esfahan prison. One of them has been identified as Siamak Ranjbari. Also, on Tuesday, retaliation sentences for 2 brothers, Ali and Reza Sardari, were executed in Adel Abad prison in Shiraz.

No official information in this regard has been announced by the judiciary and other official institutions, whereas, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, the process of executions in the last several weeks has intensified in most of cities in Iran.

(source for both: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

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

65 executions in one week

In face of extensive domestic and external crises, especially pursuant to one-step retreat in the nuclear negotiations, and concurrent with the expansion of protests by teachers and workers, as well as other strata of the society, the anti-human clerical regime has unprecedentedly ramped up executions in fear of growing popular uprisings. Over 70% of the executions have been carried out in secret and the clerical regime has not published any information on these atrocities.

In the past week (from April 12 to 18), henchmen hanged at least 65 prisoners. Forty-five of these have been executed just in Karaj City prisons. On April 13, 8 prisoners were hanged in Karaj’s Central Prison while 13 other prisoners were executed in Ghezel Hessar Prison. On the next day, 19 prisoners were hanged in Gohardasht Prison. And on April 15, henchmen hanged five prisoners in Gohardasht. Among those executed was Javad Saberi, a juvenile at the time of his arrest.

During this period, 1 prisoner was hanged on April 12 in Mehriz (Yazd Province), 8 prisoners were hanged on April 12 and 15 in Arak, 3 were hanged on April 14 and 15 in Shiraz, 4 prisoners were hanged on April 13 in Esfahan, and 4 were hanged in Zahedan on April 18. 2 of those executions, in Mehriz and in Shiraz, were public hangings.

A considerable number of prisoners executed were young under 30 and were among the prisoners who had protested the wave of collective executions in Ghezel Hessar Prison back in August. A number of the prisoners executed on pretext of drug smuggling had no drug related cases according to their families.

Prisoners in Karaj prisons staged protests on April 12 following the transfer of their cellmates to solitary confinement in preparation to carry out the criminal execution sentences. Protesting prisoner chanted: "We shall not let you kill us". Similarly, families of the prisoners on the verge of execution also gathered in front of the prisons and shouted: "We shall not let you execute them".

It is said that in the weeks ahead, the clerical regime is planning to hang 200 prisoners on the death row in Gohardasht and Ghezel Hessar prisons. Many of the families of prisoners have been asked to refer to prisons to meet with their loved ones for the last time. In fear of prisoners' revolt, mullahs' regime has transferred those to be executed to prisons in nearby cities, including the Larger Tehran Prison in Hassanabad Varamin Road and the Central Prison of Qazvin.

The Iranian Resistance urges the people, especially the youth, to protest these criminal executions and to express their sympathy and solidarity with the victims' families. It further stresses that the silence and inaction of the international community for the sake of nuclear talks in the wake of the spike in collective and arbitrary executions only encourages these murderers to kill more of the Iranian people while continuing their march to obtain the nuclear bomb.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

MALAYSIA:

Unemployed man charged with murder of former fiancee

An unemployed man was today charged at the Magistrate's court here for the murder of a woman at a parking lot of a supermarket earlier this month.

Muhammad Irshaduddin Khalis Nasurudin, 23, was accused of murdering Nursyafikah Ahmad Ismail, 20, by stabbing her on April 10 at about 5.45pm at the parking lot of Econsave supermarket in Jalan Mersing here.

The victim was the accused former fiancee.

The accused was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the death penalty upon conviction.

(soure: New Straits Times)

PAKISTAN:

Court allows challenge to execution of Pakistani convicted as juvenile

The Islamabad High Court has said it will hear the first significant legal challenge to the execution of a Pakistani who was convicted as a juvenile.

In an order handed down on 17 April, the Court told the Pakistani government to appear in court in two weeks to respond to concerns about the planned execution of Shafqat Hussain. Mr Hussain was arrested in 2004 as a minor and sentenced to death, on the basis of a 'confession' extracted from him after nine days of torture. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21530)

Following the widespread resumption of executions in the country in late 2014, Mr Hussain was told he would be hanged last month; however, the execution was stayed pending a government investigation, after lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) produced evidence of his juvenility and forced confession.

The order allows Mr Hussain's lawyers at JPP to mount a legal challenge to the government's inquiry into his case, which was discredited recently after it emerged government officials had confiscated important evidence. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21600) Mr Hussain's stay of execution was due to expire on 17 April, and there were fears that the government would quickly seek a so-called 'Black Warrant' for his hanging.

Pakistan's death row is the largest in the world, holding some 8,500 prisoners. Recent research by the Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve suggests that over 800 of these prisoners may have been arrested and sentenced to death while still juveniles.

Commenting on the decision, JPP's director and Mr Hussain's lawyer Sarah Belal said: "Shafqat Hussain's death sentence was handed down after torture and wrongful arrest - it should never have been allowed to happen. Yet despite having promised to conduct a full and transparent inquiry into the case, the Government's inquiry so far has been riddled with problems and shrouded in secrecy. It's extremely welcome, therefore, that the Court has demanded that the Government explain itself - and opened the door for Shafqat to finally defend himself. We look forward to hearing the Government's justification for trying to hang a man whom it wrongfully arrested, tortured and sentenced to death as a child."

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the human rights organisation Reprieve, said: "In the Pakistani government's rush to execute the thousands it holds on death row, it is clear that it has all but abandoned due process. Today's decision by the Court is a victory for those who want to see real justice prevail in Pakistan - not just the hasty hangings of scapegoats and vulnerable victims like Shafqat, who was arrested as a child, tortured and sentenced to death on the basis of a forced 'confession'.

"Thousands of lives hang in the balance - the international community must speak out against this wave of injustice, and urge Pakistan to change course before it is too late."

(source: Ekklesia.co.uk)

INDIA:

The many wrong messages that hanging Yakub Memon would send----The Supreme Court's upholding the death sentence for the man who surrendered, hoping to clear his name in the Mumbai bomb blasts case, also draws our attention to the miscarriage of justice in the preceding riots.

What must Yakub Memon have felt on hearing that the Supreme Court had rejected his review petition against his conviction and death sentence in the 1993 serial Mumbai bomb blasts case. The mocking words of his brother, Ibrahim 'Tiger' Memon, advising him not to give himself up to the Indian authorities might have echoed in his ears. "You are returning as a Gandhiwadi, but the Indian government will see you only as a terrorist," Tiger had told him, according to what Yakub told the special court in Mumbai set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act.

On April 16, the Supreme Court rejected Yakub's review petition against his conviction and sentence. The same court had earlier rejected his appeal against his conviction by a special court in Mumbai in 2006, and the president had rejected his mercy petition in May 2014. On the charges for which Yakub has been convicted, none of his co-accused has been given the death penalty.

Tiger Memon's words proved prophetic. Yakub gave up life in a gilded cage in Karachi under the ISI's watch, to come back in July 1994 and clear his name in the case of the 1993 blasts, which had been masterminded by his brother and Dawood Ibrahim. He was followed by seven members of his family. Only Tiger, another brother Ayub, and their families stayed back.

With him, Yakub brought proof of Pakistan's involvement in the blasts, which India could not have otherwise obtained. He thought this act would earn him a reprieve. Instead, unable to get Dawood Ibrahim or Tiger Memon, the Indian authorities wrecked vengeance on the rest of the Memon family, who had chosen to surrender because of "faith in our government and judiciary", as Yakub wrote in a letter to the chief justice of India from Arthur Road jail 5 years after he had set foot on Indian soil.

The government did not even have the grace to acknowledge that the Memons had chosen to surrender. Instead, the then home minister, SB Chavan, said in Parliament amidst much thumping of desks that the authorities had arrested Yakub from New Delhi railway station. "I've never seen it in my life," wrote Yakub in his letter.

His family's incarceration and their deteriorating physical and mental health drove Yakub to depression. In his letter, he wrote that he could not remember the events of 1 full year in jail when he was confined to bed. In the letter, Yakub also described his life before the March 12, 1993, blasts. It was an ordinary life: SSC with 70%, then college in the morning and work during the day, graduation, post-graduation, 4 years of studying to be a chartered accountant, and then establishing his own CA firm with a Hindu partner. "We were doing very well...I was very busy. The purpose of giving this brief about myself is to bring home just one single point: "WHERE WAS THE TIME TO HATE...." (upper case in the original).

In his letter, Yakub pointed out that nine of his 15-member family were NRIs settled in Dubai, and the rest would often visit them. On the day of the blasts, they were in Dubai, and got to know only later that 1 among them had masterminded them. After the blasts, the entire family left for Pakistan. "But we did not lost (sic) hopes of coming back to India and wipe out the stigma attached to our name," wrote Yakub.

But the stigma would not be wiped out. "The prosecution is harping upon 'Memon Family' during their arguments as if there is a section in CrPC (as in Income Tax laws, while dealing with the HUF- the Hindu Undivided Family), wherein a family can be treated as a single unit. ... The main reason for implicating us in the case is that we were in relation (to) and association of the prime accused. Now to be in relation to anyone is not a crime ... We do not deny our relation and association with Ibrahim Memon ...as a relative and nothing more."

In 2007, having spent almost 13 years in jail, Yakub was sentenced to death by the TADA court. His brothers Essa and Yusuf, both seriously ill, and sister-in-law Rubeena were sentenced to life imprisonment. When his sentence was read out by the TADA court judge, Yakub cried out: "Forgive him lord, for he knows not what he does.'' 7 years later, the Supreme Court upheld the judgement.

But, as both Yakub's appeal and his review petition, argued by lawyer Jaspal Singh, asserted, Yakub was convicted on the basis of the statement of one approver and the retracted confessions of co-accused. The prosecution did not produce any independent evidence to refute Yakub's assertion that he knew nothing about the blasts.

With the mercy and review petitions rejected, Yakub is left with little hope: only perhaps a curative petition and another mercy petition. If Yakub is hanged, the message will be clear: if you have committed a crime and have been lucky enough to escape, good for you. If you are suspected of having committed a crime but want to return to India to try and clear your name, be prepared for the worst. Far better to spend your life in luxury, even if it is in a country that is hostile to yours. Not for you the choice of bringing up your children as Indians.

The 2nd message that Yakub's hanging will send is that there is no place for reformation in our justice system. Among the arguments made by advocate Jaspal Singh in his review petition were his client's record of good conduct in jail and no evidence by the prosecution that there existed no possibility of reformation. During his 21 years in jail, 8 of them on death row, Yakub has obtained an MA in English from the Indira Gandhi National Open University. The authorities of the course denied him permission to attend the convocation, although it was held in Nagpur itself, where he has been lodged since 2007. The day the Supreme Court dismissed his review petition in April, Yakub got an MA from IGNOU in political science.

The 3rd message will perhaps be the most ominous - that our criminal justice system recognises guilt by association. Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are beyond our reach. Should we rejoice that we have at least one Memon we can hang and lock the others up for life? Was Yakub right in writing: "According to the prosecution if one member does any wrong, entire family ...can be punished and society can be shown that the justice is being done?"

Finally, Yakub Memon's hanging will inevitably draw our attention to the original sin in the chain of events that led to the March 12, 1993 blasts: the Mumbai riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Neither those who demolished the Masjid nor those found guilty of the ensuing riots, in which 900 persons were killed, among them 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus, were punished, even though criminal offences were registered against the perpetrators. Two judicial commissions also indicted specific individuals for both crimes.

Among these individuals were 31 policemen, charged with extreme communal conduct against Muslims, including murder. None of them was punished. Nearly all the offenders in both events not only went free, some of them ruled the country as central ministers.

But those who took revenge for the riots, killing 257 people, were not let off. Their punishment ranged from two years to death. All death sentences, except Yakub's, were 6 years later commuted to life.

When the TADA court held him guilty, Yakub cried out: "Woh sahi bolta tha, koi insaaf nahin milega, tum log hume terrorist banake chodoge." What he said was right; you won't get justice; you will make us into terrorists. He was referring to Tiger Memon's words. In his letter, Yakub wrote: "Section 20(8) and other draconian provision of this Act does not allow the Designated TADA court judge to look upon us with living and merciful eyes. On the contrary we are presumed to be guilty of TERRORISM."

(source: Opinion, Jyoti Punwani, scroll.in)

INDONESIA:

Widodo: Countries must respect Indonesia's death penalty stance

Other countries should respect Indonesia's law imposing the death penalty on convicted drug traffickers.

That's how Indonesian president Joko Widodo responded to calls for him to grant clemency to convicted drug traffickers on death row, including Filipino Mary Jane Veloso.

"We will practice our Constitution. The law does allow for execution and I think other countries should respect the Indonesian law," Widodo said in an exclusive interview.

The Philippine embassy in Jakarta is working on a 2nd appeal for Veloso, after Widodo rejected the 1st one.

"Yes, if they want to undergo a judicial review, they can go ahead. We respect the legal process. Indonesia has the rule of law," Widodo said.

Veloso is facing execution in Indonesia for drug trafficking. She was caught in Yogjakarta airport in 2010, carrying nearly 3 kilos of heroin.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay is heading to Indonesia to personally appeal Veloso's case.

Binay is attending the Asian African Summit in Bandung on April 22. He says he will use that visit to ask Widodo to spare Veloso.

"I am hoping that we will be given the opportunity to personally appeal to His Excellency's kind heart for the commutation of the sentence of Mary Jane," he said.

(source: ABS-CBN News)

SINGAPORE:

2010 Kallang murder: 1 sentenced to death, another faces life in prison

2 Sarawakians convicted of murder in a violent crime spree in Kallang in May 2010 were sentenced on Monday (Apr 20).

Micheal Garing, 26, faces the death penalty while Tony Imba, 36, will be jailed for life and caned 24 times.

Both were part of a gang of four that robbed and caused the death of 41-year-old Indian national construction worker Shanmuganathan Dillidurai. Two other Indian nationals and one Singaporean were also badly injured from the attacks.

High Court judge Choo Han Teck found that Micheal was the one who wielded the parang that caused Mr Dillidurai's death, while Tony, who held the deceased victim while Micheal began his assault, had "significantly less" culpability.

While the prosecution had argued during trial in 2013 that it is not unprecedented for co-accused persons convicted of a common intention to receive similar sentences, Justice Choo noted that this is unnecessary since Parliament removed the mandatory death penalty for individuals convicted of murder in 2012.

Tony's lawyer Amarick Singh said his client was very relieved, adding that the sentence was "fair in comparison with what he did". Micheal's lawyer Mr Ramesh Tiwary said his client will be appealing against the sentence.

Both were accompanied by their family members in court on Monday. Hairee Anak Landak, 1 of the 4 involved in the case, was sentenced to 33 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane in 2013 after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery with grievous hurt. An alleged accomplice, Donny Meluda, is still at large.

(source: Channel News Asia)

EGYPT:

Court sentences 22 to death in Kerdasa police killings

A Cairo criminal court gave 22 defendants, charged with attacking the Kerdasa police station in 2013, the death penalty Sunday.

The accused include 14 held in custody, with the remaining eight convicts currently fugitives. They were collectively charged with destruction of public property, vandalism and the killing of police officer Mahmoud Ibrahim Abdul Latif.

Also involved in the trial were 14 minors, who received 10 years in prison.

They are also charged with attempted murder, illegal possession of weapons, and the use of violence against police officers.

Judge Nagy Shehata referred the defendants' files to Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam, a routine procedure before ratifying a death sentence.

Violence in Kerdasa increased on 14 August 2013, during security forces' dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square sit-ins. Both sit-ins were organised to show support for former president Mohamed Morsi, with violence not restricted to the Kerdasa village, but also occurring in the nearby village of Nahia.

(source: Daily News Egypt)

APRIL 19, 2015:

KENTUCKY:

Lexington police made 2nd arrest in shooting death of UK student

Lexington police have made a 2nd arrest arrest in the death of Jonathan Krueger, a junior at the University of Kentucky who was shot while walking home early Friday.

Krueger, 22, of Perrysburg, Ohio was killed about 2 a.m. during a robbery at Transylvania Park and East Maxwell Street. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Fayette County Coroner.

Police arrested Efrain Diaz, 20, Friday evening and charged him with murder and robbery.

Police also arrested Justin D. Smith, 18, who has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting. In addition to murder, Smith also is charged with robbery, tampering with physical evidence and fleeing and evading stemming from a brief pursuit and standoff.

As police loaded Smith into a cruiser Friday evening, reporters asked whether he killed Krueger.

"No. Hell no," Smith replied before heading to the Fayette County jail.

Smith spent several hours being questioned in police headquarters Friday after police announced they had made an arrest in the case.

Lexington police Chief Mark Barnard, during a news conference earlier, said investigators caught Smith quickly, but the case is not closed. They are looking for other individuals who were involved. Barnard would not say how many others could be involved.

"We've updated the family on our investigation and our thoughts and prayers are with them," Barnard said.

The chief said the investigation "moved so quickly" so there was a lot that they are still piecing together. The chief said he could not say much about the case, but he scheduled the news conference because police had received multiple calls from the community.

"It has been such a quick, fluid investigation that we are still actively working on it and investigators are out in the field, so I don't want to jeopardize anything they're doing or their safety," Barnard said.

Barnard said his officers did well by making an arrest seven hours after the shooting. A large number of officers were working on the case, and he said they wanted to provide some sense of closure for Krueger's family, but he realized that this doesn't heal their wounds. Barnard said he spoke to Krueger's father and he was, understandably, very upset.

"I don't think there's anything ever anything I could say to a family or a victim that ever makes them whole again after something like this," said Barnard, who was flanked by several city leaders, including Lexington mayor Jim Gray and Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson. "It's very difficult for families."

When asked whether this would be a capital murder case, Larson said he would not discuss the case because it was pending.

"One thing I don't do is talk about a pending case," he said. "This is a pending case and as a result, I'm not going to say anything about it. If you want to know about procedures, we'll talk about those at some point. If you want to talk about facts, that sort of thing, you have to come to the trial."

Kentucky law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty when there are aggravating circumstances when someone is killed during a robbery or there is an active emergency protective order.

IT'S TERRIFYING

Krueger, a junior in the College of Communication and Information, was shot about 2 a.m. Friday during a robbery at Transylvania Park and East Maxwell street, according to Lexington police.

Officers, responding to a report of shots being fired, found Krueger lying on East Maxwell street. After interviewing witnesses, police say, Krueger was gunned down during a robbery. A friend who was with Krueger escaped and found two people who called police. The friend told police that a minivan pulled up, 2 men jumped out and confronted them. The witness says the men grabbed his watch and when he tried to throw his wallet at them and run, he heard gunshots. He was not injured.

The men who called police say they thought the gunfire was fireworks until they saw Krueger's friend.

"The look on his face was just like, incredible. He was in so much shock. He was asking us if like, he could trust us, cause he was just scared of anything at that point in time.That was his friend who got shot at so it's terrifying," Thomas O'Mara, who helped the victims, said.

The University of Kentucky issued an urgent alert for students to avoid the Transylvania Park area around 3 a.m. The alert was cleared about 40 minutes later when the university issued a statement, saying "the emergency condition has passed, all conditions are normal and you may safely resume your regularly scheduled activity."

Earlier Friday, police released some details about the shooting, but they did not connect the shooting to a later search and standoff on Le Havre Road.

After the shooting, officers began looking for a man wearing a red hoodie. He was last seen leaving the area in a maroon minivan, possibly, a Chrysler Town and Country model.

Around 5:30 a.m., Lexington police Lt. Clay Combs said they tried to stop a maroon minivan because they thought the driver was under the influence. Officers say the driver took off toward a home on Le Havre Road. The man refused to come outside, so police called in its Emergency Response Unit or SWAT team.

Around 6:30 a.m., Justin Smith exited the home peacefully and was arrested.

Police recovered a weapon near Cardinal Valley neighborhood on Cambridge Drive, but would not discuss any evidence they collected.

A CAMPUS TRAGEDY

News of Krueger's death rocked the campus.

Krueger was a photojournalist and was the photo editor for the Kernel, UK's student newspaper. Chris Poore, the Kernel's adviser, told our sister station in Lexington, WKYT, that Krueger was tapped to be the paper's ad manager in the fall. Several students said they knew him well.

UK President Eli Capilouto, noting that it was a tragedy for the campus community, issued a statement about his death.

The president said he notified the campus community Friday morning of the death of a student.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to Jonathan's family, friends, faculty members, and fellow students," he said. "We have reached out to his family to let them know that we are here to assist them in any way we can at this incomprehensible moment."

Capilouto noted that the shooting happened off campus, but it "is a stark reminder that all members of our campus community should at all times be vigilant about their safety, and the safety of others. We are each other's keeper."

"It is also in a moment like this that we are reminded of how fragile and precious life is," he said. "Let us all keep Jonathan's family, loved ones and friends in our thoughts and prayers."

Krueger's fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, issued a press release that, in part, said "Jonathan had a way of putting a smile on everyone's face, every single day. His passion for photography and athletics was great; his love for people was even greater."

Krueger's co-workers at The Kentucky Kernel said he was an easy friend to anyone he met and was always stepping into help when it was needed.

Krueger worked as a photo editor for The Kernel and this year covered the men's basketball team all the way through the Final 4. His adviser at The Kernel says, next year would Krueger would have been stepping up into the role of advertising manager.

His friends say Krueger always brought a smile and positive attitude to their newsroom, something they say will be greatly missed.

"We just saw him yesterday so it is hard to grasp. At The Kernel we are very tight knit ... we spend every evening together so we are like family," said Morgan Eads.

(source: WLKY news)

TENNESSEE:

Living on death row in Tennessee: 'The rollercoaster is exhausting' ---- 34 inmates are volleyed between life and death as the state grapples with lawsuits on the constitutionality of legal injection and the electric chair

Donnie Johnson has spent nearly 1/2 of his life waiting to die. In 1985, the Memphis camping equipment center staffer was found guilty of suffocating his wife, Connie, with a plastic garbage bag. Since his conviction, he's maintained his innocence; insisting that a work-release inmate murdered his wife, and that he only helped dispose of the body at a nearby shopping center out of fear for his life.

The 64-year-old death row inmate, who stays at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution on the western outskirts of Nashville, has twice been scheduled to die. Johnson received his 1st stay of execution in 2006, which later led to an unexpected meeting in 2012 with his stepdaughter, Cynthia Vaughn. The meeting gave the Southaven, Mississippi, resident, who was 7 years old when her mother was killed, a chance to forgive her stepfather. The 2 have since met another 4 times, exchanged letters and chat on the phone every Saturday.

"It changed my life totally," Vaughn says. After spending most of her life hating her stepfather, she says she's learned more about the mother she hardly knew and has commemorated each visit with a tattoo of a bird. "I can't even think of a word to say how much it changed my life."

Their fragile relationship, slowly on the mend, hinges on the uncertain future of Tennessee's death penalty. Johnson, whose latest execution date on 24 March was indefinitely postponed, is one of 69 inmates currently locked up on Tennessee's death row. The inmates' lives now hang in the balance of a pair of lawsuits contesting whether the state's 2 execution methods, lethal injection and the electric chair, illegally subject them to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of their constitutional rights. A court last week halted all executions until the current legal challenges are resolved.

Tennessee's courtrooms have become one of the latest battlegrounds over how prisoners sentenced to death are executed. Those challenges - which gained national attention last year after several botched executions ahead of the US supreme court's landmark lethal injection case later this month - come at a time when some residents of the conservative southern state are showing signs of shifting their views on the death penalty.

Since Tennessee's last execution in 2009, lawyers have argued over numerous parts of the capital punishment process. Following a series of court rulings, the state has switched up the deadly drug used in its executions, concealed the identities of people administering lethal injection drugs to inmates, and brought back the electric chair as a backup execution method in case its dwindling supply of lethal injection drugs runs out. Those legal fights, largely taking place over the past 2 years, occurred as former Democratic attorney general Robert Cooper embarked on an unprecedented effort to schedule executions in a state that has only killed 6 inmates since the turn of the century.

34 Tennessee death-row inmates are now challenging whether the state's procedures for both execution methods are unnecessarily cruel. Kelly Henry, a capital habeas unit supervisor with the Tennessee federal public defender's office, on Friday presented oral arguments contesting the state’s use of lethal injection in Davidson County chancery court ahead of a trial scheduled later this summer. A separate lawsuit related to the electric chair will be taken up in the Tennessee supreme court in May, Henry says.

Citing the ongoing lawsuits, Tennessee department of correction spokeswoman Alison Randgaard declined to discuss the department’s ability to perform executions, the status of lethal injection drugs currently in its possession, and other death penalty protocols. The state's supreme court last month overturned a pair of lower-court rulings that would have forced DoC officials to hand over the identities of executioners and pharmacists to death-row inmate attorneys to determine their qualifications. Henry says it's still unclear whether the state can keep secret other details about the process of obtaining lethal injection drugs.

Tennessee attorney general's office spokesman Harlow Sumerford said he was unable to respond to multiple requests comment about its stance toward the death penalty, citing time constraints.

"The Department of Correction stands ready to carry out the will of the court," Randgaard wrote in a statement.

As those executioners remain on call, Henry questions the broader use of the death penalty in Tennessee. She says the process, particularly when execution dates are delayed, can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder due to the psychological torture involved. Case in point: one of her past clients had four stays of execution before which he washed down his cell for the next inmate, packed up his belongings and divided them up for his family members. 3 days before an execution, Henry says, inmates are moved to an 8ft-by-10ft cell, placed under 24-hour observation, and strip-searched before all visitations.

"It's surreal," Henry says. "All this complete dehumanization of themselves to make sure they don't kill themselves before they kill them."

Despite the state's continued push to carry out executions, traditionally progressive death penalty opponents have forged an unlikely partnership with some conservative residents on the issue. State representative Jeremy Faison recently co-sponsored a bill with a longtime death penalty opponent, state representative Johnnie Turner which could gain traction inside the Tennessee statehouse in 2016.

Knoxville resident Kenny Collins, who helped launch Tennessee Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, says his stance toward the death penalty changed when he learned about the higher costs of incarceration for death-row inmates, the potential risk of killing a wrongfully convicted person, and the amount of power given to the government over a person's life.

"I can't say if [a wider shift in opinion] is going to happen overnight," says Collins, whose own opinions on the issue shifted just 3 years ago after doing some research. "I can't say if it's going to happen next week. The conversation around the death penalty has changed so much within a year. More conservatives are voicing their opposition to the death penalty."

Vaughn was once also a staunch supporter of the death penalty, actively posting on online forums and demanding that convicts like her stepfather be held accountable for their actions. But her views have slowly changed. Without an all-but-unlikely moratorium, she realizes the inevitability of Johnson's death and is asking him every last question about her mom, jotting down every last detail, and has even made him promise to choose lethal injection over electrocution - an option he still holds due to the length of time he's served in prison. Johnson, who she says has come to terms with his eventual death, agreed her request.

"The window of opportunity could close in 5 minutes or 5 years," Vaughn says. "The rollercoaster that the state puts everybody through is exhausting ... If you're going to execute him, execute him. If you're not, don't execute him. Stop messing with the families of both the inmates and the victims."

(source: The Guardian)

LOUISIANA:

Double murder trial to begin after 4 year delay

After 4 years, a trial for a man accused of double-murder is set to start in a few weeks.

Lee Turner Jr. is on trial for allegedly killing 2 co-workers. Police say Turner shot and killed Randy Chaney and Edward Gurtner at the Carquest Auto Parts on Airline Hwy in 2011. Turner was hired less than 2 weeks before. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and jury selection started Friday.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said cases like this can take time to get rolling.

"These cases take 5 to 6 years just to get to trial," said Moore. "These are very time consuming cases."

The last person sentenced to death in East Baton Rouge Parish was Dacarius Holiday. Holiday was convicted of beating to death his girlfriend's 2-year old son, back in 2010. Moore said since that time, the parish has had other death penalty cases. None of those ended with a death sentence.

"It seems to be that way around the state and the country," said Moore "Death penalties are somewhat on the decline. And I know for Baton Rouge they have probably have for the last few years."

We have reached out to Turner's attorneys for comment, but they have not returned our calls.

(source: WAFB news)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska could abolish death penalty

Nebraska senate endorses measure to replace capital punishment with life imprisonment

Nebraska has taken a major step closer to doing away with the death penalty, amid controversy over lethal injection that has some US states questioning the punishment and others digging in.

Despite a threat of veto from the state governor, the Nebraska senate endorsed the measure to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment on Thursday, according to official records.

Nebraska would join 18 other US states that have banned the death penalty if the bill becomes law.

Governor Pete Ricketts promised to veto the legislation, saying on Twitter that capital punishment "is an important tool for public safety and our prosecutors."

"Death row inmates have earned the penalty they received. They do not deserve the luxury of living on the taxpayer dime for a lifetime."

The legislature though could overturn the governor's veto with 30 votes -- the number of votes the bill received Thursday.

Executions have continued to decline in the United States with 11 states having abandoned the use of the death penalty without legally doing away with the punishment.

Around 80 % of the country's executions take place in Texas, Missouri and Florida. The US federal government rarely imposes the death penalty.

A recent shortage of a drug used in lethal injections prompted a state scramble to find an alternative to move forward with executions.

Some inmates appeared in agony as they were executed with alternative drugs, prompting a public outcry and raisingquestions over whether the punishment is overly cruel.

The US Supreme Court is due to consider the controversy at the end of the month. A recent Pew survey puts US public support for the death penalty at 56 %.

In the meantime, some states with the death penalty have tried to ensure scheduled executions go forward.

Utah reinstated the firing squad and Texas restocked supplies of the needed lethal injection drug from an anonymous supplier. Oklahoma passed a law Friday to allow execution by gas chamber.

(source: i24news.tv)

OKLAHOMA:

Experimental execution: Oklahoma legalizes nitrogen-gassing of death-row inmates

Oklahoma has become the 1st US state to legalize the gassing of death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are not available. The rushed decision was made without any proper clinical trials, Robert Dunham, Head of Death Penalty Info Center told RT.

Following a spree of horrific accidents involving botched lethal injection executions across the US, Oklahoma has decided to go ahead and press forward with contingency measures for executing inmates.

Last year Oklahoma witnessed the execution of Clayton D. Lockett, who suffered from a heart attack and convulsions, and was in agony for 45 minutes prior to his death. While the Supreme Court decides whether the new drug mix is constitutional, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on Friday approved the use of nitrogen in executions as an alternative option to the so-called painless death.

The new cost-effective procedure involves only a mask and a tank of nitrogen. As the inmate inhales pure gas without any oxygen, he or she is supposed to lose conciseness within seconds, while his or her body slowly dies from asphyxiation.

But politicians in Oklahoma did not pay much attention to medical evidence and veterinarian practice and expertise, Robert Dunham, Head of Death Penalty Information Center told RT.

"It has not been tested on humans because it is unethical to test it on humans," Dunham said. Admitting that there is no way to run such lethal tests on humans, he said that at the same time there was "no indication that they looked into what the experience has been with the veterinarians."

Yet proponents of the new method argue that it is a painless way to depart this life and one of the most humane ones.

"Nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a painless form of execution that doesn't require any specific pharmaceutical compounds or any medical expertise to administer," Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, told The Tulsa World ."It is a far better alternative to the electric chair should lethal injection ever become unavailable, and so I thank the governor for signing this bill into law."

To come up with the new execution method, the state commissioned a study which last month concluded that "an execution protocol that induced hypoxia via nitrogen inhalation would be a humane method to carry out a death sentence."

But despite all the claims of a humane method of execution, Dunham told RT, that at its core the death penalty is a violent act.

"The execution of a person, the taking of their life against their will is a violent act," he said, pointing out that recent capital punishment cases conclude that any evidence rather that DNA evidence can be mishandled and that innocent people might die.

"What the DNA has shown us is that you can't really have a whole lot of confidence in the rest legal process in capital cases," he said.

The governor's decision, Dunham says, "illustrates that when legislatures are having these really fast, thoughtless responses, they're not taking into consideration things you would expect a careful legislature would."

(source: rt.com)

ARIZONA:

The American Nightmare----Debbie Milke Recounts Life on Death Row

Debbie Milke, born in Berlin, was placed in solitary confinement Arizona for 22 years after being falsely convicted of conspiring to kill her son. Following her acquittal, she discusses her experience in prison and a life destroyed by a miscarriage of justice.

Early in the morning on Feb. 4, Debbie Milke was transferred to the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville near Phoenix. She sat in the backseat of a police car. As she peered out the window, it would be the last time she would see homes, trees and plants for the next 22 years.

Security officials removed her from the vehicle in front of the high security prison. "My hands and feet were shackled and I could only take baby steps," Debbie remembers.

Then she describes what can only be called indescribable. "The closer we got to the building, the louder the women became." Debbie purses her lips and makes fists with her hands. It's as if she's trying to strike at something in the air.

"The women banged against their cell doors. They called out Ba-by-kill-ler, Ba-by-kill-er!"

Debbie lowers her gaze. She has no words to describe how she felt at the time. "I just kept talking to myself constantly: Stay calm, Debbie. They don't know any better, and they don't know the truth." The walk to her cell seemed to take an eternity.

Debbie was placed in cell 265, in solitary confinement. Behind the blue door, the cell measured 86 square feet and contained a bed, a toilet, a sink and walls covered with graffiti. The steel door closed behind her with a clank, leaving her standing there in her cell, prisoner number 083533, dressed in jeans and a light blue T-shirt, holding a few documents and a toothbrush in her hands.

"I tried to breathe calmly to prevent myself from panicking. I kept telling myself: This place isn't your home, Debbie. You'll get out of here one day. This place isn't the end.

It smelled like cement and dust. The light was dim. The worst thing was the noise. My cell was above the wing where they kept the suicidal inmates. The women below me were constantly whimpering, all those years."

Whenever Debbie left her cell, either to take a shower or for yard exercise, she had to undress.

Debbie, now 51, gets up from her brown armchair. Against her black T-shirt, her hair looks even whiter and her skin paler. For almost a quarter century, Debbie hardly ever saw the sun.

She then demonstrates a so-called strip search. She extends her hands, rotates them, lifts her arms and exposes her armpits. She opens her mouth and sticks out her tongue. Then she folds down her earlobes. Finally, she turns around and lifts up her hair, bends over and indicates that she is pulling apart her buttocks, coughs 3 times and then points to the soles of her feet. By the time she is finished, her face looks drawn and tired.

Debbie is still wearing an electronic bracelet around her right ankle. It is Sunday, March 22, 2015, the day before what is probably her most important court date. On the next day, the State of Arizona will have to officially admit that it was not Debbie who committed a brutal crime, but rather the state that committed one against her.

According to the charges at the time of her trial, Debbie allegedly solicited acquaintances to shoot and kill her four-year-old son Christopher in the Arizona desert. A jury found her guilty, despite the lack of solid evidence against Debbie. The testimony of a dubious police officer sealed her fate.

On Jan. 18, 1991, a court sentenced Debbie to death even though she was innocent. If the State of Arizona had had its way, she would have been executed on Jan. 29, 1998. Debbie was already being prepared for the execution in Perryville.

"They call it a 'dry run,' the test run for death. Electric chair or lethal injection? What happens to my body? Who gets my belongings? As soon as an execution date has been set, you have to answer a lot of questions. That alone is enough to scare you to death.

A dry run is a procedure based on regulations. At first, my cell was searched every evening to make sure I wasn't hiding anything I could have used to kill myself. And then, suddenly, there was this doctor in a white coat. He tied off my right arm with a flexible tube and ran his fingers along my elbow. 'What are you doing, I asked?' 'I'm checking to see how healthy your veins are,' he replied. It was at that point that I realized they were really serious. And that's when I fell apart."

Over the years, the Arizona justice system never managed to execute Debbie. Nevertheless, it robbed her of much of her life. Debbie, born in Berlin, was in solitary confinement for 22 years. She was treated like a monster, locked up in the labyrinth of the US justice system, a system in which the more you know about it, the less you understand.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world. Almost 3,000 people are currently on death row, waiting to be poisoned, gassed or hanged, or executed in the electric chair or by a firing squad.

Statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center show that 151 people have been released from death row and acquitted since 1973. Debbie's case shows how easily the innocent can end up in prison and on death row.

It is Monday, March 23, in room 7 of the Superior Court of Maricopa County. It's a sunny day, with the mountains visible across the desert.

The court clock with its red, illuminated numbers, ticks numbers in front of Debbie. These are the last few seconds of her case, the last seconds of an American nightmare.

She is sitting between her attorneys, looking nervous. Debbie is wearing a blue-and-black blouse and a necklace with a silver heart pendant. The inscription on the pendant reads: "Hear my soul speak."

The judge, looking into the courtroom, announces that she has received a letter from the Supreme Court of Arizona instructing her to dismiss the case. It takes her 26 seconds to utter these all-important instructions -- 26 seconds after 22 years on death row.

Debbie is taken into an adjacent room. Her parole officer goes into the room, holding a bag and a pair of scissors. He emerges 10 minutes later, having taken off Debbie's electronic ankle monitor and placed it in a bag.

Photographers and cameramen are waiting outside the court. A guard offers to protect Debbie from them, pointing to another exit, but she declines.

She uses the same approach she used in all those years in which many believed she was a child killer, the years in which her fellow inmates berated her whenever she was led through the corridors with shackles on her feet. "I just think to myself that there's no one there and I keep going straight ahead," she says.

Today Debbie lives in Phoenix, in a house owned by a friend from Berlin. He first read about her case in SPIEGEL in 1998, and he has supported her ever since.

Two columns support the roof over the front door, next to which is a doorbell without a nameplate. Debbie's dog Angel, a blonde Labrador crossbreed, barks when the doorbell rings.

There's fruit on the kitchen counter -- pineapple, blueberries and melon. At best, the only fruit she got in prison was the occasional apple or orange.

Sitting in the armchair in the middle of her living room, Debbie describes what it was like to wait for freedom for more than two decades. A life with nothing to look forward to, thoughts of execution and what might be the last image a person sees before they die.

She talks about what it feels like to return to a world that has seen so much change. Debbie speaks calmly as she relates her carefully organized thoughts and memories.

Her parents met in Berlin, where her father was stationed with the US military. When he was transferred back to the United States about a year after she was born, Debbie and her mother Renate came along. But the marriage steadily deteriorated, and in March 1983 Renate moved back to Germany alone.

Debbie's younger sister Sandy remained with their father, who was now working as a guard at a prison in Florence, not far from Phoenix. Debbie went to college in Phoenix, where she shared an apartment with a female friend. "We were 19, our parents were far away and we were crazy about boys."

On a Friday evening in April 1983, she went to a biker bar, where she met Mark Milke, a floor installer whose parents were from Hamburg. He was athletic and well groomed. "I was lovesick," says Debbie. She soon noticed that Mark drank and smoked pot a lot. "But I thought I could change him," she says.

They were married in December 1984, and Christopher was born the following October. That was when Mark went to jail for the 1st time, after being convicted of drunk driving without a driver's license.

One day, Debbie found a bag in the garage. It contained needles, a white powder and a bent spoon. She angrily confronted Mark, and a short time later she found him in the bath, looking half-dead, with a needle in his arm.

At some point, Mark shouted at her: Take your kid and get out of here! He pushed Christopher out the front door, and the little boy wet his pants. Debbie took the child's hand, ran down the street and hid behind some garbage cans. As she recounts the story, the little boy said: "Mommy, can you buy me some cowboy boots? That way I can kick Daddy the next time he's so mean."

Debbie, at her wit's end, could only think of 1 person to turn to for help: Jim Styers, a neighborhood acquaintance. He was friendly and had a 2-year-old daughter. She called him from a gas station and Styers told her she could stay in one of the rooms in his house.

She didn't know very much about him. He was a Vietnam veteran and lived on welfare -- and was haunted by the ghosts of the women and children he had killed in Vietnam.

He took care of Christopher while Debbie looked for an apartment. She only felt uncomfortable around Styers' best friend, Roger Scott, a heavy drinker.

On Dec. 2, 1989, Styers asked Debbie if he could borrow her white Toyota and drive it to a shopping center. Christopher wanted to come along, so he got up and put on his new cowboy boots. "See you later, alligator," Debbie said. "After awhile, crocodile," the 4-year-old boy replied. It was a standard goodbye ritual. And then they left, the veteran and the child.

"Jim called early in the afternoon. He wanted to know if I had heard anything from Chris. He said that he had lost the boy. I shouted: Jim, you have to find him. Jim! He said that he was already talking to a security guard.

My head was full of grim thoughts. I thought of child molesters. I panicked and called my father. He told me to calm down and call the police. So I called the police.

Police officers showed up in the next few hours. I hoped that Chris, who knew our number, would call soon. I was starting to go crazy."

Debbie drove to her father's house in Florence that night. The police officers had promised to watch the phone. She took a pill and fell into a deep sleep. When she woke up the sheriff was there. He told her that the Phoenix police wanted to speak to her.

"He took me to the sick room at the police station in Florence. Then a big, fat man dressed in civilian clothing came into the room. He sat on a chair and rolled the chair around the table and towards me, until his face was only a few centimeters away from mine. I was sitting with my back against the wall. He put his hands on my knees and said that Christopher was dead, that they had found his body in the desert, and that I was under arrest. All I could do was shout: What? What? The man asked me if I wanted the conversation to be recorded. I said: 'No, I need a lawyer.'

Then he took me to Phoenix in a car. As I stared out into the night, I couldn't believe what was happening. I thought that he might be taking me home now, but we drove to the police station in Phoenix instead. There, he put me in handcuffs and took me to a jail. I don't remember much about the days I spent there, but a young public defender turned up soon. I asked him: Is it true that my boy is dead? He looked at me with a stunned look on his face. 'How is it possible that you don't know?' he asked. 'You confessed to arranging the murder.'"

Debbie's attorney was a typical, inexperienced public defender. He had never been involved in a murder case. In fact, he had only worked on a handful of criminal proceedings. While he sat with her, a grand jury appointed by the district attorney voted to charge Debbie with murder.

She didn't know what had happened. A detective named Armando Saldate had questioned Styers and Scott. He was a specialist in interrogation with a reputation for being able to make people confess. He was the "big, fat man" Debbie had described.

Saldate took Styers to task, but he remained silent. Scott, on the other hand, was softer. Saldate asked questions and kept pressing him until he began to talk. The only problem was that he was telling several different versions of his story.

Yes, Christopher was dead, Scott said. He also knew where the boy was, he added. He claimed that Styers had shot the boy and that he himself had only driven the car. He said Styers couldn't stand the boy, and that there had also been a life insurance policy on Christopher worth over $5,000.

Scott directed the police officers northward. Along the way, he told a different story, saying that Styers hadn't intended to kill the boy, but that Debbie had hired him to do it. He didn't reveal why.

The officers discovered Christopher's body in a dry riverbed north of Happy Valley Road. Someone had fired 3 bullets into the back of his head.

The same evening after Scott's interrogation, Saldate took a helicopter to Florence, where Debbie was being kept in the sick room at the station. The crime came at a convenient time for Saldate, who was eager for a promotion and wanted to show what he could do.

Saldate first typed his report three days later, six-and-a-half single-spaced pages, containing the alleged confession of Debbie Milke. He wrote that she had cried and shouted during the interrogation, but that "no tears were visible," that he said he "would not tolerate any lies." According to the report, she then said, "Look, I just didn't want him to grow up like his father," and, "I just wanted God to take care of him." Saldate claimed in his report that Debbie "spoke to her friend Jim about helping her figure out a way for her child Chris to die." And when Jim and her son left, "She knew that they were going to do it today." The report also alleges Debbie told her son on the day of his death that "God was coming down and going to take him and that he was going to be going to heaven."

The problem with the transcript was that Saldate had not brought a witness to the interrogation. He also didn't record the sessions, and he threw away his notes, he later claimed.

Debbie says that he had twisted her words around and invented a lot of things. It was quite possible that she had said that she didn't want Christopher to turn out like his father, but was that a reason to ask Jim to kill her child? That's nonsense, she says. Never.

Jim Styers never testified against Debbie. And Roger Scott never repeated his accusations. Police found the murder weapon, a pistol, in a closet in Scott's home.

Debbie spent the remaining time until her trial in the prison's psychiatric ward, tormented by depression and panic attacks. She could only remember that Christmas decorations were put up at some point, she says. At most, she spoke with her attorney and her psychiatrist. He taught her how to breathe when she was hyperventilating during an anxiety attack.

Debbie's trial began on the morning of Sept. 12, 1990. She was taken in handcuffs and shackles to a room at the Maricopa County Superior Court. Photographs taken at the time depict a young, 26-year-old woman with a blank expression and her blue eyes wide open.

"I felt like I was looking at everything through a curtain. They had given me a sedative, which made me less aware of my surroundings, although I wasn't afraid of the trial at all. On the contrary, I was looking forward to it, because I was sure that everything would finally turn out to be a huge mistake. I was so incredibly naive."

Judge Cheryl Hendrix, a woman with a stern look on her face, presided over the trial. She had recognized Saldate's report as a confession and as evidence, even though Debbie had never signed it and continued to dispute its contents.Archival images show the police officer wearing a suit and tie, and facing a microphone. "She decided it would be best for Christopher to die," he said.

When Debbie thinks about that day, she closes her eyes.

"I had to be quiet. But everything in my head was screaming: Liar, you're a goddamned liar. He was so overbearing, so unbelievably arrogant. And he was allowed to describe in detail all the things I had supposedly confessed to him.

But the district attorney drove me into a corner. I felt as if I were in Russia, not America. I was only allowed to answer questions with yes or no, and I couldn't explain anything. And yet there were so many things that needed explanation. The fact that Jim was always good to Christopher, and that I had no reason to distrust him. That I didn't know that Roger Scott would join them on that day. That I wasn't the one who had bought that life insurance policy, but my employer, and that it was a routine thing. Everything seemed so unreal to me. My soul couldn't bear it anymore."

Debbie's mother Renate didn't come to the trial. She said later that she had been completely taken aback by her daughter's supposed confession.

Debbie's father Sam and her sister Sandy, however, did testify in the trial. Her father said that Debbie had always been selfish and should never have been allowed to become a mother. Her sister claimed that Debbie had abused Christopher, burning him with a hot baking sheet to discipline him.

"I stared at Sandy the whole time and wondered: What have I done to you to make you hate me so much? She was always jealous of me. She probably enjoyed getting even with me. I don't know. But when it came to my father, I thought: Why are you saying these things? You know me! As a soldier, he probably couldn't imagine that a police officer would lie.

But the really bad thing was that the judge overruled every objection from my attorney. She also denied all requests to have me take a lie detector test, as well as to question my friends and Chris's pediatrician. Shortly before his death, he had spent four weeks in a hospital because of his thyroid. The doctor had affirmed that he was touched by how much I had cared for Chris, and that there were no signs whatsoever of abuse. The judge was also uninterested in the prison psychiatrist's assessment. No wonder, because he thought I was innocent."

The trial ended after only a few weeks, on Oct. 12. Eyewitnesses say that a boy played a 15-minute violin solo in the courtroom, after the judge invited him in an effort to improve the mood.

The jury of 12 men and woman found Debbie guilty of having instigated Styers and Scott to murder Christopher. On Jan. 18, 1991, Judge Hendrix handed down the sentence.

"I still remember how my attorney bent over to me and tried to calm me down: 'They definitely won't sentence you to death, Debbie.' But he told me to remain calm if I heard the phrase 'life in prison.' He said this would be just a formality and that he would definitely get me out sooner.

And then the judge read the verdict. All I heard was: death. I felt paralyzed. There was nothing there, no emotion at all."

It wasn't until 22 years later, in March 2013, that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the verdict and Saldate's report: "Without Saldate's testimony, the prosecution had no case against Debbie, as there was no physical evidence linking her to the crime and neither of her supposed co-conspirators -- Styers and Scott -- would testify against her. ... The only evidence linking Debbie to the murder of her son is the word of Detective Armando Saldate, Jr. -- a police officer with a long history of misconduct that includes lying under oath."

The appellate court judges listed many cases prior to Debbie's trial in which Saldate had lied, used unorthodox methods to obtain confessions, broken the law and framed suspects. In one case, Saldate obtained a confession from a man who was in the hospital with a fractured skull and couldn't even remember his own name.

In another, he interrogated a suspect who was on artificial respiration, was being given intravenous infusions and repeatedly lost consciousness. Saldate shook the seriously injured man in order to get him to talk.

The appellate judges were horrified by Saldate's methods and the fact that his testimony had sent Debbie to death row. "No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone's life or liberty," chief judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the court. And then they really let loose: "The Phoenix Police Department and Saldate's supervisors there should be ashamed of having given free rein to a lawless cop to misbehave again and again, undermining the integrity of the system of justice they were sworn to uphold."

The prosecutors were already familiar with Saldate's list of sins in 1990, but they concealed it from the jury. Otherwise, they would have lost their case against Debbie.

Debbie was placed in solitary confinement on the night after her death sentence was pronounced. She remembered that the lack of contact with other people almost drove her crazy.

3 weeks later, she was transferred to death row in Perryville. Ba-by-kil-ler, Ba-by-kil-ler.

"I was allowed to spend one hour in the yard three times a week. They would put me in a cage with about four square meters (40 square feet) of space. I hated it. I felt like an animal in the zoo. But at least I could look up at the sky, watch the planes go by and imagine who was sitting in them and flying in them. I always tried to sense the world outside the walls and fences."

During her 1st year in Perryville, she was ostracized by her fellow inmates.

"Maybe they were afraid of me, because they thought: She must be dangerous, since she got the death penalty. A few guards also felt similarly about me. I could sense their tension when they opened my door. First, they would always talk into their walkie-talkies and say: 'Opening Milke's door.' But over time they realized that I was completely harmless."

3/4 of a year after her arrival in Perryville, Debbie tried to contact her mother for the 1st time. She wrote her a 32-page letter, dated Oct. 18, 1991. She sent it to her grandparents in Berlin, whose address she knew by heart.

She spoke German as a child, but she had forgotten almost everything. She wrote on the envelope, in poor German, "Grandma and Grandpa, it's not true. For my mother and Alex! Please Grandma! Please!" Alex was her stepfather.

"A short time earlier, the mother of my ex-husband died. It almost broke my heart to know that she had gone to her grave believing that I had had someone kill Chris. I didn't want the same thing to happen to my mother. That's why I wrote to her to explain what had really happened. Soon afterwards, I received a letter from her. She kept apologizing, because she had thought that I didn't want to see her. She also wrote that she would help me. That gave me a lot of strength."

As an inmate on death row, Debbie was not permitted to work. Nevertheless, she got up every morning at five, made her bed, switched on her little desk lamp and wrote.

"I stole every moment of silence. The women below me were still asleep that early in the morning. The silence allowed me to put my thoughts into words. I wrote back to my mother, my friends and strangers who had heard about my case. And I also made notes about things I wanted to ask my attorney during his next visit."

At 10 o'clock, she set aside the letters she had finished writing. Then she turned on the TV and watched "The Young and the Restless," a soap opera in which two families struggle for power and recognition. They became ersatz families for Debbie.

Debbie would read after lunch, when most of the other inmates napped. She read self-help books about the power of the imagination, Tolstoy's "War and Peace" and "Man's Search for Meaning," by the Jewish psychologist Viktor Frankl, who describes how he survived life in a concentration camp. Her mother and friends were allowed to send her books.

"I wanted to understand what enables people to persevere, because I was often amazed that I didn't go crazy. I wanted to know where this strength comes from. At some point, I realized that we don't know what we can actually endure until the moment when we have to do it."

In 1994, Debbie took a paralegal course from a correspondence school. For $30 a month, she received study materials by mail. The money was deducted from her prison account, which consisted of money deposited by her mother and friends.

"I wanted to gain a better understanding of what the lawyers were talking about, because I had only one objective: to get out. I wanted to find out who had killed Chris. And I wanted to expose Saldate, because I realized that I couldn't have been the only one he had done that to."

To drown out the noise during the day, Debbie would sit on her bed and spend hours solving crossword puzzles and Sudokus. Or she would listen to music: meditation music, Metallica and Madonna. She used to do squats and sit-ups to her music.

At 6:30 every evening, the window in her cell door opened and a tray was pushed through. Her mail would be placed next to her dinner. It was the highlight of the day.

"Then I watched TV again. To find out what was in style at the time, I would occasionally switch on the Home Shopping channel. But I also watched a lot of documentaries about other countries. About circumcision rituals in Africa or about poverty in India. I remember this one report about an Indian family. They lived in a tiny, two-room apartment. They had nothing, and their four children couldn't get enough to eat. That's when I looked around and thought to myself: It isn't really all that bad here. I have a roof over my head and a bed, and I get food to eat. From then on, I treated my cell as a room.

Aside from my daily routines, that too became a survival strategy for me: To see the good in all the bad things and accept my situation."

Debbie went to bed at 8 p.m. every night. In the summer, when temperatures climb to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in Phoenix, she usually slept on the floor.

Afraid that her clothing would be stolen, Debbie washed it herself, including towels. She would make face peelings with headache tablets from the prison shop and cut her hair with nail clippers.

"But what I missed most of all was a real toothbrush."

Debbie pulls out 2 prison toothbrushes, which are about the size of cigarettes.

"They were finished after you'd brushed your teeth twice, but they only gave you a new one once a week. We were also not allowed to use dental floss, because it was supposedly dangerous, although we were allowed to use shoelaces. As a result, my mouth was full of bacteria after all those years, and my teeth started to come loose."

She reaches into her mouth and pulls out a pair of braces. Her real teeth haven't straightened out completely yet.

Debbie derived strength from the conviction that she would be released one day. But then, shortly after Christmas 1997, she received a letter. It contained her execution date: Jan. 29, 1998.

"All of our appeals in Arizona had failed, and we hadn't received confirmation that our appeal at the federal level had been received yet. As a result, I felt that this execution date was a formality. But then it dragged on and on. And I had to go through that dry run. I called my lawyer and asked him when we could expect the confirmation from the federal court. He assured me that everything was going according to plan. And, in fact, the execution date was cancelled the next day. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that he really wasn't paying much attention to my case anymore.

Then I sat down and wrote to my mother, asking her to contact Mike Kimerer. I had read about him in the Arizona Republic, the local paper, which I received every evening. He had already won some of the most challenging cases. I needed him."

Mike Kimerer is sitting at a long mahogany table in his law firm. He has alert eyes and is a powerful man, even at 74. Kimerer has an outstanding reputation as a criminal defender in the United States. He helped win the Miranda case in 1966, involving kidnapper and rapist Ernesto Miranda. Since then, police officers have been required to read anyone they arrest their so-called Miranda Rights: the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present. Debbie's case, says Kimerer, will have an equally strong impact on the American justice system.

Sitting next to him at the table is Lori Voepel, a member of Debbie's legal team. She was still in law school when Debbie was sentenced. "At the time, we all thought she was a monster. So did I. But now that I'm familiar with the files, I know what a horrible abuse of justice we're dealing with here," she says.

Voepel is an appeals specialist. She takes two pieces of paper and draws curved lines on the paper to represent the path through the labyrinth in which Debbie was trapped. Voepel draws lines from the original court in Phoenix to the appeals court in the State of Arizona, then to the Arizona Supreme Court, then back to the original court and back to the Supreme Court again. Then she draws a parallel line with her pen, to indicate that the case is now being heard in a federal court. Voepel needs a 2nd piece of paper to continue drawing the line, this time to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, familiar to hardly anyone outside the United States, even though this appeals court is one of the country's highest courts.

After Kimerer and Voepel took over the case from Debbie's previous attorney, they visited her in prison. "She was in a dangerous situation," says Voepel. "They had driven her into a corner, like an animal. We brought her back on track, but the most important thing was that she participated. Some death row inmates simply give up at some point and let themselves go over a cliff. Not Debbie."

In a 2001 letter, Debbie told her mother about what she called the "men in black". They searched Debbie's cell every three months, dressed entirely in black, wearing combat boots and facemasks with eye slits. "I really live in a hell, and no one really has any idea what that's like," Debbie wrote.

"It was because of them that I didn't have a photo of Chris in my cell. I was afraid that one of them would tear it up. And that he'd say: Oops, that was an accident.

But there were nice guards, too. I think some of them felt that I was innocent. It usually materialized when they asked me about my website, which my mother had set up for me. 'Debbie, I heard you have a website.' Then I'd take a long look at them and ask: So what did you do on my website? And then they'd smile at me or give me a wink. The nice ones also allowed me to roll my sock into a double layer for protection before they put on the leg irons. They had such sharp edges that pressed into your skin."

Debbie points to one of her ankles, which is surrounded by scars, as if she had been bitten by a dog.

"I call them my battle scars."

Debbie's hair turned gray after 10 years in Perryville. She was only 36 at the time. But the toughest years were yet to come.

"I had always hoped to have a family again. But nothing was moving. I suffered from severe depression. Sometimes I would just sit at my little window for weeks, watching them build a highway on-ramp in the distance, watching the construction vehicles drive back and forth. I would often try to imagine what Chris would look like. What would have interested him. Would he have joined the army?

It took me a long time to accept that I would never be a mother again. In the end, it was a certain way of looking at things that helped me. At my age, I thought, many people are already in their second marriage and still aren't happy. They live their lives in the rat race and they don't have any time to think about the meaning of life. That time was given to me as a gift. I actually tried to see my lack of freedom as a gift, as a form of freedom."

Interactions with her fellow inmates also helped her, especially with a woman named Wendy. She lived in the cell next to Debbie's during her last nine years in Perryville. Wendy beat her cancer-stricken husband to death with a barstool, for which she was sentenced to death.

"Our cells shared an evaporative cooler. If we laid down on the floor, we could have conversations through the air vents. We talked a lot about philosophy. During the time when I was learning Spanish, I always said to her at around seven: Okay, I have to go to Mexico now. That was when I always watched a telenovela."

Toward the end of her incarceration, Debbie was allowed to have visitors for 4 hours every Monday. It was usually an elderly couple that came to visit, friends of her mother. Or her mother would visit, when she was in Phoenix.

"Those were brief hours of happiness. I always asked her to tell me about what it was like outside, totally ordinary things. Unfortunately, I was never allowed to hug her. There was always a pane of glass between us. And it always broke my heart to see her go. But then I would tell myself: It's okay, Debbie. You can't get out, but one day you will. I almost derived strength from that sadness. I knew I would never have Chris back. But if I persevered, at least I would be able to embrace my mother again one day. It became all the more important to me when she got so sick."

Meanwhile, Kimerer and Voepel were fighting their way through the courts, a process Kimerer calls "an uphill battle." They fought for 12 years, until March 14, 2013, when the federal appeals court overturned all previous verdicts in the Milke case, in a rebuke to the entire justice system.

The number of executions and new death sentences increased in the 1980s and 90s, the period in which Debbie was sentenced. Conservatives dominated the courts at the time, says Kimerer. "Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way," he says, "and Debbie's case is part of the reason." With its ruling on Debbie Milke, the Ninth Circuit Court is forcing America's prosecutors to present all evidence that could exonerate a defendant. Its decisions often set a precedent nationwide. "The court switched on the light," says Voepel.

"After the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling in March, it was clear that I would be released. I said to Mike and Lori, my attorneys: Get me out of her. Please. Now. I don't care how. They can put me under house arrest, and I can wear an ankle bracelet, but I have to get out of here.

My mother had cancer. I knew she was going to die soon. And I wanted to hug her one last time. To do that, I had to waive my right to a speedy trial, and I knew it. But I didn't care."

But it still took much too long until I was released. One morning in September, I received a visit in prison from Ronda, who worked on my defense team. I didn't know what she wanted -- at least until she showed me my release papers in the visitors' room. I was incredibly excited, and I thought I was dreaming. We had fought for so long."

Debbie was released on Sept. 6, 2013, on $250,000 bail and under strict conditions. She was carrying a paper bag filled with books and letters. A guard said: "Here you go. Good luck," and then there she was, standing outside.

"It all felt surreal. Mike and Lori were there. They took videos of me with their phones. I wasn't afraid, but it was overwhelming. Everything was so gigantic, the trees, the houses. We drove into the cities, and I looked at the cars outside the window. It was loud, and there were people everywhere, many homeless. Everything seemed so strange. Mike had a little screen in his car, and I had no idea what it was for. And he could talk to anyone on the phone without holding the phone up to his ear. How did that work?

I felt like a stranger in my hometown. I only recognized a few street corners. It was as if I had been on another planet for a long time. We drove straight to Lori's office. Then the officer came to put on my ankle bracelet. Wearing it was one of the conditions I had been given. I was looking forward to it, because I saw the thing as a part of my freedom. The officer was stunned. He said I was the first person for whom an ankle bracelet signified freedom.

Then we went to see the friends of my mother who had always helped me so much. There were balloons in the air, and cake and roses. I have a photo that shows me smelling a rose. What a scent."

The friend from Berlin took Debbie to his house that evening. She couldn't stand closed doors and still had no sense of what it was like to be outside, no sense of relative size, of distances and of space. In her years between prison walls and bars, the world had become too big for her.

"I couldn't deal with it. It was overwhelming."

She closed all of her blinds. Only after a few days did she carefully open one of them, the one in front of the kitchen window.

"I lie awake at night and delight in the ticking of the clock in the bedroom, and in the silence. There was nothing but noise, noise and more noise where I had come from. I also enjoyed the darkness, because the lights are always on in prison."

Shortly after Debbie's release, her mother Renate flew to Phoenix. The mother and daughter hadn't touched each other in 25 years.

"We screamed and cried. It was a strange feeling to hug people and be hugged. I wasn't familiar with it anymore. But I had told myself: Debbie, whatever's out there, absorb it and let it happen. Go with the flow."

She flips open the laptop, which she now knows how to use, to show us photos from her mother's last visit. Photos of her planting cacti in the garden behind the house, and having to brace herself because the cancer had already weakened her body. And her mother sleeping with Angel next to her, with one of the dog's paws resting on her shoulder.

Her mother had to return to Germany in March 2014.

"I still remember the day she left, because she had to go back to chemo. It was March 16. We both knew it was the last time we would see each other. That's because I couldn't leave the country. It was one of the terms of my release. When I closed the door behind her, I broke down."

Renate Janka died in August 2014. On Skype, Debbie saw her mother becoming weaker and weaker.

"She was sitting on the sofa the last time we had a conversation. She had wrapped a scarf around her head. Reinhard, her life partner, called out from the other room: Debbie, you have to be firm with your mother. She doesn't want to eat. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. And I said to her: Mom, it's okay if you don't want to eat.

She was admitted to the hospital a short time later. And one morning, when I called Reinhard on Sykpe, he started crying. I knew that it was over."

Debbie starts to cry.

"I miss her terribly."

The long years in prison have strained Debbie's psyche and her body. She lost the sensation in her fingers in Perryville. It was carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition involving pinched nerves, and she had to have surgery. The doctor said that it might have been caused by her writing in prison. She wasn't allowed to use ballpoint pens, just the thin refills, because a ballpoint pen could be used as a weapon.

Debbie has now sued the State of Arizona for damages. Is she angry about all the years that stolen from her?

"What good would it do to be angry? Sure, there are so many things I could be furious about. But what would that change? Nothing. I probably won't live to be 100. I can't waste the rest of my life being angry. It's more difficult for me to forgive -- my sister and, most of all, Jim and Roger. I do believe that Roger shot Christopher to death. Just because. The way other people torture animals. He was a cruel, sick person."

Roger Scott was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1991, and Jim Styers in 1990. Both men have appealed their verdicts, but have been unsuccessful so far. They are still on death row in the State of Arizona.

There is no grave that Debbie can visit to mourn her son. Christopher was cremated, and the urn with his ashes was given to his father.

"I don't know what Mark did with it. I'm not in touch with him. But somehow I know that he's taking care of it. I know that he put up a cross in the desert where Chris died. But I'll never go there. I couldn't bear it.

I have to look forward and make plans. I want to take a road trip and visit friends in Louisiana, Ohio and Virginia. I just want to stand there and say: Hey, I was just in the neighborhood."

She laughs.

"And I want to apply for a passport, because I want to be in Germany in August. I still have family there, on my mother's side. I want to live there."

It is now evening. Debbie steps out onto the terrace and looks up at the sky. She is free. She is no longer in a cage and she no longer wears an ankle bracelet. There is a light breeze. The sound of two wind chimes can be heard. Debbie chose them carefully. One is for the voice of her mother and the other is for the voice of her son.

"I feel close to them when they chime."

(source: Spiegel Online)

USA:

Supreme Court and States Struggle to Make the Death Penalty More Humane----The high court is taking a close look at a drug that has been tied to botched executions.

When Dennis McGuire died on an execution table in Ohio last year, he clenched his fists and writhed as onlookers watched for 26 minutes before he drew his last breath. McGuire, who had admitted to raping and killing a pregnant woman in 1989, was visited by a clergy member in the months leading up to his execution. He was there that day and said McGuire resembled a fish washed ashore, gasping for breath.

Though the gruesome incident made headlines, it was hardly a surprise for some.

"I predicted that it would cause a long and agonizing death," anesthesiologist David Waisel told TakePart. Waisel appeared as an expert witness on behalf of McGuire before his execution - 1 of several lethal injection cases he has testified in - and told the court the death would be drawn out.

The execution had not gone as planned. After Ohio corrections officials ran out of pentobarbital and the pharmaceutical manufacturer refused to keep selling it for use in lethal injections, the state decided to execute McGuire with a previously untested combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. While midazolam works as a muscle relaxant and sedative to render inmates unconscious before other injections are administered, it has no painkilling properties, Waisel explained.

On April 29, midazolam's use in lethal injections will take center stage in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. The drug gained notoriety last year after botched executions in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and Oklahoma. At issue is whether the drug can be used as part of a 3-drug cocktail without violating the constitutional rights of inmates. Attorneys for the state of Oklahoma will argue in favor of the drug's role in executions. Defense lawyers representing death row inmate Richard Glossip and others will argue that botched executions like that of Clayton Lockett demonstrate that midazolam's sedative properties can't be trusted.

Many Americans may wonder why the highest court in the land is closely considering the last living moments of convicted criminals, some of whom had little mercy for their victims. The principle of a humane execution feels like an oxymoron, but anti-death penalty advocates and the attorneys in Glossip's case argue it's the legal responsibility of the state to ensure these deaths are not so painful as to be considered cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Like McGuire's, Lockett's execution was a drawn-out process marked by visible pain. After midazolam was successfully injected, Lockett appeared unconscious. But when the next two drugs were injected incorrectly, the pain was so extreme that Lockett was roused from his sedated state, according to Megan McCracken, a staff attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, who focuses on lethal injections. Onlookers watched as doctors tried 16 times to inject the final 2 drugs - vecuronium to paralyze him, and potassium chloride to stop his heart. Lockett writhed and gasped as the executioner fumbled and accidentally inserted a needle into an artery in his groin rather than a vein. He died 43 minutes after the midazolam was injected.

[Lockett's] case represents more than maladministration and human error. It shows us the risks with midazolam are real," said McCracken. "This is certainly the right time for the court to take a very careful look at this issue, particularly given these bungled executions."

While McGuire's case involved just 2 drugs, rather than the 3-drug cocktail at issue in Glossip v. Gross before the Supreme Court, his drawn-out death is illustrative of what can go wrong if midazolam fails to fully anesthetize an inmate.

"The concern is that midazolam provides no pain control," Waisel told TakePart. "Potassium chloride burns a great deal, but it's hidden from us because the inmates is chemically paralyzed and unable to move their muscles. They may look very serene despite what could be a considerable amount of pain."

So even in a case unlike Lockett's, if the paralytic drug works, there is no way to know how much pain an inmate is experiencing should the midazolam not take effect. An inmate could effectively wake up as midazolam's efficacy fades but appear pain-free because he is paralyzed.

On Wednesday, 12 states led by Alabama filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Oklahoma's arguments supporting the use of midazolam. The states are waiting for the green light to use various pharmaceutical combinations involving midazolam, in many cases the same combination that killed Lockett.

"It is outrageous for them to argue that lethal injection has too high a risk of pain to be a constitutional method of execution," wrote Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. "It is better than they deserve."

Some states have already prepared backup plans in case lethal injection drugs become unavailable or are ruled unconstitutional. As if anticipating the possibility that the court won't rule in favor of the state, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed a bill to legalize the use of nitrogen gas in place of lethal injections. In this version of the death penalty, a nitrogen gas mask would be placed on the inmate's face to replace the supply of oxygen, effectively suffocating him to death. The legislator who cowrote the nitrogen gas bill touted it as a quick and painless option - a "a fool-proof way for a humane execution." Utah resurrected the firing squad as a legal execution method in March.

Whether or not the court rules midazolam cannot be used in executions, the legislative success of these alternatives shows the United States isn't ready to let go of the death penalty yet. The latest numbers from Pew Research Center, released this week, show that 56 % of Americans support the death penalty for those convicted of murder. While that number marks the majority, Pew reports that support for the death penalty is the lowest it has been in 40 years. In 2011, 61 % of Americans supported the death penalty, down from 78 % in 1996. The majority of that decline has occurred among Democrats.

In spite of these other options, it is telling that the court chose to grant the Glossip petition in Oklahoma and hear arguments in this case at all. Numerous other petitions for death row inmates - raising issues such as jury selection, racial bias, and ineffective counsel - are often dismissed, such as that of Missouri inmate Andre Cole, who was executed on Tuesday.

(source: takepart.com)

JAMAICA:

Jamaica hanging by a thread

The last person hanged in Jamaica died on the gallows in February 1988. You can be assured that it was a very rare occurrence and did not fall in any of the excluded offenders. Jamaica has a number of categories of offenders excluded from the death penalty: (1) Individuals below age 18 years at the time of the crime; (2) pregnant women; (3) mentally retarded; (4) mentally ill; and (5) elderly persons.

There are very few persons on death row in Jamaica - not more than 6. There is no legislative reason why Jamaica has not resumed hanging. In the main, we are not signatories to the Death Penalty Protocol, as advanced by multinational forums.

The principal reason why hanging is not carried out in Jamaica is the cowardice of the Government. The first conscience vote on hanging was held in 1979. The then minister of national security, Dudley Thompson (deceased), opened the debate. In making the argument for the retention of capital punishment, he reportedly said, "We are in Jamaica where, to many people, life is cheap and one must lift that veil of terror and restore the smiling faces that used to be on Jamaicans." This was spoken by a man widely acclaimed as a champion of the black man. Freedom fighter from the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya and given the street name of 'Burning Spear'. Any attempt to portray him and his expressed views as anti- any class or race of persons would be ludicrous.

Ferdie Neita, then a government member of parliament, contributed "a new breed of man, a new breed of animal in society. The breed of animal is like a cancer in the society and must be eradicated." Hansard reports that the debate was lively and vigorous. The retention of hanging was passed in Parliament in that conscience vote across party lines by the margin of 24 for retention and 18 for abolition. Parliament then had 45 members.

On November 26, 2008, there was another conscience vote in the Parliament on the same issue. The vote was recorded as being 35 in favour and 15 against. There were 10 abstentions. Parliament then had 60 members. It is worthy to note that the current prime minister was absent on both occasions. It is to be noted that the JLP stated that it would resume hanging if it formed the Government in 2007.

It is most noteworthy that Delroy Chuck would, in his frequent columns in The Gleaner newspaper and on talk shows, set out the procedure that could facilitate hanging and violate the ruling by the Privy Council in the now-infamous Pratt and Morgan case. He made it seem so easy. Why was it never implemented? Neither of the Gangs of Gordon House care about the populace.

no economic growth

Crime stalks the land like a plague. There will be no economic growth of significance until this scourge is brought under control. Yes, I am aware of all the arguments that target our less-than-perfect justice system. I am also aware of the type of passion that results in domestic violence leading to murder.

The argument that hanging is cruel and inhumane punishment flies out the window when you are sleeping in your bed and then you are frighteningly awakened to look down the barrel of a gun or when your loved one's life is snuffed out mercilessly. A gun that has no redeeming value except to take a life, but when the cowards of Gordon House are not inclined to even build a new prison since 1962, what can we expect?

Who are we as a people? We bow to every edict from the European Union, the law lords of the Privy Council, and Amnesty International without asserting that we act in accord with votes, on the matter of hanging. Cowardice.

The result is going to be more jungle justice. Where the State cannot, or will not, protect me, I must find a way to protect my family. The murderers kill at will. The young babies, as young as 11 months, the aged and infirm, and the teenagers. The murderers dictate how we order our lives. We have elaborate security systems, pit bulls, illegal firearms, and an intent to extract revenge, if we survive the ordeal.

The cowards of Gordon House all have close-security protection. What do the people at large have? Where are the names of all those sacrificial lambs to the unrestrained murders? We are caged in our homes behind grilles. We must live in gated communities with not much neighbourly interaction. We must spend foreign exchange to feed dogs that we are afraid of. Enough already. The police may have, though only a mere majority, the intent to protect, but their ranks also succour murderers.

What economic growth? The United States Department of Agriculture, in a recent offering, says Jamaica is expected to be an economically poor performer until 2030. Would you invest in a business in Jamaica in this climate of unrestrained murder? You, the members of the Gangs of Gordon House, were elected to provide an environment in which we could not only survive, but thrive. Now we cannot even expect protection because some bleeding hearts speak about lack of opportunity for murderers. Not lack of opportunity to be killed viciously, coldly and wantonly.

Talk and talk and more talk, that is all we do. Enough. We must react now. Where is the DNA legislation? The minister of national security is useless.

(source: Commentary; Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law; The Gleaner)

PAKISTAN:

Rapist gets death penalty

A local court of Islamabad on Friday awarded death sentence to resident of Sangjani village, Amir Shah for physically assaulting his cousin. According to details Amir Shah some 6 months back took his cousin (H), an orphan girl to a house in Roshan Basti, Sangjani village and committed rape. The girl's mother approached the police for registration of FIR. Tarnol Police, after medical report confirmed that crime was committed against the victim, registered a case against Shah and after a brief investigation submitted challan before the court.

An additional district & sessions judge of the Islamabad courts on Friday awarded death penalty to Amir Shah besides a fine of Rs100,000.

(source: Pakistan Observer)

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

Death penalty for acid attacks

This is with reference to the news item 'Jilted lover throws acid on model', (KT, April 16).

Throwing acid on girls for different reasons have become the ultimate weapon of scoundrels in the subcontinent and majority of these victims are women. In the last few years, thousands of cases have been reported in India and Pakistan (in some cases high-profile people were also involved) that proves that this behaviour does not limit to a certain section of the society. In most of the cases the after effects have been so traumatic that the survivor prays for death instead of living a painful and humiliating life.

I appeal to the rulers and the judicial system to declare death penalty for acid attacks and condemn it on the highest level. It will go a long way to deter such attacks and assures our daughters that you are safe, come what may.

Kamal Asif

(source: Letter to the Editor, Khaleej Times)

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

SC to hear Mumtaz Qadri's appeal on Monday

The Supreme Court has fixed the hearing date for Mumtaz Qadri's appeal against the Islamabad High Court's (IHC) death penalty verdict.

A 2-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Umar Ata Bandial will take up Qadri's appeal on April 20 (Monday).

On March 9, the IHC had dismissed Qadri's appeal against his 2 capital punishments awarded by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in October 2011.

(source: Pakistan Today)

INDIA:

Jail authorities search frantically for lever of gallows

The lever of the gallows in Poojappura Central Jail in Thiruvananthapuram, which has been rusting away, is missing. The situation came to light when the gallows were inspected as part of the procedures to execute the death penalty given to Antony, the guilty in the Aluva multiple murder case, whose mercy plea has been rejected by the President.

The lever is placed below the platform on which the person to be hanged stands with a noose around his neck. When a handle is pulled to execute the death penalty, the platform on which the person stands moves away because of the action of this lever. The central jail authorities are hurrying to build a new lever for the gallows from the British reign.

Antony's death penalty will have to be executed once the court issues the black warrant. The execution cannot be put off citing incomplete gallows. Since metal craftsmen have said that it is difficult to make the lever, the construction division of the jail itself has taken up that responsibility. Three cotton ropes for hanging are also being made.

Antony is guilty of hacking to death 6 people in Manjooran House in Aluva, including Augustine, his wife and children. Prisons in Kerala house nine people sentenced to death.

Kannur model could not be replicated

After the lever vanished in Poojappura, though an official of the construction division was sent to study the mechanism in Kannur, there has been no use. The gallows in Kannur can be used to hang 2 people at a time. Its lever is different from the 1 in Thiruvananthapuram.

Previous execution by hanging 37 years ago

The previous execution of death penalty in Poojappura Central Jail took place in 1978, and the person hung to death was Kaliyikkavila resident Azhakesan. After Ripper Chandran was hung to death on July 6, 1991, in Kannur Central Jail, no one has been executed in Kerala.

Hangman to get 2 lakh rupees

There are no hangmen in Kerala to execute the death penalty. The person who hung to death Ripper Chandran was a resident of Pollachi, in Tamil Nadu. A hangman's remuneration is 2 lakh rupees.

(source: manoramaonline.com)

INDONESIA:

Plight of Pinay on death row raised to UN

The plight of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who is on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking, has been raised to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Karapatan, an alliance Philippine-based human rights organizations and advocates, sent a letter to the Human Rights Council president of the OHCHR to seek help for Veloso.

According to Karapatan, Veloso was not provided a lawyer or a translator upon her arrest in 2010.

"Mary Jane was not provided a lawyer or translator by the Philippine embassy upon her arrest in 2010. During her trial, the court-provided interpreter was not a duly-licensed translator by the Association of Indonesian Translators. Her lawyer during the course of her trial was a public defender provided by the Indonesian police. The Philippine government did not provide a lawyer during the crucial period of her 6-month trial. Mary Jane was convicted after a very brief trial period - on October 2010, just 6 months after she was arrested," the group said in its letter.

The group also lamented the Philippine government's actions to save Veloso, adding that the government "had not done anything to arrest, investigate or even just invite for questioning Mary Jane's alleged recruiter and trafficker."

"Veloso's case is indeed indicative of several violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, wherein both Indonesia and Philippines are state parties, including the right to appear in court with qualified translators in the state of employment, legal representation at all stages of the judicial process, consular support of state of origin for foreign national defendants throughout the judicial process, inconsistencies in sentences for similar cases, and the application of the death penalty in drug-related cases," Karapatan said.

Following these alleged violations, Karapatan is asking the Council to "take meaningful measures" to hold both Indonesia and the Philippines accountable for the injustice on Veloso and her family.

The Philippine government has appealed for clemency for Veloso, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo rejected the appeal in January.

Department of Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III said they are already preparing for a 2nd appeal for Veloso.

(source: ABS-CBNNews)

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

279 Indonesian migrant workers face death penalty abroad

As many as 279 Indonesia migrant workers overseas face the possibility of execution, 36 of whom are in Saudi Arabia, an official has said.

"The government, through the Indonesian embassies in those countries, is striving to free them [death row convicts] from the death sentences by, among others efforts, conducting informal approaches to families of the victims," Manpower Ministry migrant worker placement director Guntur Witjaksono said. He was speaking during a coordination meeting concerning Indonesian migrant worker placement and protection in Semarang, Central Java, on Friday. Guntur said informal lobbying of families of victims was a key means of securing pardon for Indonesian migrant workers awaiting execution.

He said some of the migrant workers being facing the death penalty had been convicted of murder. According to the ministry's official data, 6 out of 36 Indonesian migrant workers on death row overseas are from Central Java.

The head of the domestic and foreign worker placement division at the Central Java Manpower, Transmigration and Population agency, Ahmad Aziz, said in the beginning of 2015, 8 migrant workers from Central Java were facing the possibility of execution.

"There are now only 6 workers [on death row], as Karni from Brebes has been executed, while Satinah from Semarang escaped execution after the Indonesian government paid diyat [blood money] to the victim's family," said Aziz.

The deputy head of the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), Agustin Subiantoro, said most Indonesian workers facing legal problems overseas were working in informal sectors, particularly as domestic helpers.

"The problem often starts at the very beginning, namely in worker-recruitment processes that do not follow required procedures. These include document-completeness examinations, competency tests, health check-ups and training before departures," he said.Agustin added that by completing all procedures, there should have been a guarantee that Indonesian migrant workers dispatched were only those who had the competence or skills needed by their employers in the destination countries.

To better protect Indonesian workers from similar legal problems in the future, he said the government would establish stricter recruitment protocol, stressing worker competence such as housework skills, legal knowledge and language, as well as the ability to adapt to the culture of the people in their destination countries.

Karni binti Medi Tarsim was executed on Thursday. In 2013, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Karni to death for killing her employer's 4-year-old child in 2012. Karni's execution came just 2 days after another Indonesian migrant worker, Siti Zaenab, was beheaded in Medina on Tuesday. In 2001, a local court sentenced Siti to death for murdering her female employer in 1999.

(source: Jakarta Post)

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

Indonesia's Death Penalty Strategy Is Fatally Flawed

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi's short time in office has already seen a lot of controversy surrounding capital punishment: at home involving foreigners on death row and their Indonesian counterparts overseas. The ministry's latest protest against Saudi Arabia over the recent executions of 2 Indonesian migrant workers - Siti Zaenab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim - illustrates the difficulties for any country to condemn the taking of life while still implementing the same punishment.

The latest diplomatic brouhaha with Saudi Arabia has revealed that there is something incoherent and illogical in our stance on the death penalty. At the moment, Jakarta is trying to implement its self-contradictory policy of brooking no contest for our own judicial murder of drug traffickers while simultaneously appealing for mercy on behalf of Indonesian nationals sentenced to death by foreign courts. And the strategy isn't working at all.

On a rather surreal note, the spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Armanatha Nasir, told the press that the bone of contention lay in the failure by the Saudi government to notify Indonesia of the dates and time chosen for the executions. The statement suggests that Indonesia didn't dispute the justice behind the death sentences, merely the procedural aspect of the executions.

So, if the ministry were sufficiently satisfied with the rulings of Saudi courts in both cases, the formal pleas for mercy it made on behalf of the 2 migrant workers, in retrospect, were incoherent, to say the least.

Perhaps our incoherence is inevitable considering that if Indonesia makes a habit of questioning the justice system of other nations, it follows that our own judiciary may also become susceptible to the same treatment. Hence our government has chosen to focus on procedure. But in so doing, it debases the humanitarian nature of the issue.

Even more surreal was the initial confusion in the Indonesian press whether the government had recalled its ambassador to Riyadh to add weight to its diplomatic note of protest to the Saudis. A number of news outlets reported as such but the content was duly retracted.

Under president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia did recall its ambassador from Saudi Arabia, in 2011. Remarkably, the diplomatic row was also about the lack of prior notification for the beaheading of another migrant worker, Ruyati binti Satubi. The Yudhoyono administration also followed up the recall with a temporary ban on Indonesian migrant workers going to Saudi Arabia, which is currently still in place.

It is worth noting that a recall sends out a very strong diplomatic message. It is a step away from an ultimatum, which historically may lead to war. Despite the strength of our 2011 representation, it obviously didn’t have the desired effect on the Saudi government, as the recent incidents suggest.

When it comes to the issue of capital punishment, the current government has boxed itself into a corner. It was only a few weeks ago when Jakarta took umbrage at what it called Australia's "megaphone" diplomacy to have the death sentences for the “Bali 9" duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran commuted to life imprisonment.

Insisting the issue was about Indonesia's "overriding principle of state sovereignty," Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, President Joko Widodo's chief of staff, wrote in an op-ed for TheStraits Times in Singapore: "The objection is to the manner and tone of the intervention, the warnings and the thinly veiled threats. These are unacceptable. Indonesia does not employ these tactics in its own interventions."

Apart from the insensitive comment linking cooperation with aid by Prime Minister Abbott, Australia's "megaphone" tactics obviously grabbed the Indonesian government's attention, so much so that a postponement of the second round of executions followed soon after. The official reason was that the government was still awaiting the court verdict on the Bali 9 duo's appeal but it's difficult to believe it was totally unrelated to Australia's persistent lobbying.

Australia's efforts on behalf of Chan and Sukumuran saw Canberra working in tandem with its public and the media. Petitions, vigils and public appeals by eminent Australians were the order of the day, aimed at exposing the folly of the death penalty rather than just asking for mercy. No doubt, there was a humanitarian principle at work here.

In comparison, for both Zaenab and Karni, Indonesia opted for the formal "no fuss" appeals for clemency to the Saudis, in the form of letters to the king. When the Saudis proceeded with the executions without so much of a prior notification, despite the 2011 recall, we should ask ourselves if mere "formal," hence procedural, channels were sufficient at all.

Nevertheless, the rigor of "informal" avenues of pressure to oppose the death sentences meted to the Bali 9 duo in Australia was natural, given the fact that our southern neighbors no longer carry out capital punishment. As long as Indonesia enshrines the death penalty in its penal code, we can never have the moral stature to object to other nations executing our nationals.

(source: Commentary; Johannes Nugroho is a writer from Surabaya----Jakarta Post)

EGYPT:

Egypt court sentences 11 to death over 2012 football riot----An Egyptian court Sunday sentenced 11 football fans to death after a retrial over a 2012 stadium riot in the canal city of Port Said that left 74 people dead.

An appeals court had ordered the retrial of 73 defendants in February last year after rejecting a lower court verdict sentencing 21 people to death for being involved in the incident.

The riot erupted in February 2012 when fans of home team Al-Masry and Cairo's Al-Ahly clashed after a premier league match between the 2 clubs.

Sunday's death sentences against 11 football fans have been referred to Egypt's grand mufti.

The court will make a final decision on their fates, as well as those of the other defendants, on May 30.

The 73 defendants include 9 police officers and 3 officials from Al-Masry club, while the rest were fans of Al-Masry club.

2 of those sentenced to death are on the run.

None of the families of the victims or of the defendants attended Sunday's court session, which was held in Cairo for security reasons.

Sunday's verdict can be appealed.

The 2012 clashes in the Port Said stadium sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed in fighting with security forces.

A year later, dozens of people also died in the canal city during clashes that erupted after the lower court handed down the 21 death sentences.

The Port Said riots were the deadliest sport-related riots in Egypt, where football fans regularly clash against rival supporters or with security forces.

The authorities reacted by imposing a ban on fans attending premier league matches and held the games behind closed doors.

But on February 8, at least 19 people died in a stampede after police fired tear gas at fans trying to force their way into a Cairo stadium for a premier league match that was open to the public.

Television footage showed crowds squeezed inside a narrow metal enclosure, jostling to enter the stadium when the stampede erupted as police fired tear gas.

The police reject the accusations and blame the unrest on Islamists. Sixteen suspects accused of clashing with police on that day have been arrested and referred to trial.

Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, his supporters have been the target of a brutal government crackdown overseen by his successor President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egypt's hard-core football fans, the "ultras", have often clashed with police, including in political unrest that has seen two presidents toppled since 2011.

The "ultras" were at the forefront of protests against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down in early 2011 after an 18-day uprising against his rule.

That uprising was essentially against the police, who were regularly accused of torturing detainees and of being involved in extra-judicial executions.

(source: al-monitor)

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Egypt's Morsi faces possible death penalty----Execution of country's 1st freely elected leader would mark 'escalation' by military-backed Sissi government, says expert

Egypt's ex-president Mohammed Morsi faces being sentenced to death Tuesday on charges of inciting the killing of protesters in the 1st verdict against him nearly 2 years after his fall from power.

He also faces the death penalty in 2 other trials, including one in which he is accused of spying for foreign powers, and escaping from prison during the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt.

Separate verdicts in those 2 cases are due on May 16.

A death sentence on Tuesday against Egypt's 1st freely elected president cannot be ruled out, experts say, especially since judges have already passed harsh verdicts against leaders of his blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsi was toppled by the then army chief - and now president - Abdel Fattah al-Sissi on July 3, 2013 after mass street protests against his year-long rule.

The new authorities then launched a sweeping crackdown on his supporters in which more than 1,400 people were killed and thousands jailed.

Hundreds have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials which the United Nations called "unprecedented in recent history."

The authorities have also targeted secular and liberal activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Morsi's predecessor.

In November, a court dropped murder charges against Mubarak in his own trial over the deaths of hundreds of protesters in 2011.

Sissi's regime is widely popular among Egyptians tired of more than 4 years of political turmoil, but rights groups say it is more repressive than under Mubarak.

Tuesday's verdict involves a case in which Morsi and 14 other defendants, 7 of whom are on the run, are charged with the killing of 3 protesters and torturing several more during clashes in front of the presidential palace on December 5, 2012.

The protesters were demonstrating against a Morsi decree that put him above judicial review when they clashed with his supporters.

Defense lawyers say there is no proof Morsi incited the clashes, and that most of those killed were Brotherhood members.

'Justice highly politicized'

Even if Morsi escapes the death penalty, he could still face life in jail.

"Justice is highly politicized and verdicts are rarely based on objective elements," Karim Bitar from the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations told AFP.

Morsi's supporters were the target of a government "witch-hunt," he added.

If a death sentence is passed, it is unlikely to be carried out, said H. A. Hellyer of the Washington-based Brookings Center for Middle East Policy.

"The execution of Morsi would represent an escalation by the Egyptian authorities that they do not appear willing to engage in," said Hellyer.

"Internationally, it will be received badly that an elected president overthrown via a military incursion into politics, even if that military is popular, is then dealt a harsh judicial sentence."

The verdict is also open to appeal.

A harsh sentence will nevertheless be a nail in the coffin of the Brotherhood, as Sissi has vowed to "eradicate" the 85-year-old movement that staged major electoral gains between Mubarak's fall and Morsi's presidential victory in May 2012.

Almost all of its leaders face harsh sentences, and in December 2013 the movement was designated a "terrorist group," with the authorities blaming it for near daily attacks on the security forces.

In a country where the army has been in power for decades, Sissi's May 2014 presidential victory crushed hopes raised since the popular anti-Mubarak revolt of a civilian democracy.

The extent of anti-Brotherhood repression "is unprecedented in the history of the Brotherhood and could push its supporters to extremism," said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, professor of political science at Cairo University.

Jihadists, mainly the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group, have claimed attacks on security forces in retaliation for the crackdown on Morsi supporters.

The Brotherhood itself denies resorting to violence.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

Scant Evidence for Mass Convictions ---- Draconian Sentences for 51 Including Journalists and Media Workers

A review of the prosecution's evidence in a mass trial of 51 alleged supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood shows that the government presented no evidence of criminal behavior besides the testimony of 1 police officer.

On April 11, 2015, an Egyptian judge convicted and sentenced 37 people to life in prison and confirmed the death penalties of 14 others for their alleged roles in organizing opposition to the military's removal of former President Mohamed Morsy in July 2013. The charges ranged from publishing false news to conspiring to overthrow the interim government installed by the military following the removal of Morsy. But a review of the case file by Human Rights Watch shows that the state presented little evidence that the defendants did anything but spread news about a mass sit-in opposing the coup or organize and publicize peaceful opposition to Morsy's removal.

Security forces violently dispersed the sit-in at Cairo's Rab'a al-Adawiya Square on August 14, 2013, killing more than 800 mostly peaceful protesters. The killings were a probable crime against humanity for which no government official or member of the security forces has faced investigation or prosecution.

"The fact that people who covered and publicized the mass killings in 2013 could go to prison for life or be executed while the killers walk free captures the abject politicization of justice in Egypt," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

The April 11, 2015 verdict came after United States President Barack Obama announced, following a call with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on March 31, that he would allow the release to Egypt of F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tanks, and Harpoon missiles that the US had withheld since Morsy's removal. A spokesperson for the National Security Council said in a statement that rather than wait until the administration could certify to Congress that Egypt had taken steps toward a restoration of full democracy, Secretary of State John Kerry would invoke a waiver citing US national security interests to request military aid without such a certification.

On April 11, the White House issued a statement saying that the US condemned the sentence against Soltan and calling for his immediate release.

Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of 107 pages of the government's file in the case of the 51 alleged Brotherhood supporters and verified the contents with a lawyer on the coordinated defense team. The file included evidence logs, prosecutors' notes, and the full charge sheet and testimony from investigating police officers. Judge Nagi Shehata, who presided over the case in his capacity as a special circuit judge assigned to hear cases of terrorism and national security, did not immediately release the text of his verdict. Human Rights Watch did not monitor the trial.

A review of the file showed that prosecutors presented no evidence other than testimony from a police major in the National Security Sector of the Interior Ministry to support their accusation that the defendants planned to use violence to overthrow the government.

The police major alleged that Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and other top leaders in the organization planned to cause chaos in Egypt by spreading false news of police abuse, confronting police in the streets, staging sit-ins at government buildings, and eventually arresting the coup leaders and forming their own government. Other evidence meant to support the prosecution's case - including seized papers and text messages - suggested only that the defendants had helped publicize and organize protests against Morsy's removal.

"Peacefully advocating a political point of view or doing your job as a journalist should never be a crime," Stork said. "This trial appears to be simply another effort by the Egyptian government to silence its opponents."

The defendants included 10 journalists and seven people who worked as Brotherhood spokesmen or for Brotherhood-owned news outlets, as well as Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old Egyptian-American who volunteered to arrange news coverage of the sit-in, and was sentenced to life in prison. Walid Abd al-Raouf Shalabi, a writer at the Brotherhood's official Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) newspaper, was sentenced to death.

On April 11, the White House issued a statement saying that the United States condemned the sentence against Soltan and calling for his immediate release.

Badie and other prominent leaders in the Brotherhood also received death sentences. In Egypt, a life sentence is 25 years, and defense lawyers have said they will appeal all the sentences.

Soltan has been on hunger strike for more than 400 days and has suffered potentially permanent damage to his health, his family has said. Unlike the Australian Al Jazeera English journalist Peter Greste, who was convicted by Shehata in an earlier case and deported under a decree issued by al-Sisi permitting the "extradition" of foreign defendants, or Greste's colleague Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian who remains on trial in Egypt after renouncing his Egyptian citizenship in the hope of taking advantage of the decree, Soltan has not yet given up his Egyptian citizenship. On April 11, however, his family called for the US to demand that al-Sisi release Soltan "the same way he released ... Peter Greste."

The authorities should quash the convictions of the journalists and media workers who were convicted solely for their reporting or for exercising their right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. If there is credible evidence that the other defendants planned or promoted violence, prosecutors should retry them in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards and present such evidence.

The case is the latest of more than a dozen mass trials since 2013 targeting Brotherhood members and others who have opposed the new government of al-Sisi, the former defense minister who orchestrated Morsy's removal. Shehata, a criminal court judge in Giza governorate, was appointed by the country's highest appeals court in January 2014 to 1 of 9 special circuits meant to hear terrorism cases and those affecting "national unity and peace." He has since overseen multiple mass trials. On February 4, 2015, he sentenced 230 protesters and activists to life in prison, while on February 2, he confirmed 183 death sentences for a deadly attack by alleged Brotherhood supporters on a police station.

In June 2014, Egypt's grand mufti, who is legally required to give his opinion on death sentences in his role as the country's highest Islamic legal official, rejected 14 death sentences handed down by Shehata against Badie and other Brotherhood members in a separate case. One of the assisting judges on the panel overseeing the case said that the mufti had found that "the investigations and evidence were not enough to carry out the death sentence," Reuters reported.

The Prosecution's Case

According to the case file obtained by Human Rights Watch, the prosecution alleged that 14 of the defendants, among them Badie and other prominent Brotherhood officials, had planned to "overturn the constitution" and form a new government by force, prevent state institutions from working, and attack security forces and places of Christian worship, or had provided the Brotherhood with money and weapons to do so.

All of the defendants except Badie and Mahmoud Ghozlan, another top Brotherhood leader, were charged with participating in this "criminal agreement" and preparing a plan to "spread chaos in the country."

Prosecutors accused 35 defendants - among them Soltan, journalists, and media workers - of publishing "rumors" and "false news" that they allegedly knew would "weaken the prestige of the state," "spread terror," "disturb the general security," and convince the international community that the government could not administer the country.

The judge convicted thirteen defendants in absentia. 2 defendants - Ghozlan and Amr Farrag, a journalist - remain at large, while 11 were officially listed by the prosecution as fugitives but are actually being held by the authorities and are defendants in other cases, a defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch.

In his testimony, Maj. Mostafa Khalil, the National Security Sector officer who provided the bulk of the prosecution's evidence, alleged that after security forces dispersed the sit-in in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Badie ordered Ghozlan to set up "operation rooms" under the supervision of Hossam Abu Bakr, a former Morsy-appointed governor of the Qalyubiya governorate, who was also sentenced to death on April 11, 2015.

Major Khalil said that Abu Bakr and 9 others agreed to "execute a plan" that would include publishing falsified accounts of protesters' deaths and injuries in order to claim that security forces had "violated international human rights standards." This coverage, he theorized, would allow the Brotherhood to rally supporters and organize armed marches that would distract security forces and provide the Brotherhood with an opportunity to loot weapons from police stations.

Major Khalil alleged that Saad al-Hosseini, a former member of parliament who was among those sentenced to death, oversaw an agreement to hire "criminal elements" to join Brotherhood marches and confront security forces, and that other defendants were responsible for recording the confrontations and sharing the information with the international media.

Among the properties used as "operation rooms," prosecutors alleged, was the headquarters of the independent news website Rassd. Major Khalil said that when police arrested Soltan on August 26, 2013, he was meeting in an apartment with 2 Rassd journalists - Abdullah al-Fakharany, the executive director, and Samhi Mustafa, a co-founder - as well as Mohamed al-Adly, a correspondent for the Amgad satellite television channel, and that the 4 were planning future coverage and how to communicate securely. Farrag, the journalist who remains at large, also worked for Rassd and was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia.

The police who arrested Soltan - then recovering from a bullet wound in his arm suffered at the sit-in - had been looking for his father, Salah, a Brotherhood member, Soltan's family has said. Soltan's sister told Human Rights Watch that when Soltan asked for a warrant during the arrest, an officer laughed and said he was told to "round up" whomever he found in the house. Soltan's father was sentenced to death in the same case.

10 days before Soltan's arrest, the prosecution said, police had arrested 4 Brotherhood leaders in another apartment, where they found "stacks of paper" with titles such as "Scenario," "Characteristics and Types of Weapons," and "Description of Movements in Some Places." The authorities said they had found $887 in US dollars and 418,000 Egyptian pounds (US$54,800) in cash, as well as an order from a hawala - an informal money-transfer system - for another 400,000 Egyptian pounds.

Besides Major Khalil's testimony, the prosecution’s case file includes no evidence that any of the defendants planned or advocated violence. Among the items listed as seized from various alleged "operation rooms" were cameras, laptops, CDs, hard drives, mobile phones, and papers related to legislative projects of the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), such as "Elections Program" and "Egyptian Constitution Project." Other "evidence" included a document called "I Refuse the Coup Against Legitimacy in 2 Languages: Arabic and English." The prosecution's file did not describe the documents in more detail.

The defense lawyer, who asked not to be named, told Human Rights Watch that police found no weapons in possession of any of the defendants and that prosecutors presented no corroborating evidence, such as emails or text messages, to support Major Khalil's testimony.

In a section of the case file labeled "prosecution notes," the authors cite "many media publications" found by police in a Cairo apartment used by the Brotherhood that included remarks by Badie explaining "how to occupy and control government buildings and confront police forces with the use of violence." But much of the prosecution’s evidence describes only alleged plans by Badie and other high-ranking Brotherhood members to bring down the interim government through nonviolent civil disobedience. In another Cairo apartment, prosecutors wrote, police found written papers addressed to Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and labeled "Scenario" that contained, among other sections, one titled "Nonviolent Weapons of War." This section suggested plans for a "social and economic boycott of state institutions," occupying government offices, and publishing "a parallel government." It suggested allying with other revolutionary groups, such as the April 6 Movement and Ultras soccer fans. It also allegedly contained plans for a 3-day "rally" that would involve occupying public squares, "fatiguing" security forces with clashes, surrounding embassies and government buildings, and conclude by "storming" the constitutional court, "besieging" the Ittihadeya presidential palace, and arresting the interim president and defense minister.

Other purportedly criminal plans discovered by police included a paper that suggested organizing a large march of protesters to Cairo Stadium for a day called "Sports Against the Coup" that would feature the demonstrators from the Rab’a sit-in playing against those from the other main sit-in in the capital, at Nahda Square.

Among those sentenced on April 11, 2015, were several people who served as key liaisons between foreign journalists and the Brotherhood and FJP, including Khaled Hamza, director of Ikhwanweb, the Brotherhood's main English-language website; Ahmed Aref, a main Brotherhood spokesman; Murad Ali, chief FJP spokesman; and Gehad al-Haddad, the son of Morsy's foreign policy advisor. Al-Haddad often gave interviews and background briefings to English-language media during the Rab'a sit-in.

In the prosecution's notes, investigators wrote down paraphrased "confessions" from some of these defendants. Most of these statements consist only of acknowledgments that the individual was a Brotherhood member, participated in the Rab'a sit-in, or helped spread news about protests opposing Morsy's removal.

The defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the confessions were fabricated and that all the defendants had declined to speak with prosecutors.

Al-Haddad's "confession" states that he served as a spokesman for the Brotherhood, helped arrange official statements, and set up a media center in a hall inside the Rab'a al-Adawiya mosque, where the Brotherhood often held news conferences during the sit-in. The prosecution said that al-Haddad also "confessed" to giving 3 interviews to foreign media - to a Spanish newspaper, an American television channel, and the New York Times - after the Rab'a dispersal.

Soltan's "confession" states only that he frequented the Rab'a sit-in and was responsible for dealing with the foreign journalists who covered it.

Earlier Mass Trials

\ The number of defendants charged in mass trials since 2013 has ranged from two dozen to 494, and the charges have spanned from murder to participation in anti-government protests. Hundreds of defendants have been sentenced to death or life in prison. As of late March 2015, 435 alleged Morsy supporters had received death sentences and appealed their case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appeals court, according to a count by the Moheet news website.

In March, Egypt carried out the 1st execution to stem from Morsy's overthrow, after an alleged anti-coup protester was convicted of murder in mass trial involving 58 defendants. 6 men convicted in a separate, military trial of belonging to a terrorist group and attacking security forces currently face execution.

The April 11 Sentences of Journalists and Media Workers

The 18 journalists and media workers sentenced on April 11, 2015, are:

Sentenced to death: 1.Walid Abd al-Raouf Shalabi - Writer for Freedom and Justice Party newspaper

Sentenced to life in prison:

1.Hani Salahuddin - broadcaster and former journalist at Al-Youm Al-Sabaa newspaper

2.Gamal Nasar - journalist and broadcaster

3.Ibrahim al-Taher - journalist

4.Abdou Desouki - journalist

5.Mohamed al-Adly - Amgad television channel correspondent

6.Mosaad al-Barbari - Ahrar 25 television channel director

7.Hussein al-Qabbani - Journalists for Reform group coordinator

8.Amr Farrag - Rassd news website director

9.Samhi Mustafa - Rassd news website executive director

10.Abdullah al-Fakharany - Rassd news website founding member

11.Mohamed Soltan - Rab'a sit-in media volunteer

12.Ahmed Aref - Muslim Brotherhood spokesman

13.Murad Ali - Freedom and Justice Party spokesman

14.Gehad al-Haddad - Muslim Brotherhood English-language spokesman

15.Khaled Hamza - Muslim Brotherhood English website, Ikhwanweb, director

16.Ahmed Subei - Muslim Brotherhood Arabic website, Ikhwan Online, employee

17.Magdi Hammouda - Muslim Brotherhood Arabic website, Ikhwan Online, employee

(source: Human Rights Watch)

APRIL 18, 2015:

TEXAS:

Of course innocent people have been executed

The question for the state House candidates during a recent Editorial Board meeting involved Texas' death penalty - whether they support it.

I paraphrase. Ina Minjarez, a former prosecutor, said that the justice system has its flaws, but, yes, she supports the death penalty.

I don't mean to pick on her. Texas candidates for the death penalty are as ubiquitous as cheese on Tex-Mex. And whoever is elected will make a perfectly fine representative, whether it is Minjarez or her opponent, Delicia Herrera. But Minjarez's wording was distressingly familiar.

Flawed? How much less than perfect is tolerable in a system that imposes a sanction that, once executed, cannot be walked back from? "Executed" being the exact right word there.

About 1,400 people have been executed since 1976 in the United States. There were, as of recently, 3,035 people on death row. And there have been, since 1973, at least 150 exonerations from death rows. Texas comes in 3rd among the states, with 12.

So, given the number of exonerations, what do we suppose are the chances that nary another innocent person is left on a death row somewhere to wait for the needle and slow death? And once you answer that question - truthfully - how do you answer the next one?

Just how much collateral damage is acceptable?

You see, these days, if you haven't reached the conclusion that unjustly convicted people have been executed and that no amount of improvement will remove human flaw from the system, you haven't been paying attention to the system, humans or current events.

The flaws are common knowledge. So it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that a lot of folks are pretty much OK with the execution of innocent people - as long as the overwhelming majority killed by the states really are monsters.

2 Texas cases in particular trouble me. One is the now infamous case of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004. He was convicted in the arson deaths of his 3 daughters on evidence that, it is now abundantly clear, was fictional or flawed. The forensic evidence pretty much points to no arson at all. A jailhouse witness to Willingham's alleged confession recanted, but this was kept from the defense. And that witness, it appears, was given a deal for his testimony and, he says, was coerced - this, too, kept from the defense.

Others have a longer list of men wrongfully executed, Texas figuring prominently. Besides Willingham, I call your attention to Carlos DeLuna, executed by Texas in 1989 for the stabbing death of a convenience store clerk in Houston. It seems clear that another Carlos committed the crime.

Right; due process has been followed. OK, but the evidence should have at least prompted new trials as a matter of justice. The system, of course, tends to cling to legality - due process. That is not the same thing as justice.

But why tippy-toe? Of course innocent people have been executed. This doesn't require much of a leap, particularly with Willingham. There is, by the way, a proposal, by Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, for a constitutional amendment to ban the death penalty in Texas.

I recently asked a couple of statistician friends whether there is a rule in their field that says if something happens often enough, it's certain to happen again. No, there are just too many variables. And I'm still certain that innocent people will be executed as long as there is a death penalty because of a few of those variables - human error and prosecutors' desire to win.

A couple of societal currents also intrude. Capital punishment exists because of an illusory belief that it guarantees safety - and, if we're honest, because we crave eye-for-an-eye retribution. So we continue to tweak in pursuit of something else illusory - a system with no errors.

Later, one of my friends shared a joke, inadvertently on point: 3 statisticians go hunting. 1 shoots and misses the deer by 3 feet to the left. The other shoots and misses 3 feet to the right. The 3rd guy exclaims, "We got it!" Substitute any profession that operates with plus or minus margins of error.

Dear candidates and sundry elected officials: As you cannot logically guarantee perfection in our police and courts, I hope margin of error and due process are enough of a security blanket for you when it comes to the death penalty.

Personally, I find it flimsy covering.

(source: Opinion, Ricardo Pimentel, San Antonio Express-News)

FLORIDA:

Death penalty question could delay Luis Toledo murder trial

The trial of a man accused of killing his wife and her 2 children could be delayed.

Luis Toledo, 33, was expected to go to trial later this summer, but a death penalty issue before the Florida Supreme Court could push the trial back.

Toledo's wife Yessenia Suarez, 28, and her children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8, disappeared from their Deltona home in October 2013. They have not been found.

Investigators said Toledo confessed to killing Suarez, but denied killing the children.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday in the Toledo case to discuss the death penalty issue.

(source: WFTV news)

ALABAMA:

8 men have walked free from Alabama's death row in 39 years----These men spent 71 years on Alabama's death row before their release. All death row prisoners received new trials when the state's death penalty statute was ruled unconstitutional in 1980.

For more than 3 years, Randal Padgett's world consisted of the 40 square feet between the walls of his cell on Alabama's death row.

When he was released, he had to learn how to live in wide open spaces - and sometimes he learned the hard way.

"One time I was parking up next to a building, and I just ran into the building because I couldn't judge the distance," Padgett said.

Padgett is 1 of 8 men who have gone free after serving time on death row in Alabama since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. 2 more - Wesley Quick and Louis Griffin - have had death sentences overturned, but are still serving time for other crimes. 56 men have been executed in the same time.

The most recent case is William Ziegler, who was freed yesterday after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of Russell Allen Baker. He won a new trial after a circuit court judge found numerous problems in his original trial. Ziegler had been on death row since 2001.

Padgett spent a fraction of that time behind bars - about five years in county jail and death row. But during that time, his son learned how to drive and his daughter entered middle school, all milestones he'll never get back.

Padgett was convicted for the brutal murder of his wife. The couple had separated before Cathy Padgett was found in 1990 stabbed more than 40 times in their home in Marshall County. Padgett won a new trial when an appeals court ruled that prosecutors didn't give the defense enough time to review blood evidence. The jury in the 2nd trial found him not guilty.

Even though it was an adjustment, freedom was intoxicating for Padgett.

"While you're on death row, it's like you're underwater and you're going to drown," Padgett said. "When you get out, it's like you're coming up for air."

Padgett's release came more than 15 years after the first release from Alabama's death row. Charles Lee Bufford was a prisoner in Wilcox County when he was arrested in the 1977 murder of Probate Judge Roland Cooper, Jr.

Bufford was working on Cooper's property, as part of an informal work-release program. Cooper was found bludgeoned to death, and Bufford was arrested miles away in Selma, where he was driving Cooper's car.

Bufford was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978, but he and all death row prisoners received new trials when the state's death penalty statute was ruled unconstitutional in 1980. Investigators couldn't produce much fingerprint or footprint evidence at his 2nd trial, just a damaged and incomplete written confession Bufford made after his arrest.

Bufford's lawyers highlighted the shoddy evidence, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Reporter Alvin Benn covered the retrial for the Montgomery Advertiser.

"He had been on death row for four years when he was retried and I'll never forget asking one of the jurors how they could acquit someone who admitted his guilt with all the evidence against him," Benn wrote in an e-mail. "She said, and I quote: 'We thought 4 years was enough for what he did.'"

James "Bo" Cochran also won a new trial in the early 1980s, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama's death penalty statute. It was the 2nd of 4 trials for Cochran, who didn't get released until 1997, 21 years after his conviction in the Jefferson County murder of Stephen Ganey.

Cochran, who was arrested running away from the scene of a robbery-murder, was ultimately released after his attorney argued that he could not have moved the victim's body while he was running away from the police. A jury ruled that he was not guilty and set him free.

Walter McMillian went directly to death row after his arrest in the Monroe County murder of Ronda Morrison. This unusual, and illegal, move by prosecutors came up several times during his appeal process, which also exposed serious prosecutorial misconduct. Attorneys for the state had suppressed evidence favorable to McMillian, and relied heavily on unreliable witnesses.

McMillian always insisted his conviction had more to do with racial bias than the evidence at the scene.

"The only reason I'm here is because I had been messing around with a white lady and my son married a white lady," he told the New York Times in a prison interview.

Gary Drinkard spent 5 years on death row for the murder of Dalton Pace, a junkyard dealer. But his conviction relied largely on the testimony of his half-sister, and he was released in 2000 after a new trial. Drinkard said his lawyers in the 1st trial weren't up to the task of defending him in a death penalty case. The Alabama Supreme Court threw out his 1st conviction and ordered a new trial.

Gary Wade Moore also walked free after serving time on death row. He was released in 2009 after serving about 7 years for the Morgan County murder of Karen Tipton. Misconduct by prosecutors in his 1st trial led to a 2nd, when the jury acquitted Moore.

None of them served as much time as Anthony Ray Hinton, who walked free 2 weeks ago. For more than a decade, he and his attorneys asked for new tests on the gun that linked him to the murders of two fast food restaurant managers in 1985. Recent tests ultimately ruled that the bullets found at the crime scenes couldn't be conclusively linked to the gun or to each other.

"I shouldn't have sat on death row 30 years," Hinton told Al.com. "All they had to do was test the gun. But when you think you are high and mighty and you're above the law you don't have to answer to nobody, but I've got news for you. Everybody who played a part in sending me to death row you will answer to God."

Looking back at his own case, Padgett said the state took away more than just years. When he entered prison, he had 32 acres and a good job. When he was released, he didn't have a penny to his name, since he spent all of it on his defense.

Alabama legislators passed a law in 2001 to provide compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted, but the legislature has to appropriate the funds. So far, no prisoner released from death row in Alabama has received compensation, Padgett said.

Before he was arrested, he thought he would be able to retire by age 55. Padgett will turn 65 this year, is still working, and still has some legal debt to repay. Retirement may never happen for him, Padgett said.

"I don't ever think I'll get back to where I was," Padgett said.

(source: al.com)

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Our death penalty mistakes leave blood on our hands

The thing about death, it's final. There's no coming back, no review, no room for further evidence or reconsideration or reversal. When you're dead, you're dead. Gone.

The thing about the death penalty in America, we're just not very good at it. We get it wrong. Even if you believe the death penalty is morally right, and effective, if you are honest you have to acknowledge that we kill people we shouldn't kill. And we try hard, and at great expense, to kill more.

In the 40 years since the death penalty was reinstated in Alabama, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling imposed a moratorium, Alabama has killed 56 prisoners. 8 people have been set free from our state's death row over the same years, and 2 others removed but kept in prison for non-capital crimes.

The ugly terms that come up repeatedly in these cases reflect inevitable human weakness, they reflect that we are just not good at this business of deciding who to kill: racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, planted evidence, false evidence, faulty evidence, failure to disclose evidence, inadequate defense of the indigent, buying jurors and corrupt jury selection. Alabama is the only state in the union that has judges overrule juries to impose sentences of death. We wrongly convict a disproportionate number of black people and poor people, and kill more of them.

Because we're just not very good at this, an entire industry has built up around our death rows. It usually takes decades to kill someone for a crime. There are rounds of expensive appeals, reviews, retrials. These lead us at times to find that someone sentenced to death was not, in fact, proved guilty beyond doubt. Now and then someone is shown to be clearly innocent. Hopefully that happens before they are, you know, dead.

This is not justice.

Our Founding Fathers accepted almost 250 years ago, and built into our justice system, the long held notion that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than that one be wrongly punished. This should especially apply to our efforts to impose death. Better that a thousand guilty men live than that one innocent man die at the hands of the state. Our hands.

Some say that in using the death penalty, we the people are trying to play God. Maybe, maybe not. But for certain, we are just not very good at it. Amid all the angst and anger in the debate about capital punishment -- about its morality, its effectiveness, its justness -- there is this practical point: We get it wrong.

Being human, we will continue to get it wrong. We must stop pretending that it's right.

(source: Editorial Board al.com)

LOUISIANA:

Exonerated Death Row Inmate Meets the Former Prosecutor Who Put Him There

When Glenn Ford walked out of prison for the first time in 30 years, he had a state-issued debit card for $20. His prison account had $0.24. Everything he owned fit into 2 cardboard boxes.

Until he was freed last March, Ford, now 65, had been one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the United States.

He was convicted in 1984, but then exonerated of 1st-degree murder after a new informant came forward and cleared him of the crime.

His former lawyer, Gary Clements, was by his side on his client's 1st day of freedom.

"Nobody ever finds out the truth. Sometimes they don't find out in time. Here they did," Clements said. "That's a blessing. To say that justice has arrived now, it's a little 30-years-too-late."

The person responsible for putting Ford behind bars is Marty Stroud, who prosecuted the original case back in 1984.

Stroud has now apologized to Ford, writing in a letter to the editor of the Shreveport Times in Shreveport, Louisiana, "I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. ... I apologize to Glenn Ford for all the misery I have caused him and his family."

"That case, I'll never be able to put it to rest," Stroud told "Nightline."

Ford's case began in 1983, when Isadore Rozeman, a local watch dealer in Shreveport, was found shot dead inside his home repair shop. Within days, the police zeroed in on Ford, who had done yard work for the victim.

Ford was put on trial and after 7 days. Even though there were no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon, the jury came back with a guilty verdict and a death sentence, sending Ford to death row.

At the time, Stroud said he was "very pleased" with the verdict and went out and celebrated. But now, he is saying it wasn't a fair fight.

"The deck was stacked on one end," he said.

Ford's court-appointed defense team had almost no experience and no resources.

"The lawyers had never even stepped foot in the courtroom before," Clements said. "They never tried a case and here they are defending a capital case."

Stroud reluctantly admitted he further stacked the deck against Ford by ensuring that the jury was all white.

"I knew I was excluding individuals we felt would not seriously consider the death penalty," he said. "Looking back on it, I was not as sensitive to the issue of race as I am now."

Ford's outmatched defense team was also never told about the confidential informants working for law enforcement who pointed the finger at 2 other suspects, brothers Henry and Jake Robinson, for Rozeman's murder.

Ford had told police the brothers gave him some items to pawn -- items, Ford later learned, that were stolen from the murdered watch dealer's home.

While Ford sat on death row, the brothers remained free and, according to authorities, may be responsible for 5 other homicides. Both brothers are now in jail charged with other crimes. Neither, however, is charged with Rozeman's murder.

Ford's current attorney, William Most, said Ford's case challenges people's notion about how this nation works.

"The guy who didn't commit the murder is the one who is put in jail and sentenced the death," Most said. "And the ones who were part of it were let free to commit other crimes."

Ford would still be on death row today if not for a confidential informant who told police in 2013 that Jake Robinson confessed to him regarding the killing of Isadore Rozeman.

In Louisiana, exonerated former inmates like Ford are eligible for as much as $330,000 in compensation payments. But when Ford petitioned for the money a judge denied his request, saying that while Ford didn't kill Rozeman, he was not completely innocent because he may have known about the shooting beforehand because of his communication with the brothers.

It's a claim Ford fiercely denies.

So, his proponents argue, after being locked up for 30 years, the state turned its back on Ford and left him virtually penniless.

"If we truly have a system of justice in this country, Glenn would be compensated for what was done to him," Most said. "So the extent of whether we have a system of justice, we'll see -- but, you know, I see no justice in Glenn's story."

Stroud admitted that he should have done more to help Ford, saying in his letter to the Shreveport Times that Ford "deserved every penny owed to him," and that "to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered ... is appalling."

"It's an extremely big deal for Marty Stroud, the lead prosecutor to do this," Clements said. "He could have just sent an apology to Glenn, but he put it out in his community."

But now, Ford needs that restitution money more than ever. Just months after his release, he was given a different kind of death sentence. He was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

He currently survives on donations and is cared for by a staff of volunteers, including John Thompson, another exonerated prisoner, who now operates a home for exonerees.

Ford is now much frailer and easily fatigued, having lost half his body weight. He said he was shocked when Stroud published that letter apologizing to him and his family.

When Stroud wanted to apologize to Ford in person, Ford had mixed feelings about seeing the man who put him away for 30 years. But he granted the meeting, and "Nightline" was there with cameras rolling.

"I thought about this for a long, long time," Stroud told him. "I want you to know that I am very sorry. It's a stain on me that will be with me until I go to my grave, and I wasn't a very good person at all. I apologize for that." Ford said anger is not his driving force and he holds nothing against the former prosecutor. But after having 30 years taken away from him, Ford reluctantly told Stroud, "I'm sorry. I can't forgive you."

(source: ABC news)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma governor signs 'foolproof' nitrogen gas execution method----The state is the 1st to approve nitrogen-induced hypoxia for use on death-row inmates, which supporters says is 'painless' despite lack of human testing

Oklahoma became the 1st US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren't possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage.

Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state's current 3-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Supporters of the new law maintain nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a humane and painless method of execution that requires no medical expertise to perform.

"Oklahoma executes murderers whose crimes are especially heinous," Fallin said in a statement announcing that she had signed the bill into law.

"I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard."

The bill authored by Republican representative Mike Christian and Republican senator Anthony Sykes had passed the state House on an 85-10 vote and cleared the Senate on a 41-0 vote.

There are no reports of nitrogen gas ever being used to execute humans, and critics say that one concern is that the method is untested. Some states even ban its use to put animals to sleep.

But supporters of Oklahoma's plan argue that nitrogen-induced hypoxia - or a lack of oxygen in the blood - is a humane execution method.

"The process is fast and painless," said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who wrote the bill. "It's foolproof."

Opponents say there's no way to know whether the method is painless and effective.

"It just hasn't been tried, so we don't know," said Represenative Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman who opposes the death penalty.

The changes come after a botched execution last year in which Oklahoma was using a new sedative as the 1st in a 3-drug combination. State officials tried to halt the lethal injection after the inmate writhed on the gurney and moaned. He died 43 minutes after the process began.

The problematic execution was blamed on a poorly placed intravenous line and prompted a lawsuit from Oklahoma death-row inmates, who argue that the state's new drug combination presents a serious risk of pain and suffering. The US supreme court is scheduled to hear arguments later this month.

Under the new law, lethal injection would remain the state's 1st choice for executions and nitrogen gas would be its 1st backup method - ahead of the electric chair, which the state hasn't used since 1966, and a firing squad, which has never been used in Oklahoma.

(source: The Guardian)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska might repeal death penalty due to drug shortage

Nebraska is considering repealing the death penalty amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs, with legislation to eliminate capital punishment clearing a major hurdle Thursday.

Lawmakers voted 30-13 to advance the bill that would replace capital punishment with life imprisonment in first-degree murder cases. If that support holds, death penalty opponents would have enough votes to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts' promised veto.

A coalition of Republicans who voted for the bill cast the death penalty as a wasteful and bungling government program, but Ricketts released a statement urging them to reconsider.

Nebraska hasn't executed anyone since 1997 and has no way to carry out sentences for the 11 men sitting on death row because its supply of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that's part of its execution protocol, expired in December 2013. Ricketts and Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson have vowed to find a solution, but the Department of Correctional Services has yet to obtain a new supply.

Death penalty states across the nation have been forced to find new drugs and new suppliers because pharmaceutical companies, many of which of which are based in Europe, have stopped selling them for executions. Some states are looking at alternatives. Tennessee passed a law last year to reinstate the electric chair if it can't get lethal injection drugs, and Utah has reinstated the firing squad as a backup method.

In Oklahoma, lawmakers have sent the governor a bill that would allow the state to use nitrogen gas hypoxia. That comes as executions there are on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the state's three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming joined Alabama in a court filing Wednesday urging the court to uphold the use of the sedative midazolam in executions.

If Nebraska's repeal passes, the state would join 6 others that have abolished the death penalty since 2000. The Delaware Senate voted last month to end capital punishment, but the bill faces an uphill battle in the House.

The Nebraska vote reflects a growing sentiment among some conservative residents that the state will never execute an inmate again.

"The question of the death penalty has been moving from one of whether you find it morally justifiable to one of whether you trust the government to carry it out properly," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that is critical of how the death penalty is carried out.

The bill must advance through two more rounds of voting in the one-house, nonpartisan Legislature, and death penalty supporters are still working to block the legislation.

"I would say that those who favor getting rid of the death penalty have a long ways to go until they're going to have this bill cross the finish line," Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, an outspoken death penalty supporter, said.

Death penalty supporters peppered Thursday's debate with tales of gruesome killings, calling the death penalty a just response to crimes such as a 2002 bank robbery in Norfolk in which five people were killed.

"Our days are numbered, and when you're a criminal who commits a crime, you have numbered your days and that warrants the death penalty," said Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte.

Most Americans still favor the death penalty for prisoners convicted of murder, but the support has reached a 40-year low, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. The survey found that 56 % of people support the death penalty in cases of murder, while 38 % remain opposed.

The sponsor of the Nebraska measure, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, has fought for 4 decades to abolish capital punishment. The Legislature passed a repeal measure once, in 1979, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Former Marine charged in murder of dismembered companion in Panama

A former U.S. Marine was charged on Friday with murdering a woman who went missing in 2011 after traveling with him to Panama and whose dismembered remains were found in the remote jungle 2 years later.

Brian Brimager, 37, is accused in a federal grand jury indictment of killing and dismembering 42-year-old Yvonne Baldelli and then engaging in an elaborate cover-up of the crime that included sending emails from the dead woman's account to her friends and family members.

Brimager pleaded innocent during a hearing in U.S. District Court in San Diego. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Family members of the slain woman said after the hearing that they were grateful to prosecutors for "finding a way to charge" Brimager with the murder.

"He put a lot of effort and energy into getting away with this," Baldelli's sister, Michelle Faust, told Reuters in an interview. "My sister did not deserve to be murdered and thrown away like trash."

According to the indictment, Brimager and Baldelli moved together in September 2011 from Los Angeles to the Panamanian archipelago of Bocas del Toro, where they rented a room in a hostel on Isla Carenero.

Soon after arriving there, Brimager began emailing with another woman, the mother of his young daughter, to discuss moving back to California, prosecutors say, and he physically abused Baldelli, leaving her with bruises on her arms and around her eyes.

Brimager is accused in the indictment of murdering Baldelli in November 2011, dismembering her body and disposing of the parts in a remote jungle area of the island, before destroying evidence and sending the misleading emails.

He is also accused of withdrawing money from her bank account, using ATMs in Costa Rica to suggest that she had traveled there.

The indictment alleges that Brimager tried to dispose of the bloody mattress involved in Baldelli's murder, conducting Internet searches to find out how to clean a bloody mattress.

Brimager has been in federal custody since June 2013, when he was charged with making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If convicted of the murder charge, he could face the death penalty.

(source: canoe.ca)

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2nd Smoking Gun Of Prosecutorial Team Cheating Emerges In Death Penalty Case

We reported earlier this week ("Dial Eme For Murder," April 15) that the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) won a 2007 death penalty case after hiding a key piece of evidence that would have undermined the government's trial position. Prosecutor Dan Wagner argued defendant Anthony R. Navarro, a Mexican Mafia associate and a prolific FBI informant, ordered 3 gang soldiers to carry out an October 2002 hit near Knott's Berry Farm. Navarro said he couldn't have commanded the soldiers because the gang wanted him dead for being a snitch, an assertion Wagner mocked as a "ridiculous" lie.

The prosecutor wasn't just wrong; law enforcement possessed evidence proving the error. Nearly two months before successfully asking jurors to impose death, government agents recovered the Mexican Mafia's secret "hard candy" list, which recorded the names of individuals the gang wanted murdered on sight, including Navarro, a.k.a. "Droopy." In a flagrant violation of ethics, officials hid that document from the defense, Judge Francisco P. Briseno and a jury of 7 men and 4 woman. The 48-year-old defendant now lives on San Quentin State Prison's death row hoping the state Supreme Court will someday overturn his conviction.

But the Weekly has learned Wagner's prosecution of Navarro, his only death penalty victory before taking over the OCDA's homicide unit, cheated the defense of a second piece of critical exculpatory evidence: a letter written by Armando Macias, one of the gang soldiers that killed victim David Montemayor and months later used shanks in a murder attempt on Navarro inside a Fullerton courthouse holding cell.

Wagner told the jury the February 2003 shanking incident had nothing to do with Navarro being a snitch. He opined that the soldiers learned Navarro tricked them into carrying out the Montemayor hit by pretending Eme ordered it and they wanted him dead without input from gang leadership. If the hard candy list blew a hole in the prosecutor's stance, the Macias letter, copied by sheriff's deputies before it was mailed from the jail, gutted it.

Expressing intense anger while writing to a female gang associate in Sept. 2003, Macias said that neither he nor any other Mexican Mafia-tied hoodlums in the custody of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) had been able to kill Navarro. He didn't mention anything that supported the theory Wagner would use four years later at trial, but the contents definitely supported the defendant's story. In fact, Macias called Navarro a "jackass rat" and, annoyed his target was "still roaming around," described that he was "pulling my hair out" to figure out ways to kill him.

Like the hard candy list, the Macias letter remained hidden from the trial. But the two pieces of information share another similar fate. More than three years after OCDA put Navarro on death row, prosecutors decided the list and the letter aided their death penalty cases against Montemayor killers Macias and Alberto Martinez, and--voila!--the documents were introduced. This chain of events supports the contention by the Orange County Public Defenders Office and local defense lawyers that the prosecution can't be trusted to obey rules requiring the surrender of evidence that helps defendants.

Wagner, who says he can't recall why evidence wasn't turned over to Navarro, isn't new to this mess. Under his guidance, another death penalty case, People vs. Scott Dekraai, got officially marred. In March, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals ruled that 2 sheriff's deputies, Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia, who'd been working in league with Wagner, repeatedly committed perjury and hid evidence from the Dekraai defense led by Scott Sanders. Goethals was so alarmed by the cheating that he recused OCDA from the case, an unprecedented move in county history. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas hasn't appeared interested in holding the badged liars accountable by filing charges.

Already embarrassed this year in Baca vs. Adams for defending the Riverside County DA's office using perjury to win a murder case, Kamala Harris' California Attorney General's office has chosen the same soiled route in Dekraai. Harris' office sided with OCDA that Goethals stance against the cheating was at best, from their perspective, erroneous and at worst an overreaction to meaningless misconduct. She is asking an appellate court to reinstate Rackauckas for the penalty phase of the case. The appeal could take several years to resolve.

Rackauckas is meanwhile pretending his office hasn't worked itself into a self-inflicted crisis that's winning increasing national attention. The problem, he says, isn't a lack of ethics. It's just erroneous public perception about an office that deserves budget increases. He recently told reporters his image woes can be erased if somebody "independent" double checks and rejects Goethals' findings. Lately, he's been holding press conferences underscoring his commitment to law and order policies.

On Thursday, UC Irvine School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky--one of the most credible legal names in the region--penned a guest OC Register editorial, "Big Problems at the DA's Office." Chemerinsky summarized opinions contained in this publication for last 14 months. "Systematic misconduct" by Rackauckas' office "is deeply disturbing and indicates that major reforms are needed," he wrote. Chemerinsky is calling for the creation of "an independent, blue-ribbon commission with full investigatory powers to examine the OCDA's office."

Rackauckas' reaction? It wasn't precisely a yawn. The 72-year-old, 5-term DA has adopted a run-out-the-clock strategy hoping time will alleviate pressure to enact reforms. Yesterday, he summoned reporters to his Santa Ana headquarters to celebrate for a third time this month his toughness in a PR goldmine case involving a 19-year-old pedophile. He has scheduled another press conference today to repeat his 2012-stated stance against parole for a man convicted in a triple murder 38 years ago. But the big question is: What other ugly revelations are coming?

(source: Orange County Register)

USA:

Birmingham attorney takes fight against death penalty in U.S. to the United Nations

Birmingham lawyer Lisa Borden opposes the death penalty. One of her worst fears is the prospect that one day she will have to watch a client executed.

Borden, who oversees the pro bono programs at the firm of Baker Donelson, has been involved in the appeals of 5 death row inmates. She also has filed briefs on behalf of groups fighting against executions.

But recently she found another way to help condemned inmates - she asked other nations to bring pressure on the United States to make changes to death penalty policies.

Borden was among 12 representatives from The Advocates For Human Rights, a non-profit group from Minnesota, that traveled in late March to the U.N. offices in Geneva Switzerland to participate in the U.N.'s "Universal Periodic Review."

The U.N. created the 'Universal Periodic Review" in 2006 as a way to review the human rights records of all 193 member nations. Each nation's human rights records are reviewed every 4 years.

During the process other nations are allowed to recommend changes the nation under review should make. The United States' next review is May 11. The U.S. can accept, reject, or just note the recommendations made by other countries.

In preparation for the reviews, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including The Advocates For Human Rights, are afforded an opportunity to submit reports and lobby the delegates of member nations on what recommendations they should make, in this case, to the United States.

Borden was the only one of the 12 with The Advocates for Human Rights to focus on the U.S. death penalty issues. Her firm had worked with the group on death penalty issues before. The others in the group focused on other issues.

Before the trip, Borden says, she had never thought before about ways to use international pressure to make changes to death penalty laws in the United States. "It sort of opened my eyes to a new avenue of maybe advancing the ball," she said.

During the week Borden said she would approach delegates from pre-identified target countries, hand them a one-page synopsis of proposed recommendations and ask if they would meet in the U.N.'s Serpentine Lounge. The meetings would usually last between five and 30 minutes, she said.

"It was awesome. It was a really amazing experience," Borden said.

Delegates she met with were from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, the Netherlands, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Paraguay, Portugal, and the Holy See (Vatican). None of those nations have the death penalty.

"You're not going to get a recommendation if they have the death penalty themselves," Borden said. "We're focusing on the countries we expect to be supportive of our position and we hope will step out and make recommendations (to the U.S.)."

European countries are particularly opposed to the death penalty, Borden said. "They're frankly horrified by what goes on here," she said.

Responses from delegates ranged from "very enthusiastic to polite," Borden said.

Borden said the goal is to "advance the ball" as much as they can on several issues regarding the death penalty.

Issues/Recommendations

"Obviously, we welcome and encourage recommendations to abolish the death penalty or a moratorium," Borden said.

But while a nation may oppose the United States' use of the death penalty, they may not want to use their precious time at next month's meeting to make such a recommendation on the topic, Borden said. "The countries are looking for something the U.S. might actually listen to," she said.

Delegates from all the countries will have a total of 3 1/2 hours to stand up and make recommendations to the U.S. - giving each nation only a few minutes to address any human rights topics. "It has to be laser focused," she said.

They're frankly horrified by what goes on here" Lisa Borden on European reaction to U.S. death penalty

One issue that that seemed to catch the interest of delegates is a proposed recommendation to have federal prosecutors stop seeking executions in states and territories where the death penalty has been abolished, Borden said.

For example, federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the Boston Marathon bomber case. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.

Federal prosecutors' use of the death penalty is no starker than in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico where they seek the death penalty 3-1/2 times more often than in the rest of United States, Borden said. Puerto Rico abolished the death penalty in 1929.

Since Puerto Rico has an almost entirely Hispanic population "we think that's a significant concern," Borden said.

Halting federal executions in non-death penalty states would only require an executive order from the President of the United States, Borden said. Such an order shouldn't be a problem for those states that don't have the death penalty or those who are in favor of states' rights, she said.

"The federal government would simply be respecting that state's authority," Borden said.

Among the other possible recommendations Borden talked to delegates about included adoption of:

-- Federal laws to ensure lethal injections are carried out via well-tested procedures that do not cause necessary pain, with full oversight and transparency of types and sources of drugs and using drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

-- Procedures to provide full and fair representation for defendants and prevent or mitigate negative effects of inadequate DNA testing and eyewitness misidentifications.

-- Compensation laws for exonerated inmates to provide at least $100,000 per year on death row, without taxation or legal fees.

-- Laws providing exonerated death row inmates services, including housing, transportation, healthcare, employment, and education assistance.

Another recommendation delegates were asked to consider is asking the U.S. government to undertake studies to identify the root causes of ethnic and racial disparities with imposition of the death penalty.

Statistically, the most likely candidates for being sent to death row are African American defendants charged with killing white victims, Borden said. Another factor is being poor, she said.

Also, killers with money and good attorneys are less likely to be charged with a death penalty eligible offense, Borden said. "For me the issue is that the people who can't afford appropriate representation get railroaded onto death row," she said.

Borden says that early in her career she probably could have envisioned a scenario where the death penalty was appropriate for a convicted murderer. "But I can't say that now for 2 reasons," she said.

First, the reason most condemned inmates are sitting on death row is because they grew up in abject poverty and as children were victims of mental or sexual abuse with no treatment or support, Borden said. "Yet at the end of the day we say they are entirely responsible for what happened," she said.

Second, there are so many flaws in the judicial process that there are likely innocent people on death row awaiting execution, Borden said. "I don't see how we can put ourselves in the position that we have a process so reliable that we can kill people and feel confident about that," she said.

(source: al.com)

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

Census Bureau shooting suspect charged with guard's murder, could face death penalty

A man accused of killing a U.S. Census Bureau guard during a crime spree in and around the D.C. area has been charged with murder and other federal offenses, prosecutors said.

Ronald Anderson was charged in a criminal complaint on Friday in the April 9 abduction, chase and gunfire that killed Lawrence Buckner.

The charges include kidnapping, murder, using and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and causing death by use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

The U.S. attorney's office said Anderson, 48, could face the death penalty if convicted.

The criminal complaint offers details about what happened that differ from reports issued by police immediately following the chaotic crime spree.

According to the complaint, on April 9, Anderson kidnapped a woman and drove her to his apartment complex in Suitland, Maryland. The woman was able to escape and jump into a car driven by a second woman whom Anderson had asked to meet him there.

The 2 women drove away, and Anderson chased them, according to the complaint, which said the women pulled into Census Bureau headquarters because the driver knew armed guards were stationed there. They crashed into a light pole near Buckner and a 2nd guard.

The complaint outlines the remaining sequence of events as follows:

Anderson pulled up behind the crashed car and got out, carrying a gun. He exchanged gunfire with Buckner, hitting the guard in the chest. Anderson then shot at a 2nd security guard, but missed, before jumping back into his car and driving away. Buckner, 59, was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In D.C., Metropolitan Police saw the suspect's car and began following Anderson, who fired several shots at them during the chase. When his car stopped, he continued to shoot at officers, who returned fire. Anderson was hit several times, and a police officer was struck in the leg.

Prosecutors said Anderson is still being treated for his unidentified injuries, and no appearances in federal court have been scheduled.

In addition to the murder charge, Anderson has been charged with kidnapping and assault on a police officer in the District.

(source: WJLA news)

EGYPT:

Anti-death penalty group pleas to halt execution of 7 citizens

The "Against the Death Penalty" group met with the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) after urgently appealing the council to stop the execution of seven citizens in the "Arab Sharkas" case, the group said in a statement on Thursday.

The group also requested NCHR's support in its plea for a halt in the issuance and implementation of the death penalty "until a stable justice mechanism is achieved".

In the Wednesday meeting, Mohamed Fayek, head of the NCHR, told the group that "the death penalty should not be used in political cases, and promised to study the Arab Sharkas case and consider how to proceed, since the execution of 7 persons is, in any case, a serious matter", the statement read.

The 7 civilians were convicted by a military court on 21 October 2014 of killing a military officer and belonging to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis militant group, and given the death penalty. After the military court rejected an appeal, the ruling was confirmed on 24 March 2015.

The case initially included 9 defendants who were accused of planning and executing what is known in the media as the "Arab Sharkas" cell case.

Security forces had allegedly been carrying out operations against a "terrorist cell" in a village in the Qaliubiya governorate, north of Cairo on 19 March 2014. A gunfight allegedly took place and the Interior Ministry later reported six militants dead, and 8 arrested. However, 2 defendants in the case had already been in prison and 2 others were arrested 3 days before the incident took place.

Sara Said, one of the defendants' sister, previously told Daily News Egypt that her brother and the remaining defendants had been "kidnapped" or forcibly disappeared. Last May her family and "6 or 7 more families filed a report with the Prosecutor General after they had seen their children's names in an Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis membership list that the Ministry of Interior had released".

According to Amnesty International, enforced disappearances had increased as a method of arrest last year in Egypt. Likewise, military trials for civilians have been on the rise as hundreds of civilians have been standing trials in front of military courts.

According to the anti-death penalty group, "the trial lacked the minimum standards of a fair and just trial, to the extent that 2 of the convicted were in detention during the time of the crime of which they are charged".

The anti-death penalty group had called on the NCHR to "urgently intervene" and "to bear the political and moral responsibility in preventing the death of possibly innocent citizens" earlier on 8 April.

Fayek told the group that he was concerned with lowering the amount of crimes, which are over 80, that are punishable by death. He added that "the death penalty should not be used in political cases".

International human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Monitor, as well as local rights organisations, condemned the military court death sentences. The family of one of the jailed civilians previously told Daily News Egypt that the charges and sentences were "ridiculous".

A campaign, dubbed the "Execution of a Homeland" was also launched in March in which groups gathered petitions to be sent to the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (UNHCR). The campaign stated that more than 500 people have been handed death sentences in unfair trails in Egypt.

(source: Daily News Egypt)

PAKISTAN----execution

Death house inmate executed in Vehari

A convicted prisoner on death row has been hanged till death in Vehari's District Jail early this morning, SAMAA reported on Saturday.

Convict, Manzoor Wasli, slew a policeman during a robbery attempt in 2001.

A local anti-terrorism court (ATC) convicted him and awarded him double death penalty. Lahore High Court's Multan bench dismissed the convict's appeal against the ruling in 2008.

Death warrant for his punishment was issued on April 13. He was sent to gallows this morrning.

(source: Samaa)

APRIL 17, 2015:

LOUISIANA:

Volunteers Gather to Care for Glenn Ford, Exonerated Louisiana Man Who Is Now Dying from Cancer

In Louisiana, former prosecutor Marty Stroud has met with former death row prisoner Glenn Ford to apologize to him for wrongfully charging him with murder. After 30 years in prison, Ford was released from death row last year after the state admitted new evidence proves he was not the killer. Stroud recently wrote a 3-page letter in the Shreveport Times calling on the state to stop refusing to compensate Ford, who now has stage 4 lung cancer. We get an update on Ford's case from his friend Jackie Sumell.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have a minute, and I also want to get to Glenn Ford -

JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: - and the work you do with him, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a man in Shreveport, Louisiana. After 30 years in prison, Ford was released from death row last year after the state admitted new evidence proves he was not the killer.

Last week, I spoke with the lead prosecutor in Ford's murder trial, Marty Stroud, who recently wrote a 3-page letter to the Shreveport Times calling on the state to stop refusing to compensate Ford, who's now dying of stage 4 liver cancer. You're one of his hospice partners, helping Glenn. Marty Stroud, since we talked, has gone to meet and apologize to Glenn Ford directly?

JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah. I mean, Marty Ford - Stroud, excuse me, has apologized to Glenn Ford. Whether or not that apology is anything significant after enduring 30 years of wrongful conviction on death row in solitary confinement -

AMY GOODMAN: And the state still refuses to compensate?

JACKIE SUMELL: Compensate him financially. So he's completely underinsured. His medical care is some - a combination of volunteers, like myself, who are incredibly honored to be able to serve and work with Glenn, and then basic care from the state.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jackie Sumell, we will link to your exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library that has just opened.

JACKIE SUMELL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: The book has just come out again, Herman's House. And [Nightline] is doing a special on Glenn Ford's case tonight.

That does it for our broadcast. We're looking to hire a social media producer. It's a full-time job. Go to our website.

I'll also be speaking at Colorado College Thursday, April 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. in Colorado Springs.

(source: Democracy Now!)

OHIO:

Death penalty excluded for prosecutions of homicides related to Short North Posse

11 Short North Posse members indicted on federal murder charges last year will not face the death penalty.

When charges were filed, federal prosecutors had asked for death-penalty specifications. The U.S. attorney general turned down the request, according to court records filed today.

The 11 were among 20 men charged in 2014 with being part of a racketeering conspiracy that killed and robbed rival gang members and intimidated witnesses between 2005 and 2012 in central Ohio.

The defendants were part of the Short North Posse's killing squad, according to a 2-year investigation by local, state and federal law-enforcement agents and officers. The investigation resulted in the largest federal murder indictment in Ohio history, officials said.

The killing squad was led by Robert B. Ledbetter, also known as "Killer B," and Lance A. Green, known as "Jigga," the indictment says. Members are accused of 13 homicides.

The cases are expected to go to trial in 2016.

Death-penalty cases are unusual in federal court and can only by authorized by the U.S. attorney general. That doesn't happen until a lengthy process based on Department of Justice guidelines established in 1995.

The process begins when local U.S. attorneys prepare detailed reports outlining their request for the Justice Department.

A department committee reviews each death-eligible case and gives defense attorneys a chance to argue against death-penalty specifications. Then the review committee makes a recommendation to the attorney general, who reviews each case and makes a final decision.

The posse traditionally has operated in an area of Weinland Park bounded by 11th, Grant and 5th avenues and N. High Street. Law enforcers have been trying to break the gang for years and, in December 2013, indicted 22 people connected to the group on federal drug-trafficking charges.

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)

INDIANA:

Death penalty sought in suspected Indiana serial killings case

Indiana prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Gary man charged in the slayings of 2 women and suspected in the deaths of 5 others.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter filed a request Friday seeking the death penalty for Darren Dean Vann if he's convicted in the deaths of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy of Gary and 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville.

The Post-Tribune of Merrillville reports Vann didn’t attend Friday's hearing.

Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell also granted prosecutors' motion to combine the 2 murder cases.

Vann's attorney, Teresa Hollandsworth, opposed the motion, arguing that joining the two cases would be highly prejudicial to her client. She said Jones' strangulation appears to be a murder-for-hire and not a rage killing as prosecutors contended in their filing.

(source: Associated Press)

NEVADA:

Nevada has 80 on death row, but no place to execute

Nevada has more than 80 men on death row but no suitable place to execute them should the state need to carry out capital punishment, a panel of lawmakers was told last week.

So lawmakers again are being asked to fund a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison so Nevada can be prepared to carry out a lethal injection should a court order be issued. The facility in remote eastern Nevada is the state's only maximum security prison.

Greg Cox, director of the Department of Corrections, acknowledged in a budget hearing last week that no executions are in the offing.

But if a court orders an execution, the agency would have only between 60 and 90 days to carry it out, he said. An execution potentially could be carried out at the now-decommissioned Nevada State Prison in the capital, but litigation over the use of the death chamber at the facility would be anticipated, he said.

Cox made his pitch for about $829,000 to build a new execution chamber at the Ely prison where Nevada's death row population is housed. The execution chamber and related facilities would take up 1,900 square feet of the current administration wing at the facility, he said.

Ely has been selected for security reasons since that is where Nevada's worst of the worst are housed, and no transportation would be involved for an execution.

Inmates on Nevada's death row include Pat McKenna, known as Nevada's most dangerous inmate who killed another man in jail in Clark County in 1979. McKenna has tried to escape several times.

Others on death row include Richard Haberstroh, who in 1986 raped and choked 20-year-old Donna Marie Kitowski when she went to a store in Southern Nevada to buy ingredients to bake cookies for her 20-month-old son; and Michael Sonner, who in 1993 killed Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Carlos Borland.

Nevada uses only lethal injection for executions, and Cox acknowledged the method of execution is being litigated around the country. Obtaining the drugs needed to perform an execution is also a challenge, he said.

Cox said he recently became aware that the American Pharmacists Association decided just last month to dis­courage its members from participating in executions, finding that, "such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care."

Cox also said he learned last week that architectural firms are expected to avoid participating in the design of the Nevada execution chamber project.

"They are constantly peeling away this onion," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced in January that it will hear arguments this year regarding Oklahoma's lethal injection process using a drug called midazolam.

The last execution in Nevada, by lethal injection, occurred April 26, 2006, at the Nevada State Prison, when Daryl Mack was put to death. Mack was executed for the rape and murder of a Reno woman, Betty Jane May, in 1988.

Executions in Nevada are rare. There have only been 12 since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Death penalty cases are litigated in both state and federal courts and can take decades to finalize.

Some members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means joint budget subcommittee expressed reservations about the funding request, which is a repeat from the 2013 session albeit at a price nearly 20 % higher.

Chris Chimits, deputy administrator with the state Public Works Board, said a big reason for the increase is the supply and demand situation in the construction industry as the economy heats up. If the request is delayed until 2017, the cost could reach $1 million, he said.

Chimits said the chamber would be modeled after the new facility at San Quentin in California, whose construction was overseen by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"If we do anything it is going to be with their (the court's) approval on this project," he said.

Cox also said that another delay would mean there would be no new execution chamber for 4 years, since it is a 2-year project estimated by the Public Works Board.

But lawmakers noted that the current state of flux in the use of lethal injection nationwide might mean there is no immediate rush.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said the uncertainty raises questions about whether the investment is worthwhile at this time.

"There are a lot of needs for our capital infrastructure dollars," he said. "I think that lack of certainty - and I understand it is out of our control - makes it difficult."

The request is part of the agency's 2015-17 budget request, which will not be finalized until much later in this session.

Cox said funding will be needed to keep the Nevada State Prison death chamber ready for use should the new project not be approved. But the current chamber, an old gas chamber, is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. There might also be other infrastructure issues.

There is no elevator access, so a disabled inmate facing execution would have to be carried to the last-night cell across from the chamber.

The viewing area is cramped and provides little room for official witnesses, media representatives, a religious leader, victims' family members, attorneys and others who choose to or are required to attend executions.

The new chamber would be more than 300 miles east of Carson City. It would include the execution area, separate witness viewing areas and a last-night cell for the condemned inmate, among other features. It also would require new walls and the reconfiguration of heating and cooling systems, lighting, sprinklers and other elements.

The agency a few years ago planned a new stand-alone execution chamber at a prison that was never built in Southern Nevada, and that cost estimate was about $5 million.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is a proponent of the death penalty.

A state audit released in December found that Nevada murder cases in which prosecutors seek the death penalty can cost nearly twice as much as those with a lesser punishment.

Death penalty cases cost the public, on average, $1.03 million to $1.31 million, according to the audit. In a murder case in which capital punishment is not sought, the average cost is $775,000. In those cases, prosecutors typically seek life in prison without parole.

The 105-page audit came after the 2013 Legislature ordered a review of the costs of capital punishment. The audit, which took 18 months, looked at the price of trials, appeals and jail time for 28 Nevada cases.

poll---Voting is for: either building a new gas chamber or against the death the death penalty....

see: http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada-legislature/nevada-has-80-death-row-no-place-execute?hc_location=ufi

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

USA:

Assortment of crimes can draw federal death penalty

The federal death penalty can be used to punish a variety of crimes, most of them deadly.

Federal death penalty-eligible crimes include genocide, killing a member of Congress, the cabinet or Supreme Court, sexual abuse resulting in death, using chemical weapons resulting in death and torture resulting in death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Crimes that don't directly involve death also can draw the federal death penalty, including trafficking in large quantities of drugs and "attempting, authorizing or advising the killing of any officer, juror or witness in cases involving a continuing criminal enterprise, regardless of whether such killing actually occurs."

Other crimes include the mailing of injurious articles with intent to kill or resulting in death, espionage and treason.

People have been executed by the federal government for murder, sabotage, murder on a government reservation, kidnapping and murder, kidnapping and rape. In the case of Timothy McVeigh, he was put to death for murder of federal law enforcement officers and conspiracy to use and use of weapons of mass destruction.

Currently, 61 inmates are on federal death row - 27 black and 24 white; 60 males and 1 female. Depending on what jurors decide, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be added for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Of the charges Tsarnaev was found guilty of, 17 carry the possibility of the death penalty.

A total of 37 federal executions have been carried out from 1927 to 2003, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The government has put prisoners to death via hanging, electrocution, gas and lethal injection.

From 1963 to 2001, no federal executions took place. They were officially halted after the Furman v. Georgia decision in 1972, which found racial disparities in punishments for the same crimes, with white defendants drawing life imprisonments while black defendants were sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court ruled the way the death penalty was being administered "constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. ... It would seem to be incontestable that the death penalty inflicted on one defendant is 'unusual' if it discriminates against him by reason of his race, religion, wealth, social position or class, or if it is imposed under a procedure that gives room for the play of such prejudices."

The pause in executions lasted nearly 40 years, ending in June 2001 when McVeigh was executed for charges related to the deadly 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. He was killed by lethal injection in the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, IN.

10 inmates have been permanently removed from federal death row, including David Ronald Chandler - the 1st condemned under the 1988 drug kingpin law. He was given the death penalty in 1991 for allegedly paying someone to kill someone else. Even after the gunman recanted his claim, Chandler's appeals were turned down until President Bill Clinton commuted his death sentence to life in prison in 2001.

Noteworthy federal executions of the modern era include those of a group of convicted military saboteurs during World War II - Herbert Haupt, Heinrich Heinck, Edward Kerling, Herman Heubauer, Richard Quirin and Werner Thiel, in August 1942.

They were tried, convicted of sabotage and sentenced to die by a military commission appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The defendants included German nationals and one U.S. citizen - Haupt.

The Supreme Court granted Roosevelt authorization to use the military commission in a decision titled Ex parte Quirin.

"Although the decision was generally applauded when issued and later was successfully invoked in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld to justify holding an American citizen captured in Afghanistan after 9/11 in military detention, modern scholarly accounts of Quirin by historians and constitutional lawyers have been positively scathing," said Andrew Kent in the Vanderbilt Law Review.

(source: WAFF news)

EGYPT:

Anti-death penalty group pleas to halt execution of 7 citizens

The "Against the Death Penalty" group met with the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) after urgently appealing the council to stop the execution of 7 citizens in the "Arab Sharkas" case, the group said in a statement on Thursday.

The group also requested NCHR's support in its plea for a halt in the issuance and implementation of the death penalty "until a stable justice mechanism is achieved".

In the Wednesday meeting, Mohamed Fayek, head of the NCHR, told the group that "the death penalty should not be used in political cases, and promised to study the Arab Sharkas case and consider how to proceed, since the execution of 7 persons is, in any case, a serious matter", the statement read.

The 7 civilians were convicted by a military court on 21 October 2014 of killing a military officer and belonging to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis militant group, and given the death penalty. After the military court rejected an appeal, the ruling was confirmed on 24 March 2015.

The case initially included nine defendants who were accused of planning and executing what is known in the media as the "Arab Sharkas" cell case.

Security forces had allegedly been carrying out operations against a "terrorist cell" in a village in the Qaliubiya governorate, north of Cairo on 19 March 2014. A gunfight allegedly took place and the Interior Ministry later reported 6 militants dead, and 8 arrested. However, 2 defendants in the case had already been in prison and 2 others were arrested 3 days before the incident took place.

Sara Said, one of the defendants' sister, previously told Daily News Egypt that her brother and the remaining defendants had been "kidnapped" or forcibly disappeared. Last May her family and "6 or 7 more families filed a report with the Prosecutor General after they had seen their children's names in an Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis membership list that the Ministry of Interior had released".

According to Amnesty International, enforced disappearances had increased as a method of arrest last year in Egypt. Likewise, military trials for civilians have been on the rise as hundreds of civilians have been standing trials in front of military courts.

According to the anti-death penalty group, "the trial lacked the minimum standards of a fair and just trial, to the extent that 2 of the convicted were in detention during the time of the crime of which they are charged".

The anti-death penalty group had called on the NCHR to "urgently intervene" and "to bear the political and moral responsibility in preventing the death of possibly innocent citizens" earlier on 8 April.

Fayek told the group that he was concerned with lowering the amount of crimes, which are over 80, that are punishable by death. He added that "the death penalty should not be used in political cases".

International human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Monitor, as well as local rights organisations, condemned the military court death sentences. The family of one of the jailed civilians previously told Daily News Egypt that the charges and sentences were "ridiculous".

A campaign, dubbed the "Execution of a Homeland" was also launched in March in which groups gathered petitions to be sent to the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (UNHCR). The campaign stated that more than 500 people have been handed death sentences in unfair trails in Egypt.

(source: DailyNewsEgypt.com)

INDONESIA:

Indonesian maid beheadings won't stop Bali nine executions: AG

The beheading of 2 Indonesian maids in Saudi Arabia this week will not prevent the execution of 10 drug felons in Indonesia, according to the Attorney-General.

However Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said Indonesia respected the rule of law.

"The difference is that we provide notification of an execution to the ambassador three days before it happens, but they did not," Mr Prasetyo was quoted saying by Philippines news website Rappler.

The date of the execution of 10 drug felons, including Bali 9 organisers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, is not known.

However Mr Prasetyo has said it will not be until after the African-Asian conference, to be held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 19-24.

He said it was not a good look to shoot people when the country had many guests.

The execution of the 2 Indonesian domestic helpers in 2 days in Saudi Arabia has prompted fierce protests in Indonesia and renewed criticism of the country's double standard on the death penalty

The Indonesian government summoned the Saudi ambassador after learning on Thursday Saudi Arabia had executed another Indonesian domestic worker, Karni binti Medi Tarsim, 37, who was convicted of murdering a 4-year-old girl in 2012.

It also issued statements protesting against the Saudi Arabian authorities' failure to notify them or the families before carrying out the executions.

Tarsim's killing followed that of Siti Zaenab, who was suspected of being mentally ill, on Tuesday.

Siti, 47, was convicted of murdering her employer's wife in 1999, but the execution was delayed until the youngest son was old enough to make a decision about whether she should be pardoned.

The Indonesian government offered 2 billion rupiah ($200,000) in blood money and 3 Indonesian presidents - including Joko Widodo - made fruitless representations to save her life.

Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah said the executions should provide momentum for the Indonesian Government to stop the practice of capital punishment in Indonesia.

"The application of the death penalty at home will only make the government lose its moral legitimacy to urge other countries to free Indonesian nationals who are on death row."

Migrant Care's Ms Anis said there were at least 290 Indonesian migrant workers facing execution in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China and Qatar, 59 of whom had already been sentenced to death.

April 17 is the 10th anniversary of the Bali 9's arrest for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin into Australia.

It is also Sukumaran's 34th birthday. Although the Australians are not allowed visitors on Fridays, Sukumaran's brother Chinthu took him a black forest cake on Wednesday.

While candles weren't allowed, the cake put a smile on Sukumaran's face, he said.

Sukumaran's mentor, Ben Quilty, tweeted: "Happy birthday Myu. Arrested 10 years ago today. Your family and friends are very proud of the man you have become."

Tina Bailey, who befriended Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran while teaching dance and art at Bali's Kerobokan jail, recently visited Nusakambangan and would go back soon.

She said friends and family had set up a roster of sorts to ensure the Australians had regular visitors.

"Myuran is himself. He's healthy, he's smiling, he's in good spirits," Ms Bailey said.

Although Nusakambangan has a different feel to Kerobokan, Ms Bailey says the guards were very polite. "It's definitely a more strict protocol situation - it needs to be, because it is a different sort of an island with 9 prisons - but I felt the guards were very professional. Everything they did they explained."

She said while people tended to think of the stereotype of Alcatraz island: "I think it's a humane place".

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

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

Paris warns Indonesia of consequences if Frenchman executed

The French ambassador in Jakarta on Friday warned Indonesia that executing a Frenchman on death row on drugs charges would have "consequences" for the bilateral relationship.

"If the execution is carried out, it will not be without consequence for our bilateral relationship," ambassador Corinne Breuze told reporters in Jakarta, adding that France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981, was opposed to capital punishment in every circumstance.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and sentenced to death 2 years later.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-four has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory. He has appealed his case before the Supreme Court, and a verdict is expected imminently. If rejected, his execution and that of other foreigners including citizens from Australia, Brazil, Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria could be very soon.

The Indonesian government has already compiled a list of those to face the firing squad next after conducting a round of executions in January, the 1st since 2013. In the Atlaoui case, eight others arrested alongside the Frenchman were also sentenced to death. But "what appears shocking to us is that our compatriot is the only one on the list to be executed", said the ambassador.

"I recall Serge Atlaoui was convicted as a chemist, when he was a solderer with a minor role in this affair," she said, adding the French government were "prepared to assist Indonesia in its fight against drug trafficking".

Drug laws in Indonesia are among the toughest in the world. President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, has rejected all requests for clemency from drug dealers sentenced to death, claiming the country is facing a narcotics emergency. However Indonesia has been actively trying to save its citizens on death row abroad. Jakarta protested the execution this week of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia.

Atlaoui's wife Sabine pleaded with the president, saying her husband did not deserve to die and her family had been living through "psychological torture".

"A member of the prosecutor's office has already asked us for my husband's measurements for his future coffin, which is unimaginable and inconceivable given the situation we are in," she said.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

France issues warning to Jakarta over death row Frenchman

The French ambassador in Jakarta has warned Indonesia that executing a Frenchman on death row on drugs charges will have consequences for the bilateral relationship.

51-year-old Serge Atlaoui was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and sentenced to death 2 years later.

Ambassador Corinne Breuze says France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981, is opposed to capital punishment in every circumstance.

(source: sbs.com.au)

PHILIPPINES:

88 Filipinos face death penalty in drug trafficking cases----Traffickers lure Filipinos into drug smuggling by offering them cash, lucrative jobs and pleasure trips

An association of the overseas Filipinos has advised its compatriots - especially the women - to be vigilant against international drug traffickers luring them with cash, lucrative jobs, love marriages and pleasure trips to use them as drug mules.

Figures showed that a number of overseas Filipino workers are facing death penalty in different countries on drug smuggling charges after they were lured into the trade by drug traffickers.

Ilmeda M. Nicholas, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), said: "There are now 88 Filipinos facing the death penalty related to drug trafficking charges in different countries as compared to 80 in March 2013."

She urged human rights and other social groups to increase awareness about the danger posed by some private recruitment agencies and drug syndicates who lure Filipinos, especially women, to work as drug carriers.

The commission, which works for the welfare of millions of overseas Filipinos, advised them to be cautious while travelling abroad for work and vacation for drug traffickers befriend or marry potential recruits and later turn them into drug couriers.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Nicholas M Ilmeda said she is quite saddened by such a large number of Filipinos, especially women, becoming victims of drug trafficking cases.

The secretary was speaking on the sidelines of the South East Asian Regional Conference in Manila.

A report recently said that the private recruitment agencies sometimes use job seekers, especially females, to work as drug carriers without the victim's knowledge.

The Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported that some dubious recruitment agencies have been using the new workers going abroad as drug carriers and many of them were caught.

According to PDEA, 807 Filipinos were in jails in various countries in July 2014 on drug-related charges.

"Of the 710 arrested, 265 (37%) are males while 445 (63%) are females. Women are usually targeted by syndicates because they generally attract mild suspicion from the inspectors," according to a PDEA.

It said that the drug is either swallowed or inserted in the female body after minor surgery or hidden in luggage and handbags. Pregnant women are recruited to work as drug carriers because they will get sympathy as well as less punishment in some countries.

(source: emirates247)

RUSSIA:

Most Russians still support return of capital punishment, poll shows

The percentage of Russians who support the return of the death penalty has slightly reduced, but it's still a majority at about 60 %, according to the latest sociological research.

The poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation showed 60 % of Russian citizens would not object to a reintroduction of the death penalty. A year ago this figure was 66 % and in 2001 it peaked at 80 %.

Seventy percent of responders believe the death penalty should be used to punish sexual crimes against minors. 60% viewed it the right punishment for murder, and 47 % supported it as punishment for rape. All of them said the move would help to curb the crime rate and save government funds allocated for prisoners serving long sentences for grave crimes.

40 % of responders said the country should not have introduced the moratorium on the death penalty in 1996.

The number who strongly opposed the return of capital punishment was 22 % - up from 19 % in 2014.

The moratorium on capital punishment was introduced in 1996 in connection with Russia's entry into the Council of Europe. The last execution in the Russian Federation took place on September 2, 1996.

Politicians and officials have raised the issue of re-introducing the death penalty from time to time usually for populist reasons. In the latest initiative, MP Frants Klintsevich of the conservative United Russia party suggested executing those convicted of corruption, pedophilia and war crimes. Lawmakers from the nationalist LDPR party had previously urged the death penalty for corrupt officials who aid terrorists.

(source: rt.com)

SINGAPORE----execution

Man who stabbed elderly woman over 110 times executed

A man convicted of stabbing a 69-year-old woman to death in 2005 has been executed, police said on Friday.

39-year-old Muhammad bin Kadar had his death sentence carried out today at Changi Prison Complex.

On May 6, 2005, Muhammad bin Kadar stabbed a woman more than 110 times while robbing her in her flat.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death on April 7, 2009.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction on July 5, 2011.

On September 29 last year, after hearing further arguments, the Court of Appeal dismissed his application for re-sentencing under the new death penalty regime and affirmed the death penalty.

His petition for Presidential clemency was also turned down.

Police said in a statement that he was represented by counsel throughout the legal process.

(source: news.asiaone.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

South Carolina and the Death Penalty

There are 2 very high-profile capital murder cases in the headlines this week: one in Massachusetts, with the Boston Marathon bomber the defendant, and one here in South Carolina, with a former North Charleston policeman as the defendant. The cases are very different. Each provides us with the opportunity to rethink when, how often, and why we as a society condemn convicted murderers to death.

The argument in favor of the death penalty is much easier to make in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber. His crime was heinous. As of this writing, his trial for the crime itself is over; he has been found guilty on 30 counts, including killing 3 people and injuring over 250 others. Everyone with a television has been a witness to the act itself. The victims were utterly innocent, and the killers were politically motivated individuals whose sole purpose was to instill terror - and, in their minds, to have vengeance against the country who had in their eyes committed murder on a vastly larger scale, in the Middle East.

In this country, our laws do not allow for vengeance killings. The death penalty itself is allegedly not about vengeance, it is about justice and about deterrence. In our nation we profess to follow the Judeo-Christian teaching that "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." Renounce "eye-for-an-eye" vengeance, our religion tells us.

It is a statistically proven fact that the death penalty does not deter murder. Terrorists are not deterred by the prospect of their own death; indeed, many terrorist killings are suicide bombings. The south has by far the most death penalty executions in the nation. All but 897 out of 2040 such executions since 1976 have taken place in the south, and 635 of those 897 took place in Texas and Oklahoma. The northeast has seen just four (4). And yet the murder rate in the south is higher, not lower, than in the northeast. If deterrence worked, the south would have the nation's lowest murder rate, and we don't.

Justice should be the answer. Justice, that is, seen as the greatest punishment for the crime. If I were to glance into the troubled psyche of the 21-year-old Tsarnaev, I would dread much more the prospect of spending some 70 years in prison than being put to death in a year or 2. Should not justice take that into account?

Then there is the case of North Charleston's Michael T. Slager, the former police officer whose act of murder - not yet come to trial - has also been seen by anyone with a television set. His act was much less heinous than that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He killed an unarmed man who was running away at the time. His crime took place in South Carolina, where there are currently 47 inmates in prison on death row - and not in Massachusetts, where none have been executed in over 30 years. Is the death penalty more appropriate for Slager than for Tsarnaev? Here's a different question: given those numbers, is the death penalty more likely for Slager than for Tsarnaev?

I would argue that vengeance is the only reason for the death penalty, and it is not a good reason. Unlike Tsarnaev or Slager, most murderers are not captured on video. According to the "Death Penalty Information Center," while those 2040 executions were taking place, 140 people have been released from death row having been determined innocent after their sentencing. If we agree to execute only those we are most sure are guilty, we as a society are still statistically certain to execute some innocent men and women. We should not take that step, even in cases as obvious as that of Tsarnaev - much less that of Slager, whom geography has placed here in South Carolina, unlike Massachusetts a confirmed "death penalty state." It should not be about vengeance. It should be about justice. Justice does not require us to kill people, even murderers. We are better than they are.

(source: Opinion, Robert Scott; Edgefield Advertiser)

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

Without a drug supplier, South Carolina faces moratorium on executions

Trying to overcome pharmaceutical companies' reluctance to be associated with capital punishment, S.C. lawmakers are considering a law guaranteeing secrecy to manufacturers that provide drugs needed to execute death-row inmates.

Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told the House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee on Thursday that the last set of drugs the state had expired in September 2013. Since then, the state has had no way of executing death-row inmates, he said, until it can obtain more through a different provider or the inmate chooses South Carolina's only other option - death by electrocution.

"I'll just put everybody on notice that we could have someone come in tomorrow and say, 'I choose to waive my appeals and I want to die,' said Stirling.

If that happened, he said, the state would be unable to carry out the death penalty.

"They could still choose the electric chair," Stirling said. "However, if they came to us and said 'I want lethal injection,' we could not carry out that sentence."

Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Little Mountain, called the conversation "gory" and "macabre" but said the state had to look into how other states have handled the nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs.

In March, Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions when no lethal injection drugs are available. Tennessee brought back the electric chair last year for when the drugs run out but suspended the practice last week amid legal challenges.

The House panel adjourned without a vote. The Senate's version died in committee on a tie vote in March.

An attempt to revive it Thursday failed when senators balked at attaching it to the budget instead of voting on changing state law.

States across the country have been struggling to find a method of execution that will stand up to legal challenges. And obtaining lethal injection drugs has been getting harder.

As manufacturers have refused to sell drugs to prisons for executions, prison officials across the U.S. have turned to compounding pharmacies, which make drugs specifically for individual clients. But those versions have also become difficult to come by because pharmacists are reluctant to expose themselves to possible harassment.

Last month, the American Pharmacists Association adopted a policy discouraging its members from providing drugs for lethal injections, saying that runs contrary to the role of pharmacists as health care providers.

South Carolina has 44 inmates on death row but doesn't have an execution set for at least another 5 years, said Emily Paavola, executive director of the Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center. 2 inmates were sentenced to death last year, and the last execution performed in the state was in 2011.

Paavola and attorney Heath Taylor argued against the cloak of privacy, citing past botched executions after the drugs were changed.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether Oklahoma's 3-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional, after the botched execution of an inmate who writhed and moaned before dying 43 minutes after being injected.

"The temptation to cut corners is always greater when no one is looking," Paavola said.

(source: The Post and Courier)

GEORGIA:

Problem with Georgia execution drug caused by storage at low temperature, pharmacy expert says

A problem with a lethal injection drug that caused the last-minute postponement of an execution in Georgia was likely caused by shipping and storing the drug at a temperature that was too low, according to an analysis by a pharmaceutical expert.

State officials on March 2 called off the scheduled execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, saying the lethal injection drug they intended to use appeared "cloudy."

The state Department of Corrections on Thursday released lab reports, a sworn statement from a pharmaceutical expert hired by the state and a short video showing a syringe of clear liquid with chunks of a white solid floating in the solution.

"After viewing a video of the solution and learning about the shipment and storage of the solution, my assessment of the formulation indicates that pentobarbital had precipitated or fallen out of solution," University of Georgia College of Pharmacy professor Jason Zastre wrote in a sworn statement.

There is no evidence that the solution was adulterated, Zastre wrote.

The compounded pentobarbital the department planned to use in Gissendaner's execution had been shipped on frozen gel packs and stored at about 37 degrees for more than seven days, Zastre wrote.

The most likely cause of the formation of solids is that the solution was shipped and stored at a temperature that was too low, Zastre wrote. Another possible cause could be that the pharmaceutical solvent used to dissolve pentobarbital sodium during the compounding process could have either absorbed some water or evaporated during preparation, he wrote.

"The State of Georgia can minimize the possibility of precipitation within the solution by storing the solution at a controlled room temperature above 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and by assuring that the pharmacist preparing the solution takes steps to minimize the possibility that the pharmaceutical solvent evaporates or absorbs water during the pharmaceutical compounding process," he wrote.

The department has reviewed the recommendations and plans to implement them, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in an e-mail.

The day after Gissendaner's execution was halted, corrections officials suspended executions in the state until the drug analysis was done. Hogan did not immediately respond to an e-mail Thursday asking if the state planned to immediately resume scheduling executions.

Gissendaner's attorneys did not have a comment on the analysis.

In a court filing on March 9, they asked a judge to prohibit the state from proceeding with her execution until the court has concluded her constitutional rights will not be violated. They also asked the judge to order the state to disclose information necessary for a "meaningful investigation" into what happened.

Lawyers for the state on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss Gissendaner's civil rights complaint. Her claim that she suffered anguish and fear in the hours following the postponement of her execution because she didn't know if the state would try to proceed the next day is unfounded and she is not entitled to receive the additional information her lawyers requested, they argued.

Along with their filing, they submitted copies of the laboratory reports and Zastre's statement, as well as the video of the syringe.

Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia's death row and would have been the 1st woman executed by the state in 70 years. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Prosecutors said she conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Owen is serving a life prison sentence and is eligible for parole in 8 years.

DEVELOPMENTS IN OTHER STATES

-- South Carolina legislators might wait for a U.S. Supreme Court decision before voting on a bill that prison officials say will help them secure a drug they need for executions.

House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney said Thursday that there's a "good possibility" his committee will wait to consider the ruling.

"I don't see any urgency to get ahead of the Supreme Court," said Delleney, R-Chester.

A Judiciary subcommittee took no action on a bill that keeps secret the information of any company or pharmacist who provides execution drugs. Last month, a Senate committee rejected a similar bill on a 7-7 vote. That committee's chairman, Sen. Mike Fair, of Greenville, withdrew his attempt to insert the proposal into the state budget Thursday, saying he'll try to resurrect the bill in committee later this session.

Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said the privacy guarantee should help his agency buy a drug used in the state's 3-drug lethal injection. The state's supply of pentobarbital expired in 2013, and attempts to buy more have failed.

-- Nebraska is considering repealing the death penalty amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs, with legislation to eliminate capital punishment clearing a major hurdle Thursday.

Lawmakers voted 30-13 to advance the bill that would replace capital punishment with life imprisonment in 1st-degree murder cases. If that support holds, death penalty opponents would have enough votes to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts' promised veto.

A coalition of Republicans who voted for the bill cast the death penalty as a wasteful and bungling government program, but Ricketts released a statement urging them to reconsider.

Nebraska hasn't executed anyone since 1997 and has no way to carry out sentences for the 11 men sitting on death row because its supply of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that's part of its execution protocol, expired in December 2013. Ricketts and Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson have vowed to find a solution, but the Department of Correctional Services has yet to obtain a new supply.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Walton County Murderer Remains on Death Row

The Florida Supreme Court had bad news Thursday for a Walton County Murderer.

The high court refused to vacate Jesse Guardados conviction and death sentence for the 2004 murder of 75 year old Jackie Malone.

Guardado failed to convince the court his defense attorney had been ineffective.

Mrs. Malone had befriended Guardado, gave him money, and became his landlord.

She evicted him shortly before he robbed and killed her.

Guardado was on a crack cocaine binge, and in desperate need of money.

He went to the elderly victim's secluded home, bludgeoned her numerous times with a steel breaker bar, stabbed her in the chest, and cut her throat.

Guardado received the death penalty after pleading no contest to 1st degree murder.

(source: WJHG news)

ALABAMA:

Luther Strange urges Supreme Court to keep execution drug

Alabama is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lethal injection drug that the state plans to use at is next execution.Attorney General Luther Strange on Wednesday filed the brief ahead of April 29 arguments regarding the effectiveness of the sedative midazolam in rendering an inmate unconscious at the start of executions.

An Oklahoma inmate challenged the drug as cruel and unusual punishment after it was used in problematic executions.

The outcome of the Oklahoma case will directly impact the death penalty in Alabama. The state last year announced a switch to a new drug combination that begins with an injection of midazolam.

"These killers have raped and murdered children and stabbed prison guards to death. It is outrageous for them to argue that lethal injection has too high a risk of pain to be a constitutional method of execution. It is better than they deserve," Strange said.

Death penalty states have struggled in recent years to find lethal injection drugs after European manufacturers became hesitant to supply the chemicals for use in executions.

Florida developed the new protocol using midazolam and has used it in 11 executions, lawyers for Alabama wrote.

"After watching Florida successfully execute inmates without incident, Alabama and other states that were unable to obtain barbiturates began using midazolam as well," lawyers for the state said.

"The fact remains that midazolam is the one of the best drugs the states have available to render an inmate unconscious."

Alabama announced a switch to a new drug combination last year but has yet to use it in an execution. Midazolam would be given at the start of an execution to render an inmate unconscious before injections of rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride stop an inmate's breathing and heart.

The Oklahoma inmate has argued that midazolam is ineffective as a sedative and that he would feel the painful effects of the later drugs. Midazolam was used in a botched Oklahoma execution last year when inmate Clayton Lockett took 43 minutes to die.

An Alabama death row inmate, Tommy Arthur, also challenged the proposed use of midazolam. However, the litigation and executions in the state were put on hold pending the outcome of the Oklahoma case.

Alabama is not a party in the Oklahoma case.

Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming joined Alabama in its court filing.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Man on Alabama death row is freed after 15 years ---- William Ziegler's murder conviction had been overturned but, threatened with a retrial, he struck plea deal on lesser charge of aiding and abetting

An Alabama prisoner has become the 2nd within 2 weeks to avoid the state's death penalty, agreeing to a plea deal that avoids his retrial on a murder chanrge.

William Ziegler, 39, has argued he is innocent but pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the killing of Russell Allen Baker to end the case. A Mobile county judge gave him credit for the more than 15 years he already has served in prison.

Ziegler was convicted of capital murder in 2001 and sentenced to die for Baker's killing. Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart overturned Ziegler's conviction in 2012, indicating there were numerous errors and serious doubts about his guilt.

Prosecutors had said they planned to try him again but Ziegler instead was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge.

During a hearing Stewart urged Ziegler to resist turning bitter and said she knew he recognised God's grace. "I want you to appreciate that gift," she said. "You need to be very careful with your gift ... The world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago when you went to jail."

The decision came less than 2 weeks after another condemned Alabama prisoner was freed after claiming he was innocent. Anthony Ray Hinton was released on 3 April after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row for a pair of killings in Jefferson county. Charges in the 1985 gunshot deaths of 2 fast-food workers were dismissed after new testing on the defendant's gun could not prove it fired the fatal shots.

Baker's body was found in a wooded area in Mobile county in 2000. Authorities said Ziegler had argued at a party and Ziegler was convicted along with 3 accomplices.

But a key witness who claimed Ziegler had threatened Baker later recanted, helping lead to Stewart's decision to overturn the case.

Ziegler's plea acknowledged that his conduct helped lead to Baker's death.

Relatives of both Ziegler and Baker, from Bayou La Batre, came away from the hearing disappointed. O'Della Wilson, the defendant's mother, said she was happy he would go free but angry that he had to plead guilty to any crime.

Baker's relatives were not happy Ziegler would be released. "He's a menace to our society. He will be back," said Beth Johansen, the victim's aunt. "This is not justice for our nephew."

(source: The Guardian)

INDIANA:

Corcoran death sentence still stands----Fails latest appeal to 7th Circuit Court

4 times, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has heard the case of convicted quadruple-murderer Joseph Corcoran.

This time, in a decision handed down this week, the court upheld the decisions of lower courts, paving the way for Corcoran's execution.

And in this most recent ruling, the higher court appears to admit it got it wrong in earlier rulings, by not giving enough deference to the Indiana Supreme Court's opinions in this case.

Corcoran's case has exhausted state court remedies - including the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court - and made its way back and forth through the U.S. courts. It has been heard twice by the U.S. Supreme Court, in addition to the now-4 times before the federal appeals court.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced Corcoran to death in 1998 after his convictions for the murders of 4 people at a home on Bayer Avenue. Corcoran killed his brother, James Corcoran, 30; his sister's fiancee, Robert Scott Turner, 32; and 2 of his brother's friends, Timothy G. Bricker, 30, and Douglas A. Stillwell, 30.

Since his incarceration, Corcoran has bragged about killing his parents with a shotgun in Steuben County in 1992 - a crime for which he was charged and acquitted.

The issues considered in Corcoran's most recent appeal were whether Gull improperly considered factors against Corcoran in his sentencing that were prohibited by law, or conversely, whether she failed to consider evidence in his favor.

The state of Indiana can request the death penalty if a defendant is found to have committed murder with at least 1 aggravating circumstance, such as the age of the victim, multiple victims, while committing another crime or killing a law enforcement officer.

In Corcoran's case, Gull found that 1 of the aggravating circumstances existed, specifically the multiple victims.

But when she sentenced Corcoran to death, she cited a number of factors against him - the innocence of the victims, the heinousness of the crime and the likelihood Corcoran would kill again.

She also cited some factors to be considered in his favor but gave them less weight than what she considered against him.

In 2000, Gull rewrote her sentencing order, carefully explaining what she considered and what she did not. The order reaffirmed the death penalty, and it has been upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.

In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio upheld Gull's order, after Corcoran's attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus asking for another review of the sentence.

DeGuilio denied their request but allowed them to appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which they did in the fall of 2013. It was on Corcoran to show the appellate court that Gull's sentence was unreasonable.

"He has not carried that burden," Appellate Judge Diane S. Sykes wrote.

Corcoran's attorneys urged the 7th Circuit to follow its opinions in an earlier ruling, in which they disagreed with Gull.

But in their most recent ruling, the judges of the 7th Circuit said they had not given the Indiana Supreme Court's decision upholding Gull with the "deference it was due," according to court documents.

"In short, the state court's decision was not unreasonable," Sykes said.

In this new ruling, the court cited a 1996 law, the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which affected the number of federal reviews for state death penalty cases.

Sykes wrote that the appellate court did not "hew as closely as it should have to the deferential standard of review" mandated by that law in its earlier rulings.

A message left seeking comment from Corcoran's Missouri-based attorney, Laurence Komp, was not returned Thursday afternoon.

Corcoran will be 40 years old Saturday and is housed in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. No execution date has been set, according to Indiana Department of Correction officials.

(saource: Journal Gazette)

ARKANSAS:

Attorneys argue before Arkansas Supreme Court about mandatory life sentences for juveniles

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in 2 cases that will decide whether more than 50 inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles will get new sentences.

The court is considering an appeal from the Arkansas attorney general's office, asking it to overturn a circuit court decision made late last year to resentence any prisoner given such a sentence. In its 2012 Miller v. Alabama opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court barred mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles, but states have been deciding whether to apply that decision to inmates who are already serving those sentences.

The court heard arguments in the cases of Aaron Hodge and James Grubbs, both of whom were charged with murder at age 17. If the court finds in their favor at a later date, attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said the remaining 54 inmates serving those mandatory sentences for juvenile crimes would also be resentenced.

Rosenzweig told the court Thursday that an "illegal" sentence can be changed at any time, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling should be applied retroactively, The Baxter Bulletin reported (http://bit.ly/1aBTY1v ).

"You simply cannot prohibit giving weight to mitigation," he said. "Is this a case that deserved a life without parole sentence? No mitigating evidence was provided."

When Hodge, Grubbs and the other mostly young men were sentenced for capital murder convictions, the charge carried a mandatory life without parole or death penalty sentence. Since the U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled the death penalty was not allowed for juvenile defendants, the juries were not given the option to sentence the defendants to anything but life without parole.

But Assistant Attorney General Valerie Glover Fortner told the court that many laws that have changed because of court decisions have not been retroactively applied. She cited the example Thursday of the court's Miranda v. Arizona ruling, stating that anyone arrested must be read their rights.

"I will remind the court that inequality exists in the law. What could be considered a more fundamental departure than the decision of Miranda, and Miranda was decided not to retroactively apply," Fortner said. "I have to imagine there were many individuals who would have benefited from Miranda."

The court will rule at a later date. Ten other state supreme courts have already applied the Miller v. Alabama standard retroactively, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Louisiana case arguing in favor of retroactivity later this year.

The Arkansas arguments come just 2 days after Kuntrell Jackson, 29, became eligible for a parole hearing. Jackson's case was heard as a companion to Miller v. Alabama, and the court ordered that he be resentenced.

Jackson was convicted of capital murder for the shooting of a video store clerk during an attempted robbery. Jackson, who was 14 at the time, did not pull the trigger.

Hodge was convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of his stepfather, stepsister and mother. Grubbs was convicted of capital murder in the death of a classmate whose body was found bound, beaten and submerged in a creek.

(source: Associated Press)

OREGON:

Movie 'True Story' recounts life of Newport murderer----Movie about Ore. murderer concerns Newport residents

A new movie, "True Story" is bringing back some painful memories along the Central Oregon Coast.

The film, which opens in theaters on Friday, is based on the case of Christian Longo. The Oregon man killed his wife and their 3 children in Newport, then fled to Mexico.

"I think it is going to bring back a lot of hurtful feelings," said long-time resident Jeanna Bixler. "A lot of people were heartbroken over it."

The movie will not be shown at Newport Cinemas.

Some locals complain it shouldn't have been made in the first place.

"I think it is going to make a lot of people really sick," said resident Kay Eldon. "Money talks so Hollywood is going to make a movie about something that is going to sell."

The movie revolves around disgraced journalist Michael Finkel, who was fired from the New York Times for making up a story. While on the run, Longo told people he was Michael Finkel. Finkel later wrote a book about the case.

The movie, which stars James Franco and Jonah Hill, was not shot in Oregon.

"I would be curious to see if it is well made," said resident Rhonda Jantzen. "I would be curious to see if it follows the facts as I remember."

Christian Longo will not profit from the film. The family of his deceased wife won a civil judgment allowing them to collect his assets.

Longo is now sitting on death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

(source: KGW news)

USA:

Most Americans support the death penalty. They also agree that an innocent person might get put to death.

A majority of Americans support the death penalty, even though that level of support has been dropping fairly consistently for about 2 decades.

However, while there are sizable differences in how various groups view capital punishment - with big gaps divided by gender, race and political views - Americans seem to agree on one thing: There is still some risk that an innocent person will be put to death.

A new Pew Research Center poll found that seven in 10 Americans feel this way, with just 1/4 of people saying there are enough safeguards in the system to prevent the execution of an innocent person.

This feeling is remarkably consistent among every group of people, even as there are solid divides found in the way people of different races and with different political beliefs view the system.

Yet regardless of other disputes over the death penalty, everyone seems to agree that the country's capital punishment system carries with it an inherent risk of executing the innocent. Majorities of every group polled by Pew agreed that there is a danger that this will happen.

Death penalty opponents point to this danger as one of the main reasons they object to the practice. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said earlier this year he opposes the death penalty because "the ultimate nightmare" is that someone will be executed in error. And because death sentences are handed out as part of a system that ultimately relies on the judgments of human beings - people can, and do, make mistakes - such a failure is "inevitable," he said.

"There's always the possibility that mistakes will be made," Holder said. "Mistakes and determinations made by juries, mistakes in terms of the kind of representation somebody facing a capital offense receives ....There is no ability to correct a mistake where somebody has, in fact, been executed."

This concept - an innocent person who is still found guilty and given the most severe sentence possible - is obviously not theoretical. Since the early 1970s, more than 150 people sentenced to death have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Meanwhile, a record 125 people were exonerated in the United States last year, and 6 of those people had been sentenced to death, the National Registry of Exonerations said in its report.

In Louisiana last month, a former prosecutor publicly apologized for helping put a man who turned out to be innocent on death row. The prosecutor argued that the situation with Glenn Ford, the exonerated man who was eventually released, showed how easily the system could be manipulated by an eager prosecutor and questionable evidence.

"This case shows why the death penalty is just an abomination," Marty Stroud, the former prosecutor, told The Post last month. "The system failed Mr. Ford, and I was part of the system." He added: "All it is is state-assisted revenge. We can't do it. It's arbitrary, it's capricious. And I believe that it's barbaric."

The case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by Texas in 2004, remains both in the news and in the court system. Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that killed his 3 daughters. Yet fresh doubts linger in this particular case more than a decade later, as the jailhouse informant who testified against Willingham later said he lied on the witness stand to reduce his own prison sentence. The prosecutor in the case was formally accused of misconduct in court last month.

It may seem odd that so many people would support the death penalty while also acknowledging that innocent people could very well be put to death. Part of that may be accepting the inherent risk that accompanies something as irreversible as death, but a part of it may also simply be that people are not paying that much attention to capital punishment. Executions in this country are generally carried out at night inside heavily guarded prisons with just a small handful of witnesses, so the public rarely takes note of them.

Nearly 1/2 of Americans told Pew they think the number of people put to death has remained steady or increased over the last decade. In reality, the number of executions has fallen in recent years, dipping last year to the lowest number in two decades. As we noted last year, support for the death penalty did not really budge after high-profile botched executions, and it was unclear how many people paid much attention to these incidents or the people who were exonerated.

So why do people still support it? Well, most people - a little more than 6 in 10 - say that the death penalty is morally justified when someone commits a crime like murder. About half as many people say it is morally wrong. The same number of people who think it is morally justified also do not believe that the death penalty can deter serious crimes.

Among people who do support the death penalty, 9 out of 10 of them say it is morally justified in cases like murder. That is far and away the largest gap among the 4 categories viewed in the graphic above, highlighting what would appear to be the biggest gulf between supporters and opponents.

As for who actually supports the death penalty and who is opposed to it: More men support it than women (64 % to 49 %), a gap that has grown significantly over just the last 4 years, as more women have turned against it.

There is also a considerable divide among people over whether or not the death penalty is racially imbalanced.

A majority of white people support the death penalty (63 % support, 33 % opposition), basically a flipped image of the way black people feel about the issue (34 % support, 57 % opposition). Hispanic people are more evenly split, but opposition (47 %) narrowly edges out support (45 %) among them; they aren't as opposed to it as black people, but they are not nearly as supportive as white people.

Still, about 1/2 of people overall think minorities are more likely to get a death sentence than a white person who committed a similar crime. Death-penalty opponents are very likely to view the system as being racially unfair: 7 in 10 opponents say the sentencing is racially unfair, while about 4 in 10 supporters say the same thing.

Among black people, these opinions are even more pronounced, as more than 3/4 of black respondents told Pew white people are less likely to receive the death penalty. Meanwhile, white people are split between that opinion and seeing no racial disparity.

This is also the area where the biggest split can be seen based on a person's level of formal education. While support for or opposition to the death penalty is not that dramatically different for people who have graduated from college versus those did not, college graduates are much more likely to think the death penalty is racially imbalanced (60 %) than people who did not attend college (44 %).

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to think that white people are less likely to get a death sentence. This has accompanied a big overall shift in the way Democrats view the issue. In 2011, more Democrats said they supported the death penalty (49 %) than opposed it (43 %). Now, after a big swing in opinion, a majority of them oppose the death penalty (56 %), while a smaller number support it (40 %).

Opinions among Republicans are basically the same over the same period (a little more than 3/4 of them support it), while most independents still support it (a number that dipped to 57 % now from 64 % then).

The Pew survey is based on telephone interviews conducted last month.

(source: Washington Post)

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

To end the anguish, drop the death penalty----In Bill and Denise Richard's own words

The past 2 years have been the most trying of our lives. Our family has grieved, buried our young son, battled injuries, and endured numerous surgeries - all while trying to rebuild lives that will never be the same. We sat in the courtroom, day after day, bearing witness to overwhelming evidence that included graphic video and photographs, replicated bombs, and even the clothes our son wore his last day alive. We are eternally grateful for the courage and life-saving measures of first responders, Boston Police, the Boston Fire Department, and good Samaritans on April 15, 2013. We also thank the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice, and the Massachusetts US Attorney's Office for leaving no stone unturned during the investigation and trial. But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.

We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.

This is a deeply personal issue and we can speak only for ourselves. However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us, but from all Americans. We honor those who were lost and wish continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future - for us, for Boston, and for the country.

(source: Boston Globe)

SOMALILAND:

"Laws of this Country are Sanctioned by Citizens" Ministry of Justice

It is the prerogative of a sovereign state to develop its justice system within its prescribed authority as sanctioned by the will of its people.

Reads a statement from the Ministry of Justice-MoJ while stressing that adherence to and implementation of the country's laws is a function of the Government of the Republic of Somaliland as mandated by the same citizenry that develops them.

Though couched in soft the MoJ statement is in obvious reference to condemnations directed towards the administration of President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo by the European Union, after the state executed 6 convicted murderers sentenced to death by various courts in the country.

Last Week 6 convicts all sentenced to death after being found guilty of committing murder in various parts of the country were executed at the Mandera maximum security prison following acquiesce between families of the 6 convicts and those of their victims. The executions received much public acclaim throughout Somaliland.

The EU in its statement stated in part "The Heads of Mission of the European Union and Member States condemn in the strongest terms the carrying-out of 6 death sentences by the Somaliland authorities at the Mandera maximum-security complex after a long de facto moratorium".

But according to the MoJ Somaliland has never formally abolished nor suspended the death penalty within its territory thus negating the EU purported Moratorium which is a misconception resulting from the fact that death sentences have not been carried out in the past 9 years.

Without considering the wishes of Somaliland citizens who support the government's implantation of death sentences imposed by courts of law nor the law pertinent to the act, the EU condemnation went on to state "The EU Heads of Mission strongly and unequivocally oppose the death penalty and consider that the death penalty constitutes a serious violation of human rights and human dignity".

In an apparently literal attempt to camouflage citizens anger and irritation with the EU resulting from the vehement criticism of the executions more so the line reading "The EU Heads of Mission deplore this grave backlash after 9 years of suspended executions and urge Somaliland authorities to rethink its decision to leave the progressive path followed so far" the MoJ went on to state that "The Republic of Somaliland respects its obligations as a member of the international community and adheres to the human rights and dignity of its people as enshrined in the Constitution and its laws.

In response to the portion of the condemnation statement reading, "the EU Heads of Mission call upon the Somaliland authorities to immediately halt the execution of death sentences as a first step towards adopting appropriate legislation, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty. The EU Heads of Mission look forward to working with the Somaliland authorities in achieving this" the MoJ said.

The Government of the Republic of Somaliland is grateful to the European Union and its member states for their continued support and conveys assurances of its highest consideration.

The whole morning (16th March) the Somaliland minister of Justice Hussein Ahmed Aideed was in closed doors meeting at his offices with a number of expatriates operating in the country suspected to be from the EU mission in Hargiesa.

(source: Somaliland Press)

IRAN----executions

8 Prisoners Hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison

8 prisoners were executed in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), most of these prisoners were sentenced to death with drug-related crimes and were taken to solitary confinements in ward 5 in Rajai Shahr prison, last Saturday. Mansoor Gholamzadeh, Reza Ghorbani, Mahmood Maleki, Ahmad Malekizadeh and Hamid Farajloo were executed and the other three prisoners have not been identified yet.

The brother of one of those executed, told HRANA's reporter: "My brother did not deserve execution; unfortunately today his corpse was delivered to my family for burial and funeral services."

About his brother's alleged relationship with drugs, he said: "My brother used to be a street fighter and 1 time he was rotated along with several people, (for humiliation), but he never misused drugs and he was not a drug dealer and he was quiet, but in his 2nd trial, he was sentenced to death by the judge. He was quite and was serving his imprisonment."

Also, HRANA has got some news, which stated that several prisoners have been taken to solitary confinements for execution in Qezalhesar prison, but we have no more information yet.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

PAKISTAN:

Death row prisoner Shafqat seeks judicial inquiry to determine age

Death row prisoner Shafqat Hussain has asked the Islamabad High Court for a judicial inquiry to determine his age at the time he was sentenced to death for kidnapping and murder.

Hearing the case on Friday, IHC judge Justice Athar Minallah issued notices to nine respondents, including President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and asked them to submit their replies within 15 days.

Shafqat was arrested and sentenced in 2004 for the kidnapping and involuntary murder of a 7-year-old boy, who lived in a Karachi apartment building where he worked as a security guard.

Confusion over Shafqat's date of birth raised questions of whether he was a juvenile or of lawful age in 2004 to be handed the death sentence.

Shafqat's appeals were turned down by all trial courts and the Supreme Court, until President Mamnoon Hussain stayed his execution for 30 days on March 18 - a day before his scheduled execution.

The 30-day stay expires on Friday.

Now, the death row prisoner has approached the IHC, asking the high court to order a judicial inquiry to determine his age.

Lawyers representing Shafqat claim he was under 18 when he was sentenced in 2004, and legally not old enough to be given the death penalty.

The IHC has sent notices to the president, prime minister, and seven other respondents, giving them 15 days to submit their replies.

The case has received widespread attention from local and international media, and became a bone of contention between supporters and opponents of the death penalty, which was resumed in Pakistan in December last year to end a 6-year long moratorium on capital punishment.

(source: Pakistan News)

BAHAMAS:

Miller: We Are In Crisis Over Crime

Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller yesterday lashed out at the government insisting that during the next election many of his colleagues will receive a "rude awakening" from voters because they did not take a stand to tackle crime, which he described as a cancer "taking out the guts" of Bahamians. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation executive chairman, whose son was murdered in 2002, said he could not understand why a sovereign country like The Bahamas relied on the decisions of the Privy Council in London.

The London-based court's views on the death penalty have made it harder for hangings to be carried out in this country.

Mr Miller said the country needs to abandon that body as the final court of appeal as he repeated calls for the Christie administration to carry out capital punishment.

Mr Miller was speaking during his contribution to Juries (Amendment) Bill and the Parliamentary Elections Bill in the House of Assembly.

"We are in a serious crisis in our country," the government MP said. "Everyday you open the newspapers some innocent life is being taken.

"The state has an obligation in my opinion to do what is necessary to combat this evil that is among us that is taking out the guts of the Bahamian people. Something must be done. We were elected by the people to look out for their needs. We were elected to look out for their future (and) for their children's future.

"I believe, Mr Speaker, that all of us, when you see those polls close at 6pm, will have a rude awakening if we refuse to act on behalf of those persons who gave us the privilege of coming into this Parliament on their behalf."

Mr Miller continued: "Capital punishment must be fully implemented in our country. We cannot and we should not accept any further excuses. I don't care about no Privy Council. They don't dictate my life.

"I am a Bahamian and if you are butchering our people, if you are killing our people unabated and you know that your life is not going to be taken, they are never going to stop, Mr Speaker."

He said the government must find a solution to crime that was breaking up families and causing mothers and loved ones to cry for their children.

Up to press time, according to The Tribune's records, 41 murders have been committed so far this year. 3 men were killed on April 7. These included 28-year-old Clayton Rufus Brown who was found stabbed to death just before 4am at Adventurer's Way in Grand Bahama. 2 more men were also killed in New Providence, including a man who was stabbed by his 15-year-old nephew, and a victim who was found slumped over in the driver's seat of his car with gunshot wounds.

Yesterday Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant questioned the status of several promised government projects to tackle crime in the country. He said the Progressive Liberal Party had placed blame on the then-governing Free National Movement while in opposition for the crime situation, but now that they were the governing party, it appeared that they did not have the solutions.

He said: "Now that they are governing, who is to blame? Are matters now not coming on for trial for reasons that are not within the government's control?

"Mr Speaker, whatever became of the Project Safe Bahamas, nothing has been spoken of it since the campaign trail. Project Safe Bahamas was hailed as a tough, innovative, plan to fight crime and to reduce violence.

"It all sounds so good, it looks prettier on paper, but sadly the truth of the matter is our streets have been turned into gut-wrenching murder scenes."

(source: tribune242.com)

SINGAPORE:

Killer faces gallows after final plea fails

Convicted killer Muhammad Kadar failed in his clemency plea to be spared the gallows and is due to be executed by the prison authorities today.

His petition for a reprieve was turned down by the President last week after due consideration and on the advice of the Cabinet.

Muhammad, 39, was 1st sentenced to death for knifing an elderly housewife more than 110 times in 2005 in a Boon Lay Avenue flat. His appeal was rejected by the 3-judge apex court in 2011.

But after a 2013 law change - which gave judges the discretion to impose a life sentence and caning instead of the death penalty for certain categories of murder - he was able to launch a fresh bid for re-sentencing to the Court of Appeal last year.

(source: Straits Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia executes 2nd Indonesian maid----Woman sentenced to death for killing 4-year-old child

Saudi Arabia has executed a 2nd Indonesian maid despite protests from Jakarta, which is itself facing fierce criticism for its failure to heed calls for clemency for a number of foreigners on death row.

The Indonesian government summoned the Saudi ambassador to the foreign ministry on Thursday after learning that 37-year-old Karni Bt. Medi Tarsim had been beheaded, without official warning.

Karni was sentenced to death in March 2013 for killing her employer's 4-year-old child. She was the second Indonesian domestic worker executed by the Saudis this week, following the death of Siti Zaenab Bt. Duhri Rupa on Tuesday -- the execution again carried out with Indonesian officials receiving no prior warning.

"That is our main issue. It's not that suddenly there was an execution. We didn't know when it would take place. Still, we took over a hundred steps to try to free (Siti) from execution," said Arrmanatha Nasir, spokesman for Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Siti, 47, was convicted of killing her employer's wife in 1999, but the death penalty was delayed until the youngest of the victim's sons reached puberty and was old enough to consider requesting her pardon. He didn't.

Rights groups say they suspect Siti was mentally ill and cast aspersions on claims she had confessed to the crime. Amnesty International also said reports suggested she had been abused while working in the victim's home.

"Imposing the death penalty and executing someone with a suspected mental illness smacks of a basic lack of humanity," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Indonesian appeals for mercy

In a statement, the Indonesian government said the protection of its citizens abroad was a "priority" and listed the attempts it had made to help Siti, including providing legal aid, writing letters to the Saudi King and "continuous efforts... to ask for forgiveness from the family."

Indonesia said in many cases its efforts had worked. From July 2011 to the end of March this year, it said it had "successfully freed" 238 of its citizens from the death penalty.

One of those was Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad who was sentenced to death in 2011 after reportedly admitting to killing her 70-year-old employer and stealing $10,000. Satinah claimed she acted in self-dense. Days before her scheduled execution, the Indonesian government stepped in with so-called "blood money" of 7 million Saudi riyals -- at the time worth about $1.8 million. Satinah was spared.

Calls for Indonesia to do the same

Indonesia's efforts to save its own citizens does not sit well with advocates who are seeking the same mercy for foreigners languishing on Indonesia's death row.

2 of the most high profile cases are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians convicted of attempting to smuggle heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005.

Friday marks the 10-year anniversary of their arrest with 7 other people -- members of the so-called "Bali 9" -- who are currently serving lengthy sentences in Indonesian prisons.

As the alleged ringleaders, Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death, and denied clemency from President Jokowi Widodo, a decision being challenged through the country's Constitutional Court.

"If Indonesia wants to effectively protect Indonesians from the death penalty abroad, Indonesia should also abolish the death penalty here," said Todung Mulya Lubis, 1 of the men's lawyers.

Chan, 31, and Sukumaran -- who also turns 34 on Friday -- are currently incarcerated on Nusakambangan Island in preparation for their execution but no date has been set.

Human Rights Watch called on Widodo to suspend all planned executions in Indonesia -- as the previous government did between 2008 and 2013. No executions were carried out in 2014, but earlier this year, 6 people -- including 5 foreigners -- faced the firing squad.

"The executions of 2 Indonesian citizens in Saudi Arabia in a single week should be a turning point on the subject of death penalty in Indonesia," said Andreas Harsono, the Indonesian researcher for Human Rights Watch. "Please stop the lecture of sovereignty. It is so old fashioned."

Before news of the 2nd execution emerged on Thursday, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a press briefing to denounce the Saudi action.

When asked whether Jakarta's complaints smacked of hypocrisy, given the country's refusal to spare foreigners on death row, spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said: "If you read our constitution, it is the job, the role of the government to protect its citizens, right? So it's not a double standard."

"On the issue of death penalty, we can have a long debate whether it is against human rights or it is morally wrong or right. That's a whole other discussion, that's a whole other argument, but what we're saying now here is we are implementing our laws and we are adhering to our constitution that we have to protect our citizens abroad."

(source: CNN)

INDONESIA:

10 years since Bali 9 arrested

A decade after their drug smuggling arrests, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan's legal quest for mercy rests with a court that has previously recommended an option of a life sentence for reformed inmates.

Friday also marks the 34th birthday of Sukumaran, who will spend the occasion in an isolated cell on Nusakambangan Island, not far from where he and Chan would be sent to the firing squad.

The pair were identified as leaders of the plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin, taped to the bodies of young mules, on April 17, 2005, and sentenced to death.

Since they were refused clemency earlier this year, their lawyers have been desperate to show the courts their rehabilitation over the past decade.

Chan is now a pastor and Sukumaran a painter, and both had a hugely positive impact on fellow inmates at Kerobokan jail.

Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon visited the men last week, and says they are well.

As he waits for the constitutional court to respond to a new bid to challenge the clemency process, Mr McMahon recalls the court's 2007 recommendation on the death penalty.

While it upheld its constitutional validity, the court recommended that death row prisoners who showed rehabilitation after 10 years had the option of being re-sentenced to a fixed term.

'There's absolutely no doubt my 2 clients have done a heroic job in reforming themselves and many others,' Mr McMahon told AAP.

'I see that as an opportunity to enliven the constitutional court jurisprudence.'

President Joko Widodo refused clemency to the men citing a 'drugs emergency' but has the authority to reverse the decision.

No date has been fixed for the executions of the Sydney men and 8 other drug offenders, but officials say they're considering a date after the Asian African Conference ends on April 24.

Sukumaran's birthday is also being marked in London, where Amnesty International is hosting an exhibition of his paintings.

(source: skynews.com)

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

A decade after the Bali 9 arrests, it's time to kill the death penalty ---- Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have captured the public's imagination with their rehabilitation. Could there be a better argument to end the death penalty?

On the 10th anniversary of the arrest of the Bali 9, I have a radical idea: let's work towards a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.<> For starters, it would save a lot of time and diplomatic effort. Just this week, two Indonesian maids were beheaded in Saudi Arabia after lengthy protests by the Indonesian government; the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, asked Indonesia to halt the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; the Australian government continued to push for clemency for the same men; Filipinos gathered outside the Indonesian embassy in New York to protest over the planned execution of their citizen Mary Jane Veloso; and rights groups continued to argue for clemency for the mentally ill Brazilian facing execution in Indonesia alongside Chan, Sukumaran and Veloso.

In the UK, celebrities Russell Brand and musicians Mumford & Sons joined the Australian Mercy campaign - advocating clemency for Chan and Sukumaran.

The death penalty, a medieval punishment of no return, may have been an option in pre-industrial, pre-enlightenment times, but we now have a variety of sophisticated, finely-tuned and infinitely more suitable ways to punish criminals.

Rehabilitation is a much better alternative and has been shown to work, particularly in Indonesia - the country that has indicated it will kill up to 1o prisoners later this month. In fact, it has been Andrew Chan's and Myuran Sukumaran's rehabilitation that has so captured the public's imagination.

It was 10 years ago on Friday that 9 Australians were arrested in Indonesia over a drug smuggling racket.

On the evening of 17 April 2005, a captive audience was able to watch on prime time television Indonesian police footage of the bust. A ratings winner, we saw as the Australian drug mules pulled up their shirts and revealed heroin packed to their torsos and thighs under grey tape.

In their Hawaiian shirts they looked sweaty, young and scared. The death penalty loomed over their cases from the start.

Coincidentally, Sukumaran shared his 34th birthday with the 10th anniversary of his arrest. In that decade, there have been numerous court proceedings, appeals, books and thousands of articles about the so-called Bali 9. And then the usual stuff of life - Martin Stephens got married in a traditional Indonesian ceremony, Scott Rush got engaged to a woman he met the night before his arrest and Andrew Chan became engaged. Members were separated and moved to different prisons.

But through it all, the 2 who were painted as the ringleaders, have been able to reform and show it to the world.

Reformation is hard graft - even harder in an Indonesian prison where there were no outreach programs to offer a diversion or even the hope of rehabilitation. Chan and Sukumaran had to actually create their own rehabilitation programs. It required, over a period of years, being animated and engaged in the process of change.

The results, for both the men and their prison community, have been outstanding. The governor of Kerobokan prison even gave evidence of their achievements in jail at their appeals hearing.

Sukumaran's paintings are currently being exhibited in London, while earlier in the year Chan was ordained a pastor. To achieve this in jail, while a death sentence is hanging over your head, shows remarkable personal resilience and commitment to improvement. Yet it hints at something deeper: in every person - including criminals - there lies a dormant, higher self.

Kerobokan, the prison where Chan and Sukumaran spent almost 10 years, is now being held up as the standard bearer for rehabilitation around the world, largely as a result of the programs started by the pair.

Michael Chan, brother of Andrew told News.com.au:

I think that what has kept us going is the fact that he is a changed man. When this all happened 10 years ago, he (Andrew) had no purpose in life and lack of direction which brought him to those crossroads and seeing him develop into the man he is today is a far cry of what he was then.

Whilst being there he has achieved so much more than a lot of people from the outside given the same time frame ... that makes us very proud of him and that's what keeps us, the family, going.

But there's a prang in the narrative - something that doesn't quite connect. Surely if you've reformed, you don't get shot? Yet the Indonesian attorney general, HM Prasetyo, has been reported as saying the men may face death by firing squad before the end of the month, once when the Asian African Conference ends on 24 April.

Surely if you are a government that is fighting tooth and nail for your own citizens on death row abroad, you don't go killing others at home?

It doesn't make sense.

When I co-founded the Mercy Campaign in 2011, the petition numbers and supporters grew slowly. Now we have 250,000 signatures from people all around the world - including in Indonesia - respectfully requesting to President Joko Widodo that clemency be granted.

In getting to know Sukumaran and Chan since their case received widespread media coverage, there is a growing revulsion among the Australian public to the idea of killing them.

In an interview with the Guardian, human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson said that it is impossible to support the death penalty when you have proximity to it, when you feel like you know the story of the people involved.

It seems that a collective gut feeling has emerged among the Australian public that the deaths of Chan and Sukumaran are unnecessary; that killing them would be a waste, the pain of the families only adding to the sum of human misery in the world.

For many young Australians, the case of the Bali 9 is the 1st time they've engaged with issues surrounding the death penalty.

It's a dark topic, but the discussion many of us are having in this darkness is heartening. It's a discussion that, for the most part, has been filled with compassion and respect. Even the language is gentle - with everyone from conservative politicians, to shock jocks, to activists and musicians using words like mercy, forgiveness, rehabilitation, 2nd chance and redemption.

There's a new, different narrative that is emerging around issue of the death penalty: that things can change, people can change, minds can change and hearts can change.

So why can't punishments change?

(source: Brigid Delaney is co-founder of the Mercy Campaign; The Guardian)

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

As Bali 9 duo await execution, Indonesia decries beheading of 2nd maid in Saudi Arabia

The state-sanctioned beheading of 2 Indonesian maids in 2 days in Saudi Arabia has prompted fierce protests in Indonesia and renewed criticism of the country's double standard on the death penalty as it prepares to execute 2 members of the Bali 9 drug ring.

The executions were condemned by Indonesia's government even as it ignores global protests about its own plans to kill dozens of drug felons this year, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

On Friday, the Bali nine duo marked 10 years since the day they were arrested in Bali for their role as organisers of a heroin smuggling ring. The anniversary is doubly poignant because it is also Sukumaran's 34th birthday.

The pair are among 64 drug felons Indonesia plans to kill this year, with 6 already having been executed by firing squad in January.

According to Indonesian activists, Indonesia's president Joko Widodo's policy of mass executions of drug traffickers is undermining the "moral legitimacy" of its ongoing efforts to rescue more than 200 of its citizens facing execution abroad.

Karni binti Medi Tarsim, 37, was beheaded in Yanbu, western Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, after being found guilty in 2012 for killing the 4-year-old daughter of her employer.

It follows a similar execution in Medina of Siti Zainab, who killed the mother of the family she was caring for.

Hundreds of thousands of Indonesian women work in Saudi Arabia as maids and reports of exploitation and mistreatment are legion. Public concern for those that find themselves in peril in the oil-rich kingdom is widespread in Indonesia.

"This is painful and really hurts us, the Indonesian people. The Saudi Arabian government is really brutal for having executed two Indonesian migrant workers one after the other," said Migrant Care - an Indonesian NGO that advocates for some four million Indonesians working abroad, mostly as low paid labourers or domestic workers.

Zainab, who Amnesty International says claimed to have stabbed her employer 18 times in response to lengthy abuse, was executed despite offers of cash from the Indonesian government to to the victim's family.

It is unclear if the same "blood money" was offered to save Tarsim but in both cases Mr Widodo personally lobbied for mercy.

In the wake of the killings, Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Jakarta, Mustafa Ibrahim Al-Mubarak, was hauled in twice to receive a formal protest by the foreign ministry.

In a statement, Indonesia's foreign ministry noted its "regret and disappointment" that it wasn't consulted on the timing of the executions.

As Mr Widodo pleads for mercy for his own citizens on death row, he is rejecting similar calls for clemency from other national leaders, including Australia's Tony Abbott. Mr Joko has refused to return to Mr Abbott's recent phone calls.

The president's stance, says Migrant Care, is hypocritical and damages the prospects of saving Indonesians on death row abroad.

"The application of the death penalty at home will only make the Government lose its moral legitimacy to urge other countries to free Indonesian nationals who are on death row," executive director Anis Hidayah said.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have urged the Indonesian government to heed the shocking executions in Saudi Arabia,

Barrister Julian McMahon said Indonesia had - until recently - had an extraordinary record of stopping the execution of its citizens abroad.

"No other government in the world has had the success Indonesia has, more than 200 people in 3 1/2 years from 2011."

That success largely coincided with a moratorium on executions in Indonesia.

"Indonesia is now in such a difficult position. On the one hand, they are still working so hard to rescue its own people facing execution but on the other hand they have resumed executions at home."

Chan and Sukumaran, meanwhile, will mark the anniversary of their arrests in Besi prison on Nusakambangan, the island in central Java where they are slated to be killed by firing squad.

There will be no extra privileges because it is Sukumaran's birthday. There will be no visitors as guests are allowed only on Monday and Wednesday.

Indonesia says the execution of the pair will take place some time after it hosts the Asia-Africa summit, due to finish on April 24.

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

APRIL 16, 2015:

ALABAMA:

Death penalty trial date moved for man charged with strangling 91-year-old neighbor

The death penalty trial for a Huntsville man charged with killing his 91-year-old neighbor has been pushed back from May to November.

John Clayton Owens, 31, is charged with capital murder in the strangulation death of Doris Richardson at her home on Bide-A-Wee Drive, near Five Points in Huntsville. Owens lived part-time with his uncle, next door to Richardson, and sometimes mowed her grass. Richardson's body was found in her bedroom on Aug. 26, 2011.

The trial date has been continued more than once. Last year, the defense had expressed concern about being prepared for trial. The defense attorneys said they needed more time to review DNA test results and the November trial date was pushed back to May 18, 2015.

The case was being heard by Madison County Circuit Judge Billy Bell, but Bell retired this year. The case is now before Bell's successor Circuit Judge Alison Austin.

Defense attorneys Brian Clark and Ron Smith and Madison County Assistant District Attorney Bill Starnes and Assistant DA Thomas Glover met with the judge this afternoon for a status conference. The new trial date was set during that meeting.

Prosecutors said last year they would seek the death penalty for Owens.

Huntsville Police Department investigator Charlie Gray testified in Owens' 2011 preliminary hearing that Richardson's house showed signs of disarray with drawers pulled out, contents dumped on the floor, an open safe and several open closet doors. Police had earlier reported about $1,200 worth of items had been stolen from the home.

The day after Richardson's death was discovered Gray said he was contacted by Owens' uncle. Gray said several jewelry boxes and a coin box were found in the uncle's yard. A search of Owens' room yielded more jewelry boxes and a slip of paper with a combination that turned out to match the safe's. After that discovery Gray issued a police alert for Owens.

He was soon picked up, Gray testified. Owens admitted burglarizing the house, Gray said, but he claimed to have done so several days before the murder and denied killing Richardson.

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

Former Alabama death row inmate cuts deal, will be free within hours

A former death row inmate Alabama who won a new trial 3 years ago will be free within hours, becoming the 2nd condemned Alabama prisoner ordered freed this month.

William Ziegler, 39, had been awaiting execution since his conviction in 2001 for the slaying of Russell Allen Baker near the defendant's home at the time in Mobile County. His regular appeals exhausted, he won a rarely successful post-appeal challenge made directly to the trial judge.

Prosecutors had been preparing to retry the case and as recently as November indicated they would again seek the death penalty. On Thursday, Ziegler accepted a plea bargain and that will allow him to walk free. He pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder, and Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart sentenced him to the 15 years and 50 days he has been incarcerated.

His attorneys said he will leave Mobile County Metro Jail as soon as authorities process him, which should take an hour or 2.

"I know that you recognize God's grace," the judge told Ziegler, urging him to resist the temptation to be bitter. "I want you to appreciate that gift. You need to be very careful with your gift. ... The world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago when you went to jail."

Stewart was not on the bench during Ziegler's 2001 trial, but she documented a litany of errors and abuses in an extraordinary 218-page ruling in 2012 and indicated that there was serious doubt about whether the defendant committed the murder.

The judge cited three main deficiencies:

--That Ziegler received substandard performance from his lawyers.

--That the state withheld evidence about a witness who later recanted her testimony.

--That a juror, when questioned about his views on the death penalty, lied during jury selection.

Thursday marks the second time this month that Alabama has released a prisoner who had been facing execution. Anthony Ray Hinton got his freedom April 3 after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row. Prosecutors in that case dismissed charges in the 1985 deaths of 2 fast-food workers after new testing on the defendant's gun could not prove that it fired the bullets use in the slayings.

Ziegler was not yet 25 when Baker's body was found in a wooded patch off of Leroy Stevens Road in Mobile County. Authorities discovered that the victim and Ziegler had quarreled at a party and centered on him as the prime suspect.

He was convicted along with 3 accomplices.

On Thursday, Ziegler acknowledged that his conduct helped lead to the Baker's death.

Relatives of both Ziegler and Baker came away from the hearing disappointed.

O'Della Wilson, the defendant's mother, said she is happy that will go free but angry that he had to pleaded guilty to any crime.

"My son was put in a position again," she said outside the courtroom. "He had no choice but to go ahead and plead to a murder he did not commit. ... Judge Stewart's the only one who has given us any justice."

Meanwhile, Baker's family made clear it does not accept the outcome.

"He's a menace to our society. He will be back," said Beth Johansen, the victim's aunt. "This is not justice for our nephew."

(source for both: al.com)

USA:

Death Penalty Poll 2015: Support At Record Low, New Survey Shows

A majority of people in the U.S. believe murderers should be put to death, but support for the death penalty is lower than it has been in nearly two generations, according to a nationwide survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. The poll found that 56 % of Americans favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, a decrease of 6 % points since Pew's last survey, in 2011. 38 % of Americans oppose the death penalty, according to the latest survey.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, support for the death penalty frequently topped 70 %, according to Pew. In 1996, 78 % favored it, while 18 % % were opposed. The shift in opinion comes as jurors in Massachusetts are set to begin next week the penalty phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev, 21, was found guilty on all 30 federal criminal charges, including using weapons of mass destruction, in the 2013 attack that killed 3 people and wounded at least 170. Nearly 1/2 of 1,084 respondents in a nationwide public opinion poll conducted after Tsarnaev's April 8 conviction said he should die.

Pew's survey, conducted among 1,500 adults from March 25 to 29, found that much of the decrease in death penalty support has been among Democrats. Currently, 40 % of Democrats favor the death penalty, while 56 % oppose it. In 1996, Democrats favored capital punishment by a wide margin, 71-25. Republican support for the death penalty also decreased, Pew said, although the decline wasn't as steep. 77 % of GOP voters favor the death penalty, compared with 87 % who favored it in 1996.

Other key findings in Pew's latest survey include a concern among 71 % of Americans that the death penalty risks an innocent person being put to death. About 1/2 of Americans say that minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for similar crimes, while 41 % think that whites and minorities are equally likely to face death for heinous crimes.

(source: International Business Times)

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

Person who killed federal witness in Saginaw could face death penalty

A Saginaw woman who disappeared in 2014 after being served a subpoena to testify in a federal drug case and whose body was likely discovered this week has opened a homicide investigation.

It could lead to charges that carry the death penalty if someone is found guilty of Yvonne Howard's fatal shooting and it's linked to the federal case, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"If an investigation reveals that Ms. Howard was murdered because she was believed to be a federal witness, that murder is itself a new federal offense carrying a potential of life imprisonment or even the death penalty," said Gina M. Balaya, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of Michigan.

Police in Saginaw have not confirmed the identity of the remains as those of Howard's. But family members say they believe it to be her, in part because the remains were discovered Tuesday, April 14, in a field just house lengths away from her former home.

An autopsy revealed the person had been shot in the head with a high-caliber gun, according to Saginaw police.

Howard went missing in May 2014, shortly after being served the federal subpeona to testify in a case.

According to her daughter, Dominique Howard, who said she confirmed the identity of her mother after detectives visited her home on Wednesday, she lost communication with her mother on May 26. Her mother told her she was to testify in a drug case in federal court the next day and that she was worried that it would "get her killed."

"She called me very hysterically and told me that she did not want any parts of it," Dominique Howard said.

Balaya said the U.S. Attorney's Office can't comment specifically on the case, but said they offer services to protect witnesses.

"We understand that witnesses may be at risk when called to testify," Balaya said. "We provide services such as the witness protection program, temporary relocation and assistance with permanent relocation."

They would not say if Howard was offered any of those options because it's related to the case.

According to Saginaw Police Detective Sgt. Reggie Williams, a missing person report and supplemental reports were made by the daughter on May 30, June 1 and July 22.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the anonymous CrimeStoppers tipline at 1-800-422-JAIL.

An investigation into the homicide is ongoing with assistance from the Michigan State Police.

(source: mlive.com)

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

How courts use neuroscience

In 2009, officials in Lorain County, Ohio, sued a single mother for permanent custody of her 10- and 11-year-old children, claiming that the mother neglected the children and her boyfriends sexually abused them. Although social workers had provided the mother with parenting classes, she was incapable of doing a better job, the county maintained. Among the evidence officials provided: the fact that when she was 14, the mother had been in a car accident that left her mentally impaired and with a reported IQ of 70.*

The Lorain family case is just one of more than 1,500 United States judicial opinions given between 2007 and 2012 that cite brain science in some way. As brain-measuring technologies have improved, neuroscience arguments have increasingly made their way into the U.S. judicial system, as a few observers have noted. A new report, published last week by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, tallies up specific numbers about how and when neuroscience shows up in court cases. Here are some highlights:

- Between 2007 and 2012, the number of judicial opinions citing neuroscience doubled.

- Among the cases that invoked neuroscience, about 40 percent were for capital murder.

- In the majority of cases, lawyers tried to use brain scans and other evidence to argue for lesser punishments. For example, they could use evidence of brain damage to argue a defendant wasn't able to control or plan what he did.

- In 2012, 5 % of murder trials and 25 % of death penalty trials invoked neuroscience to argue for less severe punishments.

- Neuroscience doesn't always have to help defendants, however. Prosecutors can use neuroscience evidence to argue that somebody is naturally aggressive or dangerous and needs more restrictive punishment. Indeed, neuroscience worked against the Lorain County mother who had wanted to keep her children.

- Neuroscience can even work against lawyers. In the past, courts have found attorneys to be ineffective as counsel when they failed to "investigate a reasonable likelihood of a brain abnormality" for clients facing the death sentence.

The rise in neuroscience in courts warrants some caution. The science for many claims - such as the ability to predict whether someone will commit a crime again in the future, or to objectively measure pain - is still uncertain. At the same time, scientific-looking evidence holds strong sway over judges and juries, studies show. So it's important to avoid hype, and to make sure judges are trained in neuroscience. The good news is that a few organizations already run neuroscience seminars for lawyers and judges, like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the MacArthur Foundation.

While most news stories - understandably - highlight the dangers of misapplied neuroscience, brain research has done a lot of good for courts, too. Emerging science on how long it takes for teens' brains to mature has played a huge role in making it so that courts now can't sentence children under 18 to the death penalty, or to life in prison without parole. Brain-scanning studies have also helped reveal the implicit biases that everybody has, and often lead to people of color getting harsher punishments than white people for the same crimes. Bringing those biases to light with science is the first step to mitigating them.

(source: Pacific Standard)

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

Young people are leading a huge plunge in support for the death penalty

Americans' support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in 40 years, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

The leading cause of the plunge in support, age-wise: Millennials, barely a majority of whom now say they favor the death penalty as a form of capital punishment for criminals convicted of murder.

According to the survey, just 51 % of 18- to 29-year-olds say they support the death penalty, while 43 % are now opposed. That's a 15-point swing from just 4 years ago, when the split was 59-36 in favor.

Overall, 56 % of respondents in the poll favor the death penalty as a form of capital punishment, according to the poll. The percentage of people who favor the death penalty is down 6 points from 2011.

More remarkable is the shift from 20 years ago. In 1995, 78 % of Americans said they supported the death penalty, while just 18 % were opposed. Here's a chart from Pew that shows how the gulf has narrowed considerably since then:

White Americans and Republicans are the most likely demographics to support the death penalty. By a 63-33 margin, whites favor the death penalty, though that support is down 5 points over the past 4 years. Respondents who identify as Republicans, however, are virtually unchanged from 4 years ago - 77 % favor it and 17 % are opposed.

There has been a continued shift downward among minority populations and those who identify as Democrats. Here’s a quick breakdown:

--Democrats oppose for the 1st time by a 40-56 margin, a huge 22-point swing from 2011;

--African-Americans oppose by a 34-57 margin, a 14-point swing;

--Latinos oppose by a 45-47 margin, a 12-point swing.

The death penalty is now at the center of 2 notorious cases working their way through the court system - 1 involving Colorado movie-theater shooter James Holmes and the other involving convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Holmes" trial is set to begin later this month, while Tsarnaev's sentencing trial will take place next week.

A CBS News poll showed that 60 % of Americans favored the death penalty as punishment for Tsarnaev. Some prominent national figures, including Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have said Tsarnaev's life should be spared.

"My heart goes out to the families here, but I don't support the death penalty," Warren said on CBS last week. "I think that he should spend his life in jail - no possibility of parole, he should die in prison. But that's how I see it. It will be up to the jury."

"The alternative to the death penalty is not as if you turn this guy free," she added. "The point is that he stays in prison, he dies in prison, he's put away. He's not a danger to anyone else and [he's] not a part of an ongoing story - he's not someone who tries to then or is able to keep sucking up a lot of energy and a lot of attention."

(source: Fusion.net)

PAKISTAN:

Death Penalty? Not So Fast, Says Pakistan's Supreme Court

In January, Pakistan established controversial military courts for terrorism cases in the wake of a deadly Taliban attack on a school that killed 150 people, most of them schoolchildren. The idea, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, was to expedite the trial and punishment of terrorists.

That may not happen so quickly, at least in cases of capital punishment. On Thursday, the country's Supreme Court stayed the execution of 6 men found guilty of terrorism by military courts earlier this month until legal challenges to the formation of these courts are settled.

Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups say they are concerned that the military courts, 9 of which have been established so far, may violate citizens' fundamental rights and not meet the standards for fair trial. The country's top bar associations challenged the law establishing the courts in February, asking the Supreme Court to examine the legality of the military courts.

"Our argument is that if the Supreme Court is examining the legality and constitutionality [of military courts], and if, let's assume, it accepts our petitions [against them], and there is an execution before that, you can't reverse that," said lawyer Kamran Murtaza, one of the petitioners against the military courts. "You only get your life once. If you take it away, there is no reversing that."

Critics say the new courts unnecessarily bring the military into the judicial system, instead of strengthening the existing system. Pakistan's courts are plagued by inefficiency, officials say, and terrorism cases are particularly difficult to prosecute because of threats to judges, witnesses and prosecutors.

The Supreme Court only stayed executions, however, and did not order military courts to stop trials and sentencing, lawyers and Supreme Court officials said. The 6 men whose executions have been stayed were among the 1st 7 people convicted and sentenced for terrorism by the military courts earlier this month. The 7th man received a life sentence.

The Attorney General's office declined to comment. Military officials were not immediately available for comment.

Pakistan's government and military have said that military courts are a necessary measure in the country's fight against terrorism, and are temporary. According to the constitutional amendment that led to their creation, the courts will cease to exist after 2 years unless renewed by parliament. Those convicted by military courts have the right to appeal in higher courts.

The International Commission of Jurists has called Pakistan's military courts "a serious blow to human rights and rule of law in the country," saying they don't meet international standards for free trial and lack transparency.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

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

Asma Jahangir files petition against death sentences by military courts

Supreme Court (SC) has stayed the execution of condemned prisoners, including 6 militants convicted by military courts.

The court has maintained "the execution will remain stayed unless the court gives decision." Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasir ul Mulk remarked "as we are hearing the matter of challenging some amendment, therefore, it is highly essential that these convictions be stayed. If we accept these petitions and someone is hanged in the meantime then how he will return."

Justice Jawwad S Khawaja has remarked "under article 9 of the constitution, protection is provided to the life of that person. Why there is any need to show haste. These sentences can be implemented later. Let us decide first." Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked "when SC had declared military courts illegal, then 2 persons were hanged till that time. This is very sorrowful matter. We don't want such thins now."

A full bench of SC comprising 17 judges and presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasir ul Mulk, took up for hearing a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) seeking interim order, for staying execution of condemned prisoners Thursday.

The court inquired from Attorney General (AG) that petition has come seeking staying of execution of prisoners, who have been awarded death penalties by military courts what he says about it.

AG said military courts are authorized under 21st constitutional amendment to convict the accused in cases like this. This impression is wrong that some institutions, including army are sacred cow. Constitution has conferred this mandate upon military courts. Whosoever are court-martialed under clause 133-b of army act, has right to resort to appellate forum.

CJP remarks "you know it well that we are hearing the case related to 21st constitutional amendment, therefore it is necessary that execution of the persons be stayed under this petition."

AG while objecting to it said "you cannot do so. When the accused have every right to file appeal plea then why are you staying it." Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked "under article 10-A of the constitution fair trial has been ensured. Where will it stand? We don't want that someone is executed prior to court's decision."

The court issuing interim order on the petition filed by Asma Jahangir stayed the execution of 6 persons who were convicted and awarded death penalty by military courts. Asma Jahangir on behalf of SCBA filed another miscellaneous petition, in a case against the military courts set up under 21st constitutional amendment making federal government respondent.

She has taken plea in this petition that "it has come in media that military court has awarded death penalty to 6 militants and life imprisonment to a militant. Media has also reported that no other information is available in respect of the convicts. 21st constitutional amendment cannot undo fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. All the amendments are introduced in the light of fundamental human rights. Did the military court try to provide information to the accused by adhering to articles 10, 10-A, 12, 13 and 14 of the constitution. Whether the arrested persons were enemy aliens? Were the accused produced before the magistrate within 24 hours. Prisoners cannot be deprived of the right of fair trial under article 10 of the constitution."

Asma Jahangir prayed the court to issue, interim order staying execution of militants sentenced to death by military courts. The hearing of the case was adjourned till April 22 on receipt of information of heart attack in respect of wife of a sitting judge of full bench of court.

(source: The Nation)

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

Verdict: SHC upholds death sentence for murderer

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday maintained the death sentence given to a doctor for killing his fiancée in 1996.

"The present case is one of the callous, brutal murder of an innocent girl in a premeditated and calculated manner," remarked the 2 judges as they dismissed the appeal made by the condemned man, Dr Muhammad Saleem.

The additional sessions judge, West, had on April 27, 2006, convicted the doctor, who was tried after being on the run for 6 years.

The prosecution had accused Saleem of murdering his fiancee, Shakeela, and burying her body in his private clinic in Lyari's Muhammadi Colony on December 13, 1996. Investigators alleged that he had killed her because he wanted to marry another doctor.

Appealing against the capital punishment, Saleem claimed that he was wrongly convicted by the trial court. The SHC judges observed that Saleem's "mere relationship with the deceased by itself is not sufficient to discredit the evidence."

They ruled that the trial court had rightly come to the conclusion that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellant beyond any reasonable doubt before awarding the death penalty.

The convict's lawyer, Amir Mansoob Qureshi, had argued that his client had denied the allegations in his statement, which should be considered while deciding the appeal. He added that the last seen evidence from the crime scene, such as the recovery of the body, did not support the prosecution's accusations.

The judges observed, however, that "there is nothing substantial in the statement of the appellant" to discredit such confidence-inspiring evidence.

The lawyer also contended that the appellant had been incarcerated for over 13 years and pleaded for his release.

The judges maintained the death sentence handed to Saleem by the trial court and dismissed his appeal.

(source: The Express Tribune)

INDONESIA:

Accused Kiwi drug mule granted sick leave----Antony de Malmanche has been granted a week's leave from his drug smuggling trial, after collapsing in court last week.

A New Zealand man has been granted a week's leave from his Bali drug smuggling trial, after collapsing in a hearing last week.

Antony de Malmanche says he has a history of the heart condition angina, and wants to be thoroughly examined.

The 52-year-old could face the death penalty for smuggling 1.7kg of methamphetamine into Bali in December.

Chief Judge Cening Budiana, who noticed the Kiwi was ailing last week and adjourned witness hearings, on Thursday granted him a week off.

The judge asked the prosecutor to take de Malmanche for a fuller check with the prison's physician and bring the results to court next Thursday.

De Malmanche's son Shaun was in court for the 1st time on Thursday.

Lawyers for de Malmanche say their client was tricked into carrying the meth by a drug syndicate that snared him on a dating website, and made him believe he was coming to Bali to meet a woman named Jessie.

(source: sbs.com.au)

NEBRASKA:

Ricketts, prosecutors say lawmakers 'mocked' input on prison reform

A group of prosecutors and Republican leaders accused Nebraska lawmakers Thursday of ignoring their opinions on prison and criminal sentencing reform as the Legislature debates the issues this week.

"They mocked our input," said Attorney General Doug Peterson during a news conference at City Hall in Omaha.

Peterson appeared alongside Gov. Pete Ricketts, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, the Lancaster and Douglas county attorneys and others. They voiced concerns about a pair of criminal justice bills that received 1st-round approval earlier this week, and repeated concerns about repealing the death penalty, which the full Legislature began debating Thursday.

Ricketts vowed to veto any death penalty repeal that reaches his desk.

But the news conference took particular aim at an effort by the Legislature's Judiciary Committee to restore indeterminate sentencing, known as the "1/3 rule," which requires a judge to set a convicted person's minimum sentence at a number of years not greater than 1/3 of the maximum sentence.

The committee unanimously advanced a bill (LB483) on Wednesday that would restore the one-third rule to include all felony crimes, except those for which the maximum sentence is life. Similar language is amended onto one of the reform bills (LB605) approved by lawmakers this week.

Supporters say restoring the 1/3 rule would help ease crowding in Nebraska prisons, which are at 159 % capacity.

"This 1/3 rule is not a proposal to reduce prison overcrowding," Peterson said Thursday, instead calling it something "from the ACLU playbook."

Peterson claimed prosecutors and other public safety officials aren't being given a seat at the table to talk about criminal sentencing, saying they are the most qualified people to address the issue.

"Having hearings and being out in the lobby is not enough," he said.

He also took issue with recent comments made by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist. During debate on the reform bills this week, Krist gestured to the Capitol lobby, where prosecutors were watching, and referred to it as "Disney World."

"These senators are not taking our gang problem seriously," Mayor Stothert said Thursday.

Ricketts said people shouldn't "jump in without thinking" to address prison reform, and instead should wait for the new director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Scott Frakes, to complete his own examination of the system, which should be complete this fall.

He blamed "management problems" for the prison system's issues and the state's inability to obtain the drugs required to carry out a lethal injection under current law.

Ricketts wouldn't say whether building a new prison is on the table for Frakes.

"I don't believe building a new prison at this point is going to solve any problems," Ricketts said.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

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

Nebraska may repeal death penalty amid drug shortage

Nebraska is considering repealing the death penalty amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

A bill to repeal the death penalty won 1st-round approval from lawmakers Thursday.

Lawmakers advanced the bill 30-13. If that support holds, death penalty opponents would have enough votes to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts' promised veto.

2 additional votes are required, and death penalty supporters are still working to block the legislation. This year, the measure has won support from a coalition of Republicans who say the death penalty costs too much and the state doesn't even have the drugs to kill those on death row.

Nebraska last executed someone in 1997.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, has fought for 4 decades years to abolish capital punishment.

The bill is LB268.

(source: Associated Press)

TEXAS:

Lawmaker Says Death Penalty in Jeopardy

If Texas has to tell the public who it's buying lethal execution drugs from, it might have to stop putting inmates to death, state Rep. John Smithee told a house committee on Wednesday.

"We're going to reach the point ... where we can't conduct any execution, where we can't carry out capital punishment in Texas," the Amarillo Republican told members of the House Government Transparency and Operation Committee as he explained his bill to keep the identities of lethal drug suppliers secret.

The state of Texas' drug cache is already dangerously low, Smithee said, largely because the compounding pharmacies that make lethal injection drugs fear threats of violence if they are identified. Texas had to start buying its supply of made-to-order drugs from compounding pharmacies in 2013 when manufacturers began refusing to sell their products for executions.

"Many of these vendors who supply these doses to the state have refused to do it any further," Smithee said. "It's just not worth the risk of violence."

In 2013, after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice revealed that The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy provided execution drugs, the company immediately stopped after the owner said he was threatened. The following year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sided with TDCJ officials, concluding that the names of compounding pharmacies could be kept secret, even though such information had long been public. A Travis County judge last December ruled that the state's prison system must make the providers public, adding more fuel to the debate.

If Texas wants drugs, the compounding pharmacy community is demanding anonymity, Adrienne McFarland, an attorney with the Texas attorney general's office, told the committee.

"Unless they have strict protection that they will not continue to provide the drugs," she said. "It's becoming increasingly difficult to carry out execution which is to say carry out state law."

Smithee's House Bill 3846 would keep the names of providers secret, as well as names of the individuals carrying out an execution. (As a policy, the state has never released the names of its execution team since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982.)

But Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, told committee members the drug provider names should be made public.

"The citizens in Texas really need the information to scrutinize how this is being carried out," she said.

And Stacy Allen, an attorney with Jackson Walker representing the Texas Association of Broadcasters, told committee members that if threats to lethal drug providers are the problem, they should pass a bill making the threats a crime.

"This is the wrong answer," he said.

For the past few years in Texas and nationwide, lawyers for death row inmates have fought in court to keep the names of drug providers public.

Until 2011, the names of drug manufacturers who provided execution drugs were released to the public in Texas. But that changed once large European drug manufacturers stopped selling the drugs to U.S. prisons, and states were forced to switch execution formulas and turn to smaller providers of execution supplies: compounding pharmacies that can legally mix batches at their facilities.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to re-examine lethal injection drugs when it takes up an Oklahoma case this spring.

Smithee's bill was left pending in committee just a few hours before Texas executed Manuel Garza Jr. for the 2001 fatal shooting of a San Antonio police officer during a struggle. Garza is the 6th inmate this year to be executed and the 524th since capital punishment was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

(source: Texas Tribune)

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

Concerning Murder of Small Child, Court Denies Texas Death Row Appeal

A Tyler man convicted of murdering a 2-year-old back in 2008 lost his death-row appeal Wednesday morning.

According to a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals document, the court reviewed 5 allegations made in Demontrell Lamar Miller's application and recommended his appeal be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

Miller, 28, was sentenced to death in November 2009 for the June 2008 murder of his then-girlfriend's son, Kelynn.

According to police, Miller beat the toddler to death while he was babysitting. He was also caring for his own 5-month-old was son at an apartment complex in Tyler.

Miller told police he found the toddler in a swimming pool. However, an autopsy revealed the child had bruises and internal bleeding from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

The convict was found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty. No execution date has been set at this time and he might still have other avenues of appeal.

(source: Everythinglubbock.com)

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

Arlington minister's killer loses appeal

The state's top criminal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the 2012 conviction of Steven Lawayne Nelson, sent to death row for killing a young Arlington minister.

Appeals attorneys for Nelson, 28, contended that there were 15 errors at his trial in Fort Worth for the slaying in March 2011 of the Rev. Clint Dobson, 28, pastor of NorthPointe Baptist Church, and the near fatal beating of Judy Elliott, the church secretary.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all 15 points raised, including that evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict him of capital murder and sentence him to death, that the jury selection and jury instructions were improper and that text message evidence was improperly allowed.

The court also rejected constitutional claims raised against the Texas death penalty.

Nelson caused mayhem during his time in the Tarrant County Jail.

Minutes after being sentenced to death for killing Dobson, Nelson flew into a screaming fit of rage, breaking a fire sprinkler in his holding cell and sending black water flooding into the courtroom.

Earlier during the trial, he broke an electronic shock cuff from around his ankle, and jurors were shown a video of him screaming and fighting against shackles in jail.

He is the only suspect in the jail hanging death of a mentally ill inmate who was placed in Nelson's cell area, and the county paid $350,000 to settle a civil rights suit filed by the dead inmate's sister. He was indicted in the death but wasn't tried after he was sent to death row.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Man Convicted Of Killing Baylor Graduate Loses Death Row Appeal

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday rejected an appeal from death row inmate Steven Lawayne Nelson, 28, who was convicted of capital murder in the March 2011 slaying of the Rev. Clint Dobson, 28, a 2008 graduate of Baylor's Truett Theological Seminary.

Defense attorneys argued that there were 15 errors at Nelson's trial in 2012, but the court rejected claims that evidence wasn't sufficient to convict him of capital murder and sentence him to death, that the jury selection and jury instructions were improper and that text message evidence improperly was allowed.

The court also rejected constitutional claims raised against the Texas death penalty.

Prosecutors told jurors that Nelson wanted to steal a car on March 3, 2011, so he walked to the NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington, killed Dobson and beat ministry assistant Judy Elliott, then 67, who was severely injured.

Dobson, a Houston native, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Baylor University in 2004 and graduated from Baylor's Truett Theological seminary 4 years later.

He joined the staff of the First Baptist Church Arlington in June of 2008 and went on to become the pastor of NorthPointe Baptist Church, which is a satellite of First Baptist Arlington.

Church members described Dobson as a dynamic pastor who always had a smile and hug for them as they walked into the sanctuary before each service.

(source: KWTX news)

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Death Watch: Deficient Counsel, But Not Prejudicial----Lawyers' terrible job not enough to overturn a death sentence

Richard Vasquez didn't deliver the final blow that killed Miranda Lopez, his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, whom he was said to have informally adopted, but on June 22, 1999, a jury determined that he was responsible for causing her to fall off of a bathroom stool and hit her head on the floor, the fatal injury.

Vasquez, 18 years old at the time and living with his girlfriend Brenda, Miranda, and his and Brenda's daughter, 4-month-old Meagan, at his aunt and uncle's house in Corpus Christi, came home the afternoon of March 5, 1998, annoyed that he had to babysit the children instead of, as he testified at trial, stealing things so that he could sell them for money to buy more heroin, and decided to take his anger out on Miranda. He hit her repeatedly on the front part of her head, then told her to go outside while he injected heroin and lay down to take a nap. When he awoke he called her inside to brush her teeth. She went into the bathroom, climbed on the stool, and fell onto the floor. Vasquez pulled her up, put toothpaste on her toothbrush, and left the room. When he came back, she was facedown in the sink.

Paramedic neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Burke, who performed surgery on Miranda, concluded that the girl had suffered severe trauma to the head, and diagnosed her as a victim of child abuse. A sexual assault nurse determined that she'd also been sexually violated, causing severe injuries. Vasquez was arrested that afternoon and charged with capital murder. He was convicted and sentenced to death on June 24, 1999.

In writs filed with the state and federal courts, appellate attorneys have noted the lack of preparation his three trial lawyers put into the case. They did not follow a psychiatrist's suggestion that Vasquez undergo neurological testing, did not employ a mitigation specialist (though they had sufficient funding to do so), did not discuss possible mitigating evidence with members of Vasquez's family, and never met with his biological parents. Trial counsel proved "completely unaware" that Vasquez's father introduced him to heroin at age 12, and did not know during trial that his mother's heavy drinking during pregnancy caused fetal alcohol syndrome.

"Defense counsel ... interviewed the Vasquez family members for mitigation purposes in the hallway outside the courtroom," noted a 2006 federal habeas petition. "A last-minute interview conducted in such a public setting simply could not have been sufficient."

Still, Vasquez's post-conviction efforts have thus far proved unsuccessful. He lost both habeas petitions, and was denied an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2008 and a 2011 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The only event stalling his execution's course came when the attorney general's office reset the punishment from Jan. 15 to April 23 when it was discovered that former Governor Rick Perry would be out of town. However, at press time, Vasquez's attorneys were putting the final touches on yet another habeas petition and a motion to stay the execution.

In a blog post dated Feb. 20, 2008, Vasquez made a pitch for a 2nd chance. "Being convicted of a Capital crime ... means that these same people believe that I am unrehabilitatable," he wrote. "This is actually quite [a] feat considering that no one has ever attempted to rehabilitate me.... If no one has tried, how do they know that I am beyond help?"

Vasquez will be the 7th Texan executed this year on Gov. Greg Abbott's watch, and the 525th to be executed by the state of Texas since it reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

FLORIDA:

Jacksonville jury finds Lance Kirkpatrick guilty of 1st-degree murder

Lance Eugene Kirkpatrick is 1 step closer to death row after a Jacksonville jury convicted him of the 1st-degree murder of a firefighters wife Wednesday evening.

Kirkpatrick, 33, was convicted of the rape and murder of 38-year-old Kim Dorsey. The jury also convicted him of robbing the house where Dorsey and her husband, Jacksonville firefighter Derrick Dorsey, lived.

A brutally battered Dorsey was found dead inside her own home in 2012 and Kirkpatrick was arrested after his DNA was found inside Dorsey.

Prosecutors argue that Kirkpatrick broke into the house because he wanted to steal something from the house to pay off a drug debt and killed Dorsey when she saw him. Kirkpatrick used to live with the Dorsey's and knew they hid a key under a statue on their front porch.

Kirkpatrick has acknowledged killing Dorsey, but insists it was an accident. Defense attorney Charles Fletcher argued that his client was guilty of manslaughter, not 1st-degree murder.

Kirkpatrick testified that he was having an affair with Dorsey, and killed her after she became enraged at him after they had sex because he had helped her husband meet and have sex with other women. Derrick Dorsey had hired Kirkpatrick to work at his construction company and allowed him to live in his home for a period of time, but Dorsey was no longer living in the house when Kim Dorsey was killed.

During closing statements Wednesday afternoon prosecutors ridiculed the idea that Kirkpatrick and Dorsey were lovers.

"She never would have found Lance Kirkpatrick appealing, physically or in any other way," said Assistant State Attorney Patricia Dobson.

Kirkpatrick lied about having an affair with Dorsey, Dobson said, and he was able to tell this "cockamamie" story because Dorsey isn't here to defend herself.

Dobson urged jurors to pay attention to the violence committed against Dorsey, showing them multiple pictures of the massive cuts and bruises all over her body.

"The physical evidence shows he's guilty of 1st-degree murder, not manslaughter," Dobson said. "It points to premeditated intent. She knew he was killing her, and he knew he was killing her."

And before her throat was cut with a kitchen knife Kirkpatrick repeatedly beat her with a pool stick and punched her in the face while he was holding her down on the floor in her own bedroom, Dobson said.

Kirkpatrick had no injuries on his face but did have scratches on his side and back, and his DNA was found in Dorsey's fingernails.

"That is a woman on her back trying with every ounce of energy to stay alive," Dobson said.

Derrick Dorsey acknowledged while testifying that he'd cheated on his wife with multiple women, and some of those women were introduced to him by Kirkpatrick. But Dobson told jurors the behavior of Derrick Dorsey was irrelevant.

"You don’t have to like Derrick Dorsey. You can even find him despicable," Dobson said. "That has nothing to do with this case."

The jury that convicted Kirkpatrick will return on Friday to make a recommendation on whether he should go to death row or be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Under Florida law, those are the only 2 sentencing options before Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey.

The final decision rests with Hulsey, but judges usually follow juror recommendations in death penalty cases.

Hulsey will not sentence Kirkpatrick on Friday. He will just get a recommendation from the jury and impose sentence later on.

The Dorsey family declined to comment after Kirkpatrick was convicted. A representative for the family said they might have something to say after Friday's sentencing hearing.

A relative of Kirkpatrick ran out of the courtroom crying after the verdict was announced.

(source: Florida Timse-Union)

OHIO:

Group wants Ohio to reform death penalty, prevent wrongful execution

Ricky Jackson spent nearly 4 decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

He and his brother and another man were sentenced to death in the 1975 case, based on the testimony of a 12-year-old witness who decades later recanted.

On April 14, all there were at the Statehouse, along with several other men exonerated of crimes that put them on Ohio's Death Row, to urge lawmakers to prevent others from being wrongly convicted.

The group ultimately wants Ohio and the rest of the country to stop executions.

"I don't want to see it happen again to anybody...," Jackson said. "I can tell you from experience [about death row], it's not a place fit for human beings. If we did this to canines, the world would be in an uproar, but we do it people every day."

The former inmates spoke during a morning press conference organized by Ohioans to Stop Executions, which is pushing for enactment of recommendations offered by a Supreme Court task force that backers say would help to prevent future wrongful convictions.

More than 50 recommendations were released by the task force about a year ago, though prosecutors and public defenders on the panel had differing views on the final report. Legislation introduced recently in the Ohio Senate includes some of the task force's ideas.

Death penalty opponents want the state to stop executions, opting instead for life sentences without parole for those convicted of heinous crimes.

"... Mistakes have been made to some men waiting on death row," said Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), who has sponsored legislation to end the death penalty. "There is substantial evidence that the death penalty in Ohio is not fair and more often than anyone wants to admit it's not accurate... The challenge to those who want to keep the death penalty is this: fix it or end it."

Short of ending the death penalty, Ohioans to Stop Executions is urging lawmakers to adopt more than dozen reforms outlined by the Supreme Court task force. The list includes electronically recording interrogations, certification requirements for labs that process crime evidence, the creation of a fund to cover the costs of capital litigation, bans on death sentences based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants and requirements that capital sentences include DNA, video-taped confessions or other compelling evidence linking defendants to murders.

"Nobody wants to convict or execute an innocent person ...," said Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "Not only is that an injustice to that innocent person but it leaves real killers out on the street potentially to commit crimes again. So these 13 recommendations directly or indirectly will prevent wrongful convictions and wrongful executions, and they should be passed into law this year."

Former death row inmates whose convictions were later overturned hoped the legislation would serve as starting point for increased public discussions that could lead to the end of capital punishment.

"I wasn't wrongly convicted -- I was deliberately framed," said Kevin Warner, who was sentenced to death for the murders of his daughter and her boyfriend in 1984, then exonerated of the crime and released 6 years later. "... There [are] many problems with the death penalty, and I don't think anybody can fix all of the problems...."

Joe D'Ambrosio spent more than 2 decades behind bars before his exoneration.

"I was never in trouble with the law," he said. "... I'm the most common Joe that there can be. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you or your children or your grandchildren. The system is broken."

(source: Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief----Twinsburg Bulletin)

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

Pharmacists association's policy yet another strike against death penalty

A recent decision by the American Pharmacists Association to discourage its members from assisting in executions should make states such as Ohio that still embrace the death penalty reconsider. It also underscores the error of a recent law in Ohio that shields the identity of pharmacists who prepare death-penalty drugs, contrary to Ohio's open-records law.

The pharmacists group staked its new position after several states, including Ohio, began turning to so-called compounding pharmacies, unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to supply the necessary lethal-injection drugs once provided by manufacturers but now no longer sold by them for such purposes.

The pharmacists association now says it considers participation in executions "fundamentally contrary" to pharmacists' role as health care providers.

"This new policy aligns APhA with the execution policies of other major health care associations including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Board of Anesthesiology," association CEO Thomas Menighan stated last month.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich signed into law last year a measure that allows compounding pharmacies supplying lethal-injection drugs to hide their identities from the public for up to 20 years.

It also protects medical professionals who assist in providing death-penalty drugs, drafting protocols for their use or in carrying out the executions from retribution by their licensing boards.

Yet executions are not medical procedures. They are sentences of death that should be as transparent as any other function of state government.

Ohio's next scheduled execution isn't until January 2016, a date set earlier this year to give the state enough time to procure the necessary lethal-injection drugs. An Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman declined comment on the pharmacists association's action.

Instead of adopting convoluted and unmerited laws to shield the identity of medical professionals who help with executions, Ohio should get rid of the death penalty altogether, as this editorial board long has advocated.

For some, a sentence of life without parole would be as punitive as death, and it would come without the baggage the death penalty places on society, whether it resides in the cost, the fairness -- or, as in the case of pharmacists, expecting those whose training and ethics are all about saving human lives, to be complicit in taking those lives, no matter how despicably those lives were lived.

(source: Editorial, cleveland.com)

TENNESSEE:

24 Years Later, Hamilton County Family Still Waiting for Death Row Justice

Executions in Tennessee are being postponed until lethal injections are aired out in the courts.

There are 3 men on death row from Hamilton County, now 1 victim's family is speaking out.

In 1991 Traci Crozier died from 3rd degree burns that covered her body, after gasoline was thrown into her car and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend Lee Hall.

"I can't call her. Talk to her. Be an aunt. He took everything," said Traci Crozier's sister, Staci Wooten.

It is 2 decades later, Traci's family will never stop missing her, and they are exhausted from Hall's execution date being changed, again.

"He got the electric chair and they should give him the electric chair," said Traci's Uncle Chris Mathis. "Let him see how it feels to burn."

"It shouldn't be 24 years later," said Wooten. "I think he should be electrocuted. And now they're going to give him a choice. My sister didn't get to choose. He set her on fire and burned her alive. She didn't get a choice."

Hall was sentenced to the electric chair, but then was given the choice to have lethal injection.

According to officials with the Federal Public Defenders Office, pharmaceutical manufacturers have made a decision to not be involved in lethal injections, so the department of corrections must find other ways to get these drugs, one that many believe, needs to be aired out in the courts.

While some, believe the death penalty is not the answer, Staci Wooten believes Hall should suffer.

"Until you've lived it, been through it. It was your sister, or daughter, or friend. Don't judge it," she said. "But, if you have just one doubt that they didn't do it. I can understand that. But he admitted to it."

Hall's execution date was set for January of next year, now, Traci's family must continue to wait.

(source: newschannel9.com)

KENTUCKY:

Wrongfully accused and on death row

The only woman to ever be exonerated from death row told her story, Wednesday, April 8 in the O'Donnell Auditorium to make students more aware of their rights and knowledge about the death penalty. The speech was hosted by Young Americans for Liberty.

Telling her story wasn't the only thing she was here at Eastern to do. Sabrina Butler, innocence speaker, says she wants to "spread her message to the world about how the United States has a serious problem with the system."

Butler strives to encourage and educate students and young adults about what really happens in prison and how individuals who have been wrongly convicted have in a way lost their lives.

In 1989, 17-year-old Sabrina Butler was put on trial for capital murder. Her 9-month-old son was found dead, and she tried to revive him by giving him CPR. She was unsure how to do it, so she went to neighbors, who refused to help her.

By the time she arrived at the hospital, doctors did everything they could to try and save her son, but didn't succeed. She went home that night and returned to the hospital the next morning to find police officers further investigating the case. She was asked to go to the station where she was interrogated for 4 hours, eventually being accused of child abuse and neglect.

"The cops told me what I did, they didn't let me tell my story," Butler said.

She spent the next year in jail awaiting trial. Butler was sentenced to prison March 8, 1990, and was told she would be put to death by lethal injection July 2, 1990.

"I think I cried for 2 weeks because I didn't know what to expect. I thought they were coming to kill me," Butler said when the time for her execution was near.

In 1992, Butler's sentence was overturned for misconduct in the autopsy from her son's death. The autopsy gave results that her son had both heart and kidney problems and that was the cause of death.

Butler was found not guilty Dec. 17, 1995 and removed from death row. She remained in civil prison.

"I was unemployed until 2009, because no one wanted to hire someone with a criminal record," Butler said.

In 2009, Mississippi passed a law to pay convicts who were wrongfully charged.

Her case was not expunged until April 2014, and it has been discovered by officials that the state of Mississippi did not have enough money for a more thorough autopsy during the 1st trial. That is the reason why Butler was put on death row.

At 17 years old, Butler did not know how to handle this situation. She admits that she wasn't educated enough to know how to defend herself in court or about dealing with the law. She now travels around the country passing along her story and efforts to try to educate and help young adults when dealing with the law.

The Kentucky Innocence Project provides quality investigative and legal assistance to Kentucky prisoners with provable claims of actual innocence. Investigator Jimmer Dudley attended Butler's presentation and told the audience how important it is to be aware of the death penalty and how the goal of the Kentucky Innocence Project is to release all people who have been wrongfully convicted in the state of Kentucky.

Shekinah Lavalle, an Outreach Coordinator of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, introduced Butler and gave a brief presentation to the audience about the death penalty.

"Life in prison without possible parole is a fine punishment and a good enough penalty and we won't make any mistakes," Lavalle said.

At Eastern, there is a Young Americans for Liberty group centered on encouraging students to take a stand and know their rights when it comes to the law. Sebastian Torres, a sophomore history and political science major from Florida and president of Young Americans for Liberty at Eastern, showed a video before Butler gave her speech, about a young man, Wheldon Angelos, who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana. They showed this video and handed out brochures with the message asking, "Was justice served?"

"The system needs to be changed to where punishment fits the crime," Butler said.

Butler ended her speech by telling the audience that there is nothing that she can do now to change what happened to her, but what she can do is help young Americans all over in educating them on how to deal with the death penalty and the law.

(source: The Eastern Progress)

OKLAHOMA:

Justice isn't served by secrecy about death penalty

A trial judge has allowed Tulsa World's open records lawsuit against Oklahoma Gov. Marry Fallin and Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Tompson to continue. Tulsa World sued the state for refusing to disclose transcripts and emails about the investigation into the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. Almost a year ago, on April 29, 2014, Lockett died of a heart attack caused by experimental lethal injection drugs, not by the lethal injection itself. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "Lockett's pulse had hardly stopped before national condemnation of his execution arose."

Lockett's horrific death was not isolated, as 2014 proved to be the year of gruesome executions. That May, the Supreme Court of Georgia refused to provide Warren Lee Hill with facts about the compound drugs that would be used in his execution, drugs known to cause seizures and blood clots before death. In July, Arizona inmate Joseph Wood gasped for nearly 2 hours before his lethal injection drugs took effect - 13 times longer than the average lethal injection.

Wood's case also marks the 1st time a federal appellate court recognized an inmate's First Amendment right to obtain data about the drugs, processes and personnel involved in an execution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit prevented Wood;s execution. But just 1 day later, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Wood's death to proceed in grisly fashion.

But the dreadful results of the last year are no surprise. Lethal injections are increasingly unsafe. That's partly because the American Board of Anesthesiology, in response to national public opposition to the death penalty, now prohibits its certified members from participating in lethal injections. As a result, the personnel in arguably the best position to ensure a safe execution are wholly absent from the process. During Lockett's execution, for example, underprepared prison officials administering the lethal injection failed to notice signs that the procedure had gone off course. American and European pharmaceutical firms have also reacted to public opposition by refusing to supply well-known and effective drugs. In a bind, states are turning to experimental combinations of substandard drugs manufactured by compounding pharmacies not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to hear the case of Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip. Glossip and other inmates oppose Oklahoma's use of midazolam as an anesthetic. It's the same drug used in the executions of Lockett, Hill and Wood. According to a court record, the FDA doesn't approve of midazolam as an anesthetic because it "cannot maintain a deep, comalike unconsciousness." Oklahoma admits that use of the lethal drugs on a conscious person "would cause intense and needless pain and suffering," but that it chose midazolam "because of availability."

The risks involved in lethal injections threaten inmates' Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Unlike Lockett, Hill, and Wood, Glossip was able to obtain information about his lethal injection drugs and appeal to the highest court for relief from another potentially botched execution.

A First Amendment right of access to this information enables inmates to learn about their impending executions and appeal their cases if they feel their constitutional rights will be violated. This right allows courts to maintain the balance of the scales of justice by ensuring that criminal punishments are carried out in a constitutional way. It also encourages the public to engage in free and full debate about the use of experimental drugs in lethal injections. But a lack of discussion about the risks involved in modern executions eliminates the possibility of finding a solution to the problems posed by the use of compound drugs.

Members of the press have long had a First Amendment right to view executions. But the First Amendment also demands a right of access to information in the government's hands. This right extends to information the government holds about compounding pharmacies and the drugs they manufacture. No matter one’s view about the death penalty, without this right of access to information, justice is not being served.

(source: Emma Morehart is a Senior Research Fellow at the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The views expressed here are her own and do not represent the views of the University of Florida----Tulsa World)

NEBRASKA:

Latest attempt to repeal death penalty in Nebraska may pit Republicans against one another

9 conservative lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of a repeal measure the Nebraska Legislature will begin debating Thursday. One of their key platforms: Repealing the death penalty makes good fiscal sense.

"If capital punishment were any other program that was so inefficient and so costly to the taxpayer, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago," said Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln.

Gov. Pete Ricketts didn't wait for the debate before trying to pre-empt the cost argument. He pointed out that a fiscal analysis attached to Legislative Bill 268 found that the measure would result in no substantial savings.

"The costs of litigating the appeals that are filed in death penalty cases are negligible to the state and in no way offset the death penalty's usefulness in sentencing the worst criminals," Ricketts said Tuesday in his weekly column.

Nonetheless, the fact that 6 conservative Republicans stood side-by-side at a press conference organized by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty underscored that opposition to capital punishment no longer falls solely in the realm of liberal politics.

Supporters of LB 268, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, will probably need at least 33 votes to cut off an expected filibuster. Ricketts also has promised to veto a repeal bill, which the Legislature would need 30 votes to override.

The bill would replace lethal injection with a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for 1st-degree murder. Because the Legislature will be in recess Friday, the death penalty debate will probably carry over into next week.

Also on Wednesday, the ACLU of Nebraska released the results of a poll in which 29.9 % of respondents said the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for those convicted of murder. A total of 58.5 % said they favored some form of life in prison, while 11.6 % said they were unsure.

The poll of 2,129 people with landline home telephones was conducted by Prism Surveys. It had a margin of error of 2.12 %.

As for the bill, death penalty supporters have filed 12 amendments, including 1 by Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion that would replace lethal injection with the firing squad. Kintner said Wednesday that he won't be swayed by fellow Republicans coming out for repeal.

"Liberals spend all kinds of money fighting an execution and then they come back and say the death penalty costs too much," he said.

Marc Hyden is coordinator of the national conservatives group working to repeal the death penalty in other states. He said there are about 2 dozen studies showing that prosecuting and defending capital cases cost substantially more than noncapital cases.

Last year, a study requested by the Kansas Legislature found that trying death penalty cases cost an average of $470,000 versus $121,000 for non-death penalty murder cases.

In 2010, a bill that would have studied the cost of the death penalty in Nebraska was defeated in the Legislature.

Another argument against capital punishment mentioned Wednesday was that Nebraska has not carried out an execution for 18 years, when the method was the electric chair. The state currently has no way to use lethal injection because the necessary drugs have expired and obtaining a new supply has become difficult.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said this week that his staff is working to restore the viability of a lethal injection protocol. He did not, however, predict when executions could resume.

Peterson also released numbers Wednesday from 2003 to 2012 showing that capital punishment cases annually represented no more than 1 % of the criminal appellate caseload for the office. Since 1973, capital cases have usually been assigned to 1 attorney, but no more than 2 lawyers, at any given time.

Sen. Tommy Garrett, a Bellevue Republican, said he believes public money is wasted on pursuing a punishment that research shows does nothing to deter crime. But he also explained that his objections stem from his religious beliefs.

"I may be old-fashioned, but I believe God should be the only one who decides when it is time to call a person home," he said. "The state has no business playing God."

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said he became concerned about the death penalty in the wake of a 2006 double homicide case in Murdock, marked by a false confession and planted DNA evidence. Had the real killers not been found and convicted, Davis said he's convinced that 2 innocent men would be sitting on death row today.

11 men live on Nebraska's death row. One has been there for 35 years.

Chambers lost 1 conservative co-sponsor last month after he made comments comparing police to Islamic terrorists. That prompted speculation about whether the comments might spark a backlash against the repeal bill.

Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, who removed his name from the bill, said Wednesday that he still intends to vote for repeal. Before he began studying the issue as a newly elected state senator, he supported the death penalty. But he's now convinced that executing inmates costs more than keeping them in prison.

That's not to say he is any less disturbed by Chambers' anti-police statements.

"You have to do what you think is right," Lindstrom said. "You have to look at the bill itself, not who brought the bill."

(source: omaha.com)

ARIZONA:

Prosecutor: Man accused of killing 6-year-old wasn't insane

A prosecutor urged jurors Wednesday to reject an insanity defense from a Phoenix man charged with killing his brother over a drug dispute and then gunning down a witness - the brother's 6-year-old son.

The defense, meanwhile, maintained the normally upbeat college student was having a break with reality at the time, after shaving his head and acting erratically for weeks.

Christopher Rey Licon, 24, claims to have had a psychotic episode in December 2010 when his half brother Angel Jaquez and nephew Xavier Jaquez both were shot in the back of the head.

Sanitation workers doing garbage pickup found the child's body in an alley.

Prosecutor Laura Reckart said Licon was well aware of his actions when he carried out the killings and took steps to protect himself, such as breaking into an apartment where a handgun used in the crimes was stashed.

"These were the actions of a man who was doing damage control," the prosecutor said during opening statements at Licon's trial.

At the time of the deaths, Licon was a construction management student at Arizona State University and allegedly had an illegal drug business with Jaquez.

Authorities say Licon shot his half brother in the back of the head as Jaquez watched TV at their Phoenix townhome. Xavier also was in the home and likely was killed because he either saw or heard his father get shot, investigators said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Licon's lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have it taken off the table due to the mental illness they say he had at the time.

Defense attorney James Wilson told jurors that Licon's psychological condition was deteriorating in the weeks before the killings. His erratic behavior, including shaving his head, concerned relatives, Wilson said.

Licon's family members will testify it was bizarre for him to appear emotionless after the two deaths, because he's usually an outgoing person. "He was always wearing his emotions on his sleeve," Wilson said.

Licon told investigators he was studying at a Tempe library when his half brother was killed, and he came home to find his body on a sofa. But authorities said Licon's alibi quickly collapsed after they interviewed neighbors and gathered other evidence.

Investigators said 2 key pieces of evidence were found inside the car Licon used to bring the boy to the alley: a 9 mm bullet casing that matched a casing found at the townhome and a toy from a Burger King kid's meal.

Xavier' was found in the alley next to a Burger King kid's meal that was missing its toy.

Prosecutors say Licon acknowledged selling drugs in the months preceding both deaths.

Authorities also say that while in jail awaiting trial, Licon told his cellmate he shot Jaquez in anger during a fight over drug profits. Police say they found drugs in a cupboard at the brothers' home.

Licon's attorneys have questioned the credibility of the cellmate, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to abusing his 2-year-old son.

They also say there were no signs of bad blood between the brothers, and there was no evidence Xavier witnessed his father's death.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Dial Eme For Murder: How Prosecutors Teamed With Mexican Mafia In Death Penalty Case----Prosecutor Wagner defending questionable DA moves in pending death penalty case

It's odd when both the Mexican Mafia and the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) want the same guy dead. It's remarkable when 2 assumed-enemy outfits work together to achieve a mutual goal. But that is what happened to Anthony R. Navarro Jr.

The Mexican Mafia put Navarro on its "hard candy list," marking him for death. OCDA simultaneously worked to hand him capital punishment. In the process, a church-going prosecutor and an unsavory disciple of Eme bosses collaborated in a Santa Ana courtroom. As a result, Navarro today sits on San Quentin State Prison's death row.

The 48-year-old hoodlum admits he's no angel. At the age of 12, he became a gangster, 2 years later landing in the California Youth Authority for manslaughter. He inked his body with underworld tattoos, took the moniker "Droopy" and became a leader of the Pacoima Flats Gang in the San Fernando Valley. During a prison stint for robbery, the smooth-talking car enthusiast, small-time methamphetamine dealer and $19-per-hour Warner Bros. studio extra won prized Mexican Mafia associate status.

But troubling issues linger about the 2007 trial in which a jury convicted Navarro of ordering the murder of David Montemayor, a Buena Park man who ran a trucking company. It's possible he is guilty; prosecutor Dan Wagner gathered weighty circumstantial evidence. But Navarro could be innocent; the government's case was hardly airtight. It is certain, however, the prosecution team cheated.

The trouble for Wagner begins with a question: Does it make sense for Navarro to alert cops of a pending hit he was orchestrating and supposedly would later execute?

Long before Montemayor's Oct. 2, 2002, killing near Knott's Berry Farm, Navarro reached out to Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent James Starkey and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer Rod Rodriguez. He relayed sketchy information: A woman tied to the Mexican Mafia wanted a crew to kidnap or kill a man in Orange County. The officers asked for the target's identity. Navarro didn't know the man's name, so no investigation resulted. Navarro claims he was in Las Vegas while Pacoima Flats Gang soldiers--Armando Macias, Alberto Martinez and Gerardo Lopez--took Montemayor's life.

At trial, Wagner ridiculed Navarro's law-enforcement calls as a ploy to deflect culpability. Yet the defendant's police ties weren't imaginary: The FBI was the first agency to recruit Navarro as a confidential informant in 2000. Records hail his contributions. He described Mexican Mafia hierarchies; provided intelligence about gun and dope sales; helped agents hunt an Israeli mobster; and thwarted five murder plots, including one against an LAPD officer.

Navarro also exhibited bravery. For the FBI's San Diego branch, he took an "extremely dangerous" mission to infiltrate Tijuana's lethal Arellano-Felix Cartel. For the agency's LA bureau, he supplied Mexican Mafia bosses with vehicles equipped with surveillance devices. He attended Eme meetings wearing a tiny camera embedded in his shirt and carrying a doctored pager that transmitted audio after batteries had been removed.

Navarro's reward? Cops ignored his petty dope deals, saved him from a weapons-possession case and paid his government-housing rent. In 2001, his compensation totaled $30,000. Navarro's lawyer, H. Russell Halpern, asked his clients' FBI handler, Curran Thomerson, if the agency got its money's worth--to which Thomerson replied, "Yeah."

Appreciative police outside of Orange County argued that if guilty in the Montemayor case, Navarro deserved nothing worse than life in prison without parole. But Wagner wanted his first death-penalty win. The strength of his case rested on cellphone records that seemingly link the killers to Navarro before, during and after the crime. The defendant admitted ties to the incriminating number, but he said he'd stopped using that particular gang phone weeks before the murder.

The prosecutor called Pico Rivera resident Edelmira Corona as his star witness. Corona worked for Montemayor and his sister Deborah Perna, who allegedly wanted to take over the family business. After her arrest in connection with the murder, she told police Perna sought people willing to kill her brother. So Corona contacted her drug dealer: Navarro. Sometime between April and June 2002, she handed him a note with Montemayor's address. For nearly 5 months, the plot remained idle, except Navarro tipped his ATF and LAPD handlers.

Meanwhile, Corona repeatedly visited Pelican Bay State Prison to meet Mexican Mafia leadership as a gang courier, according to court records. Under oath, the woman denied the observation, saying she had no clue her friends were gangsters and describing their relationships as "pen pals." Wagner accepted her claim that contacts with Eme bosses were coincidental to the murder. He gave her a sweetheart, 14-year term in exchange for fingering Perna and Navarro.

But Corona had no credibility. On the stand, she told wild tales and, during cross-examination by Halpern, confessed she was a prolific liar. She couldn't explain her frequent trips throughout the United States and Mexico on a pretax income of $200 per week. She gave implausible stories about meetings with Navarro. You have to wonder if Corona even needed him to carry out the crime; one of her sex partners, Macias, gunned down Montemayor.

Yet Wagner maintained the fibber was Navarro, who testified he couldn't have ordered the hit because the gang soldiers were under orders to kill him for being a snitch. In the weeks after the murder, Navarro deposited money into his co-defendants' jail-commissary accounts. The prosecutor saw the transactions as proof he was "very friendly" with the killers. Navarro insisted the funds were meant to avert his demise.

Before a February 2003 pretrial hearing, Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies learned the co-defendants wanted Navarro dead and later said they accidentally placed the four men--Navarro being the only one restricted by body chains--in the same cell. Montemayor's unshackled killers slammed shanks into Droopy's body 10 or 11 times while calling him "a rat." Miraculously, he survived.

The attack didn't dissuade the deputy DA from mocking the defendant's kill list claim. Cops know mob leadership must approve execution of another high-ranking hoodlum. But Wagner wanted no Mexican Mafia ties to his case. His theory? The soldiers must have been angry Navarro tricked them into believing the gang ordered Montemayor's hit and took it upon themselves to stab him.

Fate didn't aid Wagner's cause. A Sept. 23, 2007, raid on Martinez's jail cell recovered Eme's "hard candy list" wrapped around a large shank. The gang document demanded Navarro's death.

The law requires prosecution teams to surrender crucial evidence to the defense, but that's not what happened. 2 days after the raid and in front of jurors, Wagner lampooned the notion the Mexican Mafia wanted Navarro killed. In his closing arguments on Oct. 15--22 days after the raid--he called the defense stance "ridiculous." Another month lapsed with the government continuing to hide the evidence. That's when a jury of 7 men and 5 women wrongly believed it fully understood the case and sent Navarro to death row.

Nowadays, Wagner says he can't remember how he undermined the defense. But the duplicity didn't stop with Navarro. Seth Tunstall, who took possession of Martinez's hit list, is the same deputy a judge blasted in March for hiding evidence and committing perjury in Wagner's current death-penalty case: People v. Scott Dekraai. OCDA hasn't filed charges. In fact, court records show prosecutors continue to work closely with Tunstall, a signal that recent reform proclamations by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas are a sham.

(source: Orange County Register)

WASHINGTON:

Carnation murderer details killings for jury deciding his fate

Convicted killer Joseph McEnroe spent the entire day on the witness stand Wednesday describing how he and his girlfriend murdered 6 members of her family on Christmas Eve 2007 in Carnation. The jury that convicted McEnroe is now deciding whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison or get the death penalty.

Prosecutor Scott O'Toole went step by step through the killings, pushing McEnroe to describe each one and the role he played. O'Toole tried to point out the numerous opportunities that McEnroe had to prevent the murders.

The details were so chilling, friends and family of the victims in the courtroom were visibly upset.

McEnroe said Erica and Scott Anderson did what they could to protect their children.

"Erica and Scott were very heroic," he told the jury. "Erica at the end was like, you don't have to do it."

McEnroe and the prosecutor battled over what could be heard on a 911 tape that was played. During the killings, a wounded Erica Anderson called 911. The prosecutor and McEnroe disagreed about what could be heard during the brief call.

"Erica Anderson screamed 'no, not the kids, no' correct?" O'Toole asked.

"That's not what it sounded like to me on the replay. I don't remember her screaming that," McEnroe responded.

McEnroe sat through the disturbing call a 2nd time, but maintained he didn't remember hearing Erica Anderson beg for her children's lives. McEnroe will return to the stand Thursday morning.

(source: KING news)

USA:

ICYMI: Sister of Marathon Bomber Victim Opposes Death Penalty----Jennifer L. Lemmerman wrote that her brother's murder only strengthened her principles against capital punishment.

As the April 21 start date for the penalty phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial looms, one individual with a singular perspective on the tragedy has advocated for Tsarnaev to spend the rest of his life in a jail cell, instead of being put to death.

"Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed," wrote Jennifer L. Lemmerman, sister of late Somerville police officer Sean Collier in a since-removed Facebook post, according to the Boston Globe.

"I've been given that horrible perspective, and I can say that my position has only strengthened."

Last week, Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 counts related to the infamous 2013 attack, including Collier's murder. Collier was killed in Cambridge 4 days after the bombing, while Tsarnaev and older brother Tamerlan were on the run from authorities.

Collier was working as an MIT patrol officer at the time, and was posthumously sworn into the Somerville Police Department.

Along with the reported majority of Massachusetts residents, Lemmerman - who serves as an alderman in Melrose - would receive little satisfaction from Tsarnaev's demise.

"I can't imagine I'll ever forgive him for what he did to my brother, to my family, and I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life, whether he is on this earth or not," she wrote.

"But I also can't imagine that killing in response to killing would ever bring me peace or justice. Just my perspective, but enough is enough. I choose to remember Sean for the light that he brought. No more darkness."

(source: patch.com)

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

Death penalty only fuels a cycle of violence

Nearly 2 years after the Boston Marathon Bombings, a tragic murder that stole the lives of 3 people and injured more than 260, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 charges brought against him. Among the charges: murder and use of a weapon of mass destruction.

With the guilty verdict out of the way, no one expected the jury to find Tsarnaev innocent, the jury now moves to the next phase of the trial. The panel of 12 will decide whether to sentence the then 19-year-old to death. If I were on that panel, Tsarnaev would live out the rest of his days in a cell.

The death penalty accomplishes nothing, save for fueling a cycle of violence and hatred. While it might satisfy those directly affected by the person to be put to death, the positives of execution stop there. The only thing gained from the death penalty is revenge.

What difference does it make if Tsarnaev is dead or behind bars? Either way he'd never be seen again in the world outside of prison. He might as well be dead to the common person, as time will do what time does and soften our powerful memories and emotions the thought of Tsarnaev and the bombings bring. To those directly affected by the bombings, leaving Tsarnaev alive and in a cell gives them a chance to let go of their very understandable anger and hatred in a positive way. Having the young man killed by lethal injection will not bring back all they've lost.

In an ideal world, spending years behind bars changes who Tsarnaev is as a person. He may learn to feel sorrow for the heinous crimes he committed, making peace with himself and perhaps even earning forgiveness in the eyes of the people he attacked. While he may never truly seek forgiveness, there is no reason not to at least give him a chance to. Ending his life removes all possibility of forgiveness.

If one argues in favor of the death penalty because death is the ultimate punish, I'd argue that death pales in comparison to life in prison. The thought of spending each day, for years on end, doing nothing but thinking about the crime that put you in a cell is terrifying. The 18th century Italian philosopher Cesera Beccaria puts it best when he wrote in his book 'On Crimes and Punishments', "It is not the terrible yet momentary spectacle of the death of a wretch, but the long and painful example of a man deprived of liberty, who, having become a beast of burden, recompenses with his labors the society he has offended, which is the strongest curb against crime."

Disagreeing with an 18th century philosopher is easy, but it's a little tougher to say you disagree with the arguments of Gandhi. Perhaps his most famous quote, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," serves perfectly as another argument against the death penalty. If everyone returned violence with violence, there would be no peace.

I use Tsarnaev's case often when debating the death penalty because it showcases a truly evil crime. No matter how he tried to justify it, Tsarnaev killed 3 people and attempted to instill fear in the hearts of millions. It's hard to imagine a more horrific crime, but no one has the right to take another person's life. Even if that person took the lives of others.

(source: Tyler Kelbaugh, The (East Carolina University) East Carolinian)

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

Aurora Theater Shooting Jurors Include Columbine Survivor

A union plumber, a schoolteacher and a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre were among the 19 women and 5 men chosen as jurors in the death penalty trial of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.

The 12 jurors and 12 alternates were picked Tuesday after a selection process that began Jan. 20 and was among the largest and most complicated in U.S. history, experts said.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in the July 2012 attack in suburban Denver. His attorneys don't dispute that he pulled the trigger but say he was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he slipped into the packed movie theater and opened fire.

Jurors will decide whether he was legally insane at the time. If they find him guilty, they must also decide whether he should be put to death or sentenced to life in prison without parole.

THE JURORS

All 24 will sit through the entire trial. Neither the group nor the public will know who is a primary juror and who is an alternate until the case is handed over for deliberations.

The jury also includes a Denver Public Schools employee, a person with depression and a businesswoman who cares for her elderly parents.

LINE OF QUESTIONING

Attorneys on Tuesday questioned the 93 remaining jurors about their interpretations of the law, how they would gauge witnesses' and experts' credibility, and whether they could handle serving on such a high-profile trial.

District Attorney George Brauchler characterized it as a "4- to 5-month roller coaster through the worst haunted house you can imagine."

He asked prospective jurors if they could serve even if they hear no evidence of a motive because prosecutors are required to prove only the 165 charges against Holmes - not why they believe he committed the crimes.

Holmes' attorney, Tamara Brady, focused on perceptions of Holmes and whether the candidates could be objective given the litany of charges against him and the public scrutiny they will face. She asked how they felt listening for nearly 2 hours as Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. read the charges, including each victim's name. She wondered if prospective jurors would be too sympathetic to survivors.

She said she was nervous "about whether Mr. Holmes can get a fair trial in this case or whether it's just too big."

JUROR CONCERNS

Potential jurors told attorneys they worry about what their neighbors might think if they reach an unpopular verdict and whether reporters would harass their families.

One man said he was reassured when the judge told him steps were taken to shield his identity. And many pledged they would not let their decision-making be influenced by concern about what others think.

Other candidates expressed trepidation about hearing graphic testimony and perhaps being overwhelmed by emotion.

WHAT'S TAKEN SO LONG?

Some prospective jurors have asked the judge why it has taken nearly 3 years for the case to come to trial.

Samour has said it's not an unusual amount of time for a trial this complex. The death penalty and insanity plea introduced complicated and time-consuming legal requirements.

After nearly 3 months, and almost 3 years since the mass shooting, the jurors were chosen from among hundreds who filled out written questionnaires, then returned for 1-on-1 sessions, where they were questioned about their views on the death penalty and mental illness. Court officials initially summoned an unprecedented 9,000 people.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER LARGE TRIALS?

In the amount of time it has taken so far in Colorado, federal jurors in Boston have convicted marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev's admission that he participated in the April 2013 bombings and that his brother, Tamerlan, was the mastermind accelerated the case.

The Texas trial for the killer of a former Navy SEAL depicted in the movie "American Sniper" was complicated by publicity about the film. But jury selection moved quickly because it didn't involve concerns about the large number of people affected by the crime.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The Colorado jurors will report to court April 27 for opening statements.

(source: Associated Press)

SINGAPORE:

Man charged with brother's murder

Singaporeans were charged with murder in 2 separate cases at the State Courts on Wednesday (April 15).

Ng Yao Wei, 21, was charged with murdering his brother Ng Yao Cheng, 26, at about 10.55pm on Monday at their Choa Chu Kang condominium home.

The younger Ng, who reportedly graduated from a polytechnic recently, had apparently killed his brother after an argument.

In a separate case, Pua Hak Chuan, 35, and Tan Hui Zhen, 31, also face the death penalty if they are convicted of murder.

The pair are accused of killing Annie Ee Yu Lian in a flat in Woodlands Avenue 9 at about 9.38am on Monday. Ee, who was 26 and worked as a waitress at Causeway Point, was found dead in the 3rd-floor flat that the 3 of them are believed to have shared.

(source: channelnewsasia)

INDONESIA:

Govt urged to end death penalty following Saudi execution

The execution of Siti Zaenab, a domestic worker convicted of killing her employer in Saudi Arabia, should become the point at which the Indonesian government ends the death penalty, says an NGO advocating for the rights of Indonesian workers abroad.

Migrant Care said preserving the death penalty had led the government to lose its moral legitimacy to push other countries to release Indonesian citizens on death row.

"This [an end to the death penalty] would be an initial step to urge other countries not to apply the death penalty for Indonesian migrant workers," it said.

According to the NGO's data, 290 migrant workers working in 5 countries, namely China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Qatar, are involved in legal problems and facing the threat of capital punishment. Of the total, 59 cases have reached a final verdict.

"We are urging the Indonesian government to condemn Saudi Arabia," Migrant Care said in a press release on Wednesday.As a protest, she said, the Indonesian government must declare the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Indonesia persona non grata for the country's failure to notify Indonesian authorities before the execution of Siti Zaenab.

Siti Zaenab was beheaded by Saudi authorities at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday in Madina, Saudi Arabia.

Migrant Care said the execution was a serious human rights violation as the right to life of every human must be guaranteed. Moreover, Siti Zaenab killed her employer in self defense following the torture she had often received in the 2nd year of her contract. Siti Zaenab had told her family about the torture in her letters home.

Migrant Care said Siti Zaenab's execution violated the Vienna Convention and diplomatic ethics as the Saudi Arabia government carried out the execution without first notifying Indonesian representatives in the country.

"The government must improve its diplomacy in defending Indonesians threatened with execution abroad," it said, adding that Indonesia must continue its moratorium on the dispatch of migrant workers to Saudi Arabia.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

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

Jakarta faces new death penalty outrage

Indonesian officials are defending their position on the death penalty as they try to quell anger over the execution of an Indonesian woman in Saudi Arabia.

It comes as Jakarta readies to execute 10 people, including Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, whose Bali Nine smuggling plot was foiled 10 years ago on Friday.

Siti Zaenab's beheading on Tuesday has Jakarta facing renewed accusations of double standards.

Jakarta has protested Saudi Arabia's failure to give notice of its execution of the domestic worker, who it's believed was suffering from a mental illness when she killed her employer in self-defence in 1999.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir says it wasn't the punishment, but the lack of warning they protested.

Mr Nasir last month said the matter of Chan and Sukumaran was "not a matter of negotiation," after turning down a prisoner exchange deal.

On Thursday however, he detailed at length the efforts Indonesia had taken to save Ms Siti's life, which included 100 measures since 1999.

"Routinely we went there, trying to communicate, to persuade the family," Mr Nasir said.

"We also offered diyat (blood money).

"But if we offer and they still refuse, still don't want to give a number, how can we force them?"

Human rights advocates fear that with its practice of executions - 6 people went to the firing squad in January - Jakarta has lost its moral standing to save 229 citizens on death row overseas.

Haris Azhar, of rights group Kontras, paid his respects to Ms Siti's grieving family.

But he added there was an element of "karma" for the Indonesian government.

"They've failed to protect the right to live and so, its citizen received this karma," he said.

"Not only the right to live, even the right to information has been ignored by the Indonesian government, and now, Saudi Arabia did not give procedural rights to the Indonesian government.

"It's very saddening. I think it's time for the Foreign Minister, Ms Retno, the president and all involved in this to evaluate themselves."

Al Araf, of rights group Imparsial, agreed Ms Siti's death should force the government into a rethink.

"The president should also be able to make a correction due to these political dynamics domestically and abroad," he said.

Mr Nasir says Indonesia merely works within the legal frameworks at home and overseas.

"We're implementing our laws and we are adhering to our constitution, we have to protect our citizens abroad."

No date has been set for Chan and Sukumaran's execution by firing squad, but authorities have said it could happen later this month.

(source: AAP)

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

Bali 9 appeal: lawyer to push ahead with Constitutional Court challenge

The Indonesian lawyer for the Bali 9 men on death row has vowed to push ahead with a Constitutional Court challenge even if the 2 Australians are executed.

However Professor Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent human rights lawyer in Indonesia, said he had asked Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo to respect the legal process and not proceed with the executions until the outcome of the challenge was known.

He had requested to meet the Attorney-General but had been told he was too busy.

Profesor Mulya said constitutional court rulings were usually not retrospective and therefore would not directly affect Chan and Sukumaran's case.

"But we are talking about the life of people. If we ignore that it would be degrading the spirit of human rights."

Professor Mulya said the Attorney-General's spokesman, Tony Spontana, had told the media the executions would take place after the Asian-African conference, to be held in Indonesia from April 19 until April 24.

"Whether it's true or not only God knows because they keep saying over and over they will do the executions but they keep changing their position."

Professor Mulya said Chan and Sukumaran were the first people he had represented who were facing the death penalty.

He admitted to being shocked when President Joko Widodo rejected their clemency pleas in January without giving any reasons.

"Why am I pushing so hard [to fight their case]?" an impassioned Professor Mulya asked at a press conference on the constitutional court challenge.

"If I was in the shoes of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran I would want the right to know why my clemency had been rejected. This is not only for these 2 young men it's for others who deserve to know the grounds. This is for the constitutional process in Indonesia. We have to give reasons. We have to make it more humane. Clemency rejection is not about dehumanisation."

Chan and Sukumaran's legal team is asking the Constitutional Court to specify that the president must give reasons for clemency rejections under the clemency law.

The court action is being undertaken in conjunction with Indonesian human rights Organisations Kontras, Imparsial and Inisiator Muda.

Kontras spokesman Haris Azhar questioned why Indonesia was so eager to execute people.

He criticized the blanket rejection of the clemency pleas of drug felons,saying each of the 10 immediately facing the firing squad had individual cases that should be considered.

"We don't want to have the president making decisions as if he was committing genocide," Mr Haris said.

He also accused authorities of being secretive when it came to the death penalty.

Kontras was told by the Attorney General's office it could not have a list of those on death row because it was "classified" and death penalty cases could no longer be accessed on the Supreme Court website.

"I think people should be given the biggest opportunity to defend their lives. Unlike what we have today where information is not easy to get."

The press conference comes as Indonesian human rights group Migrant Care called on Indonesia to abolish capital punishment in the wake of the shock beheading of Indonesian maid Siti Zaenab in Saudi Arabia.

Zaenab, who had a suspected mental illness, was