and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

MAY 29, 2015:

TEXAS:

Court to hear father's appeal in girl's killing

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consider an appeal from an East Texas man on death row for the 2002 slaying of his 2-year-old daughter.

Attorneys for Robert Roberson III, 48, say his rights were violated when his trial judge in Palesltine refused to allow testimony from a neurologist. They contend the physician would have said that Roberson didn't deliberately kill Nikki Curtis.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Prosecutors won't seek death penalty in 'Top Model' killings

Prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty against Emmanuel Rangel and 3 other defendants accused in 4 killings in February.

Emmanuel Rangel is charged with 4 counts of murder, including the shooting of America's Next Top Model, Mirjana Puhar, who was found dead in a north Charlotte home along with 2 men, who were also shot.

Rangel was charged with the shooting of 2 men in the parking lot of a Microtel Inn in Matthews. 1 of those 2 men later died.

Authorities said the triple murder was a dispute over drugs and that Rangel knew the victims.

Edward Sanchez and David Lopez will also not face the death penalty. Both have been charged with murder. The final defendant, Emily Isaacs, was charged with being an accessory after the fact to 1st-degree murder.

Prosecutors did not say why they took the death penalty off the table.

(source: WCNC news)

ALABAMA:

Keaton could face death penalty in deaths of kids

The sentencing phase of the Heather Keaton's capital murder trial got under way Thursday with the prosecution trying to convince the jury to recommend the death penalty for Keaton, and the defense arguing for life in prison without parole.

On Wednesday, the jury reached a mixed verdict in the trial.

The jurors found Keaton guilty of 1 of 3 counts of capital murder in the killing of Jonathan DeBlase. The jury found Keaton guilty of manslaughter in the death of Natalie DeBlase, and not guilty on the 3rd count, which was murder of 2 or more individuals in the same course of conduct.

District Ashley Rich told the jurors she expected the evidence presented during this phase of the trial would show the crime Keaton committed in killing Jonathan DeBlase was "heinous, atrocious, and cruel as compared to other capital offense."

Rich said this was the only requirement the state must prove in order for the jury to return a recommendation of the death penalty.

Rich's opening statement pointed out that Jonathan was duct taped with a sock in his month and poisoned with antifreeze prior to this death, which Rich said meets the requirements of "heinous, atrocious, and cruel."

During Thursday's proceedings, John DeBlase was brought into the courtroom in shackles prior to the jury coming in and offered immunity by District Attorney Ashley Rich in any future trials or appeals in exchange for his testimony.

After being questioned by Judge Stout as to whether or not he understood what was being asked of him Deblase was then asked to answer. DeBlase responded, "Under the advice from my attorney's in Montgomery and my attorney here, I exercise my 5th Amendment right."

He was then led from the courtroom.

Defense attorney Greg Hughes told the jurors they would be asked to consider a number of mitigating circumstances during this phase of the trial. Hughes said Keaton acted under extreme duress and mental distress.

He said she was under the domination of John DeBlase who committed the crimes, saying Keaton's part was "minor". The defense lawyer said all of the mitigating circumstances should lead the jurors to recommend life in prison without parole.

(source: WALA news)

LOUISIANA:

Seabaugh drops death penalty bill in lieu of study

A bill Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, put forth to strip the Louisiana Public Defender Board of the oversight of death penalty cases has been pulled in lieu of a study on the state's indigent defense board.

E. Pete Adams, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association executive director, said House Concurrent Resolution 196 is replacing House Bill 605 which faced strong opposition the 1st time it went before the house judiciary committee.

"The purpose of this is to study the issues that we have raised to you and to have that study done by somebody that is objective. It is not to make any changes. It's to study and to make recommendations to you if those recommendations are merited," Adams said to the judiciary committee Thursday.

Seabaugh will handle the concurrent resolution, which passed the committee with numerous amendments, on the House floor. The representative has accused the public defender board of being anti-death penalty crusaders using the state's money to drag out death penalty cases.

Adams said he resolution is the result of a compromise between the supporters and some proponents of House Bill 605, which includes State Public Defender Jay Dixon.

It authorizes the creation of the Indigent Defense Review Committee. The committee will study the composition of the Louisiana Public Defender Board in regards to potential conflicts of interests, the board's fiduciary responsibilities to the state, fiscal priorities in relation to its mission and constitutionally required standards.

Like the bill, the study also has opposition.

Derwyn Bunton, Orleans Public Defenders Office's chief district defender, said he was structurally opposed to the resolution and called it unfair. He said there's no evidence of poor service or a violation of ethics by the public defender board.

Passing the resolution leaves the impression that Louisiana is hostile to a fair system, he said.

"The nation is watching," Bunton said.

(source: Shreveport Times)

INDIANA:

Lawyers expected in court for Indiana man accused in deaths of 2 women, suspected in 5 others

Attorneys in the case of a northwest Indiana man charged with strangling 2 women and suspected of killing 5 others are due in court.

Judge Diane Boswell could set a trial date on Friday for Darren Vann. He may face the death penalty if he's convicted in the deaths of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy and 35-year-old Anith Jones.

Police have said Vann confessed to having killed seven women whose remains were found in October, but so far he's only been charged in 2 deaths.

Lake County prosecutors filed the death penalty request in April.

Hardy was found strangled in a Hammond motel on Oct. 17. While being questioned by police in her death, Vann led investigators to the bodies of Jones and 5 other women in abandoned homes scattered across Gary.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska just banned the death penalty, but opponents say the fight isn't over. What happens next?

On Wednesday, Nebraska became the 1st state in 2 years to abolish the death penalty. Lawmakers narrowly voted to override a veto from the governor, deciding by a single vote to make Nebraska the 19th state in the country without capital punishment.

For opponents of capital punishment, the bill's passage offered a moment of relief after a long, emotional debate. But people who wanted the death penalty to remain the law of the land in Nebraska say the argument is far from over.

"Those of us that fought very hard to keep the death penalty in place in Nebraska are disappointed, but we know this is just the beginning of another long discussion and a continued long discussion about this issue in our state," state Sen. Beau McCoy said in an interview after the override vote Wednesday.

McCoy says he and other opponents of the bill are hoping to get the issue onto the ballot next year. Meanwhile, there is the question of what happens to the inmates currently on death row, as another high-ranking Nebraska official has vowed to fight a part of the bill that deals with those men.

What happens to death row inmates when there is no more death row?

First, it is important to note that the death penalty repeal bill did not automatically go into effect on Wednesday. Bills in Nebraska go into effect 3 months after the legislature adjourns. The last day on the session's calendar is June 5 - the end of next week - so if the legislature sticks to that schedule, the bill would go into effect in early September.

But if the law does go into effect (more on that below), the state still has 10 inmates on death row. There were 11 inmates when the legislature passed that bill last week, but the state Department of Corrections said that an inmate died Sunday.

The new bill states that these inmates will instead be given life sentences. The law says that in any case in which "the death penalty has been imposed but not carried out" before the repeal goes into effect, deaths sentence are converted to life in prison.

However, the state appears ready to fight this particular part of the new law. Doug Peterson, the state's attorney general and an outspoken critic of repealing the death penalty, said Thursday that he will challenge attempts to alter these sentences.

Peterson's office said in a statement that it believes this section of the law is unconstitutional, arguing that only the state's Board of Pardons can change court-imposed sentences.

"Thus, the Attorney General intends to seek a court decision, at the appropriate time, to definitively resolve the issue of the State's authority to carry out the death sentences previously ordered by Nebraska's courts for the 10 inmates now on death row," his office said.

What have other states done to death row inmates after abolishing the death penalty?

Nebraska is the 7th state in the country to abolish the death penalty in the plast decade. Different states have handled this issue in various ways recently.

In 2013, Maryland abandoned capital punishment, but that did not apply to the 5 prisoners on the state's death row at the time (1 of whom later died of natural causes). Late last year, as then-Gov. Martin O'Malley prepared to leave office, he said he would commute the sentences of the 4 remaining inmates, eventually giving them sentences of life in prison without parole.

Similarly, when Connecticut (in 2012) and New Mexico (in 2009) outlawed the death penalty, they did not apply that to the people already on death row. And a Connecticut jury sentenced a man to death there last year for a killing committed before the death penalty was banned.

Meanwhile, when Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn also announced he was commuting the sentences of the state's death-row inmates and sentencing them to life imprisonment without parole. New Jersey's then governor, Jon Corzine, did the same thing in 2007, signing a bill repealing the death penalty and then commuting the state's 8 death-row inmates.

In New York, the issue was resolved by the courts. The New York Court of Appeals effectively suspended the death penalty in 2004, and the same court threw out the sentence of the last inmate on death row in 2007.

How supporters of capital punishment in Nebraska could get this issue onto a ballot

In Nebraska, while the attorney general said he will fight one portion of the law, other opponents are looking at how to undo the entire thing. Shortly after the vote on Wednesday, McCoy said he was forming of a group called Nebraskans for Justice, which is aimed at putting the death penalty issue before voters next year.

"I have heard from an enormous number of Nebraskans ... that are reaching out to help, offering to send money in order to help with this effort, who want to put this to a vote of the people, so Nebraskans as a whole have an opportunity to weigh in on this issue," said McCoy, a Republican who represents part of Douglas County, the state's largest county.

McCoy said his group would spend the coming weeks organizing and figuring out how, precisely, to go about this task. That will involve meeting with community groups and civic leaders as well as other Nebraska residents.

Nebraska has some very recent experience with pushing high-profile issues onto the ballot. Last year, supporters of a statewide minimum wage increase were able to get that topic before voters in the general election, and the measure passed.

To get a referendum on the ballot in Nebraska, supporters need to have a certain number of signatures depending on what, precisely, they are trying to do. A referendum suspending a law from taking effect requires the signatures of 10 % of registered voters, according to the office of John Gale, the Nebraska secretary of state. However, a referendum aimed at repealing the law, rather than suspending it, would take 5 % of these voters.

People who want to repeal the new bill also have a limited window to act, because they need to submit signatures within 90 days of the close of the legislative session (before the law goes into effect, basically). If they get enough signatures, the referendum can appear on the ballot during the general election in November 2016.

Referendums can only be used to repeal laws passed by the legislature during the most recent session. If proponents of capital punishment want to amend the state's constitution, that would require 10 % of registered voters, while an entirely new law would require 7 % of these voters. These options would allow more time, because signatures have to be submitted only in July 2016.

(source: Washington Post)

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

Nebraska AG: Death Penalty Repeal is Unconstitutional

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson added a new twist to the state legislatures decision to abolish the death penalty. Peterson said Thursday that it's his opinion that part of the law is unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, the legislature overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto on repealing the death penalty by a 30-19 vote. 30 votes were needed to override his veto.

Now, the attorney general is questioning a part of the bill where it says, "It is the intent of the Legislature that in any criminal proceeding in which the death penalty has been imposed but not carried out prior to the effective date of this act, such penalty shall be changed to life in prison." In a statement Peterson said, "We believe this stated intent is unconstitutional."

He said the state constitution reserves to the Board of Pardons the exclusive power to change final sentences imposed by the courts. He will seek a court decision to definitively resolve the issue of the state's authority to carry out the death sentences previously ordered by Nebraska’s courts for the 10 men currently on death row.

(source: WOWT news)

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

Capital punishment backers consider options for putting death penalty issue before Nebraska voters

Supporters of capital punishment moved immediately after Wednesday's vote to begin exploring how to put the issue of the death penalty before Nebraska voters.

State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha announced the formation of a group called "Nebraskans for Justice" that will look at gathering signatures for a voter referendum on the repeal law, or a ballot issue to enact a new law permitting capital punishment.

"My phone and email have been jammed the last couple of hours with people who want to help," McCoy said after the vote.

Nebraskans, he said, have already offered to work and donate money to such an effort.

"They want to weigh in on this issue, and I think they're going to get that opportunity," McCoy said.

The repeal of Nebraska's death penalty won't go into effect for 90 days, and supporters of capital punishment have at least 2 or 3 options.

One is a referendum petition.

Under the state constitution, if a group can collect signatures of 10 % of the state's registered voters within 90 days after the end of a legislative session, implementation of the new law is put on hold.

Voters would then decide the fate of the repeal law in a referendum during the next general election in 2016.

About 115,000 signatures would be required to put the repeal law on hold.

That would compare with the 134,899 signatures gathered over about 6 weeks last summer during a well-financed, successful effort to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska.

A 2nd option would be to gather signatures to force a referendum in 2016 without suspending the law. That would require fewer signatures: 5 percent of registered voters.

Either referendum option would require the signatures to be collected within 90 days.

Another option, one that would give such a group more time to organize and gather signatures, would be to propose a new state law or constitutional amendment concerning capital punishment.

To get a law change placed on the 2016 general election ballot would require gathering the signatures of 7 % of registered voters. A proposed constitutional amendment would require more signatures, 10 % of registered voters. Either way, those signatures would not be due until July 2016.

McCoy said his group will consider its options in the next couple of weeks.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature's leading proponent of repealing the death penalty, chided McCoy for considering such an effort now.

"Anger, disappointment can lead you to say and do things in a way that is impetuous, unrealistic and unwise," Chambers said. "So that's what he's doing now, and it won't go anywhere."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

*********

NYS cultivated wave against death penalty

The debate was emotional and included citations that ranged from the Bible to constituent email. And by the time it was over, Nebraska had become the 1st conservative state to abolish the death penalty in 40 years.

The repeal on Wednesday underscores the work of a diverse coalition, including Republican lawmakers who believe capital punishment is inefficient, wrong or both. And the win in Nebraska for death penalty opponents comes just before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the use of a lethal injection drug that led to botched executions, and as several states scramble to get the chemicals.

Nebraska -- the 1st with a majority GOP legislature to ban the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973 -- may have tipped the scale. It joined New York and 17 other states that have banned the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court revived the practice in 1976. Since then, Americans have debated capital punishment, grappling with its flaws while trying to fix it. New York determined 10 years ago that the death penalty could not be fixed and that it was time to let it go.

New York's action marked a turning point in America's move from the death penalty, just as Illinois had marked a turning point 5 years earlier and Nebraska marked a turning point this week.

The campaign to eliminate capital punishment came into sharp view in 2000, when Illinois became the 1st state to impose a moratorium on executions to fix the system. America wasn't ready to give up on the death penalty then, but concerns about wrongful convictions were growing. Illinois' moratorium helped put those concerns into policy, and a number of states set up studies or reformed their systems.

However, New York's decision to abandon the death penalty changed the conversation -- from how to fix capital punishment, as Illinois had asked, to whether it should be fixed at all. In New York, the courts had sent the death penalty back to the State Legislature to fix a flaw in the process. After 5 public hearings, featuring more than 170 witnesses, the Assembly decided not to change the defect and let the death penalty die.

Several states went through a similar process after New York State. New Jersey decided to suspend executions and conduct a study, and it repealed the death penalty in 2007. Illinois' moratorium lasted 10 years before lawmakers repealed capital punishment in 2011. Maryland studied the death penalty twice, passed the nation's most restrictive death penalty reforms in 2009, and 4 years later repealed it.

The last execution in Nebraska was in 1997. Lawmakers there held on to the death penalty for another 18 years, changing execution methods and trying to get executions back on track. But the more they looked at the system, they found a risk of executing innocent people, a lengthy process that harmed victims' families, and high costs for no return.

Nebraska isn't the 1st red state to reconsider the death penalty. In the last few years, Republicans have sponsored repeal legislation in GOP-controlled chambers in Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. In 2010, Kansas' Senate came within 1 vote of repeal. This year, Montana's House of Representatives also came within 1 vote.

The momentum sparked by New York's Democratic Assembly 10 years ago cultivated a wave against the death penalty. Nebraska's decision marks the a new wave of repeal because the process has now become bipartisan.

(source: Op-Ed; Shari Silberstein, Newsday)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

AG Jackley Reacts To NE Death Penalty Repeal

With just 1 vote, the death penalty in Nebraska is gone. The state's debate over capital punishment quickly caught the attention of South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

"You know, there had been a lot of discussions about what could happen in Nebraska, and I think it just recently became a reality. I think people had felt that it may pass the legislature, but that a Governor's veto was likely," Jackley said.

That veto came this week, but just a day later, the legislature voted again to overturn that decision. Nebraska becomes the 18th state to repeal the death penalty, and as Jackley can attest, the discussions behind ending capital punishment are always emotionally charged.

"It's a hard discussion. These are tough issues that the legislators have overwhelmingly looked at it and decided that our very narrow scheme in South Dakota has been appropriate. Our most highest court, the South Dakota Supreme Court, has held it to be constitutional," Jackley said.

Jackley has been part of talks the past 2 legislative sessions for looking into a death penalty repeal, but each time those talks never reached the level they did in Nebraska. He also says South Dakota isn't dealing with some of the capital punishment problems states like Nebraska have battled.

"We haven't had a situation where we haven't had the substances available or that there had been issues that perhaps Oklahoma or other states have experienced. I really attribute that to the preparations put in place by the DOC," Jackley said.

Jackley believes the way sentences are carried out and how rare they are will keep South Dakota from following in Nebraska's footsteps.

"There are just those unfortunate situations where in order to save an innocent life and to protect the public or corrections officers or law enforcement, we really have no other choice," Jackley said.

Jackley does say the decision in Nebraska will keep the discussions about the death penalty in South Dakota going in Pierre, but he still believes there isn't enough momentum to make a change.

(source: keloland.com)

COLORADO:

Nebraska death penalty vote gives hope to capital punishment opponents in Colorado----ACLU will try to sway state's GOP lawmakers

Buoyed by conservative Nebraska's decision to do away with the death penalty, capital punishment opponents say they will try to sway GOP lawmakers in Colorado to follow suit.

"It's not going to be easy," said Denise Maes, public policy director of the ACLU of Colorado. "I think we know that, given our attempts to repeal it in the past."

Maes said the ACLU is part of the Better Priorities Initiative, a coalition of organizations committed to repealing the death penalty in Colorado.

She said coalition members believe that the large amounts of money spent on death penalty cases would be better spent elsewhere.

She acknowledges that many people still support the death penalty, but said public opinion is changing.

"It's no longer in strong support," she said, adding that some victim's families don't support it.

Death Row

There are 3 people on death row in Colorado.

Nathan Dunlap has been there the longest. He was sentenced to death in May of 1996, after killing 4 people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora, in 1993.

Dunlap exhausted his appeals and an execution date was set, but Governor John Hickenlooper, described by one supporter as "essentially a Quaker," granted a temporary reprieve.

The other 2 inmates on death row, Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens, were convicted and sentenced for the ambush slayings of Javad Marshall Fields and his fiance, Vivian Wolfe.

Fields' mother, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, supports capital punishment. She called an earlier attempt to repeal the death penalty "a slap in the face."

Maes said Republicans in Nebraska made some very good arguments for change.

She said they realized that they were spending a lot of money on death penalty cases when no one was getting executed.

"At the end of the day, it's a big government program that spends a lot of money and does very little for people," she said.

When asked if the coalition would seek to put the issue to a vote of the people, Maes said they would likely focus on the legislature.

"Elections are expensive," she said. "Sometimes it can come down to just a bumper sticker exercise and a few commercials here and there, and I worry that there's not enough thorough discussion, debate and good education."

When asked how soon Colorado might do away with the death penalty, Maes said she didn't know.

"I think if we didn't have the Holmes (theater shooting) case it would be so much easier," she said. "If he gets life and not the death penalty, I think it's a little easier, because we're going to realize that we spent north of $2.5 million on Holmes, before the trial started."

Coalition members didn't focus on Republicans during the last attempt to repeal capital punishment, in 2013, because Democrats were in control of both houses.

"We were lazy and didn't need to," she said. "We thought we had it with the Democrats."

The repeal effort stalled in the House Judiciary Committee after the Governor voiced concerns.

Maes said, what happened in Nebraska has changed their thinking.

She said it's possible that lawmakers could come up with another proposal when they convene in 2016.

"If Nebraska can do it, Colorado can do it," she said.

(source: thedenverchannel.com)

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

Colorado should follow Nebraska and abolish death penalty

If Nebraska can do it, why not Colorado?

Abolish the death penalty, that is.

Nebraska has a unicameral, officially nonpartisan legislature, but there is no doubt it is controlled by Republicans. And those red-state lawmakers last week voted by a lopsided 32 to 15 to abolish capital punishment.

More surprisingly, they voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto, with only two senators switching their position.

Among the striking aspects of this chain of events is the pragmatism exhibited by senators, some of whom actually support the death penalty but recognize that it has become almost impossible to implement on a consistent (and therefore fair) basis.

Nebraska hasn't put a murderer to death since 1997.

Colorado hasn't put a murderer to death since 1997, too.

And before that in Colorado, you have to go back to 1967 to find an execution.

Other lawmakers in Nebraska worried about the possibility of false convictions, given recent exonerations elsewhere in the nation. And at least one conservative senator voted for repeal in order to "follow through with my life convictions, which is life from conception to natural death."

Colorado's legislature is divided between a Democratic-controlled House and a Republican Senate, and any attempt to repeal the death penalty is likely to get little traction in the upper chamber. But Republicans there might at least consider the arguments from Nebraska.

Do they really believe, for example, the death penalty will ever be put to regular use here? Do they relish the resource-consuming spectacles of endless motions and delays in trials when the death sentence is in play (see Holmes, James), or the prospect of decades of foot-dragging appeals?

False convictions in death-penalty trials are not an issue in Colorado, but where exactly is the justice in executing one particularly heinous murderer every few decades while many other equally heinous murderers are sentenced to life without parole?

2 years ago Gov. John Hickenlooper derailed a move in the legislature to repeal the death penalty, while also issuing a temporary reprieve to death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap and declaring that he personally opposed capital punishment.

Unlike Nebraska's Ricketts, in other words, Hickenlooper presumably would sign a repeal that reached his desk.

But it's got to get there first.

(soruce: Denver Post Editorial Board)

NEVADA:

Death penalty possible for woman and brother accused in hatchet attack

Prosecutors could seek the death penalty against an Idaho woman and her brother, who face murder charges in the death of her husband.

Prosecutor Frank Coumou said the facts of the brutal attack on Enrique Hernandez point to a case "we would consider seeking death" for Maria Hernandez, 32, and her brother, Hector Gutierrez, 22.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman ordered the siblings held without bail Thursday.

The Idaho woman and her brother were arrested Monday in Las Vegas on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder after her husband was found nearly decapitated.

Maria Hernandez told police she wanted her husband dead after he found out she was having an affair, according to police.

Police said she had planned the slaying for about a month and held her husband down while Gutierrez attacked him with a hatchet.

She initially called police near the intersection of Buffalo Drive and Eldora Avenue, just south of Sahara Avenue, about 2:30 a.m., a police report said. She and her husband were having car trouble, she said, when someone hacked him.

The woman told police that she and her husband, with whom she has 4 children, were in town for a family member's quinceanera. They drove in from Idaho on Saturday for the birthday party later that night. Gutierrez was in town from California.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Convicted South Gate murderer's death sentence overturned

The California Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a man who wrote then-Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti a letter in which he called 2 murder victims "cowards" who "deserved what they got."

In a 67-page ruling, the state's highest court upheld Tommy Adrian Trujeque's 1st-degree murder conviction for the June 21, 1986, stabbing of his cousin's boyfriend, Max Facundo, in South Gate, but reversed his 2nd-degree murder conviction for the Jan. 23, 1987, stabbing of Raul Luis Apodaca at an East Los Angeles upholstery shop.

In an opinion written by Associate Justice Ming W. Chin, the panel unanimously found that Trujeque was "improperly charged and subsequently convicted of Apodaca's murder" after the case against him was dismissed twice according to the government and 3 times according to the defense. The panel also set aside the special circumstance findings that Trujeque committed multiple murders and had a prior 2nd-degree murder conviction.

The Supreme Court justices ruled that Trujeque's prior murder conviction from 1971 for the killing of Allen Rothenberg - in which the defendant was 16 at the time of the crime - was obtained in adult court "in violation of the double jeopardy clause" after he admitted an involuntary manslaughter charge in a juvenile court.

Trujeque was charged with the killings of Facundo and Apodaca after he spoke with investigators while in custody in San Diego County more than 10 years after the killings.

In a 1998 letter that was sent to Garcetti, the defendant "admitted he murdered both Apodaca and Facundo while 'fully aware of all my mental faculties'" and urged the prosecution to seek the death penalty against him.

The justices noted that Trujeque's letter also stated that "both of those cowards deserved what they got: death and an early expiration in life, to say the least!" and that if he "had the opportunity to do it over I would cut off their heads and send 'em both to their family!"

(source: my newsla.com)

USA:

In Iowa, Rand Paul sticks with death penalty skepticism

Rand Paul expressed deep skepticism of the death penalty Thursday as he repeated his position that states should be able to decide whether to keep it.

The Kentucky senator, appearing at an afternoon book signing here, responded to a question about the neighboring state of Nebraska's ban on capital punishment this week.

"My first thoughts aren't that forgiving for someone who would hurt a member of my family, but I also understand there have been times when we haven't gotten the right person," he told reporters. "And somebody who is distrustful of big government, like I am, is also distrustful of so much power being given to government to kill somebody, when there might be a mistake. A lot of eyewitness testimony has been shown over time not to be very good."

Paul complained that many witnesses in murder trials are not credible.

"We also have the problem of when you've got 3 thugs and they're all testifying against each other, and 2 of them say, 'Let's say he did it,' and the other 2 say, 'Let's say he did it,'" he said. 'So your testimony is coming from people who are not necessarily the best witnesses, as far as veracity."

The Nebraska legislature voted Wednesday to override the governor's veto of their death penalty ban, making them the 1st red state to do so in decades but the 7th state since 2007.

Paul, who has said in the past that death penalty is a state issue, used his ideological support for federalism to avoid staking out a firm position.

"It's a tough issue," he said. "Most crimes are adjudicated at the state level and should be, so there really are almost no crimes at the federal level really under the Constitution that would require the death penalty - I think treason being one. It isn't a big issue, I think as far as a change in federal policy, and I would leave it for the most part to the states."

Paul did not take follow-up questions. The issue has been in the news recently in the wake of the Boston Marathon bomber being sentenced - under federal statutes, by federal prosecutors - to death. Paul did not mention the recent episodes of botched executions, another of the main reasons cited by death penalty critics.

Paul has made criminal justice reform, including the repeal of mandatory minimums, central to his presidential campaign. He spoke to a crowd of 80 here about an Iowa woman who was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison over her use of methamphetamine.

The senator's stump speech mainly focused on his fight to let the Patriot Act sunset on Sunday at midnight.

Speaking at a minor league baseball stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River, Paul told the crowd that his voice is still raspy from speaking for nearly 11 hours on the Senate floor last week about his opposition to the law. He noted that his opposition has forced the Senate to cut short its Memorial Day recess, reconvening Sunday evening in an 11th hour effort to prevent parts of the program from expiring.

"I'm expecting a very cool reception from the other senators, but these are important debates," he said, adding: "I don't know if I can win or not."

Paul also argued that he's the most electable candidate. He said polls have shown he could beat Hillary Clinton in Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

"Quinnipiac did a national poll this week ... and only 2 Republicans, and I was one of them, beat Hillary Clinton in a nationwide poll," he said. "So people need to ask themselves, and Republicans need to ask themselves, who can win in the fall?"

In fact, the Quinnipiac University poll he referred to showed Clinton leading Paul by 4 points, 46 % to 42 %, in a hypothetical matchup.

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

How America's Death Penalty Ends----Nebraska marks an important new milestone in the abolition of capital punishment.

The decision Wednesday by the state of Nebraska to abolish the death penalty suggests that what seemed unimaginable as recently as a decade ago - namely that the United States would join most of the rest of the world in abolishing capital punishment - now seems well within the horizon of possibility.

The surprise move by the Nebraska legislature - overriding a gubernatorial veto with a bipartisan and sweeping 30-to-19 vote - galvanized and focused public's attention on America's death penalty for the 2nd time in just a month. On May 17, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death. That headline though, as dramatic as it was, tells us little about the future of capital punishment in the United States; Tsarnaev's case reminds us that even in liberal Massachusetts jurors can be persuaded that death is an appropriate punishment for an unusually gruesome crime and a particularly unsympathetic defendant whose guilt was never in doubt. Yet it should not distract us from a clear headed appraisal of the present condition and likely future of America's death penalty.

Nebraska's decision, though, represents a true milestone on the road to abolition of the death penalty - a sweeping reversal of the 1990s tough-on-crime era that saw governors almost bragging about the number of death warrants they signed. The factors that led to abolition in staunchly conservative Nebraska are the very same factors now finding receptive audiences across the country: Put simply, conversation about capital punishment today is less about those we seek to punish and more about the damage the death penalty does to some our nation's most cherished values, to our beliefs in due process and equal treatment and to our commitment to insuring that no innocent person pays with his life for a crime he did not commit.

These concerns have, since 2007, led elected officials in New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and now Nebraska to end the death penalty in those states. In each of them political leaders focused less on abstract, moral arguments about who does or does not deserve to die and more on the realities of a death penalty system that seems in many ways to be irreparably broken. Thus, in December 2007 when he signed a bill making New Jersey the first state in a generation to abolish capital punishment, then Governor Jon Corzine said, "There are many reasons to ban the death penalty in New Jersey. None is more important," Corzine continued, "than the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to develop a foolproof system that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent."

18 months later,New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill ending that state’s death penalty. Richardson - who once supported capital punishment - noted that at that time 130 death-row prisoners had been exonerated across the nation, four of them in New Mexico. He observed, "Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime." 4 years after Richardson's statement, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois echoed these same concerns when he signed his state's abolition of the death penalty. "Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it."

When Connecticut's Governor Daniel Malloy ended his state's death penalty he noted that he came to oppose capital punishment while working as a prosecutor. "I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect," he said. "I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed."

Similar sentiments were heard in Nebraska. "Lawmakers and Nebraska residents," Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty noted, "recognize the realities of an error-prone system that risks executing innocent people and harms murder victim family members. Conservatives like me want to see policies that are fiscally responsible, limit the size and scope of government, and value life. The death penalty fails on all counts."

(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)

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Why Conservatives are Now 2nd-Guessing the Death Penalty

For decades, conservatives have generally supported the death penalty as a way of maintaining law and order. The nation itself has gone back and forth on the issue, seriously curtailing it in several court cases and affirming it in Gregg vs. Georgia in 1976. Since that time it has been the craze in a few states (with Texas and Florida as the most obvious examples) and not practiced at all by others (18 to be exact).

Social conservatives -- still one of the largest political blocs on the right -- point to the Bible as a basis for the death penalty. Between an "eye for an eye" in the Old Testament law, or the government's right to "bear a sword" in the New, the Bible definitely deals with the topic. For most Christian religions the New Testament is considered the basis of Christian theology, since the "new law" fulfilled the old. In the New Testament, the scripture says the death penalty is allowed but not required. Increasingly, social conservatives have become comfortable with that reality.

In a conservative dominated Nebraska Legislature, there was an overwhelming vote against the death penalty. So strong was the vote that it even survived a veto attempt by the governor with a solid override. A coalition of strange bedfellows -- individuals who would never support each other on most issues came together to vote for the end of the death penalty. It was an impressive political feat.

So what has led to such strange voting behavior in Nebraska and the rise of groups such as Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty?

For years, people of all political persuasions have been concerned about the incredible number of Americans that have found themselves incarcerated. Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, has stated that the U.S. has "5 % of the world's population..." and "25 % of the world's known prison population." This statement has been verified by PolitiFact and others. It is increasingly obvious that governments are in the conviction business rather than in the justice business. This has certainly made a case for caution.

Over the last few decades there has been a dramatic increase in the use of DNA in convicting individuals of crimes. Often these convictions were proven false and overturned. For many of those, the overturning of those cases came too late. It is bad enough when governments warehouse people who are not guilty, but it is unconscionable for anyone to die for a crime they did not do. Sloppy crime scene investigations, disorganized labs, and innocent human error alone make a powerful case of stopping short of the death penalty. Life without parole makes so much more sense.

Many who are part of the modern conservative movement are actually, "conservaterians." This group is often described as individuals who "feel like libertarians around conservatives and like conservatives around libertarians." Many are libertarians who simply are looking to develop some political clout by working in the conservative movement. Others, like myself, are conservatives who have simply become more libertarian over time. Regardless of how they fell into the conservatarian numbers, they all have a healthy suspicion of government.

For years, as a foot soldier in the conservative movement, I long advocated support for the death penalty. Like millions of other Americans, I became suspicious of a government that has an inconsistent track record when it comes to crime, punishment and liberty itself.

What conservatives of all types have become uncomfortable with is the fact that the government has become abusive and intrusive altogether. In recent years the numbers of conservatives that blindly support the U.S. as the world police force has narrowed to a swath called neoconservatives, and that group is shrinking in numbers.

Richard Viguerie, the godfather of the modern conservative movement, may of put the conservative position against the death penalty best, stating: "The fact is, I don't understand why more conservatives don't oppose the death penalty." He continued saying that the death penalty "is, after all, a system set up under laws established by politicians (too many of whom lack principles); enforced by prosecutors (many of whom want to become politicians--perhaps a character flaw? -- and who prefer wins over justice); and adjudicated by judges (too many of whom administer personal preference rather than the law)." He goes on to say that "conservatives have every reason to believe the death penalty system is no different from any politicized, costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, government-run operation, which we conservatives know are rife with injustice."

The conservative movement against the death penalty is not reaction or illogical. It actually makes perfect sense for a people that fundamentally claim to distrust government.

(source: Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, US Daily Review----Huffington Post)

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

Death penalty debate stirred by Boston sentence

The death sentence of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, combined with 4 allegedly botched executions in the U.S. last year and an anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty this summer, has fueled debate among evangelicals regarding the legitimacy of capital punishment.

Nebraska became the 19th state to ban the death penalty, when lawmakers overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of a capital punishment ban May 27.

Whether taking a convicted murderer's life is just, whether the death penalty is applied fairly across all races and economic classes and whether the common execution method of lethal injection is humane are among the issues under consideration. Some states have experienced difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs because European manufacturers have refused to sell them based on moral objections to the death penalty.

A federal jury's May 15 decision to sentence Tsarnaev to death for killing 3 people and injuring hundreds more in a 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon provoked a variety of responses among Southern Baptists.

"I certainly know many people who believe that in certain circumstances the death penalty, as a legal function of the state and as a deterrent to crime, is justified," Neal Davidson, pastor of the Boston-area Hope Chapel in Sterling, Mass., told Baptist Press. "But I don't believe there's been any momentum in our state to try to reinstate the death penalty. It's really quite interesting: you had a federal trial with the death penalty on the table taking place in a state that does not have the death penalty." Massachusetts is among the states that have abolished the death penalty for cases tried in state courts, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org. Individuals convicted of federal crimes in those states may still be sentenced to capital punishment.

On one side of the debate, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Daniel Heimbach told BP "it would violate the biblical ethic if our government did not apply the death penalty" in Tsarnaev's case. On the other side, New Orleans pastor David Crosby said he would suspend capital punishment if he could and noted that death row inmates he ministered to said the term "capital punishment" derives from the fact that people with no capital receive the punishment more often than people of means who commit similar crimes.

Other evangelicals endorse the death penalty in a highly qualified manner or are undecided about it. Davidson told BP he is "not categorically opposed [to] or in favor" of capital punishment. He believes there is biblical warrant for employing it as a means of just punishment and a deterrent to crime. But he worries about the possibility of human error in death penalty cases and wants to "err on the side of grace."

A 2000 Southern Baptist Convention resolution supported "the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death."

Other Christian groups that have affirmed capital punishment include the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the National Association of Evangelicals. The Assemblies of God has posted on its website a defense of capital punishment that acknowledges disagreement among members of Assemblies of God churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops all have opposed the death penalty.

A 2014 Gallup poll found that 61 % of Americans believe the death penalty is morally acceptable. Support has dropped below 60 % only once in the past 13 years, according to a ReligionLink report. Most other developed nations have abolished the death penalty.

Whether lethal injection is humane has been one focus of debate during the past year, with four allegedly botched lethal injections in the U.S. in 2014, according to NPR. In Oklahoma, convicted murderer Clayton Lockett appeared to twist on the gurney after death chamber staff failed to place his intravenous line properly, Reuters reported.

In Arizona, convicted double murderer Joseph Wood took nearly two hours to die and had to be administered 15 doses of the lethal drug, according to USA Today. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of the current term on a case challenging Oklahoma's method of lethal injection as a breach of the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Biblical arguments

Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern, offered 2 reasons for "believing the Bible requires government to execute persons proven guilty of premeditated murder," though he noted there are additional reasons.

"The 1st is because in Genesis 9:5 the Creator says that anyone guilty of murder forfeits his own life by doing so," Heimbach said in written comments. "And, since the sanctity of life ethic comes from God, and derives from the Creator-creature relationship, this is a very strong argument. The 2nd comes from the last part of Ezekiel 13:19 where God says sparing the lives of murderers is a moral lie contrary to the sanctity of life ethic He requires."

Heimbach cautioned that governments should "never rush to judgment," "never place retribution in the hands of private citizens" and "never demand killing anyone based on feeling self-righteous anger, hate or fear." As with all humans, the debt murderers owe "can be truly satisfied only by the death penalty Jesus paid," he said.

The Boston Marathon bomber's trial illustrates how love and justice should both be considered during sentencing in a murder case, Heimbach said.

"Biblical love never lessens what biblical justice requires, and it is love for those whose lives were lost that demands the bomber forfeit his. Taking the bomber's life cannot possibly pay for what he stole and should not be taken this way. But what it can do, and should do, is tell the world and God that the people the bomber murdered were deeply and truly loved, and that what he did was irretrievably wrong," Heimbach said.

For Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, ministering to death row inmates in Texas helped solidify a developing conviction that the U.S. should abolish capital punishment. As a pastor in Texas, he led a weekly Bible study for death row inmates for six years at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville. Among the inmates he baptized and discipled was Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted double murderer whose highly publicized conversion to faith in Christ occurred just before she met Crosby.

Tucker's 1998 execution by lethal injection marked the first time a woman in the U.S. had been executed since 1984.

"I remember the moment that I knew she was dead, but I did not witness the execution," said Crosby, who discipled Tucker 4 years and moved to New Orleans shortly before her execution.

Crosby told First Baptist the following Sunday, "I am a citizen of this republic. This is participatory government -- government of the people, by the people and for the people. And here's one of the people who doesn't want to kill these other people anymore."

The death penalty, Crosby told BP, too often is unjustly administered and does not serve as a deterrent to crime.

"It's pretty evident that given the same charges [and] the same conviction, poor people are more likely to be executed than wealthy people," Crosby said. "Black people are more likely to be executed than white people. That's just true statistically. It's undeniable."

The death penalty may be just in individual cases, Crosby said, but the racial and economic disparities of the system should provoke objections among believers.

During his doctoral studies at Baylor University, Crosby researched the death penalty as a deterrent to crime and found lower murder rates in jurisdictions without capital punishment. He also told BP it costs considerably less by most accounts to imprison a person for life than it does to fund extended court proceedings and the execution itself.

Though Scripture allows capital punishment, it is unclear how often it was administered in the Old Testament, and we no longer employ it, as Israelites were permitted to do, for offenses like adultery and rebellion against parents, Crosby said. Additionally, God's decision to spare Cain's life demonstrates that murder does not require the death penalty, he said.

Crosby cited the unjust executions of Jesus and Stephen in the New Testament as illustrations that systems of government can fail in the process of administering capital punishment.

The Gospel on death row

Regardless of their stances on the death penalty, Southern Baptists agree on the necessity of sharing the Gospel with death row inmates -- an emphasis highlighted by the 2000 resolution. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's program in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's extension program in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Darrington Unit carry out such a ministry.

Ben Phillips, director of Southwestern's Darrington extension, told BP 2 recent graduates with bachelor's degrees in biblical studies were on death row before having their sentences reduced to life in prison. Though Phillips believes the death penalty is a just punishment for willfully taking an innocent, defenseless life, he says Christians should love mercy and take the Gospel to prisoners sentenced to death.

One Southwestern graduate who used to be on death row hopes to return to minister to inmates there, Phillips said.

"Rather than celebrate the application of the death penalty in general or any particular case," Phillips said, "we need to love mercy and not only in a general sense hope that 'those people' will come to Christ, but actively work to share the Gospel with them in a way that speaks to them."

(source: David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service----The Baptist Press)

CHINA----execution

China executes teacher for sexually abusing 26 girls

China's top court said it has executed a primary school teacher found guilty of raping or sexually abusing 26 girls.

Li Jishun had committed the crimes between 2011 and 2012 while teaching at a village school in Gansu province.

He preyed on pupils aged 4 to 11 who were "young and timid", according to a statement by the Supreme People's Court reported by local media.

It said there have been more than 7,000 child sex abuse cases in recent years and that the trend is on the rise.

'Grave threat'

Li had raped 21 of his victims and sexually abused the other 5 in classrooms, dormitories, and the forest surrounding the village near Wushan town.

The statement said that some of his victims had been raped or abused more than once. It made no mention of how he was caught.

But it said that the Gansu court had found him "a grave threat to society" and noted that he had committed the crimes within just 1 year.

"The Supreme People's Court thus believes that it was appropriate for Li Jishun to be executed," it said.

Local media ran the story with caricatures of the man depicting him as a wolf gobbling up children.

His sentencing was met with widespread approval on China's microblogging platform Weibo, with many expressing shock at the youth of his victims.

"4 years old? I can't believe it," said one. "A death sentence is too good for this man," wrote another commenter.

In a rare disclosure of abuse statistics, the Supreme People's Court told local media that the courts heard 7,145 cases of child sexual abuse between 2012 and 2014.

The figures showed that the number of cases went up by about 40% during those years.

(source: BBC news)

IRAN----executions

3 Men Executed in Front of Children - 4 Executed in Prison in Iran

3 men were hanged in public in Mashhad (northeastern Iran) Wednesday, reported the Iranian state media. According to the Iranian state broadcasting, the men were charged with armed robbery, kidnapping, keeping arms. 2 of the men were 27 year and the 3rd was 38 years old. None of them were identified by name. Pictures published in the Iranian media show several minors and children watching the executions.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported about the execution of 1 man charged with murder. The execution took place on Thursday May 28 in the prison of Gachsaran (Western Iran).

2 men were hanged in the prison of Kerman (Southeastern Iran), according to unofficial reports. The men who have not been identified by name were charged with murder.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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Iran Executed 59 people in Mere 6 Days, Monitoring Group Alleges

An Iranian monitoring group has alleged that the government, in a matter of mere 6 days, has secretly executed 59 'activists' in the largely Shia-Muslim populated country.

According to France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political umbrella coalition of 5 Iranian opposition political organisations, Iran carried out "a wave of secret execution inside the country's prisons".

The NCRI report noted that between 19 May and 21 May, the Iranian regime executed 37 people in prisons or on the streets of various cities. Similarly, at least 22 peope were executed between 23 May and 25 May.

Criticising the increase in number of executions, the group which is headed by Maryam Rajavi, a popular Iranian politician living in exile in France, noted in the report: "The executions are aimed at raising the atmosphere of terror in the society in order to prevent any public expression of dissent in the country."

On the recent spate of executions in Iran, Soona Samsami, NCRI's US Representative, told IBTimes India: "The political climate of repression and censorship in Iran, coupled with lack of due process in the judiciary, create severe difficulties in finding the truth behind Iran's executions."

"However, one thing is certain: the regime continues to use the death penalty, not as a deterrent to drug abuse or to stem ordinary crimes, but as a means of inflicting terror in a young and increasing restless and enraged population," Samsami said.

Samsami also hit out at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's failure to curb human rights abuses in the country.

"Hassan Rouhani's approval of these barbaric hangings notwithstanding, there is no room for reform in a constitution with a non-representative 'Supreme Leader,' and a judiciary that executed 30,000 political prisoners in a matter of months in 1988 alone. Ironically, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, one of the three people who sat on the "death commission" that sent these political prisoners, mostly MEK members, to the gallows, is Rouhani's Justice Minister," she added

The Huffington Post earlier this month had reported that an estimated 347 executions were carried out in Iran since the beginning of the year. In 2014, the total number of executions was 735, which according to Oslo-based organisation Iran Human Rights was a 10 % increase from the previous year.

"There is an internal conflict going on now between the hard-line judiciary and Rouhani's moderate administration," Iranian human rights campaigner Taghi Rahmani told BBC. "And it's the activists who are paying the price."

The highly criticised execution reports have come at a time when Iran is inching towards reaching an agreement on the final nuclear deal. The United States, Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on 2 April reached a tentative agreement for a nuclear deal.

There were, however, several issues that were yet to be resolved and the countries had opted for a 30 June deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, however, noted on Thursday that arriving at a final deal by 30 June will be difficult, if the other side stuck to what he called excessive demand, Reuters reported.

(source: IB Times)

ALGERIA:

Algerian court condemns 12 to death for 2008 bombing

A court in Algeria has handed down death sentences to 12 people and condemned 2 others to life imprisonment over their involvement in a bomb explosion that claimed the lives of a Frenchman and his driver back in 2008.

On Wednesday, the Algiers Criminal Court found the accused "forming an armed terrorist group and premeditated voluntary homicide."

The defendants given the death penalty are all members of the Katibat el-Arkam network, a splinter group of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). They are at large and Algerian judicial officials tried them in absentia.

The 2 present in the court, identified as Khaled Asalah and Brahim Brahim, admitted being AQIM members and taking part in several terrorist attacks.

Engineer Pierre Nowacki of the French enterprise BTP Razel and his Algerian driver were killed on June 9, 2008, when a bomb explosion ripped through their vehicle as it was travelling on a road in the town of Beni Amrane, located some 80 kilometers (49 miles) east of the capital, Algiers.

7 people sustained injuries minutes later when a second blast struck the town.

The French national had been supervising repair work on a railway tunnel in the area.

(source: Albawaba news)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheads Pakistani national for drug trafficking

Saudi authorities have beheaded a Pakistani national convicted of drug trafficking, bringing to 90 the number of such executions amid international outcry over the "very disturbing" trend.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that the man, identified as Ihsan Amin, was decapitated in the capital, Riyadh, on Thursday after being found guilty of heroin smuggling.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has described Saudi Arabia's use of death penalty as unprecedented, and said the toll is "one of the highest recorded by the organization during the same period for more than 3 decades."

The London-based watchdog said on Thursday that almost half of the executions carried out so far this year were for drug-related offences, and about 1/2 of those put to death have been foreigners.

"These do not fall into the category of 'most serious crimes', and the use of the death penalty for such offences violates international law," it said.

"With the year yet to pass its midpoint, the (Persian) Gulf kingdom has raced towards this shocking toll at an unprecedented rate," said Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program Said Boumedouha.

"This alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country's own previous dreadful records," he noted.

On Wednesday, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions expressed concern about a surge in the number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia.

"It is certainly very disturbing that there is such a fast pace of executions at the moment," Christof Heyns said.

In Saudi Arabia, rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking all carry the death penalty. Beheadings are carried out in public using a sword.

Muslim scholars and clerics have on occasions criticized Saudi authorities for indicting and then executing suspects without giving them a chance to defend themselves.

(source: Albawaba news)

PAKISTAN----execution

PIA fokker hijackers executed after 17 years

Pakistan on Thursday morning executed seven death-row prisoners, including three hostage takers trying to hijack Karachi bound PIA Fokker plane allegedly to India in 1998, with more than 30 passengers on board, after it took off from Turbat city in Baluchistan province.

The execution of 2 hijackers, Shahsawar Baluch and Sabir Baluch, took place in Hyderabad jail while the third one, Shabbir Baluch, was hanged in Karachi prison. They were given death punishment in 1998 and their appeals were turned down by the higher courts as well. The president had also rejected their mercy petitions. The anti- terrorism court's judge, Abdul Ghafoor Memon, had issued death warrant for them last week.

The hijacker had forced the pilot to take the plane to India but the pilot, Captain Uzair, had landed the plane at Hyderabad airport, a main city in southern Sindh province. He had deceived the hijackers by convincing them that the plane ran short of fuel and that he had landed at the Indian state of Gujarat. Hyberabad's then top administration and police officers, while impersonating as Indian officials, had held talks with the hijackers. Late at night, the Pakistan security agencies had overpowered the hijackers and had arrested them.

The hijackers had demanded that Baluchistan province should not be used for nuclear tests, following India's testing of nuclear weapons. Pakistan, however, had tested its nuclear devices in Chaghi, Baluchistan, 4 days after the hijacking incident.

4 more convicts were also executed in different areas of the country for murders. They were executed in Sahiwal and Sargodha in Punjab, Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Karachi.

A moratorium on the death penalty had been in force in Pakistan since 2008, but executions were restarted in December after Taliban militants had gunned down about 150 people, most of them children, at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

The moratorium was initially lifted only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March was extended to cover all capital offences. Since then, over 125 people have been executed all over the country. There are nearly 8000 death-row prisoners in jails across Pakistan.

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.

(source: Times of India)

EGYPT:

Oxford postgraduate sentenced to death by Egyptian government

Students throughout the university have expressed their outrage at the death sentence granted to Oxford student Sondos Asem in Egypt.

The 28 year old researcher and graduate student Sondos Asem is studying at the Oxford University Blavatnik School of Government and is a member of the Freedom and Justice party. Asem was sentenced to death in absentia on Saturday 16th May in Egypt after being charged with espionage and conspiring with the Palestinian movement Hamas, in relation to her position as the International Media Co-Ordinator for the former Egyptian President Morsi. Mohamed Morsi, alongside his former aides and scholars such as Emad Shahin, have also been sentenced to the death penalty although Asem is the only female charged. In occurrence with Egyptian law, this preliminary sentence will be sent to the Grand Multi for approval.

Students from across the university have since expressed their solidarity with Asem and defended her against the accusations of the government.

On 22nd May, current MPP and DPhil students at The Blavatnik School of Government voiced their concerns on the departmental website. The 78 students from 51 countries affirmed their solidarity for their friend. The students posted: "We are appalled to hear that Sondos is being prosecuted for simply doing her job as a Foreign Media Co-ordinator in the office of a democratically elected president.

"Sondos is as passionate and committed to the principles of public service as any of us. Whether it is lending an ear to friends, debating philosophy, praying together, or playing football with classmates, Sondos is an invaluable part of our community.

Like all of us, she came here to learn how to improve people's lives through good government ...We note that the judgment against her has yet to be reviewed. However, we are deeply saddened that these actions mean Sondos will be unable to return to Egypt or visit her family until she has been cleared of the charges."

They continued: "we condemn this ruling and urge people and governments to speak up for the rule of law and against this injustice".

Sondos' college Women's Football Team also proposed a motion to the Collrgr JCR that the college (where Asem is a member of the MCR and plays for the team) condemn the death sentence. This motion, which passed unopposed, stated that the 'ruling was unjust and politically motivated' and contrary to the "rule of law" fundamental "in a democratic society". The JCR also resolved to "follow Blavatnik's example in fully condemning the ruling", to "urge the college to provide support and assistance to Sondos" and to demonstrate their "solidarity" with a "friend, peer and teammate". One Wadham College student added: "What has happened to Asem is deeply troubling. As a college and as university it is our responsibility to stand behind Asem and fight back against what can only be described as a gross injustice".

Speaking to the OxStu, Asem said: "The support I have received so far from my fellow students is what makes me stronger. I am impressed by the level of political awareness, human rights advocacy, and empathy on the part of my fellow students in Oxford and my college. This has proved to me that people can share the same values despite coming from different countries and cultures.

"This death sentence is not just about me, it is one example of the injustice that thousands of other women and men, are suffering due to repression in Egypt".

Asem was a high profile and vocal presence throughout Egypt and had a range of roles including acting as the Senior Editor of Ikhwan Web, the Muslim Brotherhood english-language online website. In a 2011 interview, she voiced her concerns surrounding the misconceptions relating to the Muslim Brotherhood stating: "It's a big misconception that the Muslim Brotherhood marginalises women" as "50 % of the Brotherhood are women".

Asem also affirmed that as an organisation: "We believe that a solution to women's problems in Egyptian society is to solve the real causes, which are illiteracy, poverty and lack of education."

The final sentence will be pronounced on June 2nd.

Due to security concerns for Asem and college members, we cannot detail which college she is currently attending

(source: The Oxford Student)

INDONESIA:

Executions fail to dent Jakarta's drug war----1 month since the executions of 2 Australians and 6 others, it seems they didn't have the deterrent effect Indonesia's president had hoped for.

The agency on the frontline of Indonesia's "drugs emergency" senses the death penalty will eventually prove an effective deterrent, despite even prison officials being busted since the executions of 8 offenders 1 month ago.

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were among the men killed by firing squad at midnight on April 29.

Since then, a prison guard on the same penal island where the executions took place, Nusakambangan, was caught with drugs.

A prisoner told investigators he paid the man to smuggle 364 grams of methamphetamine out of the jail.

And last week, a guard in West Java was caught with 16 kilograms of methamphetamine and several hundred ecstasy pills he claims were not his but drugs he had seized from prisoners.

Although there is no evidence the death penalty deters crime, President Joko Widodo believes executing death row drug convicts will be "shock therapy" for would-be offenders.

So far this year, Indonesia has executed 14 people.

Asked if the recent arrests showed the policy was flawed, National Narcotics Board (BNN) spokesman Slamet Pribadi argued it would take time to work.

"For now, maybe not," he told AAP.

"But it will in the future."

Mr Slamet promised the BNN would begin to show headway in Mr Joko's war on drugs within 3 to 6 months.

"Our intelligence data has shown talk among drug mafias saying beware of the BNN," he claimed.

"What does that mean actually? I don't know.

"My interpretation is that in general, this prevention must have worked."

Indonesia's attorney general's office has finished an evaluation on last month's executions and will soon start planning more.

Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, remains recalled, with a date for his return still under consideration.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups have submitted a blueprint to Australia's federal government to renew the way it campaigns for global abolition.

Parliamentarians against the death penalty, a group co-chaired by Philip Ruddock and Chris Hayes, will discuss its plans later this month.

(source: sbs.com.au)

MAY 28, 2015:

USA:

Which State Will Be Next to Abolish the Death Penalty?

Nebraska became the 1st Republican-leaning state in 4 decades to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday, the latest signal that momentum is on the side of those who oppose capital punishment. And in the next few years, it's likely that several more states will outlaw the practice.

Delaware may be the next in line. Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, has pledged to sign a death penalty repeal bill that has already passed the Senate and is currently in the majority Democratic House Judiciary Committee. That's only if Montana or New Hampshire don't get there first; state lawmakers in Montana fell 1 vote short of passing a bill to abolish the death penalty in February, reaching a 50-50 split on the bill after the Senate passed its own version. Similarly, the New Hampshire Senate also reached a deadlocked repeal vote in April 2014.

But there's a whole list of states that might yet follow in Nebraska's footsteps. The 7 states that have now done away with capital punishment since 2007 all had 1 thing in common: they essentially had stopped using their execution chambers altogether. And 6 states with death penalty laws still on the books - Colorado, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming - haven't executed anyone in more than a decade.

"When you look at most repeals, they were all in states in which the death penalty had fallen into disuse," says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group. "Nebraska followed in the pattern of states in which the death penalty had been functionally discarded in practice."

According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans still support the death penalty, but that number is at its lowest in four decades. Opposition is coming not just from Democrats, who have historically opposed capital punishment, but increasingly from Republicans who believe the death penalty is too costly and does nothing to deter people from the most heinous of crimes.

In both Kansas and Wyoming - states which haven't executed anyone in years - conservative lawmakers have introduced repeal legislation in both states, and in South Dakota, another red-leaning state, several conservative legislators have voiced support for doing away with capital punishment. Last year, legislators in the South Dakota House were one vote shy of getting a bill to the floor.

"The death penalty is no longer getting a pass," says Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "People may support the idea in the abstract, but when they see how it's done, how it's doing nothing to enhance public safety, and when they see innocent people being released from death row, they see that they can't square it with their other values."

(source: TIME)

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Nebraska continues trend away from death penalty

Opponents of the death penalty continue to celebrate 1 day after Nebraska abolished capital punishment.

After 2 tense hours of passionate speeches from lawmakers on both sides of the argument Wednesday, the Nebraska Legislature voted 30-to-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto, banning the death penalty in the state.

Wednesday's vote ends a long battle between the Legislature and Ricketts, who have gone back and forth on the issue for months. Ricketts, a firm proponent of capital punishment, denounced the vote and insinuated several members of the Legislature, including many Republicans who voted for the repeal, had lost touch with the state's conservative majority.

"My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families," Ricketts said in a statement. "While the Legislature has lost touch with the citizens of Nebraska, I will continue to stand with Nebraskans and law enforcement on this issue."

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said public opinion has trended largely toward abolishing the death penalty, citing Pew Research studies that show public support for the death penalty has dropped from 80 % in the 1980s to 56 % now.

"When you ask Americans the policy question, not just 'Do you support the death penalty in the abstract?' but the policy question of 'What's the appropriate punishment for murder: the death penalty or life without possibility of parole?' a majority of Americans now say life without possibility of parole is the appropriate punishment," Dunham said.

Dunham disagrees with Ricketts' assertion that all conservative Republicans support the death penalty. He noted several lawmakers are changing their minds on capital punishment because they are focusing on the cost and efficiency of implementing the death penalty.

"What we've seen in the Nebraska debate, as one with a conservative legislature, is a shift in focus from the dogmatic to the pragmatic," Dunham said. "Conservatives are now looking at the death penalty as policy to see whether it works, not as an ideological issue or whether it can be supported in the abstract. When it's looked at pragmatically, as opposed to policy, they are agreeing with other opponents of the death penalty that the system is broken and it doesn't work. It is costly and it is ineffective."

Nebraska is the 1st predominantly Republican state to abolish the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973. The Cornhusker State also is the 7th state in the past 10 years and 19th state overall to repeal the death penalty. New York (2007), New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011), Connecticut (2012) and Maryland (2013) are the most recent states to abolish capital punishment.

Even though capital punishment still is legal in 31 states, execution rates have slowed greatly since new death penalty statutes were instituted for a majority of states across the U.S. in the 1970s. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 7 states: - Nebraska, New Hampshire, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania - have not executed anyone in more than a decade. Arkansas could join that list soon - its last execution was in November 2005. 5 other states - Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota and Washington - have averaged less than one execution per decade over the past 50 years.

Michigan has not had the death penalty since 1847. It was the 1st state in the nation to do away with capital punishment for all crimes except treason. Before that, it conducted only 13 executions.

(source: WOOD TV news)

NIGERIA:

Nigeria's Delta State Governor just announced the total pardon of Moses Akatugba!

A day before leaving office, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan posted the announcement on social media:

"Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has just granted total pardon to Moses Akatugba who was sentenced to death for stealing 3 phones.This decision was made known shortly after the last Executive meeting of his administration at the government house, Asaba today, 28th May, 2015."

Aside granting total pardon to Moses, Governor Uduaghan also commute dealth sentences of 3 others to various terms of imprisonment.

(source: Amnesty Internatnional)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia executes 90th prisoner since start of year----The Kingdom has now executed as many people in 2015 as in all of 2014

Saudi Arabia has carried out its 90th execution of this year, equaling the total number executed in the country in 2014.

Amnesty International report that the toll is "one of the highest recorded by the organization during the same period for more than 3 decades". The toll so far this year "marks an unprecedented spike in executions for a country already ranked among the most prolific executioners in the world," a statement from the group said today.

Saudia Arabia is one of the world's top 3 executioner nations, behind only Iran and China. The most common method of execution is beheading, often conducted in public squares and occasionally by firing squad.

"With the year yet to pass its midpoint ... this alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country's own previous dreadful records," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Today's execution took place in Riyadh, and was of a Pakistani man convicted on drug-related charges. Drug-related offences are one of the most common reasons for execution, with almost 1/2 of all killings this year in some way drug-related. Amnesty International warn that the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences international law.

Many of those sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia are convicted based solely on "confessions", which are obtained under duress. Many trials are also held in secret, with the accused parties not made aware of the progress of their case.

The Supreme Court has recently decreed that in cases of crimes punishable by death the judge in the trial is free to sentence someone to death without a guilty conviction, but merely with suspicion.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system," said Said Boumedouha.

"The use of the death penalty is cruel and inhumane in any circumstance, but it is even more outrageous when meted out as a punishment against someone convicted in a trial that itself makes a mockery of justice."

Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said, "The death penalty is never a just response to any crime. It is no particular deterrent. Instead of expediting executions and advertising recently for more executioners as Saudi Arabia did recently, the Saudi authorities should be reversing this very worrying trend.

"Saudi Arabia should establish a moratorium on executions immediately with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

(source: newstalk.com)

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90 executions this year beat 2014's disgraceful record

Saudi Arabia today has carried out its 90th execution so far this year, equalling the number of people executed in the Kingdom during the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International.

The death toll is one of the highest recorded by the organization during the same period for more than three decades and marks an unprecedented spike in executions for a country already ranked among the most prolific executioners in the world.

"With the year yet to pass its midpoint, the Gulf Kingdom has raced towards this shocking toll at an unprecedented rate. This alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country's own previous dreadful records," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Today's execution carried out in Riyadh was of a Pakistani man convicted on drug-related charges. Almost half of the executions carried out so far this year were for drug-related offences. These do not fall into the category of "most serious crimes", and the use of the death penalty for such offences violates international law. The authorities themselves do not categorize drug-related offences as crimes subject to divinely ordained punishment under Shari'a law, instead they consider the use of the death penalty for such offences a discretionary punishment.

Saudi Arabia's most common method of execution is beheading, often conducted in public squares. Occasionally prisoners in some southern provinces are executed by firing squad.

Many defendants in Saudi Arabia, including those sentenced to death, are convicted after flawed court proceedings that routinely fall far short of international standards for a fair trial. They are often convicted solely on the basis of "confessions" obtained under duress, denied legal representation in trials which are sometimes held in secret and are not kept informed of the progress of the legal proceedings in their case.

For some crimes punishable by death, the Supreme Court has recently confirmed that judges do not need to prove guilt but can sentence someone to death at their own discretion based on suspicion alone.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system," said Said Boumedouha.

"The use of the death penalty is cruel and inhumane in any circumstance, but it is even more outrageous when meted out as a punishment against someone convicted in a trial that itself makes a mockery of justice."

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system"----Said Boumedouha

Worryingly, a significant number of Shi'a protesters have been sentenced to death in the past 2 years. These are often in relation to protests in the Kingdom's Eastern Province in the aftermath of the 2011 mass popular uprisings which toppled a number of long-standing authoritarian rulers in the region. Among those sentenced to death is Saudi Arabia's most prominent Shi'a cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death in October 2014 after a deeply flawed trial. His nephew, Ali-al-Nimr, a juvenile offender, was sentenced to death in May 2014 solely based on "confessions" that he claimed were extracted under torture. The imposition of death sentences against individuals who were below 18 years of age when the crime was committed is prohibited under international law.

6 other Shi'a protestrs were sentenced to death in the past year and scores of others await trial on charges for which the prosecution has called for the death penalty. Many of them have complained of ill-treatment in detention and of unfair trials.

The claim by the Saudi Arabian authorities that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime is unfounded.

"There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, or that it is more effective than other forms of punishment. Instead of expediting executions the Saudi Arabian authorities should immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," said Said Boumedhoua.

Background

In Amnesty International's latest global report on the death penalty, published in April 2015, Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 3 executioners in the world, surpassed only by China and Iran.

As of 31 December 2014, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; the guilt or innocence of the individual; or the method of execution.

(source: Amnesty International)

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Rights Groups: Saudi Death Penalty Rate Surges

The number of executions in Saudi Arabia has surged in the past 9 months. The kingdom on Wednesday announced its 89th execution this year, roughly as many as in all of 2014, according to human rights groups.

"It's absolutely scary what we're seeing in terms of the numbers of executions in Saudi Arabia," said Amnesty International's Saudi Arabia researcher Sevag Kechichian.

The rise began last August after Islamic State militants attacked cities and towns in Iraq and Syria, gaining control of large areas with alarming speed.

The increase in executions could be a show of force by Saudi authorities as they seek to keep a regional security crisis outside their borders, Kechichian said.

"The theory is: the reason why the Saudi authorities have been carrying out executions at such a rate," he explained, "is because they want to signal to ISIS, to others throughout the region, that they are quite in charge ... and they will punish transgressions extremely harshly. It is sort of a show of power."

There are alternate theories to explain the surge, like increased efficiency in the judiciary, Kechichian added.

A public act

Most executions are carried out in public spaces, like town squares, and the condemned are beheaded. On rare occasions, the decapitated bodies are left on display.

"It is pretty much within the logic of the method of execution and the reasoning behind the execution that it is meant toward spectacle, as a deterrent," Kechichian said. "So that is partly why they do it in public."

The Saudi government has not commented on the practice or the surge in numbers, other than saying capital punishment is within Islamic law, according Human Rights Watch Middle East researcher Adam Coogle. Trials in Saudi Arabia, he added, do not appear to meet international standards of fairness.

"Some people allege that they were coerced into confessing," Coogle said. "Some people claim they had difficulty accessing lawyers. One of the big issues is the defendants not actually initially knowing the charges against them ... before they are actually brought before a judge."

22 countries in the world still use capital punishment, according to Amnesty International. Saudi Arabia is consistently among the top 5 countries that perform the most executions, along with China, Iran, Iraq and the United States.

Nearly 1/2 of all executions in Saudi Arabia are for non-violent crimes related to drug trafficking, and occasionally people are executed for other crimes like adultery or sorcery, said Coogle.

"Under international law [the death penalty] should be reserved for only the most serious crimes," he argued. "In terms of the way Saudi Arabia carries out the death penalty the most problematic aspect are all the drug-related executions."

Sheikh Nimr case

Last year, popular Shi'ite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was sentenced to death after being accused of disobeying the ruler, inciting sectarian strife, and encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations. His case has sparked protests around the world and, if carried out, the sentence could increase Sunni-Shia tensions in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

But recent Saudi efforts to appease its discontented Shia minority suggest the execution is unlikely to go forward, according to Kuwait-based analyst Haider Ghadhanfari.

"Saudi Arabian government's policy is to heal the nation and there have been several signs that the rulers plan to grant amnesty," said Ghadhanfari.

The potential for political upheaval could delay or cancel the execution, but al-Nimr's trial was politicized and lacking evidence, according to Amnesty's Kechichian, and some authorities appear to be determined to carry out the sentence.

"It's a mix of signals," he said. "The authorities are very much insisting on this and they seem to want to go forward with it."

"At the same time," he added. "There are these question marks on the meaning and significance of carrying out an execution on such a very well-known person on basis of a flawed trial."

(source: Voice of America)

CHINA----execution

China executes patient who killed doctor over botched nose job

China on Monday executed a man who stabbed a doctor to death over what he considered a botched nose operation, media reported, in a case that spotlights the country's overburdened health system.

Lian Enqing was sentenced to death last year for a fatal attack on an ear, nose and throat specialist in Wenling, in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

Lian attacked the doctor because he "felt displeased with his nose and claimed to be suffering respiratory problems," the official news agency Xinhua said.

The death sentence was carried out Monday, the Chengdu Business Daily newspaper reported, citing family members who said they had met the condemned man briefly before his execution.

The attack last October prompted dozens of the doctor's colleagues to protest outside the hospital in Wenling, urging stronger safety measures to deal with violent patients.

Doctors in China, the world's most populous nation, are often poorly paid and overburdened with too many cases. Taking bribes for better care is reportedly a widespread practice.

Authorities have introduced security guards at some hospitals to protect staff from attacks.

(source: Japan Times)

TEXAS:

What's next for Rodney Reed?

Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty describes the activism that won a stay of execution for Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed--and explains what's next in the fight to win justice, in an article written for the New Abolitionist.

Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in TexasDeath penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas

On February 23, just days before his scheduled execution date, Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed was granted a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).

In the preceding months and years, Rodney's many advocates--his family, his legal team and supporters from around the world--have fought to stop the execution and to make the courts to finally recognize the truth: Rodney is innocent of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas.

The order for the stay from the CCA was in response to a new appeal filed by Rodney in early January, which includes explosive new findings regarding the time of death of Stacey Stites, the victim in the case.

In the course of filming a recent A&E special about Rodney's case, Dead Again: Dead Man Talking, an investigator came to the conclusion that Stacey was murdered several hours earlier than the time frame advanced by the original medical examiner and the prosecution at trial. Further examination of the forensic evidence by other experts proves that Stacey was murdered closer to 10 p.m., placing her in the apartment she shared with her fiance and former police officer Jimmy Fennell at a time when Fennell claimed to be home.

In their response to the state's motion to dismiss the new appeal, Rodney's lawyers argue:

Absent from the State's Motion to Dismiss is any evidence contradicting the compelling scientific proof and factual accounts which establish Mr. Reed's innocence...The State's Response appears to be aimed solely at preventing any meaningful inquiry into the growing body of evidence that the State convicted the wrong man for the murder of Stacey Stites.

The lawyers further describe how the new conclusions about the time of death came about:

This discovery was made on October 21, 2014, by a disinterested retired NYPD homicide investigator, Det. Sgt. Kevin Gannon as part of his review of the evidence for the television crime show Dead Again. From his review of the crime scene photos, video, autopsy report and law enforcement investigation reports, Det. Sgt. Gannon noticed evidence of decomposition pointing to a longer post-mortem interval and lividity patterns showing that the body had been moved. Neither the State's forensic team during the murder investigation or the forensic experts originally retained as part of the prior habeas investigation conducted in 2002 noticed this evidence or recognized its importance.

Following Gannon's revelation, Rodney's legal team presented the evidence to 3 highly regarded forensic pathologists and all corroborated Gannon's findings.

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The appeal also includes new witness statements corroborating an ongoing relationship between Rodney and Stacey. Rodney has always maintained that the consensual sexual relationship he had with Stacey is what led to his DNA being found at the crime scene--the only physical evidence tying him to the scene. The many witnesses who would have testified to the relationship were never called to testify at trial. Now others have submitted affidavits to this effect, including a cousin of Stacey's, as well her former co-workers at H.E.B.

Stacey's cousin, Calvin "Buddy" Horton describes witnessing the affair between the two. In his statement, Horton says "Sometime after Stacey's death I remember seeing pictures of Rodney Reed on the news and in the newspaper after he became a suspect in the death of my cousin. Rodney Reed is the same man I saw with Stacey at the Dairy Queen in 1995."

In addition to the new appeal, the CCA is hearing a separate appeal regarding DNA testing that was denied by a lower court. Testing all the DNA that has been requested could help bolster Rodney's claim to innocence.

Rodney's supporters believe that these latest revelations are further proof that Texas has convicted the wrong man.

The court must examine all of the evidence closely, efforts which could include evidentiary hearings in a state district court where the forensic experts and other witnesses can offer their testimony.

Because of the strength of these new findings, Rodney's supporters believe that the Court should reverse Rodney's conviction and free him from death row. As former prisoner and Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEPD) board member Mark Clements puts it, "It is my belief that Reed will prevail and be granted evidentiary hearing on his claim of actual innocence arising from faulty and false testimony by the original pathologist."

The campaign for justice for Rodney Reed that started over 15 years ago continues to the struggle toward that goal.

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Shortly after Rodney's conviction in 1998, his family attended an anti-death penalty event in 2000 and connected there with activists in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Alongside the family, activists created a fact sheet and petition about the case and began to organize speaking events with Rodney's mother Sandra Reed.

Over the next decade, Sandra, Rodney's brother Rodrick Reed and other family members spoke out about Rodney's case. They travelled all over Texas, and often flew to Chicago for the CEDP's annual convention to speak to people from around the country. Activists in Austin organized barbeques, rallies, held petition tables and other events to get the word out about the case.

In 2002, the Austin Chronicle ran a long http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2002-05-24/93214/ by reporter Jordan Smith, which helped propel local interest in Rodney case. In 2006, filmmaker Ryan Polomski, then a University of Texas film student, created the award-winning documentary, State vs. Reed, which became an invaluable tool in the campaign to win justice for Rodney. The film has been screened to large and small audiences around the country and is streaming online.

The case was regularly featured in The New Abolitionist, the national newsletter of the CEDP, and the left newspaper, Socialist Worker. A blog by Rodney's pen pal and friend Caitlin Adams became a feature at nodeathpenalty.org in 2011, and the case began to attract some national media attention.

A previous appeal for Rodney was denied by the federal courts in 2013, paving the way for the State to set an execution date last summer. The efforts over the years to build support for Rodney meant that a group of activists was able to jump into action once the execution date was set.

Rodney was originally issued an execution for January 2015. The judge who issued the death warrant also agreed to hear a motion for DNA testing at a later date. In November 2014, activists packed a hearing where that same judge denied a motion for further DNA testing, but also reset Rodney's execution date for March 5, 2015.

From the moment Rodney's date was set, an intense campaign to stop the execution, lobby the courts to agree to DNA testing, and demand a thorough examination of the evidence in the case was underway. Activists organized a series of actions meant to draw attention to the case from the public, the media, the courts and the political establishment.

At a string of organizing meetings and online discussions, activists created a sample clemency letter aimed at the Texas governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. A campaign website was created to collect information and make materials available to activists. Activists continued to promote an online petition at change.org. Campaigners also started a solidarity photo campaign on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter where supporters could post pictures of themselves holding signs of support for Rodney.

These organizing meetings also brought out a contingent of students from the University of Texas, who launched the Campus Campaign to Save Rodney Reed.

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The campaign ramped up in January, when activists collected petitions, clemency letters and solidarity photos. Supporters marched in the annual MLK Day March under a banner that read "Free Rodney Reed: and signed up hundreds of people on the petition. They held a rally outside the Texas State Capitol on January 24, and a national conference call with Sandra Reed on January 26.

On Valentine's Day weekend activists staged 3 separate events:

-- On Friday, February 13, campaigners organized a march around the Bastrop County Courthouse with Rodney's family. A small group of supporters, including Rodrick Reed, tried to speak with the Bastrop County district attorney, but were turned away.

-- On Saturday, February 14, activists, with a lot of support from the student contingent, organized a clemency event at the Governor's Mansion asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to "Have a Heart: Stop the Execution." Activists strung dozens of homemade valentines on the fence and unveiled one huge valentine outside the mansion.

-- On Sunday, February 15, the faith community came out for another clemency event--this time with Sister Helen Prejean, a nun and renowned human rights activist. Sister Helen spoke alongside Rodrick Reed and Heather Stobbs, a cousin of Stacey Stites, as well as members of the Austin faith community. Well over a hundred people crowded into to Austin's Friends Meeting House to hear these incredible speakers and to sign clemency letters for Rodney.

February 16 was the premiere of the A&E special episode of Dead Again featuring Rodney's case. Millions of people watched this show, propelling the case to national attention. The Rodney campaign's activity on Twitter and Facebook during the premiere drew hundreds of new supporters to our social media network and the newly launched campaign website.

During this time, the campaign in Texas was bolstered by the arrival of a group of former prisoners from around the country. One was Mark Clements, who served 28 years of a juvenile life without parole sentence before being released. Mark serves on the board of the CEDP, who sponsored his trip to Texas from Chicago to campaign for clemency for Rodney.

Witness to Innocence, a group made up of exonerated death row prisoners, also sponsored several members to come to Texas in February and March. They included Shujaa Graham (former California death row prisoner) and Gary Drinkard (former Alabama death row prisoner). Shujaa is a longtime friend of the Reed family, having spoken alongside Sandra Reed at many events over the years.

Shujaa and Gary joined Delia Perez Meyer (sister of Texas death row prisoner Louis Perez) at a panel event on the University of Texas campus in February. Mark, Shujaa and Gary then participated in an open-air speak-out on campus later that week and attended meetings all over Austin (and Bastrop) to build support for Rodney.

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The events in February all built toward a big "Rally for Justice for Rodney Reed!" held on February 21. The event drew over 300 people to the Governor's Mansion. Many came from Bastrop and also from around the state.

An incredible line up of speakers spoke of the need to stop the execution, for the courts to reopen the case, and for Rodney to be found innocent and freed. The speakers included Sandra, Rodrick, activists in the Black Lives Matter movement, several former prisoners, and family members of people who were killed by police.

One of those speakers was Ava Haywood, whose son died in police custody in Bastrop County. Ava grew up with Sandra in Bastrop and described the system there in a powerful speech:

The motives that are judging Rodney Reed today are evil Jim Crow motives. June 10, 1892, Toby Cook was hanged for the rape and murder of a white woman in Bastrop County. The characteristics of this case run parallel with Rodney Reed. Many of the judges and law enforcement that were over the case of Toby Cook--they were ancestors of many of the family members in the judicial system in Bastrop Country today.

Throughout the campaign, media came out to every event, and stories about Rodney were almost a nightly feature on the local news.

Although the campaign for justice for Rodney has been headquartered in central Texas, the struggle has spread around the world. Today, the Change.org petition for Rodney has over 20,000 signatures.

The campaign has received petitions in the mail from Japan. Supporters have sent solidarity photos from as far Australia and as near as Mexico, and activists have held solidarity events in France and Germany.

The clemency campaign for Rodney drew some high-profile supporters, including actors Dick Gregory and Susan Sarandon, musician Chuck D of Public Enemy and former Olympic medalist John Carlos.

Rodney was a subject of an Amnesty International urgent action to stop his execution, drawing even wider attention to his plight.

Meanwhile, an increase in national media attention has helped build support and vice versa. Jordan Smith, now writing for the investigative journalism web site The Intercept, has been writing about this case for years and has continued her coverage on a new national stage. And in the days after the airing of the A&E special, Chris Hayes at MSNBC featured the case on his show All In With Chris Hayes .

In an incredible turn of events, just a few days after the big rally at the Governor's mansion, the CCA announced a stay of execution for Rodney Reed. While the Court declined to offer any insight into why they granted the stay--although newly elected Texas Governor Greg Abbott had this to say:

I think this is a healthy process that the court announced what it did so that we can put beyond a shadow of any doubt whatsoever, that he really is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted."

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Following the stay of execution, activists have continued to keep up the pressure. In late February, campus activists held an overnight "Sleep-in for Rodney" on the main mall at the University of Texas. Despite chilly weather, students stayed all night and were joined by Mark Clements and Rodrick Reed.

In early March, Texas abolitionists held a lobby day and Day of Innocence at the Texas State Capitol. Family members of Texas prisoners were joined by Witness to Innocence members Ron Keine (former New Mexico's death row prisoner) and Sabrina Butler (former Mississippi death row prisoner), as well as Mark Clements of the CEDP. The group spent the day talking to legislators and representatives of the governor's office about the death penalty and the case of Rodney Reed.

In late March, Rodney's supporters held a rally in front of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Participants took turns standing for photos inside the taped off measurements of a prison cell to demonstrate the reality of life on the row. In April, student activists led a die-in on the University of Texas campus, and held a panel discussion at UT featuring Rodrick and others.

Although Rodney has been given a stay of execution, the fight is far from over. The court has agreed to look at Rodney's new appeal, but there are no guarantees of a favorable ruling. One possibility is that the court could look at the evidence and opt to deny relief, as they have done in the past.

Another possibility is that the CCA could order a new trial. This wouldn't be unwelcome to Rodney and his supporters. However, if the evidence of innocence is strong enough to warrant a new trial, then it would make better sense for the court to reverse the conviction altogether.

The best possible outcome from the CCA would be a reversal of Rodney's conviction and for Rodney to be released from prison. In this event, the Bastrop County district attorney could still opt to take Rodney to trial again, in which case activists should demand that the DA drop Rodney's indictment completely.

In an interview following the stay, Rodney reflected on the stay of execution, saying:

I'm very optimistic that if the courts are willing to acknowledge this evidence that we have, because this evidence is not made up. If they're willing to acknowledge it, I feel like they will give me the better judgment on this.

The various options before the Court make the ongoing activist campaign for Rodney paramount. Rodney's family and supporters are prepared to carry on the fight. As Rodrick said at a rally in February, "If we don't stand up today, we're going to lay down tomorrow for anything they're going to make us lay down for. And I ain't a laying down kind of guy. I'm a fighter, I come from a family of fighters!"

The evidence in front of the court today, combined with the body of evidence gathered over the years, makes it clear that activists must demand nothing less than a full reversal of Rodney's conviction and that Texas must FREE RODNEY REED NOW!

(source: SocialistWorker.org)

ARKANSAS:

Jurors choose death for killer of 6-year-old ---- Holly apologizes to family of girl strangled in '12 attack

Sighs seeped from the area where Jersey Bridgeman's family and supporters sat Wednesday as they heard a judge sentence her killer to death.

Zachary Holly's mother sat on the other side of the packed courtroom and cried, comforted by another son.

Holly, 30, of Bentonville stood by his attorneys as Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced him to die by lethal injection for killing 6-year-old Jersey in 2012.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women found Holly guilty last week of capital murder, kidnapping, rape and residential burglary.

Jurors watched and listened to Holly's recorded confession where he admitted he abducted the Sugar Creek Elementary School kindergartner from her bed. He went on to describe to Bentonville detectives how he raped and murdered Jersey.

The jury spent three hours Tuesday and almost two hours Wednesday deliberating Holly's punishment. Holly spent much of the deliberation time in a holding cell where he could be seen on a closed-circuit camera constantly pacing.

When the jury returned to the courtroom Wednesday 1 female juror wiped away tears before she sat down. Another woman on the jury also brushed away tears.

Karren read the rape and kidnapping sentences first. He then read the sentence for residential burglary. He ended with the death sentence.

DesaRae Crouch, Jersey's mother, and other family members cried outside the courthouse after the proceedings. Crouch said it was sickening to have to sit through the trial.

"It's my daughter's day," Crouch said. "He can't take that away."

Holly addressed the court Wednesday. With an ashen face, he stared down before reading a short statement. He said he wanted to apologize to Jersey's family, his former wife and his family.

"I hope someday they can find it in their hearts to forgive me. Thank you."

Benton County sheriff's deputies then led Holly from the courtroom.

Jersey's nude body was found Nov. 20, 2012, in the bedroom closet of an abandoned house next to Holly's home on Southeast A Street. She had been strangled to death with her pajama pants.

Nathan Smith, Benton County prosecuting attorney, described the crime as an "evil deed" that deserved the ultimate punishment -- the death penalty.

In an effort to save his life, Holly's attorneys presented witnesses and testimony that detailed Holly's abusive childhood in California.

"I'm disappointed," Kent McLemore, one of Holly's attorneys, said of the verdict.

Jurors leaving the courtroom declined to comment.

Smith thanked the jury for its decision.

"It was important for our community to return with this verdict for this crime," he said.

Crouch said she was grateful for support from her immediate family and backup family. One of the members of Crouch's backup family is Colleen Nick with the Morgan Nick Foundation, which provides a support network to parents and families of missing children.

She sat through much of the trial to support Crouch.

"It was an honor to support her," Nick said. "Today, Arkansas stood up and served justice. Justice was served today."

Karren set Nov. 16, 2016, as Holly's execution date. Judges are required to set execution dates, but Holly will not be executed that day, since a mandatory appeal will be filed.

Prosecutors have talked with Jersey's family and explained the appeal process, Smith said. Smith believes the verdict will stand through the appeal process.

Jersey's family, their supporters, police officers and prosecutors gathered Wednesday afternoon near her grave at the Bentonville Cemetery and released doves in her memory.

(source: ArkansasOnline.com)

NEBRASKA:

Killing it----Nebraska's ban is another sign of the decline in support for the death penalty

"We would have ended any other government programmes that inefficient and costly a long time ago," says Colby Coash, a Republican lawmaker in Nebraska. Mr Coash is 1 of 32 legislators in Nebraska's unicameral parliament who, in a bipartisan effort, voted for a bill to ban the death penalty. On May 26th Pete Ricketts, the Republican governor, vetoed the proposed bill, but a day later the state house overrode his veto.

Nebraska is about to become the 19th state to ban capital punishment and the first conservative state to do so in more than 40 years. (New Mexico, Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland abolished the death penalty in the past six years, but they were all then led by Democrats.) The state has not executed any prisoner since 1997, when it used an electric chair to do so, a method it subsequently declared illegal. Ten prison inmates are on death row; an 11th died of natural causes on May 24th.

A growing number of Republicans have recently taken up the cause of banning the death penalty in Nebraska and other states. They argue that it is inefficient because it does not deter murderers, more expensive than imprisonment for life thanks to the costly trials and lengthy appeals, and at odds with Christian morality. The evidence seems to back their arguments. The murder rate in New York continued to go down after the state abolished the death penalty; Texas executes more people than any other state, yet does not have a lower murder rate than some states without capital punishment. A report of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice showed that it costs, on average, $90,000 a year more to keep an inmate on death row than to put him into a maximum-security prison to serve a life sentence without parole. And although the Old Testament says "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", the New Testament teaches that it is better to show compassion and mercy than to obey the law.

Marc Hyden of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, a lobby group, views it as "antithetical to conservative principles". The trend against capital punishment is part of Americans' increased scepticism about government power, he says, as there is no greater power than the right to kill a citizen. And more Americans worry that innocent people could die because of the death penalty. Since 1973 more than 150 death sentences have been reversed.

Governor Ricketts refutes many of these arguments, which he says are both incorrect and do not apply to Nebraska. He argues that lawmakers are out of touch with Nebraskans, who, he says, overwhelmingly support the death penalty. He considers it an important tool for public safety and the only appropriate punishment for the most heinous crimes. In a statement after his veto, he claimed that a ban would not yield any fiscal savings because the costly trials for horrendous crimes will continue with or without the death penalty; and the bill would be "cruel" to the relatives of victims.

"Nebraska is a microcosm of what is happening in America," says Robert Dunham, head of the Death Penalty Information Centre. Support for the death penalty is at an all-time low. In 1994, 80% of Americans backed it; only 56% do so today, notes Mr Dunham. Moreover, the Pew Research Centre found that young people are less keen than their elders on capital punishment, and blacks and Hispanics solidly oppose it, so in the near future the abolitionists are likely to be the majority.

Will other conservative states follow Nebraska? Although a divisive topic, it seems to encourage some lawmakers to work together across party lines, as was the case in Nebraska. But it will not be easy. Ernie Chambers, an independent senator who sponsored the bill and who is 1 of only 2 African-Americans in the Nebraskan parliament, has introduced bills to ban the death penalty every year since he was 1st elected in 1970. "The moon was in its 7th house and Jupiter lined up with Mars," said Mr Chambers after senators overwhelmingly voted for the ban. The age of Aquarius might not dawn quite yet in other conservative states.

(source: The Economist)

SINGAPORE:

Urgent action required for Kho Jabing

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) and We Believe in Second Chances strongly urge the Cabinet to advise the President, Mr Tony Tan, to grant clemency to death row inmate, Kho Jabing.

Sarawakian Kho Jabing, now 31, was convicted of murder under section 300(c) of the Penal Code on 24 May 2011, which carried the mandatory death sentence at the time of conviction. In 2012, Parliament amended the Penal Code to give judges the discretion to sentence offenders convicted under s 300(c) to life imprisonment with caning. This change was applied retrospectively and Kho was afforded an opportunity to have his death sentence reconsidered.

On 18 November 2013, Justice Tay Yong Kwang re-sentenced Kho to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. On 14 January 2015, the Court of Appeal, by a majority decision (with 2 out of the 5 judges dissenting) overturned Justice Tay's decision and sentenced Kho to death.

We wish to highlight 2 issues with Kho's death sentence.

First, the dissent by the 2 judges should be taken as indication that reasonable doubt exists over whether Jabing should be sentenced to death. Indeed, both Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Lee Seiu Kin reasoned that there was "reasonable doubt whether Jabing's blows were all inflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground" which made it "unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he (Jabing) acted in away which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life".

Second, Jabing did not posses the intention to kill, nor was the murder premeditated. This was a robbery gone wrong. The death penalty, if it is to be applied at all, should be reserved for the most exceptional cases. In light of the above, we urge the Cabinet take into consideration these facts in advising the President and reiterate our call for a clemency pardon.

Kho's family delivered their clemency petition to the President on 27 May 2015. In their personal letters, they expressed their deep regrets to the family and loved ones of the victim, and pleaded with the President to extend compassion towards Kho and spare his life.

(source: Rachel Zeng, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) & Damien Chng, We Believe in Second Chances)

FINLAND:

Finland's incoming justice minister says he approves of death penalty for major crimes

Finland's incoming justice minister from the populist Finns Party says he approves of the death penalty in "some circumstances."

Jari Lindstrom was expressing his personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of the incoming government. He said Thursday that capital punishment could be acceptable for "extremely heavy crimes, such as against small children."

The 49-year-old lawmaker says the death penalty wasn't "one of the main issues" on his agenda when he is due to take up his ministerial post on Friday.

The death penalty, banned in Finland in 1949, has been abolished in all EU countries.

Lindstrom is 1 of 4 new ministers from the EU-skeptic Finns Party, which is in a ruling coalition for the 1st time.

(source: Associated Press)

VIETNAM:

Death penalty still needed to punish corrupt officials, lawmakers say

Many lawmakers have objected to the government's plan to let convicts escape death penalties by returning 1/2 of the money or property they gained from their offenses.

According to the proposal, part of a series of amendments drafted for Vietnam's Penal Code, the rule should be applied to people who do not commit "extremely serious" crimes, without specifying which ones.

Lawmakers interpreted the proposal as a way out for corruption convicts, arguing that they will be the main beneficiary and that the rule, if passed, will cause injustice.

Nguyen Duc Chung, an assemblyman from Hanoi, said at a meeting on Tuesday it is "unfair" that corrupt officials who steal a huge amount of public money can live, while while poor people who deal drugs have to accept death sentences because they have no money to pay.

The death penalty needs to remain as the highest punishment for corruption crimes, or laws will lose their deterrence effect, he said.

Huynh Ngoc Anh from Ho Chi Minh City agreed, saying that it is "not right" to make light of a crime which Vietnam has been fighting but not managed to stop yet.

No concession

7 crimes have been proposed to be removed from Vietnam's death penalty list.

They are robbery, vandalizing equipment and works significant to national security, gross disturbances of public order, surrendering to enemy forces, acts of sabotage and waging invasive wars, crimes against humanity, and drug smuggling.

However, Le Dong Phong, another assemblyman from HCMC, said some of these including war crimes rarely happen, but in many countries around the world they are still punishable by death to prevent them effectively.

He also opposed a proposed rule that would reduce the highest punishment for drug mules to life sentence, arguing that not all of the convicts are poor people who desperately earn their living by smuggling drugs.

Instead, the government may consider increasing the amount of involved drugs that justifies a death sentence, Phong suggested.

Under Vietnam's current drug laws, which are considered among the toughest in the world, anyone convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine faces death.

The government is also seeking to eliminate the death penalty for criminals aged 70 and above. Currently only pregnant women and women who are raising children under 3 years old are eligible for the concession.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

ALABAMA:

'Bizarre' verdict: Heather Leavell-Keaton guilty of capital murder, manslaughter in deaths of DeBlase children

Heather Leavell-Keaton intentionally killed 3-year-old Chase DeBlase in 2010, but only recklessly caused the death of his 4-year-old sister, Natalie, a jury said Wednesday.

For more than 2 weeks, Keaton stood trial for capital murder in the deaths of the 2, who were the biological children of her common-law husband John DeBlase. He was convicted on multiple counts of capital murder in the children's deaths in late 2014 and sentenced to death.

According to its verdict, the jury felt Keaton's role in Natalie's death was different. After the verdict was read, several on the prosecution's side of Circuit Judge Rick Stout's courtroom seemed perplexed and 1 prosecutor not working the case was overheard calling the verdict "bizarre."

Immediately following the verdict, District Attorney Ashley Rich asked the judge for some time to confer with defense attorneys Jim Vollmer and Greg Hughes due to possible "inconsistencies" in the verdict. Keaton was found not guilty on the count of capital murder related to Natalie, and a 2nd capital charge alleging she intentionally killed 2 or more people.

She faced capital murder charges in relation to Natalie's death, as well.

According to prosecutors, the little girl was choked to death in March 2010 after being duct-taped and placed in a suitcase which was set in a closet for 12 hours.

Her body was later dumped in a wooded area near Citronelle.

Based on her conviction on the manslaughter charge, the jury believed Keaton did not intend to kill Natalie, but was guilty of recklessly causing her death.

Chase died in June 2010, having been taped to a broom handle and left in the corner of the couple's bedroom overnight. He was also choked to death, according to testimony, and his body was found in the woods outside Vancleave, Miss.

The jury, which consisted of 9 women and 3 men, deliberated for more than 7 hours over Tuesday and Thursday, stopping 3 times to ask Stout questions. They spent several hours over both days re-watching video interview footage of Keaton in late 2010 both before and after her arrest.

She faces either the death penalty or life without possibility of parole for killing Chase, and 2 to 20 years in prison on the manslaughter charge. Sentencing will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and include testimony from witnesses for the defense and prosecution.

Parties on both sides of the case declined to comment after the verdict, and said they could not speak until after the penalty phase concluded.

(source: al.com)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska lawmakers officially abolish the death penalty, overriding governor's veto

Nebraska lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty Wednesday, overriding a veto from the governor and making that state the 19th in the country to ban capital punishment.

The vote on Wednesday in Lincoln made Nebraska the 1st state in 2 years to formally abandon the death penalty, a decision that comes amid a decline in executions and roiling uncertainty regarding how to carry out lethal injections.

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) had been a vocal critic of the bill before he vetoed it on Tuesday afternoon. Ricketts called it "cruel" to the relatives of the victims of people sentenced to death and wrote in a letter to the legislature that "the overwhelming majority of Nebraskans" want the death penalty to remain in place.

The state's lawmakers voted last week to abolish the death penalty, passing the measure with enough support to override a veto that Ricketts had said was coming.

In the unicameral Nebraska legislature, it takes 30 of the 49 senators to override the veto. Last week, 32 senators voted to repeal the death penalty. A spokesman for Ricketts said that he had been traveling the state to visit senators in an effort to sustain his veto.

On Wednesday, 30 senators voted to override Ricketts’s veto, outlawing the death penalty by the narrowest of margins.

The bill's passage in Nebraska was unusual, because while numerous states have abolished or halted capital punishment in recent years, they have typically been more politically liberal. Nebraska, meanwhile, is as red as it gets, and the legislature is largely conservative.

A majority of Americans support the death penalty - a level of support has been falling consistently for 2 decades - but that sentiment is much stronger among Republicans than Democrats. Capital punishment is supported by more than three-quarters of Republicans, but it is opposed by a majority of Democrats.

Some lawmakers in Nebraska offered a conservative argument for repealing the death penalty there, painting it as an example of government waste.

"I've said frequently, if any other program was as inefficient and as costly as this has been, we would've gotten rid of it a long time ago," State Sen. Colby Coash, a Republican who co-sponsored the repeal bill, said after the legislature approved it last week.

Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997. It currently has 10 inmates on death row; there were 11 inmates when the bill was passed last week, but the state Department of Corrections said that an inmate died on Sunday. Under the bill, these inmates will now get life sentences.

Other lawmakers said they supported the bill for religions reasons or because of cases where people were wrongly convicted.

Maryland was the last state to formally abolish the death penalty, abandoning it in 2013 and emptying its death row earlier this year. New Hampshire, the last state in New England with the death penalty, almost got rid of it last year, but the bill failed by a single vote.

While 31 states and the federal government still have the death penalty, in reality only a small handful of states actually carry out executions. Last year, seven states carried out executions, about a third the number of states that executed inmates 15 years earlier.

Some states have also halted the practice without formally abolishing it. Washington state announced a moratorium last year, while Pennsylvania's governor suspended the death penalty there in February. Oregon's new governor said this year she will keep that state's moratorium in place.

Other states dealing with legal challenges or an ongoing shortage of lethal injection drugs have imposed their own delays, creating de facto moratoriums in some places. After Ohio adopted a new lethal injection policy this year, it pushed back its executions scheduled through January 2016. As a result, Ohio - among the most active modern death-penalty states - will go at least 2 years without any executions.

Georgia suspended executions after an issue with a drug it was going to use and has not announced plans to resume lethal injections. Tennessee canceled its scheduled executions through early next year to let a court consider challenges from inmates. And 3 states have called off executions until the U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in a lethal injection case.

The federal government, meanwhile, has the death penalty, but it has a moratorium in place while it reviews its death penalty policy. The government also has no lethal injection drugs, which are much harder to get these days. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of a century after the federal death penalty statute was reinstated, the government has carried out three executions, the last in 2003.

Even as other states have struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs, Ricketts said before the death-penalty repeal bill passed the legislature that the state purchased the drugs needed to carry out an execution. The state corrections department has 1 drug already, and the other 2 drugs will arrive "in the near future," according to Ricketts's office.

(source: Washington Post)

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

Death penalty facts

31 states still have some form of capital punishment.

16 states have executed a person in the past 3 years. But the number of executions and new death sentences is at a 20-year low, and just a few states are responsible for the vast majority of executions.

Considering population, Oklahoma has killed more people per capita - 112 -- since 1976, when a nationwide moratorium ended. The other top 10 are Texas (525), Delaware (16), Missouri (83), Virginia (110), Alabama (56), Arkansas (27), South Carolina (43), Mississippi (21), Louisiana (28).

Since 1973, more than 150 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.

So far this year, 2 death-row inmates were exonerated and set free: Debra Milke, jailed since 1990 in Arizona; and Anthony Ray Hinton, jailed since 1985 in Alabama by a prosecutor who said he knew Hinton was guilty "just by looking at him."

3,019 inmates are on death row in the United States. California has the most, with 743, but a federal judge there declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 2014 so executions are on hold.

105 of the 192 countries represented at the United Nations have abolished the death penalty by law, and at least 43 more have abolished it in practice, either through public moratorium or de facto moratorium (when a country declines to practice capital punishment for a decade or longer).

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule next month in a case brought by prisoners on death row in Oklahoma who contend that the death penalty as carried out there - they say it's by lethal injection that is secretly arranged and shoddily administered - constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The case is the most substantive legal challenge to the death penalty in the U.S. in decades.

[sources: Death Penalty Information Center, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty]

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

Death penalty in Nebraska

23 people have been killed by the state of Nebraska since it took over executions in 1903.

8 were hanged and 15 electrocuted.

2 men were electrocuted on Dec. 20, 1920, the 1st time the electric chair was used.

0 have been put to death by lethal injection.

31 death row inmates have had their sentences commuted.

1 was furloughed.

1, Jeremy Sheets, was released in 2001 after his sentence was vacated.

13 were commuted since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

4 died of natural causes, including Michael Ryan on Sunday.

2 committed suicide.

(source for both: Lincoln Journal Star)

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

An unexpected win for death-penalty opponents in Nebraska

Since 2000, 6 states have banned the death penalty, and all 6 can fairly be described as "blue" states. 4 of the 6 - Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland - are in the Northeast, and the other 2 - Illinois and New Mexico - are hardly conservative strongholds.

But as Rachel reported on the show last night, there's a new addition to the list, and it's one that would have been hard to predict as recently as a few months ago. From Amanda Sakuma's msnbc report;

Conservatives turn on Republican governor to repeal Nebraska death penalty

The Nebraska legislature abolished the death penalty Wednesday in a down-to-the-wire vote overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto, making Nebraska the 1st red state in decades to strike capital punishment from its books.

In a 30-19 vote that crossed party lines, the unicameral legislature defied the Republican governor's opposition to the death penalty repeal, garnering the exact number of votes needed to overcome his veto.

Nebraska, with its unusual unicameral legislature, technically has a non-partisan state government, but it's hardly a secret that Republican policymakers dominate in this ruby-red state. It made yesterday's vote that much more satisfying.

The key to success, oddly enough, was framing the debate in a conservative way - proponents of the change made the case that the flawed existing system is too expensive; it's at odds with the values of honoring life; and the governments that kill their own citizens are the biggest of all possible governments.

It was close, and the state's Republican governor lobbied hard to keep the death penalty in place, but the argument won the day.

Nebraska will now join 18 states and the District of Columbia in banning capital punishment. But how secure is the victory?

Rachel noted towards the end of last night's segment, "One of the things to watch on this story in Nebraska is whether or not people who support the death penalty, including the governor, try to get it back through some sort of popular referendum. We saw this work through the legislature to get it repealed, including this incredible drama today with overriding the governor's veto. It will be interesting if they put it to a vote."

It's an angle well worth watching - Nebraska took an important step yesterday, but execution supporters may yet try to undo what's been done.

(source: MSNBC)

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

Nebraska legislature narrowly votes to repeal? death penalty ---- Vote abolishes governor’s veto and makes state the first majority Republican state to abolish capitol punishment in more than 4 decades

The Nebraska legislature narrowly voted on Wednesday to repeal the death penalty, overriding the governor's veto and making the state the 1st majority Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than 4 decades.

The state has a unicameral legislature in which all bills must be voted on 3 times. The bill to abolish the death penalty passed all 3 rounds, 30-16, 30-13, and finally 32-15 in its third vote. The governor vetoed the bill on Tuesday.

Legislators needed 30 votes to override the veto, and it earned 30. 19 voted against. The repeal is the latest move in what some experts believe is a new conservative push against executions.

"In many respects, what has happened in Nebraska is a microcosm of the steady national trend away from the death penalty in the United States," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

19 states and the District of Columbia now ban the death penalty, and Nebraska becomes "the 1st predominantly Republican state to abolish the death penalty since North Dakota abolished the death penalty in 1973," he said.

The 10 men still on Nebraska's death row will remain there, though the state hasn't executed an inmate since 1997. The legislation passed Tuesday will abolish Nebraska's method of execution, essentially stopping the men's sentence from being carried out.

In Wednesday's debate, senators spoke passionately for and against the death penalty, and many referenced the bible.

"Capital punishment is not perfect, but we need it," said senator Lydia Brasch.

"Is it always fairly and equally administered? Probably not. Does it need to be there? Yes it does," said senator Dave Bloomfield.

Senator Ernie Chambers, who has fought for decades to repeal the death penalty, addressed his fellow senators repeatedly.

"I wish that I could say that it was my brilliance that brought us to this point, but this would not be true, and we all know it. Had not the conservative faction decided it was time for a change, there's no way that what is happening today would be happening today," he said.

"There has been a confluence of individuals groups and circumstances that have put Nebraska on the threshold of stepping into history, on the right side of history."

Nebraska reinstated the death penalty in 1973, following the Georgia v Furman US supreme court case that paused capital punishment in the country for 3 years (another Georgia case led to the death penalty's reinstatement as a state's rights issue).

Executions in the US have ground nearly to a halt this year as states wait to hear the result of a supreme court argument over whether 1 state's execution protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The case, Glossip v Gross, was argued in the Supreme Court in April, and focuses on the drug cocktail used to carry out Oklahoma death sentences.

The state's reliance on the drug midazolam led to the high-profile "botched" execution of Clayton Lockett, in which it took 43 minutes for the man to be pronounced dead. That led to a challenge by Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip. Several death penalty states have relied on the drug as part of an execution cocktail since pentobarbital, long used for executions, became scarce as the result of a European-led boycott of execution drugs.

Nebraska does not use midazolam in its lethal injection process, but instead relies on a cocktail of similar drugs, which the governor recently said he had secured from a pharmacy in India.

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

The repeal of Nebraska's death penalty means the 10 men on the state's death row are now effectively serving life sentences.

There were 11 prisoners there until Sunday, when murderous cult leader Michael Ryan, convicted of killing two people, died while in prison.

Here are the other inmates who were on death row at Tecumseh State Prison when lawmakers voted Wednesday to abolish capital punishment over the governor's wishes:

Carey Dean Moore, 56, has been on death row since 1980. He was convicted of murdering Omaha cab drivers Reuel Van Ness Jr. and Maynard Helgeland 5 days apart. He says he has become a born-again Christian since being sentenced to death. "When I killed the 2 men, that was my responsibility, my fault," he told the Lincoln Journal Star in 2011. "The devil didn't make me do it. That was just me."

Carey Dean Moore, 56, has been on death row since 1980.

John Lotter, 43, was convicted of murdering transgender victim Brandon Teena and two other people in 1993 - a crime that was the basis for the award-winning movie "Boys Don't Cry." His accomplice, who got life, testified that Lotter pulled the trigger but later recanted and said he was the gunman. " I'm going to fight for every last breath that I have to prove my innocence and get out of here," Lotter said in 2013.

Brandon Teena was murdered on New Year's Eve 1993 after reporting a rape.

Raymond Mata Jr., 42, was sentenced to die twice - first by a panel of judges and then by a jury after the U.S. Supreme Court said jurists couldn't make the call. He was convicted of murdering and dismembering his ex-girlfriend's 3-year-old son, Adam Gomez, in 1999; parts of the boy's body were found in the killer's dog bowl and in the animal's stomach. Raymond Mata Jr. was convicted of murdering and dismembering his ex-girlfriend's 3-year-old son, Adam Gomez, in 1999.

Arthur Gales, 50, was convicted of murdering 2 children, 13-year-old Latara Chandler, who was raped and strangled, and her 7-year-old brother Tramar, who was strangled and drowned in the bathtub. He allegedly killed the kids so they could not tell police he had been with their mother, who was beaten and left for dead but survived.

Jorge Galindo, 34, Erick Vela, 34, and Jose Sandoval, 36, were put on death row for the murders of 4 workers and one customer during a Norfolk bank robbery. They suspects marched in and shot the victims - Lisa Bryant, 29; Lola Elwood, 43; Jo Mausbach, 42; Evonne Tuttle, 37; and Samuel Sun, 50 - in the head in under a minute. "It went to hell," Vela later told police. A state trooper committed suicide the day after the slayings in despair that he botched a stolen-weapon check on one of the suspects a week earlier.

Jeffrey Hessler, 36, was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 15-year-old newspaper carrier, Heather Guerrero, in 2003. Hessler, who had pleaded guilty to the earlier rape of another teenage paper girl, represented himself at trial and later lost a number of appeals arguing he was mentally ill and should not have been allowed to serve as his own attorney.

Roy Ellis, 61, was convicted of abducting a 12-year-old girl, Amber Harris, after she got off a school bus, killing her and tossing her partially clothed body in a park ravine in 2005. Ellis, a convicted sex offender, was the 1st person sentenced to death in Nebraska after the state banned the electric chair. His victim's mother said after the sentencing that she had no hope it would be carried out. "Either he'll die before then, or me," she old the Journal Star.

Marco Torres, 42, was the most recent arrival to death row, after being convicted in the 2007 double murder of Timothy Donohue, 48, and Edward, Hall, 60, possibly to cover up a robbery. In his appeals, Torres cited methamphetamine use as an excuse for the slaying.

(source for both: NBC news)

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

Reaction to Death Penalty Repeal

Plenty of people came out to Lincoln Wednesday to witness the historic vote, overriding Governor Pete Ricketts' veto of a death penalty appeal, for themselves.

Cheers came from outside the legislative chambers as the votes came in.

"We did it. I can't believe it. They had me on pins and needles, but we did it," said Miriam Kelle.

Kelle said she has been working against the death penalty for a decade.

More than 30 years after her brother, James Thimm, was killed by cult leader Michael Ryan. Days after the murderer's death from a medical issue while awaiting execution, Kelle got her wish.

"Just tears of joy. First time on this issue that we've had tears of joy," she said.

But, Kelle said her work is not over.

"We don't want anyone to be considered evil. We want behavioral health for young people and small children so that everyone can be productive," said Kelle.

Pierce County Sheriff Rick Eberhardt agrees there's still work to do, but said his focus will be on getting the issue on the ballot.

"I think the people of the state of Nebraska need to realize that it was one vote today. One vote made a difference. And, when you get your chance - and you will get your chance - and you pull that curtain shut, it's going to be your vote," he said.

Eberhardt said if the repeal isn't rejected by voters, taxpayers will ultimately suffer.

"I think by doing this it's going to make more people that are going to fight their murder trials because they're going to roll the dice and say hey, the worst they can do to me is lock me up forever," said Eberhardt. "The people of the state of Nebraska are going to be the ones that will foot the bill."

On Wednesday's vote, Eberhardt said he was "shocked and dismayed, very disappointed, upset."

(source: nebraska.tv)

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

Death penalty repeal throws a lifeline to Nikko Jenkins, Anthony Garcia

The repeal of the death penalty means that the 2 men each connected to 4 Omaha killings - convicted murderer Nikko Jenkins and murder suspect Anthony J. Garcia - will no longer face the death penalty.

Nor will Roberto Martinez-Marinero, 25, accused of killing his mother and throwing his 4-year-old brother, Josue, into the Elkhorn River, drowning him. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine had announced plans to seek the death penalty in that case.

At a Judiciary Committee hearing in March, Kleine testified in favor of the death penalty, but he also said he was frustrated with the state's inability to "get its act together" as far as an execution method.

Kleine, a death penalty supporter, said he was somewhat surprised by Wednesday's vote.

The prosecutor, who helped put child killers Roy Ellis and Arthur Lee Gales on death row, said that he has spoken with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and that it is unclear how the repeal will affect current death row inmates. Nebraska has no means to carry out an execution.

As for those pending a death penalty decision, Kleine said, "it's over."

"To me, the Legislature represents the people - and the people have spoken," Kleine said. "It's the end of it."

Solicitor General James Smith of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office has said that if a death sentence is not "final," it would become a life sentence once Legislative Bill 268 becomes law.

A death sentence does not become final, he said, until the Nebraska Supreme Court affirms it in the automatic appeal afforded for such cases.

The new law would affect anyone awaiting trial or sentencing for 1st-degree murder who faces the possibility of a death sentence.

In addition to Jenkins, that would include Garcia, 41, a former Creighton pathology resident charged with killing 4 Omahans connected to Creighton's pathology department. His trial is pending.

Jenkins, 27, was found guilty after pleading no contest to shooting and killing Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger in August 2013.

For Jenkins, the end of the death penalty wouldn't necessarily mean the end of his case. If he has no death penalty hearing to face, Jenkins is expected to try to withdraw his no-contest pleas. But judges rarely allow such withdrawals.

(source: omaha.com)

COLORADO:

Jury Selection Begins For Denver's 1st Death Penalty Case In 14 Years

Jury selection has started for Denver's 1st death penalty case in 14 years. Dexter Lewis is accused of fatally stabbing 5 people at a bar in October 2012. Lewis is accused in the brutal stabbing and killing of 5 people at Fero's Bar and Grill near Colorado and Alameda. He also allegedly set the bar on fire to cover up the crime.

Police claim the attacks happened while Lewis was trying to rob the business. The men allegedly got away with just $170.

Jurors will be selected from a pool of 600 people.

2 brothers, Joseph and Lynell Hill, have been sentenced after pleading guilty to their roles in the deadly stabbings. As part of their plea agreements, the Hill brothers agreed to testify against Lewis.

(source: CBS news)

ARIZONA:

Arizona should follow Nebraska and dump death penalty

When I heard that the Nebraska Legislature outlawed the death penalty, 2 words occurred to me.

Jodi Arias.

That case alone is enough of a reason why the Arizona Legislature should follow their conservative Cornhusker colleagues and dump our state's death penalty as well.

Certainly, our leaders won't do it because innocent people wind up on death row, though innocent people do. Consider the case of Ray Krone, 1 of 8 Arizona condemned inmates who have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1973, when 153 men on death row in U.S. prisons have been exonerated.

Certainly, they won't do it because 1 out of every 10 people who has been executed in the United States since 1977 is mentally ill, according to the National Association on Mental Illness.

Certainly, they won't consider the decades it takes to carry out the death penalty, which is tough on victims' families and something less than the crime deterrent our leaders like to call it.

Certainly, they won't do it on moral grounds that the state is little better than the killers we seek to punish.

Certainly, they won't do it because we can't seem to get the right drugs to do the job right.

So how about doing it in the name of fiscal conservatism?

Our conservative Legislature is constantly cutting taxes then wondering why we don't have enough money to properly fund things like schools.

Jodi Arias alone likely boosted class sizes in this state.

Arias, of course, is the deranged woman who killed her ex-boyfriend by stabbing him, shooting him and slashing his throat.

Taxpayers spent $3.5 million to provide her with a defense as prosecutors tried, then tried again to put her on death row. That doesn't count the cost of prosecution or putting up witnesses and family for the various hearings and trials.

And that's before inevitable appeals. Or the inevitable new trial that she would someday get when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that her constitutional rights were violated.

Meanwhile, it would have cost a fraction of that to simply toss Arias' sorry behind into a prison cell for the rest of her life...preferably one without a mirror or a microphone.

2 juries declined to put Arias on death row.

So now we're paying $3.5 million to try to kill her, plus the cost of prosecution plus the price of tossing her sorry behind into prison for the rest of her life.

According to the Department of Corrections, we pay $79.40 a day to house maximum-security inmates. Lock Arias up for 30 years and you're still only at $869,430.

Arizona is 1 of 31 states that still have a death penalty. The Arizona Legislature should make it 30.

Why not save ourselves a few bucks and spend them on schools rather than vengeance?

(source: Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic)

USA:

Why The Death Penalty Should Live----If you take lives, yours can be taken

I hadn't put a lot of thought into the death penalty until I was lying on a sidewalk on Boylston Street two years ago. There, then, I believed that I was going to die and that my husband was already dead. But we're still alive. I lost my leg below the knee; both of his legs were wounded. We are lucky.

When I woke up in the hospital, I decided not to use the name of the person on trial for the crimes against the 2 of us and more than 260 other people, including 4 murder victims, 1 of whom was 8 years old. Part of posttraumatic stress disorder is the feeling of losing control: one minute you're holding your husband's hand in beautiful, sunny Boston; the next, your life is changed forever. The killer never wanted to learn my name, so why should I learn his?

And I also decided early on that the death penalty was the verdict that I wanted for him. I believe in my heart of hearts that he knew exactly what he was doing the moment before he did it, and possibly months before that. Among other horrific charges, he used a weapon of mass destruction to intentionally harm and kill people.

You can't use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States and not think that if you succeed, you're going to face a federal jury and the possibility of the death penalty.

It must have been nice for him to be surrounded by a courtroom full of people fighting about whether he should live or die. None of us in Boston that day had such a luxury.

I testified in the penalty phase of the trial. When I was leaving the stand, I looked up and realized how close I was to him. I stood there and thought to myself, I wonder if he's scared. I wonder if he's scared that I'm this close. There didn't seem to be security covering him. Nobody budged. Maybe it's because of my tiny little arms that they didn't think I could do much. I certainly know I really wanted to.

But I stood there. I stood there for myself, and I stood there for the survivor community, and I stood there for my husband, and I stood there for my left leg. Since that moment I feel like there's a bit of closure for me. I'm never going to have to see him again.

Many in the survivor community feel like the death penalty offers a sense of justice being done. And that’s what his sentence felt like to me. I hope it also brings closure to those who lost loved ones that day. There are, of course, many in the survivor community who feel that he should spend his life in prison and sit in a cell and think about what he did. I don't speak for everybody.

I hope that the death penalty in this case sets a precedent, and I hope that it's a deterrent. I hope it sends a message from Boston and America: We don't put up with terrorism or terrorists. You're not going to get a bed or a television or an occasional phone call to your family. When you take lives, yours can be taken as well.

Nobody should ever have to go through what anyone in our Boylston Street family has. If anyone else is thinking of doing something like this, I hope they look long and hard at the sentence this guy got, and decide to change their minds and get the help that they need.

(source: Adrianne Haslet Davis is a ballroom dancer, public speaker, and philanthropist, TIME)

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

Why the Death Penalty Should Die----Killing killers won't bring back victims

In hauntingly similar but unrelated crimes, separated by 23 years and a thousand miles, my father Robert Cushing and my brother-in-law Stephen McRedmond were murdered, both at their own houses. Family homes became crime scenes; horror displaced happiness; and homicide, as it always does, brought to my family pain for which there are no words.

Nothing prepares a person for the murder of a loved one - to have what is most precious taken, forever, by another human being. Murder is the ultimate disempowerment, for both the victim and the survivors. And every family responds differently to murder and its traumatic wounds.

The challenges are many: Finding the strength to get out of bed. Figuring out what to do with the empty chair at the kitchen table. Working to understand - and avoid being crushed by - police investigations and court systems. And honoring the life and the memory of the deceased while seeking justice.

But I do not believe the needs of crime victims or their survivors are met by killing the killers. In 2004, I helped create Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, an organization of survivors of homicide victims who oppose the death penalty. As a New Hampshire state representative, I work to promote policies that enhance public safety and meet the needs of crime victims. My father's murderer, who had been a local police officer, is serving life without parole; my brother-in-law's murderer, his nephew, took his own life.

Our society is conflicted about the death penalty. I recognize and respect the diversity of opinions about capital punishment among survivors of murder victims. Unlike those of many death-penalty opponents, my views are victim-centered. My opposition is not rooted in what an execution does to a condemned prisoner but in what a system that embraces the ritual killing by government employees of an incapacitated prisoner does to me - to us, as individuals and as a society.

Arguing that an execution is the solution to the pain of victims' families does not reflect an understanding of the journey of surviving family members after a murder, and it completely ignores the reality of our broken capital-punishment system. Most important, executions do not do the one thing we all really want: bring our loved ones back from the dead.

For any person, the worst murder is the murder of a family member. A system that purports to execute only those who commit heinous murders creates a hierarchy of victims. Families devastated by crime become revictimized by a system focused on criminals, while the impact of crime itself and the needs of victims are all too often ignored. Sadly, some victims' survivors spend so much time focusing on how their cherished one died that they end up forgetting how the person lived.

As a society, we can and we must do better by victims of violent crime. We can live without the death penalty.

(source: Renny Cushing is a 5-term New Hampshire state representative and a founder of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights----TIME)

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

VICTORY: Nebraska Becomes the 19th US State to Abolish the Death Penalty!

Wow, who would have thought it possible? Red-state Nebraska (with a few purple splotches) actually has repealed the death penalty by voting to override the Governor's veto! And who were the people responsible for finally pushing this through? A strong coalition of abolitionists, plus some unlikely suspects, that's who.

First, a little bit of history: Nebraska was the 1st state to legislatively abolish the death penalty in the modern era, in 1979, but the bill failed to survive the governor's veto. Subsequently, we saw 3 executions in the 1990's, the last one being in 1997.

In 1999 a legislative moratorium bill passed, but was vetoed. In its place, a study was authorized, to be conducted by David C. Baldus of Iowa. The study concluded that the death penalty was arbitrarily applied, depending more on geography, class, race, and the discretion of prosecutors than on fairness.

In 2008, the State Supreme Court ruled that the use of the electric chair was deemed "cruel and unusual punishment" because at that time Nebraska was the only place on earth that had electrocution as our sole method of execution. Lethal injection replaced the electric chair as the means of execution, but since legal procurement of drugs has eluded the state, the death penalty has essentially been put on hold.

Finally, in 2013, we had enough votes for abolition, but not enough to overcome a filibuster.

But this year, after decades of struggle, we had the votes to halt a filibuster, and the bill sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has fought for abolition for some 40 years, finally saw its way to final passage.

The suspense was great; would we be able to override the Governor's promised veto, or would that prove to be an unsurmountable barrier as in 1979? Today, we have our answer. Let the celebration begin!

So, getting back to my crediting "unusual suspects" ... Just who has helped bring us to this historic moment? Many victims' family members have spoken out about the tremendous negative impact the continuous attention presented by the media has had on their lives. Many religious voices (including the Pope and the Dalai Lama) have supported repeal. Law officers, and even some prosecutors, a former Nebraska judge, and former wardens from other states have said that it's time to move on. But in Nebraska, it's really the conservative legislators who have turned the corner and have begun to present arguments, both moral and economic, that signal an end to a failed enterprise.

But clearly, this couldn't have happened without the hard work of groups dedicated to ending state barbarism. Amnesty International USA has been there for us, with phone banks and email alerts asking Nebraska's Amnesty International members to contact their legislators.

Nebraska also benefits from a strong coalition of people working together; Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NADP), Equal Justice USA (EJUSA), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and many others have worked diligently to try to educate policy makers and constituents. The media has had many editorials in the major statewide newspapers calling for abolition.

So thank you all for your support, phone calls, and emails. Now Nebraska has joined the ranks of states to abandon this broken and unfixable punishment - the 19th state without the death penalty, and the 7th state to abolish in the only the last 8 years.

The tidal wave of abolition is continuing to sweep over the United States, and soon the death penalty will be relegated to the history books where it belongs. Who's next?

(source: Christy Hargesheimer, Nebraska resident and Nebraska State Death Penalty Action Coordinator for Amnesty International; AIUSA)

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

Nebraska Made History ---- Joins Growing Number of States Replacing Death Penalty with Smart Alternatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE----May 27, 2015

Today, a supermajority of Nebraska legislators voted to override Governor Pete Rickett's veto of LB 268, a bill that replaces the death penalty with a life sentence that has no possibility of parole.

Statement from Danielle Conrad, Executive Director

Today marks a remarkable and historic victory for our state. We are grateful for the dynamic leadership of policymakers, and we are proud to be part of an incredibly diverse coalition led by faith leaders, fiscal conservatives, and victim's families. This is a meaningful victory for all Nebraskans. The Nebraska Legislature, with the world watching, made their voice a part of the national conversation. We are a nation that is turning away from the death penalty. This victory stands as a testament to what can happen in our sister states. Our work helped to identify what we were hearing and seeing on the ground and across the nation a majority of voters favor smart alternatives like life in prison that put public safety first.

Around the country, the number of executions per year and the number of states that carry out executions continue to decline. The state of Nebraska has been unable to carry out an execution for 15 years. Efforts to obtain drugs for lethal injection have failed time and time again. The Governor's most recent desperate attempt to secure lethal injection drugs raises the same legal and procedural red flags. Thankfully, Nebraska can now implement this law and devote more resources to solving crimes, supporting victims' families, and bringing sensible reforms to our crisis-riddled prison system.

(source: ACLU Nebraska)

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

Boston bomber sentenced to death, so why has Australia gone silent? The recent decision in Boston should reminder us of how easily the capital punishment apparatus is hijacked in pursuit of a political agenda.

It's been 2 weeks since a United States federal jury handed down a sentence of death for the Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In that fortnight, Australia's apparent disinterest - and the silence of some who vowed to oppose capital punishment in all circumstances - has been conspicuous. Now that the payoffs are less clear, and when it comes to one of our closest allies, just how far are we prepared to go with our principled opposition? Perhaps we'd prefer not to see the disheartening similarities between recent events in south-east Asia and the punitive machinery of justice in the "land of the free".

We're only too well-acquainted with the shortcomings of Indonesia's criminal justice system, but the recent decision in Massachusetts - a state overwhelmingly opposed to capital punishment and abolitionist since 1980 - ought to serve as a sombre reminder of just how easily the capital punishment apparatus is hijacked in pursuit of a political agenda. The particulars may be different but it's the same old story.

We might like to imagine that the failings at the core of Indonesia's death penalty regime can simply be attributed to Third World legal standards and corruption, but we'd be deceiving ourselves.

Former US president Bill Clinton's dramatic expansion of US federal death penalty laws - in the wake of the World Trade Centre bombings in the mid-1990s - to a broad range of terrorism offences was, according to some observers, "about politics of the most cynically expedient variety". Further reforms, particularly Clinton's duplicitously titled Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, significantly limited appeals for all death-row prisoners, terrorist and non-terrorist alike.

The fervour for a truncated capital appeals process was widespread among US "law-and-order" politicians, who presented this as a remedy to what they termed "frivolous" appeals by death-row inmates attempting to delay their executions.

The trend towards fast-track capital convictions in the US is particularly alarming when viewed alongside the growing list of exonerations; since 1973, 150 people have been found to be innocent of the crimes for which they had been sentenced to death. Since Clinton enacted the one-year statute of limitations in 1996, at least 80 death-row prisoners have missed the deadline, despite, in some cases, compelling evidence of errors or bias. Of these, 16 have been put to death.

The Boston verdict is not just a legacy of Clinton's enthusiasm for the death penalty - designed to underpin his "tough on crime" credentials - but also a federal jury selection process that almost guarantees its application. "Death-qualified" juries tend to be "conviction prone", according to research, and are further biased by extensive questioning on sentencing preferences, implying a guilty verdict even before the trial begins.

The US is seemingly unperturbed by the prospect of proceeding with executions in violation of binding judgments of the International Court of Justice - which it has done twice in 2014, in the case of two Mexican nationals - or in cases of recorded mental illness.

But it's not foreigners or the mentally unsound that appear to be the primary target of the US capital punishment machine. Victim race and geography are the key predictors of a death sentence; in the federal districts of St Louis and New Orleans, the death sentence is applied at about 6 times the rate of the federal districts of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

A review of US sentencing over the past 4 decades reveals that offenders with white victims are up to four times more likely to receive a death sentence as those with black victims, and heaven help you if you're a black offender.

In light of these bleak statistics, it seems reasonable to ask whether Clinton's death penalty laws have deterred terrorism. Well, no, as it happens - no more than south-east Asia's punitive sanctions have deterred drug offenders. Bruce Shapiro, award-winning reporter on criminal justice and politics, points to a calamitous list of terrorist attacks from the Oklahoma City bombing to 9/11, and a range of lone-wolf attacks, which have all occurred on US soil in the past 2 decades. If national security was the objective, Clinton's measures have failed the US spectacularly.

The forces that shape the circumstances of death-row inmates across the US are not so different, it seems, from those that sealed the fates of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in central Java a month ago. We might like to imagine that the failings at the core of Indonesia's death penalty regime can simply be attributed to Third World legal standards and corruption, but we'd be deceiving ourselves. The evidence is mounting that flaws in the death penalty - wherever it is applied - are far more insidious, and more fundamental, than that.

In which case, who are the real beneficiaries of state-sanctioned killing? This question seems particularly salient in view of the capital sentence for the Boston bomber; a sentence opposed in Massachusetts law, opposed by the vast majority of Bostonians, and even opposed by many of the maimed and the bereaved. If the death penalty - applied unjustly, expeditiously, or inequitably - doesn't even serve the victims, then just who is it serving? When we get to the bottom of that - hopefully sooner rather than later - we'll find a solid foundation for our principled opposition.

(source: Sarah Gill has worked as a writer, researcher and government policy analyst. She is undertaking postgraduate study in law, policy and government at the University of Western Australia----The Age)

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

Will Republicans Follow Nebraska and Give Up the Death Penalty?

Yesterday, Nebraska's legislature abolished the state's use of capital punishment, voting 30-19 to override Republican governor Pete Ricketts's veto of a bill that had repealed the state's death penalty law. As the New York Times reports, it is the 1st time in 40 years that a conservative state has banned the death penalty, and Nebraska now becomes the 19th state, along with the District of Columbia, to forbid capital punishment. The last conservative state to do so was North Dakota in 1973, though 6 blue states have banned the practice since 2006.

Prior to the vote, Nebraska had 11 inmates on death row but had been unable to execute anyone for 17 years. Indeed, even if they had not repealed the practice, the state, which relied on the procedure of lethal injection after banning the electric chair in 2009, would have had the same difficulty that most other death penalty states currently have: a decisive shortage of lethal injection drugs, after European manufacturers decided it was no longer ethical to sell state governments the components they need to make their lethal injection cocktails. According to the Times, even Texas, which leads the nation in executions by a considerable margin, only has enough drugs to execute one more prisoner.

The endgame in Nebraska came after months of debate and previous attempts by the state's unicameral legislature to repeal the law. The Times notes that death penalty opponents "were able to build a coalition that spanned the ideological spectrum by winning the support of Republican legislators who said they believed capital punishment was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party's values, as well as that of lawmakers who cited religious or moral reasons for supporting the repeal." Along those lines, The Atlantic's Russell Berman spoke with Marc Hyden, of the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, regarding his rationale for opposing capital punishment:

[Said Hyden,] "It's not pro-life because it risks innocent life. It's not fiscally responsible because it costs millions more dollars than life without parole." Yet Nebraska's bumbling and occasionally shady attempts to carry out death sentences - along with incidents in neighboring states like the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma - have given rise to another argument that sells among conservatives: the death penalty is just another example of government run amok.

"At the end of the day, this is just another big government program that's really dangerous and expensive but doesn’t achieve any of its goals," Hyden told me, summarizing his pitch to Republicans. "They don't need to ask themselves, 'Do some people deserve to die?' The question they need to ask themselves is, do they trust an error-prone government to fairly, efficiently and properly administer a program that metes out death to its citizens? I think the answer to that is a resounding no."

According to the Pew Research Center, 77 % of Republicans currently support capital punishment. Looking at overall public opinion trends, NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben adds:

Support for the death penalty has slowly fallen over the past couple of decades, from a high of 80 % in favor in the mid-1990s to just over 60 % currently, according to Gallup. That is actually near a 40-year low, but the longer history of public opinion on the death penalty is much more unstable.

She goes on to note that a primary reason for that instability is the shifting influence of fear and distrust among Americans:

"There are spikes in death-penalty support appearing during particular eras of what can be described as fear mongering," contended Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that studies the policy. He explained that during the "red scare" of the 1950s, American support for the death penalty picked up. It fell off in the early 1960s, only to pick up again in the late 1960s and early 1970s after a rash of high-profile assassinations - Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., for example, and the attempted assassination of George Wallace. All of that contributed to a national conversation about the death penalty as the Supreme Court in 1972 found some death penalty statutes to be unconstitutional (effectively ending the practice for several years), but a 1976 decision opened the doors again. Then, the racially charged political rhetoric on crime in the 1980s (think Willie Horton) likewise fueled that support, according to Dunham's explanation.

Conversely, if a culture of fear contributes to support of the death penalty, public distrust of the government turns people against the policy, Dunham explains. During the Vietnam War era, when people started to question the government's choices, they also questioned the death penalty as a valid form of punishment.

So theoretically, in the age of bogeyman Obama, NSA overreach, and Jade Helm paranoia, death penalty support among conservatives should be falling off a cliff. But looking at the fear dynamic, if there are additional terrorist attacks here in the U.S., would support for the death penalty then tick up? Looking at the high-profile case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was recently sentenced to die under federal death penalty law, an April CNN/ORC poll found that 53 % of Americans thought he should be executed. In addition:

Fewer feel Tsarnaev ought to face the death penalty than said so about Timothy McVeigh following his conviction for carrying out the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. An August 1997 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 64% of Americans felt McVeigh ought to face the death penalty for his crimes, 34% preferred life in prison.

Meanwhile, when the Boston Globe commissioned a Massachusetts poll on the same question, also in April, they discovered that "although nearly a third of Massachusetts residents say they support the death penalty for egregious crimes, less than 20 % [supported executing Tsarnaev]".

What impact Nebraska's move will have on the national debate remains unclear, but it does seem possible the news will help convince more conservatives to reconsider their position. In the meantime, with lethal injection drugs unavailable, Utah recently reauthorized the use of the firing squad, a move three other conservative states are also considering.

(source: nymag.com)

NIGERIA:

Help Save Moses Akatugba

https://act.amnestyusa.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1839&ea.campaign.id=39014&ea.tracking.id=Country_Nigeria~MessagingCategory_DeathPenalty

(source: Amnesty International USA)

BANGLADESH:

SC seeks summary on Quasem plea in 4 weeks

The Supreme Court Appellate Division has ordered both the prosecutor and defense counsels to submit the separate concise statements within 4 weeks on appeal hearing against the death penalty of war crimes convict Mir Quasem Ali.

The Supreme Court today gave 4 more weeks to both the defence and the state counsels for submitting separate concise statements on the appeal filed by convicted war criminal Mir Quasem Ali against his death sentence.

After passing the order, a 4-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice SK Sinha said the appeal will be considered as ready for hearing if the concise statements are not submitted before it within the given time.

A four-member bench led by Chief Justice SK Sinha made the order on the basis of the petition filed by defense counsel Jainal Abedin.

On April 22, the court ordered the defense counsel to submit the statement by May 20 and prosecutors May 27. Both failed to submit in the given time.

The defense counsel appealed against the death penalty of Mir Quasem Ali by the International Crimes Tribunal 2 on November 2.

The tribunal awarded death penalty to the top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali, also known as a key financier of the anti-liberation party, finding him guilty in 10 of the 14 alleged crimes against humanity and other offences committed in Chittagong during the 1971 Liberation War.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

PAKISTAN----executions

Pakistan Executes 8 Death Row Convicts

Pakistan on Thursday executed 8 death row convicts, including 3 men who hijacked an airplane in May 1998.

Shahsawar, Sabir and Shabbir Baloch hijacked a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Balochistan province's Turbat town on May 25, 1998, Dunya News reported.

The PIA Flight 544 was carrying 33 passengers, including 5 crew members. The hijackers demanded the pilot to enter India. They were arrested when the flight finally landed at Hyderabad Airport.

The 3 men were sentenced to death on August 20, 1998. Shahsawar and Sabir were hanged in Hyderabad Central Jail, while Shabbir was executed in Karachi Central Jail.

Death row convict, Mahmood was also hanged in Karachi Central Jail. He was sentenced for killing a minor boy in 2003.

3 convicts were hanged in jails across Punjab province.

Akseer was found guilty of killing a man over a business dispute in 1998. Muhammad Ashraf was sentenced for a double murder in 2000. Amir Abdullah was found guilty of killing a man in 2002.

Khurram was executed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Haripur Central Jail. He was sentenced to death in 1999 for killing his friend.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially, executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which had killed more than 140 people, mostly students.

(source: focusnews.com)

INDIA:

Death-row convicts too have right to life, says SC

The Supreme Court today ruled that the convicts sentenced to death would continue to enjoy their fundamental right to life even after affirmation of the penalty by the apex court.

In other words, the death row convicts could be executed only after they had exhausted all the legal and administrative remedies available to them under law, a vacation Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and UU Lalit explained.

The SC made the clarification while quashing the warrants of execution issued by a sessions court in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, for hanging a young couple sentenced to death for the gruesome murder of seven members of the girl's family. The convicts, Shabnam and Saleem, had committed the crime as her parents and other family members objected to their affair and marriage plan.

The Bench said that after the SC had upheld the death penalty awarded to convicts involved in ghastly crimes, they should be allowed to seek a review of the SC verdict within the stipulated 30 days, if necessary by providing legal assistance to them.

Review petitions stood on a higher pedestal as these were heard by a Bench of not less than 3 judges, while the regular appeals were decided by two judges, the court noted.

Such petitions had assumed greater significance after a recent Constitution Bench ruling that there should be oral hearings in the open court at least for half-an-hour, unlike in the past when these were decided through circulation within the judges' chambers.

Even after losing the case filed in the form of review petitions, they would be entitled to send mercy petitions to the Governor of the respective state and the President.

Only if they did not get any relief from the Governor or the President, the jail authorities could start the process for the execution by giving notice to them and their relatives should be given proper notice for the execution.

The Constitution had accorded great value of human beings and their right to life and this was evident from the legal provisions under which even the execution should be carried out through the least painful method, the Bench explained.

The Bench noted that the Amroha judge had issued the warrants of execution without even specifying the date and time for the hanging. Further, the warrants had been issued within a week of SC rejecting their appeals on May 15. They still had the right to seek a review of the SC verdict and appeal for mercy, if necessary at a later stage, it said.

(source: Tribune India)

VIETNAM:

Many Vietnamese legislators want to maintain death penalty for drug, corruption crimes

Many Vietnamese legislators have voiced discontent at the point of view that capital punishment should be canceled for drug and corruption convictions, and requested that the death penalty be maintained for both crimes.

The disagreements were voiced on Tuesday when lawmakers further discussed the amendments to the current Penal Code in groups, about a week after Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong introduced them to the law-making National Assembly (NA) plenary meeting on May 20, the 1st day of its 9th session.

At that plenary meeting, deputies agreed to an amendment that the death penalty should be dropped for 7 crimes, which do not include corruption and drug charges.

At yesterday's meeting, the issue of whether capital punishment should be dropped for these 2 counts was debated among parlimentarians.

Among the many deputies who want the death penalty to be maintained as the highest punishment for those convicted of corruption is Major General Nguyen Xuan Ty, deputy director of the Vietnam National Defense Academy, an NA deputy from the southern province of Ben Tre.

"Corrupt officials are usually those who have high power and positions. They often squeeze the state funds and repress the public. Therefore, if we do not apply the highest penalty to convicted corrupt officials, this will not be in accordance with the people's aspirations," Major General Ty said.

There are people who have hundreds, even thousands, of billions of dong in hand, only after a few years of serving as government officials, Major General Ty told the meeting. (VND1 billion = US$46,100).

"From where else could that much money come if not from corrupt acts?" the official wondered.

"There are officials who get rich very fast," Major General Ty said, adding that these officials tread on the people's neck, acting more terribly than landlords and capitalists in the old days.

"We are determined to fight corruption but the situation has yet to improve much. I propose that capital punishment be kept for corruption charges," he said.

When discussing whether the death penalty should be maintained for drug charges, Police Major General Bui Mau Quan said, "It is not advisable to abolish the death penalty for drug-related crimes, as they are among the types of very dangerous counts."

Sharing Major General Quan's view, Major General Ty said that the drug trafficking situation has become complicated and dangerous.

Drug traffickers often gather in groups or rings to operate and are ready to decisively resist law enforcement officers who detect their illegal activities, Major General Ty said.

"I propose that capital punishment be maintained as the highest penalty for people convicted of drug trafficking," he said.

"The drug trafficking situation has not eased despite our great efforts. So what will it be like if we give drug traffickers lighter penalties?" he added.

In a seminar on March 24, Dr. Nguyen Tat Vien, a standing member of the Central Steering Committee for Justice Reform, said, "There are many opinions saying that the death penalty should be abolished for corruption or embezzlement convictions, but I think that such an abolition should not be approved given the current situation."

"Bribery and embezzlement are causing anger and displeasure in our society, undermining the prestige and efficiency of the state apparatus and threatening the survival of our regime. If we do not severely crack down on such wrongdoings, people will lose their trust in the ongoing fight against corruption," Dr. Vien said.

On May 20, the 1st working day of the 9th session of the 13th NA, most deputies agreed to an amendment that the death penalty should be waived for 7 crimes.

These crimes include plundering property, destroying important national security works and/or facilities; disobeying orders in the military; surrendering to the enemy, which is applicable in the army; undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars; crimes against mankind; and war crimes.

(source: Tuoi Tre News)

IRAN----executions

3 prisoners hanged in public

3 young men were hanged in public in the city of Mashhad in northwestern Iran on Wednesday.

2 prisoners who were hanged in 1 of the city's main square were 23 years old while the 3rd one was in his 30s.

The public hanging in Mashhad follows a wave of secret execution inside the countries prisons.

The Iranian regime's henchmen have executed at least 22 prisoners in one of the many prisons in Iran during the 3 day period of May 23-25.

The Iranian regime's media has not published any information about the group executions that have been carried out.

Earlier this year, the United Nations described the number of executions in Iran as "deeply troubling".

From May 19 to 21, the clerical regime in Iran executed 37 people in prisons or on the streets of various cities.

The executions are aimed at raising the atmosphere of terror in the society in order to prevent any public expression of dissent in the country.

(source: NCR-Iran)

INDONESIA:

Ex-Bali 9 lawyer questioned over bribary claims

A Bali lawyer who claims bribery and politics interfered in the death sentencing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be quizzed next week.

On the eve of the men's executions last month, Muhammad Rifan alleged judges who sentenced the men in 2006 asked for more than $130,000 for a lighter sentence.

Mr Rifan indicated he wished to withdraw the claims after the executions but the judicial commission had already launched a probe.

Commissioner Imam Anshori Saleh told AAP on Thursday the matter was still under investigation, with Mr Rifan to be questioned in Bali next week.

Mr Imam says because it is an ethical probe, witnesses don't have to be sworn in and commission staff will interview Mr Rifan in private.

"We would like to know why he said that in the first place and then why he withdrew it," he said.

"Because it's a public report, we can't reject it, we have to follow it up.

"Whether it's proven or not, that's another matter."

The complaint was lodged by lawyers fighting to save Chan and Sukumaran from the death penalty.

They argued the men shouldn't have been executed before the claims were investigated.

Mr Rifan was the pair's lawyer when they went on trial for their part in the 2005 Bali 9 plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

He first made claims of "interference" in February, and as the men went to the firing squad last month, revealed judges had asked for $130,000 to give a prison term of less than 20 years but withdrew the offer on orders from Jakarta to impose a death penalty.

(source: tvnz.co.nz)

MAY 27, 2015:

ARKANSAS:

Jury, judge impose death penalty for girl's murder

A jury said a man from northwest Arkansas should be executed for raping and strangling a 6-year-old girl 2 years ago. A judge agreed on Wednesday and set an execution date for Zachary Holly for Nov. 16, 2016.

Jurors deliberated 3 days before recommending death by lethal injection for Holly. Despite the judge's order, the execution date likely is years away, following years of appeals.

On Nov. 20, 2012, Jersey Bridgeman's body was found in a vacant house next to Holly's home in Bentonville. Holly was charged with capital murder, kidnapping, rape and burglary. After 2 mental evaluations, a judge ruled he was competent to stand trial.

Jersey Bridgeman's mother called police early in the morning to report her daughter was missing. Officers found the child's body within 15 minutes in a nearby vacant house.

Investigators said Holly and his wife babysat the child the night of her death while her mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, and Bridgeman's boyfriend were working at a nearby convenience store.

A swab test on Jersey Bridgeman's body showed traces of sperm, according to the affidavit. Holly, who was 28 at the time, consented to cheek swabs for DNA comparison and also gave authorities the clothing he had worn since going to bed the night of Jersey Bridgeman's death, according to the probable cause affidavit used as the basis of charges.

DesaRae Bridgeman called police about 6:45 a.m. Jersey Bridgeman and her younger sister shared a bed, but Jersey was not there. An autopsy found her death occurred sometime after midnight.

While searching for Jersey Bridgeman, an officer noticed the back door to a vacant home was open. The child's body was inside. The girl died of asphyxiation, according to the probable cause affidavit.

(source: KY3.com)

NEBRASKA----death penalty repealed

Nebraska lawmakers vote to abolish death penalty

With a vote to override a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts, The Nebraska Legislature repealed the death penalty in the state.

With 30 votes needed to override, the motion received 30 votes. 19 senators voted with the Governor.

2 senators changed their vote since final passage of LB 268. Wahoo State Senator and Jerry Johnson and Gretna State Senator John Murante initially supported the repeal, but on the floor Wednesday said they had changed their minds.

"I am personally conflicted on the death penalty,' said Murante, who noted he was a practicing Catholic. "One truth is undeniable. Taking human life under certain circumstances can be justified."

Murante said despite appeals by Archbishop George Lucas and priests, the majority of Murante's constituents overwhelmingly support the death penalty.

Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill Tuesday, arguing it was a necessary deterrent.

Omaha State Senator Ernie Chambers sponsored LB 268. Wednesday's vote was the culmination of a 40-year effort by Chambers to end capital punishment in Nebraska.

As debate began, he urged Senators to stand by their decision.

"Don't sacrifice what you are, and what you've stood for in response to temporary political pressure of the kind that might discard you later," said Chambers.

After the vote, applause broke out in the legislative chamber. Senator Chambers thanked colleagues for their vote.

During Wednesday's debate, Omaha Senator Bob Krist said, "Taking a life is not the right way for the state to maintain the safety of its citizens."

"This program is broken," said Lincoln Senator Colby Coash. "Executions are done. LB 268 is the way to put it in our past... Now is the time to do it."

Nebraska had not executed a prisoner since 1997, when the electric chair was used. It hasn't imposed the punishment under the lethal injection process now required by state law.

(source: KETV news)

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

Death Penalty: Arguments Align

A coalition of motives have come together in Nebraska to do what might have seemed unthinkable a few months ago: repeal the state's death penalty.

This happened last week when the Nebraska Legislature - a unicameral body governing a very conservative state - voted 32-15 to repeal the penalty. Gov. Pete Ricketts has promised to veto the legislation, but the 32-15 margin is veto-proof. Thus, in order for the measure to be stopped, some lawmakers are going to have to change their minds.

But the fact that it has even reached this point may be surprising to a lot of people.

It also may stir hopes in South Dakota that the same thing can happen here.

Most of us are very familiar with the arguments for having a death penalty on the books, since this debate springs up regularly in both Nebraska and South Dakota and the efforts at repeal are usually defeated with those same talking points.

But the Nebraska case seems to turn the argument on its ideological head.

Conservatives who voted for the repeal cited their own personal principles, such bureaucratic overreach and fiscal recklessness involved in the process. According to Newsweek, they also question whether the government should have the authority to take a life, even in a case involving a capital crime.

The process has also been criticized by conservatives such as columnist George Will as a protracted and flawed process. The former prolongs the emotional suffering and doubt of families for years; the latter cannot be corrected once the deed is done.

So, in some ways, this has become a philosophical alignment, in which both conservative and liberal philosophies have melded together. The aforementioned points sound a lot like the progressive arguments that have heretofore failed to repeal the penalty.

And so, the future of the death penalty in Nebraska, which has not conducted an execution in 18 years and has 10 inmates awaiting execution, seems to be very much in doubt.

Could the same be true in South Dakota?

That's a big question and a big leap, but the Nebraska case sheds a new, nonpartisan light on the issue. Lawmakers tried to repeal the penalty this past session with Senate Bill 121, but the idea was mowed down in committee.

The arguments that failed in Pierre sounded somewhat like the arguments that succeeded in Lincoln "I guess the question that we ask ourselves on Senate Bill 121 is, 'Do we want a government so big, so powerful, they can decide life and death?'" stated District 18 Sen. Bernie Hunhoff (D) of Yankton in an Associated Press report.

That argument was echoed by Will in a column about the "withering" of the death penalty this past week: "The power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism."

None of this suggests that the death penalty will be repealed next winter in South Dakota, where 3 people currently sit on death row. A lot has to change before that can take place.

But change can come quickly and in the unlikeliest places. Nebraska will be a rallying point for future repeal efforts to come.

(source: Associated Press )

HUNGARY:

PM proposes to debate EU on having capital punishment instead of real life prison sentence

Hungary must remain a member of the European Union and NATO, the prime minister said during questions in Parliament. In response to a question by Gabor Vona, leader of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, concerning whether a referendum would be held on renegotiating Hungary's position with the EU, Viktor Orban said Jobbik "can hide behind a referendum" but "the fact is that Jobbik wants us to leave the EU and NATO." It is in the interest of the Hungarian people that Hungary should remain a member of both organisations, he said.

Meanwhile, Jobbik lawmaker Adam Mirkoczki asked Orban to support a parliamentary debate on capital punishment, initiated by Jobbik. Mirkoczki noted that in 2012 Orban had referred to EU principles to explain why the death penalty would not be restored. Noting the murder of a young tobacconist in south-west Hungary, Orban insisted the EU had "attacked" the implementation of real life prison sentences and now the situation had changed. If Brussels can "force" the country to let habitual offenders back into society then "we shouldn't take defensive action but instead take a step forward." "We need to respond by saying: let's have a debate on capital punishment," Orban said.

(source: politics.hu)

PAKISTAN----impending executions

PIA Flight 544 hijackers to be hanged on Thursday

The convicts in hijacking case of Flight 544 Shahsawar Baloch and Sabir Baloch are scheduled to be executed by handing on Thursday at Hyderabad Central Jail, Dunya News reported.

The terrorists had hijacked a passenger flight on May 25, 1998 with 33 passengers and 5 crew members on board in order to stop testing of nuclear weapons Pakistan developed.

The flight took off from Gwadar International Airport and was scheduled to land at Hyderabad airport. The told the pilot to take the flight to New Delhi. What followed is no less than a plot of an action film.

The pilots told the hijackers that the flight, Fokker F27 model, did not have enough fuel to make it to New Delhi to which the hijackers demanded to land the flight at nearest airport in India.

The pilot then contacted Hyderabad airport and addressed it as Bhuj airport. Comprehending the signal, Hyderabad airport staff pretended to be from Bhuj airport and told the pilot Bhuj was waiting for the plane to land. This was a sort of assurance for the hijackers.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had intercepted the communication and joined the operation.

Upon landing, Rangers' Major Aamir Hashmi, SSP Akhtar Gorchani, and Deputy Commissioner Suhail Akbar Shah waited outside the aircraft while dressed as Indian personnel which led the hijackers to believe they had landed in India.

Acting as Indian airport staff, communicating in Hindi and introducing themselves to the hijackers with Indian names, Pakistani officials successfully convinced the hijackers to let women and children go.

The final showdown happened when the commandos' reinforcement stormed the aircraft chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) slogan which left the hijackers shot. 1 of the hijackers fired at Deputy Commissioner but missed and shot one of his own accomplices instead.

Subsequently the hijackers were arrested and transferred to Karachi for prosecution. The anti-terrorism court awarded them death penalty and despite issuance of death warrants only to be canceled owing to temporary moratorium on death penalty.

However, the fresh death warrants have been issued and their execution is scheduled for May 28, the date on which Pakistan successfully test fired nuclear weapons in 1998.

The final meeting of death-row inmates with the families took place on Wednesday at the Central Jail.

Talking to the press, Shahsawar's son said that his father is 'innocent' and should be pardoned.

(source: Dunya News)

ALGERIA:

Algeria sentences 12 Islamists to death over 2008 bombing

An Algerian court sentenced 12 Islamist militants to death today and 2 more to life imprisonment for their involvement in a 2008 bombing that killed a Frenchman and his driver.

The APS news agency said the accused were all members of Katibat el-Arkam, the most dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and were behind several attacks in the Boumerdes region 50 kilometres east of Algiers.

Those given the death penalty are all on the run and were sentenced in absentia by Algiers criminal court, while the 2 present in court were sentenced to life.

All were found guilty of "forming an armed terrorist group and premeditated voluntary homicide".

The 2 defendants in court, Khaled Asalah and Brahim Brahim, admitted membership of AQIM and taking part in several attacks.

On June 9, 2008, engineer Pierre Nowacki of the French firm BTP Razel and his Algerian driver were killed by a remotely controlled roadside bomb in the Beni Amrane area east of the capital.

A 2nd blast in the area minutes later wounded 7 people.

The Frenchman had been overseeing repair work on a railway tunnel.

(source: The Business Standard)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi execution surge 'very disturbing': UN rapporteur

Saudi Arabia's execution surge is "very disturbing" and out of line with global trends, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions told AFP Wednesday.

He spoke as the number of beheadings in the kingdom hit 89, compared with 87 during all of 2014, according to tallies by AFP.

"It is certainly very disturbing that there is such a fast pace of executions at the moment," Christof Heyns said in a telephone interview from South Africa.

"If it continues at this pace we will have double the number of executions, or more than double the number of executions than we had last year."

Heyns, who submits annual reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council and General Assembly, said Riyadh's use of the death penalty "is just so way out of line" with global trends where the number of executions and states which apply the death penalty is decreasing.

"So this is going in the opposite direction. It's going against the stream," he said.

Heyns, a professor of human rights law at the University of Pretoria, said statistics indicate that Saudi Arabia last year had the world's third highest number of executions after China and Iran.

He said there are a number of concerns about the kingdom's use of the death penalty.

Under international law, if capital punishment is imposed at all it should only be for murder, he said.

But in Saudi Arabia "more than half" the executions are for non-lethal crimes.

Under the Gulf nation's strict version of Islamic sharia law, drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death, as are other offences including espionage.

In a country of about 29 million, a "very high number of people for the population" are sentenced to death and executed, the special rapporteur said.

"It seems that many of these trials are in secrecy and that lawyers are not available and they do not comply with the standards of fair trial."

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for implementing capital punishment.

(source: The Daily Star)

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

89 in 5 months: Saudi Arabia continues executions

A man was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, with the convicted murderer's execution becoming the 89th case this year, according to an AFP count. The death toll has already overtaken the total for all of 2014.

Fahd bin Hussein Daghriri was found guilty in participating in the murder of a fellow Saudi citizen, AFP reported on Wednesday, citing an interior ministry statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency. Authorities executed the convicted criminal in the southern region of Jazan.

The man was sentenced to death according to the nation's strict version of Islamic sharia law, under which such crimes as murder, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death. Executions are mostly conducted by decapitating the accused with a sword in public.

The Gulf kingdom had already executed 88 people across 2015 before the newest case, both locals and foreigners. This month, 5 foreigners were executed in Saudi Arabia, causing international outcry, with human rights groups having condemned the country.

Daghriri's beheading was the 89th since the beginning of the year. In comparison, in all of 2014, 87 people were executed in Saudi Arabia.

The "fast pace" of executions in Saudi Arabia was deemed "very disturbing" by a UN special rapporteur.

"If it continues at this pace we will have double the number of executions, or more than double the number of executions, that we had last year," Christof Heyns who submits annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, told AFP on Wednesday.

Observing that how, in a country of approximately 29 million, the number of people sentenced to death and executed is "very high," Heyns said Saudi Arabia "is going against the stream," while execution figures are decreasing in other countries.

The UN official called the practice "something which really doesn't belong in the 21st century," adding that in the Gulf kingdom trials leading to beheadings are often carried out "in secrecy," with lawyers being unavailable. "They do not comply with the standards of fair trial," Heyns told AFP.

Out of the 22 countries currently known to practice capital punishment, in 2014 Saudi Arabia was ranked 3rd on Amnesty International's list of countries that carry out the most executions, surpassing Iraq and the United States.

(source: rt.com)

CHINA:

China's top court stresses death penalty for drug crimes

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Wednesday published a circular emphasizing that death penalty should be used to punish drug crime.

In cases involving drug lords, professional drug dealers or re-offenders, if the crimes were serious enough, capital punishment should be handed down, said the circular formulated at a recent national conference on trials of drug crimes.

Death sentences may also be used to punish drug smuggling, organized transnational drug crime and armed or violent drug crime.

The top court also required more stricter standards for reprieves, ruling them out for re-offenders.

Reprieves for those found to have induced, instigated, conned or forced others to commit drug crimes should also be strictly controlled, the SPC said.

Abatements or probation for sentenced drug gang bosses, professional traffickers and re-offenders also needs to be scrutinized, the circular added.

The document went on that the amount of narcotics the suspects held for their own use will no longer be an element when the judges decide on convictions, and such facts will only be considered during the sentencing process.

The circular pledged equal punishment for drug-related crimes conducted via the Internet and vowed to step up the confiscation of the drug criminals' assets.

(source: Global Times)

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

Former Chinese legislator stands trial for sex business

A 5-star hotel owner and former national legislator went on trial in south China's Guangdong province for alleged involvement in prostitution, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Liang Yaohui, and his 46 hotel employees, were accused of arranging prostitutes, including underage girls, in Crown Prince Hotel in Dongguan city since 2004, according to Dongguan Intermediate People's Court.

The city, which is about 80 km away from provincial capital Guangzhou, is famous for casinos, bath houses and massage parlours.

The hotel made about 48.7 million yuan ($7.8 million) by organising over 100,000 illegal sexual acts in 2013, according to the court.

In February 2014, Liang's hotel was closed down together with some other hotels and entertainment venues involved in sex trade in Dongguan after media exposed the city's sex business. The scandal was followed by a 3-month crackdown on prostitution in Guangdong.

Liang, born in 1967, was stripped of the title as a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, after being detained in April 2014.

Prostitution has been outlawed in China since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. According to Chinese laws, organising prostitution can result in life in prison or even the death penalty.

(source: The Business Standard)

BANGLADESH:

Mujahid appeal verdict June 16

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has fixed June 16 for delivering its verdict on an appeal filed by Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, challenging his death penalty. The 4-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice SK Sinha passed the order on Wednesday afternoon.

On July 17 last year, International Crimes Tribunal 2 awarded the death penalty to Jamaat leader Mujaheed for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

He received death penalties in 2 cases filed for abetting and facilitating the killing of intellectuals during the Liberation War and participating in and facilitating the murder of 9 Hindu civilians in Faridpur.

On August 11 last year, Mujahid filed an appeal with the Appellate Division against his capital punishment.

On April 29, the SC started the appeal hearing of the condemned prisoner for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

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

Bangladesh to 'form tribunals at divisional headquarters to try human trafficking offences'

Law Minister Anisul Huq today said the government will form 7 special tribunals at 7 divisional headquarters of the country to try and punish the offences of human trafficking, and curb such crimes.

District and session judges concerned will conduct the tribunals, which will be established under the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012, the minister said while talking to reporters after a meeting with Swedish Ambassador Johan Frisell at his Secretariat office.

Highest punishment for such organised crimes under this law is death penalty, he added.

The law minister said his ministry has already sent proposal for formation of the tribunals to the ministries concerned.

He said there are 557 cases, filed on charges of human trafficking, are pending with different courts across the country. Charge sheets were submitted in 257 cases and trial proceedings of 12 cases have been finished, he said.

Anisul also said the trial proceedings of the pending cases will be conducted at the women and children repression prevention tribunals concerned of the districts until the special tribunals are established in the divisional headquarters.

(source: The Daily Star)

FLORIDA:

Attorneys appeal convicted murderer's death sentence

David Beasher Snelgrove, sentenced to death in 2002 by an 8-4 jury vote after he was convicted in the 2000 beating and stabbing deaths of his elderly Palm Coast neighbors, Glyn and Vivian Fowler, has appealed his death sentence multiple times.

He was back in court in Flagler County Tuesday, May 26, as his defense team attempted to convince Circuit Judge David Walsh to throw out his conviction and his death sentence and grant him a new trial and penalty phase.

Snelgrove, wearing the green and white jumpsuit of an inmate on death row, was largely expressionless throughout the hearing.

The victims' children, Randy Fowler and Pamela Fowler Norko, traveled from their homes in California for the hearing.

Norko, who dabbed at her eyes with a tissue throughout the proceedings, said the repeated appeals - which have included 2 before the Florida Supreme Court - have been hard on the siblings.

"We went through the 1st trial back in 2002, then there was another hearing for the penalty phase, and we've been though 2 appeals in Tallahassee, and now this," she said.

Her brother was also frustrated with the lengthy process.

"All they're doing is pulling at straws trying to save him, after he murdered 2 wonderful people," he said.

Norko said she is hoping Walsh, who will rule in the future after reviewing the case documents which must be submitted in the coming 30 days, will find for the prosecution.

"We will fight to the end," she said.

She noted that her parents had been friendly with Snelgrove, who lived across the street from her parents. They'd loaned him money in the past.

But Snelgrove, then 27, broke into their home one night to steal money or jewelry to pawn to support a cocaine addiction.

"All he had to do was ask my dad, and my dad would have done anything for him, for anybody," Norko said.

But when the couple awoke and interrupted Snelgrove's burglary, he killed them, beating 84-year-old Glyn Fowler so brutally that he died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to Florida Supreme Court records. Vivian Fowler, 79, died of a stab wound to the heart, and both had "multiple fractures and stab wounds spread throughout their bodies," according to the document.

Snelgrove pawned the couple's jewelry and used their bloodstained cash to buy cocaine.

Detectives arrested him after a bloodhound tracked a scent trail to Snelgrove's house, where "police recovered a knife in the woods next to the Snelgrove home with blood matching Snelgrove's DNA," according to the Florida Supreme Court document. There were blood droplets containing Snelgrove's DNA throughout the Fowler home.

The Florida Supreme Court overturned Snelgrove's sentence in 2005, then reversed itself in 2009, again sentencing Snelgrove to death. A subsequent hearing in 2013 also upheld the sentence. Most states with the death penalty require a unanimous jury recommendation to implement it.

In the hearing Tuesday, Snelgrove's defense team, led by Tampa-based attorney Richard Kiley and attorney Ali Shakoor, made two claims of ineffective counsel during the trial: that Snelgrove's counsel failed to address a possible mental disability that could have prevented him from being sentenced to death, and that Snelgrove’s defense team failed to object to improper comments by the prosecution.

Snelgrove's lead counsel at the time of his trial, James Valerino, testified Tuesday that an initial IQ test administered to Snelgrove in jail showed an IQ of 77 - too high for Snelgrove to be considered what was, at the time, referred to as "mentally retarded." The current term is "mentally disabled."

A subsequent test found a score of 70, Valerino said. A score of 70 was, at the time, the very highest someone could have if they were to be considered mentally disabled.

Valerino said in the hearing Tuesday that he had requested a continuance from the judge at the time in order to pursue the possibility that Snelgrove was mentally retarded, but the motion was denied.

A forensic psychologist, Gregory Prichard, evaluated Snelgrove for the prosecution, judging him at the time to functioning at a "borderline" range of mental functioning that was not so low as to be considered mentally disabled. He'd evaluated Snelgrove's IQ as 75.

In court Tuesday responding to questions from the prosecution, Prichard noted that Snelgrove hadn't been classed as intellectually disabled as a child. He'd instead been listed as emotionally disabled.

"When they're saying it's emotional, they're essentially ruling out that it has anything to do with intellectual condition," Prichard said.

And, he said, Snelgrove's written communications from prison didn't seem like that of someone with an intellectual disability, and people didn't react to him as someone who was mentally disabled.

"In my mind, everything was consistently pointing that Mr. Snelgrove was functioning in a borderline intellectual range, not in a disabled range," Prichard said.

Kiley asked Prichard if he had any way of knowing if other inmates had helped Snelgrove write the communications that Prichard had reviewed.

He did not.

Snelgrove's current defense team also found a former employee of Snelgrove's Miami-Dade county high school - Christine Mack - who had worked with Snelgrove when he was a child.

Valerino hadn't done that, and Shakoor argued that he should have, and that his failure to do so constituted ineffective counsel and grounds for a retrial.

But Valerino, who came to court Tuesday with a trolley loaded almost 5 feet high with file boxes full of case documents, said from the witness stand that he'd found no school documents listing Snelgrove as intellectually disabled.

Shakoor asked Valerino if he'd traveled to Miami or sent a special investigator there to look for a witness who could testify to Snelgrove's intelligence.

After the continuance he'd requested was denied, Valerino replied, "We did not have time to find a witness when we were in the middle of the penalty phase."

Shakoor argued that Valerino could have sent a special investigator to Miami to look for witnesses who'd provide mitigating information, and that fact that he hadn't - and that he had not objected to statements made by prosecutor and former State Attorney John Tanner in openeing and closing arguments, when Tanner told the jury that Vivian Fowler hadn't run away the night of her murder because she'd been with her husband too long to flee, and that she must have known what was coming - constituted ineffective counsel.

"These were objectionable matters," Shakoor said of Tanner's statements. "The first 2 statements ... were an example of Mr. Tanner inflaming the jury by getting in the mind of the victim."

The defense team questioned Mack Tuesday through a video link to the courtroom.

She testified that she'd seen Snelgrove regularly, though not frequently, when she was an ESE program specialist at Miami Central Senior High School, which he attended.

"Mr. Snelgrove, I remember, was a tall skinny young man," she said. "He was pleasant, he was not a disruptive student. He did have a tendency to be truant."

Shakoor noted that many of Snelgrove's school records - such as possible IQ tests that might establish mental disability before the age of 18, a potential mitigating factor in his case - had been destroyed by the Miami-Dade County School District by the time of his trial.

He asked Tanner if it was possible for students who'd been classed as emotionally disabled for ESE classes to also have an intellectual disability.

It was possible, Mack said, though common. When Snelgrove was in high school, she said, it wasn't possible for students to double up on ESE programs. “On occasion there were other conditions, but the students were placed based on what was the best setting for them at that time," she said.

But Snelgrove wasn't able to take regular courses, and was instead on an alternate diploma course, available only to students whose reading level in high school was below the 4th grade level.

"He could not be mainstreamed into the regular academic classes," she said.

Mack said in response to Shakoor's questions that she would have been willing to testify at previous hearings.

"As a lay witness, Ms. Mack's testimony could have been very beneficial for Mr. Snelgrove," Shakoor said. "Mr. Snelgrove's lay witnesses were mostly family members or close friends. ... But as a juror, they're going to see somebody testifying for a family member, they're not going to take it ... with possibly the same level of scrutiny as they would with somebody who was a non-relative, who's an education professional. ... Trial counsel, he had no reason for not finding Ms. Mack."

Kiley said Mack's testimony satisfied the need for evidence that Snelgrove had an intellectual disability before the age of 18, despite the destruction of some of his school records before the trial.

"The only records that could save this man's life have been destroyed," Kiley said. "This man was never going to graduate from high school like a normal person; he was reading at a 4th grade level when he was in the 9th grade. ... Evidence of onset under the age of 18 had now been satisfied."

Attorney Scott Browne, arguing the case for the State Attorney General's Office, said that wasn't the case.

"Did you see the number of boxes in here, your honor?" he said to Walsh. "Did that seem like an attorney who took his job lightly in this case? These defense attorneys left no stone unturned. ...Was (Mack's) testimony inconsistent with anything understood at the time? The answer is no."

And the comments by Tanner during the trial also weren't grounds for scrapping it and starting over, he said.

"Mr. Snelgrove received a death sentence not because of any brief comment by Mr. Tanner - he did it because he committed 2 heinous and atrocious, cruel murders," he said. "Nothing that has occurred in this courtroom should undermine the confidence in the death sentence that Mr. Snelgrove received for committing 2 murders in this case."

(source: palmcoastobserver.com)

GEORGIA:

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Ga. death penalty case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a death penalty case in which Floyd County prosecutors struck all prospective jurors who were African American in a capital case against a black man.

The justices voted Tuesday to hear the arguments in the next term, which starts in October.

Timothy Foster was sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of a 79-year-old woman, Queen Madge White.

Rome police found White Aug.28, 1986, on the bedroom floor in her home, where she lived alone, after her frightened sister reported it appeared someone had broken into White's house. A blanket covered White up to her chin and her face was coated with talcum powder. White had a broken jaw and a gash on the top of her head. She had been sexually molested with a salad-dressing bottle before she was strangled.

Foster was arrested for White's murder a month later after police, responding to a report that he had threatened his live-in companion. The found items reported missing from White's house. He eventually confessed, according to court records.

Lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights, who are representing Foster, say prosecutor's notes show a racial bias in jury selection. According to the appeal, the name of prospective black jurors were highlighted and the word "black" was circled in the race question on the questionnaires given to each prospective jurors. The notes identified them as "B#1," "B#2," and "B#3."

The notes also show that the prosecution's investigator ranked black prospective jurors in case they had to seat an African American. There were 4 prospective jurors in the pool of 42 people qualified to hear a death penalty case; prosecutors struck all 4.

Attorneys for the state successfully argued before the Georgia Supreme Court that prosecutors had legitimate, race-neutral reasons for striking the 4 African Americans and they did not rely on the investigator's notes. Those same arguments have been raised with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Foster went to trial the year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to exclude jurors based on their race.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ALABAMA:

Man charged with capital murder in 3-year-old son's 2013 death denied bond

A Huntsville man charged with capital murder in his 3-year-old son's 2013 death was denied bond in a hearing held in Madison County last week.

Maurice Antionne Cartwright, 35, is accused of choking and hitting his son, Jeremyah Shoulders, and causing bleeding on the boy's brain. The boy was taken to Huntsville Hospital by a relative on April 30, 2013, and died of his injuries 2 days later.

Assistant Madison County District Attorney Tim Gann told AL.com Tuesday that the office is still deciding whether to seek the death penalty for Cartwright.

Cartwright was initially charged with aggravated child abuse, but the charges were amended after Jeremyah died.

Huntsville Police Investigator Chad Smith testified at Cartwright's July 2013 preliminary hearing that Jeremyah had marks on his head and neck when he was admitted to the hospital. The boy's mother said she had not seen marks on her son before he went for a visit with his father.

A pathologist found that the child had suffered multiple blows to the head and nose.

"She said injuries couldn't be from a fall and couldn't be from being shaken," Smith testified of the findings. "He was hit with something and it was more than one time."

Cartwright reportedly told investigators that Jeremyah was taking a nap and when he went to wake the child up, he couldn't. He said that he put the boy on the floorboard behind the seat of his Ford Ranger and took him to meet his aunt, who then drove the child to Huntsville Hospital.

Smith said at the hearing that Cartwright has 1 other son 2 years older than Jeremyah. The suspect told investigators that he would never hurt his children.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

25 years later, Atwater murder case, conviction still generate controversy

More than 25 years after an elderly Atwater couple were found shot to death in their home following what appeared to be a botched robbery, controversy continues to surround the conviction of a man sitting on Ohio's death row for the crime.

Tyrone L. Noling, now 43, has been on death row since 1996, when he was convicted of aggravated murder in the deaths of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig, both 81 years old, who were found shot to death in their home in the 6500 block of Moff Road on April 7, 1990.

The Portage County Coroner's Office estimated the Hartigs had been dead for 2 days before their bodies were found. Both had been shot multiple times with a .25-caliber handgun.

Noling, then 18, was a suspect in several prior home invasion robberies in nearby Stark County in the week prior to the murders. He reportedly was armed and pointed weapons at the victims in those incidents, but did not shoot anyone.

The state Public Defender's Office and Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law have been arguing in Noling's defense for several years.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said Noling's attorneys have put up "an endless string" of delay tactics and "red herrings" in their client's defense over the years. "We have vowed to continue to fight for the imposition of the death penalty in this case, and we'll do that as long as it takes," he said.

Noling was indicted for the Hartigs' murder in 1992, while he was serving a prison sentence at the Southern Correctional Institution for burglary. His initial trial date in 1993 was postponed and he was not convicted until 3 years later. He has filed repeated appeals and seen several execution dates come and go.

Numerous factors appear to aid Noling's defense.

Noling's 3 alleged accomplices, Joey Dalesandro, Gary St. Clair and Butch Wolcott, were identified as suspects by the Portage County Sheriff's Office early on in the case. Called to testify against Noling, they have all since recanted their statements that Noling shot the Hartigs, or got on the witness stand and denied that he did so.

St. Clair, now 46, continues to serve a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for aggravated murder in the Hartig case. He testified for the prosecution at Noling's 1996 trial, and dropped a bombshell: Neither he, nor Noling, were at the Hartigs on the day of their murder. Noling was convicted despite that testimony.

Dalesandro was convicted of related charges, served 11 years in prison and was released in 2003. Wolcott, who was 15 at the time of the murders, received immunity for his testimony.

Both have told other media outlets they were fed a story by investigators and coerced into repeating it in court.

Noling has long sought DNA testing on a cigarette butt found near the Hartig residence. Earlier testing excluded Noling and his co-defendants as sources of DNA on the cigarette butt.

In 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court recommended new testing on the cigarette. Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow ordered the cigarette butt re-tested for DNA following a December 2013 court hearing, but it did not return any hits in the state DNA database, according to Vigluicci and court records.

Noling's attorneys sought DNA testing on other items, including shell casings and some of the victims' property, in the hopes it might point to different suspects. No testimony was ever given that Noling was in the Hartigs' bedroom, but jewelry boxes from there were seized as evidence by investigators.

Part of the state's argument against further scientific testing is that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation "determined those items were so contaminated, back in 1990 when this crime occurred, when the case was investigated" that there is little chance any DNA from a suspect would remain on them, Vigluicci said.

DNA testing was "practically unknown" in 1990, and "the protocols for handling evidence were not the ones we have now," he said. "Sterile gloves were not used, items were placed in the same (evidence) bag. They are not able to be tested for DNA because of that, were contaminated by officers holding them, and writing on them."

Noling's attorneys countered that they wished to have a private lab test the items for DNA, because the Ohio BCI did not have all the necessary equipment to do so, according to court records.

Vigluicci said former Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow denied Noling's application for further DNA testing last year. Noling's attorneys appealed the ruling to the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren as well as the Ohio Supreme Court.

He said he expects the Supreme Court "will probably end up taking a look at" the appeal, as appeals in death penalty cases go directly to the high court, he said.

In addition, the murder weapon has never been recovered. A handgun of the same caliber seized from Noling, one he stole during a previous robbery in Alliance, turned out not to have been used to shoot the Hartigs.

A phone message seeking comment on the case was left for Noling's public defender.

A witness, Nathan Chesley, came forward for a second time several years ago claiming his foster brother, Daniel E. Wilson, admitted to him that he committed the Hartig murders.

Wilson, a 20-year-old Rootstown High School graduate, was living in nearby Edinburg at the time, and allegedly threatened to harm Chesley if he told anyone what Wilson allegedly said one night while intoxicated.

Chesley reported the statement to Southeast school officials, who called the Portage County Sheriff's Office. However, it is not clear if the tip was ever followed up.

Convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 1984 death of an 81-year-old Elyria man during an attempted robbery, Wilson later was convicted of aggravated murder for locking Carol Lutz, 24, alive in her car trunk, then setting it on fire after she drove him home from a bar in Lorain County on May 4, 1991. Wilson was executed by lethal injection in June 2009.

Another potential suspect was Bearnhardt Hartig's insurance agent, Lewis Lehman. Hartig allegedly told his doctor he was angry Lehman had defaulted on a $10,000 personal loan the couple gave him, and was planning to confront him.

Lehman, who at one point had owned a .25-caliber handgun but claimed he had sold it to an "unknown individual," died in 1998, according to a September 2003 article on Noling's case in Cleveland Scene magazine.

(source: The Alliance Review)

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

Death penalty should not apply to the seriously mentally ill: editorial

Legislation introduced by Ohio State Sens. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, and Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, would prohibit the state from executing murderers determined to have been seriously mentally ill when they committed their crimes.

Under Senate Bill 162, someone who was "significantly impaired" by such illnesses as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and as a result unable to understand what he or she was doing or to obey the law, could not be put to death.

That would be the case even for defendants deemed competent to stand trial and those ruled unable to pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Those already convicted and on death row would have one year to appeal their sentences after the law went into effect.

The proposal, which was among 50 recommendations made last year by an Ohio Supreme Court task force on the death penalty, deserves serious consideration.

Mental illness is not something people choose, and if it is found to have contributed to their actions -- no matter how heinous they may have been -- it would be unconscionably callous to make them pay the ultimate penalty.

Other sentences can meet the state's burden of protecting the public from further harm, up to and including a sentence of life in prison without parole.

To pursue the death penalty, a prosecutor would have to prove that a defendant claiming a serious mental illness was not suffering from it when the crime was committed, or that the illness did not contribute to the crime.

A disorder brought on "primarily by repeated criminal conduct or attributable solely to the acute effects of voluntary use of alcohol or any other drug of abuse" would not make a defendant ineligible for the death penalty.

It's the position of the editorial board that the death penalty should be abolished altogether for several reasons, including its inconsistent application, the financial cost to the taxpayer, the potential for cruel and unusual punishment in carrying out the execution, and a belief that it is morally wrong to take a life in such a fashion.

But as long as the death penalty remains on Ohio's books, the provisions of SB 162 would be a step toward guaranteeing that justice is served more fairly and humanely.

(source: Editorial; Editorials express the view of the editorial board of The Plain Dealer and Northeast Ohio Media Group)

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

'Victory' of death penalty for wife's killer gone, man says

There was no doubt in Joe Byrne's mind that David Brewer should be put to death for killing Byrne's wife.

"There simply was no alternative to death for David Brewer," Byrne said minutes after Brewer's execution on April 29, 2003.

Today, 12 years later, Byrne says the thrill of "victory" he felt that day is long gone, replaced by ambiguity about capital punishment.

"I felt like I'd won something," he said of witnessing the death of his former fraternity buddy. "But the death penalty is not all it's cracked up to be."

Byrne, who now lives in New Jersey, returned to Ohio to speak at a "Voices of Experience" anti-death penalty event on Tuesday in Cincinnati, along with former Ohio prisons Director Terry Collins, exonerated death row inmate Derrick Jamison and retired Montgomery County Appeals Court Judge James A. Brogan.

Byrne said in a Tuesday interview with The Dispatch that he still believes in capital punishment, but the "justice system is a mess," and not enough is done for crime victim survivors.

"I was very disappointed afterward," he said of witnessing Brewer's execution. "I did not feel like I thought I would. I continued to feel very angry. I had let the death-penalty process consume me."

Byrne watched from a nearby witness room on April 29, 2003, when Brewer was executed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville for murdering Sherry Renee Byrne. Court records show that on March 21, 1985, Brewer abducted the 21-year-old wife of Byrne, sexually assaulted her, threw her in the trunk of his car and drove around southwestern Ohio for 8 hours before strangling, hanging and stabbing her to death on a rural Greene County road.

The morning of the execution, Byrne sat with his late wife's family members and then-Greene County Prosecutor Bill Schenck in a waiting room at the prison. Byrne had headphones on, listening to Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road on a portable CD player. It was his slain wife's favorite song.

Later, he angrily watched as Brewer died, never having apologized for taking the life of a young wife.

"Where's the remorse?" Byrne said quietly from his seat behind a large window, a few feet from Brewer.

2 days after the execution, Byrne remembered being back home in New Jersey watching his son from his second marriage at a Special Olympics event.

"I felt so sad. I couldn't stop crying," he said. "I didn't understand, because I thought I had got everything I wanted" with Brewer's execution.

Since then, Byrne has come to grips with the sadness and anger, acknowledging that the feelings will never go away.

"In theory, I believe in the death penalty, but not the way it's operating in Ohio," he said. "I would not want other victims to go through what I went through."

House Bill 663, legislation approved last fall to permit the state to secretly buy drugs for executions, also contained a provision to create a joint House-Senate 6-member committee to "study the manner in which families of homicide victims in this state can best be supported by government programs, social service entities, and charitable organizations." The House just named its 3 members, but no Senate appointments have been made.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

INDIANA:

Paula Cooper, once youngest Indiana death row inmate, found dead

----

May 15, 1985: The body of Ruth Pelke, a 78-year-old Bible teacher, is discovered in her Gary home by a stepson. Pelke had been stabbed 33 times, and her home had been ransacked.

May 16, 1985: Paula Cooper, then 15, and 3 other teenage Gary girls are arrested and charged with slaying Pelke. Cooper, Karen Corder, 16; April Beverly, 15, and Denise Thomas, 14, are said to have gone to Pelke's home under the pretense of seeking information about her summer Bible classes. The girls also took $10 from Pelke and fled the scene in her car. Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford says he will seek the death penalty in the case.

April 21, 1986: Cooper pleads guilty to the murder of Pelke. Authorities say Cooper orchestrated the crime and stabbed Pelke 33 times.

July 11, 1986: Lake County Court Judge James Kimbrough sentences Paula Cooper to death, making her the youngest person in Indiana history to receive the death sentence. No execution date is set because death penalty cases are automatically appealed.

Feb. 21, 1987: William Touchette, a lawyer for Cooper, says he has written to Pope John Paul II, asking him to write a letter to Gov. Robert D. Orr in an effort to have Cooper's sentence commuted.

May 9, 1987: Ruth Pelke's grandson, William R. Pelke, says he has forgiven Paula Cooper. He writes to Gov. Robert D.Orr, asking him to reduce the sentence, and begins a crusade to spare Cooper from execution.

June 20, 1987: The Rev. Vito Bracone, an Italian priest who organized a massive petition drive in support of Paula Cooper, meets with her and says he will ask the governor to spare her life.

March 2, 1989: The Indiana Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Paula Cooper case. Amnesty International had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Cooper. July 13, 1989: The Indiana Supreme Court rules Cooper cannot be executed and orders her sentence reduced to 60 years in prison.

On May 11, 2001, 17 female prisoners including Paula Cooper line up in the hallway with bars on the windows at the Indiana Women's Prison as they prepare to be graduated from college.

May 11, 2001: Paula Cooper receives a bachelor's degree in humanities from Martin University.

On June 17, 2013, Cooper was released from the Rockville Correctional Institute after earning credits for an early release.

----------

A woman who was once the youngest Indiana Death Row inmate was found dead Tuesday morning in Indianapolis, police said.

The campaign to save the life of Paula Cooper, who at 16 became the youngest death row inmate in Indiana, attracted international attention after she pleaded guilty to murder in 1986.

Her successful appeal eventually led to her June 2013 release after serving 27 years in prison.

But on Tuesday, Cooper's story came to a somber end in Indianapolis. Police say she was found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Cooper, 45, died just after 7:15 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the 9500 block of Angola Court, according to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police. Her death is still under investigation, and the Marion County coroner's office says it expects to conduct an autopsy Wednesday.

"It's an unusual ending to a tragic case," said Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford, who was the Lake County prosecutor when Cooper was charged. "I've been involved in a lot of cases in my life, and nothing compared to this case."

Cooper became infamous in 1985 when at 15 she was charged with murder in the stabbing of 78-year-old Ruth Pelke during a robbery. Law enforcement identified Cooper as the ringleader in the slaying. She and three friends went to Pelke's Gary home armed with a 12-inch butcher knife.

An investigation showed Pelke allowed the teens into her home after they said they were interested in Bible study lessons. But the scene turned grisly when they knocked Pelke to the ground and Cooper climbed on top of her.

"Paula Cooper got on top of her and kept saying to her, and this is her own admission, 'Where's the money, bitch?'" Crawford told The Indianapolis Star during a 2013 interview. He said Cooper began slicing Pelke with the butcher knife. The woman's last words were the Lord's Prayer.

The other teens involved were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on robbery or murder charges: 25, 35 and 60 years. But when Cooper was sentenced, the judge invoked capital punishment.

The decision led to an immediate shift in public outrage. Cooper was among only a handful of women in Indiana to receive the death penalty, and she was the youngest in the state's history. At the time of her sentencing, she was also the youngest death row inmate in the United States.

The 30th anniversary of the murder was just 2 weeks ago.

Bill Pelke, a grandson of the slain Bible teacher, told The Star on Tuesday that he forgave Cooper, who said she had been abused as a child. He said he visited her in prison 14 times. They exchanged emails almost weekly the last 2 years of her incarceration.

In one of their last messages, Cooper told Pelke her time in prison was about up and she was scared. She had spent most of her life incarcerated. She had never written a check or paid a bill.

There was so much, Pelke said, that she didn't know how to do.

He offered to help. But the 2 talked only once after she was released.

Pelke said he was devastated to hear of Cooper's death.

"We had wanted to do things together around restorative justice and the death penalty," he said. She wanted to be an example for other young people who have been abused.

"She wanted to tell them, 'Look, this is how I responded to the hate and anger, and look at all the trouble I got into,'" he said. "She wanted to give them alternatives so they didn't end up like her."

Cooper's pursuit of an appeal made her world renowned. According to the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana Supreme Court received 2 million signatures in support of her appeal. Pope John Paul II sent an emissary to Crawford's office and wrote an appeal to then-Gov. Robert Orr. The United Nations received a million signatures in support of overturning Cooper's death penalty.

2 years after Cooper's sentencing, the U.S. Supreme Court, which was already considering the issue of imposing death sentences on teens, ruled it was unconstitutional to execute anyone who was younger than 16 at the time the person committed a crime. Indiana lawmakers later raised the minimum age from 10 to 16 in 1989 and again to 18 in 2002.

"A lot of things have changed," Crawford said. "It was a truly unique case."

The Indiana Supreme Court commuted Cooper's death sentence and sent her to prison for 60 years. She served 27 years of that sentence until her 2013 release.

Kevin Relphorde, who served as Cooper's public defender, said Tuesday he was stunned by the news. He said he hadn't spoken to Cooper in years and had lost track of her.

"Paula was a good person," he said. "She was very misunderstood. She went through a lot at the hands of her father, with physical abuse, and I think that led to the situation with Mrs. Pelke."

Her time at the Rockville Correctional Facility began with troubles. In 1995, she was sentenced to three years of solitary confinement for assaulting a prison guard.

"I was very bitter and angry, so I was in a lot of trouble. I hated it. But I learned to adapt eventually," she said in a 2004 interview with The Star.

Cooper soon began pursuing educational opportunities, first earning her GED, then a vocational degree, and in 2001 a bachelor's degree. Beginning in 2011, she worked as a tutor.

"She couldn't deal with the outside world," speculated Warren W. Lewis, a retired dean and professor at Martin University who taught Cooper at the Indiana Women's Prison.

"I knew her well, and I loved her," Lewis said Tuesday. "She was practically a child, and she shouldn't have been treated like an adult."

Lewis said he taught Cooper and other female inmates a college-level Introduction to Philosophy class. He had not had any contact with her for several years.

"My goal," he said, "was to work up to a level of trust to ask, 'Why are you in this prison?'"

When he reached that point with Cooper, Lewis said, the young prisoner told him no one had ever asked her that question.

"I really don't know why I did that" was the best she could offer in regard to her role in the killing.

Like a lot of prisoners, Cooper had difficulty connecting the cause and effect of crime -- "there's a disconnect," Lewis said.

Lewis said he took her death as a personal failure.

"My question," he said, "is what happened to her once she got out?"

It's unclear how Cooper was spending her time since she was released. Rhonda Labroi, her sister, declined to comment about Cooper's death Tuesday.

"It's just amazing that after all those years of incarceration that she would be released and then something like this would happen," said Relphorde, who added that Cooper was remorseful about the killing. "She was willing to pay her debt to society."

(source: Indianapolis Star)

KENTUCKY:

Ricky Kelly to face death penalty

One of Louisville's most notorious accused killers will face the death penalty.

Ricky Kelly is charged with capital murder in connection to the Aug. 2005 shooting death of Lajuante "B.B." Jackson.

The Commonwealth announced 2 new prosecutors will present the case, which is set to go to trial on April 15, 2016.

Prosecutors believe Jackson's death is a murder for hire case.

Kelly originally faced 8 counts of murder at the state level after investigators claimed he killed several people during a 10 year period from 1996 to 2006, including victims Gail Duncan Deron Cole, and John Sanders all in 1996; Charles Lewis and Blair Kidwell in 1998; Craig Jones and Jackson in 2005; and Warren King in 2006.

On March 25, 2011 those charges were dismissed in Jefferson Circuit Court so Kelly could be tried for Jackson's murder in a federal court. However, on Aug. 11, 2014 federal prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss their case against Kelly and sent his case back to state court.

(source: WAVE news)

NEBRASKA:

Senator supports repeal of death penalty

This past week, the Legislature held the final round of debate over one of the toughest issues lawmakers face: the death penalty.

While dealing with an issue that involves so much sorrow for many families, lawmakers must take many viewpoints and facts into account when arriving at a decision. Many of you have contacted my office via email, phone, and mail to share heart-felt opinions both against and in support of the death penalty. Thank you for contacting our office. Your input truly has an impact on the decisions that we make in the Legislature.

During my conversations with those who are in support of keeping the death penalty, many people expressed frustration related to the lengthy appeals process that is the norm when dealing with death penalty cases. This is certainly one of the major problems within our broken capital punishment system. Many constituents shared the common opinion that the problem could be fixed by speeding up the appeals process through our judicial system. Though I wish there were a quick fix, this is not a viable solution to our problem.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process in civil and criminal proceedings. This protects the defendants' rights to work within the system and appeal court decisions. We can lower Nebraska's number of lengthy appeals by sentencing criminals to life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of death. Nationally, the average defendant sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole files for an appeal 1.5 times, compared to the 7 appeals for which the average death row inmate files.

I have also heard from many people that support repealing the death penalty. Some of the most important perspectives to consider are those of the victims' families that have endured this lengthy appeals process. Every time a case is appealed, the families often attend the trial and are forced to face their loved one's murderer once again. Reliving this past trauma makes it very difficult to finally move on.

It is unfair to put them through this decades-long process. This is especially true because the state does not possess the ability to carry out executions, so the criminal will just remain on death row for years. By sentencing criminals to life in prison without the possibility of parole, we are allowing the victims' families to achieve closure.

As a conservative, I am committed to protecting life and getting rid of government waste. I have always stood as a strong pro-life advocate. I truly believe that life begins at conception and should end at natural death. Also, as I wrote in one of my March editorials, the state has spent approximately $100 million on death penalty related cases since 1976, but has only executed three people. It is evident that the state of Nebraska cannot enforce the death penalty in a prompt manner and it is time to look at other avenues. For all of these reasons, I will continue to support the repeal of the death penalty in the state of Nebraska.

As always, I am honored by the faith that you, the voters of District 24, have placed in me. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. You may continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman For Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature. My office in the State Capitol is Room 1115, which I share with my colleague Senator Bob Hilkemann from Omaha.

Stop by anytime. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Kenny Zoeller, my legislative aide, and Katie Quintero, my administrative aide, are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts and needs.

(source: Sen. Mark Kolterman; York News Times)

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

Nebraska lawmakers to vote to override governor's veto of death penalty repeal

Nebraska lawmakers plan to hold a vote Wednesday afternoon to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of a bill to repeal the death penalty.

Ricketts vetoed LB268 Tuesday, which was passed last week with a 32-15 vote.

"Today, I am vetoing LB268 which would repeal the death penalty in Nebraska. Repealing the death penalty sends the wrong message to Nebraskans who overwhelming support capital punishment and look to government to strengthen public safety, not weaken it. Under this bill, there is no guarantee that convicted murderers will stay behind bars for life or not harm other innocent victims," Ricketts said in a prepared statement.

Below is how each state senator voted when the bill passed, according to the legislative journal:

Affirmative: 32

Baker, Bolz, Campbell, Chambers, Coash, Cook, Crawford, Davis, Ebke, Garrett, Gloor, Haar, K., Hadley, Hansen, Harr, B., Hilkemann, Howard, Johnson, Kolowski, Kolterman, Krist, Lindstom, McCollister, Mello, Morfeld, Murante, Nordquist, Pansing Brooks, Schumacher, Seiler, Sullivan, Williams

Negative: 15

Bloomfield, Brasch, Craighead, Friesen, Groene, Hughes, Kintner, Kuehn, McCoy, Riepe, Scheer, Schnoor, Smith, Stinner, Watermeier

Present and not voting: 2

Larson, Schilz

The vote to override the governor's veto is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. 30 votes are needed to override the veto.

(source: KMTV news)

NEVADA:

New execution chamber an outrageous boondoggle

In a historic vote May 20, the Nebraska Legislature abolished the state’s death penalty. The vote was based on concerns about the high cost of capital punishment and a protracted appeals process that prevents families of murder victims from reaching closure. Nebraska is the 1st "red" state to repeal capital punishment, but Republicans have been leading efforts to repeal capital punishment in at least a half-dozen states.

Regrettably, on the same day in Carson City, and in stark contrast to Nebraska’s conservative Legislature, conservative members of both houses of Nevada's Legislature voted to spend almost $1 million to build an unneeded new execution chamber. Considering the other vital needs of our state that are much higher priorities, this boondoggle is an outrageous waste of taxpayer money.

In 2011, when the Legislature voted to close the Nevada State Prison in Carson City, the Department of Corrections assured lawmakers that the chamber would remain available should an execution be scheduled. Nonetheless, in 2013, the governor’s budget included a proposed "remodel" project to construct a new execution chamber at the prison in Ely at a cost of $760,000. However, the Department of Corrections acknowledged that the existing chamber was still functional and available if an execution were to be scheduled, and the expensive project was wisely and unanimously rejected. Unfortunately, conservative Nevada legislators imprudently approved the construction of an execution chamber that is unlikely to ever be used.

The constitutionality of lethal injection is being litigated in the courts, and no executions are scheduled in Nevada, with the last one occurring almost 10 years ago. This proposed new facility may sit unused forever, or it could require further remodeling if lethal injection is rejected in court. Even if lethal injection is upheld, there are serious doubts about the availability of the lethal drugs needed for an execution.

Building an execution chamber in Ely to replace the one in Carson City will increase the cost of carrying out executions in Nevada because it will mean transporting many people (victims and official witnesses, the director of the Department of Corrections and others) at least 250 miles to remote Ely. Transporting one individual (the inmate) from death row in Ely to Carson City is much less expensive. Furthermore, the project is to be funded by new bonds, which means the state will incur almost $1 million in debt and taxpayers will be paying the interest on that debt via their property taxes for up to 20 years. This $1 million in debt also reduces the amount of money that is available for maintenance of existing buildings.

An additional concern about building the chamber in Ely is that it makes it less accessible to the press and to the government institutions that should be monitoring its overall operation.

This is not a policy decision about whether to have the death penalty in Nevada - that is for another day. This is a basic budgetary issue: whether we should spend close to a million dollars to construct a new and unnecessary execution chamber. A cost audit of Nevada's death penalty recently concluded that we spend at least twice as much money prosecuting a death penalty homicide case as prosecuting a non-death penalty homicide case.

Republicans in Nevada voted to add to the cost of maintaining the death penalty in Nevada, something that will be hard for them to defend as their fellow conservatives around the country - as in Nebraska - continue to raise fiscal and other concerns which demonstrate the ineffectiveness of even having the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Nancy Hart is president of the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty. Tod Story is executive director of the ACLU of Nevada----Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA----inmate commits suicide

Man on death row for Riverside pizza-store murder kills himself

Michael Lamont Jones, 44, who was convicted of murdering a Riverside pizza restaurant employee in 1989, committed suicide on Monday, May 25, at San Quentin State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Tuesday.

The cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy; however, the death is being investigated as a suicide, a news release said. Jones was in a cell by himself.

Jones was sentenced to death on Dec. 13, 1991, by a Riverside County jury, for the Jan. 21, 1989, murder of Herman Weeks, 24, during the armed robbery of a Domino's Pizza store. Jones had been on death row since Jan. 2, 1992.

Jones appealed his conviction, citing incompetent defense counsel, erroneous jury instructions, tainted witness identification and unconstitutionality of the death penalty. In 2003, the state Supreme Court affirmed the conviction.

According to trial testimony, Weeks had his hands in the air when Jones fired 2 shots. Jones and an accomplice decided to rob the Domino's because they needed money for admission to a party, prosecutors said. According to court documents, a witness, Erin Burton, testified that in May 1989 she encountered Jones and asked, "Mike, about the Domino's thing, did you do it?" He replied, "Yeah." She asked, "How could you do it? How could you kill someone? Don't you feel any remorse?" He responded, "Nah. It was a good party."

A month before the Domino's robbery, Jones robbed the Mad Greek restaurant in Riverside and shot a customer, who survived.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 66 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 24 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, 1 was executed in Missouri, 7 have died from other causes, and the causes of death are pending for four condemned inmates, according to the Department of Corrections.

There are 749 people on California's death row.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

USA:

Justice Stevens Says Death Penalty Unnecessary, Wasteful, and Creates Higher Risk of Error

In a discussion at the George Washington University School of Law, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said the death penalty creates a higher risk of error than other criminal cases and is unfair, unnecessary, and a "terrible waste" of resources. Using the Boston marathon bomber trial as an example, Justice Stevens said jury selection procedures in capital cases produce juries who are "not representative of the community." He said that, under these procedures, "most of the 75%" of Bostonians who opposed the death penalty "could be challenged for cause and do not make it" onto the jury. "That's one reason that the death penalty is much more unfair than we thought it was at the time back when we decided the 3 cases" that reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after the Court had previously ruled its application unconstitutional. Justice Stevens went on to say, "I had expected that the procedures would be more protective of the defendants in death cases than in ordinary criminal cases. And in several respects, ... they in fact are more pro-prosecution. And so the risk of error is larger in death cases than it is in other cases, and that certainly can't be right." Finally, he compared the death penalty unfavorably to the alternative of life without parole: "it's really not necessary because life imprisonment without parole protects the public at least as well as execution does and so the justification for the death penalty is diminished. And I think if you make a cost-benefit analysis - the cost of the trials and all the rest - it is a terrible waste of society's resources to have these capital trials that go on for so long and produce an awful lot of unfortunate results."

Justice Stevens also mentioned a death penalty case as the vote he most regretted during his tenure on the Court. In Jurek v. Texas (1976), Stevens said, "I voted to uphold the Texas statute and I was wrong." He said that the Texas law should have been treated as a mandatory death penalty statute because, "if you read one of the instructions that they had to give the jury, a certain answer really required the death penalty."

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Federal judge keeps accused gang members in custody

More than a dozen suspected gang members arrested last week in a sweeping roundup appeared in federal court on Tuesday. As expected, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler ordered that all 16 remain jailed.

The defendants, reputed members of the MS-13 gang, are charged with crimes ranging from racketeering and drugs to robbery and attempted murder. A federal indictment accuses 37 suspected MS-13 members of operating a criminal enterprise in and around Charlotte since at least 2009.

3 of the defendants face murder charges in connection with killings that took place in Charlotte in 2013 and 2014. If convicted, Miguel "Most Wanted" Zelaya, 19, and Christian "Pitbull" Pena, 19, both of Charlotte, along with Luis "Big Boy" Ordonez, 36, of Concord, face the death penalty. They were among 16 defendants already in state custody at the time of the federal roundup. 5 remain at large.

The arrests mark the 2nd federal crackdown on Charlotte gangs in the last month. On April 22, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged 12 suspected members of the United Blood Nation with a series of racketeering crimes, including the October murders of Doug and Debbie London. Prosecutors say the Charlotte business couple was killed to keep them from testifying against 3 UBN members who tried to rob their mattress store last May.

(source: Charlotte Observer)

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

Accused Aurora shooter says he had a 'broken mind'

Aurora theater shooting defendant James Holmes declared he had a "broken mind" and wrote pages of nonsensical ramblings in the same notebook he used to map and plan the shooting, witnesses testified Tuesday.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are using the notebook - which Holmes mailed to a psychiatrist shortly before the shooting - to show his mind-set. Prosecutors argue Holmes methodically planned the July 20, 2012 shooting inside the suburban Denver movie theater, and they used portions of the notebook to demonstrate his preparations. Defense attorneys say it shows he suffers from mental illness. Holmes faces the death penalty and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Reading aloud on the witness stand, Aurora police Sgt. Matthew Fyles quoted portions of the diary: "The obsession to kill since I was a kid, with age became more and more realistic. Started with nuclear bombs, then shifted to biological agent that destroys the mind, most recently serial murder with stun gun ..."

In another portion, Fyles read how Holmes wrote that he was 99% certain he'd get caught committing mass murder at the movie theater and said he didn't want to attack an airport because people would think it was a terrorist attack. "The message is there is no message," Fyles read aloud. Holmes wrote that people would think his failing university and personal life were the reasons for an attack but said they "both were expediting catalysts, not the reason."

Prosecutors showed how the notebook contains diagrams of the theater complex and notes about which specific auditorium to attack, based on part on the number of exits. "Embraced the hatred," the notebook says. "The Dark Knight Rises."

Police arrested Holmes outside the theater, dressed in black body armor he had amassed over several weeks, and was carrying weapons witnesses said he bought and practiced with well before the attack in which 12 people were killed and 70 injured.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Dan King read aloud other passages from the notebook, including one in which Holmes referred to seeing flickers, crows or insects in his peripheral vision. King said one page of the notebook contained the phrase that Holmes had made a "self-diagnosis of broken mind" and that "my soul must be eviscerated." The notebook contains pages of the word "why" repeated over and over, along with infinity symbols. Defense attorneys say Holmes suffers from schizophrenia.

"I view myself as divided," King read from the notebook. "The real me is fighting the biological me."

The trial is in its 5th week out of an expected 4-month-long schedule. Prosecutors say they are a little more than halfway through their presentation. Jurors were allowed to read copies of the notebook after the presentation.

(source: USA Today)

BANGLADESH:

Death-row prisoner dies in Kashimpur jail

A death-row prisoner has died at Kashimpur Jail in Gazipur. The deceased is Nurul Islam houlader, 65, son of Ashraf Ali Houlader, of Jhalakati.

Zannatul Farhad, Jailer of Dhaka Central Jail Part 2 in Kashimpur, said Nurul was taken to the jail hospital as he felt chest pain around 8:45pm Tuesday. Later, he was shifted to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Medical College Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Alamgir was sentenced death penalty in a case filed under Women and Children Repression Prevention (Special) Act 2000 in 2003.

(source: Dhaka tribune)

EGYPT:

Death sentences test fragile Hamas-Egypt ties

Egypt-Hamas ties took a dramatic turn May 16 as the Cairo Criminal Court referred the death sentence against ousted President Mohammed Morsi, along with 105 others, including the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, to Egypt's Grand Mufti.

Hamas was provoked by the Egyptian ruling that targeted some Hamas members, including a prisoner and several who are now dead, namely Raed al-Atar, who was killed in the Gaza war last August; Hossam al-Sanea, who was killed in 2008; Tayseer Abu Snaimeh, who was killed during an Israeli raid on Rafah in 2011; and Hassan Salameh, who has been detained in Israeli prisons since 1996 and is sentenced to 48 years in prison.

On May 17, Hamas described the Egyptian ruling as a massacre against its members, adding that the ruling disregards human values, is unfair, was taken in the absence of evidences, is based on falsified facts, and provides a cover for Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

"The Egyptian ruling against a number of Hamas members is deplorable; it has tainted the record of the Egyptian judiciary, and confirms that it is a politicized case," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said May 16.

Hamas never thought that its military commanders would be sentenced to death by the Egyptian court; it always thought it would be by an Israeli one. This is because none of the movement's members were proved to be involved in armed operations on the Egyptian territory. This decision may break the thin thread between Hamas and Cairo.

Hamas considers that by issuing death sentences against its members and some Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Egypt is still convinced that Hamas is linked to the main Muslim Brotherhood branch. The death sentences also prove that security authorities in Cairo did not believe all of Hamas' announcements of non-interference in internal Egyptian affairs.

The Egyptian crackdown on Hamas was not limited to the shocking death sentences, and reached the point of published reports quoting security sources. On May 18, Youm7 news website, known for close ties to the Egyptian regime, said Hamas is using advanced techniques to falsify ID cards to create false Egyptian official stamps to facilitate the entry of its members into Sinai. The fake Egyptian ID cards help these Palestinians go through Egyptian airports and avoid ambushes set up inside Egypt, without raising suspicion of being non-Egyptian.

On May 19, El-Watan newspaper also said that scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides who's among those sentenced to death, gave Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal $2 million for hosting Sinai gunmen in Gaza.

On May 20, Hamas categorically denied these accusations, describing them as false information that are part of the oppressive campaign against Hamas. According to the movement, this campaign spreads false stories and insists on falsely involving Hamas in the internal Egyptian file.

The Egyptian accusations leveled against Hamas have prompted Ismail al-Ashqar, Hamas leader and chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council's Security Committee, to tell Al-Monitor, "The Egyptian judiciary ruling came as a result of false documents and erroneous information that parties in Fatah provided the Egyptian regime with, in order to tarnish the image of Hamas and involve Palestinians in Egypt's internal conflict."

On May 17, Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary-General Amin Makboul refused to make any comments on the Egyptian ruling for being an internal affair of Egypt, and the Palestinian factions - including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Resistance Committees - issued separate statements rejecting the Egyptian decisions.

A former Egyptian parliament member, who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, confirmed that "this harsh ruling against the Hamas and Brotherhood members were expected, as the Egyptian intelligence services have been receiving local, regional and international reports on alleged activities of Hamas in the Egyptian territory. These [activities] however were never proven by the Egyptian security services investigations with many detainees. The Egyptian regime feels that it is facing a worsening internal crisis, and sought to get rid of its internal problems by issuing these rulings."

The Egyptian rulings raised concerns within Hamas of a possible confrontation with Cairo; yet Hamas has preserved a thin thread that might restore ties with Egypt or at least stop them from worsening, through regional mediation that Hamas is relying on, such as Saudi Arabia, which did not announce a specific position in this regard.

On May 17, Hamas implored the Arab and Islamic Ummah to interfere to halt the unfair death sentences.

On May 16, Hamas members retweeted Jamal Khashoggi, general manager of Al Arab News Channel and a close associate of the royal court in Saudi Arabia; the latter had said that the absurd death sentences are painful to everyone who likes Egypt, but remaining silent is more painful.

Ziad Zaza, a member of Hamas' political bureau, confirmed to Al-Monitor that the Egyptian judicial rulings "will not affect the Hamas-Cairo ties, and any tension between the 2 parties will be temporary. This is because Egypt will remain a supporter for the Palestinian cause" while calling on Egypt to review the wrongful invalid rulings.

It seems that Hamas has no concerns regarding the execution of its members in Egypt, because none of them are actually present on Egyptian territory, or detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. Yet, Hamas is more concerned that these rulings might widen the gap with Egypt and increase the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza in light of the ongoing closure of the Rafah crossing.

Since early this year, the Rafah crossing was closed for more than 100 days, and over 60,000 humanitarian cases in the Gaza Strip are in desperate need of travel, whether for medical treatment, education or work.

Former Hamas government Information Minister Yousef Rizqa told Al-Monitor, "Despite the court ruling, Hamas is ready to meet and dialogue with the Egyptian leadership, as it is part of Hamas' strategy, and that it does not mind holding meetings and discussions, but Cairo is not ready for such [a] meeting."

Al-Monitor learned from Hamas leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity that the movement is convinced that the Egyptian rulings will not be enforced on the Brotherhood leaders and Morsi, and that they are part of the increased pressure on the Brotherhood. They hope that ties between Hamas and Egypt will be restored. Hamas is well aware that the only way to the outside world is through Egypt.

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

Egypt sentences 8 jihadists to death

An Egyptian court Tuesday sentenced to death 8 jihadists found guilty of acts of violence against the security forces and belonging to groups that incite "terrorism", a judicial official said.

"The criminal court in Zagazig condemned eight jihadists to hang after they were found guilty of belonging to takfiri (Sunni extremist) groups," the official said.

The city of Zagazig is in the Nile Delta north of the capital.

They were also sentenced for "incitement to terrorism and violence and ... incitement to kill members of the army and police," he said.

5 of the 8 condemned men were sentenced in absentia.

Jihadists in Egypt, primarily in the Sinai Peninsula, have staged regular attacks on the security forces since the then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi after a single year in power.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed and thousands jailed in a crackdown. Dozens more, including Morsi himself, have been sentenced to death after mass trials.

(source for both: al-monitor.com)

MALAYSIA:

CPO: Triad operated drug lab

The Pneh triad is believed to be behind the drug-processing lab busted in Lorong Padang Tembak on Monday.

Police have identified the three men caught in the raid as members of the triad. Pneh means 'flat' in Hokkien.

Penang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Abdul Rahim Hanafi said the 3 suspects, aged 25 to 47, were busy processing drugs when police stormed the premises.

"2 of them have no prior records while one has a previous drug-related offence. All three tested positive for morphine," he said.

The drugs, with an estimated street value of RM1.1mil, include 34kg of heroin, 2,738 ecstasy pills, 10.4kg of caffeine, various chemicals and drug processing equipment.

"The syndicate has been operating for 5 months and the drugs were meant for distribution in the northern region," he said at the police contingent headquarters in Penang Road yesterday.

Police also impounded a Toyota Altis and a Proton Wira, and found RM1,382.

The raid on a semi-detached house in Lorong Padang Tembak at 5.20pm on Monday was carried out by a team from the Penang Narcotics Department.

The case will be investigated under Section 39B(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the death penalty upon conviction. All 3 suspects are under remand until May 31.

When asked about the 470.1kg ganja bust in Teluk Bahang on Monday, he said police were still hunting for 2 locals believed to be part of a syndicate.

"The drugs were brought in from a neighbouring country," he said.

On Ops Warta, he said 234 traffic offenders had been arrested here in the ongoing nationwide operation. "9 of them were women," he added.

He advised the public to immediately settle their summonses instead of waiting to be arrested.

(source: The Star)

PAKISTAN----executions

Pakistan executes 7 death-row convicts

7 death row convicts were executed in jails across Pakistan's Punjab and Balochistan provinces on Wednesday, a media report said.

In Lahore Central Jail, 2 convicts were hanged.

Abdul Khaliq had been convicted of murdering a woman, while convict Shahzad was also found guilty of committing a murder, Geo News reported.

2 convicts were hanged in Gujrat District Jail.

Naseer Ahmed was found guilty of killing a man in 2002. Faisal Mehmood was sentenced to death for committing a murder in 1999.

In Vehari District Jail, 2 prisoners were executed.

Abdul Sattar was found guilty of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl in 1997. Convict Sanaullah had also raped and killed a 11-year-old girl in 2001.

Khan Mohammad was hanged in Balochistan's Mach Jail after he was found guilty of killing his brother and his nephew in 2004.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially, executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which had killed more than 140 people, mostly students.

(source: manoramaonline.com)

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

2 sent to the gallows in Faisalabad

2 prisoners on death row were hanged at the Faisalabad Central Jail on Tuesday.

The jail superintendent told The Express Tribune that Iftikhar Ahmad alias Pasi, resident of Gujjar Basti, and Asif Zaib, a resident of Chak 111, Sargodha, were executed.

The superintendent said Ahmad was convicted of the murder of his rivals Chaudhry Allah Rakha, Ramazan and Muhammad Ashraf, whom he had shot dead in the Gulberg police precincts on July 15, 2001.

Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Chaudhry Muhammad Akram had sentenced Ahmad to death on 6 counts. The apex courts had upheld the decision and the president had also turned down his plea for mercy.

ATC Judge Raja Pervaiz Akhtar had issued black warrants for Ahmad and fixed May 26 as the date of execution.

Jail officials said Ahmad's family had visited him in prison before he was executed. Ahmad had tearfully apologised to his family, said he had repented of his offence and kept asking his family to save him from the gallows, they said.

On Tuesday, Ahmad's body was handed over to his family for burial.

Zaib was sentenced to death by then Sargodha Additional Sessions Judge Chaudhry Muhammad Asif on March 27, 1996, for killing his rival Ejaz Ahmad in a scuffle in the Sillanwali police precincts. Zaib had exhausted all avenues of appeal.

The Sargodha district and sessions judge issued black warrants against Zaib and fixed May 26 for execution.

The jail superintendent said they had handed over Zaib's body to his family after the execution.

Security was tightened in and around Faisalabad Central Jail on Tuesday to avoid an untoward incident.

(source: Express Tribune)

INDIA:

Explained: A Question of Life and Death

The Supreme Court will hear today petitions challenging the validity of death warrants issued against Amroha couple Shabnam and Salim. The warrants were issued after the SC confirmed the death penalty for the lovers convicted of killing seven relatives of the woman in 2008. UTKARSH ANAND examines the laws, rules and issues around the death penalty, and the circumstances warranting execution in India.

Which crimes entail capital punishment in India?

Grave offences such as murder, rape with injuries that may result in the death of a victim and a repeat offender, waging war against the State, and terrorism-related offences causing death are some major crimes punishable with death under the Indian Penal Code. Similarly, there are provisions under The Arms Act, The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, The Air Force Act, The Army Act and The Navy Act wherein capital punishment is prescribed as one of the punishments for serious offences. The now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) also contained provisions for death sentence.

What has the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutional validity of the death sentence?

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution ensures the Fundamental Right to life and liberty for all persons. It adds no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This has been legally construed to mean if there is a procedure, which is fair and valid, then the state by framing a law can deprive a person of his life.

While the central government has consistently maintained it would keep the death penalty in the statute books to act as a deterrent, and for those who are a threat to society, the Supreme Court too has upheld the constitutional validity of capital punishment in "rarest of rare" cases.

In Jagmohan Singh vs State of UP (1973), then in Rajendra Prasad vs State of UP (1979), and finally in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980), the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of the death penalty. It said that if capital punishment is provided in the law and the procedure is a fair, just and reasonable one, the death sentence can be awarded to a convict. This will, however, only be in the "rarest of rare" cases, and the courts should render "special reasons" while sending a person to the gallows.

What would constitute a "rarest of rare" case?

The principles as to what would constitute the "rarest of rare" has been laid down by the top court in the landmark judgment in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980). Bachan Singh formulated certain broad illustrative guidelines and said it should be given only when the option of awarding the sentence of life imprisonment is "unquestionably foreclosed". It was left completely left upon the court's discretion to reach this conclusion.

However, the apex court also laid down the principle of weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances. A balance-sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in a particular case has to be drawn to ascertain whether justice will not be done if any punishment less than the death sentence is awarded. 2 prime questions, the top court held, may be asked and answered. First, is there something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for a death sentence? Second, are there circumstances of the crime such that there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence even after according maximum weightage to the mitigating circumstances which speak in favour of the offenders?

What has been the Supreme Court's view on mandatory death penalty?

The Supreme Court has always said that the death sentence should be given rarely. In Mithu vs State of Punjab (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional. It struck down Section 303 in the IPC, which entailed a mandatory death sentence for a person who commits murder while serving a life term in another case. The Supreme Court ruled Section 303 violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) since an unreasonable distinction was sought to be made between 2 classes of murderes. It said all murders would come under the ambit of Section 302, where a court would have the discretion to award life term or death sentence.

Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled in State of Punjab vs Dalbir Singh in 2012 that mandatory death penalty as punishment for crimes under Section 27(3) of the Arms Act, 1959, was unconstitutional. The government moved a Bill to amend the Act, which is currently pending.

There are some other subsequent legislation prescribing the mandatory death penalty in drug cases, but the Supreme Court has not yet struck down the penalty as unconstitutional. A pertinent provision in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, is currently under scrutiny of the apex court.

What are the avenues available to a death-row convict?

After a trial court awards the death penalty, the sentence requires to be confirmed by a High Court. The sentence shall not be executed till the time the High Court confirms it, either after deciding the appeal filed by the convict, or until the period allowed for preferring an appeal has expired. If the High Court confirms the death penalty and it is also upheld by the Supreme Court, a convict can file a review petition and a curative petition, if the review petition is nixed, for reconsideration of the judgment.

A Constitution Bench ruled last year that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a 3-judge bench in open court. Such cases were earlier being heard by 2-judge benches in the judges' chamber. A curative petition is still heard in judges' chambers.

Opening another avenue, the Supreme Court, by yet another path-breaking verdict in 2014, ruled that unexplained delay in execution was a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.

Does the executive have a role in clemency?

Yes. If the Supreme Court turns down the appeal against capital punishment, a condemned prison can submit a mercy petition to the President of India and the Governor of the State. Under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have the power "to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence". This power was without any conditions until the last year's verdict by the Supreme Court, which held that judicial clemency could be granted on the ground of inordinate delay even after a mercy petition is rejected.

How is the execution of death sentence carried out in India?

Execution is carried out by 2 modes, namely hanging by the neck till death, and being executed by firing squad. The Code of Criminal Procedure calls for the method of execution to be hanging. It states: "When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that the person be hanged by the neck till the person is dead." In Deena vs Union of India (1993), the Supreme Court adjudicated upon whether the execution of death penalty by hanging by rope is constitutional. It held the method prescribed under the CrPC was valid.

Death by shooting is contemplated under the Army Act, Navy Act and Air Force Act. They provide for the discretion of the Court Martial to either provide for the execution of the death sentence by hanging or by being shot to death.

Can an order of execution be challenged in a court of law?

Yes. The procedure for carrying out the execution must also fulfill certain conditions as stipulated by the Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India (2014), and by the Allahabad High Court in Peoples Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India (2015). The guidelines hold that a death-row prisoner must get free legal aid for drafting a mercy petition and, if it is rejected, an intimation to the prisoner and his family is imperative. A minimum 14 days' notice for execution must be given to let him "prepare himself mentally for execution, to make his peace with god, prepare his will and settle other earthly affairs", besides also allowing him "to have a last and final meeting with his family members." An execution can be stopped owing to a convict's physical or mental ill health, the top court has held. The death warrants are issued by the trial court.

In the cases of Shabnam and Salim, the validity of the death warrants have been challenged, contending that the warrants did not specify any date of execution. Further, the convicts still had the legal remedies of filing review and curative petitions, apart from moving clemency petitions.

When was the last execution carried out in India?

The last execution to take place in India was in February 2013, the hanging of Afzal Guru who was convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India's Parliament. 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab was hanged in November 2012. Prior to these, the last execution was in 2004, when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed for the murder and rape of a 14-year old girl. This was the country's 1st execution since 1995, when Auto Shankar, who was convicted of 6 murders in Tamil Nadu, was executed. Therefore, while the courts sentenced more than 1,400 persons to death between 2001 to 2011, only 4 have been hanged since 1995. Many of these cases are under the consideration of the Supreme Court and the President for clemency.

According to data compiled by the NGO Amnesty International, Indian courts handed down at least 64 death sentences in 2014, but no executions took place. A report by the Death Penalty Research Project of the National Law University in Delhi indicated that at least 270 people were on death row after exhausting all remedies available to them under the law.

(source: Punjab Star News)

PHILIPPINES:

1,288 Pinoys face drug-related charges, 41 on death row

A total of 1,288 Filipinos face drug-related offenses overseas, 41 of whom are meted with death penalty, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

During the joint hearing of House Committee on Dangerous Drugs and Oversight Committee on Dangerous Drugs on Mary Jane Veloso's case yesterday, Atty. Francisco Noel R. Fernandez III of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) said those who are on death row for drug-related charges ware in Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

"We have 1,288 Filipinos facing drug-related offenses.We have 41 Filipinos meted with death penalty. They were incarcerated in Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia," he told lawmakers.

Of the 41 Filipinos on death row, including Veloso, 18 are imprisoned in Malaysia, 21 in China,and 1 in Saudi Arabia.

Fernandez noted that the Chinese government granted a 2-year reprieve to 21 Filipinos convicted to death. Their sentences can be commuted for good behavior, he said, adding that the remaining 1,247 Filipino convicts are serving their jail sentences.

He assured that those distressed Filipinos were given necessary legal assistance to ensure that their rights are protected.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

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

De Lima: PH won't pressure Indonesia on clemency for Veloso

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday that the Philippine government would tread lightly in seeking clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, as the country would not wish to put pressure on Indonesia in the politically charged drug trafficking case.

Addressing the dangerous drugs committee of the House of Representatives, De Lima said the focus of an ongoing preliminary investigation was to determine whether Veloso, who was granted a last-minute stay on her execution last April on drug charges, was a "hapless victim or a willing participant."

"On the premise that the investigation will prove she was a hapless victim, [then we may ask for] possible executive clemency, which may mean either pardon or the commutation of sentence. But we don't want to be harping on this," she said.

"We would not want the Indonesian government to be pressured by our government," De Lima said in answer to a question on what concrete steps the government was taking to save Veloso from the death penalty.

The 30-year-old Veloso was supposed to have been executed by firing squad on April 29, until last-minute appeals by President Aquino and the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, prompted Indonesia to give her a temporary reprieve.

De Lima said the national prosecution service, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty of Asean countries, had made a request to Indonesia and Malaysia with respect to proving Veloso's claims of innocence but she added she could not disclose the details of the request.

Veloso, who had been caught trying to bring in a suitcase that was found to contain heroin from Malaysia to Indonesia, had said the luggage had not been hers and she had been duped by her recruiter and a syndicate of "African-looking" men.

De Lima said the DOJ was trying to confirm Veloso's allegations. A case of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and swindling has been filed against her recruiter, Sergio, Sergio's partner, Julius Lacanilao, and a certain "Ike."

She also said she was keeping Indonesia's Attorney General abreast of the developments on Veloso's case.

"We need to help each other so we can find solutions to drug trafficking," De Lima said.

"Based on many indications, we're looking at the West African Drug Syndicate (WADS), those African-looking men, are most probably members of the WADs," she said.

"We don't want to push executive clemency, because in the final analysis, it's going to be the call of the Indonesian authorities. We will let the Indonesian lawyers to make their next move," De Lima said.

Francisco Noel Fernandez, the special assistant to the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of the Undersecretary for Overseas Workers Affairs said a total of 41 Filipinos have been meted the death penalty worldwide, out of 1,288 who have been serving sentences.

"They are all incarcerated in 4 countries, 18 in Malaysia, 21 in China, 1 in Saudi Arabia, and Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia," he said.

Also at the hearing, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Veloso's husband Michael Candelaria and their 2 sons would be placed under the custody of Witness Protection Program in response to threats against their lives.

(source: globalnation.inquirer.net)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia Sets Date For Final Death Row Appeal Of Frenchman Serge Atlaoui

An Indonesian court said it would hear a last-ditch appeal by a French man on death row on 3 June, after a verdict expected this week was delayed by the absence of the presiding judge.

Serge Atlaoui had been due to face the firing squad with other prisoners in April but won a last-minute reprieve for the completion of his legal appeals.

France's president, Francois Hollande, has warned Indonesia it would face "consequences" if it were to press ahead with his execution.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a 5-year lull.

The president, Joko Widodo, has rejected clemency pleas from foreign nationals who are among a group of about 60 drug convicts scheduled for execution.

14 have been executed this year, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin, who were all shot dead in April.

Mary Jane Veloso, from the Philippines, was given a last-minute reprieve from execution, but remains on death row.

Widodo has declared the death penalty "positive" for his country, adding: "My duty as president of Indonesia is to carry out the law and I'm sure other countries will understand this.

"Every day 50 young Indonesians die [drug-related deaths]; in 1 year that is 18,000 dead. I hope they understand about that."

The Jakarta administrative court is reviewing Atlaoui's challenge against the president's refusal of clemency.

"As our presiding judge is in training, the court hearing could not take place and we postponed to next week," Judge Indaryadi said in a court session on Tuesday.

The hearing has been rescheduled for 3 June and a verdict is expected soon after.

The attorney general's office has said Atlaoui's current legal challenge would be his last appeal.

Atlaoui was sentenced to death for his involvement in an ecstasy factory in Jakarta that was capable of producing 100kg (220lb) of the illegal pills every week. He has always protested his innocence, saying he believed he was carrying out work installing industrial machines in an empty factory building.

If Atlaoui were to be shot by Indonesian firing squad, he would be the 1st French person to be executed in 38 years.

(source: Malaysian Digest)

MAY 26, 2015:

TEXAS:

Texas district attorney will seek death penalty for 2 men accused of murder----Villegas and Najera left body of Anna Villegas north of Loving

The 2 men accused of killing a 24-year-old Texas woman and leaving her body near Loving will face capital murder charges.

Juan Villegas, 30, and Carlos Najera, 43, were arrested Dec. 9, 2013 in Hobbs in connection with the death of Villegas' estranged wife, Anna Villegas.

The Gaines County District Attorney's office, in Texas, said that the state will seek the death penalty for both men if convicted by a jury.

A date for the trial has not been set the district attorney's office said.

Anna Villegas' body was found nude and bound on the Pecos River north of Loving on Potash Mines Road on Nov. 28, 2013 by a hunter. Anna Villegas was reportedly filing for divorce from Juan Villegas at the time of her death.

Anna Villegas was determined to have died from asphyxiation by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

The case was investigated by the Eddy County Sheriff's Office, but both Villegas and Najera were extradited to Gaines County, Texas when detectives determined the kidnapping and death of Anna Villegas occurred in Seminole, Texas.

Juan Villegas appealed an extradition from New Mexico to Texas after his arrest, but was denied and transferred to Texas in 2014.

New Mexico does not have a death penalty sentence.

(source: Alamorgordo Daily News)

DELAWARE:

Blocking death penalty repeal bill is wrong

Blocking death bill is anti-democratic

On May 13, the Delaware House Judiciary Committee voted to block the death penalty repeal bill from being discussed on the House floor. This procedural stalemate is both undemocratic and unfair. We urge our Representatives to override that decision and allow the bill to move to the floor.

As members of the Delaware Human Relations Commission, we administer some of Delaware's anti-discrimination laws, including the Equal Accommodations Law and the Fair Housing Act. It is our job to increase public awareness of civil and human rights and promote amicable relationships among the various racial and cultural groups within our State.

The time has come to discuss the unjust and inequitable application of the death penalty in Delaware. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has noted that Delaware has the highest percentage of minorities on death row, at 78 %. Delaware's black population is only 21 %. And according to a Cornell University study, a black defendant who kills a white victim in Delaware is 6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a black defendant who kills a black victim.

The death penalty is an unjust system, and it is time for all of the members of the House to talk about it. This bill deserves to be voted upon - up or down - by all of our legislators.

Misty Seemans

Delaware Human Relations Commission

Wilmington

(source: Letter to the Editor, The News Journal)

GEORGIA----female to face death penalty

Catoosa County judge hears motions in death penalty case

A woman accused of murdering a young mother to steal her newborn was in Catoosa County Superior Court Tuesday, May 26, as the judge heard motions in the death penalty case prior to trial later this year.

37-year-old Catherine Joann Goins of Hixson, Tenn., has been in jail for 245 days after being brought back to Catoosa County on Sept. 24 and denied bond on charges of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, and possession of a firearm during commission of or attempt to commit a crime.

The arrest came 4 days after detectives concluded she lured 30-year-old Natalia Roberts and her children to a friend's house in Catoosa County and then shot and killed her on Friday, Sept. 19.

Tuesday's hearing consisted of motions to determine what specific testimony will be allowed in court during trial, more time for the new defense team to review the details of the case, and how Goins will be allowed to dress when facing the charges.

Goins also re-entered her plea of not guilty in the case.

Judge Ralph Van Pelt Jr. listened to more than a dozen motions filed by Goins' defense team of Jerilyn Bell and Crystal Bice.

The duo has yet to state whether they might file motions regarding Goins' mental state at the time the crime was committed.

Van Pelt ruled that Goins will be allowed to wear civilian clothes during the trial, and that both the defense and state will help put a security plan in place so that she will not have to be shackled during the proceedings.

Van Pelt also ruled that all investigative agencies are to preserve interview/investigation notes related to the trial, and that no evidence be destroyed while being tested and/or re-tested.

In addition to asking for all additional notes, reports, and recorded interviews by investigators, the defense asked for additional time so they can have ample time to review the case.

Initially, Goins was being represented by Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit lead public defender David Dunn, but the case was turned over to Capital Defender's Office in January after district attorney Herbert E. "Buzz" Franklin filed to seek the death penalty.

Both Bell and Bice have tried death penalty cases before.

The case falls under the Georgia's statue of crimes punishable by the death penalty, which is defined as "murder with aggravating circumstances; kidnapping with bodily injury or ransom when the victim dies; aircraft hijacking; and treason."

Van Pelt set an Oct. 30 deadline for the defense to file any more motions in the case before hearing them beginning Nov. 9.

To date, Goins' attorneys have not requested any bond in the case.

As was the case during an April hearing, a number of Natalia Roberts' friends and family were present for the hearing.

Background

Sheriff's deputies initially responded to the Smoketree Circle resident regarding a woman's claim that she'd shot an intruder in the house, but Catoosa County sheriff Gary Sisk later revealed that the incident was a cold-blooded murder rather than a defensive home shooting.

"We're calling it murder, because that's what it is," Sisk said. "She flat out murdered her."

According to Sisk, deputies responded to the scene on a call of an invasion and defensive shooting, but ultimately determined that Goins set up Roberts.

"She lured her there under the pretense of giving her some baby clothes for her newly born baby," Sisk explained. "Once at the residence, Natalia was going down a flight of stairs where Catherine Goins shot her in the back of the head with a .380-calibur handgun."

Sisk specified that Goins and Roberts had never met prior to the day of the shooting.

Sisk added that Goins was arrested Sept. 23, at approximately 7 p.m. at a residence in Marion County, Tennessee.

"She was arrested without incident by U.S. Marshals and the Marion County Sheriff's Office," Sisk said.

Sisk also said Goins attempted to clean up the scene before notifying Richards, who was at work at the time, about the shooting.

"She called the homeowner Tony Richards, and told him that she had shot someone in his house," Sisk explained. "Tony instructed her to hang up and call 911. Instead, Catherine Goins took Natalia’s two children that were at the residence, one 3 years old and one 3 weeks old, put them in her car and left the residence."

After learning of the shooting, Richards continued to talk to Goins on the phone after leaving work and attempted to calm her down while still trying to get her to call 911.

Sisk said Goins was not at the residence when Richards arrived home, and it was actually Richards who placed the 911 call at approximately 1:02 p.m.

Goins did, however, make it back to the residence before police showed up.

"She (Goins) did come back," Sisk said. "She was there when law enforcement arrived and we questioned her that night, but there was still a lot of information we needed to obtain."

When detectives began investigating the case, Goins claimed she was at the house and heard a noise within the home. She then went on to say that she heard a 2nd noise and immediately ran to the bedroom where she retrieved a gun and fired it at a "darkened shadow" in the area of the hallway.

Ultimately, it was determined that Goins committed murder with the plan of taking Roberts' newborn from her.

"Catherine Goins had been living a ruse that she was pregnant with her most recent boyfriend's baby, but he had recently learned that she was not pregnant and left her," Sisk explained. "Catherine Goins killed Natalia Roberts because she wanted her baby."

(source: northwestgeorgianews.com)

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

High Court to Consider Georgia Death Row Inmate Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether prosecutors improperly singled out potential black jurors in notes and then excluded them all from the death penalty trial of a black Georgia man accused of murder.

The justices agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of Timothy Foster, who was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of murdering a 79-year-old white woman in Rome, Georgia.

Lawyers for Foster say prosecutors' notes obtained through an open records request show that the name of each potential black juror was highlighted and the word "black" was circled next to the race question on questionnaires for the black prospective jurors.

Georgia officials say prosecutors had race-neutral reasons for striking the potential jurors.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Paula Cooper, once US's youngest death row inmate, dead in apparent suicide ---- Indiana woman who was 16 when she was put on death row in 1986 had been released from prison 2 years ago after court set aside her death sentence

An Indiana woman who was once the nation's youngest person on death row but whose sentence was eventually commuted to a prison term was found dead in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

Indianapolis police said 45-year-old Paula Cooper was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound outside a residence on the city's north-west side. Cooper had been released from prison about 2 years ago, after the Indiana supreme court set aside her death sentence and gave her a 60-year prison term.

Cooper was 16 when she was sentenced to death in 1986 after confessing to her role in the murder of a 78-year-old Bible studies teacher the year before. Cooper admitted stabbing Ruth Pelke 33 times with a 12-inch butcher knife in a robbery that netted 4 youths $10 and an old car. Cooper was 15 at the time the crime was committed.

Her death sentence enraged human rights activists in the US and Europe and drew a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II. In 1988, a priest delivered a petition to Indianapolis with more than 2 million signatures protesting Cooper's sentence.

Pelke's grandson, Bill Pelke, who organized opposition to the death penalty after his grandmother's killing, said he was devastated to learn of Cooper's death. He said he worked to help Cooper after realizing that's what his grandmother would have wanted.

"My grandmother would have been appalled she was on death row and that there was so much hate and anger and desire for her to die. I was convinced my grandmother would have had love and compassion for Paula and her family," he said in a telephone interview from Anchorage, Alaska, where he runs the Forgiveness Project, a charity that seeks to promote understanding and forgiveness.

Pelke said he visited with Cooper while she was in prison and had last spoke to her last August. He was expecting to hear from Cooper next month, when she was scheduled to be released from parole. He said she had expressed an interest in speaking for his organization.

"I have no idea what was going on in her life. I thought she was doing well from everything I had heard," he said. "I had hoped she would travel with us. She had always told me she wanted to help young people to avoid the pitfalls that she had fallen into. She said she knew she had done something terrible to society and she wanted to give back."

2 years after Cooper was sentenced to death, the US supreme court ruled in an unrelated case that those under 16 at the time of an offense couldn't receive the death penalty. The court said such sentences were cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional.

Indiana lawmakers later passed a law raising the minimum age limit for execution from 10 years to 16, and in 1988, the state's high court set aside Cooper's death sentence and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison.

Cooper's sentence was reduced due to her behavior in prison, where she earned a bachelor's degree. She was released from prison on 17 June 2013 after spending 28 years behind bars.

(source: The Guardian)

KANSAS:

Kansas State study finds link between belief in pure evil, desire for death penalty----Study used fake newspaper articles about alleged murder in Kansas City

A new study co-authored by a Kansas State University psychology professor finds beliefs in the existence of pure evil influence opinions on capital punishment.

Donald Saucier, an associate professor of psychological sciences at K-State, is a co-author of "Demons are everywhere: The effects of belief in pure evil, demonization, and retribution on punishing criminal perpetrators," which appears in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences.

For the study, 212 psychology students read 1 of 2 articles which allegedly appeared in The Kansas City Star newspaper. The articles described a recent murder in Kansas City, Mo., by a man who then admitted to committing the crime to police.

Some students were shown an article in which the murderer, "Mr. Beatty," was described as stereotypically evil, taking joy from teasing and taunting area children and keeping to himself. Other students were shown an article in which the murderer was described in non-evil terms, as a typical family man who was looking forward to going camping in the near future. Both articles were fictitious.

"Reading about a stereotypically evil perpetrator increased perceptions of him as evil, recommendations for jail time, recommendations to not grant parole, and support for his execution," Saucier and co-author Russell Webster wrote.

However, for study participants who believed strongly in the existence of pure evil, details of the murderer's private life were inconsequential.

"If they believed in pure evil, it didn't matter the characteristics; they were more likely to support the death penalty or life in prison," Saucier explained in an email. "The belief in pure evil overrode our stereotypically evil person."

"Thus, the results indicate that the 'person' (i.e., people's preconceived beliefs about evil) had much more predictive value than the 'situation' (i.e., our manipulation of criminal evilness) in our study," the researchers wrote.

The reason for this, according to Saucier and Webster, is demonization. Strong believers in the existence of pure evil tend to demonize and dehumanize those they see as being evil, making it easier to justify capital punishment.

"Given their support for extreme violence and pre-emptive aggression ... it is reasonable that people who more strongly believe in pure evil possess stronger feelings about seeking retribution in general," the researchers wrote.

Such findings could have real-world applications, Saucier said, in understanding how judges and juries determine prison sentences or capital punishments for those convicted of the most heinous crimes.

"Thus, just portraying others as 'demons' can induce harsher reactions to perpetrators, regardless of any preconceived beliefs about good and evil," the researchers wrote.

Study participants had their demonization measured on a scale by noting their level of agreement with phrases such as, "I feel that everything would be better if Mr. Beatty simply ceased to exist, but not before he suffers a lot."

Saucier said life experiences are likely a stronger influence on beliefs in pure evil than religion. The researchers found that beliefs in pure evil didn't necessitate beliefs in pure good as they researched whether religious upbringings played a role in beliefs in pure evil.

"This belief may change based on traumas, victimization and the celebrations of human success in our life," Saucier said. "We think it's a dynamic variable and influences our social interaction and social perceptions."

Saucier said he will be conducting a follow-up study to determine how people who believe in pure evil and pure good would punish leaders of the Islamic State terrorist group.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska Governor Vetoes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision.

"This is a matter of public safety," he said. "It's also a matter of making sure the public prosecutors have the tools they need to put these dangerous hardened criminals behind bars." "We have 10 inmates on death row - we don't have hundreds," he said. "We use it judiciously and prudently, and therefore we need to retain it. I urge all the senators who are making this vote, please sustain my veto."

Nebraska is poised to become the 1st conservative state in more than 40 years to strike down the death penalty. Republican legislators who have voted in favor of abolition said they believed the death penalty was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party's values. Other lawmakers cited religious or moral reasons for their support of the death penalty ban.

Nebraska officials have had difficulty procuring lethal injection drugs in recent years. The state last executed a prisoner in 1997.

In Nebraska's unicameral Legislature, 3 rounds of voting are required to approve a bill before it can reach the governor's desk. Last week, in the 3rd round, the Legislature voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition. Governor Ricketts, who said the death penalty is necessary as a deterrent to dangerous criminals, had vowed for weeks to issue a veto.

Lawmakers said the override vote, which could happen as early as Wednesday, would be extremely close: 30 votes are needed to override.

State Senator Ernie Chambers, an independent from Omaha who sponsored the legislation, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he planned to make a motion to override the governor's veto.

He declined to say whether he was fully confident the override would be successful. "I expect those people who voted for the bill 3 times, during the 3 stages of debate, I would expect them to do the same thing," he said. "But you never know. We'll just see how it turns out."

(source: New York Times)

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

'This stops the trauma,' says sister of Michael Ryan's victim ---- Man convicted in 1985 cult killings dies in Nebraska prison

Michael Ryan, who had spent 3 decades on Nebraska's death row for the 1985 cult killings of 2 people, including a 5-year-old boy, has died in prison, officials said Monday.

Miriam Thimm Kelle never wanted the state to execute the man responsible for the torture and murder of her brother, James Thimm. But that doesn't mean she wanted Michael Ryan to escape justice.

So she took solace from the news that the former doomsday cult leader had died Sunday evening, apparently from a condition related to a brain tumor, after spending the last 3 decades on Nebraska's death row.

The 57-year-old Beatrice woman said Ryan's death means no more appeals, no more execution dates and no more opening of old wounds.

"This stops the trauma," she said Monday.

Ryan, 66, died at 7:45 p.m. Sunday while being treated for a "medical condition," according to Jessica Houseman, spokeswoman for the Tecumseh State Prison. The Tecumseh prison houses death row, which is where Ryan had spent nearly 30 years fighting first the electric chair and later lethal injection.

Richardson County Attorney Doug Merz said Monday as far as he knows, Ryan never publicly expressed remorse for orchestrating one of the most sadistic murders ever described in a Nebraska court. Merz and another attorney prosecuted Ryan in a trial that had to be moved to Omaha to find an impartial jury.

"The case has now been concluded," Merz said.

The prosecutor disagreed with those who might argue Ryan cheated justice, pointing out that the man never saw a free day again after his 1985 arrest and subsequent conviction.

"He was never able to be released from prison," Merz said. "He was prevented from doing any more harm to any individuals, so that is my position."

Ryan's death comes just days after the Nebraska Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Gov. Pete Ricketts is expected to officially veto Legislative Bill 268 today.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who sponsored the repeal bill, said Monday he expects to have the minimum 30 votes necessary to override the veto. Earlier this year, Chambers predicted Ryan would die of brain cancer before he could be executed.

Chambers said Monday the Ryan case illustrates that legal battles mean "in effect, the death penalty can't be carried out."

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who has led the fight against the repeal measure, said he disagreed with those who argued Ryan never would have been executed.

"Had he survived, the sentence certainly would have been carried out," McCoy said, predicting a close vote on the veto override.

Attorney General Doug Peterson recently identified Ryan as 1 of 3 death row inmates - along with Carey Dean Moore and John Lotter - who had exhausted their appeals. Lawyers who represent condemned inmates, however, argued that the state’s recent purchase of new drugs to use for a lethal injection would open new avenues for appeal.

The state has not carried out an execution since 1997.

Ryan came within 3 weeks of being put to death, in 1995 and again in 2012, before winning stays of execution. In 2008, he saw the Nebraska Supreme Court declare the electric chair cruel and unusual, which led the state to adopt lethal injection as its execution method a year later.

During recent weeks, Ryan's name has come up during legislative debates, mostly by lawmakers who argued his actions cry out for the ultimate punishment.

Ryan was a 37-year-old, small-town Kansas truck driver and self-declared prophet who gathered about two dozen followers by exploiting racial and ethnic prejudice during the farm crisis of the early 1980s. He set up a commune on a former hog farm outside Rulo, a tiny Missouri River community in far southeastern Nebraska.

Ryan claimed he communicated directly with God, which helped him convinced his followers to steal farm equipment and sell drugs to finance a stockpile of weapons. Ryan promised his flock it was all part of a grand plan leading to the Battle of Armageddon.

But cult member James Thimm, 25, of Beatrice, questioned Ryan's teachings. In response, the cult leader ordered a series of punishments for Thimm, which culminated with 4 days of torture in late April 1985.

Thimm was chained in a hog shed, where his torturers took turns lashing him with a cord and sodomizing him with a shovel handle. His legs and one arm were broken, the fingertips on 1 hand were shot off and Ryan used a razor blade and pliers to remove a graft of skin from 1 of Thimm's legs.

Ryan eventually killed Thimm by stomping on his chest. After dumping the body in a grave, the cult leader ordered one of his followers to shoot Thimm in the head.

Witnesses also testified that Ryan repeatedly abused 5-year-old Luke Stice, the son of another cult member. Ryan shoved the boy into a wall, which cause a fatal injury. Ryan eventually pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of 2nd-degree murder for the boy's death.

Ryan and 4 cult members - including Ryan's 15-year-old son, Dennis - were convicted of crimes related to the Thimm murder. The other 4 have been released after serving varying prison terms.

Lincoln attorney Jerry Soucie is one of several attorneys who represented Ryan over the years on death penalty appeals. While they never discussed details about the crimes, Soucie said Ryan was intelligent and knew his way around a prison law library.

"Mike Ryan was just an old school outlaw," Soucie said. "He had a different view of where he fit into society, which is that he didn't fit into society."

James Thimm was struggling to make sense of the farm crisis when he became involved with Ryan's cult so many years ago, his sister said Monday. She described her younger brother as a kind, considerate man who loved to make others laugh.

Thimm Kelle said she was angry and distraught after learning what Ryan had done to her brother. But she survived the grief and,with the passage of time and a reliance on her Mennonite faith, she gradually forgave a killer.

"I felt the evilness of Michael Ryan's actions would win if I didn't let it go," she said.

Twice she wrote him letters in prison, asking to meet. He never responded.

In recent years, Thimm Kelle has become an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. It's not a view all of her siblings share, she said, but she argues had Ryan been sentenced to life in prison, at least it would not have been a source of dispute in her family.

Now, she hopes any lingering disputes just go away, along with the man who caused them.

"We need to work toward as much peace as we can," he said.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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

Red, red Nebraska moves to abolish the death penalty

By standard measures, Nebraska is a deeper shade of red politically than Texas. It's a place where Texas favorite son George W. Bush twice got a greater share of the presidential vote than he did in his home state.

Still, the conservative bona fides of Nebraska's Legislature were questioned last week by its Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, after lawmakers there gave final passage to a bill that would abolish the death penalty. Vowing to veto the bill, Ricketts insisted his Legislature was out of step with the public's views on the matter.

Nebraska's emotional debate and historic vote highlighted a question that's particularly relevant to Texas: Can opposition to the death penalty be consistent with political conservatism?

More and more conservatives, in Nebraska and elsewhere, are saying yes, that capital punishment is a crude, unreliable stab at justice that society should discard as a relic of the past. They cite the enormous expense, questionable deterrent value and uneven application.

Conservatives are more likely today to look at the justice system as a government program with a level of flaws inherent in any bureaucracy. In Texas and elsewhere, they are saying this: When the inertia of the justice system unfairly or wantonly threatens an individual's life or liberty, the state has crossed a line and needs to be restrained.

This newspaper agrees with the fundamental criticisms of capital punishment and has opposed it since 2007. We take that stand with eyes wide open about Texas' strong support of the death penalty. A majority of self-described Democrats and Republicans and every ethnic group in Texas support capital punishment in opinion surveys.

At a different level, no one can reasonably assert that Texas justice is airtight, or even close to it. Texas leads the nation in DNA-proven exonerations. Innocent men have walked free from Texas' death row. Wrongly convicted men who spent years in Texas penitentiaries testified in the state Capitol last week for different proposals to modernize the state's justice system.

Republicans are increasingly working with Democrats on these issues. Many have come to regard the prison system as a vast, wasteful gulag that exacts too high a toll on humanity and the state treasury. They have come to see the war on drugs for the failure that it is. They see instances of prosecutorial misconduct that offend the American ideal that individuals must be protected from malicious power unleashed by the state.

Conservative leaders in Texas talk increasingly about smart justice, as opposed to hard-nosed Texas law and order the way their daddies might have preferred it.

We look forward to the day when it's not political suicide in Texas to ask whether smart justice might lead down the same path Nebraska has found. It's the right path to take.

Death no more

The 18 states without the death penalty and when they abolished it:

Alaska (1957)

Minnesota (1911)

Connecticut* (2012)

New Jersey (2007)

Hawaii (1957)

New Mexico* (2009)

Illinois (2011)

New York (2007)

Iowa (1965)

North Dakota (1973)

Maine (1887)

Rhode Island (1984)

Maryland (2013)

Vermont (1964)

Massachusetts (1984)

West Virginia (1965)

Michigan (1846)

Wisconsin (1853)

Also: District of Columbia (1981)

* New Mexico and Connecticut did not make their repeals retroactive, so they left people on death row.

[source: : Death Penalty Information Center]

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

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

Zeal for death penalty has been withering on judicial branch, too

In his 4 decades as a public defender, Tom Riley has watched the mobs outside the state penitentiary in Lincoln cheer as his former client, Harold Lamont Otey, was strapped in the electric chair.

He's watched another on-again, off-again client sit on death row for 35 years, sometimes asking to die.

He's watched authorities march toward their hope of executing his current client, Nikko Jenkins, for shooting and killing 4 Omahans.

So Riley has a grasp of the sobering power of the state.

But in the past 15 years, Riley has seen something else: a slow withering of zeal for the death penalty in a key battleground, the courtroom.

Riley and other longtime legal observers said they are only mildly surprised that the Legislature has come remarkably close to repealing the death penalty.

The death penalty has been dying a slow death in Nebraska courts for years, said Riley, who was one of Otey's trial attorneys, and James Mowbray, who was Otey's appellate attorney and heads the Nebraska Public Advocacy Commission.

Some of its decline has been procedural, the product of precedent, Riley and Mowbray said. In a landmark 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said prosecutors had to declare at the outset whether they would seek the death penalty. No more tacking on the death penalty just before or after trial. The high court also added a layer to the process, ruling that juries had to decide whether aggravating factors existed to merit the death penalty.

Then in 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair unconstitutional - and Nebraska switched to the slightly less controversial 3-drug lethal injection cocktail.

The change didn't pump any momentum into the capital punishment cause. In honest moments before hearings, Riley said, prosecutors, even judges, privately decried the death penalty as an exercise in futility, a dinosaur without any roar.

Prosecutors began to grumble about the extensive exercise of going through death penalty hearings - often as the state had no means to carry out an execution. Even judges griped as the state combed Europe and India, looking for a supplier to provide a key death drug that U.S. pharmacies would not.

Soon, those private grumbles bubbled to the surface. Retired Sarpy County District Judge Ronald Reagan, who presided over the case of child killer John Joubert, testified against the death penalty at a legislative hearing in March, saying most current judges would speak out against the death penalty if they were at liberty to do so.

Even as Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine testified in support of capital punishment, he said: "The (death penalty) process as set out (in court) is a good process. (But) I do have reservations. ... I am in the trenches. ... I go before juries right now and I go before 3-judge panels. And, de facto, we don't have a death penalty here because the state can't ... get its act together as far as the penalty."

So Riley, Mowbray and others got the sense that the death penalty was on its last legs.

Still prosecutors such as Kleine pressed on with cases, securing the death penalty in what courthouse types called no-brainers:

-- The 2001 conviction of Arthur Lee Gales for strangling and raping 13-year-old Latara Chandler and strangling 7-year-old Tramar Chandler, who witnessed Gale's attacks on their mother.

-- The 2007 conviction of Roy Ellis for sexually assaulting and killing 12-year-old Amber Harris after kidnapping her when she got off a school bus.

Then came another expected no-brainer. It would make courthouse attorneys rethink everything about the death penalty.

Jose Oliveira-Coutinho killed his Brazilian boss, Vanderlei Szepanik, in Omaha in December 2009. He then ordered the hanging deaths of those who witnessed the crime - the boss's wife, Jaqueline, and 7-year-old son, Christopher, who were then dumped in the Missouri River.

Oliveira was sentenced not to death but to life in prison.

Riley said that ruling, known in Douglas County as "the Brazilians' case," sent shockwaves, crumbling the concept of proportionality: that similar crimes receive similar penalties.

The question of justice, or proportionality, leads attorneys to engage in a sort of grisly grading system, comparing one killing to another.

"It's a ghoulish exercise," Riley said.

With the Brazilians' case, it becomes an exercise in futility, Riley said.

Consider: Gales and Ellis both killed children to cover up crimes. Oliveira killed a child and his mother to cover up a crime. Yet Oliveira didn't get the death penalty.

"What it showed more than anything is, the way we separate life-and-death cases is far too arbitrary," Riley said.

The reason Oliveira didn't get the death penalty? One member of the 3-judge sentencing panel didn't believe the state's evidence, and a jury's conclusion, that Oliveira was the ringleader of the trio who committed the crimes.

That judge's dissenting view spared Oliveira.

That case, argued by defense attorneys Horacio Wheelock and Todd Lancaster, changed the landscape of all future death penalty arguments, Riley said.

Put simply, Riley said, any competent attorney would argue: If Oliveira didn't get the death penalty, how in the world can you sentence my client to death?

Madison County Attorney Joe Smith, a death penalty proponent, said 1 ruling isn't a death knell for the death penalty. At most, he said, it proved how thorough the process is and how much it weighs in favor of the defendant.

Smith, who prosecuted 3 death row inmates who killed 5 people at a Norfolk bank, said he can hardly believe that the Legislature might be on the verge of eradicating executions.

"It's tremendously hard for prosecutors to secure the death penalty," Smith said. "We use it sparingly in Nebraska - and the system is set up to protect the defendant.

"A lot of people on both sides of the issue are frustrated that we haven't had an execution in a long time. But it's the Legislature where the holdup is. Not with the people. Not with the courts."

Mowbray and Riley, who have represented dozens of killers, have witnessed 2 other death penalty pitfalls:

-- It has created celebrities out of killers, disgusting victims' families. "You can name most, if not all, of the guys on death row," Riley said. "But name 1 person who is doing a life sentence from a crime 35 years ago? You can't do it. After their appeals are over, they sink into oblivion."

-- It has created inefficiency. The death penalty phase for Nikko Jenkins originally was scheduled to begin last summer. Instead, it has been stuck in neutral for nearly a year after a judge declared Jenkins incompetent, then competent, to understand the proceedings.

Nowhere is the churn more evident than in the case of Carey Dean Moore. Moore was sentenced to death in 1980 for the 1979 killings of Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland.

Since then, the procedural history of Moore's court case reads like a manual on inefficiency. Sentenced to death. Sentence stayed. Then reinstated. Then stayed. Then reinstated. Then stayed. Then reinstated. Then stayed. Then reinstated. Then stayed. (6 times, in all.)

At least twice, Moore wrote to the court saying that he wanted to be killed. Then he changed his mind.

35 years later, he's still awaiting execution.

Few will celebrate if and when the death penalty dies, Riley and Mowbray said. But even fewer in the court system will mourn its passing, they say.

"I think people are running out of energy - it just seems like we have better things to be doing," Mowbray said. "It's not something to celebrate or to curse. It's just time."

(source: Omaha.com)

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

Living without the death penalty

"We got the state out of the killing business today," Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers said Wednesday, according to the Omaha World-Herald. His state would not be the first to live without the death penalty; it would be the 19th. It also would not be the first to eliminate it recently; Maryland, among others, marked earlier points in the trend. But Nebraska is remarkable in 2 ways: It is deep-red, and the legislature's vote against executions was overwhelming. It is therefore the latest manifestation of a growing and positive movement, bridging left and right, toward smart justice reform.

The vote in the 1-house legislature was 32 to 15, a resounding margin. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) promised to veto the measure, but lawmakers are poised to override him. They should - and leaders in other states, including Virginia, should take their example.

Mr. Ricketts went to great lengths to neutralize the arguments of death-penalty opponents. He dug up a case in which a murderer sentenced to life in prison eventually got out and committed sexual assault. The death penalty, he insisted, plays an "important role in prosecuting criminals, protecting our families, and ensuring that criminals remain locked behind bars." But, since 1973, there have been more than 140 examples nationwide of people sentenced to death who were later exonerated, pardoned or saw their charges dropped. Judges can adequately protect public safety without risking the heinous possibility of executing innocent people by locking up convicted murderers for the rest of their lives and blocking parole.

Mr. Ricketts also procured drugs for use in lethal-injection procedures - which are increasingly difficult for state officials, because suppliers don't want to take part in executions - to make the point that the state still has a "functional death penalty." Yet the death penalty is wrong even if prison officials have the right drugs and condemned prisoners die peacefully.

The possibility of killing the innocent is only 1 reason Nebraska's lawmakers voted the way they did. Some were motivated by religion, finding the death penalty incompatible with the imperative to cherish human life. Others objected to the cost of administering a system that demands exceptional care and still makes mistakes. "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," state Sen. Colby Coash said. We would add that, regardless of your creed or your concern about public budgets, the death penalty is hostile to the essential dignity that civilized societies afford all human beings.

Conservatives everywhere should consider what's happening in Nebraska. One place that could use some change is Virginia, the last jurisdiction in the Washington area that still executes people. The General Assembly killed a bill this year that would have limited the application of the death penalty to cases where there is conclusive evidence of guilt - DNA or a voluntary confession, for example. This would have a step in the right direction - if not the leap that Nebraska is taking.

(source: Editorial, Washington Post)

UTAH:

Utah lawmaker seeks death penalty for sex traffickers

Even as other states move away from capital punishment, a lawmaker has prepared legislation to expand the death penalty in Utah.

Rep. Paul Ray's proposal would allow the state to execute child-sex traffickers.

The Clearfield Republican floated the idea last session. Now, he has drafted a bill that he hopes to bring before a legislative committee this summer.

"It's a huge problem right now, and the criminals want to take a risk [thinking], 'Hey, I'll take a few years in jail for this,' " Ray said. "Understand, these are the baddest of the bad. These people are monsters. I think it sends a message: Don't do this in Utah. Don't take our kids. ... Don't operate here."

The proposal could spark a wider debate about whether Utah should execute criminals and whether, logistically, it can continue the practice.

Ray successfully sponsored a measure this past session that drew global attention, bringing back the firing squad as a backup for executions if Utah is unable to obtain the chemical cocktail for lethal injections, a problem that has arisen in other states.

When that bill passed, Utah's Senate Judiciary Committee voted to study the death penalty more broadly.

Meanwhile, opponents of capital punishment cited a growing chorus from groups in Utah seeking to abolish the practice - although they still are seeking a sponsor for such a measure.

Nebraska's Legislature passed a bill last week repealing the death penalty, although the governor may veto it.

Ray's latest bill comes, he said, partly as a result of vice squad ride-alongs he has taken.

The experiences prompted him to push several bills cracking down on prostitution and sex trafficking.

He said he was inspired by the anti-sex-trafficking work of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who traveled to South America last year as part of an undercover sting to break up such a ring.

Ray is prepared for pushback from civil-liberties groups and others - and they are ready to deliver it.

Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said expanding the death penalty is the wrong way to go, arguing it would not deter child-sex traffickers.

In addition, the group generally objects to capital punishment because it is costly to carry out, does not provide closure to victims and has resulted in the execution of people wrongly convicted.

"It's increasingly becoming more and more difficult to figure out ways to humanely, if that's even possible, put people to death at the hands of the state," Lowe said. "So expanding the death penalty seems odd."

The Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank, published an opinion piece in The Salt Lake Tribune last week calling for an end to the death penalty in Utah on similar grounds.

There also may be constitutional problems with Ray's proposal. In the 2008 case of Kennedy v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a statute that imposed a death sentence for rape of a child and said that execution would be disproportionate punishment, violating the Eighth Amendment, in cases that don't involve the death of the victim.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Convicted murderer sentenced to death----Miguel Enrique Felix commited multiple crimes in month-long spree throughout Coachella Valley in 2004

A man convicted of murder and other crimes in a months-long spree of home invasion robberies a decade ago has been sentenced to death.

Miguel Enrique Felix was convicted in March of 2 dozen counts stemming from crimes that occurred from the summer of 2004 until the spring of 2005 in Desert Hot Springs, Thousand Palms, North Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Beaumont and unincorporated county areas.

In the most serious crime, Felix was convicted of 1st-degree murder for gunning down Armando Gonzalez at the victim's Desert Hot Springs home on Aug. 11, 2004. Jurors found true a special circumstance allegation of murder in the course of a robbery, making him eligible for the death penalty.

The same jury recommended capital punishment over the only other sentencing option -- life in prison without the possibility of parole. The judge had the option of imposing the lesser sentence.

Felix was among several people who grabbed victim after victim at or near their homes, forced them inside at gunpoint, then tied them up with zip-ties, pistol-whipped and beat them, and ransacked their homes in search of money or valuables.

In some cases, victims were kidnapped and taken to automatic teller machines or other locations to obtain money, while their children or other relatives were held at gunpoint by accomplices.

It was during this spree that Felix and alleged accomplice Javier Rodriguez Hernandez, who has been at large for more than a decade, went to Gonzalez's home to rob him and shot him repeatedly when he resisted, prosecutors said.

(source: KESQ news)

OREGON:

Death-penalty politics shift----It's time for Oregon to have statewide discussion

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts says he plans to veto a bill passed last week that would abolish his state's death penalty, declaring "the Legislature is out of touch with Nebraskans."

It may be the governor, not state lawmakers, who is out of touch.

In the state's unicameral legislature, which has 49 state senators, it takes 30 votes to override a veto by the governor. 32 senators voted in favor of ending the death penalty. That means Ricketts will have to persuade some lawmakers to change their minds if he wants to prevent Nebraska from becoming the 19th state - and the 1st red state in recent years - to formally abolish the death penalty.

Nebraska has been steadily moving away from the death penalty for years. The Legislature voted to ban executions in 1979, but the move fell prey to gubernatorial veto. A temporary moratorium in 1999 met a similar fate, and a proposed ban in 2007 failed by a single vote in the Legislature. Nearly a quarter century has passed since the state's last execution.

Nebraska's Legislature is nonpartisan, but it is dominated by conservatives. Its support for ending the death penalty reflects a growing shift within the nation's political right. While Republicans once defended capital punishment as a necessary deterrent, a growing number have begun supporting repeal for religious reasons, while others point to wrongful convictions and botched executions. Others cite it as a prime example of a wasteful government program.

Executions have dropped to a 2-decade low in the United States. 35 people were executed in 2014, compared with a peak of 98 just 15 years ago. In 43 states, no executions were carried out last year. So far, 18 states have abolished the death penalty.

In Oregon, voters abolished the death penalty in 1914, reinstated it in 1920, repealed it in 1964 and reinstated it again in 1978. After the Oregon Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1981, voters approved a constitutionally proper version in 1984.

Oregon carried out its last 2 executions in 1996 and 1997, during Gov. John Kitzhaber's 1st term - the state's 1st executions since 1962. Since then there have been none, and 3 years ago Kitzhaber, saying he believed the death penalty has been unjustly administered and is morally wrong, declared a moratorium on executions as long as he remained governor. Gov. Kate Brown, who succeeded Kitzhaber following his resignation, says she intends keep the moratorium in place.

It's time for Oregon to have a long-overdue debate about the death penalty, a discussion that ideally leads to a statewide vote that clarifies where citizens stand on the issue.

(source: Editorial, The Register-Guard)

HAWAII:

Settlement reached in mother's lawsuit over daughter's death

A settlement has been reached in a mother's lawsuit against the federal government over the death of her 5-year-old daughter at the hands of a former Hawaii-based soldier.

Tarshia Williams filed the lawsuit against the government over the 2005 death of her daughter, Talia. The lawsuit claims the military didn't report to the proper authorities that Talia's father and stepmother "abused and tortured" her throughout the 7 months she lived in Hawaii.

In what was the 1st death penalty case to go to trial in the history of Hawaii's statehood, Naeem Williams was convicted of murder last year in his daughter's death and sentenced to life in prison without possibility for parole. Talia's stepmother, Delilah Williams, testified against her husband as part of a deal with prosecutors for a 20-year sentence. She provided disturbing details of abuse that included withholding food for days at a time and beating the child while she was duct-taped to a bed.

Talia died July 16, 2005, after prosecutors say her father dealt a blow so hard it left knuckle imprints on her chest.

A non-jury trial was scheduled for June in Tarshia Williams' lawsuit. According to court records online, a settlement was reached last week. Details are expected to be announced in court Tuesday. One of her Honolulu attorneys, Mark Davis, declined to provide details Friday.

She testified at Naeem Williams' trial, saying the last time she saw Talia was when the child left South Carolina to live with her father in Hawaii. She said the last time she spoke to Talia was by telephone on July 2, 2005. Talia died 2 weeks later.

After Naeem Williams was convicted, she told The Associated Press she believes the government could have done more to help her daughter, since military police had shown up at the house for various domestic incidents. Her lawsuit was put on hold pending the criminal trial. The government has denied that officials failed to protect Talia from the abuse that caused her death.

Tarshia Williams and Talia's father weren't married but share the same last name because they are distant relatives.

(source: Associated Press)

EGYPT:

Arab Sharkas executions in Egypt: Justice or revenge?

On May 19, the Egyptian Court of Administrative Judiciary was scheduled to look into a lawsuit that demands annulling the death sentence handed to 6 young men on charges of carrying out terrorist attacks in the case known as Arab Sharkas. On May 17, the same 6 were executed by the Military Court, which issued the initial sentence.

The heated debates following the executions were different from others commonly associated with this type of trial, such as how politicized the verdict might be, the culpability of the defendants, or the referral of civilians to military courts. The controversy revolved around what was specifically unique about this case: the speed with which the executions were carried out, and the reasons for not waiting for the result of the lawsuit contesting the verdict.

Lawyer Fatma Serag sees the lawsuit filed with the administrative judiciary as "the only available window for appealing the Military Court's verdict and putting the death sentence on hold." Serag said the decision to execute the defendants broke all the rules that have always been observed in such cases.

"There's always a long time, usually years, separating the issuance and implementation of a death sentence, even when the verdict is final," she said. "The Prisons' Authority does that in order to give the chance for new evidence to emerge, and which may lead to postponing or annulling the verdict. Why was this verdict in particular carried out that quickly?"

Mohamed Adel, head of the Litigation Unit at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Political Rights, said he had the answer to Serag's question. "The execution was carried out 2 days before the hearing of the other lawsuit to close any door to a verdict that might postpone the execution," Adel said. He added that even when a death sentence becomes final, it has to take a turn on death row, which means it waits until earlier death sentences are carried out.

"This usually takes at least 6 months. In this case, only two months had passed since the verdict became final," he said, referring to the Military Court's rejection of the appeal in March. Adel said the defendants were deprived of their legal rights when they were executed that fast. "According to the law, families of the defendants have to be notified of the time of the execution, and defendants should be allowed final visits."

Mahmoud Salmani, a member of the movement "No to the Military Trial of Civilians," saw the execution as an indication of the main problem inherent in the idea of military judiciary, since its very presence violates the principle of the separation of powers.

"Judges in the Military Court are appointed by the head of the Military Judiciary Authority. This authority reports to the minister of defense who, in turn, is affiliated to the executive power," he said. "This means that the military judiciary isn't independent."

A Human Rights Watch report voiced the same concern and demanded, weeks before the execution, that the defendants be retried before a civilian court. "Egypt's military courts, whose judges are serving military officers, are neither independent nor impartial, but in October 2014 President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi increased their powers to try civilians by expanding their jurisdiction over any crimes that occur on state or public property," said the report.

Criminal sciences expert General Refaat Abdel Hamid said in the case of defendants facing trial before two courts, the court that issues the 1st sentence has the right to carry it out. "This applies to the death penalty and to cases where one court is civilian and the other military," he said. "In case of execution, the 2nd pending trial is automatically dropped."

Ahmed Helmi, a member of the defendants' defense team, agreed with Abdel Hamid. "Filing a lawsuit against the verdict doesn't oblige the Prisons Authority to postpone carrying out this verdict," he said. "When the Military Court rejected the appeal, the verdict became enforceable and filing a lawsuit with an administrative court wouldn't stop it. The only exception would be if the administrative court accepts the case."

Professor of criminal law Mahmoud Kobeish blamed the administrative judiciary for not treating the matter with more urgency. "The administrative court should've set an earlier date for looking into the case to guarantee that the execution could be put on hold," he said.

Analysts who supported the execution of the verdict expressed their concern over the reaction of the militant group to which the defendants reportedly belong, namely Ansar Beit al-Maqdes. "The group will do its best to prove its existence, and to convince Egyptians and the international community that the verdict was politicized," said political writer Gamal Asaad.

"That's why the Ministry of Interior declared a state of emergency right after the executions were carried out." Asaad also expected that several countries and human rights organizations that have opposed the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood would condemn the executions.

Revenge

Professor of political science Tarek Fahmy said the revenge of militants has become more immediate than expected. "This was made very clear when 3 judges were assassinated in Sinai on the same day [former President Mohammed] Mursi and several Brotherhood leaders received a death sentence."

The link between the executions and the killing of the judges took the controversy to a different level, as it was debated whether the decision to hasten the execution was aimed at avenging the judges. Hesham al-Mayani said what was more serious than whether the executions were fair is for the state to become party to a feud with militants and to allow this to impact its decisions.

"It is obvious that members of the Arab Sharkas cell were not scheduled to be executed on that day, especially that the state had enough on its plate with the strong reactions the latest death sentences against Mursi and Brotherhood members brought about on both the domestic and international levels," he wrote. "This changed when the judges were killed."

Mayani said he did not object to the verdict but rather to the timing, since it demonstrated that militants have succeeded in dragging the state into a cycle of revenge. "We will be fooling ourselves if we believe that the judges are now avenged because all what the state did was punishing terrorists it already had under its control for a crime committed by other terrorists," he said. "Punishment for each crime should target those who committed this crime. We cannot assume that punishing another criminal would stop the criminals who are still at large."

Security experts, however, see fast executions as the way to speed up the elimination of terrorist cells. "It's important to get rid of members of those cells as fast as possible so that Egypt can regain its security," said strategic expert General Hamdi Bekheet. "Executions should be accompanied by a series of clampdowns on those terrorists in their strongholds."

Military expert General Talaat Mussallam disagreed with speculation about an increase in terrorist operations following the execution: "Militants strike whenever they get the chance, regardless of death sentences their fellow-militants receive."

For Mussallam, the assassination of the judges illustrates the growing danger of militant groups, and which necessitates their immediate elimination. "Militants were targeting army and police officers; now they've added judges."

(source: Al Arabiya)

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

Egypt summons Pakistani ambassador over statement on Morsi's penalty

Egyptian Foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador to Cairo Tuesday to inform him that Cairo rejects a Pakistani statement over Former President Mohamed Morsi's death sentence.

The Pakistani statement included unacceptable comments against the Egyptian regime, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said.

"Further, our embassy in Islamabad conveyed the same message to the Pakistani side to express complete rejection of the latest statement by the Pakistani Foreign [Ministry,]" Egypt's statement added.

On May 19, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its concerns over Morsi's death sentence, along with more than 100 others.

"Therefore, Pakistan underscores the fact, highlighted by many other countries, that the dispensation of justice must be based on the principles of equity and fairness," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said.

"This is all the more important when political prisoners especially a former elected President, who was ousted from office, is brought before the court of law, Pakistan hopes that the Government of Egypt would take steps to meet the requirements of justice under law and would show compassion in case of political prisoners" the statement added.

On May 16, Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Morsi and 105, including Muslim Brotherhood senior figures, to death for escaping from jail in 2011.

On Jan. 29, 2011, assailants raided Wadi al-Natroun prison, freeing a large number of prisoners, including members of Egyptian, Palestinian and Lebanese Islamist groups. Morsi, who was jailed on remand, was among those who fled the prison.

(source: The Cairo Post)

KUWAIT:

Kuwaiti student escapes death penalty

A Kuwaiti student has escaped the death penalty after his victim's family pardoned him on Tuesday morning.

The ruling was announced by the Sharjah Appeal Court on Tuesday.

Another Kuwaiti student was also sentenced to death in the case but he did not receive a pardon from the family of the victim.

A 3rd student involved in the beating of the dead victim was fined Dh1,000 earlier in absentia.

The 2 Kuwaiti students have already spent more than 2 years in jail for their part in the death of Mubarak Mesha'al Mubarak, 19, a unversity student in Sharjah who died at University City Hospital on February 24, 2013, following several days of physical abuse, said police.

The verdict is expected to be final as the victim's family's signed a paper pardoning the suspect, a prosecutor told Gulf News.

The parents of the victim as well as the family members of the pardoned Kuwaiti attended the session.

The decision is a reversal of earlier circumstances when the Kuwaiti victim's family asked the judge to give the duo the death sentence. They told Gulf News earlier they would never pardon the killers.

The verdict was issued by Judge Hussain Al Assofi on Tuesday morning.

(source: Gulf News)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan SC dismisses plea seeking abolition of death penalty

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking abolition of the death penalty in the country.

Pakistan resumed imposing the death penalty in December after a Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly children.

Various rights groups have criticised the government for resuming the executions.

Barrister Zafarullah had filed a petition seeking the abolition of the death penalty arguing that capital punishment was contrary to the fundamental rights.

A three-member bench of the court headed by Justice Saqib Nisar dismissed the petition.

The judge said that right to life and liberty are not absolute in the Constitution of Pakistan.

He said that the death penalty was provided in the law and in accordance with the law, a person can be deprived of life.

The court asked the petitioner to approach the parliament for change of laws to abolish death penalty in the country.

There are more than 8,000 death-row prisoners in Pakistan and more than 110 have been executed since resumption of the death penalty.

(source: firstpost.com)

IRAN:

Negotiating with the Executors of Children

5Despite pressure from global community and human rights organizations, a young man, Hamid Ahmadi, is at imminent risk of execution, according to Amnesty international.

A few months ago, a Kurdish Juvenile "offender" was executed for charges such as "enmity against God" and "corruption on Earth." Iranian authorities carried out the execution despite international pressure. His family members were asked to collect his body the next day.

In addition, although the increasing number of executions for minor crimes is appalling in itself in the Islamic Republic, the execution of children adds more evidence of the egregious human rights abuses committed by the ruling clerics of the Islamic Republic.

In 2014 alone, 14 executions of people, who were less than 18 years old at the time of their "crime," were reported to Amnesty International. Possibly many other executions went unreported.

Speaking on Ahmadi’s case, Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, pointed out, "The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, but it is particularly troubling that in this case Iran is again set to violate the clear prohibition in international law of executing those who were children at the time of the alleged crime. If the execution goes ahead while the case is under review at Iran’s highest court, it would also be an appalling miscarriage of justice." He added, "The Iranian authorities should halt all plans to carry out this execution immediately. They must allow justice to run its course without resorting to the death penalty."

Even under the new Islamic Penal Code of Iran, which is now in place, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to executes children or those who commit adultery, sodomy, or drink alcohol repeatedly.M

The ruling clerics consider the age of puberty as the legal age for considering someone an adult. In addition they consider a lunar year, which is shorter than the solar year at roughly 354 days, as a basis for calculating someone's age.

According to the Shari’s Penal Code of Iran "A child is a person who has not reached the age of puberty as stipulated in Islamic Shari'a."

As a result, a girl who is 9 years old can be legally executed for committing a crime based on the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic.

Hypocritically, the Islamic Republic is a signatory member of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Yet the ruling mullahs of the Islamic Republic blatantly continue to violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Iranian leaders point out that the new Islamic Penal Code has abolished child execution. Nevertheless, even under the new Islamic Penal Code the allowance of child execution is clear, according to article 146 and 147 of the Penal Code. Article 146 states that "Non-mature children have no criminal responsibility." And Article 147 indicates that "The age of maturity for girls and boys are, respectively, a full 9 and 15 lunar years."

If a juvenile execution case draws international pressure, the mullahs utilize another tactic. They usually keep the child in the prison until he/she is 18 years old, then the government executes them, arguing the offender is executed as an adult.

Iranian authorities continuously violate the following 4 crucial articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age;

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

The case to execute Ahmadi is only one example among many. He was forced into giving a "confession," as many other prisoners have been. And his trial, as many other trials, was unfair, and flawed, with no adequate legal representation. Based on the Iranian Islamic principle of "knowledge of the judge," the judge subjectively decided to sentence Ahmadi to death. As Boumedouha pointed out, "Instead of sending another young man to the gallows after a flawed judicial process, the Iranian authorities should be launching an independent investigation into the allegation that Hamid Ahmadi was forced to 'confess' and incriminate himself."

According to an annual report on the death penalty in 2014, 1193 people had been executed in the Islamic Republic since President Hassan Rouhani came to power; that means that approximately 2 executions occur every day.

It is worth noting that we are negotiating and sitting on the same table with those Iranian leaders who are not only notorious for their anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments, but also well known for egregious human rights violations against children. What kind of message are we sending to many Iranian people who are oppressed under the Ayatollah regime?

(source: frontpagemag.com)

SRI LANKA:

Sri Lankan President pledges maximum punishment for culprits of Jaffna rape and murder

May 26, Jaffna: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today pledged maximum possible punishment to the perpetrators of the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 17-year-old schoolgirl in Jaffna.

President Sirisena, who paid a sudden visit to Jaffna Tuesday, assured to take all measures to impose maximum punishment to the suspects of the crime through a special court. He stressed not to leave any room in the future for such crimes to happen in the country.

The President met with the mother and the brother of the murder victim, Sivayoganathan Vithya today (26) at the Jaffna Governors Official Residence.

Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Vigneswaran, Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran and Member of Parliament Mavai Senathirajah joined the President at this meeting.

The 18 year old student of the Pungudutivu Maha Vidyalayam was gang raped and strangled to death. Her body was found with her hands and legs tied to a log inside a run-down house in Pungudutivu. The police have arrested nine suspects in connection with the crime.

The gang rape and the killing shook the island nation sparking violent protests in Jaffna seeking justice for the young victim. The police arrested scores of protesters who demanded the police to hand over the suspects to them to meet justice. The protesters demanded a swift trial and death penalty for the suspects.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police has ordered to deploy 3 police teams to carryout expeditious investigations into the crime. The investigations have been expedited on the instructions of the President.

(source: colombohomepage.com)

INDIA:

2 persons get death in triple murder

A Basti court on Tuesday awarded death sentence to 2 persons after finding them guilty of committing triple murders in 2011. The murders were a result of a dispute related to then panchayat elections, police said.

3 persons -- Pankaj Pandey, Shiv Prakash and Ratnakar -- were at a tea stall in Keswapur village under Paikulia police station of Basti on September 26, 2011, when 4 miscreants came on 2 motorbikes and opened fire on them. Pankaj died on the spot, while Shiv Prakash and Ratnakar died later in the hospital.

A named FIR was lodged against 4 persons. 2 accused, Dharmendra and Surya Prakash, were convicted in the case, while other 2 were acquitted by the court lack of evidence. On Tuesday, the court awarded death penalty to Dharmendra and Surya Prakash.

(source: The Times of India)

INDONESIA:

Wife planned Aussie businessman's Bali murder: prosecutor

An Indonesian woman on trial for ordering her Australian husband's Bali murder did not act spontaneously out of anger, but planned the hit and stuck with the plan despite having time to change her mind, the prosecution has argued.

Noor Ellis could receive the death penalty for pre-meditated murder, but the prosecution has recommended a maximum 15 years for arranging the ambush of her husband of 25 years, Robert Ellis.

The 60-year-old businessman's throat was slashed in the kitchen of his Bali villa in October last year, and his body wrapped in plastic and dumped in a ditch.

The crime has torn the family apart, with their sons Peter and John distressed by what they believe is too light a sentence.

Ellis has asked for a sentence lighter than 15 years so she can support her sons.

But Peter Ellis last week made it clear they don't want her support, walking away when his mother approached him at court.

The son of murdered businessman Robert Ellis has snubbed his mother in court who is accused of plotting his father's death.

Before Tuesday's hearing she told reporters she hoped her sons would one day forgive her.

"I will keep on loving my children even though they hate me," she said.

Prosecutor Ida Ayu Sulasmi said Ellis' defence had been inconsistent, selective and dishonest.

It was clear from the evidence of 7 witnesses - the 5 men involved in the killing and 2 maids who abetted them - that Ellis planned it and played a role, she said.

Ellis had picked up the men, given them a signal when Mr Ellis arrived home at the villa and later helped dump his body.

Rather than ordering the hit in a fit of rage, as the defence had argued, Ellis had made a deal on the price and requested that it not be done "sadistically".

"There was quite a time gap between the 1st time the defendant contacted Aril until the implementation of murder that proves that the defendant had the intention to kill the victim or there was no intention to abort (the plan)," she said.

Aril, or Andreanus Ngongo, is 1 of 5 men on trial over an alleged involvement in the killing.

Ellis has claimed she resorted to violence after suffering neglect at the hands of her wealthy husband for years.

Her defence chose not to respond, meaning she will be sentenced next Wednesday.

(source: 9news.com.au)

PHILIPPINES:

Shades of Sarah

As of last month, per the records of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 88 overseas Filipino workers are on death row in a number of countries for various crimes, mostly murder and illegal drugs. Saudi Arabia has 28, Malaysia 34, China 21, the United States 2, Vietnam 2, Kuwait 1, Indonesia 1 (the celebrated case of Mary Jane Veloso, whose execution was stayed at the last minute by the Indonesian government), and Thailand 1.

That number now goes up to 89 with another Filipino having been sentenced to death, this time in the United Arab Emirates, for allegedly killing her employer. Jennifer Dalquez, 28, reportedly stabbed her employer last Dec. 7 after the latter attempted to rape her at knifepoint. She was arrested 5 days later, and was meted the death penalty by a trial court last May 20.

Dalquez, according to her family based in General Santos City, had been working in the UAE since 2011, and was scheduled to return home in January. The DFA says it has extended all help to her, and will continue to do so as she appeals her sentence.

Another day, another OFW in peril. The DFA should ensure that, this time, Dalquez gets the best legal and professional help every step of the way to be able to present a thorough defense of her case. It's been only weeks since Veloso's reprieve in Indonesia, and the DFA should now have learned its lesson from the belated revelation of deficiencies, even instances of neglect, in its handling of her case.

Notably, Veloso's parents have claimed that no DFA representative was present at the beginning of her trial for drug smuggling; she was represented by a pro bono Indonesian lawyer appointed by the court, and the interpreter tasked to help her was only a student at a local foreign language school. Veloso was apprehended in Yogyakarta airport in April 2010; the prosecutors had only asked for life imprisonment, but the court sentenced her to death. The Aquino administration, based on the timeline it has provided, claims to have unceasingly if quietly worked on her case by filing several appeals with the Indonesian government, all the way to its Supreme Court, which also upheld the verdict. But cause-oriented groups say the government was remiss in many instances, from neglecting to arrest Veloso's illegal recruiter immediately to buttress the case of human trafficking that could have been used to defend her (and that became, indeed, Indonesia's rationale for staying her execution), to the years-long runaround that her parents claim they were subjected to at the DFA as they repeatedly sought help for their incarcerated daughter.

It's worth noting that before Veloso was arrested in Indonesia for alleged drug smuggling, she had first worked in Dubai as a domestic helper, until she had to flee and return to Manila when her employer reportedly tried to rape her. In this, Veloso and Dalquez, and Sarah Balabagan before them, share the common ordeal of often barely educated Filipino women forced by poverty to seek work abroad, where they are preyed upon, if not by illegal recruiters, then by employers who take advantage of their helplessness in a foreign land.

Dalquez's case, in fact, bears uncanny similarities to Balabagan's. A Muslim from Maguindanao, Balabagan was a minor who lied about her age to obtain employment as a maid in the UAE. In July 1994, she stabbed her employer 34 times because, she said, the man wanted to rape her. She was first convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment plus the payment of blood money to the slain man's family. But a higher court convicted her of murder and sentenced her to die by firing squad. As in Veloso's case, her then-impending execution prompted frantic last-minute negotiations by the Philippine government, helped along by international outrage at perceived oppressive conditions of foreign workers, especially women, in the Middle East.

Balabagan's sentence was eventually commuted. Incidentally, Al Ain, the UAE town where she worked, is where Dalquez also ended up; it was the Al Ain trial court that meted her the death penalty. If the parallels between these two cases hold true some more, then perhaps Dalquez can hope for some form of relief. But that hope rests squarely on how the DFA and the Philippine government will handle her case. Balabagan's is a precedent case; her employer's family agreed to waive execution in exchange for blood money and 20 lashes. The DFA should exhaust all options to save Dalquez from death.

(source: Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

PAPUA NEW GUINEA:

PNG police to hear complaint over sorcery axe murder

A group of Papua New Guinea highlanders are on their way to the police station in Enga province to lodge a formal complaint over an alleged brutal axe murder.

A woman named Misila was reportedly killed after locals accused her of sorcery.

Local men who believe in ancestral spirits had blamed 3 women following a measles epidemic that killed several people in Enga last year.

The women were saved by a Lutheran missionary, Anton Lutz, and policemen in January, after they persuaded the men to give up the superstitious beliefs.

However, Mr Lutz says on Monday 10 men came to Misila's home and killed her with an axe.

He says a plane has been arranged to take a group from the village today so they can make a police complaint, which they hope will lead to a formal investigation.

PNG passed a law bringing back the death penalty in 2013, and repealed its archaic Sorcery Law, after a spate of killings.

However the death penalty has not been implemented and the Government says it will be debated again in Parliament this year.

(source: Radio New Zealand International)

BANGLADESH:

Revisiting mandatory death penalty case

Recently, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has been reported to declare section 6(2) (3) (4) of the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton (Bisesh Bidhan) Ain, 1995 (the Ain of 1995) and section 34(2) of the Nari o Shishu Nirjaton (Bisesh Bidhan) Ain, 2000 unconstitutional. According to news reports, the aforesaid provisions have been held unconstitutional because they provide for mandatory death penalty as punishment for the offence of causing death after rape.

It may be recalled that section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995 was first held unconstitutional by the High Court Division in Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Another v Bangladesh represented by the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Others [2011] 63 DLR 10. Pending availability of the judgment of the Appellate Division, it will be worth taking a fresh look at the judgment of the High Court Division.

The material facts of the case is Md. Shukur Ali was convicted of rape and murder and was eventually sentenced to death under section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995. At the time of trial, Md. Shukur Ali was a minor. The petitioners filed a writ petition impugning, inter alia, section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995 primarily on the grounds that it provides for mandatory death penalty which is repugnant to the Constitution.

In this case, the petitioners' first submission (which actually comprises 3 propositions) was that any laws providing for capital punishment if enacted before the Constitution's coming into force would be valid. And, if the laws which have been enacted after the Constitution's coming into force provide for capital punishment would be unconstitutional.

However, in any of the aforesaid cases, the provision of mandatory death penalty would be unconstitutional. The aforesaid submission was mainly built on a combined reading of Articles 26, 32 and 35 of the Constitution. Relying on Article 35(5) of the Constitution - which provides that no person should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment - the petitioners construed death penalty as a cruel and inhuman punishment. The petitioners' argument about validity of the pre-constitutional laws providing for death penalty derived from Article 35(6) which provides that the operation of any existing law which prescribed any punishment or procedure for trial should not be affected. In addition, referring to Article 26(1) & (2), the petitioners sought to vindicate the arguments that all lex lata and lex ferenda providing for mandatory death penalty would be repugnant to the Constitution and therefore, section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995 would be void.

The petitioners, furthermore, submitted that any provision of mandatory death penalty was arbitrary for the reason that it curtailed the discretionary power of the court in adjudicating cases and therefore, would be repugnant to Part VI of the Constitution. The petitioners quoted from the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR), 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966 as well as cited foreign case laws in support of both of the submissions.

The High Court Division dismissed the first two propositions of the first submission on the grounds that if death penalty is not allowed to be incorporated in the post-constitution laws, there would be discrimination in regard to treatment of offenders under the new laws as compared to those dealt with under the earlier laws. However, the High Court Division appreciated the second submission by noting that the provision of mandatory punishment would render the court into a simple rubberstamp of the legislature. The High Court Division observed that any provision of mandatory punishment would result in prejudicing the court's power of adjudication since the court would be prevented from considering the attenuating factors and compulsorily impose the mandatory punishment upon finding the accused guilty.

Accordingly, the High Court Division concluded that the court should not be bereft of its discretionary power to determine appropriate punishment for any given crime. The High Court Division decided that any provision of law which provided for a mandatory death penalty would be unconstitutional and accordingly held section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995 repugnant (paragraphs 38, 42 & 45). The reasoning that mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional because it curtails the discretion is clearly the ratio decidendi of this case.

The High Court Division's decision in this case deserves some discussion. For example, it appears from the reasoning of this case that section 6(2) of the Ain of 1995 (provision of mandatory death penalty) was held inconsistent with Part VI of the Constitution ('Judiciary'), and not with Part III ('Fundamental Rights'). Had the opposite been done, alternative sentencing would have been recognised as a fundamental right of the convicted persons.

The High Court Division did not specifically point out which particular provision of the Constitution invests her with 'mandatory power of judicial discretion' in determining the degree and amount of sentence and how it is in conflict with a mandatory sentencing provision of law. If mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional because it limits the court's judicial discretion, all other mandatory penalties should accordingly be unconstitutional for similar reason although the court did not elaborate on this aspect anywhere in its judgment. Although in the final sense, the ratio of this case strictly involves aspects relating to functions of the judiciary or judicial independence, the decision, nevertheless, carries a strong human rights message which we are eagerly waiting to see to be capitalised.

(source: Kawser Ahmed; The writer is an Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh----The Daily Star)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executes 88th person this year, topping 2014 total

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday carried out its 88th execution so far this year, surpassing the total for all of 2014 despite activists' concerns that trials are not conducted fairly.

The interior ministry identified the latest to be put to death as Saudis Awad al-Rowaili and Lafi al-Shammary, who were convicted of smuggling amphetamines.

They were executed in the northern region of Jawf, the ministry said in statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Another Saudi, Mohammed al-Shihri, was separately put to death in the southwestern region of Asir for murder.

The conservative Islamic kingdom executed 87 people in 2014, according to an AFP tally.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health, according to the Indonesian newspaper Kompas.

Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case, a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions, around half of which involve foreigners.

Also among this year's dead are at least 8 Yemenis, 10 Pakistanis, Syrians, Jordanians, and individuals from Myanmar, the Philippines, India, Chad, Eritrea and Sudan.

Saudi Arabia ranked among the world's top 5 executioners in 2014, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Under the Gulf nation's strict version of Islamic sharia law, drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death.

Executions are carried out in public, mostly by beheading with a sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died on January 23.

It accelerated this year under his successor King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

Activists are unable to explain specific reasons for the surge, and officials have not commented.

One activist said the death penalty is carried out only with the king's final approval.

"So if the king is strict he will sign this paper," said the activist, asking for anonymity.

- 'Secret' trials -

Salman has adopted a more assertive foreign policy, and in April promoted his powerful Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef to be crown prince and heir to the throne.

The Berlin-based European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said in a report that the death penalty in the kingdom is "often applied to powerless individuals with no government connection".

Ali Adubisi, the group's director, told AFP that economic factors could be leading to a rise in drug crimes. Many are turning to the illegal business "because they are poor", he said.

Drug and murder convictions account for the bulk of executions in Saudi Arabia.

But according to London-based Amnesty, only crimes of "intentional killings" meet the threshold for use of the death penalty under international human rights standards.

It said court proceedings in the country "fall far short" of global norms of fairness.

"Trials in death penalty cases are often held in secret. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by lawyers" and may be convicted solely on the basis of "confessions", Amnesty said in a report.

With the number of beheadings soaring, the civil service this month advertised for eight new "executors of retribution".

In a country where government officials are not known for their openness, all executions are publicised by the official press agency, and the interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for the punishment.

The number of executions will rise even higher if death sentences are carried out against nine people who activists say were convicted after demonstrations that began in 2011 by the minority Shiite community.

Among them is Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind those protests. Adubisi said three teenagers, aged 15-17 at the time of their arrests, are also among the condemned.

Although death sentences can be appealed to higher courts, he said there is "no transparency at all" about which stage the cases have reached, in what can be a lengthy process.

"It's a type of torture for these people and their families," he said.

(source: Yahoo News)

MAY 25, 2015:

TEXAS:

Executions, if they must continue, should be transparent in Texas

A federal jury in Massachusetts sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- one of the bombers in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing -- to death. The federal government has only executed 3 men since Massachusetts abolished capital punishment in 1984, making both the execution and the state of its trial fascinating. In Texas, however, capital punishment is so incorporated into the normative political and social fabric that it does not receive the scrutiny that would be given in the rest of the country. We hope Texans can use the shocking nature of the Tsarnaev case as an opportunity to re-examine our own state's enactment of and culture surrounding capital punishment.

Texas has a proclivity for capital punishment. There have been 524 executions in Texas since 1984, the year Massachusetts abolished the death penalty. This year, Texas has already executed 7 inmates, 1/2 of the national total. In the period between 1973-2013, Texas had the 2nd highest % of death sentences resulting in execution, rather than exoneration or dismissal, at 47 %, which is 3.5 times higher than the national average of 13% over the same period.

Of course, the numbers keep adding up. On May 12, Texas carried out its last execution. The next will take place on June 3.

Though Texas' huge volume of capital punishment is undoubtedly an ethical concern, the Texas court system presents a unique challenge to carrying out capital punishment justly. Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic man, was nearly executed on December 3 because the Texas appellate court denied appeals against his execution that demonstrated decades of documented mental illness. However, the federal appellate court spared his life with a stay of execution a mere 12 hours before because of the overwhelming evidence previously denied by the Texas courts. Although only one case, his illuminates the widespread institutional failures of the Texas courts that so often ruin people's lives, or even end them.

However, as Texas recently ran out of lethal injection drugs as pharmaceutical industries refuse to allow their products to be used to execute people, the main action in the State Legislature appears to be proliferation, rather than reduction, of these ethical concerns.

Last year, experimental drugs from compounding pharmacies were used as replacements nationwide, resulting in numerous botched lethal injections. As a result of these well-documented botches, compounding pharmacies faced rebuke by pharmaceutical professional associations. This has forced the state to procure the pertinent drugs for executions, namely pentobarbital, by operating with an irresponsible lack of transparency. What does it say about capital punishment that preparations for it must be carried out in secret, for fear of professional sanctions?

Fittingly, a bill protecting and codifying this lack of transparency, despite multiple legal challenges against it, is the sole piece of legislation regarding capital punishment that passed this session. Senate Bill 1697, by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, moves to block disclosure of drug manufacturers' information from public record through the Texas Public Information Act, thereby perpetuating the culture of opacity that characterizes capital punishment in Texas.

Texans must engage with our political system, yet proposals like SB 1697 eliminate ethical means of doing that by minimizing opportunities to shed light on and reform the institution. Such behavior is a failure to the ethical responsibility expected of Texas lawmakers and courts. If an institution is too unpopular or unethical to stand out in the open, perhaps it should not stand at all.

(source: The (Univ. Texas) Daily Texas Editorial Board)

NEBRASKA:

Cult killer Michael Ryan dies in prison

Inmates on death row

Here is the status of Nebraska's death row, listing name, date of arrival on death row, county in which crime occurred and a brief description.

* Carey Dean Moore, June 20, 1980, Douglas County, killed 2 Omaha cab drivers in separate robberies.

* John L. Lotter, Feb. 21, 1996, Richardson, killed prior sexual assault victim and 2 bystanders.

* Raymond Mata, June 1, 2000, Scotts Bluff, killed and dismembered 3-year-old boy.

* Arthur L. Gales, Nov. 6, 2001, Douglas, raped and murdered 13 year-old girl and killed her 7-year-old brother.

* Jorge Galindo, Nov. 10, 2004, Madison, killed 5 people in attempted bank robbery.

* Jose Sandoval, Jan. 31, 2005, Madison, killed 5 people in attempted bank robbery.

* Jeffrey Hessler, May 18, 2005, Scotts Bluff, kidnapped, raped and murdered 15-year-old girl.

* Erick F. Vela, Jan. 12, 2007, Madison, killed 5 people in attempted bank robbery.

* Roy L. Ellis, Feb. 6, 2009, Douglas, abducted and killed 12-year-old girl.

* Marco E. Torres, Jan. 29, 2010, Hall, shot and killed 2 men.

Death penalty facts

* 32 states have the death penalty; 18 do not.

* A bill to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska passed last week in the Nebraska Legislature. Gov. Pete Ricketts has promised to veto it. A bill to repeal the death penalty passed in 1979 and was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.

* There hasn't been an execution in Nebraska since Robert Williams was electrocuted in 1997.

* Nebraska went to lethal injection after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the electric chair amounted to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

* Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers has offered a death penalty-related bill 38 times.

* Michael Ryan, who died Sunday, was 1 of 3 of Nebraska's 11 death-row inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals.

Michael Ryan died Sunday, according to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services website.

Ryan, 66, was sentenced to death in 1985 in the cult-related torture and killings of James Thimm, 26, and Luke Stice, 5, near Rulo.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the latest appeal effort by the death row inmate, 9 months after the Nebraska Supreme Court did the same.

Miriam Thimm Kelle's son was in diapers when Ryan tortured his uncle. Her son is grown now and has 2 kids of his own.

That's how long Ryan, convicted of Thimm's murder, had been on death row waiting for his sentence to be carried out. Her brother was killed 30 years ago next month.

Kelle and 3 others whose loved ones were murdered in the Ryan's cult compound near Rulo spoke a few hours before a legislative hearing in March, pushing state lawmakers to repeal the death penalty.

During the hearing, Kelle said Ryan had a medical condition that he would probably die from this year. The Journal Star was unable to verify Ryan's condition at the time.

At the same hearing, State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said Ryan had terminal brain cancer.

The Department of Correctional Services website did not specify Ryan's cause of death.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

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

Deserving death

During December 1957 and January 1958, Charles Starkweather, age 19, and Carol Fugate, age 14, went on a murder rampage, killing 10 people in and around Lincoln and 1 in Wyoming, for a total of 11 people.

I ask you, liberal Democrat and Republican do-gooders, just how many people does one have to kill to deserve the death penalty ("Death penalty repeal passes legislature, awaits veto," May 20) according to your view of morality? You are not in favor of death for guilty sadistic killers, yet most of you favor the killing of innocent unborn children.

What hypocrites. Have you no shame?

James Proctor, Lincoln

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

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

Social media campaign targets senators who want to repeal death penalty

The death of Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco is now part of the death penalty debate.

Nebraska senators are on the brink of repealing the state's death penalty and Gov. Pete Ricketts will not be able to veto the bill if the vote holds again. Last week's officer-involved shooting is providing the motivation for an aggressive new advertising campaign on social media.

The "fliers" target Nebraska senators who want to repeal the death penalty. The messages suggest they're backing Sen. Ernie Chambers, who said in March that police are his ISIS.

Sen. Tommy Garrett said the people behind the campaign are politicizing a tragedy.

"Shame on all those people who are implying that we, veterans, somehow support the shooting of police officers," Garrett said. "That's absolutely over the top, it's off the scale. Shame on them."

The group who made the ads declined an on-camera interview, saying they wish to remain anonymous. However, they issued a statement reading, "It is unfortunate that the Legislature repealed the death penalty the same day as those tragic events, but they did. The timing of this issue was not of our choosing. The Omaha Police Officers Association strongly supports keeping the death penalty."

The group encourages Nebraskans to call their senators Tuesday, the same day as Orozco's funeral.

(source: KETV news)

CALIFORNIA:

Governor seeks $3.2 million for more death row cells at San Quentin

San Quentin State Prison is on the verge of running out of space for condemned inmates, and Gov. Jerry Brown has asked the Legislature for $3.2 million to open 97 more cells to accommodate more death row prisoners there.

The governor's request, part of his proposed $113-billion budget proposal, has been greeted with a notable lack of enthusiasm by both those who support and oppose the death penalty.

"It's not necessary, or at least it wouldn't be necessary, if we had some leadership from the Department of Corrections and the governor doing what needs to be done to carry out these judgments," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which has sued California in an effort to force the state to resume executions.

There have been no executions in California since state and federal courts prohibited the use of a 3-drug lethal injection method in 2006.

In a prepared statement, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who introduced legislation in 2011 to eliminate the death penalty and substitute life imprisonment, said, "California is in a Catch-22 situation. We are required by the courts to address prison overcrowding and we are required by law to provide certain minimum conditions for housing death penalty inmates. The Legislature can't avoid its responsibilities in these areas, even though the courts are currently considering the constitutionality of the death penalty, and I hope will agree to end it."

Hancock said she would "balance the need to follow legal and judicial mandates with the danger of throwing more money at a dysfunctional system."

When the budget proposal was written earlier this year, San Quentin was housing 704 condemned male inmates, even though it has only 690 budgeted death row cells. 25 of the condemned inmates were being housed at the prison's Central Health Services Building, due to mental health needs.

"The reason we need more cells for death row inmates is the death row inmate population is growing," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections

Based on a 6-year average, San Quentin anticipates receiving 20 new condemned inmates annually. Given the number of inmates who die or have their sentences overturned, the population is expected to increase by about 13 inmates per year.

"Due to this rate of sentencing felons to death, San Quentin has run out of permanent beds," the governor's budget document stated. "Based on the critical nature of the bed shortage, it is not feasible to delay the approval of implementation of this proposal."

San Quentin will make room for the additional condemned inmate cells by moving general population inmates out of 2 tiers in the Donner Housing Unit. Currently, 294 general population inmates share 241 cells in the Donner Housing Unit.

Thornton said that after the reshuffle San Quentin will be able to comply with a court-ordered limit on the percentage of prisoners sharing cells. San Quentin is at 124.3 % of capacity; the limit is 137.5 % of capacity. 100 % of capacity would be 1 prisoner per cell; 200 % of capacity would be 2 prisoners in every cell.

In 2011, Brown canceled plans, initiated under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to build a new $356 million death row at San Quentin. Since then, new legislation and a ballot initiative have reduced the prison population in California.

AB 109, which the Legislature passed in October 2011, reassigned some convicted felons from state prison to county jail, and Proposition 47, which was on the November 2014 ballot, downgraded most nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The number of inmates at San Quentin has fallen from 5,151 in 2010 to 3,830 this month.

Thornton said, "That's a huge drop."

(source: Marin Independent Journal)

USA:

Capital Punishment Catharsis

2 weeks ago, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sat morosely in front of a federal jury as they dropped a long-awaited bombshell verdict on him: Tsarnaev, the last remaining "Boston Bomber," will be put to death by lethal injection.

Bostonians are hardly dancing in the streets. According to a Boston Globe Poll, only 15% of the city supports the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Throughout the trial, the family of the youngest victim of the attack, 8-year-old Martin Richard, has tearfully plead against capital punishment claiming that a life sentence for Tsarnaev would provide better closure and less legal follow-up for them. Mourning Bostonians lined up outside the courthouse on the day of Tsarnaev's sentencing touting freshly-lettered signs protesting, "Death Penalty is Murder." Capital punishment - a penalty designed to bring justice and vengeance to those affected by horrific crimes - clearly isn't doing too much good for the people it intends to heal.

So where's the disconnect?

Capital punishment doesn't make sense - not for the victims, not for their families, not for their communities and not for America as a whole. Lethal injection won't put a nation's suffering to rest. The state-sanctioned murder of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev won't soothe the scars of Bostonians, and one more death won't lift the burden of grief off of anyone's shoulders.

Supporters of the death penalty for Tsarnaev believe that mourners of the Boston bombing victims will not have real closure until he's dead. In reality, eye-for-an-eye justice in the form of capital punishment is usually more of a burden on the bereaved than a life sentence would be.

When a criminal is sentenced to death, the road to their actual execution is excruciatingly long and tedious. Death row inmates spend years, sometimes decades, waiting for appeal after appeal to go through before they are actually put to death. Families of victims are usually closely involved in these trials, tying their lives up further in their tragedy. It's impossible to even try to move on. If a criminal is given a life sentence instead, the process is a lot more cut-and-dry. The sentence goes through, and the family usually has comparatively little to do with the case while the criminal spends the rest of their lives quietly tucked away in a concrete cell. In most respects, they disappear.

When was the last time anyone heard anything significant out of Charles Manson? Life in prison is about as out-of-the-spotlight one can get, even for the most infamous. Death sentences are an unnecessary media circus.

Bostonians might rest easier knowing that Tsarnaev has faded into a life sentence of miserable obscurity, rather than being forced to sit through constant coverage of his death row appeals for the next several years. Especially for the families of victims forced to relive the tragedy again and again, appeal after appeal, spending the next few years involved in the legal intricacies of Tsarnaev's death sentence must almost feel like losing their lives all over again.

Tsarnaev's barbaric act of terrorism is inexcusable, and he deserves to be punished for his crimes - but putting him to death is not the type of punishment that will facilitate healing for those affected by his actions.

We cannot defend capital punishment on any kind of moral high ground - as horrific as someone's crimes might be, murder is still murder, even when it’s state-sanctioned. Violence is not a viable response to violence, especially when other alternatives provide better closure to mourners. A life sentence is by no means a pardon - in fact, a life spent wasting away in confinement is arguably harsher on prisoners than the reprieve of death. A life sentence for Tsarnaev would, however, make the mourning process a lot easier for those affected by the bombing who just want to try to move forward with their lives.

The entire purpose of capital punishment is emotional catharsis for victims. The furious anti-death penalty protests in Boston are proof that death to Tsarnaev is not the kind of vengeance victims want - and if the healing of victims is what we're really concerned with, something has to give.

(source: Opinion; Megan Cole is a first-year literary journalism major; (Univ. Calif., Irvine) New University)

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

Why the death penalty is wrong

I have listened to the Tsarnaev trial reports each morning for months on the way to work. I have heard the sentiments of those who favor and those who oppose the death penalty. However, I have yet to hear an examined or sufficiently coherent argument for or against. After considerable reflection, I am against. My reasons follow.

1st, it is very costly - studies have shown that it will cost, on average, more than $1 million more to put someone to death, given the many appeals required for such a final "solution," than life imprisonment.

2nd, and related to the 1st, more than 150 death row sentences have been overturned in the U.S. in the last 10 years when the prisoner was found not guilty due to newly produced DNA evidence, sometimes after nearly 40 years in prison. Have we fixed that "injustice" yet? So how many innocent people have been executed in our name and do we accept that this is just "the cost of doing business" for our judicial system? We all share in the guilt for the taking of those innocent lives in our name, but what punishment have we borne for that?

3rd, the death penalty has not been proven to be a deterrent. Studies have shown that, in order for a punishment to be an effective deterrent, certain conditions are necessary. Among them: the punishment needs to be meted out swiftly, it needs to be seen as being equally applied to all, i.e. not seen as social scapegoating, and the perpetrator must believe that they will be caught. Rarely, if ever, are all of these conditions met.

4th, if the death penalty is such a just and effective practice, why is the United States the only country among the 82 countries of the Western hemisphere, Europe and the old Russian Federation countries to have a death penalty on the books? What do we know that they don't?

5th, it is not clear that the victims' families even agree on this issue. We do know that, in the Tsarnaev case, closure might come much sooner without the death penalty, as life imprisonment would probably have begun already. Instead, appeals are expected to last at least another 10 years or more. Some have taken nearly 40.

6th, even the "eye for an eye" approach cannot apply in this case. Tsarnaev has only 1 life to give, 'though he has taken at least 3 and damaged many more. Some argue that "he deserves to die." Yet, deciding what other people "deserve" is way above my pay grade. Our government has a Department of Public Safety - whose job it is to keep dangerous people away from us until they are no longer a threat - and our Department of Correction is established to "correct" behavior and to keep people who are unsafe away from us, at least until they are "corrected" and pose no discernable threat to us.

7th, on a more philosophical note, I believe that my taking a human life, except in self-defense, diminishes me, as does the taking of a life "in my name."

8th, and finally, we are all appalled when we hear of a cold blooded murder, particularly when the victim was no threat to the perpetrator. Yet, in the case of capital punishment, we are strapping a person we have already captured down to a gurney and injecting a lethal poison into his arteries while 20 or more people and watch him writhe in pain for minutes, sometimes hours, until dead. Not in my name, please.

(source: Guest Columnist, David P. Magnani; The Milford Daiy News)

PHILIPPINES/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Philippine embassy offers aid to maid given death penalty in Al Ain

A maid in Al Ain who was given the death penalty for killing her Emirati employer will launch an appeal against her sentence with the help of the Philippine embassy, senior diplomats said yesterday.

Officials at Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi have identified the 28-year-old woman as Jennifer Dalquez, from General Santos City, in southern Philippines.

She claimed to have stabbed her employer in self defence because he attempted to rape her.

On May 20, Dalquez was sentenced to death by an Al Ain court for killing her employer on December 7 last year, said Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE.

"We respect the judicial system of the UAE and have full faith in it," Ms Princesa said. "We are now waiting for a copy of the verdict, and will meet with the lawyer to decide the way forward."

Overseas Filipino workers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are assisted through the Philippine government's legal assistance fund.

Priority is usually given to the payment of lawyers to represent those accused of serious crimes or who are facing the death penalty.

"The embassy has extended all necessary assistance to Dalquez, including hiring a lawyer," said Charles Jose, the spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

"They will assist her in appealing her sentence, and her family has been informed of these developments."

Ms Princesa, who met the mother-of-2 in prison last week, confirmed a lawyer was hired.

"She was arrested on December 12, 5 days after it happened," she said. "Since learning about her case, we've provided her a lawyer, while our embassy officials have visited her in jail and attended the court hearings."

Prosecutors allowed Ms Princesa to meet with Dalquez privately on May 19, apart from the diplomatic visits scheduled every Wednesday.

"The meeting lasted for more than an hour," Ms Princesa said. "She told me that she killed him in self defence. I hugged her and we prayed."

Speaking from General Santos City, Dalquez's mother, Rahima, told a local television network that her daughter stabbed the man using the same knife he pointed at her.

Dalquez has worked and lived in the UAE since 2011, and was due to return home in January.

She joins 88 other Filipino workers who are on death row in China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

(source: The National)

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DFA to assist Pinay on Dubai death row

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday said the Philippine Embassy in Dubai will be assisting a Filipina who had been meted the death penalty there in appealing her case.

Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, confirmed in a text message that overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jennifer Dalquez has been sentenced to death by Dubai's Al Ain trial court for allegedly killing her employer on December 7, 2014.

The sentence was handed down on May 20.

"The embassy has extended all necessary assistance to Dalquez, including hiring a lawyer. The embassy will assist [her in appealing] her sentence," Jose said.

He added that Dalquez's family has been informed of developments in her case.

She is the latest OFW to be sentenced to death.

The DFA earlier said there are 88 Filipinos on death row in various countries, most of them for drug trafficking, including Mary Jane Veloso, who had been lined up for execution in Indonesia last month.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, however, gave Veloso a temporary reprieve at the last minute.

(source: Manila Times)

INDIA:

ACHR report examines use of 'collective conscience' in death penalties The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has released a report specifically examining the manufacturing of 'conscience' to justify death sentence and the use of the 'conscience' in the judgements imposing death penalty which have already been declared as per incuriam by the Supreme Court. It also seeks to examine how 'conscience', which varies from judge to judge depending upon his attitudes and approaches, plays out as to decide whether an accused shall live or die.

It also highlights the inconsistency of the Indian judiciary while considering the factors and circumstances to determine between life and death in a capital punishment case.

The report states that the reliance on 'conscience' for imposition of death penalty is deeply flawed, fraught with malafides at every stage, and is often manufactured through scapegoating of the dispensable.

It further states that some crimes such as the ones against women and children are so gruesome and become politically significant in the light of massive public outrage that it almost becomes indispensable for the State or the prosecution to find the guilty, even if it means tweaking justice, to assuage public anger.

The report cites Nithari killings and Nirbhaya gang rape and says that the public anger is equally directed against the failure of the State and the system as much against the crimes and the criminals, which according to the report is forgotten.

The report examines 48 judgements on death penalty pronounced by 2 distinguished former judges of the Supreme Court, Justice M B Shah and Justice Arijit Pasayat. Both the Judges are currently serving as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Special Investigation Team on Black Money appointed by the Supreme Court of India respectively.

The report attempts to illustrate how 'conscience' of individual judges play out the 'collective conscience' or 'judicial conscience'.

(source: New Kerala)

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

SC stays execution of death sentence of couple who killed 7 in UP

The Supreme Court today stayed the execution of death sentence of a young woman and her lover convicted for killing 7 members of her family, including a 10-month-old baby, in Uttar Pradesh in 2008.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and U U Lalit issued notice to UP government seeking its response and posted the matter for further hearing on May 27.

The warrant for execution of the death sentence of Shabnam and her lover Saleem was issued on May 21.

The Supreme Court on May 1 had upheld the conviction and death penalty of the couple and later on May 15 delivered a detailed judgement for dismissing the appeal filed by the convicts.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Shabnam, asked the court that the matter be heard before any final decision is taken for executing the death penalty.

In 2013, Allahabad High Court had upheld the death sentence to the couple awarded by a sessions court in 2010.

Saleem and Shabnam were having an affair and wanted to get married but their relationship met with stiff opposition from the woman's family.

On April 15, 2008, Shabnam's entire family, including a 10-month-old baby, was murdered and the woman initially pretended that her house in Amroha district of UP was attacked by unidentified assailants.

It came to light during investigation that she had abetted Saleem in the crime as she made her family members drink milk laced with sedatives before the attack and thereafter herself throttled her infant nephew.

(source: The Tribune)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Indonesian escapes death penalty in Saudi Arabia

An Indonesian citizen on trial for adultery in Saudi Arabia, has escaped the death sentence after being found innocent. She was repatriated on Sunday.

"The Indonesian citizen has been handed over to her family in Banyuwangi, East Java, after she escaped being sentenced to death by stoning in Jeddah," kompas.com quoted the director of Indonesian citizens' protection at the Foreign Ministry, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, as saying on Monday.

Lilik and her Bangladeshi husband were arrested in Jeddah in 2008 on charges of adultery and plotting with her husband to kill another Indonesian identified as Aisyah.

During the court hearing, the prosecutor sought death the death penalty for Lilik.

Her lawyer, hired by the Indonesian government, convinced the panel of judges through credible evidence that Lilik was not involved in the killing.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

MALAYSIA:

An Inconvenient Moral Argument: Are You For Or Against The Death Penalty?

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind", but could the same be said about the death penalty or capital punishment?

The sentence that someone be punished in this manner of death is usually reserved for murders, espionage, treason, sexual offenses, religious crimes (in Islamic countries) and drug trafficking. However, executions are often pondered upon and debated over its ethics and legality.

Just like how many were dismayed by the recent Indonesian executions of eight drug convicts for their roles in a 2005 heroin smuggling ring. After their appeal was dismissed by the Indonesian Supreme Court, and their plea, rejected by the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, despite fierce international lobbying and widespread condemnation, the convicted were put to death by a firing squad.

More recently, an Egyptian court sentenced the embattled ex-president Mohamed Morsi to death for his part in a mass jailbreak in 2011. Also, the 21-year-old Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faced the same fate as he was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 2013 attack that killed 3 people and wounded 264 others.

While in Malaysia, just last 2 weeks, a Nigerian female student was sentenced to death by the Malaysian High Court in which she was found guilty of trafficking 765.9 g of methamphetamine at the KL International Airport (KLIA) four years ago. Judge Datuk Ghazali Cha, passed a death sentence on 30-year-old, Mary George Unazi, after finding that the prosecution had managed to prove the defendant guilty.

Over the past years, civil rights unions have campaigned against the death penalty. According to Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM), the abolition of the death penalty worldwide has increased these last 10 years -- Asia in particular. Despite this commendable progress, there are still numerous challenges faced to halt the use of the death penalty in the region, given the fact that some countries have resumed executions.

Globally, the existence of the death penalty oftentimes have raised one underlying question: have we established our judicial systems out of a desire for rehabilitation, or out of a desire for retribution?

A Quick Glimpse Of The Death Penalty In Malaysia And Worldwide

In Malaysia, the death penalty is a legal form of punishment -- in which it is a mandatory punishment for murder, drug trafficking, treason, and waging war against Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King), and the law has been extended to include acts of terrorism recently.

The idea behind the death penalty in the country arose from a mix between the common law system that Malaysia inherited during its colonisation period from the British and the authorisation of certain punishments in Islam.

Currently, death penalties are carried out through hanging, and the penalty is used for a variety of offenses. It has also been a mandatory punishment for rapists that cause death, also for child rapists. However, in Malaysia, only High Courts have the jurisdiction to sentence someone to death.

According to sources, Malaysia has executed 359 people between 1970 and 2001, whilst 159 people remain on death row as of 2006. There have been at least 2 executions carried out in 2013 as reported by Amnesty International last year. Nevertheless, Amnesty noted that it was not able to gain the official figures, as there is a lack of information provided by the government on the matter. Meanwhile, based on reports, there is an estimate of 76 executions, and an estimate of 992 people on death row in Malaysia by the end of 2013.

A closer look at the global distribution on the death penalty shows that in the past few years, many countries have abolished this capital punishment -- either in law or in practise. Reports show that 36 countries have retained the death penalty in active use, whereas 103 countries had abolished capital punishment altogether, 6 had done so for all offenses except under special circumstances, and 50 have abolished it in practise because they had not used it for at least 10 years or were under a moratorium.

22 countries were known to have had executions carried out in 2013, as reported by Amnesty International. There are countries which do not publish information on the use of capital punishment, most significantly China and North Korea. At least 23,392 people worldwide were under sentence of death at the end of 2013.

Surprisingly, or not, Japan and the United States (US) are the only developed countries to have carried out executions. The US is the only Western country in the Americas to have carried out executions, with 32 states currently carrying out capital punishments. In 2012, 43 executions in the US took place in nine states: Arizona (6), Delaware (1), Florida (3), Idaho (1), Mississippi (6), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (6), South Dakota (2), Texas (15).

The most recent statistics by Amnesty International and Death Penalty Worldwide also revealed that China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the US are the top 5 countries in the world recorded to have the highest number of reported executions by death penalty last year. Meanwhile, the most recent country to abolish the death penalty is Suriname in March 2015.

Does Practising The Death Penalty Deter Crime?

Of late, anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum along with many human rights advocates and organisations, to strongly renounce the use of capital punishment in all circumstances. These parties have also called for the abolition of death penalties globally, and this includes in Malaysia.

Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia is among the human rights organisations here which have been lobbying the abolition of the death penalty for years, and has played a key role in succeeding to do so in many countries. Its efforts resulted in a record number of 117 United Nations (UN) member states adopting a resolution to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view of complete abolition.

Shamini Darshni is the Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia.Shamini Darshni is the Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia.In an interview with Malaysian Digest, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia, Shamini Darshni (pic) said, Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all situations, saying it is the ultimate cruel and heartless punishment which is akin to cold-blooded murder.

"Crime has existed for lifetimes, and so has the death penalty. Yet, there is still crime and there is still state-sanctioned killing. One does not solve the other.

"States that impose the death penalty are not able to claim that the death penalty has reduced crime. It is clear that the death penalty does nothing to reduce crime statistics in our society. Therefore, it [death penalty] has and will remain a core focus of Amnesty International's work globally," said Shamini.

She shared that Amnesty International produces the Death Sentences and Executions Report every year to chart trends on the use of the death penalty globally, detailing that in the Amnesty International's 2014 report, it is found that an alarming number of the 22 countries which performed executions used the death penalty to respond to real or perceived threats to state security and public safety posed by terrorism, crime or internal instability.

"Even though the death penalty does not have a particular deterrent effect on crime compared to other forms of punishment, we still consider that the trend towards global abolition is progressing in which the number of executions recorded by Amnesty International dropped from at least 778 in 2013 to at least 607 in 2014, a drop of almost 22%.

"The long-term trend of the world moving away from the death penalty is still clear. In 2014, 22 countries executed the death penalty, while 2 decades ago, in 1995, that number stood at 41. At the same time, we also saw a troubling increase in the number of death sentences, which rose from at least 1,925 in 2013 to at least 2,466 in 2014, a jump of a staggering 28%," she pointed out.

"We have discovered many glaring things about countries that impose the death penalty after years of research in this area. These include how the death penalty is used as a populist tool to win elections when crime rates are high, and how it has been abused by biased criminal justice systems which have sentenced people to death en bloc for political reasons," she said.

On whether the use of the death penalty should be objectively pursued and used only in certain crimes, she said: "It is true that international law limits the use of the death penalty to the 'most serious offenses' which translates to meaning 'intentional killing', but it has to be noted that the death penalty violates the right to life, and life, whomever it belongs to, is sacred."

"There is no proof that the death penalty stops drugs from hitting the streets, but there are many years of research which prove that it does not reduce or eliminate it. If the death penalty does deter would-be criminals, would we not be a crime-free society?" she questioned.

"Therefore, we oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or other characteristics of the individual, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution," she remarked.

In 2012, the government announced its plans to review the country’s mandatory death penalty laws, which do not allow judges to consider mitigating circumstances in death penalty murder cases. This clearly shows the government's adamant stance on the use of death penalty in the country.

Commenting further on the matter, Shamini said: "We understand that the Attorney-General's Chambers is currently studying the use of the mandatory death penalty, as it reported during its Universal Periodic Review to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year.

"However, we remain positive that the government is open towards abolishing the death penalty. Still, this cannot come soon enough, and we urge the Malaysian government to immediately impose a temporary halt on using the death penalty with a view of total abolition," she added.

Movements Toward The Abolition Of Death Penalty

In view that every individual has the right to live regardless their committed crimes, human rights activists and abolitionists have strongly renounced the death penalty, believing it to be cruel and inhumane. Those in particular that sternly echo such are the European Union (EU), Amnesty International, Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) and Human Rights Watch.

Over the years, the European Union has been working towards universal abolition of the death penalty as a strongly held policy agreed by all EU Member States in which EU will advocate the immediate establishment of a moratorium on the use of death penalty with a view to abolition.

Mr. Luc Vandebon is the Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia.

"The death penalty is cruel, unnecessary and inhumane. While the European Union understands that no legal system is flawless, we are deeply concerned that any miscarriage of justice could lead to the loss of an innocent life. It is therefore that the EU has a strong and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all times and in all circumstances, and we will continue our long-standing campaign against the death penalty alongside with the growing momentum towards its abolition worldwide.

"We consider the death penalty as an unlawful 'premeditated' killing of one human being by another as it constitutes serious violation of human rights and human dignity. Besides, there is no compelling evidence that exists to show that death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime," he said.

Asked what the EU can do to positively contribute to the death penalty debate in Malaysia, he explained that the EU have an active policy of dialogue, campaign and cooperation with the Malaysian government.

"This is done through exchanges between judicial authorities and dialogues on the different matters linked to the death penalty, and through cooperation with Malaysia's civil society. We will continue to intensify our initiatives, including declarations on the death penalty in international fora and towards other countries," he said.

He further remarked: "The EU will raise the issue of the death penalty in its dialogue and consultations with third countries in which the elements in these contacts include the EU's call for universal abolition of the death penalty and where its use is maintained, the EU will emphasise that states should only use the death penalty in line with the minimum standards."

Commenting on the recent executions of 'Bali 9' drug convicts, he said: "The EU is dismayed at the latest series of executions in Indonesia. As friend of Indonesia, we urge the government to take heed of the views expressed by many in the international community in recent years and declare an immediate moratorium on the use of death penalty.

"We stand ready to offer political support and practical assistance in combating the trade in narcotics and other criminal activities which pose challenges to the Indonesian society and beyond," he stressed further.

Malaysians Speak Up About The Death Penalty

Undoubtedly, the death penalty is a matter of active controversy in various countries, including Malaysia. While some regard it as cold-blooded and criticise it for its irreversibility and lack of a deterrent effect, advocates on the other hand, argue that it could deter crime, as it serves its purpose for granting justice, and provides closure for the surviving victims and their families.

In order to understand the perceptions of Malaysians toward the death penalty, Malaysian Digest reached out to the general public who gave their take on the subject.

"I strongly oppose the use of the death penalty. There is no justice in killing in the name of justice. By executing the condemned offenders, it goes to show that killing is acceptable even as a lawful punishment. If killing was wrong, executions would not exist. You cannot kill a human being to show them that killing is wrong, that is an out-and-out hypocrisy. Those who are sentenced to death should instead be made to stay alive and be justly punished for their wrongdoings. Life in prison is already a sufficient punishment. Death penalty, for me, is plain excessive because it is an easy way out." - Anthony Quah, 39, criminal defense lawyer

"For me, the death penalty is a lawful and proportional punishment, therefore it should be strictly imposed to deter crime in our society. It is something like a spiritual medicine in the sense that it saves a man's soul as it can foster repentance and I believe it serves a great purpose to prevent an individual from committing heinous crimes, it saves them from further damnation. Therefore, I support the use of the death penalty because it certainly has a deterrent effect on criminal activities besides serving as a just means of protecting the society as a whole." - Kamini d/o Verrappan, 43, accounting lecturer

"At the risk of sounding too harsh, I must say the only way to sufficiently express our disgust at atrocious crime offenders like murderers and terrorists is by executing them. Nothing else suffices. In saying which, one must note that the death penalty has been exercised since ancient times. Therefore, whatever the arguments may be against the death penalty, it cannot be said to violate the right to life because law is always law. One should be individually responsible for crimes he or she has committed. I am in favour of the death penalty, however, at the same time, it should be fairly applied." - Mohammad Sukhri Ramli, 21, university student

"My opposition to the death penalty is an absolute, as there are no circumstances where I consider the government should have the ultimate sanction against the individual. For me, it [death penalty] does not serve any social purpose nor does it prevent criminal activities. Although I agree that serious crime offenders should be justly punished, but not to the extent of killing them. For me, an important message that needs to be conveyed to our society is that the death penalty is not about what the convicts deserve, but instead it is about how we, as the general public, should defend our own fundamental values and say no to the death penalty. I stand for mercy!" - Jonathan Chen Zhi En, 32, investment bank officer

Quoting Shamini, who said: "In a study conducted by the Death Penalty Project (an organisation based in the UK) 1,500 Malaysians were asked about their thoughts on the mandatory death penalty. The study showed that support for the mandatory death penalty declined dramatically when mitigating factors were introduced in a case. This speaks volumes about the need for judicial discretion, and most importantly, when lives are at stake."

In 2012, the Law Minister held that the government may replace the death sentence with an imprisonment term instead in recognition that such a sentence only punishes the drug mules and not those higher up in the chain. This was also in addition to the fact that the death penalty did not seem to have any deterring effect, thus questioning the need for such punishments to be meted out.

Who knows what the Malaysian government's stance may be about the death penalty in the future - and whether or not we may head to its abolition. But in the meantime, the goal of any punishment, and the decision in the judicial system should be taken into consideration more adequately, because in the end, death is always painful.

And if we ought to force it on anyone for any reason that doesn't permit nature to take its own course, we too would be guilty of equal cruelty towards criminals who are convicted to the death sentence.

(source: Teh Wei Soon, Malaysian Digest)

INDONESIA:

UK foreign office 'lost important evidence' linked to death row grandmother

Claims of lost evidence in the case of Bali's death row grandmother Lindsay Sandiford strengthen the case for a British inquiry, her defence team argues.

The UK's vice-consul Alys Harahap has lost an appeal of her dismissal from the foreign office over having a relationship with another British inmate, Julian Ponder, the UK's Mail on Sunday reports.

She told the newspaper the affair claims are "absolute rubbish" and has demanded Ponder's so-called evidence - secret recordings of phone sex made from his cell - be examined to disprove it is her.

Sandiford, 58, alleges it was Ponder, 44, who manipulated her into carrying cocaine worth more than $3 million into Bali in 2012, by threatening her son.

Mrs Harahap also told the Mail on Sunday her superiors in Bali lost a drawing by Ponder of the false bottom suitcase Sandiford used to carry the drugs.

She claims Ponder told her the drugs Sandiford was carrying were his - but no action was taken over the lost drawing.

"Since then I have asked repeatedly about where the paper is but they say they cannot find it," she told the newspaper.

Sandiford's New Zealand-based lawyer Craig Tuck says the loss of potentially vital evidence must be investigated.

"There needs to be an urgent inquiry into the handling of Lindsay's case by British officials and an immediate review of the decision by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond not to fund her legal fight to overturn her death penalty in spite of the recommendation of 5 Supreme Court judges," he said.

"A woman's life is at stake and it is horrifying to think the neglect and callousness of the British government may have effectively helped push one of its own nationals in front of the firing squad."

Sandiford refused consular help from Mrs Harahap as the rumours of the affair with Ponder circulated through Bali's Kerobokan jail.

In turn, Mrs Harahap told the UK newspaper the allegations against her were first raised by Sandiford to get back at the foreign office, which she felt had not helped her enough.

She says rather than being romantically attracted to Ponder, she too was "harassed and threatened" by him.

While Sandiford was sentenced to death for her role as a mule, Ponder's charge was reduced to drug possession, and he received only 6 years in jail.

Sandiford's legal team last week notified Indonesian authorities they would file a judicial review into her case in about 6 months.

Indonesia is planning more executions of drug offenders after last month sending 8 people to the firing squad, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who once lived in the same Bali jail as Sandiford and Ponder.

(source: sbs.com.au)

IRAN:

More Prisoners Transferred for Execution in Ghezelhesar Prison

As many as 22 prisoners could be executed in the coming 2 days. Iran Human Rights reported about 11 prisoners who were transferred to solitary confinement yesterday awaiting execution in the Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj.evin-small

New reports from IHR's sources show that at least another 7 prisoners were transferred to the quarantine section scheduled to be executed in the coming 2 days. One source said that the number of prisoners who were transferred today were 11, making the total prisoners waiting for execution in the coming 2 days 22.

All the prisoners are sentenced to death for drug related charges and participated in a peaceful gathering inside the prison asking to be pardoned. Some prisoners believe that the executions are authorities' punishment for participation in the gathering.

IHR is investigating the details.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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More prisoners facing imminent execution

In Iran, on May 23, 16 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in Ghezel Hessar Prison in the city of Karaj in preparation for their imminent executions.

The transfer of these 16 is taking place while just 2 days ago, on May 21, 11 prisoners were hanged in this prison.

According to the statement of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Iranian regime executed 37 people from May 19 to 21 in prisons or the streets of various cities.

Just in May 20 and 21, a total of 24 prisoners were executed in 3 collective hangings in Ghezel Hessar and Gohardasht prisons in Karaj.

The Iranian regime that is called "Godfather of ISIS" is looking to intensify the atmosphere of terror in the country by these large number of executions in order to control social protests and the tumultuous state of the country.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

21 Unreported Executions in the First Half of May in Ghezelhesar Prison

During the 1st half of May, between May 5 and May 19, 21 prisoners with drug related charges were executed by hanging in Ghezelhesar prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 12 prisoners on Tuesday May 5 and 9 other on Tuesday May 19 were executed in Ghezelhesar prison.

An informed source told HRANA's reporter, "most of these prisoners had spent between 7 to 12 years in prison, despite having death sentence, and they smuggled maximum of 500 gr drugs".

According to HRANA, during past weeks, number of performed execution and especially public executions has increased. Besides the high number, performances of these executions were semi-secret and undisclosed and lack of commitment of judicial for informing public, has raised the concerns of human rights activists.

(source: HRANA news agency)

MAY 24, 2015:

ALABAMA:

'I refuse to give them my joy': Man released after 28 years on death row describes new life of freedom----Ray Hinton 28 years on death row for 2 1985 murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast-food restaurants in Birmingham

In his 1st day free, after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row, Ray Hinton said he kept asking a question to his childhood friend.

'You just got to tell me we can stay out tonight that we don't have to go in after an hour,' Hinton said, referring to the hour limit that inmates got on yard time.

Hinton spent 28 years on death row for 2 1985 murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast-food restaurants in Birmingham. He was set free on April 3 after new ballistics tests contradicted the only evidence - an analysis of crime-scene bullets - used to convict him decades ago.

In his first days off death row, Hinton said he sometimes enjoys just driving, relishing the freedom to simply move about as he wants. He says he's not angry, crediting God for suppressing the hatred that otherwise could devour him 'like a form of cancer.'

'I have too much to live for to allow a bunch of cowards to take my joy. I refuse to give them my joy,' Hinton said.

'I'm at peace with myself. The thing is, are they at peace? They know what they did. They know they lied 30 years ago. I feel that every man that played a part in sending me to prison, every man or woman, whether the judges, prosecutors, ballistic experts, or witness, whoever - they will answer to God. So I'm going to enjoy my life the best I can,' Hinton said.

Attorney Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative has called it a case study in how poverty and racial bias led to a wrongful conviction.

Hinton was arrested for the 2 1985 murders after a survivor at a 3rd robbery identified Hinton in a photo lineup - even though he was clocked in working at a grocery store warehouse 15 miles away. There were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony, but prosecutors said at the time that bullets found at the murder scenes matched a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Hinton's mother.

His poorly funded defense hired a 1-eyed civil engineer with little ballistics training to rebut the state's evidence. The defense expert was obliterated on cross-examination as he admitted he had trouble operating the microscope.

Stevenson, who took up Hinton's case 16 years ago, said an independent analysis showed the bullets didn't come from the gun, and fought for years to get the state to take another look at the case.

A breakthrough only came when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Hinton's defense was so deficient that it was unconstitutional. Prosecutors dropped plans for a 2nd trial when 3 state forensic experts couldn't determine if any of the bullets were fired through the revolver, or even from the same gun.

'They took half my life and it's like they didn't care. They were willing to kill an innocent man,' Hinton said.

'Thirty years ago, I had a judge that stood up proudly and sentenced me to death. I had a prosecutor who couldn't wait to get in front of a camera and say that they had took the worst killer off the streets of Birmingham. But come April 3, no judge was willing to say Mr. Hinton we apologize for the mistake that was done. No D.A. was there to say we apologize.'

During Hinton's 28 years on death row, dozens of inmates, men he came to view as family, were executed either by Alabama's 'Yellow Mama' electric chair or by lethal injection.

'The generator would kick in when they pulled the switch. The lights would dim on and off,' Hinton said. Alabama for years traditionally performed executions at midnight.

5 minutes after midnight, the inmates would start banging on the bars.

'We did that not knowing if the condemned man had a family or anybody back there in his support. We were just trying to let him know that we were still with him to the very end.'

He was arrested at age 29. He turns 59 in June. When Hinton went to death row, Ronald Reagan was president. The technology of 2015 is 'outrageous,' he said.

After being released last month, he got in a car equipped with a GPS navigation device that gave spoken directions.

'The lady said, "Turn left" I looked in the backseat and wanted to know where she was at,' Hinton said, marveling at the device.

After living decades mostly alone in a prison cell, he has a hard time with crowds. Friends took him to a shopping mall, but he had to leave almost immediately.

Even eating is a change. Death row inmates are given only plastic spoon to eat their meals. Friends took him to a Roadhouse steakhouse to eat, where he had to relearn how to use a knife to cut a steak.

'I just followed their lead watching everybody else cut their steak, because I didn't want to embarrass anyone.'

The day he was freed, one of the first things he did was to visit the grave of his mother. He sat down and wept.

Beulah Hinton had always believed in the innocence of 'her baby' as she called the youngest of her 10 children, but did not live to see him released from prison.

As a boy, his mother had told him not to fear the police, to never run from them or hide from them. That faith is gone, he said.

He has a plea to people who serve on juries, particularly capital murder cases. Listen. Question.

'Be careful. Have an open mind. Pray about their decision before they make it,' Hinton said. 'In my case, they knew that gun didn't match 30 years ago.'

Hinton said he survived death row with a combination of faith in God and sense of humor. 'I just didn't believe the God that I served would allow me to die for something I didn't do.' He also harnessed his imagination to travel the world from the confines of a tiny cell.

'Being able to control your mind is a beautiful thing. I went everywhere that my mind could take me Brazil, the Bahamas, Paris,' Hinton said.

'I didn't want to think about where I was. Being in a 5-by-7 every day for 365 days a year is more than what the average man could stand,' Hinton said. 'You weren't built to be in a cage that long.'

(source: Daily Mail)

NEBRASKA:

Stand firm on death penalty repeal

The emphatic 32-15 vote in the Nebraska Legislature to repeal the death penalty attracted all sorts of attention. Those who took notice ran the gamut from columnist George Will to the Gawker.com website (motto: Today's gossip is tomorrow's news).

Now the pressure is on. 30 votes are needed to override the veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts. The governor urged constituents to "reach out" to senators during the Memorial Day weekend. Calls and emails are coming in on both sides of the issue.

The senators who voted to repeal the death penalty should stand firm. The reasons that compelled them to vote to end the death penalty are as valid now as they were on the final vote on Wednesday.

State senators took a variety of paths to arrive at the conclusion that the death penalty must go. Some, like Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, based their vote on theological grounds. Krist said he is pro-life from "conception to natural death." Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said the state should not have "the power and authority to take a life."

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, who said her vote for repeal was based on both moral and philosophical grounds, capsulized the conservative argument for repeal: "If government shouldn't be trusted to manage our health care, which I think many of us in this room would agree, then why should it be trusted to carry out an irrevocable sentence of death?"

On his legislative website, Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha provided a straightforward and candid account of how he arrived at his decision to vote for repeal.

"Over the years I have never thought much about the death penalty, except when it is debated at church or around the family table," Hilkemann wrote. "My stand has been that we should keep it for the most heinous of crimes or for killing law enforcement officers."

But when he came to the Capitol to begin serving in the Legislature this year, he was exposed to more evidence and confronted with new perspectives.

"The turning point in my decision began April 1, during a personal conversation in my office with Ray Krone. Ray had been falsely accused and convicted of murder in Arizona in the '90s and was given the death sentence," Hilkemann wrote. Fortunately DNA tests came into wider usage. "Ray was the 100th person exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence, which indicated to me our judicial system doesn't always get it right," Hilkemann wrote.

The governor believes that most Nebraskans support the death penalty, and perhaps he is right. Poll results depend on how the question is asked.

However, most Nebraskans have never been responsible for state policy. They have never been required to think as deeply on the issue as Hilkemann and his colleagues.

Elected officials can and should do more. They can lead. They can explain to their constituents the many reasons why the death penalty should be repealed. Nebraska may the 1st "conservative" state to repeal the death penalty, but others will surely follow.

(source: Jouranl Star Editorial Board)

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

Death penalty foes see Nebraska vote as momentum-builder

With Nebraska on the brink of outlawing the death penalty, opponents of capital punishment hope this week's veto-override vote in the Legislature will build momentum for their cause in other Republican states.

Whether that will happen isn't clear, but Nebraska isn't the 1st right-leaning state to consider banning capital punishment this year.

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana came within one vote of passing in February in the Republican-led state House. In Kansas, a GOP state representative took the lead in introducing a repeal bill this year, and the state's Republican Liberty Caucus formally came out in opposition to capital punishment in 2014.

"This could start a domino effect, for sure," said Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "Many states are already looking at this. I joke with people who do the same kind of work in other states that we're in a race to see who can repeal it 1st."

Nebraska lawmakers voted 32-15 last week to abolish the death penalty, despite promises that Gov. Pete Ricketts will veto the bill. Death penalty opponents need at least 30 votes for a veto override, but Ricketts is appealing to the public and talking privately with lawmakers in an effort to flip 3 or more votes.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said his repeal bill wouldn't have passed this year without conservative support. Nebraska's longest-serving lawmaker has fought for decades to end the death penalty; the bill that advanced last week was his 38th try, according to the Legislature's Research Office.

"Nebraska doing it may provide cover to other legislatures to say, 'If Nebraska can do this, we can also,'" Chambers said.

National groups are watching Nebraska closely and expect a "ripple effect" if the state votes to abolish, said Shari Silberstein, executive director of the group Equal Justice USA. Law-and-order conservatives have traditionally stood among the strongest supporters of the ultimate punishment.

"A lot of states have stopped making this a partisan issue, and started to make it a conscience issue," she said. "The party's not going to tell you how to vote."

Repealing the death penalty may be easier in Nebraska than states where capital punishment is more ingrained in the culture, said Eric Berger, a University of Nebraska associate law professor and death penalty expert.

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when the electric chair was used, and the state has never imposed the punishment with the current required lethal injection protocol. 11 men are now on death row, including 1 who has been there for 35 years.

"I don't see a state like Texas repealing capital punishment anytime soon, but there certainly is a movement that's gaining momentum," Berger said. "The anti-death penalty arguments are beginning to resonate with small-government conservatives. It doesn't guarantee there will be continued momentum, but I do think it's symptomatic of some changed thinking on the right."

Nebraska senators base their death penalty opposition on different factors, including religious beliefs, an argument that it wastes taxpayer money and the idea that the government wasn’t competent enough to manage it. The repeal effort has won support from prominent religious groups, including the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

Ricketts argued Friday that lawmakers are out of touch with their constituents, the majority of whom he argues continue to support capital punishment. In a state with a 1-house Legislature, he said, the public should serve its role as the "2nd house" by contacting their senator.

"The people I talk to overwhelmingly support the death penalty," Ricketts said.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Senator defends death penalty vote

I knew I was going to write a column this week. I also knew I could write about any number of issues and bills that we are considering during our last few days this session. I knew as well there was an overriding issue that had to be talked about. I will admit, I did vote to repeal the death penalty.

LB268 was approved by a strong majority of the Legislature this past week. On any number of issues, when I vote with a large majority of the senators I serve with, I feel the right decision was made. Many of you in District 23 have let me know you don't feel I made the right decision with my vote on LB268. In fact, many of you have been less than complimentary about me and have expressed this in a number of ways to my staff as well. First, if you have a complaint express it please but check your anger at the door. Many have called and expressed outrage to a decision that has changed the way we handle some of the worst of the worst.

I can go through a number of the arguments. We don't use the death penalty so why have it? It costs too much. The drugs are not available or subject to rejection. Victims' families don't want this because it simply drags them through an emotional roller coaster over and over year after year.

Passage of this bill has been described as historic. The 1st conservative state in the nation to repeal the death penalty. I don't feel my vote can be considered historic. I don't feel I have abandoned my conservative principles by my vote either. On the contrary, I see a program not working. One that has been costing the state millions of dollars with no executions and none really coming. Death row inmates spending decades on death row. Really, nothing will change much with the passage of this bill. When I see an expensive program that is not working, I think it should be cut out. Death row inmates will be relegated to life without parole. Expensive appeals will end. Inconsistent application of this sentence will end. The possibility of wrongfully putting someone to death will end.

Finally, I cannot morally reconcile the notion that a vote of mine can result in the eventual death of another person. I campaigned on a pro-life agenda. I know several faiths wrestle with this concept in many areas not only the death penalty. I didn't vote this way to please any other senator. I didn't "trade" a vote for another bill as has been alleged. I have been told by many of you that I did the right thing with my vote and I appreciate your confidence.

With the kind allowances of your local newspapers that carry this column, I plan on 2 more "Legislative Word" offerings this year. Next week I will try to wrap up this year in the Agriculture Committee and the following week I will give you some of my thoughts overall.

(source: Opinion, Sen. Jerry Johnson; Schuyler Sun)

NEVADA:

Money for NV death chamber could be wasted

Assembly and Senate committees in the Nevada Legislature this week approved $858,000 to be spent on a new execution chamber in Ely.

Regardless of one's position on the death penalty, the full Legislature should reject it.

To build the execution chamber now almost guarantees money will be wasted. The simple reason is that there is no need for one now.

The current death chamber is at Nevada State Prison in Carson City. The prison itself has been decommissioned and will become a museum.

While it would be tacky to carry out executions at the same place as a tourist attraction, the more pressing issue behind building a new death chamber is that the current one is not ADA-compliant.

That means it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. A judge would likely block an execution there because a person with disabilities who wanted to get upstairs to the chamber's witness room would face no elevator and inadequate handrails.

Corrections Department Director Greg Cox testified that if the status of a Nevada death row inmate changes, the state would be required to act within 60 or 90 days.

This concern would carry more weight if Nevada's death chamber had been used even once in the past 9 years. (The last execution was of Daryl Mack for the rape and murder of Betty Jane May of Reno. Daryl Mack should not to be confused with Darren Mack, who murdered his wife and tried to kill family court judge Chuck Weller with a sniper rifle in Reno, coincidentally 6 weeks after Daryl Mack's execution. Darren Mack got 20 years to life.)

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, says no executions are planned in the coming 2 years.

Think about that again: The current chamber hasn't been used in almost a decade and is not needed for at least two years to come and probably longer. If this were a proposed addition to a home, no one would recommend building it. Too many variables might change between now and when it will see its first use.

To start with, the chamber would be built to accommodate Nevada's current execution method: lethal injection. This might not be the method in a few years.

Companies that manufacture the drugs used in lethal injection have increasingly refused to sell them for use in executions, causing massive shortages nationwide. States have tried their own drug mixes, leading to botched executions and lawsuits in some cases.

In March, the American Pharmacists Association announced it would discourage members from participating in executions because doing so goes against their role as health care providers.

States are increasingly looking at other methods. For example, Utah just brought back the firing squad.

All of this discussion assumes Nevada will continue executions. That is not a certainty.

Since 2007, 6 states have abolished it. Just this week, the Republican-dominated Nebraska legislature voted to end it there. The pendulum is swinging toward abolition of the death penalty because of justice as well as financial concerns.

The Death Penalty Information Center reports that since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, 144 innocent prisoners have been exonerated. Last month, Anthony Ray Hinton was freed from an Alabama prison after nearly 30 years on death row when the evidence used to convict him was proven false.

Cost is also an issue. In December, a Nevada state audit found that murder cases where the prosecutor seeks the death penalty cost much more than cases where life without parole is sought. The 18-month investigation at the behest of the 2013 Legislature found death penalty cases cost taxpayers $1.03 million to $1.31 million on average while murder cases where execution is not sought cost $775,000 on average.

Beyond all this, Ely might not be the best place for a Nevada execution chamber, yet it seems to be the only place being considered.

On the plus side, it would be in the same facility as all of Nevada's approximately 80 death row inmates: Ely State Prison.

But this is a remote location. The distance makes it difficult for witnesses to attend, and thus makes the process less transparent. Given the problems with recent executions across the country, the public needs to know that fatal actions taken in its name are being done properly.

The case for funding the chamber now is nonexistent:

--There are no executions on the horizon.

--The requirements of a death chamber very well may change before the next execution, possibly requiring different facilities or at least remodeling.

--It is possible Nevada could abolish the death penalty because the public costs for seeking life-without-parole sentences are much cheaper.

--And a strong argument for the Ely location has not been made.

Nevada's legislators can surely find a better use for $858,000.

(source: Editorial Board, Reno Gazette-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Father and son cop pleas, will testify in North Bay triple slaying

A father and son pleaded no contest to numerous felonies and will testify against a 3rd man accused in a triple killing near Forestville tied to a marijuana deal that went bad, prosecutors said.

The Sonoma County district attorney’s office said Friday that Francis Dwyer, 67, and his son, Odin Leonard Dwyer, 40, will take the stand at the September trial of Mark Cappello, 48.

Capello, prosecutors said, was seeking money when he shot and killed Raleigh Butler, 26, of Sebastopol; Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, N.Y.; and Todd Klarkowski, 42, of Boulder, Colo., on Feb. 5, 2013.

Cappello has been charged with 3 counts of murder as well as the special circumstances of lying in wait, killing for financial gain, killing in the course of a residential burglary and committing multiple murders.

Francis Dwyer will be sentenced to 8 years in state prison after pleading no contest to being an accessory to murder and 4 marijuana-related charges.

His son will receive 20 years and four months in prison after pleading no contest to 3 counts each of involuntary manslaughter and being an accessory to murder. He was also convicted of accessory to robbery, conspiracy to commit residential burglary and several marijuana-related charges.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch is seeking the death penalty against Cappello. A jury will decide whether the defendant, if convicted, will die by lethal injection or instead be sent to prison for the rest of his life with no chance of parole.

Ravitch said this is the 1st time Sonoma County prosecutors have sought the death penalty since the 1995 shotgun slaying of Deputy Frank Trejo. Robert Scully Jr. was sentenced to death 2 years later and is still on death row.

The Forestville victims intended to buy a large quantity of marijuana but were shot dead instead in a home rented by Butler's mother, authorities said.

Cappello of Central City, Colo., was arrested in Alabama 9 days after the slain men were found.

The father and son were seen traveling with Cappello through Wyoming, Nevada and Napa County in the days before the victims were found, authorities said.

(source: sfgate.com)

WASHINGTON:

Death penalty on trial after McEnroe verdict shocker ---- If the Carnation massacre doesn't warrant the death penalty, does anything? A jury's verdict spared the life of a killer, but it may have helped kill the death penalty around here.

King County is running 3 death-penalty trials this year. At one time the cases were considered slam-dunk examples of why we still have a death penalty.

The cases are the worst of the worst, involving mass murder and the shooting of a police officer. Plus there's little doubt the defendants committed the killings.

But now it seems like the death penalty is also on trial.

The decision by a jury last week to spare the life of Carnation mass-killer Joseph McEnroe was a shocker. This is a guy who shot and killed multiple people at close range, including 2 little kids. Of the 6 murders that Christmas Eve in 2007, he personally pulled the trigger in 5.

If executing a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old doesn't warrant death, does anything?

As the excellent post-trial reporting by The Seattle Times' Jennifer Sullivan is showing, the same jurors who swiftly concluded he was guilty were divided when it came to his fate. In the end they split 8 to 4 and opted to give him life in prison without possibility of parole.

What may make this case a bellwether is that some of the jurors were blunt that they just don't really believe in the death penalty. Too many doubts - not just about the case but about the law. It's as if they ended up doing a form of jury nullification.

Nullification is when jurors let someone off because they think the underlying law is unjust. It's controversial, because juries are instructed to follow the law whether they agree with it or not.

But it's also a fact of life of the court system: Juries can and do weigh whether the law itself is right.

We live in a state where the governor has declared publicly that the death-penalty law is wrong. Gov Jay Inslee said it's so flawed that he won't allow any executions while he's in office. So it's no wonder some jurors might be having doubts as well.

It's impossible to know whether what just happened was an isolated occurrence or if "death-penalty doubt" will spread. The jury hearing the case of Christopher Monfort, accused of killing Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, is expected to begin deliberating in a week or 2. If they find him guilty of aggravated 1st-degree murder, the death-penalty determination will go into the summer.

But the decision to spare McEnroe now creates a major conundrum for the third planned trial. The other alleged Carnation killer, Michele Anderson, has been charged with the same 6 murders. Her death-penalty trial is supposed to start in September.

If she's found guilty of the same murders, the justice system is going to have a hard time rationalizing putting her to death when it spared the one who killed 5 of the 6 victims.

If anything, that would seem to demonstrate the fickleness of it all.

It took 7 years and more than $10 million to get the Carnation trials started, much of that due to wrangling over the death penalty. If there's any chance of ending this sooner by locking up Michele Anderson forever instead of continuing to pursue a death sentence, King County should take it.

The other remarkable thing about the McEnroe verdict was the reaction of the poor surviving members of this family.

Pam Mantle, who lost her daughter and 2 grandchildren in the slayings, said she and her husband were surprisingly happy with the outcome because it means, "We don't ever have to deal with it again. It will be probably better for everybody involved to be able to just kind of put the McEnroe part of this case away."

That's a powerful statement. Winning on the death penalty doesn't bring closure. It brings rounds of appeals and hearings, lasting years, all focused on the killer. So in the end why not lock him up forever, with no possibility of getting out, and try to move on.

It's understandable King County prosecutors tried for death. But we may look back at this case as a tipping point when we decided not to anymore.

(source: Seattle Times)

USA:

Bill Kristol slams death penalty repeal: Executions are an 'important symbol' of American justice

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Sunday slammed states that had repealed the death penalty because he said that executions were an "important symbol" of justice.

Last week, Republican Nebraska lawmakers passed legislation that would repeal the state's death penalty on the grounds that it was an example of a wasteful government program. The Republican governor vowed to veto the bill, but lawmakers suggested that they could have enough votes to overturn a veto.

During a panel discussion on ABC News, conservative CNN pundit S.E. Cupp asserted that the tide had turned, and that even many religious conservatives now opposed the death penalty.

"I don't find it to be moral, I don't find it to be just," she said. "The wrongful convictions that we hear about all the time. It is costly, it is bankrupted entire counties. And so for me, I've been trying to convince fellow conservatives to have a change of heart on this issue."

But Kristol said that he was "convinced" that executions were both "just" and an "important symbol."

"I'm a defender of the death penalty," he explained. "I think it is both just and an important symbol for really heinous crimes and how serious we take the state's obligations to preserve life actually."

Kristol noted that he "respected" conservatives who took principled pro-life stands against the death penalty. But the conservative columnist seemed more interested in using the topic to attack Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than engaging in a substantive debate.

"I'm curious what Hillary Clinton - if we can get back to her - what Hillary Clinton's position is," he quipped. "Her husband executed people as governor of Arkansas. And I'm sure if she ever appears before the press, every Republican candidate, of course, will get asked on this."

(source: rawstory.com)

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

Accused killer Fell pushes misconduct claim

Accused killer Donald Fell continues to allege that prosecutors acted improperly during the death-penalty trial in which he was convicted in 2005.

And in an attempt to dismiss his charges - which include kidnapping with death resulting - before his new death-penalty trial, he asked the U.S. District Court this week for a hearing on unresolved allegations of misconduct by prosecutors.

Judge William K. Sessions III granted Fell a new trial in 2014, on the grounds of juror misconduct. But Fell's remaining assertions of prosecutorial misconduct remained unresolved.

"Judge Sessions recognized that claims remained pending after he granted Mr. Fell a new trial and his order reveals that he intended to proceed with this litigation," Fell's attorneys wrote in a memorandum in support of Fell's motion.

"The court must provide him with adequate remedies for the constitutional violations which potentially include dismissal of the charges and/or the death notice," the defense wrote.

Fell was sentenced to death in 2006 for the armed kidnapping and killing of Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon on Nov. 27, 2000.

Prosecutors said Fell and an accomplice, Robert Lee, carjacked King at gunpoint in the Rutland Price Chopper parking lot as she arrived for her shift at the supermarket. In a detailed confession, Fell admitted to killing her, according to court documents.

Fell claims the government's arguments - during his jury trial and the penalty phase - were improper, inflammatory and misstated. He also alleged prosecutors elicited false testimony from witnesses and withheld critical documents from the defense during the trial.

At an April 10 hearing in Burlington federal court, Fell's new California-based defense team questioned these unresolved claims.

During the April hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Mosely, of the Capital Case Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, said it was time to move forward.

"There's nothing to be gained from litigating old issues, other than drag the whole process out," she said. "The family needs and deserves resolution to this case."

But Fell's defense has asked for a hearing on the misconduct allegations.

"The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, along with other constitutional guarantees, can bar a retrial when intentional government misconduct tainted the initial trial," the lawyers wrote. "At least 5 specific and distinct claims of prosecutorial misconduct were found by the court to be supported by sufficient fact to proceed to litigation."

Among Fell's allegations:

- When the prosecution compared Fell violent stomping a New York man to violently stomping King to death, Fell said the prosecution intentionally withheld the information that the New York man allegedly tried to rape Fell's sister. Fell also claimed the New York man was not in a coma and the prosecution failed to reveal this to the jury.

- When the prosecution showed a video of Fell being verbally aggressive and spitting at a correctional officer, they intentionally withheld the information that the guard had a history of violence with inmates.

- The prosecution failed to reveal evidence that Fell's accomplice, Lee, was the violent aggressor - based on his prison record and a witness account that cast doubt on which one wanted to kill King.

According to Fell's defense, there is adequate law and precedent to grant Fell a hearing until all claims are decided.

The court has not responded to this motion.

In other Fell motions this week, the prosecution fought Fell's request to turn over all mental health evaluations from the 1st trial.

"... Fell now urges the court to order the government to return all that evidence to him and preclude the government from using it," the prosecution responded to Fell's motion in May.

"His request, to resort to the cliche, seeks to 'unring the bell,' or mixing metaphors, to 'put the genie back in the bottle,'" the response said.

"... In any event, Fell's request is superfluous."

The court has not ruled on this motion.

Fell is currently housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. His next hearing is scheduled for June 5 in Burlington federal court.

(source: Rutland Herald)

EGYPT:

Morsi supporter sentenced to death on terrorism charges----Anas Soliman Shahin was sentenced in absentia over terrorism charges, including joining and funding a terrorist organisation

Giza criminal court on Sunday sentenced a supporter of former president Mohamed Morsi to death on terror-related charges.

Anas Soliman Shahin was sentenced in absentia for "joining and funding a terrorist organisation", the Muslim Brotherhood, working with the Hamas movement in Gaza, and using secret tunnels between North Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

The court applied its maximum penalty in absentia until the defendants show up and a retrial starts. According to Egypt's penal code, a defendant is given the stiffest punishment if he/she fails to show up in court during the trial.

Last week, Cairo Criminal Court sought a death penalty for ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and 105 others in the 'Wadi-Natroun jailbreak' case after referring them to the Grand Mufti for a non-binding review. The court's decision is considered a preliminary step before sentencing the defendants to death. The decision drew wide international criticism.

(source: Ahram Online)

IRAN----executions

5 Prisoners Hanged in Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz

5 prisoners were executed on charge of murder in the prison of Shiraz.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), in the morning of Tuesday 19th May, 5 prisoners were hanged on charges of murder in the courtyard of Adel Abad prison, in Shiraz.

1 of the prisoners was Mehdi Keshavarz and the identity of the other executed prisoners is unknown. Official sources and officials of the judiciary also have not given information about it.

In addition, it has been stated that the age of 1 of them, was 18 years, but due to lack of documentary evidences, HRANA's sources have not been able to confirm the accuracy of this issue, yet.

(source: HRANA news agency)

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

1 Execution For Drug-Related Charges And 3 Public Floggings in Iran

1 prisoner was hanged in the prison of Ardebil (Northwestern Iran) Saturday morning May 23, reported the Iranian state media.

The prisoner who was not identified by name was sentenced to death by the Ardebil Revolution Court (Section 1), charged with buying and possession of 990 grams of heroin and 995 grams of crystal, reported the state run Fars news agency.

Iran Human Rights has observed a sharp increase in the number of executions for drug offences in the past few months in Iran.

The official website of the Judiciary in Khorasan Razavi (Northeastern Iran) flogging sentences of 3 prisoners were carried out publicly in the town of Joghatai near Mashhad. The prisoners were charges with drug offences and robbery, said the report. The number of lashes was not mentioned in the report.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

PAKISTAN:

Last-minute plea to save death-row prisoner

A Lahore-based lawyer says he is going to approach the Lahore High Court for staying execution of a condemned prisoner set for May 27 on the grounds that he was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed.

Faisal Mahmood was below 18 years of age when he was charged with murder of his friend on Jan 26, 1999, the lawyer is going to argue. Mahmood was charged by the Gujrat police.

A sessions court tried him under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and handed down life imprisonment on April 26, 2000. The Supreme Court, when moved against the conviction, enhanced the sentence and converted it into capital punishment, says Barrister Ehtesham Amiruddin, who has taken the case of Faisal Mahmood pro bono.

The condemned prisoner approached the Supreme Court for commutation of sentence in the light of a presidential order conveyed by the interior ministry division on Dec 13, 2001, commuting death sentence of juveniles as defined in Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, while asserting the convict was less than 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence.

In Mahmood's case, the date of committing the offence was Jan 26, 1999 and as per school record his date of birth was Feb 1, 1981, which prima facie makes him less than 18 years on the date of occurrence, says the lawyer.

He says a public prosecutor assisted the Supreme Court on the point as to why a lesser sentence of life term was awarded to the convict by the trial court as well as the high court that was later enhanced.

The court had observed that since a plea that the convict was a minor was not taken at an earlier stage, it was rejected.

The lawyer says though Section 302 carries death penalty, the trial court awarded life sentence to Mahmood for being a juvenile. However, the court did not mention the reason in the order for awarding the lesser punishment, he adds.

(source: Dawn)

MALAYSIA:

'In Malaysia political leaders need only fear incarceration, not death penalty'

Malaysian politicians still have it better when compared to those in Egypt as the former only has to fear incarceration unlike the death penalty in the Middle East.

In stating so, Utusan Malaysia's collective editorial Awang Selamat highlighted the recent decision made by the Egyptian court who sentenced its former President Mohammed Morsi and well-known ulama Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to death.

Morsi, the Umno-owned daily wrote, was not only forced to step down, but was also arrested for months without any access to legal counsel and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment prior to being handed the death penalty.

Awang Selamat decried the similar sentence for Yusuf, calling it "despotic."

The Malay daily went on to compare the situation in the country, noting that ulamas in Malaysia were free to criticise the government and support demonstrations without persecution.

"The political leaders that were imprisoned in this country, it was for the offence of sodomy based on reports lodged by the victim besides normally, corruption.

"In other words, no ulama and political leaders have ever faced the death sentence," wrote Awang Selamat, alluding to the twice incarcerated former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

It then said that Egypt continued to be plagued by conflict as overthrowing a leader was undemocratic and had caused more devastation, instead of solutions.

"The ones at loss is the country and the Muslims and this should serve as a lesson for us here in Malaysia."

(source: the rakyatpost.com)

MAY 23, 2015:

TEXAS----impending execution

U.S. court denies motion to halt execution of long-serving Texas inmate

A federal appeals court has denied an application to halt the June execution of Lester Bower, one of the longest-serving inmates on death row in Texas, for killing 4 men at an airport hangar in 1983.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday denied a petition from Bower's lawyers, who said his planned execution on June 3 should be halted on grounds that his previous sentencing did not match U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Bower, 67, who has been imprisoned for more than 30 years, is set to be executed by injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville.

His lawyers have tried for more than 2 decades to have his conviction thrown out, saying he was found guilty due to faulty witness testimony.

Bower has denied being at the hangar where the murders took place but authorities said aircraft parts found in his home and other evidence implicated him in the crimes.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by lawyers for Bower, who argued that three decades on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

According to Bower's court filings, he has faced imminent execution on 6 occasions during his time in prison.

Bower was convicted of fatally shooting building contractor Bob Tate, former police officer Ronald Mayes, sheriff's deputy Philip Good and interior designer Jerry Brown, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Bower killed Tate to steal an ultralight airplane Tate was selling and then killed the other 3 when they unexpectedly showed up at the hangar, it said.

(source: Reuters)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----7

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----525

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

8----------June 3--------------------Les Bower------------526

9-----------June 18------------------Gregory Russeau------527

10---------August 12----------------Daniel Lopez----------528

11---------August 26----------------Bernardo Tercero------529

12---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------530

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

FLORIDA:

Jury Recommends Death Penalty in Barry Davis Case----The jury in the Barry Davis case has recommended to the court that he face the death penalty. Davis was found guilty Monday on 2 counts of 1st degree murder in the deaths of John Gregory Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes in May 2012. The jury only deliberated for an hour Friday, but during the penalty phase, head injuries have been the topic of discussion the last 3 days.

After an hour of deliberating, the jury in the Barry Davis case recommended to the court that he face the death penalty for the murders of John Gregory Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes.

A Spencer Hearing, which is an opportunity for the defendant's lawyers to present additional evidence to the judge before a sentence is entered, will take place at a later date.

3 final witnesses testified Friday to wrap up the month-long trial of Barry Davis.

For the last 3 days, traumatic brain injuries have been the topic of discussion.

The defense brought in a number of witnesses both in the clinical psychology and neuropathology fields Thursday. They testified that head injuries Davis sustained as a child from activities like football could have impacted his judgment as an adult.

1 clinical psychologist, a witness for the state, says otherwise.

"He has no medical health treatment historically, no contact with psychologists or psychiatrists, no medications so for me that suggests there was not recognized as to any major mental health issues in his lifetime," said Dr. Greg Prichard.

The Defense Attorney's witnesses also claimed the environment of where someone grows up, depression and anxiety, mixed with a brain injury can create a "disturbed individual."

Davis' sister testified Friday by phone and talked about the conditions of their father's home where she stayed one summer.

"My eyes were red, and drained," said Kieana Davis, as she described when she went to visit her father in California. "And when we went back from visiting my father and we were sent back to my mom she was very upset, and our clothes were dirty and had not been washed."

After his examination, Dr. Prichard stated Davis' act of killing John Gregory Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes was not due to a mental illness or any form of depression, but rather, "The behaviors associated with the crimes reflect some characterlogical or personality issues," said Dr. Prichard.

Davis could either receive life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.

The jury is still discussing the fate of Davis. The judge however will make the final decision.

(source: WJHG news)

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Case of death row inmate in Atlantic Beach father and son's murders returns to Supreme Court

It's been a decade since Thomas Bevel was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of a 13-year-old Atlantic Beach boy and his father. But next month the Jacksonville man’s case will return to the Florida Supreme Court with a debate on whether his original lawyers did an incompetent job defending him.

Bevel, 33, is arguing that he deserves a new sentencing phase because his original lawyers didn't start preparing for the death-penalty phase of his trial less than 2 weeks before his murder trial began. His current attorneys also argue that his trial lawyers were unaware of the American Bar Association guidelines for defending someone facing the death penalty.

The nonprofit Florida Capital Resource Center, which assists indigent criminal defendants facing the death penalty, and the Death Penalty Clinic at Florida International University have filed a supporting brief in the case arguing that Bevel's death sentence should be thrown out.

Bevel was convicted in 2005 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of attempted murder in the 2004 shooting deaths of Phillip Sims, a 13-year-old Mayport Middle School student, and Sims' father, Garrick Stringfield. He also was convicted of wounding a woman who was visiting Stringfield and then "played dead" after Bevel shot her.

Bevel roomed with Stringfield on Colchester Road, and Sims was visiting for the weekend. The jury that convicted him recommended Bevel get the death sentence by an 8-4 vote for the murder of Stringfield and unanimously recommended death for the murder of Sims.

In court documents, attorney Rick Sichta, who now represents Bevel, argues that Richard Selinger, Bevel's attorney during his death-penalty phase, had never seen the American Bar Association's 2003 guidelines for what is reasonable during death-penalty cases. The appeal also argues that Selinger didn't hire a mitigation specialist or investigator to help with the trial and didn't begin his mitigation work until 12 days before Bevel's trial began, rather than months in advance.

As a result, Selinger was not aware of numerous mitigation evidence that could have been introduced at trial. That includes the possibility that Bevel suffers from brain damage, had been sexually abused and done illegal drugs at a young age, and lived in one of the worst parts of Jacksonville where drug dealers often targeted young children and made them sell drugs.

"In spending less than 20 hours total investigating Bevel's mitigation, and starting the mitigation investigation at the '11th hour,' trial counsel proved ineffective assistance of counsel under the prevailing professional norms at the time," Sichta said in court filings. Therefore, the jury was unable to factor Bevel's difficult upbringing into their deliberations before recommending death, Sichta said.

PROSECUTORS: IT DIDN'T MATTER

The office of Attorney General Pam Bondi, which is representing the state on appeal, argues that Bevel's trial lawyers were not incompetent and that Bevel's actions in killing Stringfield and Sims would have led to the death penalty no matter what his lawyers did.

"Bevel murdered 2 people and attempted to murder a 3rd," Assistant Attorney General Patrick Delaney said in court filings. "One of the victims, Sims, was a 13-year-old boy who was playing video games. Bevel's stated reason for killing Sims was witness elimination."

Prosecutors also argue that lawyers with the Jacksonville-area Public Defender's Office who represented Bevel originally already had done mitigation work before they had to withdraw from the case. Selinger used that mitigation work, Delaney said.

This argument was made previously to the trial judge, L. Page Haddock, who refused to set aside the conviction. In doing so, Haddock referred to mitigation specialists as a "burgeoning cottage industry of former paralegals or social workers who are ardent death-penalty opponents who declare themselves to be 'mitigation experts' and demand exorbitant fees from the judicial system for doing work that any competent paralegal or investigator could do for 1/3 of the cost."

Haddock also said lawyers were not bound by the American Bar Association guidelines and didn't have to follow them.

Stephen Harper, a clinical professor at the Death Penalty Clinic and a law professor at Florida International University, said the clinic chose to get involved in Bevel's appeal because of Haddock's ruling.

"We thought it was necessary to inform the court that mitigation specialists are essential to death-penalty cases," Harper said, adding that he didn't appreciate Haddock saying the American Bar Association guidelines didn't matter when they're a valuable guide to helping lawyers navigate capital cases.

Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments in the case June 4.

(source: Florida Times-Union)

ALABAMA:

Vernon man indicted for death of ex-wife whose body was never found

A Vernon man has been indicted for capital murder in the death of his ex-wife, whose body was never found after her disappearance was reported in February, the Lamar County district attorney announced Friday afternoon.

Brandon Dewayne Sykes, 33, was indicted Wednesday during a special called session of a Lamar County grand jury, said Chris McCool, district attorney for the 24th Judicial Circuit that includes Fayette, Lamar, and Pickens counties.

Sykes faces a 2-count indictment - capital murder during the course of a burglary, and capital murder during the course of a kidnapping. The victim in the case is Sykes' ex-wife, Keshia Nicole Sykes, McCool stated in a press release. She disappeared Feb. 19, 2015, and so far her body has not been recovered, he stated.

The kidnapping charge relates to the abduction of the couple's child, McCool stated in an email. "The child is okay. She was left at the defendant's sister's house and is now in the custody of the victim's parents," he stated.

Sykes, who was arrested May 5, is being held without bond in the Pickens County Jail. If convicted of capital murder, Sykes faces the death penalty or life without parole, McCool stated.

McCool stated the arrest was the result of a joint investigation by the Vernon Police Department, other local law enforcement agencies, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and State Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI.

"Investigator Marty Gottwald of the Vernon Police Department, Special Agent Andy Jones of the SBI, and Special Agent Jamey Bozeman of the SBI, as well as other law enforcement officers, worked diligently and cooperated to gather the evidence upon which the indictment is based," McCool stated. "My former Chief Investigator, Keith 'Booty' Cox, and Investigator Ronald Stough of the Fayette Police Department, assisted in processing the crime scene." Cox now serves as the Circuit Clerk for Pickens County, Alabama.

"We asked for help from the FBI in processing some of the evidence, and Special Agent Trey Bradford, among others, was instrumental in getting their crime scene team down to process some of the evidence."

(source: al.com)

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Death penalty costs and the impact of potential budget cuts

Funding problems for the state could make already expensive capital murder trials, even more expensive; if budget cuts go through and staff is reduced in district attorney's offices.

"The resources and the time, the funds, that these cases consume is significant," said Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson at a news conference Wednesday.

Alabama currently has 191 inmates on death row.

But a looming budget crisis could put a damper on an already expensive death penalty system.

A 2009 report from the Death Penalty Information Center says states may pay up to 1 million more per inmate than for a non-death penalty trial.

And Alabama sentence more people to death per capita in the country, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org.

And there could be a potential problem coming down the pipeline.

The state is facing a budget shortfall of several hundred million dollars, and cuts to the court system could increase caseload and increase the time it takes to prosecute a case to the end.

In Morgan County, those cuts could have a deeper impact, as they're prosecuting four suspects for 2 capital murder counts each.

The district attorney spoke about the potential cuts, and the potential problems those cuts could bring earlier this week.

"I hope that the budget situation and the funding of the Morgan County District Attorney's Office does not have an impact on our ability to seek justice in this case," says Anderson.

Governor Bentley just signed a bill called "The Prison Reform Act" into law this week.

It's expected to reduce the prison population by 16 %, using community-based supervision programs and adjusting prison space for the most violent offenders.

(source: WAAY TV news)

OHIO:

Man seeks new trial----Sent to death row for 2002 Eureka Street killings

A man sent to Ohio's death row after a jury convicted him of killing 2 girls execution style and wounding 6 others was back in Allen County on Friday asking for a new trial following a federal appellate court ruling.

Jeronique Cunningham, 42, wants Judge David Cheney, who was not the judge at his 2002 trial, to grant his request for a new trial based on the allegation of 1 juror tainting the entire jury.

Cheney scheduled a hearing for Aug. 5 to consider the matter.

Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick, who tried the case against both men, said this is an attempt by Cunningham's attorney to try to avoid execution. He said the evidence, with the surviving witnesses identifying both men shooting, was overwhelming.

The case is back in Allen County after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 1 juror, who allegedly knew the families of the victim, pressured other jurors into a decision. The ruling requires a lower court to consider the matter.

Cunningham and his half brother, Cleveland Jackson, were convicted and sent to death row for the 2002 killings of Jala Grant, 3, and Leneshia Williams, 17. The men arrived at an apartment on Eureka Street to rob a man. During the robbery, they lined 8 people in up the kitchen and shot 6 of the 8 in the head.

Other appellate courts have upheld Cunningham's death penalty conviction. The 6th Circuit is the last court that has to hear the appeal. After that, the U.S. Supreme Court can turn down the case without hearing it. A clemency request with the governor is the last step before execution.

Jackson, has exhausted his appeals. His final chance at avoiding execution is with clemency, which a hearing has not been scheduled. Jackson has a July 20, 2016, execution date.

(soure: limaohio.com)

MISSOURI:

Murder victim's dad hopes man suspected of shooting his teenage son gets death penalty

Richard Johnson said on Thursday he was on a routine run to a neighborhood QuikTrip in North Kansas City, listening to the radio when he suddenly heard a breaking news report.

"Man, I couldn't believe it. It first said Sandra Kay Sutton, the woman held in the wooden box was found dead, and, then it said her son was also found dead in Clinton, Missouri. So many things went through my mind. I had non-stop migraines all night after hearing that. I was shocked," said Johnson, who immediately called Clinton Police.

Police believe James Horn Jr., a man charged with kidnapping Sandra Sutton and confining her to a box, is responsible for killing the 47-year-old woman and 17-year-old Zachary Sutton. Zachary is Johnson's son.

"Yep they confirmed it for me, telling me that was my son and his mother. I did a lot of crying yesterday morning and last night. I'm still in shock," Johnson told FOX 4's Robert Townsend during an interview Friday.

Richard said he hadn't seen or talked to Zachary in about 5 years. He said he and Zachary's maternal grandparents had joint custody of the boy. He said his son dreamed of joining the Army after graduating from Clinton High School.

"He was energetic, shy, a little hyper; just a regular, good kid," said the grieving and angry father, who now wants justice for Zachary and his mother.

"This man sat down, planned and executed this. There's no doubt in my mind that he did this, and so yes, he deserves death row. I want the death penalty if he's alive, definitely," exclaimed Johnson.

The search for Horn is ongoing. He's considered armed and dangerous, and if you see him you can call 911, Crimestoppers at (660) 827-TIPS, or the Clinton Police Department at (660) 885-2679.

(source: fox4kc.com)

NEBRASKA:

Hi Friends,

There is a poll in Nebraska we'd love your help with:

http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/Reaction-to-Death-Penalty-Repeal-Bill-Its-About-Time-304796131.html [www.1011now.com]

It's on the right hand side of the article.

Thanks!

Colleen Cunningham, Equal Justice USA

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

Death penalty undignified

Is there a compelling pay off in the repeal of our death penalty statute? I believe there is and a very significant one at that ("Death penalty repeal passes Legislature, awaits veto," May 20).

The time, energy and money invested in seeking to bring about an end to the tragedy of our killing one another by working to bring about yet another killing seems not only counterproductive, but an ugly way of doing and being with one another.

Choosing the path of seeking restorative, rather than punitive justice guides us to ways of doing that upholds each person's inherent dignity and worth. This further ennobles us all with opportunities to be helpful, kind and caring as we work our way out of the mess and find ways to assist others in danger of getting caught up as participants in still more tragedy.

As a closing thought I would ask that we give more thought to considering what Jesus would do and have us do in this matter for the good of all of us.

Byron Peterson, Minatare

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

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Murder Victim's Daughter Reacts to Death Penalty Repeal Bill

Ashley Gage says she opposes the state's death penalty because the appeals process causes too much trauma and heartache for the families of victims. That includes her.

In March, NTV News first spoke with Gage. She found her father murdered when she was just a teenager. Despite that, Gage still is opposed to the capital punishment.

"As an 18-year-old, finding my father really disrupted my life in a substantial way, and I didn't even have to go through a capital trial," Gage told NTV back in March.

With the vote advancing to Governor Ricketts' desk this week, Gage now says she's cautiously optimistic.

"I had to kind of step away and let it sink in and really grasp that it came this far and passed. I'm still a little cautious because Ricketts has promised to veto the bill and I feel like I'm holding back a little bit," said Gage.

Ricketts told NTV News this week that some of the families he's spoken with are in favor of the death penalty.

"Several weeks ago, I sat down with Attorney General Peterson and Director Frakes, who's in charge of our correction system, and told them they need to make it a priority for us to be able to carry out these executions," said Ricketts. "It's important for justice and for some of the families I've talked to that have had loved ones killed by some of these heinous murderers."

Gage says that contradicts what she's encountered.

"I'm not sure where he's getting that information or whom he's spoken to, but I'm in contact with three or four other victims' families and have met them through this process and we're all on the same page in that we don't want to go through this re-traumatization and this long process," said Gage.

(source: nebraska.tv)

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ACLU questions acquisition of lethal injection drugs

The state's recent purchase of lethal injection drugs that would allow it to resume executions in Nebraska will lead to costly litigation, ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said Friday.

Conrad said information the ACLU received from the state Department of Correctional Services in response to an open records request led her to conclude that the state faces "another round of costly and lengthy legal appeals with the taxpayer picking up the tab."

"(It) shows a shady foreign source approached the Department of Corrections and engineered a hasty deal, with no assurances from state officials as to fair price, ability to comply with the importation laws, or the efficacy of the drugs in question," Conrad said. "This marks another sad chapter in the dark history of Nebraska's death penalty story.

"Nebraska's past attempts to obtain lethal injection drugs have been legally suspect and full of problems, including wasted taxpayer dollars and false promises.

"Their most recent effort is nothing more than deja vu all over again."

Records show that Chris Harris, CEO of the India-based Harris Pharma LLP, contacted state officials April 14 to ask if they wanted a "few thousand vials extra" of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in lethal injections. Sodium thiopental renders the recipient unconscious.

The message made its way to Corrections Director Scott Frakes, who told Harris in an April 15 email that he would like to connect as soon as possible.

In fact, Taylor Gage, spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, said documentation provided to the ACLU shows that the state "legally purchased the necessary drugs to carry out the death penalty under the state's current protocol."

"(ACLU's) threat to sue the state and to prevent sentences from being carried out is only another example of their litigious tactics," Gage said.

In 2009, Nebraska moved to a system of execution by lethal injection as a substitute for the electric chair, after its use was ruled as unconstitutional by the Nebraska Supreme Court, but the state has encountered difficulty in acquiring legal drugs.

The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday abolishing the death penalty in Nebraska. Ricketts plans to veto the bill Tuesday, setting the stage for a showdown vote in the Legislature on an attempt to override his veto.

Nebraska's last execution was in 1997.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

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Loner on a mission to make conservative Nebraska ditch the death penalty ---- Ernie Chambers, a champion of the voiceless, has introduced a bill to ban capital punishment in each of his 36 years in the legislature. This time it might succeed

"White people, they don't have a high opinion of me," says Ernie Chambers, Nebraska's long-serving legislator. "They thought I was uppity and arrogant - they didn't like my attitude."

They may not like Chambers' attitude in the super-conservative cornhusker state, but they are certainly listening to him now. At his 38th attempt, the state senator this week saw his bill to abolish the death penalty pass the legislature, in a move that should it be enacted would make Nebraska the 1st dyed-in-the-wool conservative state in the country to scrap the ultimate punishment.

It's an extraordinary turn of events, spearheaded by an extraordinary politician. For 38 years Chambers, 77, was the only African American member of Nebraska's uni-chamber legislature (there are now 2), and since he was first elected in 1970 to represent the north of Omaha he has been making it his business to take up causes that nobody else would champion.

"Conservatives probably think I'm crazy," he tells the Guardian in the wake of the historic vote to abolish capital punishment. "Not institutionally crazy. But so far out I couldn't belong to any party, or church or club."

When asked how he would describe his personal politics in a state that has a non-partisan assembly in which parties are not represented, he said: "First, I'm a loner. That doesn't mean I'm anti-social. But I don't have a lot in common with other people. Most of the things that I do, I will do virtually alone."

He says he sees his politics as standing up for the "poor, the voiceless, the marginal, the un-people - anybody who is set upon or mistrusted and who needs help. I'm not comfortable in the presence of other people's suffering, and if I can do something about it, I will."

One of the actions of which he is most proud was to have made Nebraska in the 1980s the 1st state in the US officially to divest from companies doing business with apartheid South Africa. From there the idea caught on, spreading to other states and eventually the federal government.

"Despite the very backward image that might attach to Nebraska, we led the country and to some degree the world over South Africa. And now we can do it again." ---- Ernie Chambers speaks in the Nebraska legislature.

His mission to end the death penalty in his state emanates from a conviction that he says he has had since he was a teenager. He puts that conviction in bold, simple terms: "I believe the state shouldn't kill anybody. I don't think anybody should kill anybody. If we tell people that as individuals they can't kill anybody, then how can we kill somebody as a society? Just multiplying the number of people involved in the decision doesn't make it right - whether it's a mob or a state or anything else."

Armed with that moral determination, Chambers has introduced a bill to repeal the death penalty every year that he has served as a state legislator. 36 times the bill was voted down. In 1979 it passed the legislature, only to be vetoed by the then governor Charles Thone.

And this week it passed a 2nd time - on this occasion by a majority of 32 to 15. Crucially, that's more votes than would be needed to overturn a veto from the current governor, Pete Ricketts, who has made clear that he intends to do everything in his power to keep the death penalty alive in Nebraska. On his Facebook page, Ricketts has said "the Legislature is out of touch with Nebraskans ... the overwhelming majority of Nebraskans support the death penalty because they understand that it is an important tool for public safety."

The governor has until next Tuesday to decide whether or not to wield his veto. Until then, and until sufficient numbers can be mustered to overturn any veto, Chambers is not counting his chickens.

"The work isn't done yet - if the governor overrides the bill it will be back to us, and you never know if someone will crumble or stumble. There are so many ways for politicians to avoid committing themselves," he says.

But whatever the final outcome, Chambers has the satisfaction of knowing that he has yet again given Nebraska's normally staid politics an almighty shake. When asked how he managed to bring so many hardline conservatives on board with the bill, he replies: "Maybe the moon was in its 7th house and Jupiter lined up with Mars."

Pressed to give a less astronomical analysis, Chambers says that he believes that the conservatives who voted to abolish the death penalty were merely being true to their fundamental principles. "Conservatives have vowed that whenever they find a government program that isn't working, they will scrap it. And if there is a government program that doesn't achieve its goals, it's the death penalty."

He adds: "The irony is that the so-called conservatives are now giving the same arguments against the death penalty that the abolitionists have always given."

Though he finds himself in the unfamiliar position of having a lot of fellow senators actually agreeing with him, he has no delusions about his sudden popularity. Hence his statement about his standing in the eyes of white people - a reference to the rest of his legislator peers.

"If you were part of a group that's supposed to be dominant and somebody in that group fights you tooth and nail, you would have problems with that person because he reminds you of all the wrongs that you have done," he says.

For once, though, there's a chance that they will emerge united. "That's what I've told them. I've told my colleagues that if we abolish the death penalty we will be making history, and not only that, this time we'll be on the right side of history."

(source: The Guardian)

WYOMING:

Wyoming says it can still pursue death penalty for Eaton

Lawyers for the state of Wyoming and a man convicted of murder disagree over whether the state may again seek the death penalty against him.

Lawyers representing inmate Dale Eaton and the state filed arguments Friday with a federal appeals court in Denver. State lawyers argue they should be allowed to press for the death penalty against Eaton while his lawyers say they shouldn't.

The dispute stems from November's ruling by a federal judge in Cheyenne overturning Eaton's original death sentence in the 1988 rape and killing of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Montana.

Wyoming didn't comply until this week with the judge's order to tell him by March whether it intended to seek the death penalty again against Eaton or if he would serve life in prison.

(source: Associated Press)

OREGON:

Jury will consider death penalty in double-murder case

The Gary Goins double-murder trial has entered the penalty phase, in which jurors will decide whether the defendant should die for the ambush slayings of his brother and sister-in-law nearly 4 years ago.

The same Josephine County jury of 8 women and 4 men that convicted Goins, 62, of aggravated murder and 1st-degree robbery on Tuesday is taking testimony about the defendant's character and the personal lives of his victims, Dennis and Susan Goins, who were found shot to death at their secluded home in the Hugo area in October 2011.

The penalty phase is expected to last at least into next week.

The jury is being asked to answer 3 questions before being allowed to consider the question of whether Goins should face the death penalty. The 3 questions involve intent, whether Goins constitutes a future danger to others, and whether his conduct - testimony at trial suggested Goins was bitter over money matters - was unreasonable. A death penalty decision would require a unanimous verdict.

If any of the 12 jurors answers "no" to any of those three questions, death will be taken off the table as an option. In that event, the presumptive sentence is life in prison without parole. It would take 10 of the 12 jurors to give him the possibility of parole after 30 years.

The 1st person to testify Thursday was Pam Soberanes, office manager at Pacific Veterinary Clinic in Grants Pass where Susan Goins, 53, worked as a receptionist. The couple married in 2010 shortly after moving to Oregon from California's Silicon Valley, where Dennis Goins, 63, had worked as a software executive. Both had adult children from previous relationships.

Soberanes described Susan Goins as a warm person who loved other people and was devoted to her family - especially her grandchildren in Florida. She tearfully recalled that after the news broke that the couple had been murdered at their secluded home on Mountain Greens Lane she got a call from a client at the vet.

"She says, 'Was that our Susan?' And I said 'Yeah.' And she said, 'That can't happen to our Susan, our Susan was too happy,' " Soberanes said.

Another former coworker, Margaret Morgan, called Susan "genuine" and funny. Dennis' nickname for Susan was "Gracie Allen," after the popular 1930s comedienne and wife of George Burns. Morgan said Dennis was often quiet as Susan chatted away, and that he would smile admiringly and watch her as if he were "trying to figure her out."

Jurors also heard from neighbor Kris Vandehey, co-owner of the Red Mountain Golf Course, who testified she and her daughter drove a golf cart up to the Goins home to drop off a welcoming gift when Dennis and Susan moved in.

"We had not-so-nice neighbors before Dennis and Susan, so we were nervous about meeting them," Vandehey said.

Susan greeted them with a warm hello and immediately invited them in, she said. As she got to know Susan, her husband forged a friendship with Dennis.

"When you live out in the country, you just kind of want to watch out for each other," she said.

Defense attorney Jane Claus told the jury that they are being given the grave responsibility of deciding a man's life.

"You're no longer talking about the death penalty over coffee or a couple of beers with friends," she said. "It's real and you have a very serious decision to make."

She urged jurors not to let anger or outrage guide their decision. "We will be asking you to impose a moral, reasoned punishment without doing damage to your conscience," she said.

Claus noted that Goins is 62, and said he is in poor health.

"One way or another, he's going to die behind the (prison) walls, and the only way he's getting out is in a body bag or a pine box," Claus said.

(source: Grants Pass Daily Courier)

USA:

Nebraska vote shows executions are on death bed

It's a pretty good sign that the death penalty is drawing its last gasps when a reliably conservative state like Nebraska pulls the plug.

Members of the state's unique 1-chamber legislature technically run on nonpartisan ballots, but Nebraska's politics are as red as the home crowd on Cornhusker game day. Yet, the Nebraska Legislature's 32-15 vote to abolish capital punishment Wednesday was historic for a state that only 7 years ago retired its electric chair after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled it cruel and unusual punishment.

This week's lopsided vote was an especially sweet victory for Ernie Chambers, the legendary black senator from Omaha who introduced the death penalty repeal bill 38 times over his four-decade legislative career.

Gov. Pete Ricketts vowed to veto the bill, but it doesn't really matter.

The death penalty has been effectively dead in Nebraska for several years, since it hasn't executed anyone since 1997. It's the same story around the country, in part because it takes decades to exhaust legal appeals. Now even states that are determined to pursue executions are finding it next to impossible to acquire toxic drugs that meet Eighth Amendment standards.

The fact is, capital punishment has been persuasively shown to have little or no deterrent effect on murder, especially when the alternative is life in prison without possibility of parole. It is enormously costly to get a death case through the courts, and it's increasingly evident that the odds just too high that innocent persons could be, or already have been, executed.

Iowa abolished the death penalty twice - 1st in 1872, which lasted 6 years, and again in 1965. It's taken our neighbor to the west longer to come around, but we welcome them to the club. Assuming it becomes law there, the remaining 31 states with capital punishment should retire the executioner.

(source: Editorial, Des Moines Register)

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Bill Otis Responds to George Will on the Death Penalty

George Will recently wrote an op-ed in the Post, advancing the "conservative case" against the death penalty. My friend Bill Otis has written this strong response. Here's an excerpt of Bill's argument:

Will says that the considerable expense and delay of capital punishment "are here to stay."

How does he know that? 50 years ago, we were told, by people who think as Will does now, that (then) growing national opposition to the death penalty itself was "here to stay." And they were right - for about a decade, after which, once past its brief flirtation with abolition, and not caring for the results, the country re-instated capital punishment and has since executed roughly 1400 grisly killers.

As the thinking man's conservative, Will should know better than to make breezy statements about what is "here to stay." He should also know that the way to make capital punishment less expensive and time-consuming is not to abolish it, but to place sensible limits on its currently grossly indisciplined costs and delay. A civilized society should spend what it takes to make certain we have the right guy, but should do much more than we have (and could) to shrink manufactured procedural delays far removed from the determination of guilt or innocence.

Both pieces are well worth reading if you are interested in how the death penalty debate is playing out.

(source: Paul G. Cassell teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and crime victims' rights at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. He also served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Utah from 2002 to 2007----Washington Post)

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Preacher's Point: Arguments for, against the death penalty

In the media and social networks, there are arguments for and against the death penalty being waged.

We have our villains, names forever sketched into the America memory, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Manson, Tim McVeigh, and now a new name is on the list. Should we execute men like this? In just the 4 that popped into my head first, McVeigh was the only one executed. Manson is still in prison while Booth and Oswald were both killed before coming to trial.

If we turn to Bible teachers for an answer, we do find many on both sides of the fence. Some claiming we are sinning if we send someone to the gallows while others, will claim we shouldn’t have an electric chair; we should have electric bleachers.

Let's examine the scriptures.

Those against the death penalty will often quote the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). Another passage often used against the death penalty is the story of the woman found committing adultery. The Pharisees bring her to Jesus, and it is asked of Him what they should do to her. Jesus had been preaching about forgiveness, but the penalty for adultery was death. They were trying to entrap Him in His words. At this moment is when Jesus said the eternal words, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7).

Taking these 2 passages together it does seem to imply since none of us are sinless, death is not a viable punishment for a crime regardless of how monstrous. But, there are other passages to consider.

After God gave Israel the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" Israel will face war with her enemies. On these occasions God tells them to destroy their enemies, killing not just the soldiers but civilians and livestock as well (Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 7,13,20 and 1 Samuel 15). How can extermination of their enemies be justified after being told not to kill?

We are told to rightly divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. If we are to divide it, it must have a reason to be divided. Some things may apply in some areas while other things apply to other areas of life. We are told to study to divide the word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

"Thou shalt not kill" was directed toward the individual and God's instructions to the Hebrew army was directed to them as a society as a whole. The same principle applies to the scene with Jesus and the accusers of the adulterous woman. Those men were taking the law into their hands and executing judgment. The punishment of evil doers is in the hands of the government, not the individual (1 Peter 2:13-14).

God has established different roles and responsibilities throughout society. As individuals, we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29), forgive and not be judgmental. To protect society and to keep evil in check, the government needs to have a means of determining guilt or innocence and administrating the proper punishment.

Many will be surprised to learn the death penalty was not established in God's law, but God instituted the death penalty while promising Noah He would never again destroy the world by water.

Genesis 9:5-6, "And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by ma shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

Please note that the reason for the death penalty is not directly the punishment of evildoers or even closure for those the victim left behind. The reason for the death penalty is because we are created in the image of God, and God sees an attack against man (His image) as an attack against Him.

What I'm about to say may be the hardest part yet. As a society, we have a responsibility to carry out the death penalty, yet as individuals we have the responsibility to not cast the first stone.

(source: Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. ---- Lebanon Democrat)

PAKISTAN----executions

4 convicts hanged in jails across Punjab

4 death row convicts were sent to the gallows in jails across Punjab early Saturday morning.

A convict named Ehsaan was sentenced to death by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in 2002 for committing a murder. He was executed today at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Central Jail.

His appeals against the sentence were previously rejected by the apex court and President Mamnoon, following which his death warrants were issued by the ATC 2 days ago.

Separately, Mohammad Saleem - who was a resident of Faisalabad's Millat Colony - was sent to the gallows at Faisalabad Central Jail after his death warrants were issued by an ATC. Previously, his appeals against the conviction were rejected by President Mamnoon Hussain.

He was sentenced to death by a sessions court in Faisalabad in 2004 for murdering his cousin.

Meanwhile, a man named Abdul Ghaffar from Muzaffargarh was executed in Multan Central Jail for killing 3 individuals - including his wife in 1990. He was sentenced to death by a sessions court in Muzaffargarh. Last week, his death warrants were sent to the jail administration after which he was hanged today.

A man named Wazir - resident of Mianwali - was hanged in Sahiwal Central Jail for committing a murder in Rajanpur in 1991 over a domestic dispute.

In 1996, Wazir had been sentenced to death by a sessions judge in Rajanpur and his appeals were rejected by the top courts and President Mamnoon Hussain.

The jail administration received Wazir's death warrants 3 days ago and he was hanged this morning.

The ruling PML-N government had lifted the moratorium on the death penalty on Dec 17, 2014, in terrorism related cases in the wake of a Taliban attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which claimed 141 lives, most of them children. Later, the government completely reinstated capital punishment for all offences that entail the death penalty.

The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the government to re-impose the moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: Dawn)

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Court issues death warrants of 2 convicts

District and Sessions Judge (D&SJ) Lahore on Friday issued death warrants of 2 prisoners convicted in different murder cases.

The judge has ordered to hang prisoners Abdul Khaliq and Shahzad on May 27 at Kot Lakhpat Jail.

The court passed the orders while accepting an application filed by Kot Lakhpat Jail superintendent for the purpose. The superintendent had requested the court to issue death warrants of Abdul Khaliq and Shahzad as their mercy appeals had been rejected by President Mamnoon Hussain and Supreme Court of Pakistan.

In 2002, a sessions court awarded death penalty to Abdul Khaliq in a murder case registered by Secretariat Police Station for killing Akramullah. Whereas another sessions court awarded death penalty to Muhammad Shahzad in a murder case registered by Allama Iqbal Town Police Station for killing Azam Khan.

(source: Pakistan Today)

KENYA:

Ali Babitu Kololo

Ali Babitu Kololo is a 35-year-old father of 2 young children from a marginalised tribe in northern Kenya. He was tortured into confessing that he led Somali kidnappers to a luxury island resort, where the kidnappers abducted a British woman and killed her husband.

Despite strong evidence that he is innocent, Ali was sentenced to death in 2013.

Ali was never accused of being involved in the murder or kidnap itself, but under Kenyan law, simply being present when the crime is committed is enough for a conviction for robbery with violence, which carries the mandatory death penalty.

Following the attack in 2011, the hotel ordered staff and police to pick up anyone in the vicinity of the hotel as a suspect. Ali was arrested a few miles from the hotel. The British Metropolitan Police flew to Kenya the day after the kidnap to assist with the investigation. They reviewed the crime scene, interviewed witnesses and took forensic evidence.

When arrested, Ali was beaten and tortured. Officers squeezed and twisted his genitals, leaving him with urinary incontinence. Under torture he allegedly confessed to leading the pirates to the camp under duress. He immediately recanted his confession afterwards, and has maintained his innocence throughout.

Having funded and worked alongside the Kenyan police units, the British were no doubt well aware of their routine use of torture and mistreatment and Ali's own claims were widely reported in local and international press. But, without making any steps to investigate Ali's allegations of torture, the senior Met police officer relied on the statement provided by Ali under torture to help bolster the prosecution's case, giving evidence in court that his 2 statements were inconsistent.

Aside from his 'confession,' the only other key evidence against Ali is a footprint Kenyan police claim to have found at the scene - yet, at the trial, it was found that the shoe in question did not fit Ali, and the arresting officer claims that he was barefoot when arrested. The Senior Met police officer also relied on this footprint evidence when giving evidence at trial, but despite having a designated photographer present when he arrived at the scene, no one has been able to produce any evidence of this footprint to date. Contrary to the Met police officer claiming to the court that the shoes are "predominantly ... worn by Somalians", the shoes in question are common throughout this region of Kenya. Ali is not, in any event, Somali.

Ali is illiterate, and was denied an interpreter for his native language throughout his trial. He was also denied a lawyer for most of the proceedings, so had to try to cross examine all the witnesses, including the senior officer from the Metropolitan Police, himself. He was given the Chief Superintendent's statement (written, and in English) on the day of the hearing.

Aside from 1 other witness statement, he has never seen any of the other witness statements or evidence against him. The Metropolitan Police claim to have provided all the evidence they collected, including that which may confirm Ali's innocence, to the Kenyan prosecution. But the UK government continues to refuse to provide this, or any other information, to Ali or his lawyers.

Neither was Ali able to obtain any expert evidence, such as a medical assessment following his torture. By contrast, when the expert medical witness for the prosecution was unable to attend the hearing, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office stepped in to provide funding. They have refused to provide the same assistance to Ali for his appeal.

When sentencing Ali to death, the judge thanked the British police for their assistance, which helped secure this outcome.

"If the UK government is serious about its commitment to promoting justice overseas, it must right the wrongs and ensure real justice is done."----Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team

Reprieve is calling on the UK government to honour their commitment to fight against the death penalty, and to right the wrong they committed by supporting the prosecution - which resulted in a death sentence for a man who may well be innocent. Having seen first hand that Ali was flagrantly denied a fair trial, at the very least they should now be ensuring that he receives a fair appeal.

(source: reprieve.org)

SUDAN:

Hundreds march in Sudan against Mursi death sentence

Around 800 protesters marched through Sudan's capital on Friday against a court's decision this week to seek the death penalty for Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

Sudan's government has up to now declined to comment on the sentence in neighboring Egypt, describing it as an internal matter.

But the march organized by the Islamic Movement, a faction of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party, suggested some in the ruling elite wanted to send a stronger signal against Egypt's crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Hundreds of Sudanese, joined by dozens of Egyptians, marched from the Grand Mosque following Friday prayers, as police watched on, a Reuters witness said.

Crowds held up pictures of Mursi and other Brotherhood figures, as well as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

They also chanted slogans against Egypt's current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief orchestrated Mursi's ouster following mass protests against his rule.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power in a bloodless coup in 1989, backed by the army and Islamists.

But analysts say the government, facing international sanctions over its human rights record, has more recently sought to broaden its support across the Middle East by publicly distancing itself from the Brotherhood, which is seen as a security threat in Egypt and other Arab states.

The Egyptian court's decision has drawn widespread international criticism, with Turkey warning of regional turmoil if Mursi is executed.

The ruling against Mursi is not final until June 2. All capital sentences are referred to Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion, and are also subject to legal appeal.

(source: zamanalwsl.net)

EGYPT:

Undaunted by my death sentence

I received with total disbelief the news that on May 16 an Egyptian court had sentenced me to death - along with former president Mohamed Morsi, a number of his aides and several respected public figures, including renowned scholar Emad Shahin. The charges in my case, like Morsi's, are false and entirely political. The world knows by now the nature of the Egyptian regime's kangaroo trials of political opponents, which international human rights organizations describe as a "charade" lacking due process and violating Egyptian and international law.

On Jan. 25, 2011, like millions of other young Egyptians, I participated in demonstrations against then-President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime, which entrenched corruption and injustice in Egypt for more than 3 decades. We camped in Tahrir Square, chanted for freedom and social justice and demanded the removal of the only president most of us had known. Our 1st enemy was, and still is, tyranny and despotism in all its forms. After the fall of the Mubarak regime, I was inspired by the level of political activism, patriotism and national pride that united all of us despite our political differences and affiliations. I was filled with hope for a better life, and I dreamed of going to the ballot box knowing that my vote would count, like most people in democratic countries.

I belong to a school of moderate mainstream Islam that believes there is no contradiction between Islam and democracy. In fact, Islam stands firmly against injustice, violation of human rights and oppression, especially oppression of women. I have always believed in democracy and peaceful change, and I have defended the human rights of all people. Therefore, I volunteered in Morsi's campaign as a coordinator to communicate with foreign media, and I was appointed to the same position in the president's office after he was elected president in a free and fair vote. This was the only time we Egyptians were able to participate in such elections, and it was an incredibly empowering moment.

Then came the military coup of July 3, 2013. I did not imagine that my support for democracy and my service in the administration of Egypt's 1st democratically elected president would land me in jail or be used against me as a crime warranting the death penalty.

Now I find myself being prosecuted for everything I aspired to and worked for, and for advancing the same values that so many of my fellow Egyptians - of all political affiliations - fought and died for.

Though I was sentenced in the so-called Grand Espionage case, the Egyptian regime seeks to end my life for no reason other than who I am: an educated, politically active and independent woman with mainstream Islamic views. I have traveled extensively around the world, utilized my education and training to reach out to people from different cultures and religions, built ideological bridges and engaged in dialogue with others - for example, as a fellow of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations - and this has earned me the dubious honor of being the 1st woman in modern Egyptian history to be sentenced to death for political reasons. Clearly, I am from the generation of young Egyptians - women and men, liberals, conservatives and leftists, Muslims, Christians and atheists - that the regime fears as its No. 1 enemy because we represent the future and a hope for change.

It wants to kill the dream of democracy and freedom in the hearts of Egypt's young people. It does not want the world to know the truth about what is happening in Egypt. But it will not prevail. Something has changed in the collective consciousness of the Egyptian people. Even if the regime executes thousands, Egyptian youth have a lot more to give. The day will soon come when this country will be ruled with justice and equality.

Thankfully, unlike the tens of thousands of innocent Egyptians suffering in jails, or those being tortured, killed on the streets or hanged, I am outside the country pursuing a graduate degree in public policy in Britain. I have decided to take an independent academic and professional path to get the experience and skills that will enable me to serve my homeland, Egypt, the country where I grew up and that I cherish.

Although it breaks my heart to be separated from my family, friends and loved ones, the unjust sentence will not break my will and resolve. On the contrary, it will give me strength to keep defending the principles of the Egyptian revolution and values I and most Egyptians believe in and aspire to: dignity, freedom and justice.

(source: Opinion; Sondos Asem, who was foreign press secretary under former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, is an independent researcher and graduate student at the University of Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government----Washington Post)

IRAN:

37 Prisoners Executed in 3 days

From May 19 to 21, the antihuman clerical regime in Iran executed 37 in prisons or on the streets of various cities.

3 prisoners were executed in public in the cities of Qouchan, Minab and Shiraz. The execution in Minab was carried out in football field in the town to further intensify the atmosphere of fear among the youth. In Shiraz, a prisoner that was condemned to death and about to be executed received 111 lashes.

Just on May 20 and 21, 24 prisoners were executed in three group hangings in Ghezel Hessar and Gohardasht prisons in Karaj. 8 who were hanged in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 21, in Ghezel Hessar Prison were among the prisoners who had protested the wave of collective and secret executions in this prison on 17 August 2014 in order to stop the execution of a number of their cellmates and had clashed with prison guards.

Execution of 9 prisoners in 2 group hangings in prisons in Shiraz and Arak on May 19 plus another prisoner in the central prison of Arak are the other crimes of this regime in this time span.

The objective of the savage regime of velayat-e faqih that the Iranian people call it the Godfather of ISIS is to intensify the atmosphere of terror and horror in order to control social protests that have turned into a nightmare for the clerical regime.

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

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Arbitrary Executions Continue-11 Prisoners Transferred for Execution----Only 2 days after execution of 11 prisoners in Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj, a new group of 11 prisoners have been transferred to solitary confinement for execution in the same prison. Iran Human Rights calls for international reactions.

According to Iran Human Rights' sources 11 prisoners from Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj (West of Tehran) have been transferred to solitary confinement for execution in the coming days. According to these sources all of the prisoners are charged with drug offences. 2 of the prisoners are identified as "Abbas Heydari" and "Masoud Zibaei".

IHR reported about the execution of 11 other prisoners in Ghezelhesar prison on Thursday May 21. Also these prisoners were convicted of drug-related charges and six of the prisoners were identified by name. All together at least 28 people were executed in different Iranian prisons between Monday and Thursday last week.

IHR calls for the international community to react to the execution wave in Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "We are facing a gradual mass-execution of the prisoners in Iran. Most of these prisoners are subjected to unfair trials and charged with drug offences which are not considered as the "most serious" crimes. The international community can not remain silent and must react in order to stop these arbitrary executions".

(source: Iran Human Rights)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/PHILIPPINES:

OFW sentenced to death in UAE for killing employer

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from General Santos City convicted of killing her employer has been sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

28-year-old Jennifer Dalquez, according to her mother Rajima, was arrested on December 12 last year after she killed her employer who attempted to rape her on December 7.

Dalquez stabbed her employer using the same knife he pointed at her.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Dalquez was meted death penalty by a trial court in Al Ain on May 20.

Rajima said she last talked to her daughter on Wednesday, where Jennifer delivered the sad news about her death penalty.

She said her daughter, who had been working in UAE since 2011, was supposed to return home last January.

Ebrahim Zailon, head of DFA - General Santos City, confirmed the death sentence.

The Dalquez family is now appealing to the Philippine government for help.

Zailon said the DFA will appeal the case of the Filipina worker.

(source: ABS-CBNNews)

JAMAICA:

Abolishing death penalty not on gov't agenda at this time - Golding

The Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding says the removal of the death penalty from Jamaican law is not on the Government's agenda at this time.

Responding to a question from Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte today, Senator Golding said the matter went before Parliament in a conscience vote in 2008 and the majority of legislators were in favour of keeping the death penalty on the books.

Golding argued that having undertaken that process it was not on the administration's agenda to change the laws at this time in relation to hanging.

According to the Justice Minister, the number of people convicted of capital murder is relatively small with most of them ending up serving life sentences.

During last week's meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, several member states of the United Nations recommended that Jamaica abolishes the death penalty.

Golding told the Council that the island has had a longstanding de facto moratorium on the application of the death penalty.

However, he said no decision has been made by the Government to formally abolish the death penalty from the law books.

Arising from the Pratt and Morgan ruling, the sentences of convicts on death row for more than 5 years are automatically commuted to life in prison.

(source: Jamaica Gleaner)

MAY 22, 2015:

TEXAS:

Execution Drugs to be State Secret Under Legislation Headed to Governor

Manufacturers of execution drugs will be shielded from public scrutiny, helping to keep Texas' capital punishment machine in working order, under a bill headed to the governor's office. On Tuesday, Senate Bill 1697 cleared its final hurdle with a favorable vote in the House. If signed into law by the governor, as expected, the bill will keep information about anyone who participates in executions or supplies execution drugs confidential.

"This bill is about trying to protect innocent people who are just doing their job," said Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo), the bill's House sponsor, on Tuesday.

That rationale was voiced numerous times by supporters as the bill moved through both chambers, but there's little evidence that Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) personnel or suppliers of execution drugs are at risk.

The names of those involved in carrying out executions have never been revealed by TDCJ. The real issue is whether citizens should be able to access information about lethal-injection drugs. Until last year, the identify of lethal-injection drug suppliers could be acquired through a public information request. In May 2014, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that TDCJ could keep the information secret. The ruling came after the Department of Public Safety sent Abbott a "threat assessment" report that claimed "publicly linking" a supplier or manufacturer of execution drugs would present "a substantial threat of physical harm" and "should be avoided to the greatest extent possible."

That decision was a shift from 3 previous rulings in which the attorney general's office had found that TDCJ failed to prove that disclosing the information would create a substantial threat of physical harm.

The May 2014 ruling came as Texas' supply of execution drugs was rapidly dwindling. In 2012, the state turned from a 4-drug cocktail to a single injection of pentobarbital. According to a Texas Tribune timeline, by August 2013 TDCJ had only 4 vials of the drug remaining, prompting the state to turn to compounding pharmacies, lightly regulated facilities that typically mix drugs for individual patients. In October 2013, the Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy requested that TDCJ return pentobarbital it had sold to the agency after the company began receiving unwanted media attention. In a letter to TDCJ, Jasper Lovoi, the owner of Woodlands, said he had been made to believe that his company's role in supplying the drugs would be kept private.

"I find myself in the middle of a firestorm that I was not advised of and did not bargain for," Lovoi said in the letter.

During the House debate on SB 1697 Tuesday, Smithee said that manufacturers - such as compounding pharmacies - are refusing to sell lethal injection drugs to Texas and other states because of "threats of violence." But when Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) asked him to elaborate on those threats, Smithee couldn't provide examples. Canales is the author of a stalled bill that would require TDCJ to post information about execution drugs, including the manufacturer, on the agency's website.

A similar exchange took place during debate in the Senate last week. Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), SB 1697's author, said that when information about the manufacturers of execution drugs was previously disclosed, it had a "chilling effect on reputable pharmacies wanting to provide these compounds to the state of Texas." She said that investigations by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) had led to the determination that "credible threats" had been directed at suppliers of lethal-injection drugs. But when pressed, Huffman couldn't cite specific examples. No details of the DPS investigations have been made public.

According to Austin-based attorney Philip Durst, lawmakers have been unable to point to specific threats because there haven't been any. Durst is one of the plaintiff's attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit against TDCJ seeking disclosure of the name of a particular compounding pharmacy supplying execution drugs to the state.

Durst told the House Corrections Committee at the end of April that based on his assessment of evidence provided by TDCJ and DPS during the lawsuit, there have been no threats of violence against drug suppliers or manufacturers in Texas or in any other state.

Evidence presented by TDCJ in its motion for summary judgment includes emails to drug suppliers that read more like scoldings than threats and a link to a blog post about the Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy that includes an illustration of an exploding head. The post encouraged readers to write reviews of the pharmacy on Google+, sign a petition and contact the American Pharmacists Association.

A state district court sided with the plaintiffs in December 2014 and ordered TDCJ to reveal the name of the lethal injection drug supplier. TDCJ has appealed the decision, but if SB 1697 is signed into law the entire suit could be rendered moot.

Ultimately, "threats" against pharmacies appear to have little to do with the legislation passed yesterday. Even House Corrections Committee Chairman Jim Murphy (R-Houston) called the threat argument a "straw man." The primary impetus for the law, which both Smithee and Huffman acknowledged in debate, is preserving executions in Texas. Death penalty opponents have seen public shaming of drug suppliers as a potential Achilles' heel for execution-happy states. TDCJ has a better chance of acquiring the necessary drug supplies if companies are promised secrecy.

Maurie Levin, an attorney involved in the lawsuit against TDCJ, says what’s most troubling about SB 1697 is that it shields the agency and the execution process from demands for transparency or accountability.

"For Texas, of all states, to carry out secrecy in executions is a frightening thought," Levin said. "And I have no doubt that at some point it will come back and bite us."

(source: Texas Observer)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Lawyers for convicted killer Smyrnes want info about death row

Attorneys for a convicted killer said they plan to research death row living conditions more before deciding whether to challenge the constitutionality of Ricky Smyrnes' death sentence.

More information about the day-to-day life on death row is being sought from Smyrnes, 29, formerly of Irwin, and the state prison in Greene County where he is being held.

Smyrnes was convicted in the February 2010 torture slaying of Jennifer Daugherty, a mentally-challenged woman killed by six Greensburg roommates. Smyrnes is 1 of 2 men sentenced to die for his role in Daugherty's stabbing. He has been on death row since his 2013 conviction.

"We will speak with our client more in depth concerning that," Attorney Brian Aston told Judge Rita D. Hathaway Thursday afternoon during an evidentiary hearing on Smyrnes' post-sentence motions.

Aston and James Fox have been appointed to act as Smyrnes' appeal attorneys. They filed the motion in February that seeks to overturn the death sentence and Smyrnes' 1st- and 2nd-degree murder convictions.

In their appeal, the attorneys state that the sentence violates Smyrnes' rights because he is subject to solitary confinement for 23 hours daily. SCI-Greene houses a majority of the state's 188 male death row inmates.

Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a moratorium on capital punishment while a commission charged with reviewing the state's death penalty completes its work. Conditions in which condemned inmates are housed will not change, the governor said.

Death row inmates are kept segregated from the rest of the prison population and they have "a certain degree" of access to research materials and their attorneys, said Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.

Pennsylvania has carried out 3 executions, all of inmates who waived their appeals, since 1976 with the last in 1999.

Avoiding execution is the biggest goal for appeal attorneys, Antkowiak said.

"You don't know if you represent someone on death row whether the mood of things will change," Antkowiak said. "Having a defendant who is on death row is the ultimate challenge for any lawyer. The stakes couldn't be any higher than they are.

"Any attorney who accepts the court appointment on a case like this - your duty is clear," he said.

Attorneys argued other issues in the appeal Thursday.

The prosecution said Smyrnes was the leader who took votes from the group of roommates as to whether Daugherty should be tortured, then killed and how her body should be discarded.

Aston argued that prosecutors' use of torture as an aggravating factor in the capital phase was improper because the decision to kill Daugherty came in a "family meeting" with the 6 co-defendants that occurred after she was tortured during 2 days of captivity.

"You have this torturous behavior that did exist, but it wasn't present at the time of the intent to kill," Aston said.

Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro argued that torture was a proper aggravating circumstance because Smyrnes did wield the murder weapon - a knife - at one point in time, even if he didn't inflict the fatal blow.

In addition to Smyrnes, Melvin Knight was convicted of 1st-degree murder and received the death penalty. Prosecutors presented trial evidence that Knight inflicted the fatal stab wound.

Smyrnes' attorneys called the credibility of prosecution witness and co-defendant Amber Meidinger, 25, into question.

"The defense should've been permitted to explore" whether Meidinger was taking her medication and if that had an impact on her memory and perception of what was occurring, Fox argued.

Ciaramitaro responded that the trial attorney spent time questioning Meidinger's recollection of the events during cross-examination.

Other issues include claims by the defense that Hathaway improperly admitted testimony from Meidinger and limited a psychologist's testimony.

According to the defense, the prosecution should not have been allowed to argue to the jury that crimes Smyrnes committed as an 11-year-old could be used in deciding to sentence him to death. Hathaway ordered the attorneys to submit written legal briefs.

Angela Marinucci, then 17, also was convicted of 1st-degree murder. She was sentenced to a life term but is scheduled to return to court this year to be resentenced.

Meidinger, along with 2 other co-defendants, pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder and received lesser sentences, although each will spend at least between 30 and 40 years in prison.

(source: triblive.com)

GEORGIA:

Future Of Ga.'s Death Penalty Unknown Due To Drug Shortage

Former Supreme Court Justice Norman Fletcher discussed his opposition to the death penalty during an interview with Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer on ''A Closer Look.''

As Nebraska lawmakers voted to ban the death penalty this week, the future of capital punishment in Georgia has also been called into question. That's not due to lawmakers ready to ban it - but because the lethal injection drugs used for killing the state's worst criminal offenders are hard to come by.

State corrections officials are not revealing when executions might resume in Georgia after they encountered problems with the lethal injection drugs earlier this year.

Judge Norman Fletcher, the former Chief Justice for the Georgia Supreme Court, talks on ACL about the death penalty.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher opposes the death penalty and would like to see it banned in Georgia.

The drugs are so hard to come by now because manufacturers have mostly refused to sell the needed drugs to states for use in executions. That raises questions about the future of the death penalty - or at least lethal injection as a means of execution - in the 32 states where executions are still legal, including Georgia.

If former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Norman Fletcher had his way, he would ban the death penalty in the state altogether, like conservative lawmakers in Nebraska did on Wednesday.

Fletcher explained why during an interview on "A Closer Look."

(source: WABE news)

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Anti-death penalty group spreads awareness in Dawson

An anti-death penalty group tries to increase social activism in South Georgia.

"The most important thing for me is to get people involved, especially men of color," said Dorinda Tatum, Lead Organizer for the Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held an open forum in Dawson last night.

Group leaders are traveling around the state spreading awareness about the death penalty and what they say is common police brutality against black men.

They're encouraging young people to join their group and others like "black lives matter" to voice their concerns.

"There are strength in numbers," said Tatum. "You can get things done when you have a group of people coming together for one purpose."

"To know how to contact their policy makers, to know how to engage their pastors and other community leaders and to really connect with the cause," said Troyia Sampson, Organizer.

The group is headed to Savannah next month and Athens in September.

(source: WALB news)

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Killer finds solace in scholar

A few months ago, Kelly Gissendaner wrote a letter to a pen pal across the Atlantic. She told him the state of Georgia was about to fix a date for her execution. One evening soon, she would be strapped to a gurney, needles would be inserted into her arm, and poison would course through her veins until she was dead.

The letter arrived a few days later at the home of an 88-year-old man in Tubingen, Germany. After reading it, he took one of his white handkerchiefs, folded it neatly and placed it in an envelope to mail to Georgia's death row.

"When the tears are coming," he wrote, "take my handkerchief."

The man in Germany was Jurgen Moltmann, an eminent theologian and author who met Gissendaner in prison in 2011. The two have kept in touch through letters ever since.

The circumstances of their lives are vastly different. And yet, they found commonality. Toward the end of the war, he surrendered to the first British soldier he encountered. For nearly three years, he was confined to prisoner-of-war forced labor camps.

It was in those camps that he began to ponder the brutality of war. The guards often nailed photographs of concentration camps to the prisoners' huts, forcing them to confront the horrors of the Holocaust. He lost both faith and hope in German culture, his remorse so great that sometimes he wished he had died on the battlefield.

He began to read the Bible for the 1st time behind barbed wire in Kilmarnock, Scotland. He likes to say now that he did not find Christ, but that Christ found him in his sadness and desperation, when he was utterly without aspiration. Prisoners who had been professors before the war often taught other POWs, and Moltmann began to study Christianity. He says the camp often felt like a monastery. He describes it as "an existential experience of healing our wounded souls."

When he was finally freed, he returned home to Germany and, against his father's wishes, studied theology. He went on to become a professor, and a pastor. But the scars of a frightened, lonely prisoner of war stayed in his heart.

So when he first came across Gissendaner, he understood how she, too, had found God and theology. How she, too, had been without hope until then.

Gissendaner had been sentenced to die in 1998 for recruiting her then-boyfriend Gregory Owen to kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner.

The crime was horrific.

Georgia prosecutors said Gissendaner, a mother of 3, wanted her husband gone so she could claim 2 life insurance policies worth $10,000 and take charge of an $84,000 house. Owen stabbed Doug Gissendaner to death; his body was recovered 2 weeks later. Prosecutors argued before a jury that Kelly Gissendaner had her husband murdered out of "pure greed."

She went to prison a selfish and arrogant woman who, by her own admission, put on a tough persona to shield herself from the hideous truth. Many chaplains she interacted with over the years have described her as such.

But in the same year Gissendaner was sentenced to die, the Atlanta Theological Association started a yearlong program in which women prisoners could earn a certificate in theological studies. The association was an alliance of seminaries, including the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, where Moltmann has been a visiting professor.

Her friends say Gissendaner had already begun to transform herself by the time she enrolled in the program a dozen years later, in 2010. She was the only student from death row. Georgia has no other women facing execution.

One of the professors in the program was Jenny McBride, who recalled that by the time she met Gissendaner, "she was, in the words of the Apostle Paul, a 'new creation.' "

Inmate and professor read together the words of Rowan Williams, then the archbishop of Canterbury. Healing and restoration, Williams wrote, can only be achieved through facing the "ruins of the past" and building from it a present and future.

McBride, who now teaches at Wartburg College in Iowa, said Gissendaner confronted the actions of her past. She admitted to plotting the murder and expressed deep remorse to her children and her husband's family.

"I lost all judgment," Gissendaner wrote in her application for clemency earlier this year. "I will never understand how I let myself fall into such evil, but I have learned firsthand that no one, not even me, is beyond redemption through God's grace and mercy. I have learned to place my hope in the God I now know. ..."

It was during the second semester of the theology course, McBride said, when Gissendaner first learned of Moltmann, reading the German pastor's most well-known work, "Theology of Hope."

Moltmann's journey from prisoner of war to eminent scholar brought him to a reality centered on hope. Biblical hope, he said, is not a hope that gives up on life but rather one that looks for something better in the here and now.

He speaks of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the future it proclaims. He writes that a true Christian sets out to transform the present rather than fear the future.

Gissendaner was deeply affected by Moltmann's theology.

"Do you think I can write to him?" she asked McBride.

"Absolutely."

And so she began a conversation.

Dear Jurgen,

I hope this letter finds you well rested after lecturing in many countries. I do think you are amazing to still be lecturing and sharing your wisdom and knowledge with so many others. For those who hear you I know it's a blessing to them. If I ever get the opportunity to just meet you I would be in awe. To be able to sit down with you and have a conversation with you would be truly amazing!

Gissendaner got her wish.

Soon after receiving her letter, Moltmann visited the Candler School in Atlanta to deliver a special lecture on the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. The next day, Gissendaner would be graduating from the theology program at her prison in northeast Georgia. Moltmann drove the 70 miles from Atlanta to Lee Arrendale State Prison to speak at her graduation ceremony.

"Your community is important for me. Therefore I came," he told Gissendaner and her fellow inmates. "When I first heard of your study of theology in prison, pictures of my youth and of the beginning of my own theological studies emerged from the depth of my memory. Yes, I remember."

Gissendaner spoke of the hunger she felt for theology.

"This theology program has shown me that hope is still alive and that, despite a gate or a guillotine hovering over my head, I still possess the ability to prove that I am human," she said in her speech that day.

"Labels on anyone can be notoriously misleading and unforgiving things. But no matter the label attached to me, I have the capacity and the unstoppable desire to accomplish something positive and have a lasting impact," she said.

"Even prison cannot erase my hope or conviction that the future is not settled for me, or anyone. ... I have placed my hope in the God I now know, the God whose plans and promises are made known to me in the whole story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who has been ministering to death row inmates for three decades, says she understands what drew Gissendaner to Moltmann's theology.

Moltmann bridged what Prejean describes as a common disconnect between institutional religion and a person who is suffering. He also took the time to write to her, to give her back her dignity.

"It's an affirmation of her humanity and her potential," Prejean says.

One time, Prejean says, a death row guard told her the state was executing a man who he knew was different than the murderer who had walked in years ago. But that didn't matter.

"You are freeze-framed in an act. And the state is freeze-framed in killing," says Prejean, who recently testified against the death penalty for Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Prejean, the subject of the movie "Dead Man Walking," likens Moltmann's beliefs to the Liberation Theology of Latin America, which swept up the Catholic Church in a struggle to fight 20th-century injustices suffered by the poor.

"He connected hope to the way Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, of our collaboration with people who are suffering now," Prejean says. "That's what Pope Francis is doing. One week after he became Pope, he was in a prison washing the feet of prisoners. It's solidarity with all human beings."

Prejean says she has no doubt Francis would approve of Moltmann's relationship with Gissendaner.

"He'd do it himself if he could," she says. "He'd drive up the Popemobile to death row."

More than 500 members of the clergy and other religious leaders have signed a petition asking the state to spare Gissendaner's life, saying she has embraced Christianity and is no longer the person who had her husband killed. Two of Gissendaner's children also have spoken on her behalf. But Doug Gissendaner's family remains resolute in the wish to see her die. And they're not alone.

"Doug is the true victim of this pre-meditated and heinous crime," his family said in a statement issued in March. "We, along with our friends and supporters and our faith, will continue fighting for Doug until he gets the justice he deserves no matter how long it takes."

Phil Wages, pastor at Winterville First Baptist Church near Atlanta, is among those who stand with the victim's family. He says he would never put his name to a petition seeking clemency for Gissendaner.

"Absolutely, I believe in the power of the Gospel to change anybody from a sinner to a saint, from having a heart of stone to heart of flesh," Wages says. "But I don't think change negates what the state of Georgia decided. There was enough evidence to convict her and give her the death penalty. Change does not get her a 'get out jail free' card."

Wages was an officer in the Gwinnett County Police Department in 1997 and watched his colleagues bring in Gissendaner after her arrest. He says he is glad she turned to God.

"I think a lot of men and women behind bars would not have otherwise been interested in the Bible had they not been in such a difficult place," he says. "It does take suffering sometimes for people to begin to think about spiritual things."

But he does not agree with the theology that drew Gissendaner to Moltmann's teachings.

"Moltmann believes God suffers with us," Wages says. "This is not the understanding of the church for thousands of years. I would argue that God is transcendent. He is above creation. Therefore, he can't suffer with us."

Back in Germany, Moltmann, now old and feeble, knows he may never again see the woman greatly touched by his theology. Her first execution date was set for February 25 but was delayed because of inclement weather. She was taken to the death chamber again on March 2.

Moltmann prepared a candlelight ceremony with his family. He wanted to thank God for Gissendaner's life and ask forgiveness for her sins.

Gissendaner was given a last meal: cheeseburger, fries, ice cream. Then at the last moment, her life was spared again after authorities noticed a problem with the lethal drug phenobarbital.

A third date has not yet been set. Georgia has postponed executions until it determines what went wrong with the drug. Several other states have done the same. Public opinion has shifted against capital punishment, imposed still in 32 states. The Nebraska Legislature voted Wednesday to repeal it.

Moltmann feels God's providence can be tricky. He argued with God after the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Gissendaner's plea for clemency.

"When the delays came," he says, "I had the feeling God was answering my prayers."

He thought about the handkerchief he had sent across the Atlantic. Gissendaner had written him back after it arrived. She told him it was the most heartfelt gift she'd ever received in her nearly 17 years on death row. She was beyond touched, she told him.

He wondered if prison officials would allow her to hold onto that little piece of cloth. If they knew what it meant to her. And whether, in the end, it would bring her a modicum of peace.

(source: CNN)

FLORIDA:

Jury selection begins for man charged in transvestite's death in Riviera Beach----Man, 25, faces death penalty for allegedly shooting 2 transvestite prostitutes and killing another

What started as a seemingly chance meeting between a pair of transvestite prostitutes and a motorist 3 years ago will culminate this week in a death penalty trial for the 25-year-old man accused of killing 1 transvestite and shooting at yet another minutes later.

The start of jury selection today means Luis Rijo De Los Santos will become the 1st Palm Beach County defendant to stand trial in a death penalty case in 2 years, accused of killing Tyrell Mashae Jackson and also facing attempted murder charges in the shooting of Jackson's friend Michael Hunter and the subsequent shooting of Terence Emmanuel Chatman in Riviera Beach.

The 12-member jury that Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, prosecutor Lauren Godden and defense attorney Marc Shiner expect to pick in the case will be introduced beginning next week to the surviving victims in the case - all cross-dressers with violent pasts, including a 6-foot-3 man whose pre-trial interview once had to be rescheduled when a confrontation with Shiner nearly came to blows.

They will also hear Rijo De Los Santos' claims that he acted in self-defense. And if they convict him, jurors will meet a number of Rijo De Los Santos' relatives in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico who will describe an idyllic upbringing much different than the hard-scrabble tales of woe that color most penalty phase hearings.

"Self-defense or not, this is a strange, strange case," veteran defense attorney Shiner said Wednesday of Rijo DeLos Santos. "It's fair to say I've never had a case close to this one before."

But just why the Dominican native would leave his girlfriend asleep at home and come to such a violent confrontation with the trio of transvestites is still unclear from court records and initial arrest reports in the case.

In the early hours of March 24, 2014, after Jackson was pronounced dead at St. Mary's Hospital, Hunter gave investigators the following account from his own hospital bed:

Hunter and Jackson were walking north on the 4400 block of Broadway in West Palm Beach earlier that night, both dressed as women. Hunter told Jackson his feet hurt and suggested they flag down a ride back to Jackson’s house in Riviera Beach.

Soon afterward, a man later determined to be Rijo De Los Santos picked them up in his silver SUV and agreed to take them home. When they got to Riviera Beach, Hunter asked Rijo De Los Santos to take them to a convenience store, and according to Hunter it was when they tried to get out of the car that the driver pulled out a semiautomatic gun and began shooting.

Hunter was shot in the arm. Jackson was shot at least 3 times and died.

Less than 20 minutes later, West Palm Beach police received another report of a shooting, this time in the 2000 block of North Dixie Highway. Chatman, another prostitute dressed as a woman, was shot in the hip and told police his shooter took out a gun as soon as he got in the car with him.

"You got in the wrong (expletive) car," Chatman told police the gunman said.

After Rijo De Los Santos' indictment on 1st-degree murder, attempted murder and felony murder charges, then-interim Palm Beach County State Attorney Pete Antonacci announced that prosecutors would be seeking the death penalty against Rijo De Los Santos.

Antonacci alone made the decision to seek death - a switch from the policies of his predecessor Michael McAuliffe and current top prosecutor Dave Aronberg, who both use committees to determine which cases to pursue capital punishment. State Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Edmondson this week said Aronberg's committee did not make a separate review of Rijo De Los Santos' case after Aronberg took office in 2013.

Either way, Rijo De Los Santos' trial marks the 1st death penalty case to go to trial in Palm Beach County since the 2013 trial of Bruce Strahan, accused of killing his estranged wife and two others in Lake Worth. A jury recommended a life sentence for him after just a half hour of deliberation in the penalty phase of his case.

The last local jury to recommend a death sentence locally was a 2009 federal jury, which voted unanimously for a death sentence for Ricardo Sanchez and Daniel Troya for the deaths of 3- and 4-year-old brothers who were part of a family gunned down on Florida's Turnpike over a drug debt.

Shiner will argue that Rijo De Los Santos acted in self-defense in both cases, and that the shootings were not 2 separate events but rather an ongoing defense of himself against a trio of transvestite prostitutes who were actually together when he first met them. He will argue that they produced knives and tried to rob him, forcing him to shoot.

Shiner this week said all 3 victims have criminal pasts, including Hunter, whose pretrial interview with Shiner and former prosecutor Cheryl Caracuzzo once had to be postponed because Hunter took offense at something Shiner said and nearly punched him.

Jury selection in Rijo De Los Santos' case is expected to last until the middle of next week.

If Rijo De Los Santos is convicted, Kelley ruled that he'll take a week-long break before the penalty phase of the trial. Shiner had asked for a break of at least 2 weeks.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

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

Doctors: Early brain injuries could have contributed to Davis' killings

Barry Davis' defense team is counting on his abnormal brain to keep him out of a cell on Florida's death row.

Expert witnesses in the fields of clinical psychology and neuropathology testified Thursday that head injuries Davis suffered at an early age had caused traumatic brain injuries. Those injuries could well have turned him aggressive and affected his judgment and impulse control.

Coupled with growing up mostly unloved on the mean streets of Los Angeles, anxiety and depression brought on by a failing relationship and injuries Davis suffered playing football, boxing and in ATV accidents created a deeply disturbed individual, doctors Julie Harper and Joseph Wu told jurors.

The testimony, solicited by attorney Michelle Hendrix, came on the 2nd day of the death penalty phase of Davis' trial. He was convicted Monday of killing South Walton County resident John Gregory Hughes and his girlfriend, Hiedi Ann Rhodes of Panama City Beach.

Brain injuries to a young person are potentially more harmful later in life because the brain still is developing, Wu told jurors. A PET scan of Davis' brain indicated an abnormal frontal lobe area, he testified.

"The frontal lobe is most susceptible to brain injuries that impact judgment and impulse control," he said. "A damaged frontal lobe is like driving a car when the brakes aren't working."

Outside factors such as the environment one grows up in can exacerbate problems stemming from the brain injuries, Wu told the jury.

"I think Mr. Davis has several factors present," he testified.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Bobby Elmore confirmed that Wu was well briefed in the grisly details of the murders of Hughes and Rhodes, including the beatings they suffered, the effort to make sure they were dead by placing their heads in a bathtub and the dismembering and burning of their bodies.

"Do you believe these deaths were the results of an impulse action?" Elmore asked.

Wu mostly shied from answering what he termed Elmore's "philosophical" questions. But when asked if a person with traumatic brain injury can understand that it's wrong to murder, he answered, "there's a different type of knowing."

"You can know murder is wrong but have the inability to regulate certain impulses," Wu said.

Today is expected to be the last day of testimony in the 2nd phase of what has been a 4-week trial. The jury then will be asked to return with a recommendation to have Davis either sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Walton County Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will impose the sentence, but by law he must give great weight to the jury's recommendation.

(source: Panama City News Herald)

KENTUCKY:

Judge denies mistrial request in death penalty case

A Superior Court judge has denied a mistrial request from a defense attorney after a juror who was previously selected was excused in the death penalty case. The jury selection process is in its 10th week.

One of Carl Kennedy's attorneys, Robert Campbell, requested a mistrial Thursday from Judge Christopher Bragg in Davidson County Superior Court but was denied. He presented the request in open court after Bragg granted an excusal to Davidson County assistant district attorneys on a juror seated in March who claimed Wednesday anxiety has been an issue over the possibility of giving Kennedy the death penalty as she has waited several weeks for the trial to start.

Kennedy and 2 others - David Earl Manning and Leigh Williams, both 44 - have been charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the November 2011 deaths of Sharon F. Rushing, 61, Angela Dawn Soles, 43, and Gary Lynn Seward, 52, all of 101 Rotary Lane in Thomasville. The state is seeking the death penalty against all 3 people, but Kennedy's case is being tried first.

Attorneys selected their 11th juror Wednesday as they hoped to find the needed 12 jurors and 2 alternates to start the trial. The decision for Bragg to allow the state to utilize 1 of its 12 excusals means there have only been 10 jurors seated through the 10th week of the trial.

Campbell requested Bragg consider granting the defense additional excusals if the court decided not to declare a mistrial Thursday. The defense attorney argued excusing the juror, who was the 2nd seated in the process, would prejudice Kennedy and his defense team as they were following a game plan with their excusals.

Bragg granted an additional excusal to the defense after he didn't grant the mistrial. That means the defense attorneys have used 11 of their now 13 excusals, and the state has utilized eight of its 12 excusals. Bragg chose not to excuse the juror wanting to be dismissed for cause. The judge has the authority to release prospective jurors for cause when he thinks they are not capable of serving in the case. The numbers for being released for cause by the judge are limitless.

While the attorneys typically receive 12 excusals to pick 12 jurors, they receive a total of two excusals to choose the two alternates. An excusal allows each of the sides in the case to dismiss a juror when they believe the person should not serve on the jury.

Thursday, the juror who was dismissed said it would be difficult to serve on the jury because of the possibility of sentencing someone to death. This juror said views changed as time has passed by in the past nine weeks since she was initially seated.

Jury selection continues Friday as the attorneys work to pick the rest of the jurors. Once the trial begins, the parties involved believe the case will take 4 weeks or more.

(source: The Dispatch)

TENNESSEE:

State prosecutor says there is no meaningful death penalty in Tennessee

One local state prosecutor says there is a problem with Tennessee's death penalty.

District Attorney General Barry Staubus said the most recent example is a death row inmate dying last week of natural causes.

Donald Strouth had been on death row for a Sullivan County murder for three decades, making him the state's longest-serving death row inmate.

Staubus said a more than 30-year appeal process is too long.

Tennessee is 1 of 32 states with the death penalty.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, right now, there are 73 people currently on death row in the state.

6 people have been executed since 1976, the last execution was in 2009.

Tennessee ranks 12th in the number of people on death row in the country.

It ranks 21st in the number of executions.

I talked with attorneys on both sides of the issue to find out what they think should be done about the death penalty in the volunteer state.

"Is there a just way for human beings to kill other human beings? I don't know," Steve Wallace, Sullivan County public defender said.

It's a question that's been debated for decades.

In 1978, the same year Tennessee reinstated its death penalty, a jury convicted and sentenced to death 19-year-old Donald Wayne Strouth for the murder of 70 year old shop-owner James Keegan.

"And until he passed away he was still on appeal, 2015," Staubus said.

37 years after his death sentence, Strouth died of an apparent heart attack, not by execution.

"I think that undermines the credibility of the criminal justice system. I think it's difficult for families and victims' families to deal with that long of an appellate process," Staubus said.

Strouth's execution date had recently been postponed until 2016.

"I just think that the cases need to be expedited in a more timely manner, and I know there's some movements in appellate courts to do that but there's still a huge backlog of these cases," Staubus said.

We talked with Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who said what's happening in Tennessee is reflecting a trend nationwide.

"I don't think the fact that Tennessee has not executed people recently is particularly extraordinary, I say that because executions are at a 20 year low in the United States," Dunham said.

Wallace said he remembers when Strouth was sentenced. He said at the time the state sought the death penalty for almost all murders.

But now, "I don't think it's a bad thing that the death penalty is used infrequently," Wallace said.

With the appeals process he said, "It's a big consumer of judicial time that's one of the biggest problems with the death penalty."

He said his solution would be to get rid of the death penalty.

We also talked with Larry Dillow, the defense attorney who represented Strouth in 1978.

He told me at that time he never expected Strouth would be on death row this long.

Right now all executions in Tennessee are on hold due to a pending lawsuit where death row inmates, including Strouth, questioned if the state's lethal injection process is constitutional.

(source: Allie Hinds, WJHL news)

KANSAS:

Kansas Man Faces Death Penalty

The Kansas Attorney General's Office announced they would seek the death penalty against David Cornell Bennett Jr. Bennett is charged with 4 counts of 1st degree premeditated murder, 1 count of rape, and 2 counts of criminal threat. In November of 2013, Cami Umbarger, 23, and her 3 children were found dead in their Parsons home. Bennett is currently being held in the Labette County Jail on a $5 million bond. His trial is set for October 5th in Parsons.

(source: fourstateshomepage.com)

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

Parsons Reacts to Proposed Death Penalty in Quadruple Homicide

If David Bennett Jr. is found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of Cami Umbarger and her 3 children in Parsons , he will be the 10th Kansas inmate on death row.

Kansas was the last state to re-instate the death penalty in the modern era, and has not executed an inmate since 1965.

Citizens reporter Tim Spears talked to in Parsons are overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty in Bennett's case. Primarily due to the involvement of children.

"Those kids were innocent," resident Paul Wallace said. "They didn't have an idea even if they were in bad surroundings. They didn't deserve to be killed."

"If you're gonna murder someone and a who innocent family, or a child, same thing needs to be done to you," death penalty supporter Sandy Shepherd said.

"Those were innocent kids," Lisa Lawson said. "[Cami] was innocent too. And what [Bennett] did, he deserves to be punished for it."

"[The] children didn't do nothing," said Gennie Ainesworth, whose granddaughter knew one of the victims. "My granddaughter cried for over 2 months cause she went to school with 1 of the children. And that's not something you should have to explain to a child. Your friend's in heaven now."

"[The children] didn't have nothing to do with it," death penalty supporter Tim Shultz said. "That's a pretty bad guy to do something like that to a family and them kids."

Since Kansas' current death penalty law enacted in 1994, there have been 85 capital cases in the state.

13 men have been sentenced to death, 1 sentence was removed and 2 sentences were vacated by the supreme court.

The 9 remaining are in early appeals.

(source: KOAM TV news)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska governor reiterates plans to veto bill abolishing death penalty

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has said it before and he will say it again: He plans to veto a bill passed this week that would abolish the state's death penalty.

"The Legislature is out of touch with Nebraskans on their vote to repeal the death penalty," Ricketts, a Republican who took office this year, said in a statement posted to Facebook. "The overwhelming majority of Nebraskans support the death penalty because they understand that it is an important tool for public safety."

The state's attorney general, Doug Peterson, has also criticized the legislature's decision, which he said "weakened [Nebraska's] ability to properly administer appropriate justice."

Ricketts had previously threatened to veto the bill, which lawmakers approved and sent to his desk Wednesday.

However, for Ricketts's veto to be upheld, it appears he will have to change the minds of some Nebraska lawmakers. In the state's unicameral legislature, which has 49 state senators, it takes 30 votes to override a veto from the governor. On Wednesday, there were 32 senators voting in favor of the bill.

"I will continue to work with senators to sustain my veto when I issue it," Ricketts said. He has until next week to officially veto the legislation.

If the bill does become law, Nebraska would be the 19th state to formally abolish the death penalty.

It would also be an outlier among states to act on the issue recently. Several states have repealed the death penalty or announced moratoriums over the last decade, but they have typically been blue states such as Maryland, which was the most recent state to formally abolish the practice.

While a majority of Americans support the death penalty (a number that has been falling for 2 decades), there is a very clear partisan divide on the issue: 3/4 of Republicans are in favor of capital punishment, while a majority of Democrats oppose it.

Nebraska is a reliably red state with a conservative legislature, making it something of an unexpected place to see the death penalty on the precipice of disappearing. Some lawmakers have pushed for a repeal for religious reasons, while others have pointed to wrongful convictions. Still others have pointed to it as an example of a wasteful government program.

"The reality is Nebraska hasn't executed anybody in about 20 years," State Sen. Colby Coash, a Republican who co-sponsored the repeal legislation, said in an interview. "That inability spoke to my feelings about inefficient government. I've said frequently, if any other program was as inefficient and as costly as this has been, we would've gotten rid of it a long time ago."

Nebraska last executed an inmate in 1997. Coash described his own personal evolution on the issue, which he traced back to that last execution, when he was a college student who lived not far from where the execution would be carried out.

"I went down to the state penitentiary where they were having the execution that evening," he said this week. "Out in the parking lot of the penitentiary, there was a party, basically. There was a band, they were cooking, people were tailgating. they had a countdown, like you see at New Year's Eve parties. ... It was a big party. You wouldn't have known you were at an execution."

He also said he saw another group praying on the other side of a security fence.

"After that event, I had some time to reflect on that," he said. "It didn't sit well with me. I didn't like how I felt celebrating the state killing somebody. My views on the death penalty changed pretty significantly after that happened."

There are 11 inmates on the state's death row. Their sentences would all be converted to life imprisonment if the bill goes into effect.

(source: Washington Post)

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

Ricketts appeals to public to flip death penalty votes

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is ramping up pressure on lawmakers to try to keep them from overriding his promised veto of a death penalty repeal bill Friday to contact their state senator and voice their support for capital punishment.

Lawmakers gave the repeal bill final approval on Wednesday with a 32-15 vote. At least 30 votes are needed to override a gubernatorial veto, so Ricketts has to flip at least 3.

Ricketts says he has argued to several lawmakers that the Nebraskans he talks to overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and prosecutors need it to protect public safety.

Ricketts has argued that lawmakers are out of touch with the public. Death penalty opponents are working to ensure that support for the bill holds.

The Omaha Police Officers' Association issued the following statement on the bill Friday:

"We believe that a total repeal is inappropriate. At a minimum the death penalty should be an option when a first responder or elected official is murdered, or the crimes are so heinous that they may warrant the ultimate penalty."

For several years the carrying out of the death penalty was in limbo as elected officials and the courts sorted out the legality of the method and procedures for applying the death penalty. This is no longer the case.

Governor Ricketts recently announced that Nebraska will soon have the drugs necessary for lethal injection.

"This issue is far too important to be decided by 33 Senators, many of whom who were elected while telling their voters they supported the death penalty. Rather, such an important issue should be decided by all the voters of Nebraska in a statewide ballot vote."

()source: KETV news)

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

Veto at the ready, Gov. Ricketts chases 3 votes in Legislature on death penalty repeal

Gov. Pete Ricketts must flip at least 3 votes to keep the death penalty in Nebraska.

Based on interviews with several state senators Thursday, the votes are in play, and advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate know it.

A leading repeal organization has activated its volunteer calling bank, and staff members for several senators said they were getting automated calls from death penalty supporters.

And the Hall County Board called an emergency meeting for today to consider a resolution in support of capital punishment, largely to influence the veto-vote decision of their state senator.

But no group carries a greater potential to influence the outcome than the state's top elected official.

"I really make the same argument to everybody: It's an important tool for public safety and public policy," Ricketts said during an interview Thursday.

The governor said he will veto Legislative Bill 268, but he declined to say when. Because the governor must act within 5 days of the bill's passage, the showdown will almost certainly take place next week, in the closing days of the legislative session.

The measure passed Wednesday with a surprisingly strong majority of 32 senators. Repeal supporters must keep at least 30 on their side to override the veto.

Several senators said Thursday that the historic vote prompted dozens of calls and e-mails from both sides of the issue. The governor used newspaper and television interviews and his social media accounts Thursday to encourage pro-death penalty Nebraskans to contact to their senators.

"My concern is that they're in that Capitol so much and listening to lobbyists and not to your average Nebraskan," Ricketts said.

And the governor met Thursday with several Republican senators he viewed as being open to reconsidering their positions.

"He said he hopes I could find it in my heart to support the veto," said Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo. "I told him I've got 4 days to think about it, and I'm trying to be open about it."

The governor also met with Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, who also finds himself being lobbied by the Hall County Board. Gloor voted against the repeal bill on the first 2 rounds of debate but joined supporters on the final round.

3 of the board members signed a letter to call the meeting, and one other indicated her support in an e-mail. Six of the seven board members have indicated that they will attend the emergency meeting, said Hall County Clerk Marla Conley.

Board member Gary Quandt said he will argue for the resolution to show solidarity with prosecutors and law enforcement officers. But he also wants to apply pressure on Gloor.

"I was strongly surprised by what the Legislature did," Quandt said Thursday.

Gloor said Thursday that he ultimately decided to vote for repeal because he became convinced that the legal battle over the state's execution protocol will never end.

"I want someone to answer this question: How are we going to get over the hump and do something we haven't been able to do in almost 2 decades," Gloor said. "What's different?"

One of the governor's messages to senators is that the state recently purchased a fresh supply of lethal injection drugs to replace those that had expired. And 3 current death row inmates are out of appeals, although death penalty opponents argue that new legal challenges will ensue once the state tries to carry out another execution.

In response to passage of the repeal bill, death penalty supporters also created a Facebook page titled: "Whose Side Are You On Senator? Save Capital Punishment Now." The site was dedicated to supporting the governor's veto of LB 268, and it had received 200 "likes" in 5 hours Thursday.

It also displayed draft mailings that were targeting Johnson and two other senators who voted for repeal: Brett Lindstrom of Omaha and Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. The mailings accuse the conservative senators of standing with Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, a longtime death penalty foe, rather than their constituents.

Bud Synhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, said grass-roots party activists were trying to rally voters to contact their senators. But he said the state GOP was not engaged in a robocall campaign, nor was he aware of any other groups responsible for such calls.

Stacy Anderson, director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said her organization was conducting a full grass-roots push by volunteers to generate calls to senators. She said her group was not involved in any automated calling campaigns.

Sen. John Murante of Gretna said he made the difficult decision to vote for repeal after having discussions with his Catholic priest. But he said he always made it clear to repeal supporters he wasn't sure how he would vote if it came to a veto override.

Murante said he's now hearing from more death penalty supporters, and he's listening to their input. Asked if he might support the governor during the override vote, he said, "It's possible."

When Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha campaigned for the Legislature, he said he supported the death penalty for the most heinous killers. But his view changed after listening to the argument that life in prison costs less than trying to carry out an execution.

And he met with a man who spent time on death row in another state for a crime he did not commit. Opposing the death penalty is more consistent with his Christian beliefs, he added.

Wednesday's fatal shooting of an Omaha police officer caused Hilkemann to rethink his vote for repeal. But he hasn't decided for sure how he will vote on the override.

A good lawmaker, Hilkemann said, keeps an open mind.

(source: omaha.com)

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

If death penalty repealed, punishment must fit crime

The Legislature's debate over the death penalty was wrenching in part because both sides are right about some things. And neither side is wrong about everything.

Those advocating for the death penalty argue that it is appropriate for the most heinous crimes; that capital punishment gives some criminals pause; that legal safeguards make it unlikely an innocent person will be put to death.

Those opposed argue that a civilized society shouldn't resort to vengeance; that the death penalty isn't handed down fairly to all murderers; that no statistical evidence shows it is a deterrent; that an innocent person might be wrongly put to death.

In the end, the question was largely a matter of personal conscience.

The Legislature voted to end Nebraska's death penalty, and Gov. Pete Ricketts promised to veto Legislative Bill 268. With more than enough lawmakers voting for repeal, an override of that veto seems likely.

Then what?

If they do repeal the death penalty, it will be incumbent on state senators to follow through and guarantee Nebraskans that adequate punishment is available to fit the very worst of crimes.

First, a life sentence should mean staying in prison for life.

The crimes of the 11 men on Nebraska's death row were unconscionable: Killing cabdrivers at random; torturing a victim for days; dismembering a 3-year-old boy and feeding some of his remains to a dog; shooting innocent people in a bank; abducting and killing a 12-year-old schoolgirl.

Such criminals should never walk the streets again. If lawmakers substitute a life sentence for the death penalty, then it must mean life. No possibility of parole. And any future effort to weaken that guarantee should be met with forceful opposition.

Next, fix the state's broken prison system.

The litany of problems is long: overcrowding, staffing shortages, inmates being given erroneous early release dates and last week's deadly riot at the Tecumseh State Prison.

Problems predate the new governor, new prisons director Scott Frakes and many current lawmakers. But all must step up now.

Tecumseh's issues date to the 1990s, when the state encouraged cities to compete for the new prison, selling it as an economic boon. Yet hiring and retaining sufficient prison staff is hard, especially in a rural locale.

At Tecumseh, guards work the most mandatory overtime in the prison system and too many quit. On March 31, the state had 103 vacancies for corrections officers and their leaders. Tecumseh, with the prison system's highest turnover, 23 percent, had 40 unfilled jobs when the riots occurred. Half of corrections officers at Tecumseh had less than 2 years' experience, and the average experience level of security staff was about 4 years.

Lawmakers should give prison officials the financial flexibility to address hiring, promotions and pay. Ricketts pledged to make headway on pay and incentives to reward employee experience.

The Legislature also has discussed how to ease prison crowding, find alternatives for the non-violent and improve programs for inmates. These goals must be diligently pursued to make certain there is always a cell for the most dangerous.

None of this is easy, or it already would have been done. But the riot showed that inaction has risks, too.

Finally, think again before going easier on gun criminals.

While debate has ended for this year, a bill to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some criminals could return. 6 years ago, a tougher mandatory penalty for drive-by shootings to combat gangs and guns passed 44-0. These are the people Nebraskans want behind bars.

Prosecutors and lawmen across the state have argued for keeping those mandatory sentences. Lawmakers should listen and stand firm against any renewed effort to jettison these protections.

A majority of legislators have voted to repeal the death penalty. Now they must make certain that dangerous criminals go to prison, that well-run prisons have room to hold the guilty and that a life sentence means what it says.

The punishment must fit the worst of crimes.

(source: Editorial, Omaha World-Herald)

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

Veto Expected After Nebraska Lawmakers Vote To Abolish Death Penalty

NPR's Audie Cornish interviews Bill Kelly, a reporter with NET, Nebraska's Public Broadcasting Network, about the Nebraska legislature's vote Wednesday to abolish the death penalty.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There are 32 states that still have the death penalty, but lawmakers in Nebraska say their state should no longer be one of them. Legislation to end capital punishment was approved earlier this week. Now it's on the desk of Governor Pete Ricketts, and Ricketts says he'll definitely veto it. In fact, right now Governor Ricketts is lobbying state senators hard because anti-death penalty advocates just may have the votes to override that veto. Bill Kelly is a reporter for NET Nebraska Public Broadcasting Network, and he's going to tell us more. Welcome to the program, Bill.

BILL KELLY: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: So this is not the 1st time that there's been an attempt to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska, but what's driving it this time? Was there a particular crime incident - someone on death row that has people changing their minds?

KELLY: It has been a real incremental change, and so you can't point to any one incident to say that there was a change of opinion. We've seen a gradual change in public opinion and in the makeup of the legislature over the past few years that's led to this vote to repeal just earlier this week.

CORNISH: You talked about the makeup of the legislature, but I understand in Nebraska, it's non-partisan, one House, so how do you kind of figure out the lay of the land there?

KELLY: That's part of what made going into this legislative session so difficult to figure out where this issue would land. There have been efforts to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska literally since statehood. What's changed most recently, perhaps, is there has been a noticeable change in public opinion polls showing a shift, especially among conservatives who see the whole death penalty process as perhaps being too costly, that it's morally objectionable and consistent with their view of the sanctity of human life. We also have term limits, and so there was a whole new crop of freshmen senators as well, many who did not get asked about their position on the death penalty during their campaigns. So sorting it out was a significant issue, and it wasn't until these last votes as the bill made its way through that people had a real understanding of just how wide a margin it would be. And 32-15 is a pretty significant margin.

CORNISH: So then Governor Ricketts actually said this - no one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there's overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska. Is the governor right about that?

KELLY: In the most recent poll done by the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which does have an interest in the debate, 30 % said the death penalty was an appropriate punishment for murder, but that meant nearly 60 % thought a sentence of no parole or the possibility of parole was preferable to capital punishment. That's a huge shift from the mid '90s when nearly 90 % of those polled said they supported the death penalty.

CORNISH: There are about a dozen people on death row in Nebraska right now. What happens to them, and has there been any reaction from, say, the loved ones of their victims?

KELLY: Probably not a lot changes. Nebraska hasn't had an execution in the state since 1997. That's when we still had the electric chair. There hasn't been a single execution since the state shifted to process of lethal injection. If the state goes to life without parole, they will simply stay in the state's correctional facilities until they die.

CORNISH: That's Bill Kelly. He reports for NET, Nebraska's Public Broadcasting Network. Thanks so much for talking with us. KELLY: Thank you, Audie.

(source: npr.org)

ARIZONA:

Rector attorney takes county's other death penalty case

A Mesa attorney, with an office in Kingman, now represents Mohave County's 2 death penalty cases.

Gerald Gavin has been assigned to represent Darrell Bryant Ketchner in his second murder trial. In December, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned Ketchner's conviction and sentencing for 1st-degree murder and burglary and remanded the charges back for a new trial. His conviction for 3 counts of aggravated assault and attempted murder were upheld.

Prosecutors are again seeking the death penalty against Ketchner, 56, in his upcoming 2nd trial. The county's only other capital case is Justin James Rector, who is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body for the kidnapping and murder of Isabella Grogan-Cannella Sept. 2, 2014. Gavin also represents Rector.

Ketchner's murder case is being heard before Superior Court Judge Rick Williams at his Bullhead City courtroom. Ketchner remains on death row at the state prison. The judge set the next hearing for June 8. Ketchner's trial will be held in Kingman.

Ketchner's former appellate attorney, David Goldberg withdrew from the case. A 2nd attorney, required in death penalty cases, will also be appointed.

Ketchner entered Jennifer Allison's Kingman home on the night of July 4, 2009, where she sat at the kitchen table with her 18-year-old daughter, Ariel Allison. Another daughter, her boyfriend and 3 younger children belonging to Ketchner and Jennifer Allison were in the other room.

Ketchner allegedly started to hit his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Allison, chased her outside and shot her in the head as she lay in the driveway. He also allegedly stabbed Ariel Allison 8 times in her mother's bedroom where she later died. The other children escaped out a window. Jennifer Allison survived her wounds but had no memory of the attack.

The Supreme Court ruled that testimony from a prosecutor's witness was inadmissible evidence that required Ketchner's conviction and sentence to be reversed. The prosecutor argued that Ketchner entered Jennifer Allison's home to kill her to take control of the family he was losing.

(source: Mohave Daiy News)

USA:

Protestants join Catholics in reconsidering the death penalty

Nebraska is showing the most visible signs of a change in thinking by Christians and conservatives on the death penalty, and Catholics are helping to lead the way. For many, the catalyst has been a simple question: "If I value life, how can I support taking a life when the death penalty doesn't make us any safer?"

In response, more are embracing a consistent life ethic.

3 times in the past month, the Nebraska Legislature voted for a bill to repeal capital punishment and replace it with life without parole. The governor has promised to veto the legislation, and an override vote is looming. Many of the Christian lawmakers made it clear they cast their votes against the death penalty, in part, to promote a whole life ethic.

The leader of the group is Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, a Catholic who put his personal reasons for opposing capital punishment into one easily understood phrase. "I am pro-life," he said.

Coash and his colleagues are also interested in enacting public policies based on facts, as well as on faith. They have studied capital punishment in detail and have determined it does nothing to contribute to our safety.

They're concerned about the 153 people released from death row for wrongful convictions and the death penalty's disproportionate impact on communities of color, the poor and those with intellectual disabilities.

"Is the death penalty truly effective as a deterrent?" Coash asked. "There's absolutely no evidence that we've seen that the death penalty acts as a deterrent."

Nebraska conservative Christian politicians are not operating in a vacuum. This year in Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire and South Dakota, their counterparts sponsored bills to repeal capital punishment. In South Dakota, a Republican state representative who is an evangelical pastor changed his mind on the death penalty and sponsored the bill to repeal it. Conservatives in red states such as Tennessee, North Carolina and Montana, as well as Nebraska, have formed groups to question the death penalty.

According to a recent poll, roughly 1/2 of voters in Nebraska support replacing the death penalty with an alternative such as life in prison. That aligns with polling of Americans nationwide. For a growing number of Christians, opposition to the death penalty remains fundamentally grounded to one issue - their commitment to promoting a culture of life.

"We must all be careful to temper our natural outrage against violent crime with a recognition of the dignity of all people, even the guilty," the Catholic bishops of Nebraska said in a joint statement on March 17.

Catholics will remember that the seeds for what is happening today were planted 20 years ago with "Evangelium Vitae," Pope John Paul II's encyclical expressing the church's position on the sanctity of human life.

Interestingly, evangelicals in Nebraska and elsewhere are joining Catholics in re-evaluating their support for capital punishment. For example, the Rev. William Thornton told the Nebraska Legislature's judiciary committee:

"I'd like to say that as a Christ follower who believes that Christ died for all, that no person is beyond redemption, that I believe we should never advocate cutting someone's life short and thereby guaranteeing no chance for them to experience redemption."

Nothing demonstrates this change more emphatically than the stand against capital punishment taken recently by a nationwide group of evangelicals. On March 27, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition passed a resolution calling for abolition of the death penalty.

"This is a biblical commitment," said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the association, at a news conference held during the organization’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

New voices, Christian and conservative, are increasingly making themselves heard in America's death penalty debate. They are coming to the conclusion that ending the death penalty will help them adhere more closely to their faith and be more consistent in their beliefs, while helping our society better value life and promote justice.

(source: Commentary; Heather Beaudoin is a national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a project of Equal Justice USA----Religion News Service)

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

Abolish federal death penalty

The bombing in Boston was a horrible crime. The bomber was a horrible person, but this trial was also about us. This trial was also about who we are.

What message do we send when a state, in cold blood, kills the killer? Perhaps, we would have fewer homicides and fewer acts of terrorism if we had more respect for human life.

Why is the United States the only western democracy that has not abolished the death penalty?

Even western democracies that have suffered terrible terrorist attacks have not brought back the death penalty.

We have ended the death penalty in Massachusetts with life imprisonment without parole. It is now time to end it at the federal level with life imprisonment without parole.

Ronal C. Madnick, Worcester

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Telegram)

UNITED KINGDOM:

'I'd bring back death penalty for child killers' - PCC Matthew Grove

Humberside police and crime commissioner Matthew Grove says he supports bringing back the death penalty for murderers who kill children.

Mr Grove said he would also back capital punishment for those who kill "vulnerable" people.

The police and crime commissioner discussed his views on the topic as part of a new online documentary series, Eye On Crime, which has been launched by Humberside Police.

Mr Grove said: "I would [bring back capital punishment] for a very clear area of crime and that is where you have the murder of vulnerable people, by which I mean children and disabled people, where they are targeted for a malicious attack and murdered.

"I would be quite happy for that category of people to face the ultimate sanction because that's a group of people who are not able to protect themselves and we, as a society, have an absolute duty to do everything we can to say these people are not to be touched."

The 3 30-minute programmes have been produced by East Coast Pictures, with support from Humberside Police, Hull City Council and Crimestoppers.

Domestic abuse, which makes up 12 per cent of all calls made to Humberside Police, is one of the issues the programme focuses on.

Denise Farman, service manager for Women's Aid, said: "We wanted to get the message out to as many people, women and men, across our area about the help and advice available and through online and social media, the programme helps us to do that."

PC Andy Allen, Crime reduction officer for Humberside Police in Hull, also gives advice to viewers on how to protect themselves and their property.

Julia Thompson, executive producer for East Coast Pictures, said: "More video is watched on mobile devices now than on desktop, so we created the special programmes to showcase some of the great work being done by local organisations to make our communities even safer places to live and work."

Visit www.eyeoncrime.tv to view the series.

(source: Hull Daily Mail)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia trying to win UN Human Rights Council presidency

In a move that will definitely drill the "final nail in the coffin for credibility" for the United Nations' Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia is set to make a bid to head the HRC.

The news surfaced after the United Nations Watch that overlooks the HRC pushed the United States to prevent the nation that recently advertised for 8 new executioners to not be awarded the title.

"We urge US Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers' radical brand of Wahabbist Islam," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, reported The Independent.

"Electing Saudi Arabia as the world's judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac as the town fire chief."

Currently, Germany is heading the HRC but when its term ends in 2016, the new presidency will be announced.

According to a UN official, the presidency will be determined by elections in December 2015.

Saudi Arabia was elected a member of the HRC in 2013 - a move that drew heavy criticism from human rights campaigners worldwide.

Saudi Arabia carried out its 79th execution in 2015 on Wednesday (6 May) despite calls from Amnesty International to bring to a halt the "macabre spike" in the country's executions.

"This unprecedented spike in executions constitutes a chilling race to the bottom for a country that is already among the most prolific executioners on the planet," said Said Boumedouha, the deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"If this alarming execution rate continues, Saudi Arabia is well on track to surpass its previous records, putting it out of step with the vast majority of countries around the world that have now rejected the death penalty in law or practice."

Oil-rich kingdom wants to recruit executioners

In 2014, an estimated 87 executions were carried out by the Kingdom, which is a stark reminder of the alarming rate with which executions are being carried out in 2015.

The Kingdom recently advertised for more executioners to behead convicted prisoners with the job description suggesting the appointees should be able to perform amputations as well.

Crimes that can result in the death penalty in the Kingdom, include adultery, armed robbery, blasphemy, drug trafficking, murder and rape to name a few.

(source: International Business Times)

BURMA:

Burma Fails To Revoke Controversial Law Used To Jail Dissidents

A proposal to revoke a controversial law used to jail political dissidents was rejected by Burma's Lower House of parliament, with its supporters claiming that overturning the legislation would "throw the country into chaos".

The Emergency Provisions Act, enacted in 1950, carries the death penalty and sentences of up to life in prison for treason or sabotage against military organizations, as well as up to 7 years in prison for a sweeping range of other offenses against the state. Article 5 of the law grants sweeping authority to the government to prosecute individuals who disseminate "false news" or otherwise "jeopardize the state".

Burma's leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), proposed scrapping the legislation on the grounds that successive governments have primarily used it as a tool for arresting activists. The proposal was rejected by a landslide vote of 50 for, 256 against and 17 abstentions.

Lower House parliamentarian Win Myint, a member of the NLD, said his party was disappointed by the defeat, which preserved what he views as a redundant law designed to instill fear and restrict political activity. "All of the provisions in the law are already enshrined in the Penal Code, which is already in place to prosecute those who break the law. It is unacceptable that authorities can repress citizens with another law", said Myint.

(source: Eurasia Review)

PAKISTAN----executions

3 convicts executed in Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan jails

3 death row convicts were executed in Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Multan Central jails on Thursday.

Also, hanging of 2 convicts has been put on hold.

In Gujranwala, 2 executions were scheduled for Thursday; however, convict Amjad's hanging was stayed owing to a compromise deal was reached between the litigant sides.

The other convict, Aijaz alias Jajji was hanged at the gallows early this morning. He killed Ghulam Rasool who demanded his money back from him.

In Faisalabad also, 2 hangings were scheduled on Thursday; however, convicted prisoner, Abid's hanging has been delayed for a day after his family members produced a stay order from the court.

Another death row prisoner, Shaukat Masih breathed his last at the gallows in a Faisalabad's jail. The convict was proved guilty of Nadeem Masih's murder.

In Multan, a death house inmate, Abbas, was executed for twin murders. He killed 2 people over land dispute in 1996.

The medical check up of all executed convicts was conducted prior to their execution. The convicts also held last meeting with their relatives; meanwhile the dead bodies were handed over to the heirs after the execution.

(source: South Asian Broadcasting Agency)

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

ATC Hyderabad issues black warrants for 3 convicts

The Anti Terrorism Court Hyderabad here Thursday issued black warrants for hanging to death of 3 convicts awarded death penalty in the PIA plane hijacking case.

According to details obtained from the court, the condemned prisoners will be hanged to death on May 28.

2 of the convicts Sabir Baloch and Shahsawar Baloch are imprisoned in Central Jail Hyderabad and one Shabbir Baloch in Central Jail Karachi.

They were convicted for hijacking in August 1998 and their subsequent appeals in the Sindh High Court and the Supreme Court were dismissed in August 1999 and August 2000, respectively.

The PIA's plane which flew from Gawadar for Karachi was hijacked in May, 1998, and it landed in Hyderabad where the security forces succeeded in arresting the hijackers while avoiding any injury to the 33 passengers and 5 crew members who were on- board.

(source: Business Recorder)

ETHIOPIA:

UN investigates Briton on death row in Ethiopia----Special rapporteur on torture asks UK and Ethiopian governments about detention of Andargachew Tsige amid claims of ill-treatmen

The detention of a British citizen held on death row in Ethiopia for almost a year is being investigated by the United Nations official responsible for preventing torture.

Andargachew Tsige was arrested last June while in transit through Yemen’s main airport and forcibly removed to Addis Ababa. He is the leader of an opposition party and had been condemned to death several years earlier in his absence.

Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating the treatment of Tsige. There are claims Tsige is being deprived of sleep and held in isolation.

His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their 3 children, said she had only spoken to him once by telephone since his abduction. "He's in prison but we have no idea where he is being held," she said. "He said he was OK but I'm sure the call was being listened to.

"He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn't even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

"They say there was an extradition agreement but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television 3 times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets.

"He has been kept under artificial light 24 hours a day and no one [other than the UK ambassador] has had access to him. I feel angry with the Foreign Office. They know they could do more. They have political leverage they could use but have not done so."

Tsige, 60, known as Andy, had previously been secretary general of Ginbot 7, a political opposition party that called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. He first came to the UK in 1979. The Ethiopian government has accused him of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death.

"No effort was made to extradite him to face the court. A US embassy cable, released through WikiLeaks, described the trial as "lacking in basic elements of due process".

"[Andy] is a politician, not a terrorist," said Hailemariam. "It's just the Ethiopian government that thinks it does not need to make any space for the opposition. A delegation of British MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, were stopped from travelling to Ethiopia in February. They are hoping to try again."

Tsige was accused by the Ethiopian government of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Hailemariam's dissatisfaction with the UK government's response follows the release of internal Foreign Office memorandums earlier this year that appeared to show official reluctance to apply pressure on Ethiopia to obtain Tsige's release.

The UK prime minister, David Cameron, has, however, written a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart, Hailemariam Desalegn, raising concerns about Tsige.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The foreign secretary has raised this case with the Ethiopian foreign minister on 13 separate occasions. We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsige being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer."

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve's death penalty team said: "Andy Tsige was illegally kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has now been held in a secret location for nearly a year. The UN special rapporteur is right to raise concerns about torture - especially given Ethiopia's terrible record on human rights, and their denial of any meaningful consular access.

"It is crucial that the British government now takes stronger action on this case. The way Andy has been treated is in serious violation of international law and the most basic principles of justice - the UK must push for his immediate release."

Tsige's lawyer, the barrister Ben Cooper of Doughty Street chambers, said: "[He] was abducted at an international airport, hooded and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has been held incommunicado under a death sentence that was passed unlawfully in his absence. He remains in isolation nearly a year later with only occasional access to the open air.

"His detention violates all minimum standards of treatment. We ask the Foreign Office to follow the lead of the UN special rapporteur on torture to demand an immediate end to Mr Tsege's torture by seeking his return home to his family in England. This is a clear case of kidnap and should be treated as such."

Elections are taking place in Ethiopia this weekend. Tsige's family hopes the government will relax restrictions on the opposition once voting is over.

In a lengthy statement, the Ethiopian embassy said that Ginbot 7 had been proscribed a terrorist organisation by the country's parliament. Tsige, as general secretary, it added, was charged with "conspiring to perpetrate terror and violence in Ethiopia by planning, training, financing, and organising terrorist recruits in Eritrea" and found guilty of "conspiring and working with and under Ginbot 7, to overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia through terrorist acts".

Following conviction and sentence, the embassy continued, the government sent a formal request of assistance to those states with which Ethiopia has an extradition treaty, requesting them to transfer all sentenced individuals in the event of their presence on their territory.

"It was on the basis of this request, and the existing extradition treaty with the Republic of Yemen, that [he] was extradited to Ethiopia. Accordingly, [he] is currently in detention at the federal prison," it said.

The statement added: "Mr Tsige was serving as a Trojan horse, assisting the Eritrean government's repeated and ongoing attempts to wreak havoc and instability in the sub-region. Mr Tsige is well-treated and has received visits from the British ambassador to Ethiopia. He has also spoken to his family on the phone."

(source: The Guardian)

SUDAN:

Trial begins for 2 South Sudanese pastors in Khartoum

The trial of 2 South Sudanese pastors opened Tuesday in Khartoum, Sudan nearly 5 months after Security and Intelligence Services first detained them.

On 21 December last year, Reverend Yat Michael Ruot, a visiting South Sudanese pastor from Juba, was arrested after a Sunday worship service. Rev David Yein Reith of the Presbyterian Evangelical Church was arrested on 9 January as he returned to his home at the Gerif West Bible School in Khartoum from a prayer meeting.

Yein's arrest may have been linked to a letter he delivered to the Office of Religious Affairs in Khartoum to inquire about the arrest of Yat Michael, according to his relatives.

The 2 religious leaders were facing charges of inciting religious sedition and sectarian and tribal hatred between denominations. They have also been charged with spying for outsiders and collecting and leaking information to the detriment of Sudanese national security.

The charge under article 50 of the Sudanese penal code (undermining the constitutional system) could result in the death penalty, according to the defence lawyers.

(source: radiotamazuj.org.)

GHANA:

Hang EC officials - KT Hammond declares

The Electoral Commission has been branded the greatest threat to Ghana's democracy presently.

According to Kobina Tahir Hammond, MP for Adansi Asokwa, top officials of the EC may have to face the death penalty for grievous acts of indiscretion and misconduct that threaten the security of the nation.

The former Minister in the Kufuor administration's comment follows a new blunder that saw the EC abort a recent voter registration exercise that was to capture new voters on the nation's electoral roll.

"We have to get all of them hanged, [or] drowned under sea or get some air space craft to send them to mars ... This crop of Electoral Commission guys are doing far more serious damage to our constitutional development than the 'coup d'etats' that we have encountered in this country," he said.

The Minority Spokesperson on Energy, said the current crop of officials at the EC failed to put in place the necessary procedures for the district assembly elections to proceed smoothly.

"Any elementary student studying government would have known the structures that the Electoral Commission should have put in place, they did not ... 300 million cedis was wasted because of this same Electoral Commission." He recalled that though the Supreme Court asked the EC to return to the basics and undertake proper local government elections, they failed to do so.

"Sometimes you wonder whether they are actuated by some evil forces. Sometimes you sit down and wonder what kinds of forces are actuating the minds of some of these people who are in the helm of affairs," he remarked.

He was convinced the challenges facing the Commission were purely based on "recklessness" rather than administrative lapses.

“Will you describe 300 million dollars down the lane as administrative lapses. I do not, I describe it as recklessness, hopelessness...We have always known that coup d'etats have been the greatest bar to our development but I will say that Sulley and his current crop of leaders are more dangerous than those we undertook or staged coup...

"...these guys if we allow them to go on the way they are going will do worse than those who staged a coup d'etat in this country ...The President and those in authority must stamp their bar to remove them," he insisted.

The Adansi Asokwa MP's comments come just a day after a Political Scientist, Dr. Ransford Gyampo, equally demanded the removal of top EC officials who presided over the abortive voter registration exercise.

(source: vibeghana.com)

INDONESIA:

The right to life and Indonesian nationalism

When officials and Islamic organizations in Indonesia commented on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, one could hardly find a statement that criticized only the terrorists. A statement on the issue seemed to be incomplete without condemning the cartoonists for their profane caricatures. The magazine is published in France and many Indonesians believe that there should be global standards for the ethics of satire.

The Muhammadiyah Muslim organization has urged the UN through the Indonesian government to develop a respective code of conduct. The right to not be insulted by caricatures is seen as a universal human right.With the executions of the Bali Nine duo and others, the very same people were completely contradictory. Instead of defending the universally recognized right to life, they emphasize national sovereignty and the particular ethical conduct of a country. Indonesia, in their point of view, did not have to comply with international human rights in that case, nor did it have to negotiate with other countries.

The death penalty is perceived as an expression of national sovereignty. National sovereignty here means the sovereignty of Indonesian laws over international human rights. This nationalist perception leads to a legal positivism that outweighs universal human rights.

First president Sukarno's demand for political sovereignty, economic self-sufficiency and cultural independence is still an ideal of political currents in Indonesia across the board, from right-wing military figures to leftist activists. But as a part of the global community, Indonesia could benefit from the exchange of ideas and international cooperation, and many are not aware that this is already the case: The Bali 9 drug smugglers would never have been caught without the help of and cooperation with Australian authorities. Unfortunately, Indonesia cannot expect that kind of support any more as Western countries usually refuse to cooperate with countries that have the death penalty.

Indonesia might be an archipelago, but there are almost no unidentified remote islands on the map of the UN any more. When Indonesian officials and civil organizations call for the universal recognition of the dignity of faith, they also should listen to those in favor of universal human rights. Universal values are not recognized as a priori by all cultures, but recognition requires a process of negotiation and exchange of ideas and arguments.

There are many ways to justify the right to life. It can be justified by referring to holy books; it can be justified by referring to human dignity or to natural law. Indonesia should not isolate itself from the discussion about human rights or contrast human rights to national sovereignty.

Apart from the right to live, mercy is also common and acknowledged in almost every culture, so why should it not play a more important role in Indonesia's legal system? What prompted many Australians to demand the right to life for Australian inmates on death row were news reports about Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, Bali.

The international community saw the 2 Australian prison inmates convincingly regretting their crime and engaging in rehabilitation activities. They saw desperate relatives begging for mercy. It was almost impossible not to feel empathy for the men on death row and their relatives.

Despite the fact that some Indonesians accused Australia of defending drug trafficking, the war against drugs is also not the aim of just one country, but it is universally acknowledged that drugs are dangerous and selling and consuming drugs should be prevented. Here, Indonesia also can work together with other countries. The Indonesian government delayed the executions until after the recent 60th commemoration of the Asian-African Conference.

While the sovereignty of each country was highlighted here, just as in the public discourse in Indonesia - and perceived interference by other countries to protect their citizens on death row were perceived as a rejection of Indonesia's sovereignty - the spirit of the 1955 conference was quite another case.

The 1st principle in the 1955 declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation demanded respect for fundamental human rights and the principles of the UN Charter, including, of course, the right to life.

By executing foreign citizens, international cooperation falls prey to nationalism as a political tool for the national elite. Instead of dealing with drug trafficking by implementing police reform to establish an effective tool to fight drug production and trafficking, some drug traffickers are seemingly executed as a political statement.

The international community is not an archipelago of isolated islands even if some nationalists might think so. The task of upholding universal rights is much more difficult than claiming particular cultural values. Why not take the right to life and mercy as universal values?

Australia and European countries can learn from that value, too. Showing mercy for refugees who are seeking a better life in Australia or in the European Union is also necessary if governments advocate for mercy convincingly.

It is time to re-think our common base of values as a global community and overcome nationalism.

(source: Opinion; Ririn Sefsani works for the Partnership for Governance Reform and is engaged in voluntary supporter campaigns for Jokowi (Seknas Jokowi). Timo Duile is a lecturer at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. The views expressed are their own----The Jakarta Post)

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De Lima sees Veloso permanently saved from death row

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima believes the statements of the alleged illegal recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso will boost her quest to avoid being executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

Speaking to reporters, De Lima yesterday said the statements of Maria Cristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao that Veloso did not know she was carrying heroin into Indonesia would be a "big help" to her lawyers in appealing her drug smuggling conviction and death penalty.

"This is a good development and an indication that we are at the right direction, right track ... If it will be proven in the ongoing investigation (that she is innocent), this will be a big thing for Mary Jane," she said.

"This shows that it was right to suspend the implementation of the death so the truth would first come out."

The government will inform Indonesian authorities of the affidavits of Sergio and Lacanilao "for their own appreciation," she added.

De Lima said more information would come out in the preliminary investigation on the human trafficking, illegal recruitment and swindling charges against Sergio and Lacanilao.

"It would help if we get additional information, especially on the drug trafficking angle," she said. "That is what we need to pursue."

De Lima said Sergio and Lacanilao could provide more information to help Veloso's case in Indonesia.

"If they are saying that Mary Jane is innocent, that means they have knowledge about that drug trafficking angle - how exactly the deal happened," she said.

Edre Olalia, Veloso's lawyer from National Union of People's Lawyers, said Sergio's affidavit could be used as evidence to prove Veloso's innocence in Indonesian courts.

"It can be used as a basis by our Indonesian counterparts," he said.

"In fact, they are actually waiting for the translation from English to Bahasa so they will communicate immediately with the attorney general's office about this statement."

In her affidavit submitted to the DOJ last Wednesday, Sergio said Veloso fell prey to 2 "dark skinned, curly-haired men" that she identified as Ike and John while they were in Malaysia in April 2010 to look for a job.

Sergio said she believes that Veloso was a victim who "was taken advantage of because she didn't know any better, was in dire need of a job and because of her tendency to trust people, even strangers."

(source: Philippine Star)

EGYPT:

Death sentence may turn maligned Morsi into a venerated martyr

Last week, Egypt's supreme court sentenced deposed president Mohammed Morsi to death for a mass prison break in 2011. The ruling, which has been referred to the Grand Mufti for advice, has drawn local and international criticism. However, the death sentence on Morsi has stirred up something more dramatic than criticism and condemnations; the rising sympathy for the President who was removed from power with popular support.

Mohammed Morsi's rise to power began with the fall of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak who was forced to step down following nationwide protests against his rule. Morsi won the presidential election that followed on the platform of the Justice and Peace party, controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood which was illegal until Mubarak's downfall. The election was regarded as the freest in the history of the country and Morsi became the 1st democratically elected President.

However Morsi's fall kicked in not long after his rise began. A mixture of authoritarian moves, conservative policies and the failure to revive Egypt's crashed economy led to the swell of criticism against Morsi and an eventual nationwide protest against his government. Citing popular rejection, the Army led by now-president Fattah al-Sisi sacked Morsi's government for failing to accede to the demand of the people.

Following its removal of Morsi and his government, the al-Sisi-led army began suppressing the President and the Muslim Brotherhood. A heavy crackdown of the group's protests led to the death of dozens of brotherhood members. The suppression continued through al-Sisi's contest, and victory, in a reconstituted presidential election in which he promised to exterminate the islamist group. Despite banning the group and jailing its leaders, including Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's is still far from becoming forgotten, and Morsi is only gaining a rise in public sympathy.

The Egyptian judiciary says it is prosecuting Morsi and his allies in the Brotherhood for several offences against the state, but the institution has increasingly found itself in trial. Mass death sentences and accusations of violation of the defendants' fundamental human rights have irked even the government's closest allies. The European Union and the US, major backers of the Egyptian government, have severally raised concerns about the procedures of justice and the State's disrespect of human rights. The Egyptian Coptic church, which loudly criticised the Morsi government and his islamist group, have joined in condemning the death sentence for the former president. Social activists in the country have also raised fears about the government usage of the clampdown on Islamic terrorism as a guise to harp freedom of speech. Many of such activists have found themselves behind bars.

The criticisms of the Judiciary and the government's heavy handedness has emboldened Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters. It is also swelling public sympathy for the unpopular president. Following the death sentence passed on him, many in Egypt and around the middle-east took to Twitter to express solidarity with him using the Hashtags #WeStandforMorsi #IamMorsi and several others. Human rights group Amnesty International described the trial was a "charade" and based on "void procedures". "Condemning Mohamed Morsi to death after more grossly unfair trials shows a complete disregard for human rights ... he was held for months incommunicado without judicial oversight and that he didn't have a lawyer to represent him," the organisation said in a statement.

Turkey has also been at the forefront of criticising the trial and judgement. The country's state-run Anatolian news agency quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying; "While the West is abolishing the death penalty, they are just watching the continuation of death sentences in Egypt. They don't do anything about it."

These condemnations show the dangers of using repression to combat political opposition. The continent is replete with examples of where such political oppression launched or relaunched the career of political opponents. South Africa's Nelson Mandela, Zimbabwe's Roberto Mugabe, and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo are prominent examples of political actors who imprisonment only served to inflame public support.

Mohammed Morsi's case seems to be different from the above examples, given the genuine opposition to his group's islamist ideology by about half of the Egyptian population. Nevertheless, the high-handed measures of the current government may see it assume the same level of unpopularity that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood achieved in less than one year in Power. The Justice Ministry has rejected the criticism of the death penalties on Mohamed Morsi and over 120 others, a sign that it may not bulge on its verdict. However, if the government goes ahead with the verdict and puts Mohammed Morsi to death, they may just be cleansing him of the errs of his time in power and launching him as a symbol against an oppressive regime, despite the fact that he once led one.

(source: ventures-africa.com)

IRAN----executions

11 Prisoners Executed in Iran

The execution surge continues in Iran. at least 11 prisoners were hanged in the 710505Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj (West of Tehran) yesterday morning, May 21. According to sources Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been in contact with all the prisoners were convicted of drug-related charges. Eight of the prisoners were among those who participated in a prison riot in Ghezelhesar last year.

6 of the prisoners are identified as "Afshin Karimi", "Ahmad Teimouri", "Mohsen Mirzaei", Farman Ganjavi, Mohsen Rafeii and Seyed Hossein Seyd Rezaei.

None of these executions have been announced by the official Iranian sources. A large number of the executions in Iran are not announced by the authorities. Most of these prisoners are charged with drug offences.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

MAY 21, 2015:

TEXAS----3 new execution dates

Daniel Lopez has been given an execution date for August 12; Bernardo Tercero has been given an execution date for August 26, and Juan Garcia has been given an execution date for October 6. All these dates should be considered serious.

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Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----7

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----525

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

8----------June 3--------------------Les Bower------------526

9-----------June 18-------------------Gregory Russeau------527

10---------August 12-----------------Daniel Lopez---------528

11---------August 26-----------------Bernardo Tercero-----529

12---------October 6-----------------Juan Garcia----------530

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NORTH CAROLINA:

N.C. House bill would loosen execution restrictions

Although 149 criminals sit on North Carolina's death row, not one inmate in the state has been executed in 9 years.

A bill in the N.C. legislature seeks to restart executions by making changes to the protocol that has been one of the major obstacles to the process for nearly a decade.

House Bill 774, which was passed by the N.C. House and is currently under consideration in the Senate, would allow medical professionals other than licensed physicians to oversee executions.

Under the bill, the presence of physician assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and emergency medical technicians would also suffice to perform a legal execution.

Brian Bechtol, a North Carolina physician assistant and owner of Urgent Care of Mountain View in Hickory, N.C., said physician assistants are just as qualified to perform an execution.

"I think it's good that our roles are expanding. I just don't like the topic that is being discussed right now," he said.

"No matter what your personal belief is, and I absolutely believe in the death penalty, as a medical professional - where we swear to save lives when possible - that sort of goes against our ethical principles."

The American Medical Association assists with the credentialing of physician assistants as well as physicians. The association strongly encourages physicians not participate in executions.

In 2007, the North Carolina Medical Board banned providers from giving lethal injection to inmates.

Although the N.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the board could not take away physicians' licenses for participating, physicians have since been highly discouraged from doing so.

UNC political science professor Frank Baumgartner said the attempt by legislators behind the bill to move forward with the death penalty goes against national trends.

According to his research, only 43 individuals have been executed of 401 death sentences in North Carolina since 1977.

Compared to the amount of money and time spent on the trial and appeals process, he said the sentence is a wasteful process.

He also said the inherent flaws in the justice system are extremely problematic when applied to executing individuals.

"Why would anyone want to bring this beast back from the dead?" he said.

Even if the law did pass, the executions would not resume due to litigation obstacles, including cases involving the repealed Racial Justice Act and nationwide concerns with the constitutionality of lethal injection.

The bill would still require a licensed physician to be on the premises to announce the person dead.

Tarrah Callahan, executive director of the N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, pointed to the two exonerations in North Carolina last year as proof of the problems with the justice system.

Half-brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were declared innocent and released in September 2014 after serving 30 years in prison. McCollum spent those 3 decades on death row.

"The governor hasn't even made steps on granting them a pardon. And here we are, instead talking about how to rush executions to restart," Callahan said.

"It just doesn't match."

(source: Daily Tar Heel)

SOUTH CAROLINA----female to face death penalty

Death penalty sought for mother in death of Hartsville toddler

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the mother of a toddler killed in 2013 in Hartsville.

In a press release Wednesday, Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers said his office will seek death against April Dixon for the December 2, 2013 murder of Madison Dolford.

Authorities say Timothy Sanders shot and killed the 21 month old. The solicitor's office announced it would seek the death penalty against Sanders in December, 2014.

Prosecutors said Sanders' case was eligible for the death penalty because he killed the child for money or something else of value, and on behalf of another person.

Both Dixon and Sanders are charged with murder.

No trial date is set for either person.

(source: WBTW news)

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Could the firing squad be a new death penalty in South Carolina?

Death row inmates, on average, spend 15 years there before they are executed. Much of that time is spent appealing their sentences.

"I talked to each person that I was responsible for executing. I went down on my own time and talked to them, made sure they were spiritually ready to go." Former State Corrections Director John Ozmint says in the 8 years he was on the job, 15 of his inmates were put to death. 2 of those were done in the electric chair.

"I said, 'I gotta ask ya', and he said 'I know what you're gonna ask me, Mr. Ozmint'. And I said, 'well, why?' He said '2 reasons. One, I deserve it. I killed 2 people. And 2, I just want you all to know I can take it'."

South Carolina is 1 of 14 states where an inmate can choose how they are put to death. Inmates on death row can choose one of two methods to end their life: lethal injection and the electric chair: South Carolina being one of four states that still uses the chair.

Lethal injection is the primary execution method used in all 33 death penalty states. Death by firing squad- an execution method now legal in four states, could soon be an option in South Carolina.

"A firing squad would be the most humane way of executing someone's life." State Representative Joshua Putnam introduced a bill last month that would bring back the firing squad as a 3rd option in South Carolina. He's been hammered by critics that say the method is inhumane.

"That would be ridiculous for the state of South Carolina to start with the firing squad," said State Representative Carl Anderson.

John Ozmint says no Supreme Court has ever found it to be cruel and unusual.

Representative Putnam is pushing the firing squad option because South Carolina's supply of lethal injection drugs has run dry. Supplies ran out in 2013. Multiple states are facing the same situation- essentially taking the death penalty off the table.

"My limited discussions with the Directors across the country is that there are no supplies left to be had," said Ozmint.

Representative Putnam says "If you elect lethal injection, you know you're not gonna be put to death."

Manufacturers are no longer selling it to states, and pharmaceutical companies are not required to sell states the necessary drugs.

"Where the drugs have been administered wrong in other states, and you have excrutiating pain for that individual that's sentenced to death." Putnam says if he had to choose a method for himself, he would choose death by firing squad.

"There's not really much of a way to mess up a firing squad."

Utah recently became the 4th state to make firing squads an execution option.

"These are heinous crimes. These are the most nasty, the most evil people of our society," said Putnam.

"I've talked to men as they've gone to their death who would look you in the eye and tell you 'I deserve the death penalty for what I did'," said Ozmint.

No one has been executed in the state of South Carolina since 2011. The last sentence was carried out by lethal injection. With that no longer being an option for the forseeable future, state lawmakers continue to search for other options. Ozmint says the State Supreme Court will not issue an execution warrant while there's still uncertainty about how it can be carried out. Meanwhile, death sentences are rapidly declining as the cost of capital punishment cases dramatically increases- costing the state millions for a sentence that may never happen.

"I don't wanna see those people- those horrible people out there that just get a pass because we can't figure out another solution."

It's not likely lawmakers will get to debate the death penalty issue before this legislative session ends, but House Representatives say it's an important discussion that needs to happen when the next session starts in January.

(source: WACH news)

FLORIDA:

State Seeks Death Penalty in Barry Davis Murder Trial

Wednesday began the 3-day penalty phase in the Barry Davis murder trial.

Monday, a jury found Davis guilty on 14 counts for murdering John Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes in 2012.

During the penalty phase, jurors will hear from Davis' family and the victims' families, who will recommend or not recommend the death penalty for Davis.

The judge will make the final decision.

Davis' father took the stand and talked about his son being award with the Bay County Sheriff's Office "Do the Right Thing Award" for saving a drowning man.

"They gave him like a $500 scholarship and a certificate," Barry Davis, Sr. said. "It was on television and the newspaper and everything. Actually they interviewed him."

"Did he maintain a relationship with that man," asked Davis' defense attorney.

"Yes, yes," Davis, Sr. said.

Davis' uncle also took the stand. Mental health experts for both the defense and prosecution will testify during this process.

(source: WJHG news)

LOUISIANA:

Working on death row: 'We're all going to die - but we do choose whether to kill' ---- Richard Bourke, who gave up a career in Melbourne to work with death penalty cases in Louisiana, says in his TEDx talk that the work has moments of beauty

Australian lawyer Richard Bourke, who works to save prisoners from death row in the US, has told of moments of spirituality, dignity and beauty in some of the toughest legal cases.

The former Melbourne lawyer, currently the director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, returned to Australia to speak to audiences at TEDxSydney about his work saving clients from the death penalty.

He reflected on 20-hour work days, last-minute appeals, frantic searches for new evidence and, in unsuccessful cases, the difficulty of witnessing final moments his clients spent with their loved ones.

But he said there were happy moments too, when he would meet people who chose not to kill. Several years ago he worked on a drug case involving a triple homicide. He described his client, Chuck, the convicted party, as a "kind, remorseful and spiritual man".

Bourke said for lawyers working in the US justice system, the key to seeking any penalty less than death is securing the agreement of the families of the victims. In this case all had consented but the mother of the youngest victim, a 17-year-old girl whose last words were "please don't shoot me I'm pregnant".

A private meeting was arranged between the mother and her daughter's killer, at the end of which she hugged him. In court the mother spoke about her loss but also her desire that Chuck be spared the death penalty. "It was a moment of unparalleled dignity and beauty," Bourke said.

"We're all going to die - we don't have a choice about that - but we do choose whether to kill or not."

Much of Bourke's work in Louisiana could not be done without the assistance of Australian volunteers. In late 2013, Guardian Australia visited Bourke in his New Orleans office.

The legal centre had once been a recording studio and Bourke was dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans despite it being December in the northern hemisphere.

A former Melbourne lawyer, he first went to New Orleans in 1998 to volunteer on death row cases at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) - a non-profit organisation assisting prisoners on death row.

Co-founded in 1983 by Briton Clive Stafford Smith (dubbed by the Telegraph in Britain as the "Knight of the Living Dead" after he was awarded his OBE), the LCAC is often the last hope for prisoners who are facing the death penalty. The centre represents inmates at trial level, and for those already on the row (there are 88 men on death row in Louisiana) investigates the circumstances of their cases - sometimes discovering new evidence and launching appeals.

Beyond the casework, the LCAC also undertakes large-scale projects that have strategic importance.

For its Black Strikes project Australian volunteer Ursula Noyes travelled around Louisiana for 9 months investigating instances where prosecutors struck out black jury members to achieve all-white or near all-white juries in death penalty cases.

Much of the LCAC's work is under-resourced and needs to be propped up by Australian volunteers, says Bourke. There are usually at least 2 Australians assisting on cases at any 1 time.

"Coming out here [New Orleans] in 1998, talking to clients and seeing the paltry resources given to their cases was terrible," he said then. "But seeing what I was able to do as a volunteer made me aware of how great a contribution volunteers could make."

After volunteering, Bourke returned to Melbourne for a career as a barrister and co-founded Reprieve Australia with Nick Harrington. The organisation manages a volunteer program that has to date sent more than 100 Australian volunteers to work on death penalty cases in the southern US states.

In 2002, Bourke gave up his career at the Melbourne bar to relocate to Louisiana and work full-time on death penalty cases.

"It's been a life-changing experience for some volunteers," he says. "Some have gone on to do this work full-time and it's changed the course of their careers. The ability to participate in this kind of work - for poor people who the state are trying to kill - is transformative. The clients are so deprived of voice, of advocates, of their families and their communities, so for volunteers it's a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference."

(source: The Guardian)

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Lawsuit Filed Against Angola Prison and Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections Over Unconstitutional and Deficient Medical Care

Prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (Angola) filed a lawsuit today alleging that they needlessly suffer from chronic pain, permanent injury, and preventable sickness and death as a result of prison officials' failure to provide constitutionally adequate medical care. Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC serves as counsel for the plaintiffs in this litigation.

The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI), the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC (Cohen Milstein), the Advocacy Center (AC), and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana (ACLU-La) filed a complaint against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC) and Angola's wardens alleging violations of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment and federal disability statutes. The complaint, titled Lewis et al. v. Cain et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. In challenging the inadequate medical care, the complaint alleges that the prison's more than 6,000 prisoners are all at risk of serious harm, while scores of men have already experienced unnecessary injury, suffering and death.

The class action complaint details several problem areas at the prison: delays in evaluation, treatment, and access to specialty care; denial of medically necessary treatments including surgeries, medication, medical devices, and physical therapy; inappropriately managed medications; poor follow-up care; and a lack of qualified staff. The complaint also details the way these medical problems impose hardship on prisoners in other areas such as work duties and housing assignments.

Prisoners report horror story after horror story: a man denied access to a specialist for 4 years while his throat cancer advanced; a man denied medical attention 4 times during a stroke, which left him blind and paralyzed; a blind man denied even a cane for 16 years. In many cases, only the specter of legal action spurred the prison to provide long-delayed medical care.

The complaint contends that Angola's medical care worsened when Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge, which used to serve prisoners with medical emergencies, was closed during the reorganization of the state's Charity Hospital System. Even basic screenings and treatments are now being broadly denied.

"The grave systemic deficiencies in the delivery of medical care at Angola lead to appalling outcomes," said Jeffrey Dubner, an attorney at Cohen Milstein. "Preventable illness, injury and death are not part of a prison sentence, yet Angola officials are pervasively subjecting the men in their custody to these risks."

The complaint also alleges that disabled prisoners are especially hard-hit by the inadequate delivery of care. Miranda Tait, Managing Attorney for AC, said, "Because prisoners with disabilities generally require stabilizing care and management of chronic conditions, the failure of the prison to deliver adequate care heightens the chance that a prisoner with disabilities will be condemned to increased misery and exacerbated disabilities."

The investigation into the delivery of medical care at Angola began more than 2 years ago as a result of multiple prisoners' reports of grossly inadequate medical care. Attorneys interviewed more than 200 men in connection with this investigation and found scores whose problems echo those of the plaintiffs named in the complaint. The class action seeks an injunction that will bring the prison in line with constitutional standards in the delivery of medical care.

The Promise of Justice Initiative is a private, non-profit organization that advocates for criminal justice reform and abolition of the death penalty on behalf of indigent defendants and prisoners who seek fair and equal treatment under the law.

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC has been a pioneer in class action lawsuits on behalf of individuals and small businesses for over 40 years. It has 80 attorneys and offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The Advocacy Center of Louisiana is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to assisting people with disabilities and seniors in Louisiana to achieve maximum potential and independence. The Advocacy Center of Louisiana employs 50 people statewide who assist people to achieve employment, education, housing, and health care goals.

The American Civil Liberties Foundation of Louisiana has been Louisiana's guardian of liberty since 1956, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

(source: globenewswire.com)

INDIANA:

Indiana Supreme Court upholds Lake County death-penalty conviction

The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death-penalty sentence of Kevin Charles Isom for the murders of his wife and 2 stepchildren.

The 30-page decision released Wednesday in the direct appeal to the verdict and 3 consecutive death sentences comes nearly 1 year after the state's highest court heard oral arguments.

Isom was sentenced in 2013 for the Aug. 6, 2007, murders of Cassandra Isom, and her 2 children, Ci'Andria Cole, 13, and Michael Moore, 16, at their apartment at the Lakeshore Dunes complex in the Miller section of Gary. Cassandra was shot in the head at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun and was also shot with a .40-caliber handgun. Ci'Andria was shot with a .357-Magnum revolver, the .40-caliber handgun and the shotgun, and Michael was killed by a shotgun blast to his chest and side. He also was shot with the .40-caliber pistol.

Isom told police he had lost his job as a security guard a few months before the killing and that his wife had informed him she planned to file for divorce.

Among the issues raised in the appeal was whether the trial court judge, Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., improperly denied a defense motion for a mistrial after the testimony of a downstairs neighbor who said he called 911 after hearing gunfire in the apartment above his.

While being questioned by prosecutors, the witness said he heard a girl say, "Daddy," and that he heard Isom's daughter talking inside the apartment just before the shooting began. The judge sustained a hearsay objection by defense counsel and told jurors to disregard the "Daddy" or "daughter" testimony.

The highest court determined that Stefaniak's final instructions addressed the issue of how jurors may not consider testimony that had been stricken from the record. The court wrote that it assumed the jury obeyed the judge's instructions in reaching its verdict.

The appeal also challenged the judge's refusal to allow Cassandra Isom's sister to respond to a jury question about whether the victims' family forgave Isom. The question came after a defense witness, one of Isom's cousins, testified that she had spoken to Cassandra Isom's parents and said they forgave him, and a second cousin who said that Cassandra Isom's parents didn't want the death penalty.

The appeal described forgiveness as a "potentially a significant piece of evidence that should have been considered by the jury before it make its recommendation to the court." While expressions of forgiveness by a crime victim may be considered mitigating circumstances, the court said that the appeal didn't outline how forgiveness by her family is a mitigating factor.

The court remanded the case back to Lake County with instructions to issue a new sentencing order consistent with the court's opinion.

(source: Ruth Ann Krause is freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.)

ARKANSAS:

Sentencing phase focuses on memories of slain girl

Jersey Bridgeman loved to chase butterflies and feed ducks, her mother, DesaRae Crouch, told a packed courtroom Wednesday.

A jury earlier had found Zachary Holly, 30, of Bentonville guilty of capital murder in 6-year-old Jersey's death. The girl's body was found in the closet of an abandon house next to Holly's residence on Southeast A Street on Nov. 20, 2012. Pajamas were wrapped around her neck.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women began to deliberate at 11 a.m. Wednesday and returned hours later with its verdict.

Holly stood between his attorneys as Circuit Judge Brad Karren read the verdict. Jersey's family members hugged during a break after the verdict was read.

Crouch testified during the sentencing phase that it was fun to be Jersey's mother.

"She had stories," Crouch said. "She was a very colorful character."

Jersey loved being a big sister. She and her younger sister, Leah, were sidekicks, Crouch said.

Jersey loved to eat french fries, Crouch said.

"She liked McDonald's," Crouch said. "What kid doesn't?"

Sniffles could be heard around the courtroom as Crouch testified, but that comment drew laughter from some in attendance.

Holly rocked in his chair as a tearful Crouch described Jersey.

Vickie Price, Jersey's grandmother, called her daughter and 2 granddaughters "The Three Musketeers."

Price told jurors that she missed hearing Jersey's voice and getting hugs from her.

"I will never hear her yell 'Memaw' to me ever again," Price said.

Prosecutors also called Amanda Gatwalt as a witness. She was Jersey's kindergarten teacher at Sugar Creek Elementary School. She told jurors that Jersey had learned to spell her last name, and that Jersey had a story to tell her almost every day.

Gatwalt described the last time she saw the child, who had won an 8-pound turkey at school. Jersey had the turkey in her backpack and was dragging it across the floor. Jersey was concerned that she wouldn't be able to get on the bus with the turkey, and the 2 laughed about it, Gatwalt said.

"The last time I saw her was when she was all hunched over with a big turkey in her backpack," said Gatwalt, drawing a laugh from people in the courtroom.

Nathan Smith, Benton County prosecuting attorney, rested the prosecution's case after Gatwalt's testimony. Smith asked jurors in his opening statement in the sentencing phase to impose the death penalty on Holly.

Holly also was found guilty of rape, kidnapping and residential burglary.

Robby Golden, one of Holly's attorneys, described Holly's childhood to the jury. Holly lived in 39 different homes and attended 23 different schools during his childhood, Golden said.

The California Department of Human Services was contacted 16 times about neglect, along with physical and sexual abuse complaints concerning Holly, Golden said.

The defense will begin to call witnesses this morning in an attempt to persuade the jury to spare Holly's life. Holly could be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty for the capital-murder conviction.

(source: Arkansas Online)

OKLAHOMA:

Anti death penalty coalition announces former State Senator Connie Johnson as new board chair

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has announced the election of its new Board Chair, former Oklahoma State Senator and candidate for Oklahoma Democratic Party Vice Chair, Constance "Connie" Johnson. Also newly elected is OK-CADP Vice Chair Samuel Jennings, a member of the Oklahoma State University History Department in Stillwater.

"We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are overjoyed at the election of our new Chair-person, Senator Connie Johnson," said Adam Leathers, OK-CADP spokesperson. "We are grateful for everything that our exiting Chair-person, Marilynn Knott, has done for our cause and are pleased she will still be a part of our coalition.

"We welcome Senator Johnson and believe she will be a superb leader," Leathers added. "She has the gifts, passion, and experience to lead the coalition in the fight against our state-sponsored murder and by God's grace and her leadership, we believe we will make a real difference."

Johnson recently retired after 33-years in the State Senate, representing Oklahoma City's predominantly African American "Eastside," where she pursued a game changing focus on health/mental health/human services issues that disproportionately affect the economic and social well-being of the poor, minorities, women, children, and people with disabilities.

The 1st woman and Black in Oklahoma's history to win a major party's US Senate nomination in 2014, Johnson contends her aggressive proposals on sentencing reform and abolishing the death penalty are beginning to gain traction in Oklahoma's conservative climate.

Johnson's advocacy grew out of her Master's Thesis on Women and Incarceration in Oklahoma, which is reflective of the high cost and impact on the state's budget.

While in the Senate, Johnson served on full Senate Appropriations, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, and was the ranking Democratic member of the Health and Human Services Committee. She also served on Public Safety, Veterans, Energy, Finance, and Rules standing committees.

Johnson was the 2014 Oklahoma Democratic Party Veteran's Committee "Legislator of the Year," and presently chairs the ODP State Affirmative Action Committee. She was the 2013 recipient of the OK-CADP Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year Award.

Johnson is a native Oklahoman, mother of three and grandmother to Savannah and Rhyan.

A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Johnson has a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Langston University in Langston, OK.

"I am privileged to serve as the 2015-2016 chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish The Death Penalty, for such a time as this in Oklahoma's history," Johnson said.

"Our Board's 1st action of the year was unanimously agreeing to pursue a statewide aggressive education and awareness campaign, including reinvigorating and holding accountable our member organizations to join in acting, and establishing chapters throughout the state, as we work to defeat an upcoming state question."

"This is an exciting time in Oklahoma; when everything we've advocated will become front and center," Johnson added. "I am both honored and excited about the opportunity to be a part of the movement and to continue to use my voice to bring about solutions for all people."

Jennings' work at OSU focuses on the Catholic Church's challenges in responding to modern life. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Angela, who works as an immigration attorney for Catholic Charities. Together they have 3 children: Robert, Grayson, and Joseph.

"Serving as the Vice-Chair of the OCADP is a great honor and a sizeable responsibility," Jennings said. "I look eagerly to working with this wonderful community of abolitionists in ridding Oklahoma of Capital Punishment."

Jennings has been an active participant in local politics since college and is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

Other officers of the 2015-2016 OK-CADP Board include Secretary, Susan Bishop, a member of the Social Justice Committee of Oklahoma City's First Unitarian Church; and Treasurer, Mary E. Sine, an educator at Oklahoma City Public Schools.

OK-CADP is a grassroots membership organization working to end the death penalty in Oklahoma. It engages in outreach, education, and advocacy aimed at raising awareness of issues related to the death penalty.

For more information, visit okcadp.org.

(source: city-sentinel.com)

NEBRASKA:

Reactions: Lawmakers and officials on the death penalty repeal vote

Quotes from from state lawmakers and other officials on Wednesday's debate on repealing the death penalty.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has worked for 40 years to repeal the death penalty: "Nebraska has a chance to step into history, the right side of history."

Sen. Dave Schnoor of Scribner, death penalty supporter, said: "You'll be known to have taken the side of a senator who said the police is his ISIS, and he'd shoot first and ask questions later."

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, repeal supporter: "If government shouldn't be trusted to manage our health care ... why should it be trusted to carry out an irrevocable sentence of death?"

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, death penalty supporter: "We have lilly-white society, middle class people in here who've never seen evil. We can't pull the lever. God made people who will."

Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha, repeal supporter: "It is indeed a historic day and greetings from lilly-white Nebraska who does not support the death penalty."

Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, repeal supporter: "The way that we can make an impact on public safety is not by taking a life."

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, a death penalty supporter: "Lady Justice does hold an unsheathed sword to carry out justice."

Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, a repeal supporter: "Is it vengeance? Is it retribution? Is it punishment? Is it revenge? We have an alternative in our state, in our modern society today, that has not always been there. That alternative protects society."

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who led the filibuster in the failed effort to kill the repeal bill: "The death penalty should be reserved for those who've committed the worst of the worst offenses against their fellow Nebraskans."

Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a repeal supporter: "In north Omaha there's been 21 murders since Jan 1. 21 murders with the death penalty on the books. What a great deterrent that is."

Reaction to Legislature's vote

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson: "There have been prior criminal acts in our communities, and I know there will be future criminal acts in Nebraska that will clearly warrant the use of the death penalty as a consequence of the criminal’s heinous, murderous acts. Without the ability to utilize the death penalty, the state has weakened its ability to properly administer appropriate justice."

Stacy Anderson, executive director, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: "We are thrilled that once again legislators from across the political and ideological spectrum have joined together to pass a law repealing the death penalty. Nebraska’s death penalty is broken. It is time to let it go and refocus on meaningful responses to violence."

Statement from Nebraska Catholic Conference: "The Catholic bishops of Nebraska commend the Nebraska Legislature for voting (Wednesday) to pass LB 268 and replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Our support for LB 268 reflects the teaching of our faith and our prudential judgment that the death penalty cannot be justified in Nebraska at this time. Our support for this bill also flows from our prayerful reflection on the words of Jesus Christ himself: 'Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.'"

(source: omaha.com)

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Nebraskans React to Death Penalty Repeal

Several groups are speaking out after the Nebraska Legislature voted to repeal the state's death penalty Wednesday. LB268 passed with a 32-15.

Nebraska Catholic Conference:

"The Catholic Bishops of Nebraska commend the Nebraska Legislature for voting to pass LB 268 and replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Our support for LB 268 reflects the teaching of our faith and our prudential judgment that the death penalty cannot be justified in Nebraska at this time. Our support for this bill also flows from our prayerful reflection on the words of Jesus Christ himself: 'love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.'"

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson:

"There have been prior criminal acts in our communities, and I know there will be future criminal acts in Nebraska that will clearly warrant the use of the death penalty as a consequence of the criminal's heinous, murderous acts. Without the ability to utilize the death penalty, the State has weakened its ability to properly administer appropriate justice."

Stacy Anderson, head of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:

"We are thrilled that once again legislators from across the political and ideological spectrum have joined together to pass a law repealing the death penalty. Nebraska's death penalty is broken. It is time to let it go and refocus on meaningful responses to violence."

(source: Nebraska.tv)

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Nebraska death penalty repeal: Are Republicans shifting their stance?

Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to abolish capital punishment. The vote marks a shift toward greater Republican support for ending the death penalty.

Nebraska's days as a death penalty state may be coming to an end.

Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to repeal capital punishment, making Nebraska the 1st conservative state to do so in more than 40 years. The vote - which marks a shift toward bipartisan agreement about policy surrounding the death penalty - could pave the way for similar decisions in other Republican states, as support for capital punishment continues its slow decline across the United States.

"The conservative Republicans' positions as expressed in Nebraska are basically a microcosm of what's going on with conservatives about the death penalty nationwide," says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit that provides information and analysis related to the death penalty. "Abolition in Nebraska could empower conservatives in other 'red' states to move forward because they know it can be done."

Procedural, fiscal, and religious concerns are driving the shift, Mr. Dunham says.

In Nebraska, where lawmakers voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition - enough to override an expected veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts - the bill's Republican supporters appeal to fiscal conservatism, casting the death penalty "as a waste of taxpayer money and question whether government can be trusted to manage it," the Associated Press reported.

Studies have shown that the costs associated with cases that seek the death penalty are often far greater than in cases that don’t. One Seattle University report published in January estimated that death penalty trials and subsequent appeals can cost taxpayers up to $1 million more.

"What this provides is evidence of the costs of death-penalty cases, empirical evidence," the study's lead author Peter Collins told the Seattle Times. "We went into it [the study] wanting to remain objective. This is purely about the economics; whether or not it's worth the investment is up to the public."

Some Republican lawmakers have also questioned whether support for the death penalty conflicts with conservative values about preserving life and opposing government intervention.

"It's certainly a matter of conscience, at least in part, but it's also a matter of trying to be philosophically consistent," Sen. Laure Ebke, (R) of Crete, told the AP. "If government can't be trusted to manage our health care ... then why should it be trusted to carry out the irrevocable sentence of death?"

The system that makes the death penalty possible has also come under scrutiny in the face of the scarcity of lethal injection drugs and recent botched executions. Nebraska, for instance, lacks the drugs it needs to execute any of its 11 death-row inmates, and the last execution in the state was in 1997, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"If any other system in our government was as ineffective and inefficient as is our death penalty, we conservatives would have gotten rid of it a long, long time ago," Sen. Colby Coash, (R) of Lincoln, told the Journal.

Some victims' families have also recently come out against the death penalty, saying that the years of appeals did little to help them heal or move forward. During the trial of convicted Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old was killed in the attack, publicly spoke against the prospect of a death sentence for Tsarnaev.

"The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," they wrote in an essay for The Boston Globe. "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."

Not everyone is in favor of abolition. Nebraska Gov. Ricketts, who announced last week that the state had bought new lethal injection drugs, has pledged to veto the bill, requiring an override vote.

"This is a case where the Legislature is completely out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Nebraskans that I talk to," Ricketts told the AP.

The most recent Pew Research Center numbers also show that nationally, more than 3/4 of Republicans still favor capital punishment, compared to only 40 % of Democrats.

Still, conservative opposition to the death penalty is increasingly present. Even in Texas - the top state for executions, with more than 400 since 1976 - death sentences have been on the decline: The state executed 35 people in 1999 compared to 10 last year.

"There is no doubt about it. We're seeing a reduction in the use of the death penalty in Texas," Kathryn Kase, executive director of the nonprofit Texas Defender Service, told The Dallas Morning News earlier this month.

"Here it is May, and we have had only 2 death penalty cases in Texas," Ms. Kase added. "And in both, the jury chose life without parole instead. That strikes me as really significant."

(source: Christian Science Monitor)

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If repeal bill becomes law, Nikko Jenkins' death penalty hearing would be moot

Nikko Jenkins has served as the face of many things in the past 20 months: a coldblooded killer, a troubled inmate, a defiant defendant.

Now he holds this distinction: His death penalty hearing is the next one scheduled for a convicted Nebraska killer - and it's in obvious jeopardy after the Legislature voted Wednesday to repeal the death penalty.

Jenkins, 27, is awaiting a hearing July 7 to determine whether he would receive the death penalty for shooting and killing Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger in August 2013.

A 3-judge panel is to decide his fate after a weeklong hearing.

, But if the death penalty repeal survives, Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley said, Jenkins' hearing is a moot point.

Solicitor General James Smith of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office said that if a death sentence is not "final," it would become a life sentence if Legislative Bill 268 becomes law. A death sentence does not become final, he said, until the State Supreme Court affirms it in the automatic appeal afforded for such cases.

The new law would affect anyone awaiting trial or sentencing for 1st-degree murder who faces the possibility of a death sentence.

In addition to Jenkins, that would include Anthony J. Garcia, a former Creighton pathology resident charged with killing 4 Omahans connected to Creighton's pathology department. His trial is pending.

Prosecutors also have said they would seek the death penalty against Roberto Martinez-Marinero, who is accused of killing his 45-year-old mother earlier this month, dropping his 11-month-old half brother in a dumpster in La Vista, then tossing his 4-year-old half brother into the Elkhorn River, where the child drowned.

For Jenkins, if LB 268 becomes law, it wouldn't necessarily mean the end of his case. If he has no death penalty hearing to face, Jenkins is expected to try to withdraw his no-contest pleas - which judges rarely allow.

In turn, Jenkins would face a mandatory life sentence.

(source: omaha.com)

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A century of death penalty support leads to historic repeal vote

Nebraskans hoping to abolish the state's death penalty cautiously celebrated after the historic vote supporting Legislative Bill 268. With a governor's veto looming, another round of debate and a last vote is expected next week. The history of previous attempts to end the capital punishment in the state makes clear final passage is never a sure thing.

Below is a review of this century-long debate, along with some efforts to expand the types of crimes worthy of execution.

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1900's: Death to Kidnappers!

Since becoming a state, Nebraska law not only specified which crimes deserved the death penalty, but the method of execution. State lawmakers, tired of botched hangings by county sheriffs and the ugly spectacle of public executions, opened the new century by modernizing its method. Lawmakers gave the warden of the state penitentiary sole responsibility for carrying out executions. Gottlieb Niegenfind was the 1st and news reports indicate everything went according to plan.

There was little talk in the Capitol of ending the death penalty. Some states, including neighbors Kansas and Colorado, repealed capital punishment but were debating the merits of returning to state-sponsored executions.

Bills introduced in Nebraska attempted to add, or at least specify, crimes worthy of a death sentence. Train robbery and kidnapping were both considered candidates for that list. (At the time the Legislature still consisted of 2 chambers, the House and Senate.)

Big money kidnappings became a cause for politicians after a sensational Nebraska case caught the attention of the entire nation. In 1900 the teenaged son of a wealthy Omaha couple was snatched off the street. His father quickly paid the $25,000 ransom and his son was returned.

State lawmakers responded by specifying kidnappers who demanded money would face a death sentence. (Kidnappings of those who didn't have the means to pay a ransom were apparently considered lesser crimes.) Sen. Frank T. Ransom, the Omaha lawyer who wrote the bill, determined existing law was "regarded as lame and good authorities question whether ... a long conviction would be possible."

One unidentified "prominent member of the Senate" quoted in the McCook Tribune stated "to restore capital punishment for any crime less than murder in the 1st degree would be a distinct step backward."

The law passed. These days kidnapping would be including among many 'aggravating circumstances' considered when the courts determined a sentence in a capital murder case.

1910s: The Problem with Pardons

Can you be against the executions but in favor of the electric chair? Apparently a handful of Nebraska legislators felt they could hold both opinions on a single day.

An editorial cartoon from the 1913 Omaha Bee shows capital punishment vying for the attention of a state legislator along with 2 other issues of the day, giving women the right to vote and legalizing baseball games on Sundays.

The electric chair had become the method of choice in most states where capital punishment was legal. Nebraska was one of the few left which relied solely on hanging, and State Rep. August Reuter of Otoe County felt it was time to modernize its execution chamber. At the same time Rep. John McKissick of Gage County sought to end use of the death penalty in most cases. Both bills were heard on the same day. According to the correspondent for the Omaha Bee, "the house went on record as being opposed to capital punishment and then turned around and recommended for passage a bill to electrocute condemned prisoners instead of hanging them."

Eventually both the House and Senate kept capital punishment as the law of the land and approved the electric chair.

An editorial in the Lincoln State Journal approved. The editor wrote: "The substitution of the electric chair as the instrument of death will put Nebraska in the company of perhaps a dozen states that have accepted what is considered on all sides as a more humane method of inflicting the death penalty."

There were still regular attempts to repeal capital punishment, but the controversial and apparently too frequent use of pardons for criminals by Nebraska's governors gave supporters of capital punishment ammunition against their opponents.

Starting in 1893 the state's governors held the power to parole any prisoner who had at least served the minimum sentence permitted by the court. Those committing murder could be sprung from jail after 25 years. With a commutation, a prisoner could be set free if the governor, and the governor alone, felt a sentence had been unfair. Each year governors wielded the authority more and more freely. A study completed by the warden of the state penitentiary revealed so loose were penalties "a life sentence has meant only about 7 or 8 years and the longest term served by any man was only 15 years."

State legislators created the State Prison Board in 1911 to advise the governor. That seemed to do little to reduce the number of prisoners being released early, and at times without adequate review. Exclusive pardon power was taken from the governor in 1920 and decisions were given to a 3-member Board of Pardons made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

1920s: Old Time Religion and New Era Women

Grass roots opposition to the death penalty was a rarity in Nebraska so it was news when the Women's Christian Temperance Union joined the fight. The WCTU, energized by its victory over liquor in America and the arrival of Prohibition, making liquor illegal, turned its attention to other causes in its moral crusade. "We are also opposed to prize fights, to lynching, to anarchy and to capital punishment," read the national organization's annual report.

In January of 1920 a mass meeting was held in Omaha to create an organization to muster support and circulate petitions. The initiative was not directed at the Legislature but at delegates to the state's constitutional convention. Nebraska's constitution had not been updated since 1893 and it was viewed as an opportunity to repeal the death penalty. The campaign had little impact. Shortly after delegates convened, the North Platte Tribune reported they had "apparently taken a definite stand to refuse to knock out the death penalty from the constitution."

In December Nebraska used its electric chair for the 1st time. 2 men involved in the same crime were executed within 20 minutes of each other. Alson Cole and Allen Grammer of Howard County conspired to murder Grammer's mother-in-law for her inheritance. 3 years of appeals, stays of executions and legal maneuvering outraged death penalty supporters demanding justice be carried out.

The Temperance Union didn't give up, shifting its pressure to state legislators. "I think murder is murder, whether committed by the state in punishing a crime or by a person in anger or revenge," said Mrs. C.W. Hayes, state superintendent of moral education for the WCTU, according to the Dakota County Herald. The group sent out at least 100 petitions for signatures.

Gov. Samuel McKelvie supported the bill and recommended once the court issued a death sentence it could not be altered. The bill failed within a month. By 1923 a similar bill did not even make it out of committee.

While he opposed the death penalty, Gov. McKelvie still carried out the law of the state of Nebraska, signing the death warrants for 3 men during his term. More executions were carried out in the 1920s than in any other year after the state took responsibility for carrying out the sentence.

1930s and 1940s: The Quiet Decades

By the beginning of the 1930s Nebraska's death row was empty. Not only would there not be a single execution for the next 13 years, there is no record of a single murder case ending with a death sentence in the state during the entire decade. It's a remarkable fact, considering across America this was the era of bootleggers defying Prohibition, gangsters like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, and an epidemic of bank robberies born of the desperate times of the Depression.

1945: MacAvoy & The Sanity Test

The case of Joseph MacAvoy unnerved the state in a couple of ways. He was convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year old girl in tiny Sutton, Nebraska. At a time when pride in the troops headed overseas was at a peak, it was a shock to learn the suspect was a military police officer stationed at the Harvard Air Base training facility.

After MacAvoy's execution the warden of the state penitentiary told legislators it was time to review how the state determined if a person was insane prior to facing the electric chair. From the beginning Nebraska law prohibited the execution of those diagnosed as mentally incapable of understanding or controlling their own actions.

State law left the decision as to whether to conduct a sanity test up to the discretion of the person in charge of the prison. The Omaha World-Herald reported Warden Neil Olson testified that put "too much responsibility on 1 man." Olson said he felt MacAvoy was sane and had "no feelings of remorse" about the execution, but felt the 3-member Pardons Board should take over that responsibility.

The bill passed and the discussion foreshadowed what would become one of the most contentious policy issues for lawmakers, attorneys and judges.

There was also little activity in the State Capitol related to the death penalty. Headlines about local government were dominated by responses to the economic crisis and the headaches of enforcing the national ban on liquor. One of the few bills introduced during the 1930s reflected the times. Sen. Arthur Newman of Oakland introduced a bill singling out bank robbery as an offense worthy of execution. Newman, not coincidentally, ran the bank in Oakland.

Discussion about the merits of capital punishment didn't resume until 1949. By then World War II had ended and a handful of sensational murder cases made headlines and stirred public emotion again.

1950s: Reconsidering the process

Sen. Hugh Carson made yet another attempt to end the death penalty, but there was little popular sentiment to reduce the penalty for 1st-degree murder. Another senator, the fiery representative from Scottsbluff, Terry Carpenter, even proposed making a 3rd violation of the state's narcotic laws punishable by death or a life sentence. In 1955 Gov. Victor Anderson, after witnessing an ugly, 3-day prison riot at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, told the press the uprising made him "a firm supporter" of capital punishment.

2 murder cases brought new issues about the legal system and capital punishment in the state. In 1954 Loyd Grandsinger, a Sioux Indian, had been sentenced to die for allegedly participating in the murder of a Nebraska state trooper in Cherry County. Grandsinger was released from prison after a federal judge determined the trial was unfair because his defense attorney had been incompetent. After a 2nd trial the jury found Grandsinger innocent, sparing him the electric chair.

No one doubted the guilt of a second murderer, Stanley Nowicki. In 1956 he earned the death penalty for hacking his wife to death on a South Omaha sidewalk. Because his attorney failed to file his appeal paperwork on time Nowicki did not have the chance to challenge the verdict. The courts, and later the State Legislature, agreed a paperwork mistake shouldn’t result in an automatic death sentence. Nowicki's sentence was changed to life and a change in law required all death sentences to be given a review by the state's Supreme Court, even without an attorney filing the paperwork.

By the end of the decade some state senators reconsidered their stands on the value of the death penalty. Another attempt was made to have the punishment removed from state statute. Most notably, Sen. Carpenter, just a couple of years after suggesting repeat drug offenders deserved to die, sponsored his own bill replacing capital punishment with mandatory life in prison.

Sen. Carpenter, according to the Omaha World-Herald, "argued that life imprisonment, forcing a murderer to live with his conscience, is a greater penalty than death." A death penalty supporter, Sen. Don Thompson of McCook, replied such a person "has no conscience to live with." The vote was not close. Only 3 of 26 legislators voting supported ending the death penalty.

2 years later Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate began a mass murder spree in Nebraska leaving 11 people dead. It turned international attention on the state and its justice system. The execution of Starkweather in 1959 became an emblematic case for capital punishment. It would also be the only use of the electric chair in the state for another 3 decades.

1960s: An Advocate Governor

Rarely has a Nebraska Governor used the office to campaign against the death penalty. Even while the state's chief executives rarely pushed to advance executions during their terms of office, most made it clear they supported and would not interfere with the legal process when capital cases came before them for a final review.

In 1903 Gov. Erza P. Savage told the Legislature, "in our day of boastful enlightenment, we find employed instruments which in the darkest ages represented the most vicious form of punishment, human savagery, and barbarism."

Savage took the unusual step of issuing a 6 month stay of execution for William Rhea, age 19, sentenced to hang for murdering a saloonkeeper during a drunken robbery attempt. 3 older men involved in the case all blamed Rhea and avoided the death sentence. Public opinion was divided. One petition drive asked he be spared while another asked justice be done at the gallows. The Legislature failed to act and the state executed Rhea later that year on the orders of the next governor, William Mickey.

It would be 60 years before another chief executive took action to stop capital punishment. Frank Morrison, a Democrat from McCook, started his political career as a county prosecutor. He became governor in 1960 and held the office for 3 terms.

Initially he took no strong stand. Early in his 1st term Morrison told the Omaha World-Herald his mind "hasn't been irrevocably made up" about abolishing the death penalty but added if the Legislature passed such a bill, he wouldn't veto it. "There is no existing evidence available that capital punishment reduces the crime rate or protects society," Morrison said, adding "at least none has been called to my attention."

In 1965, Morrison's 2nd term in office, he threw his full support behind a bill to end the death penalty sponsored by Sen. John Knight of Lincoln. A similar bill had not even made it out of committee 2 years earlier. This time Morrison testified before the Judiciary Committee, calling capital punishment "nothing more than legalized murder."

The leader of the Police Officers Association of Nebraska, Robert Guenzel, was outraged by Morrison's statements, telling the senators "there are certain psychotics in crime who are not wanted by society. Execution is the proper way to rid the state of these individuals."

Even with the support of Gov. Morrison, there was no support for ending the death penalty at a time when crime rates were on the rise in the state's largest cities. The Judiciary Committee killed the bill with a 5-1 vote.

The following year Sen. Knight gave up his fight and didn't even submit a death penalty bill. He told the World Herald "I'd feel like I'd be batting my head against the wall."

1970s The Veto

Historic rulings by the United States Supreme Court did more than any act at the State Capitol to dictate law and delay executions during the 1970s. In some of the 39 states where the death penalty was in use at the time (most notably in the South) attorneys successfully argued capital punishment was not being applied equally and fairly. In 1972 the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Furman v. Georgia which temporarily invalided the death penalty nationwide.

To retain capital punishment state laws had to be rewritten to include guidelines for judges and juries specifying what made a specific crime worth of a death sentence. The Nebraska Legislature acted quickly and in 1973 it overwhelmingly passed LB 268, which established, according to the Legislative Research Division, "mitigating and aggravating circumstances to be weighed in determining whether a murder merits the death penalty." A 2nd bill provided for a sentencing trial in capital murder cases. Once someone was found guilty, a 2nd hearing would be held to review whether the acts were sufficient to rise to the level of a death sentence. 4 years later Nebraska law added a requirement to compare death penalty cases to see if offenses and punishments were comparable.

If the changes in law were considered to be legal reforms, they did not quiet those who felt the state had no role in taking the life of a person. Sen. Ernie Chambers had made eliminating the death penalty one of his highest priorities since he was elected to the Legislature to represent his North Omaha district in 1970.

His efforts were mostly futile until 1979. It would be the closest the state ever came to ending capital punishment.

Several very influential senators, all moderate Republicans, reevaluated their position on the issue. Chambers' bill would replace the sentence in capital murder cases with a mandatory prison term of 30 years to life.

When the bill reached the full Legislature for debate "the atmosphere ... was remarkable because of the quiet and the attention given to senators who spoke," according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Sen. Loran Schmit, after 11 years of firm opposition, told the hushed chamber "I do not make this decision lightly," as he announced he would support the repeal. Sen. Jerome Warner noted the new prison being built in Lincoln included a death chamber, which he called "a monument to the past" and said he had decided to change his stand on the issue as well.

Supporters of the death penalty, including Sen. Chris Beutler, spoke of "the human apprehension of death" as a reason having a death sentence available prevented violent crime.

On the 1st round of voting the bill passed 25-17, but once it reached Gov. Charles Thone it was vetoed immediately. There were not enough votes to override the veto.

1980s: Holding Steady

Nebraska had never executed or even issued a death sentence to a minor, but there had been cases in which it might have been considered. Caril Ann Fugate, the 14-year-old girlfriend went on trial for murder along with her boyfriend Charles Starkweather for their killing spree. Starkweather, 5 years older than his companion, got the electric chair while Fugate was spared.

Nonetheless, there was a consensus in legal circles juveniles should not be executed and in 1982 the Legislature agreed, passing a law excluding offenders under 18 from the risk of a death sentence. (In 1998, in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Nebraska also prohibited the execution of mentally retarded individuals involved in capital crimes.)

Sen. Elroy Hefner made legislative history in 1983 by making the 1st effort to end the use of the electric chair and replacing it with lethal injection, a new method gaining support in death penalty states. Hefner contended it "would be more humane." The bill never made it out of committee.

1990s: Taking Time to Study

In 1994 the State of Nebraska resumed executions for the 1st time in nearly 30 years. Harold Otey died in the electric chair after exhausting his appeal process. Convicted murderers John Joubert and Robert Williams would follow him over the next 3 years.

The introduction of a bill to abolish the death penalty became an annual affair in the statehouse. During every legislative session between 1976 and 2008 Sen. Chambers introduced a bill calling for an end to executions. They would not take hold and on most occasions they did not get to a vote by the full Legislature.

2 initiatives in the 1990s brought the issue back to the forefront.

When Sen. Chambers introduced LB 327 to end the death penalty in 1992 it arrived with 25 co-sponsors, surpassing early support for the similar bill passed (but vetoed) 13 years earlier. After the Judiciary Committee refused to advance the bill for a floor vote, a majority of senators rallied to have it debated.

Politically, the timing proved to be bad to maintain support for the bill. Larry Koch, in his book "The Death of the American Death Penalty" wrote the horrific crimes placing Otey, Joubert and Williams on death row loomed large in newspapers and television news at the time. Efforts to proceed with their long-delayed executions were gaining momentum and the families of their victims were lobbying state senators.

It only got worse for supporters. 2 years earlier Sen. Chambers wrote a letter to Harold Otey on death row, hinting the killer might not have to spend the rest of his life in prison if the death penalty were repealed. "The 'without parole' won't mean much in reality," Chambers wrote, "because the Pardons Board always will have the power to reduce any sentence." After the letter was made public early supporters abandoned the bill.

If the state would not end capital punishment, opponents of the practice asked if the state would at least be willing to hold off on any executions until there was a study of how fairly it was applied and its costs. The American Bar Association made the request of all death penalty states. Nebraska state senators would not vote to stall executions, but they did agree to fund a study.

The research completed by University of Iowa death penalty researcher David Baldus showed there was little evidence of racial discrimination at the time, but defendants from the state's population centers were more likely to face a capital murder charge than those in rural areas. Also, cases where the victim was poor were less likely to see the defendant get the death penalty.

Few state senators felt the research provided any evidence the death penalty needed to be reconsidered.

2000 to Present: Lethal Injection

The biggest change in death penalty law did not originate in the State Legislature, but from the Nebraska Supreme Court. In a landmark, forcefully worded opinion in the case of Mata v. Nebraska the justices ruled the use of the electric chair violated the state's constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

In order to maintain the death penalty the Legislature quickly changed the state's method to lethal injection. That change opened up a new battlefield in the appeals courts for everyone facing a death sentence in the state.

Since 2000 8 men were added to the population of death row in Nebraska, but not a single execution was carried out. A variety of legal challenges accomplished what death penalty opponents promoted unsuccessfully in the Legislature: blocking, if not actually ending, the death penalty.

Sen. Chambers had one other near miss for his annual capital punishment bill in 2007. Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, a death penalty advocate, admitted he was caught off guard by the vigorous floor debate. Ultimately the bill failed before the full Legislature by a one-vote margin.

Because Nebraskans approved limiting the terms of its state senators, Ernie Chambers introduced what some called his last death penalty bill in 2008. It also failed. Before departing the capitol that year the senator wished "someday people in the Legislature would reach the point where they realize, as those in other industrialized countries have, that the death penalty does not advance the cause of civilization."

The state moved ahead with plans for its first execution by lethal injection, unveiling a new death room in the state penitentiary in Lincoln. The cost of switching from electric chair to lethal injection: $50,000

Famed cult-killer Michael Ryan became the scheduled execution using the new system. With just weeks before it was scheduled to take place, the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed to address concerns about how the death-inducing drugs were obtained.

Ultimately all legal paths were cleared but revelations the state had improperly obtained its original drugs from a foreign dealer left the corrections director without a reliable source. The process was stymied.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced just days before the latest vote in the Legislature he had obtained a new batch of drugs.

In 2013 Chambers was returned to the Legislature by his North Omaha district and immediately introduced the bill a new bill to repeal the death penalty. It passed on final reading. The legislation was vetoed by then Governor Dave Heineman and supporters were unable to gain the support needed for an override.

At the start of the 2015 session it was not clear how a new batch of freshman senators might deal with the same issue. Some were surprised support for ending executions built over the session, especially among some staunch conservative members. On May 20, just after 11 in the morning, 32 state senators voted to end capital punishment in the state of Nebraska and send the bill to Gov. Ricketts who promised his veto. An override would require at least 30 votes, but the 1st hurdle could be a cloture vote to end an anticipated filibuster, needing as many as 33 senators to agree.

(source: netnebraska.org)

CALIFORNIA:

When it comes to the death penalty, California should follow Nebraska

If 32 members of the Nebraska legislature hold firm, the Cornhusker State could become the 19th state to end the death penalty, a slow but important step - I hope - toward nationwide abolition (an effort in Delaware recently stalled, unfortunately).

It's also significant that Nebraska is a conservative Republican state, and the vote reflects a bit of ground-shifting in that political sector.

"I'm a conservative guy - I've been a Republican my whole life," Sen. Colby Coash, a sponsor of the bill, said before the vote. "A lot of my conservative colleagues have come to the conclusion that we're there to root out inefficient government programs. Some people see this as a pro-life issue. Other people see it as a good-government issue. But the support that this bill is getting from conservative members is evidence that you can get justice through eliminating the death penalty, and you can get efficient government through eliminating the death penalty."

However the Nebraska legislators reached the decision, they wound up in the right place. And the California Legislature should take note, because no system in the nation seems to be as dysfunctional as ours.

To remind, California has by far the nation's largest death row, with 750 people awaiting execution. Yet the state hasn't carried out that sentence since 2006 because of legal challenges to its three-drug lethal-injection protocol. The state finally stopped defending it two years ago and announced that it would try to develop a new single-drug protocol. But the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been silent on where it stands, and no timetable has been announced.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled last July in the Ernest Dewayne Jones v. Ron Davis case that the state's death penalty system was so dysfunctional it arbitrarily selected who died when, and thus didn't clear constitutional muster.

The "random few" who ultimately get executed, he wrote, "will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary." He added: "No rational person can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society."

As I wrote at the time, California's system is underfunded, under-staffed, and all but stalled. Yet juries keep sentencing people to death. Death penalty proponents argue that the solution is to streamline the process and execute the condemned faster.

The problem with that, though, is the growing realization that the judicial system is so flawed that there are innocent people on death row. One study estimates (conservatively) that at least 4% of condemned inmates nationwide are innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. That means of the 750 people on California's death row (many of whom are severely mentally ill), at least 30 are likely not murderers.

And this is where I would hope more conservatives would come to realize that the system is too flawed. Once the penalty is exacted, there is no way to reverse it should the errors come to light, as they have here and here. If people distrust government to get most things right, why is there faith in its ability to get the death penalty right? Especially in a legal system that is based more on advocacy than on achieving justice?

California voters rejected a 2012 initiative to repeal the death penalty, but that was before the flood of exonerations began headlining the news. It's not an often-polled subject here, but support seems to be waning. It's been a hard sell in the legislature, too, as detailed in this amicus curiae brief filed by state Sens. Loni Hancock and Mark Leno and former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner in the Jones v. Davis.

But the legislature should take it back up. Beyond the pragmatic arguments against capital punishment - add in the absurdly high costs to taxpayers - there's the underlying immorality of it all. If it's wrong to kill, it's wrong to kill.

Executing murderers, no matter how heinous the crime, is still state-committed homicide, and out of step with the rest of our sentencing (do we rob robbers? Embezzle from embezzlers?). The death penalty doesn't deter - if it did, our murder rate wouldn't be what it is - it comes too long after the crime to be considered punishment, and it is not justice. It is vengeance. And we need to end it.

(source: Opinion; Scott Martelle----Los Angeles Times)

USA:

Appealing the death sentence? "On a good day it's at least a 10 year process"

The Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute is home to more than 1,000 of the country's most hardened criminals.

An official with the United States Department of Justice confirms approximately 60 of those inmates await their fate on death row.

"Terre Haute has the only federal execution facility in the country," said Louis Reeves, National Dean of Criminal Justice at Harrison College.

Perhaps the most infamous to be executed was Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The American terrorist bombed an Oklahoma City Federal building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 600 more.

"There was a fear of what could happen." Reeves recalls his time working at a security company in the early 2000's. "It was a hyped up time in town, because it kind of thrust the city on a national stage."

Once again the city is in the national spotlight. The federal prison is where Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will likely spend his remaining days, but Reeves said, "You could be looking at several years actually," before Tsarnaev will be sent to Terre Haute.

First, a judge will formally sentence Tsarnaev, that decision is expected sometime in June. Survivors of the bombing will be given a chance to give victim impact statements. Tsarnaev also will be allowed to speak if he chooses. It's unclear how many victims the judge will allow to make statements.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will then decide where Tsarnaev will be housed, but he could spend years appealing his death sentence.

"On a good day it's at least a 10 year process," said Reeves.

Reeves continued by saying most likely the appeals process will start immediately. A change-of-venue issue could be 1 ground for appeal.

"Whether or not the judge should have granted the change of venue in the case and whether there really was a sense of impartiality having the trial in Boston, whereas in the McVeigh trial they moved in out of Oklahoma City," explained Reeves.

The death penalty was re-instated in 1988, seventy-four people have been sentenced since then only 3 have been executed.

"The McVeigh it seems like they came up with a sentence and then he was executed in a short period of time that was just simply because he dropped his appeals," said Reeves.

Reeves continued by saying Terre Haute will fade in and out of the spotlight during as the process runs its course.

"People should recognize Terre Haute is part of that process of delivering fairness and justice."

Now, 21-year-old Tsarnaev could be the youngest federal inmate on death row.

(source: WTHI TV news)

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

Does death penalty bring closure?

Last week a federal jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a statement expressing "hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure" to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

His words were echoed by other officials and victims. "The verdict, undoubtedly a difficult decision for the jury, gives me relief and closure as well as the ability to keep moving forward," said transit police officer Richard Donohue, who was seriously injured during a shoot-out with Tsarnaev and his older brother in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Most everyone wants this to be true: We hope that the victims of the bombing --- including the families of the four people murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers --- can find some relief from their anguish.

Will this death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev help them?

For months, many people close to the case have been ambivalent about this outcome. A poll in April found that only 15% of Boston residents said they wanted Tsarnaev to receive the death penalty. Also last month, Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombing, wrote an open letter in the Boston Globe urging the Justice Department to take the death penalty "off the table."

"The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," wrote the Richards, who suffered severe injuries from the bombing; their 7-year-old daughter lost her left leg.

Their position is supported by scientific research. While it's easy to understand why people would seek the harshest punishment possible after a terrible crime, studies cast doubt on whether harsh punishment in general, and capital punishment in particular, actually brings the relief and peace of mind the victims deserve.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who were taken advantage of financially by someone else thought they would feel better if they exacted revenge. In fact, punishing the offender actually made them feel worse, apparently because meting out a punishment caused them to think about the offender more and dwell on the negative incident.

They didn't feel as bad when someone else did the punishing for them --- but even then, they felt no better than people who didn't pursue punishment at all.

Of course, there are other important considerations in criminal cases, such as the moral priority of justice. But in this study, there was no evidence that the punishment improved a victim's emotional state.

Other research suggests this might hold true in capital punishment cases. A 2007 study by criminologist Scott Vollum, now at the University of Minnesota, examined media interviews with family or friends of murder victims, conducted around the time the murderer was being executed.

Vollum found that the victims' loved ones reported experiencing feelings of peace or relief in only 17% of the more than 150 cases in which they made public statements; they reported feeling a sense of closure in only 2.5% of those cases. By contrast, in 20% of cases, they explicitly said the execution did not bring them healing or closure.

Bearing out the concerns of Bill and Denise Richard, many of these friends and family members cited lengthy appeals processes as a barrier to their recovery. "You're trying to move on with your life," said one of them, "but you keep being dragged back into it."

That finding resonates with another study, published in the Marquette Law Review in 2012, that involved in-depth interviews with people in two states, Texas and Minnesota. All those people had survived the murder of a loved one, and the murderer had received the harshest sentence possible: In Texas, this was the death penalty; in Minnesota, life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tracking these survivors for years, the researchers found that over time the people in Minnesota reported better physical and psychological health, and more satisfaction with the criminal justice system. The researchers attribute these results, at least in part, to the lack of control that the Texas residents felt while death penalty cases were tied up in appeals.

Even beyond the appeals process, it's still hard to say whether Tsarnaev's death sentence will provide closure for his victims. According to Nancy Berns, a professor of sociology at Drake University and the author of "Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us," a lot may depend on how they define the term.

"If they're defining closure as, 'This is an end to the trial itself,' then yes, maybe they can find closure," she told me. "But if they're thinking that closure means, 'Oh, my grief is done,' then absolutely not."

"In some cases, the end of the trial --- or even the execution --- can make them feel worse," she added, "because they've been focused on the trial, and when all that gets moved away, the grief sets in in a different way."

For many victims, feelings of pain and loss may never go away, regardless of how Tsarnaev is punished. But psychological research has found that one way to achieve greater peace of mind is through forgiveness.

Of course, forgiving an offender can seem inconceivable, especially when his or her crime is as monstrous as Tsarnaev's. But researchers stress that forgiving does not mean absolving an offender of guilt; it doesn't even require reconciling with that person.

Instead, it means deliberately letting go of feelings of anger and vengeance toward the offender --- a way to stop ruminating on the offense and free yourself of the power it has over you.

"It's a way of saying, 'I'm going to take my life back because I'm getting swallowed up by hatred,'" said Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College, who studies forgiveness. "It's an act of transformative empowerment ... that allows someone to move forward."

The process of forgiveness can be long and difficult, and experts warn that it can't be rushed. But Toussaint said there's a risk to making forgiveness contingent on whether you feel justice has been served. It may take years before you get the outcome you want, if you get it at all. "So you're waiting, and you don't necessarily enjoy any relief," he said.

By contrast, research by Toussaint and others suggests that forgiveness can improve the forgiver's mental and physical health, even for crimes as horrible as incest and atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's civil war.

As a powerful example, Berns points to Brooks Douglass, who she interviewed for her book. When Douglass was a teenager, 2 men barged into his home, took his family hostage, raped his sister and killed his parents in front of him. Years later, he became an Oklahoma state senator and wrote the legislation that gave him the right to watch one of those men, Steven Hatch, be executed; he confronted the other man, Glen Ake, in prison, and ultimately forgave him.

(source: Opinion, Jason Marsh; KESQ news)

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

apital punishment's slow death

Without a definitive judicial ruling or other galvanizing event, a perennial American argument is ending. Capital punishment is withering away.

It is difficult to imagine moral reasoning that would support the conclusion that an injustice will be done when, years hence, the death penalty finally is administered to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon terrorist who placed a bomb in a crowd and then strolled to safety. Sentencing to death those who commit heinous crimes satisfies a sense of moral proportionality. This is, however, purchased with disproportionate social costs, as Nebraska seems to be concluding.

Nebraska is not a nest of liberals. Yet on Wednesday its 49-member unicameral legislature passed a bill abolishing the death penalty 32 to 15. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vows to veto it.

This comes at a time when, nationwide, exonerations of condemned prisoners and botched executions are dismayingly frequent. Nebraska's death penalty opponents, including a majority of Nebraskans, say it is expensive without demonstrably enhancing public safety or being a solace to families of murder victims. Some Nebraska families have testified that the extended legal processes surrounding the death penalty prolong their suffering. That sentiment is shared by Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed by Tsarnaev.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether one component of a 3-drug mixture used in lethal injection executions - and recently used in some grotesquely protracted ones - is unreliable in preventing suffering that violates the Eighth Amendment proscription of "cruel and unusual punishments." States use the drug in question because more effective drugs are hard to acquire, partly because death penalty opponents are pressuring drug companies not to supply them.

For this, Justice Antonin Scalia blamed a death penalty "abolitionist movement." Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked, "Is it appropriate for the judiciary to countenance what amounts to a guerrilla war against the death penalty, which consists of efforts to make it impossible for the states to obtain drugs that could be used to carry out capital punishment with little, if any, pain?" Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wondered, "What bearing, if any, should be put on the fact that there is a method, but that it's not available because of opposition to the death penalty? What relevance does that have?"

The answers are: Public agitation against capital punishment is not relevant to judicial reasoning. And it is not the judiciary's business to worry that a ruling might seem to "countenance" this or that social advocacy.

The conservative case against capital punishment, which 32 states have, is 3-fold. First, the power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism. 2nd, when capital punishment is inflicted, it cannot later be corrected because of new evidence, so a capital punishment regime must be administered with extraordinary competence. It is, however, a government program. Since 1973, more than 140 people sentenced to death have been acquitted of their crimes (sometimes by DNA evidence), had the charges against them dismissed by prosecutors or have been pardoned based on evidence of innocence. For an unsparing immersion in the workings of the governmental machinery of death, read "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

3rd, administration of death sentences is so sporadic and protracted that their power to deter is attenuated. And the expensive, because labyrinthine, legal protocols with which the judiciary has enveloped capital punishment are here to stay. Granted, capital punishment could deter: If overdue library books were punishable by death, none would be overdue. But many crimes for which death is reserved, including Tsarnaev's crime of ideological premeditation, are especially difficult to deter.

Those who favor capital punishment because of its supposed deterrent effect do not favor strengthening that effect by restoring the practice of public executions. There has not been one in America since 1937 (a hanging in Galena, Mo.) because society has decided that state-inflicted deaths, far from being wholesomely didactic spectacles, are coarsening and revolting.

Revulsion is not an argument, but it is evidence of what former chief justice Earl Warren called society's "evolving standards of decency." In the essay "Reflections on the Guillotine," Albert Camus wrote, “The man who enjoys his coffee while reading that justice has been done would spit it out at the least detail." Capital punishment, say proponents, serves social catharsis. But administering it behind prison walls indicates a healthy squeamishness that should herald abolition.

(source: Opinion, George Will; Washington Post)

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

Nebraska, and the conservative case for opposing the death penalty

Lawmakers in Nebraska voted to abolish the state's death penalty on Wednesday. And if the legislature overrides a likely governor's veto in the next few days, it could become the 1st conservative-leaning state in more than 40 years to do so.

So how did this happen? While the legislature is technically nonpartisan, it is for all intents and purposes under GOP control. And Republicans in Nebraska are successfully arguing that getting rid of the death penalty is a fundamentally conservative position.

In the face of botched executions, a shortage of lethal injection drugs and decades-long appeal times (Nebraska hasn't executed someone on death row in 20 years), lawmakers like state Sen. Colby Coash say keeping people on death row is a classic case of big, ineffective government.

"Its something that's been on the books. It's not being implemented. It is costing our state money," Coash told Robin Young of Here & Now. "So we're approaching this from a good-government perspective and saying, 'Look, this is a program that's not working. We should just get rid of it.'"

Coash and other lawmakers in the unicameral legislature have apparently rallied enough support to avoid a veto by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports the death penalty. Ricketts just ordered a batch of drugs from India to carry out executions, announcing it in dramatic fashion last week, according to Paul Hammel, Lincoln bureau chief of the Omaha World-Herald.

While the legislature is nonpartisan, Coash said he's counting on support from members of the the Christian conservative wing of their party to vote their conscience to override the veto and abolish the death penalty.

"We're a very pro-life state," Coash said. "I consider myself pro-life, and I've always struggled with taking the life from anybody."

And outside of Nebraska, some conservatives are making a 3rd political argument for abolishing the death penalty: It's too lenient of a punishment.

Montana state Rep. David Moore (R) championed a bill to a replace it with life in prison without parole.

“To me, personally, I couldn't imagine a worse fate than being locked up in prison for the rest of my life," he said, according to the Huffington Post and Montana Television Network.

His proposal was defeated this year on a 50-50 vote.

And larger public opinion in America is indeed moving away from the death penalty. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in June 2014 found 60 % of Americans favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

But conservatives pushing to abolish it could have a tough sell among their own. That same poll found about 8 in 10 Republicans -- 79 % -- favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

Republicans do seem increasingly amenable to a larger conversation on criminal justice reform, an issue traditionally owned by Democrats. Alabama's Republican governor is calling for a $541 million tax package in part to offset overstuffed prisons, for instance. States like South Carolina and Georgia have also passed their own justice reform packages changing who gets sent to prison and for how long.

"When states in the Deep South, which have long had some of the country's harshest penal systems, make significant sentencing and prison reforms, you know something has changed," The New York Times' editorial board wrote Monday.

But it's not clear yet if, in voting to abolish the death penalty, Nebraska Republicans are the start of a trend or just an anomaly.

32 states still have the death penalty on the books, though many are putting a moratorium on it while a divided Supreme Court considers whether certain drugs used in a gruesome, botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year represent cruel and unusual punishment. Nebraska could become the 19th state, including the District of Columbia, to abolish it.

A year ago, The Fix's Jamie Fuller pointed out that residents in the Texas town where all of the state's executions take place called death row "business as usual."

The number of states still carrying out the death penalty may be shrinking, and many Americans are questioning the morality - and the expense - of the system. In the places where the death penalty is "business as usual," the politics are far more complex and entrenched.

So, can conservatives opposed to the death penalty bring more people to their side? Nebraska is certainly a notable shift in the winds. But it's not clear whether other states will follow suit.

(source: Amber Phillips, blog, Washington Post)

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

Despite Tsarnaev, the death penalty is on the decline

The execution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing - if it ever takes place - will quite possibly be the last of its kind, remembered as the last time the federal government put a person to death.

After a formal sentencing hearing next month, Tsarnaev's lawyers are expected to request a new trial. As the case winds through the lengthy appeals process, the prosecution's main argument for execution - that it offers "closure" to victims and their families - will be revealed as illusory. In effect, the appeals phase will put the death penalty on trial, and as time passes, public and legal opinion will probably turn decisively against the "ultimate punishment."

32 U.S. states are "retentionist" - they still have some form of capital punishment on the books - and 16 states have executed a person in the last 3 years. But the number of executions and new death sentences is at a 20-year low, and just a few states are responsible for the vast majority of executions.

Many U.S. cities, and a number of states, are now anti-death penalty zones - not just liberal bastions like Berkeley and Cambridge, Mass., but also New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and New Mexico. A bill to reintroduce the death penalty in Massachusetts was defeated. Bills to outlaw the death penalty are in process in Delaware, Kansas and Colorado. Even in Nebraska, a conservative state, a bill to abolish the death penalty has such strong support that legislators could override an expected veto by the governor.

Meanwhile - and driving that change - recent developments have brought intense public scrutiny of this controversial practice.

This year 2 death row inmates were exonerated: Debra Milke, jailed from 1990 to 2013 in Arizona, and Anthony Ray Hinton, jailed since 1985 in Alabama by a prosecutor who said he knew Hinton was guilty "just by looking at him." They were the 151st and 152nd U.S. death row prisoners so exonerated - the latest illustrations that the evidence in capital cases is often faulty or nonexistent.

Also this year, Utah reinstituted the practice of execution by firing squad, even though (as Gov. Gary Herbert put it) it's "a little bit gruesome." The move was a tacit admission that the lethal-injection procedure (which has changed as pharmaceutical companies have ceased production of several lethal drugs) is now so unreliable that shooting a man at close range is the more humane option.

Indeed, the medical establishment is increasingly uncomfortable with lethal injection. At its annual meeting in March, the American Pharmacists Assn. declared that "the practice of providing lethal-injection drugs is contrary to the role of pharmacists as healthcare providers," thus joining associations of doctors and of anesthesiologists in deeming cooperation with executions contrary to the Hippocratic Oath ("first do no harm").

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in a case brought by prisoners on death row in Oklahoma, contending that the death penalty as carried out there - by lethal injections secretly arranged and shoddily administered - constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It is the most substantive legal challenge to the death penalty here in decades. And it will put the court in the quixotic position of weighing the legality of the very procedure (lethal injection) that the Justice Department is brandishing as an instrument of justice in the Tsarnaev case.

The death sentence given to Tsarnaev is a final spasm of the death penalty, a punishment that the U.S. is on its way to abandoning, as most civil societies have already done.

When the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe took place in 1975, 16 European countries had already abolished the death penalty or committed to doing so. By the time the Berlin Wall came down, there were 19. By 2002, 38 more countries around the world had done so, including much of the former Soviet Union.

Today 105 of the 192 countries represented at the United Nations have abolished the death penalty by law, and at least 43 more have abolished it in practice, either through public moratorium or de facto moratorium (when a country declines to practice capital punishment for a decade or longer). Those that still employ the death penalty - among them Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, China, Japan and the U.S. - are outliers and strange bedfellows.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent future U.S. attorneys general from seeking the death penalty - for federal crimes involving terrorism and national security, for example - and future juries from delivering death sentences in capital cases. Societies and social norms, however, change quickly.

The last time a convicted criminal was executed in Massachusetts - 1947 - Harvard University was an all-male institution, "separate but equal" was still the law in much of the country, and the high wall in left field at Fenway Park had just been painted green. The last time the federal government executed a convicted criminal - Timothy McVeigh in June 2001 - the euro was a new currency, the Internet had only 50 million users and the World Trade Center towers were still standing.

President Obama, as he leaves office in 2017, could grant Tsarnaev clemency, reducing his sentence to life in prison without parole. But whether or not he does so, the long-term outlook is clear: In the United States today, the death penalty is itself on the verge of death.

(source: Opinion / Op-Ed; Mario Marazziti is the author of "Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty" and cofounder of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty----Los Angeles Times)

SUDAN:

1 year after Meriam Ibrahim's release, 2 Christians face possible death penalty in Sudan

Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.

Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now 2 Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.

The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.

"We know they have been arrested, but we don't know where they are being detained," said the Rev. Kori Romla Koru, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches. "We are trying to find them."

Yat was arrested last year after visiting the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church's Bahri congregation in Khartoum, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a charity that works on behalf of persecuted Christians.

The congregation had resisted the takeover of the church by a Muslim businessman, who had demolished part of the worship center.

In December, police beat and arrested 38 Christians for worshipping in the church.

With Yat's arrest, South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church sent Reith with a letter to the authorities to demand his release. He was arrested on Jan. 11.

Human rights groups have expressed deep concern over the charges, warning that the two clerics could face torture.

"It is unacceptable that after enduring extended detentions without charge, the men now face extreme and unwarranted charges," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's chief executive, said earlier this month.

Since the separation of Sudan and South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has forced out all foreign missionaries, raided churches and arrested and interrogated Christians on grounds that they belonged to South Sudan.

(source: Religion News Service)

VIETNAM:

Many Vietnamese lawmakers back abolition of death penalty for 7 crimes ---- The proposal that capital punishment be scrapped for seven crimes under the current Penal Code has been supported by many Vietnamese legislators.

On the 1st working day of the 9th session of the 13th National Assembly (NA) that opened in Hanoi on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong presented to the law-making body the proposed amendments to the Penal Code for discussion.

1 of them is the abolition of the death penalty for 7 crimes, including plundering property, destroying important national security works and/or facilities; disobeying orders in the military; surrendering to the enemy, which is applicable in the army; undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars; crimes against mankind; and war crimes.

Reducing death sentences is Vietnam's major policy that is reflected in recent resolutions on justice reform and the practice of criminal legislation, Minister Cuong said.

Many members of the NA Justice Committee and other lawmakers have agreed to the proposed amendment.

The Radio the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) quoted Nguyen Van Hien, chair of the NA Justice Committee, as saying his committee approves of the view that capital punishment should alleviated by cutting the number of crimes subject to death sentences, promulgating regulations that help minimize the application of the death penalty, and extending the list of defendants who are condemned to death but do not have their sentence carried out.

Tran Du Lich, deputy head of the delegation of lawmakers from Ho Chi Minh City, said that death sentences should be cut down but there should be a regulation on crimes subject to life imprisonment without parole.

If the NA approves this proposal, the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in Vietnam will be lowered to 15 from the current 22.

A number of deputies said capital punishment should be retained for the charges of undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars, crimes against mankind, and war crimes, as these top the list of the most serious counts.

Regarding some suggestions on abrogating capital punishment for 2 corruption crimes: embezzlement and bribe acceptance, Minister Cuong said the government's policy is that the death penalty should be maintained for those convicted of corruption as the highest sanction.

"We are uncompromisingly combating corruption. Many measures have been taken but they have yet to prove effective. Therefore, a proposal for death sentences be scrapped for these 2 crimes, which are the most serious among corruption charges, is not appropriate for the time being," the minister underlined.

As for another suggested amendment that defendants aged 70 or older should be exempted from capital punishment, Hien said most members of the NA Justice Committee have rejected it, VOV reported.

In reality people at this age can committee serious - even extremely serious - crimes and they can be the mastermind behind criminal organizations, Hien said.

If the government spares people of such age the death penalty, they could make use of the exemption to avoid punishment by law after committing serious crimes, he added.

According to the agenda of the 9th session of the NA, the amendments to the Penal Code will be discussed in groups of delegates on May 28 and in a plenary meeting on June 16.

VnExpress said the amendments will be submitted to the NA for consideration in its next session in November 2015.

(source: Tuoi Tre News)

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

Vietnam may stop punishing drug, war crimes by death

The government has proposed abolishing the death penalty for 7 crimes at a parliament session in Hanoi on Wednesday.

The crimes are robbery, vandalizing equipment and works significant to national security, gross disturbances of public order, surrendering to enemy forces, acts of sabotage and waging invasive wars, crimes against humanity, and drug trafficking.

The proposal is part of amendments to the Penal Code, which are going to be discussed at the ongoing session and voted on in November.

The Vietnamese Penal Code currently recognizes 22 crimes as punishable by death. That number was progressively scaled back from the original list issued in 1985, following amendments made in 1999 and 2009.

According to Tran Van Do, former vice chief of the Supreme People's Court, Vietnam's courts sentence about 200 people to death every year.

Vietnam switched to lethal injection from firing squad in 2011.

Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong, who presented the new amendments, said there are still controversies around the proposal involving death penalty.

Some people also proposed removing crimes of producing fake food and medicine, embezzlement and receiving bribe from the death penalty list.

"The government recognizes that there should be an unyielding fight against corruption. Many measures have been taken to no avail."

Removing corruption from the list could lead to misconception that the law is lenient to corrupt officials, he said.

Cuong said the government has also proposed life imprisonment without parole for the first time in Vietnam's legal system.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

EGYPT/AUSTRIA:

Austria's FM: we reject 'inhuman' capital punishment

"The death penalty is an inhuman deterrent strongly rejected by not only the Austrian government but also by the European Union," said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in a press conference held in Cairo Wednesday.

Kurz's comment came days after former President Mohamed Morsi and 105 others were sentenced Saturday to death over charges of prison break during the January 25 Uprising.

"Egypt is entitled to deal with terrorism, not only against the Islamic State. We support the punishment of terrorists but in the framework of fair trials," said Kurtz.

Egypt is not only a strategic player in the region but also a strong partner against the Islamic State group, said Kurz.

Kurz met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry Wednesday and discussed bilateral political and economic relations.

During the meeting, Kurz assured that the recovery of Egypt's tourism sector is directly related to the country's stability.

"Years ago, Austrian tourists visiting Egypt reached 200,000 tourists," he said, adding that Egypt is a good place for investments and that the total number of Austrian companies investing in Egypt reached 750.

Kurtz will meet with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi Thursday Kurz, according to a Wednesday's presidential statement.

Mass sentences against Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood defendants sparked international criticism of human rights organizations; an issue that was slammed by Egypt's government.

German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, who belongs to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU,) cancelled a meeting with Sisi in June, protesting the mass death sentences.

(source: The Cairo Post)

SINGAPORE:

Over 1.2kg of 'Ice' seized, Singaporean arrested----A total of about 1.27kg of 'Ice', 183g of ketamine, 134g of synthetic cannabis, 257 Erimin-5 tablets and seven Ecstasy tablets, worth more than S$239,000, were seized, according to CNB.

A suspected drug trafficker believed to be trafficking in an assortment of drugs was arrested on Wednesday, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said in a media release on Thursday (May 21).

A total of about 1.27kg of 'Ice', 183g of ketamine, 134g of synthetic cannabis, 257 Erimin-5 tablets and seven Ecstasy tablets, worth about S$239,000, were seized, according to CNB. It added that the amount of 'Ice' seized could feed the abuse habit of 720 'Ice' abusers for a week.

The suspect, a 48-year-old Singaporean, was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint A at about 11.20am on Wednesday. The drugs were seized when CNB officers searched his haversack.

"Various implements suspected to be used for making improvised drug smoking apparatus were also recovered," said CNB.

The suspect's residence in Holland Close was subsequently raided by CNB officers. A "large quantity" of 'Ice' and an assortment of other drugs were found and seized, CNB said. Officers also recovered other items such as empty plastic sachets, glass apparatus and a digital weighing scale.

Investigations into the drug trafficking activities of the suspect are ongoing. If convicted, he may face the death penalty, CNB said.

(source: Channel News Asia)

INDONESIA:

Sergio, Lacanilao's statements seen to boost Veloso's chance to escape death

The statements of the alleged recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso that she had no knowledge that she was transporting heroin to Indonesia will boost her chance of permanently escaping her death sentence, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday.

"This is a good development and an indication that we are at the right direction, right track ... If it will be proven in the ongoing investigation (that she is innocent), this will be a big thing for Mary Jane," de Lima told reporters.

"This shows that it was just right to suspend the implementation of the death penalty so the truth would first come out," she said.

She said they would immediately inform the Indonesian authorities about the affidavits of Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao "for their own appreciation."

The Justice Chief said they are hoping to get more information from Sergio and Lacanilao during the course of the preliminary investigation.

Edre Olalia, Veloso's lawyer from National Union of People's Lawyers, agreed with de Lima's opinion.

"It can be used as a basis by our Indonesian counterparts. In fact, they are actually waiting already for the translation from English to Bahasa so they will communicate immediately with the attorney general's office about this statement," he explained.

But he said they would file a reply to what he called as Sergio's "self-serving version of the surrounding circumstances to cover her own complicity."

"We will file reply-affidavits to reiterate the whole unembellished facts as they are. Additionally, we shall contest the inexplicable vilification she made against Mary Jane's family," he said in a statement.

Sergio, in her 31-page affidavit submitted to the DOJ last Wednesday, said Veloso fell prey to 2 "dark skinned, curly-haired men" she identified as Ike and John while they were in Malaysia in April 2010 to look for a job.

Sergio said she believes that Veloso was a victim who "was taken advantage of because she didn't know any better, was in dire need of a job, and because of her tendency to trust people, even strangers."

While saying Veloso was innocent, the alleged recruiters denied the charges against them. They said they only helped her in trying to find a job abroad.

(source: Philippine Inquirer)

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

Japanese grandfather gets life term in Indonesia drug case----Indonesia has argued need for tough drug trafficking deterrent, but some say harsh penalties due to domestic politics

A 73-year-old Japanese man, who says he was deceived into carrying drugs in someone else's bag on a flight into Indonesia, was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for smuggling methamphetamine into the country. The case highlights the country's strict anti-drug laws, which drew international outcry when they resulted in the executions of nine convicts last month.

Masaru Kawada was arrested in November at Minangkabau Airport in West Sumatra's capital, Padang, after customs officials found 5.18 pounds of crystal methamphetamine in his luggage. Chief state prosecutor Budi Prihalda said they had recommended a light sentence of 16 years because of the defendant's age.

But the 3-judge panel that convicted Kawada at the District Court in Pariaman said his deed had weakened the government's struggle against drugs, and sentenced him to life in prison.

"We found no reason to lighten his sentence," said presiding judge Jon Effreddi.

A lawyer for Kawada - who argued that he was tricked by someone who asked him to carry a bag and that he did not know he was carrying drugs - said they would appeal.

According to court documents, a man identified as Edward Mark met Kawada in Japan last November and asked him to travel to Macau, with Mark paying for Kawada's tickets and accommodations and giving him $500 in travel expenses. While in Macau, Kawada met a Chinese woman who asked him to carry a bag to a friend in Padang.

Kawada, who flew to Padang from Macau via Kuala Lumpur, said he had checked the bag and did not find anything suspicious. He said he only realized he was carrying methamphetamine upon arrival, when customs officials arrested him and confiscated the drug.

The grandfather of 2 is believed to be one of the oldest drug smugglers to be sentenced in Indonesia, which has extremely strict drug laws and often executes smugglers.

The country has executed 14 drug convicts, including 12 foreigners, this year amid protests and an international outcry, but Indonesia insists that tough punishment is part of its efforts to confront a drug emergency. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has said the country has 4.5 million people addicted to drugs.

But some activists have said such harsh penalties for drug offenses are related to domestic politics. Earlier this year Ricky Gunawan, director of the Jakarta-based LBH Masyarakat Community Legal Aid Institute, told Al Jazeera that there is widespread support for sentencing drug offenders to the death penalty.

"In Indonesia, drugs have always been seen as 'evil.' Narcotics ... are often labeled as haram," Gunawan said, using a term that means "forbidden" under Islam, the majority religion in Indonesia. "The government and law apparatus treat this issue as a way to gain popularity or support," he said.

Arrests, convictions and executions are "a way for the government to show that they are tough against crimes," Gunawan said.

More than 130 people are on death row in Indonesia, mostly for drug crimes. About 1/3 are foreigners.

"Since it is believed that the majority of drugs in Indonesia are imported, the government believes that by imposing harsh punishment on traffickers, they could reduce or halt the importation of drugs," Yohanes Sulaiman, lecturer in international relations and political science at Jakarta's Indonesian Defense University, told Deutsche Welle earlier this year.

Jokowi's determination to deal harshly with drug crimes has won him popular support at home, despite criticism by some rights groups and international leaders.

"We want to send a strong message to drug smugglers that Indonesia is firm and serious in tackling the drug problem, and one of the consequences is execution if the court sentences them to death," he told Al Jazeera in March.

(source: Al Jazeera)

IRAN----executions

7 People Executed- 2 in Public- and Public Flogging in Iran

7 people were hanged in Iran on Wednesday (May 20) and Tuesday, according to the Iranian state media.

5 people were hanged in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj, Wednesday morning May 20, reported Iranian state broadcasting. The prisoners were identified as "Ardalan", "Ali", "Morteza", "Meysam" and "Behrouz" and were all convicted of murder, said the report. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has received unconfirmed reports about the execution of 3 other prisoners in the Rajaishahr prison. These reports are being investigated.

1 prisoner was hanged in public in the city of Ghochan in northern Iran today. The prisoner who was identified as "A. Kh." was convicted of murder 4 years ago. He was a drug addict since his childhood, said the report.

Another prisoner was hanged publicly in the city of Minab (Southern Iran) on Tuesday May 19. According to Jomhuri-e-Eslami newspaper, the prisoner was identified as "Ayoub Torkamani", who was charged with possession and trafficking of 10 kilograms and 800 grams of crack, said the report. He was arrested 7 years ago.

Iranian state media also reported that the flogging sentence of a man identified as "Kamran" was implemented Monday morning May 18 (picture). He was convicted of theft. On Sunday the Iranian media reported about amputation sentence of another prisoner in Khuzestan province (southwestern Iran).

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Prisoner hanged in football field

The Iranian regime henchmen hanged at least 10 prisoners including 1 in public in a soccer field on Tuesday.

According to a report by the state-run daily Jomhouri Islami a man was hanged in the municipality's soccer field in the city of the Minab. The victim was identified as Ayob Torkamani.

The international governing body of football had previously warned Iranian regime about executions of prisoners on the football fields.

FIFA had in past sent warning to the regime's officials regarding the executions on football fields, a regime official had acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the Iranian regime's judiciary in Arak province announced that on Tuesday 4 death row prisoners were hanged in city's main prison.

UN human rights experts have condemned the recent surge in executions in Iran, the majority of which are unreported.

United Nations Special Rapporteurs involving the situation of human rights in Iran by Ahmed Shaheed and on extrajudicial executions by Christof Heyns have condemned the drastic increase in executions since the past few weeks.

In many cases executions have gone unreported by official sources and the names of those being executed have not been disclosed to the public.

"When the Iranian government refuses to even acknowledge the full extent of executions which have occurred, it shows a callous disregard for both human dignity and international human rights law," Mr. Shaheed stressed.

(source: NCR-Iran)

AUSTRALIA:

Adopt New Stratedy to End Death Penalty Abroad

Following the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia, the Australian government should redouble efforts to end the death penalty around the world, and overhaul the way it campaigns for global abolition, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia, and Uniting Justice Australia have joined forces to launch a new Australian blueprint to end the death penalty.

The Australian government has condemned executions in Indonesia, but it could play a larger role opposing the death penalty globally. Australia abolished the death penalty in 2010, although the last execution took place in 1967.

"The time is ripe for Australia's foreign ministry to make public a new comprehensive policy to end the death penalty worldwide, with specific and achievable goals for individual countries," said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. "The strategy should include consistent public and private diplomatic pressure to end this cruel practice, showing how the death penalty has failed to deter crime and been unjustly applied."

The groups' blueprint for change, "Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward" details 4 steps the government should take to build on the current momentum to end the death penalty:

1. Develop a new Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade public strategy document aimed at ending the death penalty, everywhere;

2. Use Australia's aid program to support civil society organizations campaigning for abolition in countries which retain the death penalty;

3. Join forces with other nations to push for universal adoption of a global moratorium on the death penalty; and

4. Put in place stronger legislation so the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is required by law not to share information with other law enforcement agencies that would potentially result in suspected perpetrators facing the death penalty.

The blueprint urges the Australian government to consult widely, including with the UK government, which already has a global strategy against the death penalty, as well as with advocacy groups in countries retaining the death penalty.

The organizations said if Australia wants its opposition to the death penalty globally to be credible, it is important that Australian laws consistently reflect that opposition. Following the arrests of the so-called Bali 9 in 2005, it emerged that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) passed on detailed information about the alleged plan to smuggle heroin from Bali, without seeking guarantees that the information would not be used by the authorities to eventually seek the death penalty against the perpetrators.

Emily Howie, director of advocacy and research at the Human Rights Law Centre, said: "If the Bali 9 case happened again tomorrow, nothing would prevent the AFP from acting in the same way. Parliament should amend the AFP Act to include sufficient safeguards to prevent police sharing information which could lead to the death penalty."

"Momentum is building globally for the abolition of the death penalty. In recent months, Australian people and the government have spoken out powerfully against executions," said Ursula Noye, vice president of Reprieve Australia. "The time is right for us to take a lead role, and build a regional coalition for abolition. We should make future generations proud."

"The recent executions of 8 men in Indonesia, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, was an inhuman and unjust punishment and represents exactly why the Australian government must continue to speak out against the death penalty whenever it occurs," said Claire Mallinson, national director at Amnesty International Australia. "We must now ensure Australia's stance against the recent executions is reflected in all government policy. We are asking for change across the Australian Government - through diplomacy, our aid program, our federal law enforcement agencies."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

MAY 20, 2015:

TEXAS:

Death penalty appeal denied ---- Court rejects arguments from Balch Springs Subway killer

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the appeal of a man facing the death penalty for his role in the 2002 killings of 2 workers at a Balch Springs sandwich shop.

Terry Darnell Edwards, 41, was convicted in November 2003 of capital murder in the July 2002 deaths of Subway manager Tommy Walker and store employee Mickell Goodwin. No execution date has been set.

Edwards had been fired from his job at the Subway less than a month before the killings. He and co-defendant Kirk Edwards - his then-32-year-old cousin - went to the Subway on the morning of July 8, 2002 as it was opening and robbed the store of about $3,000.

Police were able to arrest him the same day after he was spotted dumping a .38 caliber handgun into a trash bin outside a nearby cafeteria on Lake June Road.

Edwards - 30 years old at the time and a Lancaster resident - had already served a stretch in state prison before the robbery and murders. He was sentenced in 1997 to concurrent 5-year terms for theft and for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was paroled in 1999.

He had argued that he was denied a fair trial because of the judge gave improper instructions during jury selection. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument.

Defense attorneys said during the trial that Kirk Edwards was the shooter.

(source: ionmesquite.com)

MISSOURI----new execution date

Man who killed southwest Missouri woman in 2001 gets execution date

The Missouri Supreme Court has set an execution date of July 14 for David Zink, convicted of abducted and killing a southwest Missouri woman in 2001.

The court set the date Wednesday for Zink, who is 56. Missouri has executed 3 men so far this year, and Richard Strong is scheduled to die June 9.

Zink killed 19-year-old Amanda Morton after rear-ending her car on Interstate 44 near her hometown of Stafford.

He defended himself at his own murder trial, then appealed on grounds that the judge shouldn't have allowed him to do so.

At trial, he tried unsuccessfully to win a voluntary manslaughter verdict by claiming that he didn't deliberate before killing Morton.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska set to repeal death penalty after legislature overcomes veto threat ----State set to become 1st conservative state to abolish death penalty in 42 years after lawmakers throw enough support behind bill to void governor's veto

Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill abolishing the death penalty statewide - and with enough votes to override a promised veto from Republican governor Pete Ricketts.

The vote was 32 to 15 in Nebraska's unicameral legislature.

If that vote holds in a veto override, Nebraska would become the 1st conservative state to repeal the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973.

The Nebraska vote is notable in the national debate over capital punishment because it was bolstered by conservatives who oppose the death penalty for religious reasons and say it is a waste of taxpayer money.

Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997, and some lawmakers have argued that constant legal challenges will prevent the state from doing so again.

Ricketts, a death penalty supporter, has vowed to veto the bill. Ricketts announced last week that the state has bought new lethal injection drugs to resume executions.

Ricketts, who is serving his 1st year in office, argued in his weekly column on Tuesday that the state's inability to carry out executions was a "management problem" that he is committed to fixing.

Maryland was the last state to end capital punishment, in 2013. 3 other moderate to liberal states have done so in recent years: New Mexico in 2009, Illinois in 2011, and Connecticut in 2012. The death penalty is legal in 32 states, including Nebraska.

Independent senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who sponsored the Nebraska legislation, has fought for 4 decades to end capital punishment in the state.

Nebraska lawmakers passed a death penalty repeal bill once before, in 1979, but it was vetoed by then-governor Charles Thone.

(source: The Guardian)

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

Nebraska Poised to Abolish Death Penalty, Would Be First State Since 2013

Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill abolishing the death penalty, with enough votes to override a promised veto from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The 32-15 vote was bolstered by conservative senators who oppose capital punishment for fiscal, religious and pragmatic reasons.

If that vote holds in a veto override, Nebraska would become the 1st conservative state to repeal the death penalty since 1973.

Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997, and some lawmakers have argued that constant legal challenges will prevent the state from doing so again.

Ricketts has vowed a veto, and announced last week that the state has bought new lethal injection drugs to resume executions.

Maryland was the last state to abolish capital punishment, in 2013. 32 states have death penalty laws.

(source: NBC news)

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

Nebraska Death Penalty Repealed: Legislature Votes To Abolish Capital Punishment, Governor Vows To Veto

The Nebraska legislature voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to abolish the death penalty in the state. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican who supports the death penalty, has promised to veto the measure, although lawmakers' 32 - 15 vote in its favor would be sufficient to override that, KETV reported.

The approval came less than a week after Ricketts announced that state officials had bought supplies of the 3 drugs necessary for lethal injections. Throughout the United States, the death penalty has come under fire in recent months after a series of botched executions in 2014. States have also struggled to secure supplies of drugs needed to carry out lethal injections, due to a boycott by Europe on exporting such drugs to correctional facilities in the United States.

No prisoner on death row has been executed in Nebraska since 1997, and since 1973, only 4 executions have taken place in the state, the Associated Press reported. The most recent state to ban capital punishment was Maryland in 2013.

(source: International Business Times)

NEVADA:

Lawmakers approve money for new execution chamber in Ely

Nevada lawmakers have given the green light to spending about $860,000 on a new execution chamber at the remote Ely State Prison.

A joint Assembly and Senate budget committee voted Wednesday to approve the construction project. A subcommittee was split earlier this week on the matter.

The state's existing death chamber at the shuttered Nevada State Prison in Carson City is not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. State officials have said for about four years that they wouldn't be able to carry out an execution there.

Executions remain rare in Nevada, which has only carried out the death penalty 12 times since 1977.

Department of Corrections officials say there are about 80 inmates on Nevada's death row, but the state hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Charles Manson's chaplain speaks out amid national death row debate

American Christians were once strongly in favor of capital punishment, but now they find themselves increasingly conflicted. After a judge sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings, religious leaders in the city found themselves on both sides of the issue. Lawmakers in Nebraska are considering a bill to ban the death penalty there, which would make it the 1st conservative state to do so in four decades. And Christian leaders such as Jay Sekulow and Pat Robertson have provided support for movements like Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

In such a moment, Reverend Earl Smith has decided to speak out. When Smith became chaplain of San Quentin in 1983, he was the youngest ever hired by the state of California. While there, he played chess with Charles Mansion, negotiated truces between gangs, and witnessed many executions. In 2000, he was named National Correctional Chaplain of the Year and now serves as chaplain of the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors. Here we discuss his views on justice, America's correctional system, and his new book, Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America's Most Notorious Prison.

RNS: Describe what day-to-day life is like for death row inmates at San Quentin. Would you consider it humane?

ES: Each day on death row is different, yet each day is the same. Your lunch is served with your breakfast. Most days are spent watching television, sleeping or reading. Exercise is an option on certain days. Religious services are offered once a week on a rotating basis. The only area that actually has a chapel is East Block, which accommodates 24 inmates. Communication from cell to cell is done through yelling or an inmate mail system called a "kite" on a "fish line". In only 1 of the 3 areas in San Quentin housing condemned inmates, inmates are allowed some opportunities to mingle during various parts of the day.

RNS: Tell us about your relationship with Charles Manson? What was your assessment of his spiritual state?

ES: After each conversation I had with Charles Manson, I went away in awe of his ability to capture a moment and claim it as his. Charles Manson was exactly what he sought to be. Charles wanted people to see him, hear his name and fear him. The problem is that Charles is a little person who sees his height in terms of emotional and psychological dominance. Psychological warfare was his means of survival. He once told me, "this is my world, and I decide when you do what you do. The trees, the stars, the grass they all belong to me". Charles was interested in the manipulation of people for the sole purpose of seeing if he could manipulate them.

RNS: You witnessed 12 executions. Describe briefly what it feels like to see that kind of thing?

ES: To see a man strapped into a chair or on a gurney is actually a small part of the execution process. After the condemned man dies, the process of the execution lingers. The staff that walks the inmate into the chamber, the official witnesses, the victim's family members and the inmate's family members all are assembled in the same room. The administrative staff member assigned to the task of implementing the protocol has to disassociate themselves from the notion of death. The focus is turned to a person who is asked if he has any last words. People have asked me if lethal injection is more humane. My answer is capital punishment, via hanging, gas, firing squad, electrocution, guillotine all get the same result ... death. Seeing an execution is seeing death. You can never forget what you see.

RNS: Since humans are created in God's image with inherent dignity, I don't think humans should be able to legally execute other humans like this. What do you think?

ES: Sin is sin, and he that is without sin should be required to cast the first stone. If there is no one available, then perhaps we should come up with an alternative. God does not make mistakes, so the flaws witnessed in the process of the gruesome crimes which result in sentences of capital punishment are those of an infested society, not of a God who pronounced all creation "good". A reference point for the argument of support for capital punishment is found in the mandate to support the laws of the land. I believe there are just and unjust laws. Is capital punishment one such unjust law? I truly do not know. What I know is that the only deterrent is to the person executed. Murders still take place on the day of an execution, so clearly the focus has not presented a time of pause.

RNS: How have your experiences on death row changed your thinking about the death penalty, if at all?

ES: As a chaplain, my job is to represent hope. In the execution process, hope meets reality; you have to focus on the true hope of eternal life. The word "closure" doesn't belong in the dialog about capital punishment. Before I arrived at San Quentin, I was not sure what I thought about the death penalty. I would listen to the play-by-play of an execution as a young boy. That experience left me thinking that when you do enough wrong, people will get tired of you and perhaps execute you. After arriving at San Quentin and having men on my death row caseload be released into free society, my thought has never moved beyond what if one of those guys had been executed. The reality that death is final and the system can be flawed is where I arrived as a result of working there.

(source: Religion News Service)

USA:

Why Is It So Easy for States to Execute the Mentally Ill?

Long before he committed a vicious triple murder in Houston at the age of 19, Derrick Charles had shown signs of serious mental problems. Raised amid crippling poverty, domestic abuse, alcoholism and neglect, he watched his schizophrenic mother stab his abusive stepfather. He suffered from tactile and auditory hallucinations, and by the time he was 13, had been hospitalized twice for mental illness. While in juvenile prison for nonviolent offenses, he said he was hearing voices and asked for medication. The request was denied.

Then, in July 2002, while high on marijuana laced with PCP, Charles beat and strangled his 15-year-old girlfriend, Myeshia Bennett, and her 77-year-old grandfather, Obie, then beat, strangled, and sexually assaulted Bennett's mother, Brenda. He confessed to police, saying he didn't know why he'd done it.

None of Charles's lengthy and troubling history was investigated by his defense attorneys or presented at trial. Unaware of his documented mental illness - among mitigating evidence that would lessen his culpability for the crime - the Texas jury sentenced Charles to die.

Charles was executed last week, on May 12, at the age of 32. His death by lethal injection went largely undiscussed, despite the compelling evidence of his mental illness. Yet it is far from clear that his execution was a legal one - whether Charles was so mentally ill that he was in fact incompetent to die at the hands of the state.

The Charles case is not unique. It follows closely on the heels of other questionable executions of prisoners with mental problems. In January, the first execution of the year was Georgia's killing of Andrew Brannan, a decorated Vietnam veteran who had been diagnosed with severe mental illness prior to his killing a deputy sheriff during a traffic stop in 1998. And in March, Missouri executed Cecil Clayton, a man who was missing 20 % of his brain's frontal lobe - the brain's center for impulse control, problem solving and social behavior.

There is no outright ban on executing the mentally ill. While the U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of the intellectually disabled and of juveniles, populations it deems so vulnerable that their execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, there has been no such determination when it comes to people with mental illness. Rather, the court has said only that the "insane" may not face execution, leaving the measure of insanity up to to the states. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that in order for a prisoner to be considered competent for execution, he or she must have a rational understanding of the state's reason for killing him or her.

This notion of "competency" is the sole measure for defining what role mental illness might have played in the commission of a crime - from arrest through conviction and to execution. When it comes to determining whether a mentally ill person should be spared the death penalty, the standard is extremely loose and subject to nonscientific criteria that vary from state to state. What's more, in Texas, there is no right for a condemned, and likely ill, prisoner to even obtain the necessary resources to argue that he or she is too mentally ill to be executed. In the months leading up to Charles's execution, state and federal courts declined to appoint counsel or to fund an evaluation of Charles' mental health - a step necessary to raise a claim that he was incompetent and could not be executed. A state court judge told lawyers with the nonprofit Texas Defender Service that in order to be appointed and funded to represent Charles on an incompetency claim, they would have to show that Charles was currently incompetent. But in order to do that, the lawyers argued, they would need to be appointed and funded. "It's this total bizarre, Catch-22-land," said Kate Black, a TDS lawyer who worked on Charles's case.

In the end, despite Charles's history, no court intervened to determine whether he was legally sane enough to die. Instead, they cleared the way for his execution.

The number of mentally ill people on death row is unknown, in part because it is a prison population not often studied. But there is no question that mental illness is a pervasive problem throughout the criminal justice system. Texas's Harris County jail, where defendants from Houston and surrounding areas are detained, is the state's single largest mental health care provider. Nationally, more than 50 % of all jail and prison inmates suffer from mental health problems, a 2006 federal study found.

More than 20 % of Texas's death row prisoners reportedly have mental illness, although that number seems low to Black. "I don't have any clients on death row who don't suffer from some significant mental illness or mental impairment," she said.

Exacerbating the problem is that death rows are incredibly isolated places: In Texas, prisoners are housed individually in 6-by-10-foot cells for 23 hours each day, conditions that are similar to those in most death penalty states. (In Idaho, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, prisoners spend a full 24 hours a day in their individual, solid-door cells.) For those who are already mentally ill, solitary confinement often makes prisoners' illnesses worse, said Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist and professor at Berkeley's Wright Institute. For those who aren't already ill, the punishing isolation often leads to mental deterioration.

It is precisely this cyclical nature of mental illness that can make determining "competency" so difficult, particularly in the absence of consistent and effective mental health care, which can be hard to come by in prison. The piecemeal, if not lax, standard for determining who is too ill to die (or even too ill to face questioning by police, stand trial, or to represent themselves at trial) is troubling to both mental health experts and to lawyers who regularly handle death penalty cases.

"When we do a competency exam, it's always competency to do such-and-such," said Kupers. "And there are standards that are different. For instance, there is a standard for competency to stand trial; it's spelled out legally. Then there's another issue: if an individual wants to stand trial and act as their own attorney, then we have another level of competency," he continued. "Well, the lowest standard there is is the standard to be executed - it's just, basically, minimal."

The ban on executing juveniles, those who committed their crimes prior to turning 18, is absolute. So is the ban on executing the intellectually disabled. The lack of a bright-line rule for determining who is too ill to die has resulted in a mishmash of expections that regularly lead to troubling results.

(It should be noted that while the ban on executing the intellectually disabled is absolute, that doesn't mean standards developed by various states are uniformly robust, or even constitutional. For example, 13 years after the high court's ruling, Texas has yet to enact a statute that would impose a predictable structure for determining mental retardation, and instead continues to use criteria developed by the state's highest criminal court, known anecdotally as the Lennie Standard - a set of criteria for determining disability predicated on the mental abilities of fictional character Lennie Small from John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men.)

It is hard to know exactly how many death row inmates with serious mental illness have been executed, though Death Penalty Focus, an abolitionist group, reports that more than 60 mentally ill or retarded inmates have been executed since 1983.

Texas has a particularly questionable record: Under Gov. Rick Perry in 2004, the state executed Kelsey Patterson - a documented schizophrenic who believed he'd been granted a permanent stay of execution by Satan himself - despite a rare recommendation from the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence. Currently, the state remains unconvinced that Andre Thomas is too ill to die, even though Thomas clawed out both of his eyeballs, eating one of them, while incarcerated.

Today, Texas continues to fight for the right to execute Scott Panetti, even though it was in his case that the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that an inmate must have some rational understanding of the underlying basis for his or her execution. Indeed, Panetti's case exemplifies the relative ease with which the competency threshold can be breached. Panetti, who murdered his in-laws in 1992, is schizophrenic. Nonetheless, he was deemed competent to act as his own defense counsel at trial, where he dressed in a purple cowboy outfit and sought to subpoena Jesus Christ and Anne Bancroft (among nearly 200 others) to testify for his defense. Panetti has long said he believes that the state seeks to execute him for preaching "the gospel of the Lord King." The state has argued that Panetti is merely malingering.

Crucially, as TDS attorney Burke Butler notes, Panetti's case only made it to the Supreme Court because he had appointed counsel and the resources needed to raise his claim. In Charles's case, while TDS lawyers had been appointed to handle his federal appeals and clemency bid, no lawyer had been appointed to look into his competency. Because a claim of incompetency cannot be raised until execution is imminent, it wasn't until the months leading up to his execution that his appointed lawyers could even argue he should not be put to death on the basis of his mental illness. At that point, the newest information lawyers had regarding Charles's mental state was roughly a decade old.

Lawyers for Charles sought court-appointment to investigate competency, as well as resources to conduct a full psychiatric assessment. But their requests were denied. According to Butler, the courts "essentially" said that "in order to be entitled to be appointed counsel and [a] neuropsychological evaluation, we need ... to present evidence that could not be obtained without being appointed counsel and [given] a neuropsychological evaluation." She called the circumstances "tragic," as well as highlighting a "big constitutional gap." The Supreme Court says incompetent prisoners can't be executed, but "at the same time, apparently courts are not providing incompetent defendants the resources they need to show their incompetency, even in very compelling cases, like Mr. Charles's."

In the absence of a lower threshold to allow prisoners like Charles an opportunity to mount an incompetency claim, Black and Butler suggest, the Supreme Court should simply ban execution of the severely mentally ill. "And that's kind of the argument we've been making in these cases," says Black, "which is, listen, the same rationale that you used in [banning execution of the intellectually disabled] - which is that there's no deterrent effect for someone who doesn't understand it, these people are at risk for having terrible counsel and of not being able to help counsel - all those things are also true about the mentally ill."

(source: firstlook.org)

TAIWAN:

Indonesian worker admits murdering Taiwan employer; blames bullying

An Indonesian worker, known only as Ani, who allegedly murdered the owner of a breakfast shop where she was employed on Monday, revealed during police questioning yesterday that she carried out the homicide due to unfair working treatment and claimed that her former boss had slashed her salary.

According to the police, Ani was introduced to the owners of the breakfast shop in Zhubei, Hsinchu City through an agent last August. She began working there illegally with a promised monthly wage of NT$26,000 (S$1,140), but was later fired in December.

Ani admitted to stabbing Lin Ting-yi with a steak knife 3 times in the left chest before running off early Monday morning. The incident took place at the entrance of the shop. She was discovered by other shop workers, and was sent to the hospital. Lin later died from blood loss.

Workplace Bullying Spawned Homicide?

Ani claimed that she was taunted by the shop owners, who said that she had mental problems, and was often called "stupid," "trash" and "dog." Only recently did the Ani decide to carry out murder in revenge.

The Indonesian worker said that the she had worked there for almost half a year, but had received only NT$22,000 per month in wages, lower than the discussed NT$26,000. Yet, she claimed that the main reason behind the murder was Lin's "workplace bullying."

Lin's husband, said that after illegally employing Ani through an agent last August, she began to show disturbing signs of a mental disorder, such as often muttering to herself. In the end they decided to lay Ani off. The husband claimed that they had "never cut the worker's pay."

A relative of Lin said that Lin gave Ani's wages to her agent every month on time, but did not know whether she received the money or not.

Possible Death Penalty

Police authorities yesterday found that the Indonesian suspect deliberately murdered her former boss after examining the corpse. The suspect not only stabbed Lin's heart, but twisted the knife as well.

Officers also reported that the suspect had been wearing gloves at the time, and cleaned the steak knife after committing the murder.

The Indonesian worker was sent to the Hsinchu District Prosecutor's Office yesterday afternoon suspected of homicide. Attorney Liao Fang-hsuan said that the worker could face the death penalty.

The Labor Affairs Department in Hsinchu County said that fruit stands, restaurants, and construction sites cannot employ illegal foreign workers.

(source: Asia One)

NIGERIA:

Murder charges against 15-year-old girl accused of using rat poison to kill a 35-year-old man she was forced to marry are dropped by Nigerian court

Prosecutors had sought death penalty for accused Wasila Tasi'u

Said it was 'with a heavy heart' they dropped the case against her

Umar Sani, who had 2 wives, died days after marrying her in Kano state

Human rights campaigners maintained she was victim of abuse

A child bride accused of murdering her husband with rat poison has had the charges against her dropped, Nigerian prosecutors confirmed.

Prosecutor Lamido Abba Soron-Dinki asked the High Court in Gezawa, Kano state, to 'terminate the case of culpable homicide against Wasila Tasi'u, who was 14 when she married Umar Sani.

'With a heavy heart, I apply that the accused be discharged,' he said.

Legal sources in Kano said the country had been under pressure to drop the case which angered human rights groups.

Police previously said Wasila had 'admitted' murdering her 35-year-old husband by signing a confession she could not read - with her thumbprint.

Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty for the teenager, whose farmer husband was found dead just days after marrying her in April last year.

If she had been found guilty, the teenager - who is from a poor and deeply conservative Muslim family and cannot write - could have become the 1st child in Nigeria to be executed in 18 years.

Human rights campaigners continually expressed outrage over her treatment, saying she should be seen as a victim of abuse.

But the case prompted mixed reactions in her impoverished home state of Kano, where Sharia (Islamic) law is in place alongside the laws of the government.

That, claim some followers, allows child marriage - and 14 is a normal age for a bride.

She could not write her name so 'she had to use a thumbprint,' he added.

One of the prosecution witnesses was the farmer's 2nd wife Ramatu, who told how her 'co-wife' prepared him dinner before being due to go to bed with him.

The court had heard the murder victim had married Ramatu previously in the village of Unguwar Yansoro, which sits in a region where polygamy is widespread.

Ramatu said she got along well with the 14-year-old and the two had prepared food together on April 5, 2014 the day Sani died.

Because it was Wasila's turn to share a bed with her new husband, she was also entitled to serve him his meal.

'After putting the food in the dish I didn't see anybody put anything in it,' Ramatu said - but later she saw her husband foaming at the mouth and unable to walk.

Previously a 7-year-old girl who Wasila allegedly sent to buy rat poison was called to give evidence.

Identified only as Hamziyya, the young girl - believed to be Ramatu's sister - was living in the same house as the 14-year-old and her new husband at the time of his death.

'She said rats were disturbing her in her room,' Hamziyya told the court.

Shopkeeper Abuwa Yusuf confirmed selling poison to the girl, and neighbour Abdulrahim Ibrahim said: 'When [Sani] brought the food I noticed some sandy-like particles, black in colour'.

The neighbour ate 4 of the small balls made of bean paste but 'was not comfortable with the taste', he said, adding: 'It was only Umar (Sani) who continued eating.'

Previous court reports suggested 3 other people had died after allegedly eating the contaminated food, but all 4 deaths had been combined into 1 murder charge.

The case has raised the spectre of child marriage in Nigeria, where campaigners say almost 2/5 of children are married off before their 18th birthday.

Some 16 per cent are married before they turn 15, according to the campaign group Girls Not Brides - and the rates are the highest in the north, near where Wasila lived.

Hussaina Ibrahim from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), who is representing the teenager, previously told The Guardian: 'We are against the trial. The whole process violates her fundamental rights.

'The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says she should be in education. She should be in school'.

But others including the 14-year-old's own relatives have rejected the notion she was forced into marriage.

They have said that 14 is a common age to marry in the deeply impoverished region and that she chose Sani from among many suitors.

A motion by defence lawyers to have the case moved to juvenile court was rejected, despite claims by human rights activists that she is too young to stand trial for murder in a high court.

The use of Sharia law has also made the case more complicated, because there are no guidelines saying where Islamic law ends and state law begins.

According to Human Rights Watch, Nigeria is not known to have executed a juvenile offender since 1997, when the country was ruled by military dictator Sani Abacha.

(source: Daily Mail)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia risks revolution with execution of activist Sheikh al-Nimr

With over 30,000 political prisoners languishing in prison, Saudi Arabia has become the epitome of oppression. Now, newly crowned King Salman is set to paint the Kingdom red with the blood of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric.

Sheikh al-Nimr, arguably one of the fiercest and most vocal critics of the monarchy, was condemned to death in October 2014 on charges of sedition. His crime: the denunciation of Saudi Arabia's brutal and reactionary theocratic system.

A cleric, a man of letters and community teacher, Sheikh al-Nimr has dedicated his life to advocating peaceful change, interfaith tolerance, social justice and political self-determination. Born in a country that strictly segregates on the basis of one's social standing, religious affiliation and even gender, Sheikh al-Nimr has become both a symbol of resistance and a hope that peaceful change in the country is still possible.

An independent mind and a charismatic man, Sheikh al-Nimr has never cowered before adversity, especially when it meant abandoning an entire people - his people - to suffer religious oppression at the hands of the Kingdom's Wahhabi establishment. In a country where all which is not Wahhabi Islam is considered heresy, Sheikh al-Nimr stood tall for Saudi Arabia's Shia population, a group that for centuries has endured a brutal and often bloody sectarian-motivated crackdown.

In 2011, hope came to the Saudis by way of the Arab Spring as millions across the Middle East and North Africa rose in unison to depose autocracies, determined to reclaim power from their respective despots. And while revolution burned bright for a while, the grip on power was but briefly displaced. As people's resolve wavered and democracies faltered, chaos spread and military leaders stepped out of the shadows and into the revolutionary vacuum. From Egypt to Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen popular rule remains an elusive concept.

Saudi Arabia never got its revolution!

Sheikh al-Nimr is one of the unwarranted casualties of a movement that bore such promise and yet fell flat on its face under the weight of political manipulation.

For daring to speak against the monarchy and demanding equal rights for all Saudis, Sheikh al-Nimr was struck down by the regime, branded to suffer the wrath of a system that only tolerates absolute submission. Keen to make an example out of him and stifle dissent through his trial, al-Saud's Royals handed this one cleric a punishment worthy of the Spanish Inquisition.

Al-Nimr was not just condemned to death, he was sentenced to be beheaded, then crucified in a public square; his body to be paraded before all, as one would do a hunting trophy.

But Saudi Arabia's clear desire to punish those who defy its authority could actually end up costing the monarchy more than it bargained for. Again, Sheikh al-Nimr is more than just a political dissident; he has become the vessel of Saudi Arabia's discontent, an inspiration for all those men and women who continue to oppose al-Saud's hegemony in the region.

As Ali al-Ahmed, an expert on Saudi Arabia from the Institute for Gulf Affairs, warned in comments to MintPress, the killing of al-Nimr will likely mark a point of no return for the Kingdom. "You'd see huge protests, you'd see huge clashes ... This would be a turning point."

Amid the warnings and cries for reprisals, Western powers have retreated behind their walls of silence, the public's apathy only broken by the admonition of rights organizations. "Saudi Arabia's wave of executions since the start of this year has provoked widespread disgust. But these killings, if they are allowed to go ahead, will mark a new low," said Maya Foya, director of Reprieve's death penalty team, in a post to the NGO's website.

With a new generation of princes holding the rod of power in Riyadh, the Kingdom has become, if ever it was possible, a much darker and oppressive place indeed.

As Prince bin Naif now heads the Interior Ministry, any form of activism, whether political or religious, has been construed as terrorism; at the same time, calls for democratic reform are likened to treason. Utilizing specialized criminal courts and a terrorism law that effectively criminalizes free speech, Prince bin Naif, the new darling of the United States, has worked to squash the very concept of civil liberties. With rights advocates such as Fadhil al-Manasif, Waleed Abu al-Khair, Raif Badawi and Sheikh al-Nimr now languishing behind bars, one could argue the Kingdom is at war with its own people.

But as is usually the case where repression has become the main institutional axis, the opposition needs only to find a rallying cry, one pivotal moment where the collective fear of persecution is overcome to turn one movement into a revolutionary storm. While 2011 provided an opportunity to break the shackles that burdened millions across the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia needs its revolutionary spirit to come alive. As it stands, Sheikh al-Nimr could become that impetus the Saudis have been waiting for.

If Saudi Arabia often presents itself as an oasis of calm and stability against the tumult of a region racked by wars, poverty and terror, we might want to consider the fact that it could be because it stands at the epicenter of such ongoing chaos - the generator of violence that has swept the region and brought misery to millions.

When political power can only be asserted through the spilling of blood and gruesome displays of violence, when legitimacy can only be gained through vicious oppression, it is often such regimes that are on the brink of collapse.

Change is inherent to the reality of our universe, and not even the Kingdom will be able to weather that storm. And it's coming!

(source: Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements; rt.com)

TEXAS:

Death penalty still a blight on the soul of Texas

The death sentence handed down by a jury to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has brought the issue of capital punishment to the forefront of the nation's conscience once more.

Of course, here in Texas, executing people has become so common that most people barely take notice anymore.

Shortly after Tsarnaev was charged with capital murder, I proclaimed that then-Attorney General Eric Holder was wrong in seeking the death penalty in the case, and I had hoped that the Boston jury would agree instead on a sentence of life in prison.

Just as Holder was wrong, so is our new Attorney General Loretta Lynch in saying that death for Tsarnaev is a "fitting punishment."

Capital punishment should never be "fitting" in a civilized society.

Yes, the Boston bombing was a horrible crime and no doubt Tsarnaev was guilty. But neither a state nor the country ought to be in the killing business, which is why I oppose all executions, including those of other notorious criminals like: Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber; John Allen Muhammad, the Washington-area sniper; Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; and Saddam Hussein, Iraq's brutal dictator.

With that in mind, you should understand why I've opposed all 525 executions carried out in Texas since 1982, when the state resumed putting prisoners to death. And with 2 more men scheduled to die next month - the 8th and 9th this year should their punishments be carried out - I once again raise objection to this brutality of the state.

The executions set for June also allow us to focus on a dilemma the state faces as more drug manufacturers refuse to sell the lethal products to be used in executing individuals, giving some of us hope that the unavailability of the proper pharmaceuticals might be the way to stop capital punishment.

Texas and some other states, however, have begun using unidentified pharmacies with the ability to compound drugs, with the states refusing to make known who the suppliers are.

Although a judge has ordered that Texas must identify its drug suppliers, that case is being appealed and the court order is on hold.

An execution this month had left Texas with only 1 remaining dose of its lethal drug, meaning it would have had only enough to kill 1 person in June, not 2, Michael Graczyk of The Associated Press reported. But it seems a new supply has been purchased, meaning the deaths of Gregory Russeau and Lester Bower won't be stopped - that is, for the lack of drugs.

The Bower case is particularly interesting because he has been on death row for 31 years this month. Only 1 other man spent 31 years on Texas death row before being executed.

An Arlington resident accused of killing 4 men in an aircraft hanger near Sherman in 1983, Bower has maintained his innocence.

6 times his pending execution has been halted, the last time in February when the Supreme Court decided to take up his latest claims that included his being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because of his length of time on death row and the number of times he faced imminent execution.

In March the high court turned down his appeal, paving the way for his seventh scheduled date with the executioner.

At 67, Bower would become the oldest man to be executed in Texas, another one for the record books in the country's leading death penalty state.

(source: Column; Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

MISSISSIPPI:

Condemned Mississippi inmate wants mental health hearing

Attorneys for a Mississippi death row inmate asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to order a hearing on his mental health as a possible step toward overturning his conviction.

The attorney general's office opposed the request, saying a trial judge properly handled the capital murder case against Erik Wayne Hollie, who pleaded guilty in the 2009 killing of a pawn shop owner.

After listening to more than an hour of arguments, justices gave no indication of how or when they might rule.

Hollie, now 30, was sentenced to death by a Copiah County jury in 2010 after he pleaded guilty to capital murder in the killing of Wesson Pawn Shop owner Denmon Ward.

Hollie's public defender, Alison Steiner, who came to the case years after Hollie was convicted, told justices that shortly after Hollie was sent to prison, he was found to be suffering from "a bipolar-type situation." She said the condition could not have developed quickly, and indicated Hollie had been mentally incompetent at the time of trial, when he waived the assistance of another defense attorney and pleaded guilty.

"There were times he could appear perfectly normal and times he could appear completely irrational," Steiner said.

She said that during sentencing, Hollie underwent an evaluation by a psychiatrist who was agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys. Steiner told justices that she believes Hollie was "faking" good mental health so he could "go to a proceeding where he could commit suicide by jury."

In a videotaped discussion with investigators, Hollie said God had told him to kill Ward, she said.

A circuit judge should have held a hearing to more fully examine Hollie's mental health, she said.

Steiner said medical records from prison show doctors have treated him for depression and other mental disorders with psychotropic medications including Prozac and Remeron.

Jason L. Davis, a special assistant attorney general, argued said the issue of Hollie's mental competency was "completely abandoned" by this original defense attorney long ago.

Davis said that although opponents of the death penalty might not like the circumstances, "this is a case of an individual who took responsibility - who took responsibility for his actions, who pled gulity and asked to be sentenced to death."

Mississippi law says a person can be sentenced to death for killing someone if there is another felony involved. Steiner said jurors in Hollie's case were told about 2 possible other felonies that could be used to make his a death-penalty case. One was a robbery that prosecutors said took place during the killing of Ward at the pawn shop. The other was Hollie's guilty plea to an earlier armed robbery.

She said jurors used his record from the previous armed robbery as the reason for setting a death penalty. However, she questioned whether that was proper. She said the trial court had not fully finished processing the earlier armed robbery plea before he was sentenced to death in the capital murder case.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Man will face death penalty in 2009 'Cathouse' killings trial in Oklahoma

A man accused of the killing of a drug dealer and 3 women - including 2 who were pregnant - will face the death penalty at trial.

Russell Lee Hogshooter, 37, will be tried on 6 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of conspiracy, Oklahoma County Special Judge Fred Doak ruled Tuesday.

Hogshooter is 1 of 2 men charged with the 2009 slayings in November. The other man, Jonathan Allen Cochran, 35, has pleaded guilty and is serving a 25-year prison sentence for his role.

1 of the victims, 22-year-old Brooke Phillips, was a prostitute featured on "Cathouse," a reality television show about a Nevada brothel.

Cochran testified Tuesday to what prosecutors have long alleged - Casey Mark Barrientos, 32, was the target of the attack.

Phillips, Jennifer Lynn Ermey, 25, and Milagros "Millie" Barrera, 22, were killed to eliminate them as witnesses, Cochran testified. Phillips and Barrera were pregnant.

The initial plan was to rob the house of money and drugs while nobody was home, but the assailants agreed to kill anyone they found inside the home and armed themselves before leaving Salina, OK, for Oklahoma City, Cochran said.

(source: The Oklahoman)

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

Miles Bench Awaits Execution in Oklahoma

Convicted Stephens County killer, Miles Bench is now in his new cell awaiting execution on Oklahoma's death row in McAlester.

The death warrant was signed by the judge last week.

Bench was found guilty of the beating death in 2012 of 16-year-old Braylee Henry in the convenience store in Velma where he worked.

His execution is set for the 1st week of August.

However, his attorneys have filed papers to appeal the sentence.

The Stephens County jury recommended the death penalty on march 6, after finding him guilty.

Before and during his trial, his attorneys had attempted to have him declared mentally incompetent, but failed.

Oklahoma's executions by lethal injection were put on hold after problems, but last month the governor signed a bill to allow use of nitrogen gas for executions if lethal injection is not reinstated.

(source: texomashomepage.com)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska lawmakers out of touch with rest of state, Gov. Ricketts says

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday that state lawmakers are "out of touch" with their fellow Nebraskans on several fronts.

Ricketts said lawmakers were not listening to the public when they passed a hike in the gas tax. And he said they're not listening to the public each and every time they advance a bill to repeal the death penalty.

"The Legislature is out of touch with what Nebraskans believe," Ricketts said during an appearance on "The Bottom Line," The World-Herald's Internet radio show.

Nebraska has 11 men on death row. The last time the state executed anyone was in 1997.

Ricketts said he believes that most Nebraskans continue to support the ultimate punishment for those people who commit the worst crimes. He also said prosecutors often use the death penalty as leverage to negotiate plea deals with murderers, and it helps protect prison guards because inmates with life sentences otherwise would have nothing to lose if they killed while in prison.

"We use it judiciously (in Nebraska)," said Ricketts. "We don't overuse it."

Ricketts said the state will eventually have all the drugs needed to perform its first execution by lethal injection. 3 inmates on death row have exhausted their appeals.

In the past, the state has had trouble acquiring all 3 drugs needed to perform an execution by lethal injection. But last week, Ricketts announced that a drug distributor in India, HarrisPharma, agreed to sell 2 necessary drugs to Nebraska.

Once the drugs are delivered, Ricketts said, the state will be ready to push for those executions. He said Attorney General Doug Peterson also believes that the state will be able to perform its 1st execution in 18 years.

"We are all in lockstep with our ability to do this," said Ricketts.

Of the 3 drugs in Nebraska's lethal injection protocol, sodium thiopental has been the most difficult to obtain because U.S. manufacturers have quit making it, and several foreign suppliers have banned its use for executions.

(source: omaha.com)

CALIFORNIA:

DA: Ernesto Martinez will still face death penalty

Riverside County prosecutors have decided they will continue to seek the death penalty for Ernesto Salgado Martinez, an Indio man who has already been sentenced to execution for killing a policeman in Arizona.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin held a meeting with his top prosecutors on Monday to strategize about how to best prosecute Martinez, but ultimately decided to stay the course in the killer's stagnating court case.

"During the discussion of the factual and procedural history of this case, several questions arose that I believe need to be answered before I can come to a final decision," Hestrin said in an emailed statement to The Desert Sun on Tuesday. "The nature of the information I needed to make my decision was such that I directed my staff to take more time to research and gather the requested information. We plan to reconvene the staffing in the near future but, at this point, I have not changed our current position that we are seeking the death penalty for Mr. Martinez."

Martinez, 39, is in jail in Riverside awaiting trial in the death of Blythe storekeeper Randip Singh nearly 20 years ago, on Aug. 15, 1996. Martinez is simultaneously on death row in Arizona, where he has been previously convicted of murdering Arizona Highway Patrolman Bob Martin, about 8 hours before Singh was shot. Martinez shot Martin on the edge of State Road 87, then drove across the state line into Blythe, where police say he killed Singh in a robbery after running out of gas.

Martinez was extradited to California in 2010, and has since defended himself in county court, delaying his trial in the Blythe shooting. Today, Martinez, who has spent more than 1/2 of his life behind bars, is one of the most dangerous inmates in Riverside County.

Currently, Martinez has a pending appeal in federal court in Arizona, so the pending California trial is not delaying his execution. However, the local case is keeping Martinez in Riverside County, where he is absorbing tax dollars and endangering other inmates and jail staff.

Riverside County has spent more than $230,000 to jail Martinez since he was extradited in 2010. In addition, Martinez's court case has demanded countless hours from prosecutors and court employees. Martinez has also tricked an Indio judge into appointing his mistress as his government-funded paralegal, and allegedly stabbed one of his cell mates more than 50 times in 2011.

The complexities of Martinez's unusual court case were recently explored in an in-depth Desert Sun investigation, published earlier this month. During an interview for that investigation, Hestrin said he would consider abandoning the pursuit of the death penalty in this case, which would allow the case to proceed quicker, and for Martinez to return to Arizona sooner.

"He is incredibly dangerous because he is so bright," Hestrin said. "I would like to get him out of our system and out of our jail. And one of the ways to do that is to get this case to trial as quickly as possible."

Statements like that one led Sandi Martin, the window of Arizona Officer Bob Martin, to expect local prosecutors would change course in the Martinez case. On Monday, Martin said she was "surprised" when prosecutors confirmed they would continue to pursue death.

"It sounded crazy to me," Martin said, adding later, "I thought they would settle for life ... but I think they are erring on the side of caution. They said they want to make sure they want a death penalty hanging over his head."

Martin said she was comforted by the fact that local prosecutors have assured her they will not allow Martinez's local trial to delay his execution. Prosecutors promised that, if Martinez's Arizona appeal is resolved before his California trial is finished, he will be immediately sent back to Arizona for execution regardless, Martin said.

Still, Martin said she was concerned that Martinez would remain in Riverside.

"He's dangerous no matter where he is at, but he's much more secure over here (in Arizona) because he's on death row and not in a county jail," she said. "That bothers me."

The quickest way for Riverside County to end the Martinez case would be for prosecutors to simply drop the charges from the Blythe shooting. If this was done, Singh's murder would remain technically unsolved, but Martinez would immediately return to Arizona's death row, where he would await execution without draining Riverside County funds.

Hestrin said earlier this month that, although dropping the charges would bring a speedy end to Martinez's quagmire case, prosecutors would be shirking their "obligation to seek justice."

Martinez has declined to be interviewed by The Desert Sun. During his latest court hearing, on April 17, Martinez told a judge that he would like his case to be transferred to the courthouse in Indio, but he does not mind being jailed in Riverside.

"I'm housed here in Riverside," Martinez said. "All is well. Living the dream."

(source: The Desert Sun)

USA:

Don't expect executions to resume any time soon

When the U.S. Bureau of Prisons began the process of designating a federal death row and execution chamber back in the early 1990s, the people of Terre Haute were mostly ambivalent about the prospect of the local federal prison being used for that purpose.

That casual, pragmatic acceptance of the possibility of death row being placed here, combined with the rural prison's central geographic location within the federal system, led the riverside site on the city's south side to become the eventual choice.

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in June of 2001, the 1st federal prisoner put to death since capital punishment was reinstituted in 1976. (The death penalty had been ruled unconstitutional in 1972.) Even during that high-tension period when the national and international media descended on Terre Haute en masse to cover the event, the community mostly remained stoic in the midst of the media atmospherics.

Since that 1st execution at the federal prison complex, it has become the place where condemned inmates come to die, even though few actually have. Only others have been executed here, one a week after McVeigh was put to death, and a second in 2003. In 2010, with controversy over the death penalty swirling nationwide, the U.S. Department of Justice effectively put a moratorium on executions in the federal system while all policies and procedures of the process are reviewed.

Today, there are 55 federal inmates on death row at the Terre Haute prison. But no executions are scheduled. Don't expect them to resume any time soon.

The most recent federal inmate sentenced to death is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. The 21-year-old native of Kyrgyzstan conspired with his brother, Tamerlan, to detonate two powerful bombs loaded with shrapnel near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. The blasts killed 3 people and injured more than 200 others. While being pursued by police in the days following the bombings, the brothers killed a campus police officer at MIT. Tamerlan later was killed in a shootout with police, but Dzhokhar, although injured, was eventually captured, tried and convicted of a host of counts related to the bombings.

The imposition of the death sentence by a jury last week once again placed Terre Haute and its federal prison in the limelight. We doubt the glow will last for long. Tsarnaev and his attorneys aggressively fought the death penalty and will undoubtedly appeal the sentence with equal vigor. Several of the current death row inmates have been living under their sentences for more than 15 years, and it is not uncommon for capital punishment appeals to last a decade or more.

If and when Tsarnaev is housed at the local penitentiary, he will be among the more high-profile inmates on death row. Still, we doubt any future execution could surpass the level of interest the McVeigh execution did.

Any fears that Terre Haute's image could somehow be defined, even tainted, by the presence of the federal execution chamber have been quelled. Given how things have evolved in the past 15 to 20 years, they are unlikely to re-emerge in the future.

(source: Editorial, Terre Haute Tribune Star)

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

The Fetishization of Revenge

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has just been sentenced to death by a federal jury for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings. The sentence has been met with a lot of discomfort in Boston and the surrounding environs. Massachusetts is predisposed to rejecting capital punishment as a general rule. Even in this case, where the terror and horror hit so close to home, the people of Massachusetts are leery of the death penalty.

And for good reason.

The application of the death penalty in the United States is rife with racism, false guilt, and corruption. The nation is slowly but surely moving towards abolishing the practice. But there are still many men (and a few women) on death row, and it stands to statistical reasoning that at least some are innocent. With an average of 4 people exonerated annually from death row, it's impossible to believe some have not fallen through the cracks.

In light of the at best questionable guilt of many of the people facing execution or already killed, trusting the United States to apply the death penalty fairly requires a suspension of disbelief. This suspension of disbelief is as follows: the United States has the right to put people to death and even though it may have erred in the past, this time will be different. This time, the United States is acting in accordance to its own rules and justice will be served.

Unfortunately for that point of view, the US has proven again and again that it has little to no understanding of or care for the rule of law when it comes to acts of oppression against its own citizens. From surveillance to torture to assassination, the US acts as it wishes in relation to its citizenry (to say nothing of the rest of the world). In this light, it's not hard to see where the American love affair with the death penalty comes from at the administrative level.

What's even more disturbing is the fetishization of revenge that the American people take part in by endorsing the government's right to kill its citizens. Although support for the death penalty has fallen drastically in the last twenty years, a plurality of Americans still support it outright and many- paradoxically- support it with the caveat that it only be used on certain criminals for certain crimes. And this support comes from the public, those whose lives could be destroyed by false evidence or the whims of a prosecutor, the desire of the government to send a message or simply a misled jury. It boggles the mind.

Even in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, there are inconsistencies. Tsarnaez's guilt in the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon is not in question. He has admitted his role and culpability. In fact, if there were a case that the death penalty could be applied with little to no worry about innocence or questions of justice, this might be it. But of course this is hardly the whole story

There are questions about how the jury reached the death sentence. The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain has already written a thorough article detailing the questionable practices of the judge in the case to force the jury to find for death. The federal government, prosecuting the case, acted to stymy any conceivable action by the defense to change the venue to one less emotionally resonant than Boston.

Even in a case as open and shut as this, where the accused has admitted his guilt, the government feels it is necessary to lie and prevaricate to garner the public's support for killing. This should be a red flag for anyone still holding out hope that the death penalty is a legitimate punitive measure as applied by the government.

Support for the death penalty is support for the government having the power of life and death over its citizenry. It's not a power the people should support, especially when the government in question has as troubled a record with legislative matters of life and death as the United States. Even when the accused is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

(source: Eoin Higgins is a writer and historian from upstate New York. He is a recent graduate of the Masters in History program at Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences----Huffington Post)

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

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and America’s tortured death penalty system----The U.S. participates in a ritual that every other advanced democracy has abandoned and justice is rarely served

It took only 14 hours of deliberations for the 12-member jury tasked with deciding the fate of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to pass down their judgment. 7 women and 5 men, all hand-picked because of their openness to capital punishment, concluded this past Friday that the 21-year old deserves death on 6 of the 15 counts in which death was an option. The sentence has ignited equal amounts of jubilation as it has anger. Some of the victims of the 2013 attack celebrated, others lamented the outcome.

The array of emotions on display at a downtown Boston courthouse reflected the controversy surrounding this case, one in which a state that abolished the death penalty 30 years ago played host to a federal trial that resulted in the death penalty. The contradiction sits at the heart of the capital punishment debate in America today and has touched off a firestorm centred around why exactly the U.S continues to participate in a ritual that every other advanced democracy has abandoned.

"Capital punishment in America today," writes sociologist David Garland in his book, Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, "is a story of a legal norm combined with its widespread evasion." The development of the institution since the 19th century, he argues, has been a process of the proceduralization of death “not to terrorize onlookers with a spectacle of suffering but to carry out the court's death sentence in an efficient, humane manner." On the one hand, the majority of Americans demand retribution for the most heinous crimes while on the other, a legal system must prove its liberal democratic credentials, including its adherence to humanistic values.

The lengths to which the system will go to avoid executing a death row inmate is astonishing. Of the 26 federal capital convictions since 1988, when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a moratorium on executions, only three have been carried out. At the state level, besides Texas, executions are similarly rare. In Tennessee, for instance, where a moratorium on executions was lifted in 2000, more death row prisoners have died of natural causes than have been executed. The likelihood that Tsarnaev will actually be executed is extremely low, experts say.

Occasionally, the aversion to executing death row prisoners slips into the surreal. In one case in Pennsylvania, a man convicted of murder in 2000 became so distraught with the time it was taking to have his death sentence overturned that finally, in 2009, he wrote a letter to the governor demanding his own death. In a Kafkaesque twist, his state-appointed defence lawyers then had him declared incompetent. As of last April, he was still demanding to die.

Advocates of abolishing the death penalty point out that the dysfunction in the system undermines any notions of justice and retribution, and ultimately ends up costing taxpayers more than putting a person behind bars for life. Moreover, they argue, families must suffer through years of appeals that rehash the pain of the crime, meaning the closure they were promised when the death penalty was applied is never delivered.

The parents of Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston marathon bombing, made that point when they publicly opposed the death penalty for Tsarnaev.

"We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty," they wrote in an open letter during Tsarnaev's trial, "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 2 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."

Closure, they went on to argue, would mean life in prison with no possibility of parole, which would allow Tsarnaev to "fade from our newspapers and TV screens."

That remains a possibility, if the death sentence is overturned on appeal. Alternatively, Tsarnaev's fate could hang in limbo for decades, caught in a legal system committed to applying capital punishment but increasingly opposed to implementing it. Why that system still exists at all is a mystery to many.

(source: macleans.ca)

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

Debate Bigs Battle on UWS and Death Penalty Wins Stunning Victory----Scheck vs Blecker in a battle of rhetorical titans

Hell almost froze over on the Upper West Side of Manhattan the other night at a 2-hour debate on a measure whether to abolish the death penalty. The debate was organized by Intelligence Squared, a non-profit, non-partisan group that has sponsored more than 100 such discussions since 2006.

Lincoln Center's Merkin Hall was filled, in part because of the reputations of 2 of the 4 speakers. Barry Scheck was co-founder of the Innocence Project and a member of O.J. Simpson's Dream Team defense. His main opponent, Robert Blecker, a professor of criminal law at New York Law School and author of the book, The Death of Punishment, is generally considered the nation's leading proponent of the death penalty. Mr. Blecker had spent hundreds of hours inside the walls of some of the nation's toughest prisons interviewing death-row inmates and those condemned to life-without-parole.

Under Oxford Union-style rules, it would be the shift in audience attitudes - as measured by pre-and-post debate electronic tabulators - that would determine the winner.

The substance of the debate was familiar but passionately conveyed: Mr. Scheck and his partner, Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, argued the death penalty was not an effective deterrent to crime, that it was racially biased, and that there is too large a risk of convicting - and executing - an innocent person. When Mr. Scheck reminded the audience that George Will has instructed conservatives that "Capital punishment is a government program, so skepticism is in order," the audience responded with the enthusiasm a boxing crowd exhibits when seeing first blood.

Mr. Blecker and his partner, Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, argued the studies were flawed or biased, that there is risk in every human (and government) endeavor, but that the risks were offset by automatic appeals and capable legal representation all designed to ensure against executing someone falsely convicted. Most importantly, the death penalty must be reserved for the worst of the worst of the worst - justice demanded it.

For most of the 2 hours the abolitionists seemed to have the upper hand, pounding home the question: how much risk that we'd execute an innocent man was acceptable? They cited the recent case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for an arson murder - based on what now is acknowledged by the state itself to be bogus arson evidence.

The recent conviction of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was mentioned only by one debater, Barry Scheck, who pointed out that several of the victims of the attack have called for sparing Tsanarev's life. The just punishment, the abolitionists argue, is life without parole. That is a fate, they repeat, that is worse than death itself.

But it was that very alternative punishment - life-without-parole – that provided Mr. Blecker with the opening he seemed to be waiting for. Because he responded with the flurry of evidentiary and rhetorical punches that brought him back into the match.

For more than 10 of the 25 years Mr. Blecker has been given access inside prisons, and he has been allowed to bring a video camera with him. And his recordings of life behind the walls - at least for those serving life sentences - are far different from the perceptions most of us have from watching Oz, Prison Break, or Orange is the New Black. While not quite leading country-club lives, prisoners serving life-without-parole often enjoy TVs in their cells, craft rooms, music recording studios, generous commissary choices, organized sports leagues and other privileges not normally associated with prison life. Blecker described visiting prison and seeing Joshua Komisarjevsky - sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 3 members of the Petit family in a horrific home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut - sitting on his bunk eating a Hershey Bar while watching a ballgame on his personal TV set.

The final round in the debate allowed each participant to make a closing statement. Barry Scheck pulled what seemed certain to be the trump card: he asked 2 members of the audience to stand. 2 middle-age African-American men stood, and Mr. Scheck introduced them. Both had been convicted of murder - 1 sentenced to death - and later exonerated by DNA evidence. Could anything better bring to life the risks of executing an innocent man?

Mr. Blecker began his final rebuttal, and was gracious in his acknowledgement of the exonerated men's innocence and travesty of justice. But he quickly segued to his retributivist argument that "The past counts. It counts independently of the future benefits that derive from our actions." Justice and human dignity demand we honor the covenant with the dead, and he prodded the audience: "You're upholding the victim. You're upholding a sense of justice. You're upholding a sense of proportionality. You're ultimately upholding human dignity." This brought forth the largest burst of applause that night.

Minutes later, the audience voted, and the result seemed to unbalance the otherwise capable moderator, John Donvan of ABC News: he had to re-record his concluding remarks twice. The winners were the pro-death penalty advocates, Mr. Blecker and Mr. Scheidegger. Fully 40% of the post-debate audience said they wanted to maintain the death penalty, up from only 17% before the discussion began. Abolition was supported by 54% up from 49%. In fairness, a larger number of the 400-plus people in Merkin Hall voted in favor of abolition. But under the rules, it was the shift in the audience attitudes that determined the winner.

As people left Lincoln Center, the shock of what they had witnessed dissipated slowly. After all, this took place in the bluest of blue neighborhoods. Solid thinking and well-argued advocacy had jarred political orthodoxy.

It didn't last long. 2 weeks after the live event, Intelligence Squared released an edited version of the debate for NPR radio and podcast. And although the website accurately reported the winner, 1 would never be able to understand why based on the edited audio posted. In an apparent effort to allot equal time to each participant, the editors excluded many of the most convincing arguments made by Mr. Blecker and Mr. Scheidegger.

The edit was so obviously biased that an Intelligence Squared (IQ2) Board member who had been in the audience and later heard the truncated poscast, complained to the IQ2 management. He said it was a misrepresentation of what really happened in Merkin Hall that night. Still, the editors refused to re-edit the segment.

Under the guise of being "balanced", Intelligence Squared abandoned fairness. Apparently, while the habitues of the famously liberal Upper West Side could withstand the shock of contested conventional wisdom, a guardian for the larger NPR audience could not.

(source: Opinion...Steve Cohen is an attorney at KDLM in New York; observer.com)

IRAN----executions

At least 5 People Executed in Iran Today - 1 Hanged in Public

5 prisoners were hanged in 2 Iranian cities Tuesday morning May 19, reported Iranian state media.

According to the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Fars province (Southern Iran), one man was hanged publicly in the city of Shiraz this morning. The man who was identified as "Hossein A" was sentenced to death convicted of rape, said the report which also mentioned that he was sentenced to 37 years in prison and 111 lashes for kidnapping and robbery.

4 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Arak (Central Iran) this morning, reported the official website of Judiciary in Markazi province. These prisoners were identified as "Abdolrahman Sh.", "Isa B." and "Alireza B." for participation in trafficking of 111 kilograms of heroin, and "Ahmadreza M." for selling 11 grams of the narcotic substance "crystal", possession of 601 grams of heroin and 79 grams of crystal.

The above mentioned charges have not been confirmed by independent sources.

The website of the "Human Rights Activists News Agency" (HRANA) reported about execution of 5 prisoners in the Adelabad prison of Shiraz. One of the prisoners was identified as "Mehdi Keshavarz" and all of them were convicted of murder, said the report. These executions have not been announced by the official sources yet.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

PAKISTAN----executions

2 murderers hanged in Machh, Faisalabad jails

2 death-row convicts were hanged to death in Machh and Faisalabad jails on Wednesday morning.

Mohammad Musa was hanged in Balochistan's Machh jail for murdering a man named Liaqat Ali in Quetta's Alamadar road area. He was convicted by a sessions court judge in 2007.

The appeals of the convict had been rejected by higher and superior courts and his mercy petitions was also rejected by President of Pakistan.

The home department issued his black warrant yesterday and Musa was consequently hanged today.

Another condemned prisoner Ali Gul was also scheduled to be hanged but he was pardoned by the victim's family.

This was the 1st hanging at Machh jail since former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) worker Saulat Mirza's execution.

In Faisalabad's Central Jail, condemned prisoner Zulfiqar was sent to the gallows for murdering a taxi driver named Anwar in 2000 in the Thikriwala police station jurisdiction.

In 2000, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had sentenced him to death under the anti-terrorism act (ATA), whereas his black warrant was issued yesterday.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar which had claimed the lives of more than 150 persons, mostly schoolchildren, on December 16, 2014.

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.

(source: Pakistan Herald)

CHINA:

RI woman to be executed in China

Time is running out for Wanipah, a 28-year-old migrant worker from Indramayu, West Java, on death row at Hangzhou Penitentiary in China.

According to her family's lawyer, Iskandar Zulkarnaen, Wanipah was convicted in April 2011 of smuggling 992.72 grams of heroin into China through Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou in December 2010.

Wanipah was sentenced to death, with a grace period of at least 2 years before execution. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry informed her family of her situation in August 2011.

Iskandar, speaking for her family, said that his legal team planned to take this urgent matter to House of Representatives Commission IX, which oversees manpower.

He also plans to seek help from the Foreign Ministry and Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister to get a stay of execution from the Chinese authorities.

Wanipah's family said they hoped the government could provide adequate assistance and save their daughter's life.

"I hope Pak Jokowi can help resolve her case," Rusmini, Wanipah's cousin, said recently, referring to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

"At the very least, her sentence could be reduced," said Wanipah's mother, Nusriah.

Iskandar said that Wanipah was likely a victim of human trafficking as there was evidence that her travel documents had been forged.

On her family card, Wanipah is recorded as having been born on April 17, 1987. However, on her passport, her date of birth is May 1, 1978.

"It is possible that she had fallen victim to trafficking. We can see it, at least, from the false data," Iskandar said.

Based on data from the Foreign Ministry, 299 Indonesians are now facing execution overseas, 57 of whom were sentenced to death for drug offenses.

At least 467 Indonesians have been executed abroad, including 168 in Malaysia, 28 in Saudi Arabia, 15 in China, 4 in Singapore, 2 in Laos and 1 in Vietnam.

Most recently, migrant worker Siti Zaenab was executed last month in Medina, Saudi Arabia, after being sentenced to death in January 2001.

She was arrested in October 1999 for stabbing her Saudi Arabian employer to death. Siti, from Madura in East Java, had worked in that country since 1997.

Just days after Siti's execution, another migrant worker, Karni, was executed in Saudi Arabia. She received the death penalty in 2013 after killing her employer's child in 2012.

The executions were carried out without prior notice from the Saudi Arabian government and despite requests for pardons filed by the Indonesian government earlier this year.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

EGYPT:

Egypt Court Issues Death Penalty for Georgetown Political Science Professor

Emad Shahin would be a dead man walking if he were in Egypt. Fortunately for him, he's in Washington, DC.

Shahin was sentenced earlier this week to death in absentia by the Cairo Criminal Court along with 35 other defendants, including former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, on charges of espionage.

"This amount of death sentences is unprecedented in Egypt's modern history," Shahin told VICE News.

Shahin is a professor of public policy at the American University of Cairo, but is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University and Columbia University. He says he's embittered by the turn of events since President Abdel Fattah El Sisi rose to power in a military takeover in July 2013.

Shahin first found out through Facebook that he faced criminal charges in December 2013.

"I remember vividly I was giving a couple of lectures overseas and one night this person contacted me on Facebook in shock, I didn't know this person at all, and he said he knows of me and he found my name on the list of the people who are going to be in charged in the Grand Espionage case".

Listed as defendant number 33, the evidence consists of being cc'd on emails of other co-defendants in the same case as part of a bid to undermine Egypt's national security by having contact with Hamas and Iran.

"I didn't take it seriously and he kept urging me to take it seriously and not go back to Egypt" he explained to VICE News.

The tenured professor at the American University in Cairo has been in self-imposed exile since January 2014, building on his impressive academic credentials gained at various universities such as Harvard, Columbia and Notre Dame.

Shahin vehemently maintains his innocence and claims the authorities have not even contacted him regarding the specific charges.

The trials have been criticized internationally, with the US State Department saying it was "deeply concerned" about the trials and Amnesty International calling the proceedings, "charade trials."

The Egyptian government hit back immediately, maintaining that its judiciary is independent and releasing a statement condemning the international criticism as "an unacceptable intrusion into the work of the Egyptian judicial system" and that these harsh reactions "display a complete lack of respect for its procedures."

"The judicial context and the political environment in general is not conducive to a fair trial and due process," Shahin said, adding that Sisi is "treating Egypt as an extension of the army and not the other way around."

Shahin compares Sisi, who swept to power capturing 96 % of the national vote a year ago, to the ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

"Sisi is putting people in a tough choice the same way Mubarak did - either me or chaos, either me or insecurity and instability" he told VICE News.

In the course of outlining the oppressive political climate in Egypt since July 2013, Shahin goes even further in his comparisons to say, "he (Sisi) is exactly like Saddam Hussein."

With Sisi's ascent to power, state security forces have killed over 1000 people, over 40,000 are languishing in prisons including journalists and activists, protests have been effectively banned from public spaces, and a report released today by several women's rights organizations notes that state-sanctioned sexual violence has surged.

"When Saddam Hussein got rid of enemies he asked others to get involved in the institutional process so everyone's hands were stained by blood and that's exactly what Sisi did to a large part of society," Shahin said. "It was his mandate to kill opponents and many people will wake up and regret this. This injustice is not going to last."

Shahin's death sentence is not final until 2 June when the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, approves the court decision. The decision can still be appealed but Shahin is not even considering this.

"This is a farce and these are sham trials. If I take them seriously that means I am vindicating the process and I am not going to do that. They are using their means and I am using mine. I know it's a state against individuals but what we stand for is democracy, human rights and rule of law."

As the end of the semester approaches, Shahin is setting his sights on conducting more activism, informed by his scholarly work.

"I wanted to be viewed as an academic and scholar solely but this is too much," he said, in reference to the death sentence hanging over his head.

He is insistent that a political tipping point is imminent if the Sisi government continues to silence dissent.

"They are acting on their madness so they have to be stopped, that's what I am trying to do" Shahin said.

(source: vice.com)

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

Egypt executions show 'profound disregard for human rights': ICJ

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) condemned on Monday the "egregious human rights violations" of Egyptian authorities, including "the right to life."

The statement was made in reference to Egypt's execution of 6 young men on Sunday, "following their conviction in an unfair trial by a military court".

Meanwhile, the Egyptian administrative judiciary postponed to 2 June an examination of a lawsuit that demanded the halt of the executions and are yet to decide on whether the execution was legal.

According to the ICJ, the military proceedings in the "Arab Sharkas" case in which these young men were executed, violated their right to a fair trial by "a competent, independent and impartial tribunal".

Egypt's criminal law requires that those who receive death sentences are hanged.

"Rights of defence were undermined, including the ability to have confidential access to a lawyer," while all of the accused alleged that they had been subjected to ill-treatment and torture while detained.

The ICJ also condemned Egypt's mass-death sentencing of approximately 109 people, including former president Mohamed Morsi, in an espionage case.

Additionally, according to previous statements to Daily News Egypt, families of the executed said that 2 of the defendants were arrested 3 days before the alleged "Arab Sharkas" confrontation took place, while 2 others had already been detained for 3 months.

"Rather than contributing to serious human rights violations, Egyptian judges should preserve the dignity of their office and act in defence of the rule of law and human rights, not as a tool of repression," Said Benarbia, the Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa programme said.

The ICJ added that it opposes the death penalty under any circumstances as a violation of the right to life while the African Commission on Human and People's Rights called on Egypt to "refrain" from carrying out the death penalty.

Other local groups, including an Anti-death penalty group, has previously called for a halt to these executions and has met with the state-backed National Council for Human Rights in attempts to put an end to executions.

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly called for a moratorium on the use of capital punishment.

(source: Daily News Egypt)

BANGLADESH:

4 to walk gallows for murder in Bagerhat

A Bagerhat court yesterday sentenced 4 people to death and another to life imprisonment for killing a man in Morelganj upazila of the district in 2006.

The death penalty awardees are Lavlu Kha, son of Afsar Ali Kha of Saprakhali village, Al Amin Hawlader, son of Tazel Hawlader of the village, Habibur Rahman Hawlader, son of Abdul Majid Hawlader of Pashchim Baharbunia village, and Bellal Hossain Hawlader, son of Abdul Majid Hawlader of Surjomukhi village.

The lifer is Harun Sheikh, son of Abdur Rob Sheikh of Pashchim Baharbunia village.

Judge Md Asifuzzaman of the Additional District and Sessions Judge's Court-2 also fined the death penalty awardees Tk 20,000 each in absentia. Meanwhile, the lifer was fined Tk 25,000. In default, he is to suffer another 1 year in jail.

The court acquitted 6 other accused as charges brought against them could not be proved.

They are Dulal Hossain, Masum Hawlader, Ujjal Hossain Hawlader, Lavlu Kazi, Mizanur Rahman and Mostafizur Rahman of the area.

According to the prosecution, the convicts killed Sarwar Hossain Hawlader, son of Bashir Uddin Hawlader of Uttar Phulhata village, over a land dispute on February 20 in 2006.

The following day, the victim's wife filed a murder case with Morelganj Police Station against 17 people.

On October 30 in 2007, police pressed charges against 12 people.

After examining witnesses and evidence, the judge found the 5 guilty and pronounced the verdict.

(source: The Daily Star)

SUDAN:

Sudan Tries 2 Pastors on Charges That May Bring Death Penalty

Sudan began the trial of 2 South Sudanese church leaders accused by authorities of espionage and undermining the constitution, charges that could carry the death penalty, a defense lawyer said.

Yat Michael and Peter Yen attended proceedings at a criminal court in Sudan's capital of Khartoum on Tuesday, Mohannad Mostafa, a member of the defense team, said by phone. Officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service recited the claims against the defendants, Mostafa said.

"The charges are fabricated by security," Mostafa said. "There is no evidence against them." Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman didn't answer 2 calls seeking comment.

Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group, in February said the 2 pastors were being held in secret detention and were at risk of torture. Michael was seized by men identifying themselves as security officers on Dec. 21 during a visit to Khartoum, Amnesty said. Yen, who'd sent a letter to Sudanese authorities inquiring about Michael, was arrested on Jan. 11 after being summoned to a security office, it said.

(source: Bloomberg News)

MAY 19, 2015:

VIRGINIA:

Column: Bishops' Statement on Death Penalty Debate----To build a culture of life we must respect the sanctity of even "unlovable" lives.

This year, through the advocacy of the Virginia Catholic Conference, our Church spent considerable time opposing legislation related to the death penalty. The proposed measure would have permitted the Commonwealth to arrange with compounding pharmacies to mix drugs for use in executions, hiding from the public the identities of the pharmacies and materials used. Thankfully, this bill was defeated. So, too, was a measure the Virginia General Assembly considered last year - also opposed by the Conference - that would have forced death row inmates to be electrocuted if lethal injection drugs are not available.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis delivered a message which sharply contrasted these disturbing debates. "There is discussion in some quarters about the method of killing, as if it were possible to find ways of 'getting it right' ....," the Pope wrote in a recent letter about the death penalty. "But there is no humane way of killing another person."

Pope Francis' keen observation adds an exclamation point to the rejection of these "method of execution" bills. In Virginia, we are indeed having the wrong debate - a reality clearly visible in light of all we celebrate during this Easter season.

In these final joyful weeks of Easter, the Church continues to celebrate the gift of eternal life offered through the Resurrection. In our pilgrimage to that life, we follow Jesus, who loved and forgave us from the Cross, by living out the teaching of our faith that all human life is sacred, from the moment of conception until natural death.

This conviction is reflected in our understanding that the poor and vulnerable have the 1st claim on our consciences, in our opposition to abortion and euthanasia, and in our responsibility to welcome immigrants and refugees. But our faith also challenges us to declare sacred even the least lovable among us, those convicted of committing brutal crimes which have brought them the ultimate penalty, the penalty of death.

The Church's teaching on the death penalty is succinctly stated in a 2005 U.S. Bishops' statement, "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death:" "No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so." This statement is the teaching of the Catechism, and for decades Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis consistently have urged us to embrace it.

To be sure, this teaching challenges many people, including ourselves when we reflect on violent crimes and lives lost in senseless and unimaginable ways. The deep pain, grief, and suffering of those who have lost loved ones to violence cry out for our care and attention. More killing, though, is not the answer: The death penalty does not provide true healing for those who mourn, nor does it embody the Gospel of Life, which each of us is called to affirm even in the most difficult circumstances.

It is also important to note that people have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt, and inmates who languished on death row for decades have been freed after their innocence was proven. Since 1973, some 152 death row inmates nationwide - including 1 in Virginia - have been exonerated. We must also be aware of the racial inequity inherent in the system, and that the death penalty has been administered to individuals with severe intellectual disabilities.

These circumstances further illustrate that, in Virginia and elsewhere, we are having the wrong debate. We should no longer debate which inmates we execute or how we execute them. Instead, we should debate this: If all human lives are sacred and if a civilized society such as ours can seek redress and protect itself by means other than taking a human life, why are we continuing to execute people?

By ending the use of the death penalty we would take one important step - among significant others we must take - to abandon the culture of death and embrace the culture of life.

As Pope Francis reminds us, there is no humane way of taking a life. Let us not choose whether to use lethal drugs, electric chairs, gas chambers, or firing squads. Let us take the more courageous step and choose life instead, even when it seems "unlovable."

(source: Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo And Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Catholic Diocese of Arlington---- connectionnewspapers.com)

USA:

Death Penalty

There was little surprise in a federal jury voting death for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and little ground for sympathy to be found in the record of the defendant himself beyond his sheer youth. While the evidence presented at trial seemed to confirm the picture of his enraged older brother Tamerlan as the radicalized instigator of their brutal and nihilistic marathon plot, Dzhokhar's protracted and active role ahead of time, and his stone-cold activities in the hours following the bombing - calmly cruising the dairy aisle at Whole Foods - are not the material from which a strong mitigation case is made. To spare him, the jury would have had to vote against capital punishment itself; since they were "death qualified" ahead of time in the selection process this was never in the cards.

But while perhaps inevitable, Tsarnaev's federal-court death sentence is still profoundly unsettling for most Bostonians - and should be unsettling nationwide too. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in a state which had abolished capital punishment 31 years ago; in a city whose residents had overwhelmingly preferred him to be imprisoned for life; and in a courtroom in which sat survivors and family members left bereft by the Tsarnaevs' warped jihad who themselves were deeply divided about his fate. What does it mean that a killer is sentenced to die by lethal injection against the wishes - expressed in law, polls and the words of many survivors - of the very community he injured? What is the purpose of a federal prosecution imposing capital punishment on a region which wants none of it, at a moment when capital punishment has been abandoned by more than one third of all states?

State death-penalty law, for better or worse, is usually a deep reflection of local history, culture and debate. That's true in the states which still routinely execute prisoners - Texas, Oklahoma and the deep-South death penalty strongholds; those which shut their death rows decades ago, such as West Virginia and Michigan; and of the nine states which have abolished capital punishment since 1980, including Massachusetts.

The federal death penalty, on the other hand, is a different story: largely a recent invention, radically expanded during a few brief years of Bill Clinton's presidency. Ever since, the federal death penalty - both in the laws passed by Congress and the cases selectively pursued by U.S. attorneys - has been all about politics of the most cynically expedient variety. Most relevant to the Tsarnaev case, the federal death penalty has been a convenient vehicle for Washington Republicans and Democrats alike to profit from the same terrorism panic which after 9/11 saddled us with the Patriot Act.

Up until 20 years ago, the federal death penalty was limited to treason and a handful of other rare offenses not covered by state criminal laws. But in 1994, the Clinton administration - responding to the 1st World Trade Center bombing and otherwise hoping to burnish its tough-on-crime credentials - radically expanded capital punishment, writing terrorism in among dozens of new federal death-penalty offenses into that year's sweeping criminal-justice reform package. It didn't do much good; 7 months after the bill was signed, Timothy McVeigh and 2 co-conspirators bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (a tragedy whose 20th anniversary was marked during the Tsarnaev trial). So the next year, Clinton and Congress went even further, pushing through the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. This package - surely one of the most deceptively-labeled bills of all time - limited habeas corpus and otherwise weakened the protections offered to state and federal death-row prisoners alike, most having nothing to do with terrorism, national security or anything other than conventional murder.

Between them, these two reforms gutted the federal appeals rights of conventional death-row prisoners. By putting crimes previously prosecuted by states onto the federal books, they also enabled U.S. attorneys to push capital trials into non-death-penalty jurisdictions, occasionally leading to notable conflicts. In 2011, for instance, federal prosecutors in Rhode Island - a state without capital punishment since the 80s - insisted on pursuing capital charges against a gas-station robber who would otherwise have been tried, convicted and sentenced in state criminal courts. Then-Governor Lincoln Chafee, incensed at this imposition of a death-penalty trial on his state, committed a singular act of civil disobedience: for almost 2 years he refused to hand the offender over to the feds. The dispute was only settled when the robber pleaded guilty in return for life without parole.

But terrorism? As far as national security is concerned, the federal death penalty has been meaningless. It did nothing to deter Oklahoma City, the 9/11 attacks, or ideologically motivated lone-wolves like Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, or the Tsarnaevs. Meanwhile Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 conspirators won't even be tried under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, since the same politicians who clamor for the death penalty for terrorism suspects are unwilling to entrust Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. courts.

In 1994, the death penalty could at least be claimed as policy in the overwhelming majority, if not totality, of states. The Clinton administration's promotion of capital prosecution could perhaps be defended as effective electoral politics. Now, with the death penalty abolished in 18 states, that consensus is over.

Whether the federal government will even have a mechanism for eventually executing Tsarnaev is now in a matter of debate. The last time a terrorist bomber was executed was McVeigh, killed by lethal injection in Indiana in June 2001. At his execution, news reporters noted tears streaming from one otherwise-immobile eye as the court-approved 3-drug poison regimen pumped through his veins. Those tears caught the attention of a Columbia University anesthesiologist named Dr. Mark Heath; from operating room experience Heath recognized it not as a sign of emotion but as a classic scientific indication that the pain-masking sedative in the federal government's killing cocktail was wearing off, with McVeigh still paralyzed but now in unspeakable agony. From McVeigh's teardrop and Heath's diagnosis flowed 15 years of medical journal and law review articles, lawsuits and worldwide alarm about the procurement of drugs for America's lethal injections. International pressure led drug companies to refuse to supply state corrections departments with the cocktail's ingredients. During the Tsarnaev trial, the lethal-injection debate reached the Supreme Court, with a fractious and macabre argument among the justices over whether the injection of substitute death-row cocktails, improvised from shadowy suppliers, amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

It should be clear by now that the federal death penalty, far from reflecting social consensus or meaningful deterrence, is entirely political in nature - designed to sell the capital punishment back to states that clearly rejected it, and to inoculate Democratic and Republican presidents alike in the country's most ardently pro-execution regions. But the criminal-justice culture war has turned around. In a new libertarian wave, Congress, the president and state legislatures are variously ratcheting down the drug war, reversing 3-strikes criminal laws and trying desperately to empty overcrowded, expensive and dangerously ill-functioning prisons. In 1994, Bill Clinton Democrats played the federal death penalty card to retain their hold in divided states. But since then 6 states, including four that today have Republican governors - New Jersey, New Mexico, Maryland and Illinois - have since turned back from the death penalty.

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It's a different time. 3 of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic rivals - Chafee, Maryland's former Governor Martin O'Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - are death-penalty opponents. Chaffee, who 4 years ago had taken that principled stand against federal prosecutors, and O'Malley, who as Governor abolished capital punishment in Maryland, made statements of respect for the Boston jury, but made clear their determination to stay the abolitionist course. Sooner or later the federal death penalty will be a Democratic campaign issue, and Hillary Clinton will be challenged on her views.

While Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker both expressed hope that the verdict would bring, in Baker's words, "some kind of closure," they, like the rest of Boston, kept their response low-key. They understood that this verdict is not one that most people in their city and state would seek. They clearly did not want to be part of any national cheering section. And while closure may be what politicians are expected to seek, there's no evidence the federal death penalty - or any capital punishment law - provides it. For Boston Tsarnaev's federal death sentence can only prolong the agony, keeping the bomber front and center for years to come. In the words of Bill and Denise Richard, whose son was killed and daughter maimed in the Marathon bombing, "As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours."

(source: Bruce Shapiro, The Nation)

HUNGARY:

Hungarian PM defends death penalty debate

Hungary's PM Viktor Orban on Tuesday (19 May) brushed aside mounting international criticism against state discussion on migrants and the possible reintroduction of the death penalty.

"Not everything is inscribed in stone. These rules are created by men and can therefore be changed by men. This is freedom, this is democracy," he told MEPs at the Strasbourg plenary.

The prime minister in April said capital punishment should be kept on the agenda in Hungary despite an EU-wide ban.

He said Hungary is not making any formal moves to reintroduce it but said there is no EU law that bans them from discussing such issues in public.

His conservative government, which in recent years has been at the receiving end of sharp criticism from the European Parliament and the European Commission, has also equated the migration crisis with terrorist threats.

Last month, Orban announced plans for a "national consultation" on immigration and terrorism. The consultation is part of a larger legislative initiative to detain and return irregular migrants and asylum seekers.

The questions ask people to agree or disagree with statements such as "economic migrants jeopardise the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians" and if "mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism."

Orban on Tuesday reaffirmed his hard stand against plans by the EU commission to impose a quota system on asylum.

"I think it is insane to propose letting in all immigrants into Europe and then introducing some artificial quotas on how to divide them between member states. Quotas are only going to bring more people to Europe, it is an incentive for human traffickers," he said.

The nuclear option

But Frans Timmermans, the EU's vice-president, was having none of it.

He said any plans to reintroduce capital punishment would trigger the EU Treaty's article 7 procedure, which can lead to the suspension of a country's voting rights in the EU Council.

"If the Hungarian government were to take steps to reintroduce the death penalty, let me underline, that the commission is ready to use, immediately, all the means at its disposal to ensure that Hungary complies with its obligations," he said.

"We will not hesitate 1 second on a such a case."

He noted that article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits any person from being condemned to death or executed.

"The abolition of the death penalty is a condition, which states are required to meet in order to become members of the Council of Europe or of the European Union," he said.

Timmermans noted that Hungary's public consultation on migrants is based on bias and on misleading questions.

"[It] can hardly be considered a fair and objective basis for designing sound policies," he said.

"Framing immigration in the context of terrorism, depicting migrants as threat to the livelihoods of people, is malicious and simply wrong."

Centre-right defends Hungary

But for his part, German MEP Manfred Weber, who heads the centre-right EPP group, pointed out that Hungary's 2.8 % GDP growth is putting it "in Europe's driving seat."

He said the figures, and Orban's repeated victories at the ballot box, shows it is doing better than many of the "left-governed countries in Europe."

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party is a member of the EPP.

Despite the praise, Weber said there is no question of capital punishment ever being reintroduced.

"Any talk about it [death penalty] is dangerous and damaging," he said.

The Council, representing member states, said it had no position on the matter.

(source: euobserver.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Headhunting in Saudi: Executioners wanted

2 years after Saudi Arabia nearly had to end beheadings due to a shortage of swordsmen, the oil-rich nation of 30 million people is taking a new tack.

Help wanted ads.

This week the Saudi Ministry of Civil Service began advertising for 8 additional swordsmen to conduct executions, lob the hands off of thieves, and perform similar duties. Beheadings are actually mandated under Sharia Law, although Saudi leaders considered adopting firing squads as an alternative in 2013 due to a lack of swordsmen.

No previous experience is necessary, the ministry notes. The job description, which mentions "religious functions," includes "implementation of the rule of murder by Islamic law after the issuance of the Islamic ruling," and "functions of the perpetrators of retribution."

Human Rights Watch reports that the Saudis already have beheaded 85 people this year, just a few short of the nation's total for all of 2014. The United States, with about 10 times the population, executed 35 people last year.

Execution is not a punishment limited to murderers in Saudi, however, Crimes punishable also include rape, adultery, blasphemy, drug crimes and sorcery.

It's not clear what the pay is, but The New York Times reports that in Qassim Province, north of the capital, Riyadh, the swordsman has a full time job guarding the region's prince and carries out executions on the side -- at more than $1,000 per head.

(source: USA Today)

TEXAS:

Texas House OKs keeping execution drug suppliers secret

The identity of execution drug makers for America's busiest death chamber would remain confidential under a bill preliminarily approved by the Texas House.

Lawmakers passed the measure via voice vote without debate Monday, 6 days after a 32-year-old Houston man became the 7th convicted killer executed in Texas this year.

The Senate passed the plan last week, and a final House vote is now all that's needed to send it to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.

An ongoing court challenge already prohibits Texas from disclosing where the state buys execution drugs. That ruling came after manufacturers reported being threatened by death penalty opponents.

But the push to permanently keep suppliers secret, even form death row inmates and their attorneys, is on the verge of becoming law.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Capital murder charges expected in Waco biker shootout

The unprecedented, deadly biker gang violence on display Sunday at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, has led to mass arrests, massive bail figures, the specter of numerous death penalty cases, the likely shuttering of a business, and an irate police force who said they did everything they could to stop it.

About 170 motorcycle gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond in the wake of the shootout in Waco that left at least nine dead and 18 injured, and authorities say capital murder charges are expected. By early afternoon about 1/3 of the suspects had been booked into the McLennan County Jail, reports CBS affiliate KWTX in Waco.

While they haven't been filed yet, capital murder charges open the possibility that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for some of the suspects, in a state that puts far more inmates to death annually than all others.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson set the bond Monday for each suspect and described the amount as "appropriate" given the level of violence that occurred a day earlier at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.

Peterson also performed inquests on the nine dead bikers but declined to identify them pending notification of family. Peterson said all 9 were from Texas.

Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said while capital murder charges are likely, it's too early to determine how many motorcycle gang members will face the charge.

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the violence that unfolded in Waco when rival motorcycle gangs opened fire on each other in a restaurant parking lot is unprecedented. The shootout erupted shortly after noon at a busy shopping center where members of at least 5 rival gangs had gathered for a meeting.

DPS Director Steve McCraw, a former FBI agent, said Monday that the shootout Sunday was the 1st time "we've seen this type of violence in broad daylight."

McCraw's agency sent Texas Rangers to process the crime scene and special agents who target motorcycle gangs.

He wouldn't reveal details about what prompted the melee. Waco police say a dispute that began in a Twin Peaks restaurant bathroom spilled into the parking lot.

Police and the operators of Twin Peaks - a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms - were aware of the meeting in advance and at least 12 Waco officers, in addition to state troopers, were outside the restaurant when the fight began, Swanton said.

As a result, the whole incident, involving an estimated 100 guns in total, "happened very fast," Swanton said.

"We were there within seconds, meaning within 35 to 40 seconds," Swanton said.

So far, officials have admitted that some of the bikers were shot by police, but have not said whether or not any of those killed died as a result of police gunfire.

The Twin Peaks restaurant in the Waco Market Place shopping center is coming under increasing fire from authorities over the shootout. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended alcohol sales at Twin Peaks for 7 days because of the shooting.

State law allows the agency to suspend a business license to sell alcohol after a shooting, stabbing or murder on premises that's likely to result in subsequent leadership.

"Any wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation could result in further action against the restaurant, including monetary fines, further suspension, or cancellation of its TABC license to sell alcohol," the agency said in a press release Monday.

Additionally, the Twin Peaks corporate office Monday revoked the franchise of the restaurant, reports KWTX.

"Unfortunately the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants," the company said in a statement.

Swanton said law enforcement had repeatedly asked the restaurant owners to suspend the event that drew the bikers in the first place.

"If you have a police department asking for your assistance as a business, you ought to pay attention," Swanton said. "We asked for assistance to keep this from happening and we didn't get that."

Texas officials said they are constantly monitoring biker gangs and that motorcycle gang violence dates back to at least the 1970s.

Swanton said authorities had received threats against law enforcement "throughout the night" from biker groups and stood ready to confront any more violence resulting from Sunday's gunfire.

"We have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here," Swanton said at a news conference.

The interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, bodies and pools of blood, he said.

Authorities were processing the evidence at the scene, south of Dallas. About 150 to 200 bikers were inside during the shootout.

"I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed or injured," Swanton said.

Parts of downtown Waco were locked down, and officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting local and state authorities.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.

In a 2014 gang threat assessment, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified the Bandidos as a "Tier 2" threat, the second highest. Other groups in that tier included the Bloods, Crips and Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

The Bandidos, formed in the 1960s, are involved in trafficking cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

El Paso authorities in 2012 said several Bandido members were involved in an assault and robbery at two bars, according to the assessment. State arrest warrants were issued for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, engaging in organized crime and other crimes, and 6 of the suspects were arrested.

In 2006, eight men were found dead inside vehicles on a farm in Canada, and authorities linked the Bandidos to the slayings.

The Bandidos conduct their activities as covertly as possible to avoid publicity, according to the DPS assessment. Members are not covert, however, about making their presence known by wearing their colors and insignia, and riding in large groups.

The Texas assessment does not mention the Cossacks.

There's at least 17 previously documented instance of violence between the 2 groups. In November 2013, a 46-year-old from Abilene who police say was the leader of a West Texas Bandidos chapter was charged in the stabbings of 2 members of the Cossacks club.

Swanton said the local biker gangs have little regard for law enforcement, which is why they did not hesitate to start a shootout with uniformed officers in plain sight.

"They could care less whether we were here or not," Swanton said. "That's the violence we were dealing with."

(source: CBS news)

FLORIDA:

Davis found guilty of killing couple to start illicit pot grow business

Jurors have found a Walton County man guilty of killing a couple to further a marijuana growing operation.

He now faces the death sentence when a penalty phase commences.

After 3 weeks of testimony and a full day of closing arguments, jurors found Barry Davis Jr., 34, guilty Monday in a "no body" murder trial after a little more than 2 hours of deliberation. Davis also was found guilty of numerous other charges related to the deaths of John "Gregory" Hughes, of Santa Rosa Beach, and Hiedi Rhodes, of Panama City Beach, neither of whom have been seen or heard from since May 7, 2012.

Tiffani Steward, former girlfriend and the mother of Davis' child, said she felt "relief" as the verdict was being read. Steward testified she was present the night of the slayings.

"I just hope the family will finally get closure, and I will get closure myself," she said.

Prosecutor Bobby Elmore faced what seemed like an uphill battle since the bodies of neither Hughes nor Rhodes were ever recovered.

Elmore used bank account records, cellphone records and the lack of contact with friends and family to argue Davis killed the couple. Many family members were present Monday for closing arguments in the trial of Davis when Elmore made a final push to convince jurors that Davis killed the couple and robbed Hughes' home "down to the very last salt shaker" in order to have enough money to assemble a marijuana growing business.

"If everyone lived happily ever after, then why have they never been heard from again?" Elmore asked. "Why did (Davis) go back and take everything (Hughes) owned and why did he take Hiedi Rhodes' dog she never parted with? ... Because no one lived happily ever after."

Elmore argued Rhodes was collateral damage in a robbery attempt that turned deadly, after which Davis dismembered and chopped up both of the couple's bodies and burned the pieces.

Davis did not testify on his own behalf during the trial.

Defense attorney Spiro Kypreos highlighted the inconsistencies in the stories told by witnesses, to whom Davis allegedly admitted the killing. He compared the lies told by the state’s witnesses told against Davis to lies told in the Salem witch trials. Kypreos mostly attempted to puncture the testimony of the key witness, Steward, who claimed to be in Hughes' home at the time.

Kypreos said the inconsistencies in her story could be explained by her fear - not of Davis - but of serving prison time for possibly being considered an accomplice.

"She's always eager to make her testimony fit the state theory ... and she always does," Kypreos said. "Give her an idea and, if she thinks long enough and hard enough, she'll come up with a story."

Steward told jurors that the night of May 7, 2012, she and Davis went to Hughes' home unannounced so Davis could collect on a drug debt. Hughes invited them into his home for dinner and margaritas, she said.

Steward told jurors she and Rhodes left to get margarita mix, only to find Hughes motionless and bleeding on the floor when they returned. Steward said Davis then grabbed Rhodes by the throat until she slipped into unconsciousness. He then bound both Hughes and Rhodes and submerged their head in a bathtub, she testified.

Davis would later return to collect their bodies, chop them up and burn them at his own home, the state argued.

However, Davis' attorney said Davis and Hughes discussed business that night before amicably parting. Hughes even allowed him to leave with his Cadillac Escalade, Kypreos said.

Kypreos also said that when 2 independent human remain detection dogs, also called cadaver dogs, alerted on the Escalade, they were actually smelling blood from some previous incident.

"The name 'cadaver dog' is misleading," Kypreos said. "They are trained to detect remains - bones or blood, as in this case."

A cadre of people who helped Davis in some way after May 7 told investigators they feared Davis and misled law enforcement under his direction, including a group who assisted in removing Hughes' possessions from his home. In total, authorities said they recovered more than $18,000 in Hughes' property from Davis' home.

Authorities also claimed Davis forged about $16,000 worth of Hughes' checks for moving Hughes out of his house and "property maintenance." Those funds went toward planting the seeds of a business, the prosecution said.

"He was broke," Elmore said. "He couldn't even turn his lights on, but here comes the future. He took Hughes' money to build the marijuana grow room."

Prosecutors also claimed a trail of cellphone calls and texts highlighted the truths of witness testimony and traced Davis' actions in the days and weeks after the killings of Hughes and Rhodes as investigators attempted to close in on Davis.

Davis previously was acquitted of stealing a 2008 Corvette from Hughes following his disappearance. Jurors on Monday found Davis guilty of 15 counts of robbery, theft and fraud to attain Hughes' possessions, including 1st-degree premeditated murder of Hughes and Rhodes.

Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells was expected to give the jury a day off and resume the penalty phase Wednesday to determine if Davis will be sentenced to death.

Steward said she did not think a person who takes another's life should have to give their own life as a penalty.

"He should have to think about what he's done every day for the rest of his life," she said. "My son will never know his father because of his decision. I just hope he can find peace within himself and find God."

(source: Panama City News Herald)

TENNESSEE:

Death Penalty To Be Considered In Kirsten Williams Murder Case

It could be years down the road, but Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says she is prepared to consider the death penalty in the murder of 7-year-old Kirsten Williams.

4 men have been charged with 1st degree murder in the April shooting, which resulted in the death of the young girl as she played down the street from her home.

The preliminary hearing in this case will take place on June 23, but legal maneuverings have already begun on both sides.

Weirich explained the upcoming process to FOX13.

"If those charges are murder 1st degree, then the conversation begins with the D.A.'s Office about the death penalty and that's a decision that I make in meeting with the prosecutors assigned to the case," Weirich said.

FOX13 did some digging regarding both the statistics and recent histories concerning death penalty cases in Memphis and Shelby County. Our research revealed three convicted murderers have been sent to Death Row since 2010.

We looked specifically at Jessie Dotson, the infamous Lester Street killer of six, and Sedrick Clayton, who was convicted in 2014 for 3 murders.

Well before their respective trials, both underwent a mental evaluation. It is a process that's apparently being conducted with some, but not all, of the co-defendants in the Williams murder.

"The mental exams were on the co-defendants, not on Mr. Stokes," Carlos Stokes' Attorney, Marty McAffee, said. "I didn't see any problem at this point. No need to have an evaluation of Mr. Stokes at this point."

When the time comes, the District Attorney's office will have to make the call of whether or not they want to pursue the death penalty. For those having to make the decision, it is not a choice that is made lightly.

"It is a difficult decision to make and it's completely guided by the law of the State of Tennessee," Weirich said. "Not everyone in a 1st degree murder case is eligible for the death penalty."

(source: myfoxmemphis.com)

NEBRASKA:

The death penalty's dying breaths, even in Nebraska

Someday when they write the history of the death penalty in the United States, it will include the fact that on the day Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was being sentenced to death in federal court in anti-capital-punishment Massachusetts, the Nebraska legislature was voting nearly 2-to-1 to repeal the state's death penalty law.

Yes, Nebraska.

When Nebraska is considering abolishing the death penalty - although the governor has promised a veto - you know where this is headed.

When governor after governor - in states not Nebraska - say that he or she no longer wants to be part of the death machine, you know where this is headed.

When the polls - which not so long ago showed upwards of 80 % favoring the death penalty - fall closer to 50 % when life without parole is an option, you definitely know where this is headed. You don't know how long it will take, but the direction seems clear.

The people in Massachusetts don't want the death penalty. Governor after governor no longer wants to be part of the death machine. Overall public support is 50 %. You know where this is headed.

The conversation that John Hickenlooper promised - and has since avoided - on the death penalty is everywhere now, including Colorado. The Aurora theater trial makes it impossible not to have the conversation. If James Holmes is convicted of his terrorist act, will he get the death penalty? And if he does, will it ever be administered in Colorado, where no one has been executed since 1997?

The only thing certain is the uncertainty. And the death penalty - the ultimate penalty - cannot survive without certainty. It's built on it. It's about the promise not only that the person being put to death is guilty - and we've see how often DNA testing has upended that promise - but that there's justice in determining who gets life and who gets death.

And although the Supreme Court keeps shifting the rules to try to make the death game equitable, there's no real argument here. Convicted murderers are sentenced to die disproportionately according to race, gender, geography, the ability to hire a good lawyer, how they scored on an IQ test.

And now we have the bizarre uncertainty of whether an execution will even end in a predictable death. This is partly how Nebraska got into the argument. In Nebraska, as in many states, they've run out of the 3-drug cocktail that most states use for lethal injection. They've run out because the 1 place in America that made 1 of the drugs refused to sell them anymore. And so, in what has turned into a black comedy, desperate states finally found a London middleman who shared offices with a driving school, until the FDA stepped in.

Then they tried a place in India - that's apparently where the governor of Nebraska finally scored - but it's unclear whether this import business is even legal. States had tried other countries in Europe, but the European Union ruled that Europe was out of the death business.

The 3-drug cocktail was invented with little to no scientific input in Oklahoma, where they were desperate enough to try a substitute drug in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. You may know the story. It has, in large part, changed the debate.

The executioner couldn't find a vein in Lockett's arms or legs, and so he ended up with the groin, where the needle didn't hold. The sedative didn't work properly, and when Lockett was supposed to be unconscious, he was struggling for breath. And when the death cocktail was supposed to have killed him, he was still alive. Eventually they had to call off the execution, just in time for Lockett to die. And suddenly cruel and unusual were back in the conversation.

You don't have to feel sorry for Lockett, who kidnapped a woman in a botched robbery, shot her and then buried her alive. The killers themselves are often the best argument for the death penalty. Heinous, after all, is usually the right word. It certainly applies to the Boston bombings, where the bombs were built to inflict maximum damage to innocent people at an event that, as much as any other, defines the city.

And yet, if you trust the polling, the people in Massachusetts didn't want this ending. The death penalty has been off the books in Massachusetts for 3 decades, and no one has been executed since 1947. But the trial was taken to federal court, where the death penalty was in play.

And even though a Boston Globe poll showed that only 15 % of Boston residents were in favor of putting Tsarnaev to death, the jury voted unanimously for the death penalty. It was not a surprise. The jury was selected so that only those who are death-qualified - meaning those drawn from the minority in Massachusetts who believe in the death penalty - could be on the jury.

The verdict, in the words of The New York Times, left the city's residents "unsettled," which may leave unsettled those who argue that the death penalty brings closure. It may, if closure means waiting 10 or 20 years as the long series of appeals play out. It may not, if, say, you live in Pennsylvania, where there are 185 people on death row - and no executions since 1999. The Democratic governor there has issued a moratorium on what he calls an "ineffective, unjust and expensive" system.

And in very Republican Nebraska, an unlikely combination of Republicans, Democrats and independents are close to sending the governor a bill to abolish their ineffective, unjust and expensive system. This is not as shocking as you may think. The legislature voted in 1979 to end the death penalty, but it was vetoed by the governor. And 20 years later, it voted for a moratorium, again vetoed by the governor.

In the next week or so, the legislature, on third reading, will try again. In, yes, Nebraska.

(source: Mike Littwin, The Colorado Independent)

USA:

Death penalty, even for Tsarnaev, a stain on U.S.: DiManno ---- Forget Tsarnaev's reported remorse or his negligent upbringing. His death sentence is wrong because of what it does to the U.S., writes Rosie DiManno

Outside of war, there is only 1 justification for killing the enemy - an immediate and mortal threat.

Self-defence or defence of others.

Not for retribution. Not for vengeance, as in eye-for-an-eye Old Testament decree.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one half of the Boston Marathon bomber-brothers, is a threat to no one anymore and the option was there to make certain he would never be a menace to society in the future - a future spent entirely behind bars, in grim solitude, 23 hours a day of utter isolation at a "supermax" federal prison. (Such solitary confinement has come under legal challenge in the United States and has been increasingly reined in by various state jurisdictions.)

Instead, the 21-year-old was condemned to death by a Boston jury last week, execution by lethal injection.

It will be years - if ever - before the sentence is administered, with appeals after appeals guaranteed, in a state which hasn't executed anybody since 1947.

America is a great nation, perhaps the greatest ever. But its stubborn cleaving to the death penalty is an ugly stain on every principle of enlightenment so passionately espoused and deeply cherished in U.S. history. It puts America in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and North Korea - among the 58 countries where the death penalty is still permitted. According to Amnesty International, 140 countries - including Canada - have abolished this most primitive form of "justice."

Its persistence south of the border diminishes America immeasurably.

Its wielding as punishment against Tsarnaev prolongs the anguish caused by the April 15, 2013 attack against innocents at the finish line of the beloved Boston Marathon that killed 3 and seriously injured more than 240, including 17 people who lost at least 1 leg. Worst, but not most deadliest, terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.

A 4th person, MIT police officer Sean Collier, was killed a few days later, during the massive manhunt that ensued, shot several times by Tsarnaev and his older sibling Tamerlan as they attempted to flee in a carjacked SUV. In the chaos of the subsequent gunfight with cops, Dzhokhar ran over Tamerlan, killing him.

Interestingly, the jury did not vote to give the death penalty based on the death of Officer Collier, but did for his role in killing Boston University student Lingzi Lu and 8-year-old Martin Richard. Both bled to death at the scene, bodies ripped apart by flying shrapnel when the 2 pressure-cooker bombs exploded, and linked directly to the device Tsarnaev placed outside a restaurant. He was not sentenced for the death of a 3rd victim killed by the blast from the 1st bomb. But the jury found that death was the appropriate punishment for 6 of the 17 capital counts in which he'd been convicted.

Martin Richard's remarkable parents, Bill and Denise Richard, had made it clear they did not want the death penalty for Tsarnaev. In an elegant statement published in the Boston Globe, they wrote: "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 2 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 . . .

"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."

They did not speak about forgiveness or enter into any argument about the immorality of the death penalty.

But their view is shared by the majority of Massachusetts' citizenry. Poll after poll has shown that the state's residents overwhelmingly favoured life in prison for Tsarnaev, who was 19 when the crimes were convicted. The most recent pulse-taking, a month ago, found just 15 % of Boston residents wanted Tsarnaev executed, and only 19 % statewide, in sharp contrast to the 60 % of Americans who favoured execution according to a CBS News poll.

That speaks, I think, to the progressive nature of a city and state which wears its bears historical aversion to the death penalty proudly, still shamed by the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials that put at least people, mostly women, to death for sorcery, and the 1927 execution of Italian-born anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.

Some of the Boston Marathon bombings expressed satisfaction with the death-penalty verdict, which was unanimous and came after a mere 14 hours of deliberation.

"Happy is not the word I would use," Karen Brassard, who suffered grievous leg injuries, told the New York Times afterwards. "There's nothing happy about having to take somebody's life. I'm satisfied, I'm grateful that they came to that conclusion, because for me I think it was the just conclusion."

While many were shocked by the sentence, the outcome really was all but preordained. Jurors, in order to be selected for the trial panel, had to be "death qualified" - a hideous terms meaning they needed to be open to a death penalty. Those opposed to executions on principle could not serve. In that context, the jury did not reflect the mores of the general population in the region where the trial was held.

And the trial was held in Boston because then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder - judicial right-hand man to President Barack Obama - refused a defence petition for a change of venue. From the very beginning, it was Holder's decision to seek the death penalty, a palpably political strategy.

Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for state crimes in 1984. But Tsarnaev was prosecuted under federal laws. (Of 80 federal defendants sentenced to death in the U.S. since 1988, only 3 - including Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber - have actually been executed.)

As has been noted even by harsh critics of the sentence, it wasn't the jury's job to make policy. Theirs was a difficult job and they did it, rejecting every argument for mercy mounted by the defence, which even pulled out Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun whose work with death row prisoners was dramatized in the '93 film Dead Man Walking. Prejean testified that she had met with Tsarnaev, that he'd expressed remorse and that she believed his sincerity.

I don't care about remorse, real or feigned. I don't care that Tsarnaev was under the malignant influence of his older brother. I don't care that he was 19 and hailed from a dysfunctional, negligent family.

He was a colossally evil young man. I understand the visceral rage that resonates still from his contemptible acts.

But a death penalty isn't, in the end, about him.

It's about societies that kill killers, which do unto others - even the most irrefutably guilty, as was Tsarnaev - the very monstrosity they have committed. Deliberately, planned, with forethought: All the requirements of 1st-degree murder, onto which is larded righteousness.

No pain is alleviated. Nothing is undone. The dead can't be breathed back to life nor limbs restored to the maimed.

It only consecrates cruelty. And there's zero virtue in that.

(source: Opinion, Rosie DiManno; Toronto Star)

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America should know better than to use the death penalty

I've been thinking a lot about steak-frites. Soft, bloody, barely-seared meat with fat running from its ribeye, salted potato, tarragon-heavy Bearnaise, and some decent petits pois Grandmere. Not only because I'm going to be in France for the rest of the week, but also thanks to recent reminders of the vitality of capital punishment.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Mohammed Morsi have both just been sentenced to death. One, a teenaged terrorist, part of a fraternal gang of 2, who placed his cooking-pot bomb behind an 8-year-old. The other, a deposed president, briefly seen as the success story of the Arab Spring. The latter's sentence was confirmed by a religious leader, in a country whose flirtation with (terrorism-based) democracy was quashed by the return of military rule, and where human rights are in free-fall. The former's was determined by the federal court of a country claiming to lead the developed world.

Death is incomprehensible. It's the absence of life, and the end of possibility. It's nothingness, not another valedictory milestone. And, no matter how clever we've become, how much we can learn from Wikipedia, we still don't know anything about it. Where do we go when we die? Umm, we don't go anywhere, do we? We're not 'we' anymore.

Surely, it's this end to existence - this substantial change - with which we struggle. The, 'Can I get a self-charging iPhone for my coffin, in case I wake?' And the swabbing of the inmate’s arm with antiseptic before injecting pentobarbital or sodium thiopental.

In the midst of life, the uncertain certainty of death is an easily exploitable fear. How acceptable it is to use this returns us to classic antagonism between the state and the individual: the extent to which we abdicate liberty in order to gain corporate security. The death penalty is the ultimate form of state control - and the ultimate form of state protection. (Some might argue that torture has more potency, but there's not time to discuss that here.)

Debate abounds as to whether, and in which combinations, punishment should aim for retribution, restitution, or deterrence. And - particularly when dealing with a penalty as irreversible as death - surrounds its efficacy, not just in terms of the message sent to other potential criminals. We've all read about the innocent people who have mistakenly been killed, and the occasional sickening failures of the methods used. (If you haven't, you should - sorry, in advance.)

But - like the specific atrocities of those facing this form of punishment, and whether the ability to commit these atrocities might better place them in need of medical help - failures aren't the point. If people keep breaking the speed limit, we should educate them more and enforce it better, not change it! Laws should be put and kept in place because we are convinced that they are right. We must hope for the continual refinement of our country's justice system, wanting to make it as fair and good as possible.

Yes, apocryphal support for capital punishment is often used to decry referenda. Guy in pub: 'Ha, but if we allowed everyone a say on stuff, we'd bring back hanging, yeh?' But recent polls suggest that Britons are decreasingly in favour. And shock, rather than satisfaction, has resounded at Priti Patel's seeming refusal to deny her previous pro-death penalty position. On topic, I'm convinced that Michael Gove's 1-time advocation simply exemplified the journalistic use of a sensationalist position to strengthen a quite different argument.

It is difficult - even for those who currently support it - not to consider the eventual abolition of capital punishment a sign of a country's progress. Most human rights organisations uphold this as a leading goal for society. In 1998, the final civil and military exemptions (treason, piracy, mutiny, etc) from Britain's 1965 Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act were removed. The 6th Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights enforces this stance for member states of the Council of Europe.

To me, the correctness of this comes down to the difference between necessity and luxury. Taking another's life can - sometimes - be a necessary act for an individual or state: during moments of self-defence, or war. This doesn't make it good, but it does make it justifiable, at the time. It should then also be examined and judged in retrospect. The state's role is to protect its citizens; when it's the only option, it is acceptable for the state to do this by killing others, which is why war can be right.

(The difficulty with the Tsarnaev case is the complication of modern terrorism. Might this make our Just War Theory dated? Should he have been tried as a war criminal? A prisoner of war? An enemy combatant, in a time of war? On limited reflection, probably no.)

Regardless, from the position of relative luxury - with space to think in safe surroundings, and your potential victim already under arrest - how can killing someone be necessary? Death shouldn't be playable; it's not just another option. To end another human being's life is, as someone once said, to end the world.

The casual, Akond of Swat-esque approach of 'Would you rather be chopped in pieces, or hung, or shot?' or, 'What would you like for your last meal?' is wrong. It's calculated. It's an abuse of power. It's why you thought my opening paragraph was in bad taste. America should know better.

(source: Column; Rebecca Coulson is a freelance classical musician and writer, and was Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Durham at the 2015 General Election----conservativehome.com)

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Why no outcry over death penalty in the US?

When the Indonesian government executed 2 Australian drug runners it was big news, but when an United States court announced the death penalty for the Boston bomber, the media and the politicians had moved on. Has the Australian government, the Catholic Church or others lodged a complaint with US authorities?

I do not doubt the principled position taken strongly by politicians and the media over the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. To the contrary, I ask the question because the issue of the death penalty cannot be forgotten while the latest political kerfuffle takes centre stage in Canberra and the death penalty issue subsides for the time being.

Needless to say, the next case after Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran may not be far away.

A federal jury in the US has sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? to death. For some that may raise issues from an Australian perspective. Do we really think it makes any difference if an execution involves an Australian citizen or not? And, given the possibility of extremists operating in our region, does it matter if the perpetrator fails to seek forgiveness?

Maybe it's time for some introspection, a general discussion within the Australian community and some bipartisan discussions at the political level on how the government will handle similar issues in the future.

Understandably, discussions on the death penalty can be highly emotional. Anybody listening to the media recently would think that all Australians are opposed the death penalty. However, a Morgan poll taken in late January, showed that 52 % were in favour of the death penalty for those convicted overseas for drug offences. Of Australians, a larger majority (62 %) said the Australian government should not do more to stop the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, while 38 % said the Australian government should do more to stop the execution.

I understand that on 2 separate occasions in the weeks leading up to the execution, MPs raised their concern in the party room that the government had taken too strong a line with the Indonesians. Their concern was not surprising. Public support for the death penalty was about 80 % in the 1970s, so even if public opinion is likely to slowly move away from the death penalty, it will be divided for a long time yet. In those circumstances, rather than trying to keep supporters of the death penalty out of the public discussion, it would be wise to encourage more forums to debate the issues. And this should be a task not so much for the government but the churches and other community organisations.

However, the government should consider how it will handle the issue in future.

The approach taken on behalf of Chan and Sukumaran was unquestionably a new approach for the Australian government. I don't see that the government can take a less active role in the future for drug smugglers. It is certainly possible that extremist terrorists operating in Indonesia with Australian citizenship could in the future also face the death penalty.

The Indonesian president is not about to abandon his policy promise to remain strongly in support of the death penalty for drug runners. Therefore, another execution may be even more difficult than the recent situation. I do think that the Indonesians failed badly in handling the situation, and these matters should be discussed with them at the diplomatic level. At least we have a starting position; both countries want to maintain our relationship. I would also say that we must make abundantly clear that we respect Indonesian sovereignty, including the right to make decisions with which we disagree.

The US also don't like be told how to run their own country.

Views are strong, as demonstrated by the US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who said of the Boston bomber: "The ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families". Many in the US will agree with her.

The Boston bomber used pressure-cookers stuffed with gunpowder taken from fireworks. Glued all over them were ball-bearings and nails, shrapnel designed to cause as much carnage as possible. The killing and the maiming was shocking. And when asked, the bomber said he couldn't stand to see the US government "go unpunished". He showed no remorse and wrote: "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all".

I hope we never face this situation in Australia, but if we do the application of reason and humanity is what we will need more than ever.

(source: Column; Peter Reith was a Howard government minister and is a Fairfax columnist----The Age)

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America's vicious cycle of murder: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev & the totalitarian logic of our death-penalty obsession ---- The dark truth about our country's adherence to the vigilante justice of state-sanctioned executions

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old American convicted for setting of bombs in Boston two years ago, is to be murdered by his government. One can almost imagine the scene: On a sunny day in the near future, Tsarnaev being hauled out on to a platform in central Boston, his crimes repeated aloud by a masked executioner so the gathered crowd can hear it, before multiple poisons are injected into his veins; after writhing and shuddering, a white-coated doctor checks his pulse, before declaring the terrorist dead. The crowd dissipates, onlookers returning to their daily lives, while the media returns to the latest campaign-trail blunder.

Of course, in reality, only the murder is to happen. It will happen in secret, far from the public view.

Since 1976, 1,408 Americans have been put to death by the state. Of these, 1,233 people have been given lethal injections, 158 electrocuted, 11 put in gas chambers, 3 people hanged, and 3 killed by firing squad. Only since 2002 has the execution of mentally impaired inmates been considered cruel and unusual punishment. (44 mentally impaired inmates were executed between 1984 and 2002, including Ricky Ray Rector, put to death by then-Governor Bill Clinton in Arkansas in 1992.) And only in 2005 did the Supreme Court rule that executing minors was unconstitutional. In the words of Justice Henry Blackmun, the ship of state moves slowly when it comes to tinkering with "the machinery of death."

Advocates of state murder and human sacrifice - much more accurate terms than the euphemistic "capital punishment" - point to science's pacification of the entire ordeal. With advanced chemicals capable of numbing and disabling the body in seconds, the prisoner may die "with dignity" (as the papers so often say). Last year, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, one of the most prolific executioners in American history, justified the killings administered in his state as "appropriate and humane."

However, while there may be such a thing as humane death, lethal injection is the very opposite of it. Last year, a man named Clayton Lockett writhed for minutes after the poisons has been injected into his groin. He raised his head and groaned, "Oh man." When Michael Lee Wilson was executed last year, he was reported to have cried out: "I feel my whole body burning." Charles Warren's final words were: "My body is on fire." In some cases, more than 30 minutes passed between the injection of poisons and the pronouncement of death, a harrowing length of time filled with convulsions and tremors.

4 years ago, the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental - the executioners' preferred drug - stopped producing it, and the European Union banned the export of chemicals that could end up in execution chambers. Several states then began creating secret cocktails of drugs and did not disclose the names of the pharmacies supplying them. Missouri went so far as paying cash for the drugs lest their makers be held accountable. The FDA, in a gutless capitulation, facilitated the importation of these untested cocktails for the killing industry, which the D.C. District Court overturned, berating the FDA for its "callous indifference to the health consequences of those imminently facing the executioner's needle."

There are plenty of other reasons, apart from its inherent immorality, why state murder has no place in modern societies. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars more than life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. It targets the poor and singles out African-Americans. These are all sufficient reasons for dispensing with the death penalty, but an even more fundamental reason for banning it is that the death penalty is a totalitarian institution that gives the state the power to decide who will live and who will die by the officers and doctors of the state. This is why, when France did away with the guillotine in 1981- the only constitutionally valid method of execution since the French Revolution - its Justice Minister Robert Badinter said that state murder "expresses a totalitarian relationship between citizens and the state."

If there is anything that should be considered the very antithesis of American values, it is this dystopic nightmare of organized government killing, done in cramped rooms, using mysterious drugs supplied by unregulated companies. Orwell and Kafka would recognize this killing machine in an instant.

But did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not intentionally try to kill as many people as possible in Boston 2 years ago? Did he not target his fellow citizens and blow some of them to pieces without even a hint of remorse? The answer is yes. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an adult, he made a horrible decision, and he should be punished by society for his crimes. But to reduce the law to a simplistic eye-for-an-eye logic - Tsarnaev killed and so he must be killed - is to reduce civilization and society to a barbarous state, one that the rule of law is meant to overcome. Murder is wrong whether done by the individual or the collective (with caveats around self-defense and just wars). And since the question is coming, I will pre-empt it: If my (Muslim) mother had been killed in Boston on that tragic day 2 years ago, I would lose my sanity. But I would hope an impartial legal system would not mete out justice the way a vengeful and vindictive individual would. This is the purpose of criminal law: To punish, and to rehabilitate, not to torture and murder - and torture cannot be extricated from lethal injection.

The death penalty transforms the democratic republic into a vigilante state, with supposedly enlightened governments clinging to a relic from our lesser-evolved days. Indeed, the death penalty, as Albert Camus wrote, is actually "the most premeditated of murders." Imagine for a moment that the state putting its citizens to death were an individual, detailing the exact date and time of his impending killing, the method that would be employed, the room in which the deed was to be done, the options of the final meal that would be allowed. Horror films are made about such people.

The fate that awaits Tsarnaev is the same fate that awaits Western hostages in the captivity of terrorists. The difference is that the American justice system is suppose to aspire to higher ends, and should be judged by higher standards than that of warlords. The United States understandably wishes to keep this state murder hidden behind walls. If it was revealed to the public just what Tsarnaev was about to face, if Americans could read with their morning coffee the details and images of Tsarnaev's coming murder, they may rethink support for this peculiar institution.

(source: Omer Aziz is a writer and student at Yale Law School; salon.com)

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Tsarnaev, the Death Penalty, and the Eyes of the World

4 days before a jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, the United States was roundly criticized by dozens of countries for using the death penalty.

At last Monday's Universal Periodic Review, a process through which each United Nations member country has its human rights record periodically reviewed by other member countries, 36 countries called for the US to reconsider its use of capital punishment. The US, a country that carried out among the greatest number of executions in 2014, is one of a dwindling number of countries that use the death penalty.

The death penalty is at odds with the primacy of human dignity and the right to life. It is inherently cruel and irreversible. In the US, its imposition is inseparable from issues of race and poverty. Also, the US's criminal justice system is fallible - since 1973, 153 death-row inmates have been exonerated.

Beginning in 2007, the UN General Assembly has endorsed a world-wide moratorium on the use of the death penalty. 81 countries have ratified a treaty abolishing the practice. Friday's verdict not only went against this international trend, but also against the values repeatedly expressed by Bostonians in polls following the bombings. The most recent Boston Globe poll on the issue found that 66 % of Boston residents, and 63 % of state of Massachusetts residents, favored a life sentence for Tsarnaev. Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984. The jury in this case had the option to sentence Tsarnaev to death because the US federal government, rather than state authorities, prosecuted him, and the federal death penalty has yet to be abolished.

At the Universal Period Review, the US delegation responded to international criticism by pointing out that no federal defendant had been executed in over a decade. But this response glosses over the fact that the federal government has sought death sentences in at least 200 cases since 1988. The verdict in the Tsarnaev case further highlights the temerity of this response.

If the US wishes to strengthen its standing as a rights-respecting nation, an abolition of the death penalty is long overdue.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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Aurora shooting jury quizzed after Tsarnaev sentence

Defense attorneys in the Aurora theater shooting trial had the judge poll jurors to ensure they weren't affected by the death-penalty sentence in the Boston Marathon bombing case.

Jurors told Judge Carlos Samour that they could still be fair to James Holmes, who faces the death penalty in connection with the July 20, 2012, shooting inside a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70 others. Police and prosecutors say Holmes also rigged his apartment with homemade explosives and incendiary compounds, along with gasoline and napalm made from Styrofoam cups.

Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was condemned to death by a jury in Boston on Thursday. With no court in the Aurora trial on Friday, Monday was the 1st day back after that decision.

"Obviously, there are a number of parallels to that case and this case," Holmes defense attorney Kristen Nelson said in court.

Prosecutors argue Holmes is a highly intelligent young man who secretly plotted the attack for months as his professional and personal life unraveled. Defense attorneys say Holmes suffers from schizophrenia and was delusional, and that his mental illness prompted him to plan and execute the shooting without understanding that what he was doing was wrong. The trial is in its 4th week, and is expected to last another 4 months.

(source: USA Today)

EGYPT:

UN chief expresses concern over Morsi death sentence

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has voiced serious concern over the death sentences handed down to Egypt's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and more than 100 others.

Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday that the UN chief is worried about the death penalties, adding, "The secretary general understands that the verdict is still subject to an appeal."

On May 16, an Egyptian court sentenced Morsi, Egypt's 1st democratically-elected president, along with the other 105 defendants to death for a mass prison break during the country's 2011 revolution against long-time dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

Haq also noted that the UN chief will precisely monitor the appeals process.

"The secretary general underscores the importance of all parties taking steps to promote - and avoiding those that could further undermine - peace, stability and the rule of law in the region," he stated.

(source: Press TV)

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Calgary holds rally condemning 106 death sentences handed out by government in Egypt

About 15 people gathered in front of Calgary's Municipal Complex Monday to protest death sentences recently handed to more than 100 people in Egypt.

The group stood holding signs of protest while chanting messages such as "Down, down, military coup," and "Why why, innocent people have to die."

An Egyptian court recently recommended ousted president Mohamed Morsi, along with 105 others - which includes senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Morsi - be sentenced to death.

They were found guilty mass prison breaks which took place in the country's January 25 revolution of 2011.

Morsi had been elected president in summer 2012.

A military backed government ousted him from power a year later.

His recent death sentence, issued Saturday, will be sent to the grand mufti (highest religious authority) for advice - mandatory in Egypt.

Earlier, in April, Morsi was handed a 20-year prison sentence for clashes that took place outside the presidential palace in Dec. 2012.

(source: Calgary Sun)

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Turkey to take Egypt's Morsi verdict to UN----Egypt''s ousted Islamist president Morsi and other 106 defendants were ordered by a court on Saturday to face the death penalty for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

Turkey will take to the UN Human Rights Commission the verdict of death sentences on former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and 106 supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Monday.

"We are continuing our consultations firstly with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries. We are reviewing current mechanisms for international initiatives. We plan to start necessary initiatives soon, to at the UN Human Rights Committee at first hand," Kalin told reporters in a press conference.

"We call on the Egyptian administration to reverse the sentence," Xinhua quoted Kalin as saying.

Those sentences and carrying them out will push the Middle East into further chaos, the spokesperson said, calling on international community to speak out more strongly against the verdicts.

Egypt's ousted Islamist president Morsi and other 106 defendants were ordered by a court on Saturday to face the death penalty for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

Morsi was also accused of escaping prison with the assistance of domestic and foreign militants during the January 25 uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan on Saturday condemned Egypt for sentencing Morsi to death.

"Egypt is returning to ancient Egypt," Erdogan said, adding that "the West, unfortunately, is still turning a blind eye to (Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah) Sisi's coup."

Erdogan is a vocal supporter of Morsi, and relations between Turkey and Egypt have been strained since Morsi was ousted by the army in July 2013 after mass protests against his 1-year rule.

Ankara accused the army, and new Egyptian president of carrying out a coup against Morsi from Muslim Brotherhood, a political organisation with close ties to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party. However, Egypt condemned the Turkish government for interfering in its domestic affairs.

(source: greaterkashmir.com)

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1 sentenced to death, 3 to life in prison for forming 'terrorist cell' in Egypt

An Egyptian court sentenced a man to death and 3 others to life in prison Monday on charges of forming a terrorist cell, state news agency MENA reported.

The case stems back to when security forces arrested the 4 defendants in August 2014 in Egypt's Nile Delta city Mansoura, accusing them of forming a terrorist cell that aims to kill all those against ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

The Mansoura criminal court issued its verdict on Monday after referring the death penalty to the Grand Mufti in March 2015.

Life in prison sentences carry up to 25 years in jail, according to the Egyptian penal code.

The 4 convicted men were described by MENA as members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The defendants were also accused of the "use of force, receiving military training outside the country and damaging the property of a Bahraini real estate company."

The verdict came a day after Egypt's prison authorities carried out 6 death sentences early Sunday in the case known as "Arab Sharkas," where the convicted were tried over connections with the Sinai-based Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

The men were charged with planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces, attacking military facilities and naval ships and being members of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

The death penalty in Egypt have been met with widespread criticism especially after another Egyptian court issued a preliminary death sentence to former Islamist president Morsi and 105 other defendants. The trial is known in the Egyptian media as the Natroun jailbreak case.

However, Egypt insists all of its convicts were given fair trials.

(source: Albawaba news)

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

Sudan describes death sentence against Egypt's Morsi as "internal matter"

The Sudanese government has described the decision by an Egyptian court to refer the ousted president Mohamed Morsi to Egypt's top religious authority to consider death penalty against him as an "internal affair".

On Saturday, a court in Cairo sentenced to death Morsi and 105 co-defendants for allegedly taking part in a mass jailbreak during Egypt's January 2011 uprising that ousted then president Hosni Mubarak.

Sudan's foreign ministry spokesperson, Ali al-Sadig, said in press statements on Monday that "ongoing trials in Egypt are an internal matter and the [Sudanese] government does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries".

The government's reaction contrasted sharply with that of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan al-Turabi who denounced the court's decision and warned that Egypt would witness a strong internal strife if Morsi and his companions were executed.

In 2013, Khartoum sought to strike a neutral tone following the move by the Egyptian army to overthrow Morsi after unprecedented multi-million strong demonstrations against him before it returned and described it as an "internal affair" that concerns Egypt's people, national institutions and political leadership.

Morsi is the 1st president to be referred to the mufti in Egypt's history. The opinion of the mufti is not binding to the court, but Egyptian law makes it necessary for judges to seek a religious point of view on any death sentence.

The court decision against Morsi and his aides drew condemnation from US, Turkey, Germany and the European Union (EU) with the rights group Amnesty International describing it as "nothing but a charade based on null and void procedure".

(source: Sudan Tribune)

BANGLADESH:

4 get death penalty for Gazipur murder

A Gazipur court has sentenced 4 men to death for killing one Morsheda Akhter 7 years ago over conjugal dispute.

1 of those convicted is the victim's husband Abu Ayub Lalon.

Gazipur Additional District and Sessions Court and Special Tribunal-2 judge Md Fazle Elahi Bhuiyan delivered the verdict on Tuesday.

The others convicted are Mulluk Hossain Bhuiyan, 30, Md Rana, 34, and Hanif Mia, 32. All of them have been fined Tk 10,000 each.

They can challenge the sentence in a higher court within 7 days.

The plaintiff, Akhter's uncle Shawkat Ali, said he was satisfied with the verdict and demanded its swift execution.

But the defence counsels said they had been denied justice.

They said they would move the High Court against the death sentences.

According to case details, several years after their marriage in 1998, Lalon started demanding dowry and physically abusing Akhter regularly.

He even threatened to kill her.

Ali said Lalon had an extra-marital affair with his neighbour's wife that led to conjugal discord.

"Lalon's friends hacked her on the night of Nov 5, 2008 at his behest. She succumbed to her injuries the following day at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital," he added.

Akhter, a mother of 2, was 5 months into pregnancy at that time.

He filed a case with Joydebpur police on Nov 8.

Locals nabbed Hanif and handed him over to police while the law-keepers arrested the other 3 later.

(source: bdnews24.com)

IRAN:

Iran Is Executing Hundreds For Drug Crimes -- And The U.N. Is Backing Its Anti-Drug Efforts

In the first five months of the year, Iranian authorities may have executed nearly 250 people for drug offenses, according to multiple human rights organizations. That's almost 2 people a day. And despite the alarming frequency with which alleged drug offenders are being put to death in the country, the United Nations is readying a multimillion-dollar package to continue helping Iranian authorities with their anti-drug efforts -- a move that critics say stands in violation of the U.N.'s own human rights policy.

Of the estimated 347 executions Iran has carried out since the beginning of the year, between 220 and 241 have been of people accused of drug-related violations. Many of those people were low-level and nonviolent drug offenders, the human rights groups say. Drug-related executions appear to be on the rise, with at least 41 -- but possibly as many as 50 -- taking place in April alone, according to data provided to The WorldPost from the groups Amnesty International and Reprieve, as well as the most current public data from Iran Human Rights.

If Iran continues to execute people convicted of drug-related offenses at this rate, the country will by the end of the year have put nearly twice as many people to death for such charges as human rights groups say it did in 2014.

Much of the data on this issue consists of unofficial estimates, because Iranian authorities generally announce far fewer executions than actually take place, the rights groups claim. Iran has only officially acknowledged about 100 executions so far this year, and in 2014, while rights groups counted as many as 753 people put to death in Iran, the state only officially acknowledged 291 executions.

Iran has a long history with the death penalty, especially for drug crimes, and for years it has been a leading executioner in the Middle East and the world. China is believed to be the only country that executes more people than Iran, with most rights groups estimating more than 1,000 total executions in 2014 -- but China keeps its death penalty program shrouded in secrecy, so exact numbers are, again, difficult to come by.

Iran's draconian Anti-Narcotics Law levies the death penalty against offenders who have been convicted multiple times of planting opium poppies, coca plants or cannabis seeds with the intent to produce drugs. Execution is also imposed after multiple convictions of smuggling more than 5 kg of opium or marijuana into the country, or for buying, possessing, carrying or hiding more than 5 kg of those drugs. Other acts that carry the death penalty include smuggling, dealing, producing, distributing or exporting more than 30 grams of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their derivatives.

In close proximity to Afghanistan and its booming opium supply, Iran has become a key transit route for narcotraffickers moving the crop into Europe and the United States. Iran also has one of the highest drug addiction rates in the world, with opium, meth and heroin among the most popular drugs of choice.

And while Iranian authorities claim that many of the people put to death are involved in organized crime or armed smuggling, human rights groups contend that the country's judicial system -- which is marred by corruption and a lack of transparency -- frequently targets members of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the nation. According to various rights groups, the system is particularly unforgiving toward poor people and ethnic minorities, particularly Afghans, who arrive from countries where employment opportunities are limited and who are sometimes coerced into confessions.

"It is pretty murky exactly what involvement in the drug business a lot of these defendants have," Elise Auerbach, an Iran specialist for Amnesty International, told The WorldPost.

Faraz Sanei, a researcher with the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said these alleged violations of due process, combined with a "very low threshold for drug possession, which may qualify a defendant as a 'trafficker,'" has raised serious alarm among rights activists. Some activists, he said, suspect that Iranian authorities may be using drug prosecutions in part "to target and execute political dissidents or others who speak out against the government."

One case that's fanned the flames of those suspicions involves Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch woman who was arrested in 2009 for her participation in a protest over that year's presidential election, which protesters claimed was rigged.

After Bahrami's initial arrest and charges over protesting, she was later charged with possession of large amounts of cocaine and opium -- an offense that is punishable by death in Iran. Human rights groups claimed the drug charges against Bahrami were fabricated, but she was nevertheless executed in 2011, with the state maintaining that she'd been part of an international drug smuggling gang.

In addition to putting adults to death, Iran remains one of the few countries that executes juvenile offenders and executes adults for crimes committed while they were juveniles.

Hamid Ahmadi, 24, is 1 such adult. According to Amnesty International, Ahmadi is at imminent risk of execution, although his case is currently under judicial review and concerns a crime he was allegedly involved in when he was only 16 years old.

No human rights groups could confirm to The WorldPost that any juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran this year for drugs, but according to an Amnesty International report, Iran executed at least 14 people in 2014 for offenses they allegedly committed as juveniles.

As Iran continues to execute citiziens for drug-related charges, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has offered support to the country to fight drug trafficking. UNODC and Iran are in the final stages of developing a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program aimed at combating the country’s illicit drug trade, The Guardian reported in March. It's a move that Reprieve says is in conflict with the U.N.'s stance on the death penalty, because those funds, Reprieve says, are likely to lead to more arrests -- and some of those arrests will likely lead to hangings.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the U.N. opposes the use of capital punishment for drug crimes. The U.N.'s own human rights guidance is clear on the issue as well: "If, following requests for guarantees and high-level political intervention, executions for drug related offences continue, UNODC may have no choice but to employ a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support."

Still, the U.N. carries on with its anti-drug program in Iran, though it's 1 of more than 30 countries around the world that put people to death for drug offenses, according to the Lawyers Collective, a human rights group based in India.

"If the UNODC followed its own human rights policy it would have ended funding for Iranian drug raids years ago," said Dan Dolan, who works with Reprieve's death penalty team, in an email to The WorldPost. "Instead it is lining up a generous 5 year funding deal for Iran's brutal drug police, despite a near doubling in the rate at which Iran is hanging drug offenders. This represents a shameful disregard for human rights on the part of the UNODC, which publicly claims to oppose the death penalty while funding aggressive raids which send drug mules to death row."

In February, Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC, championed what he described as the anti-drug efforts Iran has made over the decades. He added that UNODC and Iran were partnering in the fight against drugs in the region.

"The UNODC and Iran will finalize a 5-year anti-drug plan in the next 2 months," Fedotov said, according to Fars News Agency.

Fedotov also said that UNODC would try to supply Iran with various equipment needed to fight against narcotraffickers -- equipment that the country hasn't been able to secure for itself due to Western sanctions.

David Dadge, a spokesman for Fedotov, declined to confirm the details of the U.N.'s 2015 anti-drug program with Iran. He did, however, refer The WorldPost to the organization's public documents about the multifaceted anti-narcotic program that the U.N. pursued in Iran between 2011 and 2014.

Dadge declined to confirm the dollar figure of the more recent Iran plan or say whether it's been finalized. The U.N.'s current anti-trafficking program in Iran is due to end in early June, and most human rights groups and other observers expect the new program to be in place by then. Between 2011 and 2014, the U.N. spent roughly $5.5 million to secure Iran's borders and fight drug trafficking in the country. That money came from multiple European partner nations. Dadge declined to name the European nations funding the 2015 program.

"If [international donors] are to avoid direct complicity in grave human rights abuses, donors should make their support to UNODC programs strictly conditional on recipient states abolishing the death penalty for drug offenses," Dolan said.

Earlier this month, 2 U.N. human rights experts sharply condemned Iran's rising execution tally. They called on the Iranian government to cease executions immediately and fall in line with the U.N.'s 2007 urging that member nations suspend the death penalty.

"When the Iranian government refuses to even acknowledge the full extent of executions which have occurred, it shows a callous disregard for both human dignity and international human rights law," said Ahmed Shaheed, a U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, in a statement.

Iran has flatly rejected the allegations of an increase in executions, with Marzieh Afkham, the spokeswoman for Iran's foreign ministry, calling the U.N. criticism a "downright lie" and claiming that Iran only uses capital punishment for the "most serious crimes, including narcotics trafficking."

(source: Matt Ferner, Huffington Post)

MAY 18, 2015:

TEXAS:

Biker Gang Accused Could Face Death Penalty

Some 170 bikers are facing murder charges - and potentially the death penalty - after 9 people were killed during a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas.

A fist fight broke out in the bathroom of the Twin Peaks restaurant before spilling into a car park as the bikers attacked each other with clubs, chains and knives before opening fire.

8 of the bikers died at the scene on Sunday, with another dying in hospital.

18 others were taken to hospitals with injuries including stab and gunshot wounds.

Police say the arrested bikers, who come from 5 different gangs, face charges of engaging in organised crime for capital murder.

The blanket murder charge is possible given the number of those killed in a single incident, Sgt Swanton said.

A capital murder conviction is punishable by death in Texas.

Police initially said 192 people were taken into custody but revised that number downward on Monday.

Sgt Swanton said: "This is probably one of the most gruesome scenes I've ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement.

"I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed or injured.

"This is not something we're playing around with. This is a major crime scene... it is a pretty gruesome scene."

He added that the interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, clubs, bodies and pools of blood. Up to 100 weapons are also thought to have been recovered.

Snipers stood watch from the restaurant's roof on Monday because of fears of a potential attack on police by the gangs.

Many of the people arrested were detained arriving at the scene with weapons to try and continue the fight.

Sgt Swanton told reporters that off-duty officers had put themselves in "harm's way" and ran from nearby shops to help.

Authorities in Waco have increased security to prevent outbreaks of further violence. Parts of downtown were placed on lockdown on Monday, including the bridges crossing the Brazos River.

The rival biker gangs gathered at the Twin Peaks restaurant for a meeting about turf and recruitment, Sgt Swanton said. The location, off Interstate 35, also holds a shopping centre.

There were up to 200 gang members inside the restaurant when the violence erupted.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said all 9 people killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.

Police were aware of the meeting in advance and at least 18 Waco SWAT officers, as well as state troopers, were positioned outside the restaurant before the chaos began.

Sgt Swanton said some bikers turned their guns on the officers as the shootout spilled into the car park.

"Officers took fire and responded appropriately by returning fire," he said.

It was not immediately known if any of the 9 killed were shot by police.

Meanwhile, Twin Peaks has revoked the franchise rights to the Waco restaurant, company spokesman Rick Van Warner said on Monday.

Sgt Swanton told reporters the venue had become a regular meeting site for bikers since its opening last August, and that the restaurant's managers did not cooperate when authorities expressed concern.

The chain, a so-called "breastaurant", is known for its scantily clad waitresses.

Mr Van Warner said in a statement that the management team chose to ignore warnings and advice from the company, and did not establish the "high security standards" that the company requires.

(source: Sky news)

***********

Death penalty support has taken big drop in Houston, but why?

Support for the death penalty in metro Houston is at the lowest level since an annual survey by Rice University began asking the question in 1993. The finding is in the annual Kinder Survey, which polled 809 people in February and March of this year.

It found that support for capital punishment has declined to 56 percent this year, from a high of 75 % in 1993.

We've had a few interesting death penalty items in our paper the past few weeks. I'm thinking about the Points essay yesterday about the "demise" of the death penalty, and Steve Blow's recent column specifically about Texas.

My fascination is with Harris County, home to Houston, which has sent more people to death row than any other county. You could look it up on this here TDCJ link.

Or I could break it down for you in this list of inmates sent to death row since reinstatement in 1976:

Harris - 293

Dallas - 108

Bexar - 75

Tarrant - 72

Jefferson - 24

Nueces - 24

Smith - 23

Travis - 20

El Paso - 20

Lubbock - 20

Of the subset of those executed, Harris County is responsible for more deaths in Huntsville - 123 - than any other county or state in the union.

All of that makes changing Houston-area attitudes something to behold, and understand better.

The death-row numbers out of Harris County were driven largely by two things: 1) Legendary DA Johnny Holmes, and 2) the high-crime 1990s.

Remember the '90s. National publications were writing about blood-splattered cities across the U.S. Texas was no different. Murders reached 500 on the nose one year in Dallas. Compare that to 116 in murders in Dallas last year.

Remember the crack wars of the 1990s - the Crips and Bloods and Jamaican gangs. Remember how Congress dealt with it by enhancing penalties for crack and for federalizing the crime of carjacking. Talk about trying to calm white people!

In Harris County, add the crime picture to the state's hardest-nose lawman, and it was a bonanza for death row.

Now, it appears, Harris County's support for capital punishment is nearly 20 points below the state's, though that's hard to know, since it doesn't appear the same question is asked by the Rice survey and the UT/Texas Tribune survey. (I have other ideas on the discrepancy, but keep reading.)

Why the big drop in 20-plus years in Houston? (To be clear, the Kinder Survey says it polled across Harris County.)

My theory is one of encroaching doubt. Houston has had more than its share of high-publicity cases that raised different questions.

One was the execution of Gary Graham in 2000, with celebrities adding their names to a long list of people who warned about faulty eyewitness ID. The public has heard more and more about the proven fallibility of eyewitness ID, so much so that you wonder if Graham would have died on the gurney today.

Then think of Karla Faye Tucker out of Houston, she who put a pretty, white repentant face on things. She went to her death for a ghastly drug murder excited to see the Lord. Did the case cause people to doubt the value of retributitive justice?

Tucker's last words:

Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you - the Thornton family and Jerry Dean's family that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this. Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you.

Another big case was mentally ill mother Andrea Yates, who killed her 5 children while in the grips of a post-partum break with reality. Johnny Holmes' successor, DA Chuck Rosenthal, sought the death penalty. A jury convicted her and sentenced her to life in prison.

Then the verdict was set aside on a technicality, and the state tried her a second time, and oops - the jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Did the Yates case make the public wonder about the flip-flopping? Did it make the DA's office seem particularly bloodthirsty in asking for the insane mother's life?

There are other things in Houston - like the scandalously shoddy work that had to be cleaned up in the Houston police crime lab - that cast doubt on the justice system.

One thing I wonder about: Where the strongholds are for capital punishment support in Texas. That led me to the cross tabs in the UT/Texas Tribune poll results, and I found this, when adding both strongly support and somewhat support the death penalty:

Metro Houston - 74 %

Dallas-Forth Worth area - 72 %

San Antonio area - 77 %

Austin area - 62%

Another part of Texas - 82%

Draw your own conclusions about why the UT/TT poll shows higher Houston-area support for the death penalty than the Kinder Survey does. One obvious place to start would be addition of responses from suburban counties. The UT/TT cross tabs show stronger support in suburban over urban areas.

(source: Rodger Jones, Opinion blog, Dallas Morning News)

NEVADA:

Lawmakers split on funding new execution chamber in Ely

Nevada lawmakers are split on whether to spend $860,000 to build a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison.

A joint Assembly and Senate budget subcommittee split a vote 5-5 on Monday on whether to recommend the construction project. The issue may be resolved at a Wednesday meeting.

The state's existing death chamber at the shuttered Nevada State Prison in Carson City is not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. State officials have said for about 4 years that they wouldn't be able to carry out an execution there.

Executions remain rare in Nevada, which has only carried out the death penalty 12 times since 1977.

Department of Corrections officials say there are about 80 inmates on Nevada's death row, but the state hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Unabomber's Brother Spreads Anti-Death Penalty Message in Troy After Boston Marathon Sentence

An outspoken critic of the death penalty visited the Capital Region area just days after Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death.

David Kaczynski, the younger brother of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, spoke at the La Salle Institute in Troy Monday.

Kaczynski has been an anti-death penalty activist since being named director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty in 2001.

He says he was struck because Tsarnaev's story was also a brother story, and while he understands the anger and the outrage, he does not think the death penalty is the answer.

"Life without parole as I said is a very tough sentence, it gives a person a lot of time to think about what they've done, perhaps experience remorse. At the same time it saves lots and lots of money, it relieves the victims the endless reliving through years of appeals," Kaczynski said.

Kaczynski spoke with the students about making ethical choices, like the one he says he made when he turned his brother in to authorities.

(source: Time Warner Cable News)

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

Death Penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Anti-Execution State Brings Complications, Not Closure

James Rooney, president of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty. In March, he helped organize a symposium on "The Tsarnaev Trial: The Federal Death Penalty in Abolitionist Massachusetts."

Eric Freedman, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School. He has worked on many death penalty cases and has written extensively on capital punishment.

Denny LeBoeuf, director of the ACLU’s John Adams Project and former director of its Capital Punishment Project. She has 26 years of experience as a capital defense attorney.

A federal jury has sentenced 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed 3 and injured more than 260. The sentence was issued in Massachusetts, a state which has banned the death penalty since 1987 and has not carried out an execution since 1947. Polls show 85 % of Bostonians oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev, as well as 80 % of Massachusetts residents. The jury in the case was "death-qualified," meaning each member had to be open to considering the death penalty, and anyone who opposed it could not serve. Tsarnaev's lawyers are now expected to appeal. The process could take more than a decade to finish. Since the federal death penalty was reinstated, just 3 federal prisoners have been executed, none since 2003. We host a roundtable with 3 guests: James Rooney, president of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty; Eric Freedman, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School, who has worked on many death penalty cases; and Denny LeBoeuf, director of the ACLU's John Adams Project, who has 26 years of experience as a capital defense attorney.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Boston, where on Friday a federal [jury] sentenced 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed 3 and injured more than 260. The sentence was issued in Massachusetts, a state which has banned the death penalty since 1987 and has not carried out an execution since 1947. Polls show 85 % of Bostonians oppose the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as well as 80 % of Massachusetts residents. But the death penalty was allowed because it was a federal trial. In a statement, the ACLU of Massachusetts said, quote, "Today's verdict does not reflect the values of the majority of people in our Commonwealth. ... [It] is an outlier, and does not change the fact that Americans increasingly reject capital punishment," unquote.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Tsarnaev's lawyers focused on presenting witnesses who could convince jurors he should be sentenced to life without parole instead of death. They argued Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a, quote, "good kid" who fell under the influence of his radical older brother, Tamerlan, and that he is now remorseful. One of the witnesses called was Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun whose story was told in the 1995 movie Dead Man Walking. She met with Tsarnaev 5 times, said he told her of the bombing victims: quote, "No one deserves to suffer like they did," unquote.

Ultimately, prosecutors prevailed in convincing jurors Tsarnaev should be put to death. After the jury deliberated for more than 15 hours and announced its verdict Friday, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz addressed the media.

CARMEN ORTIZ: Our goal in trying this case was to ensure that the jury had all of the information that they needed to reach a fair and just verdict. We believe we accomplished that goal and that the trial of this case has shown the world what a fair and impartial jury trial is like. Even in the wake of horror and tragedy, we are not intimidated by acts of terror or radical ideals. On the contrary, the trial of this case has showcased an important American ideal, that even the worst of the worst deserve a fair trial and due process of law. Today, the jury has spoken, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for his crimes. Make no mistake: The defendant claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims; this was not a religious crime, and it certainly does not reflect true Muslims beliefs. It was a political crime designed to intimidate and to coerce the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: At least 1 of the federal jurors was reportedly in tears when the verdict was read. The jury was "death-qualified," meaning each member had to be open to considering the death penalty; anyone who opposed it could not serve. Tsarnaev's lawyers are now expected to appeal. The process could take more than a decade to finish. Since the federal death penalty was reinstated, just 3 federal prisoners have been executed, none since 2003.

[Tsarnaev's defense attorney, Judy Clarke, has previously negotiated plea agreements that spared the life of her high-profile clients facing the death penalty in federal cases, including Jared Loughner, who killed 6 people when he tried to assassinate Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber; Eric Rudolph, charged in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing; and 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.]

For more, we're joined by 3 guests. In Boston, James Rooney is with us, president of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty. In March, he helped organize a symposium called "The Tsarnaev Trial: The Federal Death Penalty in Abolitionist Massachusetts." Here in New York, Eric Freedman is with us, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School. He has worked on many death penalty cases. And in New Orleans, Denny LeBoeuf is with us, director of the ACLU's John Adams Project, former director of the Capital Punishment Project. She has 26 years' experience as a capital defense attorney.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! I wanted to begin in Massachusetts, where the Boston Marathon was. James Rooney, you're with Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, but can you explain - I think there's a lot of confusion around the country right now - why if in Massachusetts, where there is no death penalty, the death penalty was considered, and the response this weekend in Boston, and Massachusetts overall, to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev getting the death penalty?

JAMES ROONEY: Well, as you explained earlier, Amy, the - this is a federal case, and the federal government, because it's its own sovereign, gets to have its rules applied in any state, even states that don't have the death penalty, so that here, with a death-qualified jury, as you mentioned, you had 12 people from the community who said they were willing to impose the death penalty if the prosecution showed it.

In terms of the reaction here, I think it's somewhat of a surprise, given the poll numbers that you mentioned showing that so many people in this state oppose the death penalty, not simply generally, but in this case. So, it doesn't reflect community sentiment here. And it also - the jury appears to have acted without knowing that the family of the young boy, 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombing and whom - seems to have been the focus of a number of people I talked to who thought that if there was a reason to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, it was because of the killing of a young child. The Richard family, after the guilt version - portion of the case had ended, wrote a letter, which was published in The Boston Globe on the front page, saying that they preferred a life sentence in this case. The prosecution in this case emphasized its view that the victims of this crime deserved to have Dzhokhar Tsarnaev put to death, including the - particularly for the killing of this young child. And so the jury acted with that in mind, but without knowing that the Richard family opposed a capital sentence.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in fact, Denny LeBoeuf, the pool that was chosen, of jurors, can you explain how that took place? Because you're talking about choosing from a true minority of people in Massachusetts, if 85 % of Bostonians are against giving the death penalty. How many jurors came out, and what was the pool that was chosen from?

DENNY LEBOEUF: It's part of the unfairness of this system and the sort of convoluted position that the prosecutors have to put this jury in and how this process occurs. You have to asked the jury - it's a process called death qualification. You have to ask the jury, "Can you consider a death sentence?" And they're told, "Don't tell us how you're going to vote, but tell us that you can seriously make a death penalty a possibility if at the end of this process you've convicted him of a death-eligible offense." And having picked some death-qualified juries in a very Catholic city, New Orleans, you watch as you lose a lot of Catholics, most of your African-American and other people of color - you lose all the people who, even for non-religious reasons, don't have a strong sense that the authorities, that the government, is always right and always tells the truth and always gives you the straight angle on what's going on and what the facts are. And you're instead picking a jury from a very small, unrepresentative, very conservative, conviction-prone pool. And it's the central unfairness of this process, that couldn't be more dramatic in this case.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this grounds for appeal? DENNY LEBOEUF: No. I mean, it's certainly - I answered too fast. It's not grounds under current Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. It should be. It's a basic unfairness. And I think, as the numbers get stronger, as the United States moves closer and closer to abolition of the death penalty, which we will get, there may be revisiting of some of the decisions. We've certainly seen that in the process of fighting this penalty for many, many years. The court has looked at a lot of issues and come away with a need.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion. We're speaking with Denny LeBoeuf in New Orleans. She is with the ACLU. In Boston, Massachusetts, James Rooney is with us, with Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty. And we'll be speaking with Eric Freedman, professor at Hofstra Law School, about the conviction and sentencing to death of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old convicted in the deaths of 3 people and the injury of over 260 in the 2013 Boston Marathon. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We are hosting a roundtable discussion on the federal jury's decision in Boston to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection. In Boston, James Rooney is with us, president of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty. In March, he helped organize a symposium on "The Tsarnaev Trial: The Federal Death Penalty in Abolitionist Massachusetts." Here in New York, Eric Freedman is with us, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School. He has worked on many death penalty cases. And in New Orleans, Denny LeBoeuf, who is director of the ACLU's John Adams Project, former director of the Capital Punishment Project. We welcome you all to Democracy Now!

Some of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing expressed relief at the verdict. This is Karen Brassard.

KAREN BRASSARD: If feels like we can take a breath and kind of actually breathe again. You know, without even realizing it, you're holding your breath. And once the verdict came in, it was like, OK, now we can start from here and go forward and really feel like it's behind us.

REPORTER: Are you happy with the verdict?

KAREN BRASSARD: "Happy" is not the word I would use. There is nothing happy about having to take somebody's life. I'm satisfied. I'm grateful that they - that they came to that conclusion, because, for me, I think it was the just conclusion. But there's nothing happy about any single bit of this situation.

AMY GOODMAN: The youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings was eight-year-old Martin Richard. His parents wrote a front-page opinion column for The Boston Globe last month in which they urged the federal government to drop its pursuit of the death penalty for Tsarnaev on the grounds that the appeals process would prolong their mourning. Bill and Denise Richard wrote, quote, "We hope our 2 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." They conclude by saying, "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." Eric Freedman, you're a constitutional lawyer of Hofstra Law School. Can you talk about the instructions to the jury?

ERIC FREEDMAN: Yes. That's not a technical problem. It builds on what Denny LeBoeuf was saying about the very unrepresentative nature of the jury in this case. In light of that, it's incredibly important for the jury to know that a single holdout juror can block the imposition of a death sentence and make it be that there will be life without any further proceedings on penalty. The judge was asked to instruct the jury specifically that, so that they would know the rules that apply, and refused. And -

AMY GOODMAN: Explain - say it again.

ERIC FREEDMAN: The rule is different at guilt and at penalty. At guilt, if there's a hung jury, you can, if the prosecutor wants to, retry the defendant on guilt and go through the whole thing all over again. And Etan Patz in New York has been a recent visible example. Penalty is not like that in a death case. If a single juror insists on life, and therefore the jury cannot unanimously come to death, then it's life - period, done, end of story. And that gives a huge incentive to a juror who's being overwhelmed by her fellows to hang tight, as opposed to thinking, "This is useless, because, after all, it's only going to be retried again, and they'll probably sentence him to death again. Who needs it?" If the juror knows, "I can stand firm, and there will be life," the juror has a lot of incentive to do that. And yet, although that is the rule, the judge refused to tell the jury that it was the rule, which takes an unrepresentative jury and has it make its decision in the dark.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain exactly what the judge said.

ERIC FREEDMAN: He just didn't tell them what would happen if they failed to agree. He said, "You need to agree," period, and left them to speculate that, "Oh, well, if we don't agree, eventually they'll just have to do this again." He just refused to give them the correct and true answer as to what would happen if they didn't agree, leaving them to speculate.

AMY GOODMAN: Denny LeBoeuf, can you talk more about the significance of this, instructing the jury what happens if they vote for the death penalty, what happens if they vote for life in prison, and what it means if there is a holdout?

DENNY LEBOEUF: [inaudible] typically tell the jury, look, the United States Supreme Court has said that the decision and the penalty of a capital case is a reasoned, moral judgment. It calls on an individual juror to examine the whole life - short though it's been - of the offender, as well as the circumstances of the crime, and to make a moral judgment based on their own morality, on their own perception of what is the appropriate punishment. Is this person, as young as he is, the worst of the worst? And what the instruction that Professor Freedman is talking about tells the jury is just simply the state of affairs. That is that if one juror, for reasons that are good to her, good, important to her, meaningful to her, says, "No, life in prison without probation, without parole, without release," that is the appropriate punishment, and if I simply tell, respectfully, my other jurors, "Fellow jurors, I disagree," that will be the sentence. And that is a matter of law, and jury instructions are supposed to tell the jury here's the law.

AMY GOODMAN: Was that raised with the judge? And explain how much of this trial was public and how much of it was sidebar. How much do you know what happened?

DENNY LEBOEUF: I really can't comment on that. I don't [inaudible] -

AMY GOODMAN: Eric Freedman, can you comment on that?

ERIC FREEDMAN: Yes. This particular issue was so important that defense lawyer David Bruck went out of his way in open court to repeat to the judge this instruction - said, "Your Honor, we reiterate our demand for this instruction," and he read it, in a vain effort to catch the attention of the mainstream press, which failed to pick up on this point. And the judge said, "I've already ruled on that, in chambers." We had long arguments about that, as we now know, away from the press and out of the public eye, in which he refused to give the instruction. And - but we do know, from the transcript, that - and from what was said in court - that the defense explicitly asked for this, and it was explicitly refused by the judge, on the basis of considerations which he didn't tell us. He just said, "What I told you in chambers."

AMY GOODMAN: Is this grounds for appeal?

ERIC FREEDMAN: Oh, there's no question that the failure to give that instruction, in a situation where it has been given 71 times in federal death penalty cases, including the only 2 others ever tried in Massachusetts, will certainly be made prominent in the appeal.

AMY GOODMAN: And that appeal would be of the sentence, not of the verdict?

ERIC FREEDMAN: Well, that particular aspect of the appeal will go to the sentence.

AMY GOODMAN: The age of Dhzokhar Tsarnaev, 21 years old now, if you, Denny LeBoeuf, can talk about the significance of his age when he committed this act?

DENNY LEBOEUF: Yeah, he was 19 years old. He was - he was a kid. It was a terrible act. But the United States Supreme Court has recognized, recently, when we belatedly joined the world in saying you can't execute or death sentence people under the age of 18 - they recognized that we've advanced in the neuroscience of understanding what every parent who's raised a teenager knows, that at some point you look at the best kids in the world and say, "What were you thinking?" We now know that the answer to that is "What was he thinking with?" And what he was thinking with was a 19-year-old brain. It is an undeveloped brain. It is not fully - we are not fully developed at that age. And you look at these actions, and you look at the horror of them and the terrible consequences of his act, but that's precisely one of the problems that kids have, is they can't gauge consequences of their act. They're not equipped to do that yet.

The other point about his youth is that it's very hard for those of us who have lived some decades on this planet to ever say that somebody as young as this has no redemptive possibilities, that there is no way that this person could never redeem himself and have a life that's worth living, even though that life will always be behind bars. And the Supreme Court recognized that in fairly recent decisions. The universal understanding of the neuroscience is that this kid's brain - I always look at it this way: If you compare a kid at 19 with me, he's got better eyes, better reflexes, better hearing, better - you know, everything is better about his physical being, but he can't rent a car for another 6 years, and I can rent one anywhere I want to, because my judgment is better.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of the SAMs, if you could explain what SAMs are - special administrative measures - and how we come to know who Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is? I mean, there were a number of people who spoke in the sentencing phase - his teachers, people talking about his life. But for most people in this country, I think there's very little understanding of what was allowed to be said in court. The major issue in the sentencing part of this trial was whether he was remorseful. We only know this from 1 person, from Sister Helen Prejean, who said that Tsarnaev - she had met with Tsarnaev 5 times. She said they spoke about his crimes, as well as his victims, and that he said, quote, "No one deserves to suffer like they did." She said Tsarnaev lowered his eyes, his voice sounded pained. She said she could see the emotion in his face, and says she came away believing that he's, quote, "genuinely sorry for what he did." Talk about the significance of what was allowed to be said in open court.

DENNY LEBOEUF: Well, I think my friend Eric may be better equipped to talk about the legal effect of the SAMs on this trial, but I do say that, to some extent, the characterization of him as a terrorist and that extra designation is a - it's a bit of a red herring. It is not - we're very familiar, those of us who have been looking at capital cases for many years, with seeing our clients, the defendants, portrayed as some sort of monster, because you can kill monsters, you can kill the non-human. And terrorism is another - another description to throw at somebody you want to say is a monster. He's an extra-bad person, an extra-terrible murderer, the worst of the worst, because he's a terrorist. As far as the legal effects of the SAMs on this case, Professor Freedman may know more than I do.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Freedman?

ERIC FREEDMAN: It is more psychological than legal. The special administrative measures, the SAMs, was something that was invented out of whole cloth by the U.S. government in the few days after 9/11, when they suddenly decided that if you are suspected of a terrorist offense, then attorney-client privilege is not for you. And as you know, subsequently, we decided, you know, self-incrimination rights are not for you, and many other things, if you pose a threat to the United States. Good old due process, which got us through the Revolutionary War, isn't going to make it in the new age. And that thereby insidiously expanded to anything that could be plausibly called terrorism, which is just, as Denny LeBoeuf said, another epithet to hurl at people so that the kabuki drama sort of reinforces itself. You produce all these guards with machine guns, and you make the world think the guy is very dangerous. In terms of what could be said at the - this, in the penalty phase of this trial, that is something which is now buried deep in the record on appeal. We talk about, well, there will be an appeal about the failure to change venue, there will be an appeal about the failure to give this instruction. All the other stuff that is buried in this record, that's going to result in a brief of over a thousand pages on appeal, we don't know about yet. Many of the things that the defense may have been complaining about that they weren't given access to put together that mitigation case, because they couldn't get a visa to Russia, hypothetically, or because other efforts were made to block evidence, almost by definition, we don't know about yet. We don't know because, in many cases, the lawyers haven't been allowed to say. And 2nd of all, it just hasn't come out yet. And so -

AMY GOODMAN: But - ERIC FREEDMAN: And so, it's - AMY GOODMAN: Explain the logic. I mean, you - the way it is argued, these special administrative measures, is you don't want a, quote, "terrorist" sending a message out to his followers. But when you're talking about the issue of whether he was remorseful or not, if he expressed great remorse in the defense team, were they allowed to convey this? And who was setting the rules? The defense team is versus the prosecution. Is the prosecution the ones that are trying to show that he has no remorse, the very ones who are setting the SAMs, saying that he cannot say this?

ERIC FREEDMAN: I believe, from what's now public, that the attempt to keep Sister Helen off the stand was maybe on a completely different set of grounds. We know that there was passionate, closed-door argument as to whether she could testify or not, but I don’t think it had anything to do with national security. I think the - I mean, I don't know. But it would appear that the judge decided, as a matter of death penalty law, that it's much more risky to keep the defense from putting on some testimony that they want to put on about remorse than to give in to whatever the prosecutor was arguing. Whether the prosecutor was arguing national security or whether the prosecutor was arguing irrelevance or hearsay, we don't know. But on that small point -

AMY GOODMAN: Which wasn't a small point. This presumably was the point the jury was weighing, is how much remorse he had.

ERIC FREEDMAN: Yes, OK. On that, the defense won that point, right? The defense - I mean, Sister Helen got to testify.

AMY GOODMAN: So - and the prosecution are the ones who were setting the rules on what can be said about this - ERIC FREEDMAN: No, that's really not quite right. The SAMs relate to access to the prison and to the prisoner and - but not to presentation in court -

AMY GOODMAN: And what can be conveyed.

ERIC FREEDMAN: No, in court, that's the judge's ruling. And you saw the judge had the final word on that.

AMY GOODMAN: Venue, finally - let's put this question to Denny LeBoeuf - the issue of Boston, the scene of the crime, being the venue for this trial, the attempt to move it out of Boston. Other venues were put forward. What about this? And is this grounds for appeal?

DENNY LEBOEUF: It certainly is grounds for appeal. The defense took a fairly extraordinary action of trying to use the mandamus process to get this in front of the appellate court ahead of time. It was a - observed from the outside, it just was an inexplicable ruling. When you combine that with sort of saying, if the community that suffered the greatest harm is supposed to be the community, for some reason, that they are going to suffer the fear of prejudice to the defense and to a fair trial by having it in this community, where no one was unaffected by the hunt for the bombers and for the ensuing lockdown of the whole city or by the horror of the consequences of the bombing - if you're going to do that, and then you turn and take a totally unrepresentative proportion of that community to weigh in on the conviction and the penalty, it stands fairness on its head. So, the people who have religious opposition to the death penalty - 2 million Bostonians identify themselves as Roman Catholics - then you should say to those people, "You get to say - we're going to have this trial here. You get to say whether or not you think he was guilty." And if the prosecution can't find 12 jurors who can examine guilt and innocence, but cannot consider the death penalty, then I guess they can't get a death penalty in this community, because this community doesn't have a death penalty. Massachusetts hasn't had one. So, I think that saying we're going to do it in Massachusetts, we're going to do it in Boston, but we're going to pick a jury from Boston that doesn't represent this city in any - in a very important way, is unfair, clearly unfair.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we're going to leave it there. We're going to continue, as information comes out from what the jurors thought and what happens next, of course, continue to follow this case. Denny LeBoeuf, I want to thank you for being with us, of the ACLU John Adams Project. Thank you very much to James Rooney of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty and Eric Freedman, professor at Hofstra Law School here in New York.

(source: Democracy Now!)

LEBANON:

Military prosecutor files appeal for Samaha retrial, urges death sentence

Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr filed an appeal Monday against the 4 1/2-year jail sentence handed down to former minister Michel Samaha last week, urging instead he receive the death penalty, judicial sources told The Daily Star.

The appeal, submitted to the Military Court of Cassation, challenges the Military Tribunal's sentence issued over smuggling explosives from Syria into Lebanon with the intent to target political and religious figures.

Saqr and Assistant Prosecutor Judge Hani Hajjar called on the Court of Cassation to terminate the sentence and retry Samaha on all charges brought against him in the initial indictment.

The prosecutors also urged the court to display video and audio recordings showing Samaha handing over explosives and money to Milad Kfoury - an undercover Internal Security Forces agent.

A judicial source told The Daily Star that the appeals memo is 14 pages long and asserts that Samaha is guilty of charges that should be met with the death penalty.

The appeals document also states that the Military Court sentenced Samaha for "attempts" to carry out terrorist acts, when in fact, the crimes Samaha committed go beyond that.

The document argued that since Samaha met with Kfoury on several occasions, planned the operations, agreed on the targets and handed the explosives and a sum of money over to the agent, then his role in the plot was complete.

Considering that, Samaha should be found guilty of carrying out terrorist operations and not merely an attempt to do so.

The document also challenged the military court's verdict, which found the suspect not guilty of attempted murder.

The appeals memo said that Samaha had carried out all preparations in an attempt to assassinate religious and political figures. The killings did not occur, however, because of circumstances outside of the suspect's hands and not because of the lack of criminal intent.

The Court of Cassation will have 15 days to review the appeal before issuing a decision. If it accepts the appeal, then the court must retry Samaha and should issue a new verdict within 2 months of approving the challenge to the original sentence.

If the appeal is rejected, then Samaha will serve his 4 1/2-year-sentence.

(source: The Daily Star)

INDIA:

Her crime a blow to society's faith in educated daughter as caregiver: SC

Calling it an abhorrent crime of parricide shaking the Indian society's aspirations of an educated daughter as a caregiver more responsible than a son, the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty of a young teacher and her lover for the murder of her aged parents and 5 other family members.

The case dealt with the multiple murders committed by Shabnam, a teacher in Uttar Pradesh, in 2008.

She had incapacitated her entire family by sedating them. Then had held their heads while her lover slit their throats, one after the other. The Supreme Court judgment quotes the prosecution saying that she strangled her 10-month-old nephew with her own hands. After the deed, she pretended to lie down unconscious near her dead father till the neighbours broke into the house.

The court confirmed that she wanted to do away with her family, who was opposed to her relationship, and keep the family property to herself. A trial court convicted and sentenced the duo to death in July 2008. The decision was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in April 2013.

In its recent judgment on their appeals, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said the fact that an educated teacher from a civilised family committed this crime and showed no remorse by itself makes it a 'rarest of rare' crime deserving the death penalty.

"Such a deed as parricide would be sufficiently appalling were the perpetrator and the victims are uneducated and backward, but it gains a ghastly illumination from the descent, moral upbringing, and elegant respectful living of the educated family where the father and daughter are both teachers," Chief Justice Dattu said.

"Here is a case in which Shabnam, who has been brought up in an educated and independent environment by her family and was respectfully employed as a Shikshamitra (teacher) at the school, influenced by the love and lust of her paramour has committed this brutal parricide exterminating 7 lives including that of an innocent child," the judgment said.

Justifying its decision to uphold her death sentence, the apex court distinguished Shabnam's crime triggered intense indignation in the community as it shattered the modern Indian parents' faith that their educated daughter would care for them in their old age.

"The modern era, led by the dawn of education, no longer recognises the stereotype that a parent would want a son so that they have someone to look after them and support them in their old age. Now, in an educated and civilised society, a daughter plays a multifaceted and indispensible role in the family, especially towards her parents," the court said.

The court said the accused "wrench the heart of our society where family is an institution of love and trust". It concluded that the couple's cold-blooded depravity leaves little "little likelihood of reform".

(source: The Hindu)

EGYPT:

Former presidential candidate Sabahi tweets: Death penalty is not the solution; Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi tweets against death sentence after 6 men were executed on terrorism charges

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi criticised the issuing of death penalties on Monday, a day after 6 Egyptian men were executed on terorrism-related charges.

"Execution is not the solution," the leftist politician wrote on Twitter.

The 6 men, including one 19-year-old, were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in October on charges of plotting and carrying out deadly attacks in Qalioubiya and Cairo.

Sabahi was the only contender to challenge former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in last year's presidential elections, garnering just 3 percent of the vote.

The Nasserist politician had come 3rd in the 1st round of the presidential elections of 2012, which were won by Mohamed Morsi

A decision by a Cairo court on Saturday to seek the death sentence for ousted president Morsi and over a hundred others on charges related to a prison break in 2011 brought a barrage of criticism from foreign states, as well as local and international rights groups.

(source: Ahram Online)

SOUTH AFRICA:

The return of the death penalty to South Africa

I was a young primary school pupil on March 2 1978. It was the morning uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operative, Solomon Mahlangu, was executed by the apartheid government at the then Pretoria Central Prison.

I will never forget the feeling I had that morning when my late elder brother told me about the brutal hanging of Mahlangu, who I came to know through frequent Rand Daily Mail's headlines and news-breaking stories. I remember clearly that I couldn't sleep properly that night, haunted by the barbaric nature of the execution, and tarnished by living in a country run by a government that hanged its people. I was sullied and disgusted.

The same feelings arose in me this week when I heard that DA leadership candidate, Mmusi Maimane, supported a referendum to decide on the re-introduction of the death penalty. He was repeating President Jacob Zuma's 2008 sentiments after he was elected president of the ANC. At the time, Zuma raised the possibility of a referendum on the death penalty. Zuma, however, later changed his mind. And Maimane did the same this week.

But this shows that people are beginning to consider the return of the death penalty in South Africa. And this is too sad for words.

South Africa could be attracting more tourists than it is right now because of the crimes stories that come out of the country. So, crime has some negative impact on the economy, whether we like it or not. But I digress.

The cruelty of the apartheid government's hanging method prompted the founding fathers of the new South Africa to abandon the practice of killing convicted criminals.

But readers of this column experience greater revulsion when they consider the crimes that have forced people to ask for the return of the death penalty in recent years.

About 6 months ago, Reiger Park residents, angered by the kidnapping and murder of the 4-year-old Taegrin Morris, called for the return of the death penalty.

Morris was killed when his parents' Volkswagen Golf was hijacked in Reiger Park, Boksburg, in July last year. The boy was caught in his seatbelt and was dragged along the road as the hijackers drove off.

Shortly before that, calls for the death penalty were also reiterated by Diepsloot residents after the sentencing of a convicted child killer and rapist, Ntokozo Hadebe, to 9 life terms. Hadebe was convicted of three counts of murder, 3 of kidnapping and 6 of rape.

The bodies of toddlers Anelisa Mkhonto and cousins Yonalisa and Zandile Mali were discovered dumped in a rubbish bin and public toilets. They'd been abducted, taken to Hadebe's shack in Diepsloot, where he raped and killed them.

Reading of these shocking stories, many will be of the view that the people responsible for these crimes have not only lost the right to live, but also any right to sympathy.

I am against the death penalty. But I know the feelings that lead to the calls for it. One of the feelings is that some criminals are simply beyond recovery and that their death may bring some sense of a definitive ending to the victim's friends and family.

However, the mistakes in the death penalty are well-known. They include the risk of wrongful conviction and later killing of innocent perpetrators. It is also not a deterrent because criminals always commit crimes with the firm belief that they will not be arrested.

I am proud to be South African today, proud that I live in a country where this cruelty does not exist. And the regime that killed Mahlangu is no more.

(source: Mzwandile Jacks, ventures-africa.com)

INDONESIA:

July 6 hearing on appeal by duo on death row

The Appellate Court here (in Kota Kinabalu) yesterday set July 6 this year to hear the appeal by 2 men against their death sentence for separate syabu trafficking convictions.

Justice Dato' Mohd Hishamudin Md Yunus, who sat together with Justices Datuk David Wong Dak Wah and Dato' Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, agreed to adjourn hearing the appeal by Eswaran Susop and Jaswant Singh in order to give them ample time to look for counsels.

The court directed that the appellants, who both hail from Johor, must be represented by different counsels.

During the proceedings yesterday, both appellants, aged 24, were represented by counsel Ram Singh.

The High Court here had on October 23, 2013, sentenced both the appellants to death by hanging after finding them guilty under Section 39B (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which is punishable with the mandatory death penalty, upon conviction.

The trial judge, in his decision, held that the appellants had failed to cast a reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case after finding that there was no evidence that the appellants did not have knowledge about the said syabu.

Eswaran was caught for trafficking in 770.9 grams of syabu on March 18, 2012 at the arrival hall of Terminal Two of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport while Jaswant was convicted of trafficking in 780.2 grams of the same drug at the same time and place.

They were jointly tried since February 25, 2013 with the prosecution, led by deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Aida Jaafar Mad Ariff, calling 15 witnesses to testify against both the appellants.

The duo were called to enter their defence on July 21, 2013 with both of them being the only defence witnesses.

DPP Mohd Fairuz Johari appeared for the respondent in these appeals.

Meanwhile, the same court adjourned to July 6 this year to hear the appeal of a 45-year-old woman against her conviction and sentence for trying to cheat a man.

The court unanimously agreed to defer the appeal for the last time to allow Jamilah Likabon to engage a counsel, to represent her in the appeal.

The court also advised the appellant, a former security guard at the temporary detention center (PTS) in Sandakan, to seek a counsel through Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan.

Previously, her (the appellant's) appeal had been adjourned twice, on November 11, 2014 and January 19, 2015, as she claimed that her counsels had withdrawn from representing her on the two hearings, respectively.

The lower court had sentenced the appellant to 1 year's jail plus a RM10,000 fine, in default, 3 months' imprisonment, after she was found guilty of attempting to deceive the man of RM3,000 by leading him to believe that she could secure the release of a detainee at the PTS in Sandakan.

She committed the offence at a restaurant at Batu 4 in Sandakan on July 20, 2012.

The appellant was convicted under Section 420 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 511 of the same Code, which provides for a jail term of up to 5 years and with whipping and liable to a fine, upon conviction.

DPP Norzilati Izhani Zainal acted for the respondent.

(source: The Borneo Post)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia advertises for eight new executioners as beheading rate soars ---- 85 reported executed so far this year, rivalling total for whole of 2014

Saudi Arabia is advertising for 8 new executioners, recruiting extra staff to carry out an increasing number of death sentences, usually done by public beheading.

No special qualifications are needed for the jobs whose main role is "executing a judgment of death" but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences, the advert, posted on the civil service jobs portal, said.

The Islamic kingdom is in the top five countries in the world for putting people to death, rights groups say. It ranked third in 2014, after China and Iran, and ahead of Iraq and the United States, according to Amnesty International figures.

A man beheaded on Sunday was the 85th person this year whose execution was recorded by the official Saudi Press Agency, compared to 88 in the whole of 2014, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Amnesty said there were at least 90 executions last year.

Most were executed for murder, but 38 had committed drugs offences, HRW said. About half were Saudi and the others were from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Burma, Chad, Eritrea the Philippines and Sudan.

Saudi authorities have not said why the number of executions has increased so rapidly, but diplomats have speculated it may be because more judges have been appointed, allowing a backlog of appeal cases to be heard.

Political analysts say it might also reflect a tough response by the judiciary to regional turbulence.

A downloadable pdf application form for the executioner jobs, available on the website carrying Monday's date, said the jobs were classified as "religious functionaries" and that they would be at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.

(source: The Guardian)

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

Saudi Arabia To Behead, Crucify Pro-Democracy Opposition Leader Sheikh Nimr----Sentenced to death last year, Sheikh Nimr is a political prisoner condemned for demanding the release of other prisoners and Saudi government reform.

Last week, Saudi officials announced the impending execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a 53-year-old Shiite cleric sentenced to death last year. If the execution is carried out over calls against it coming from across the globe, Nimr will be beheaded and then his body will be publicly displayed, a process locally called "crucifixion."

Nimr was condemned to death for '"seeking ‘foreign meddling' in the kingdom, 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces" - accusations made by the government that pro-democracy activists say are unfounded claims to discredit the fight for freedom. The last charge likely stems from his arrest, when police accuse the cleric of exchanging gunfire during a chase - a charge denied by his family who claim he was unarmed. Police shot Nimr 4 times during his arrest.

Human rights advocates criticize the charges, saying Nimr was imprisoned for his support of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, criticism of the treatment of other Shiite Muslims by the country's rulers, demanding the release of other political prisoners, and other accusations against the House of Saud.

It's unclear when the death sentence could be carried out. BBC Arabic reported Nimr would be executed on Thursday, but as of Friday, no reports indicated he had been killed. Zack Beauchamp, writing for Vox, highlighted Saudi Arabia's unpredictability in death penalty cases: "[T]he country has a habit of both postponing executions and carrying them out without very much warning."

The announcement of Nimr's execution renewed protests that began after his arrest and have continued ever since, especially in al-Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia, known for its strong sympathies to his positions. In April 2014, Princess Sahar, 1 of 4 imprisoned daughters of the late King Abdullah, linked her struggle to Nimr's imprisonment, and called for revolution against the ruling government.

Now, Nimr's death sentence has become an international issue, condemned by Reprieve and Amnesty International. Protesters took to the streets of al-Awamiyah, Nimr's hometown, on Saturday to demand his release, chanting anti-government slogans. Solidarity rallies also occurred in Bahrain, whose oppressive royal family depends on Saudi military support to quell pro-Democracy protests, and the Iraqi city of Najaf.

Protests for Nimr even occurred in India, and Nimr supporters rallied in London, where activists used the opportunity to highlight the plight of other victims of the Saudi regime.

"There are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia," a protester told Iran's PressTV on Thursday. "But with Sheik Nimr, he's become the name of them, he's become a representative of all the minorities, the oppressed people in Saudi Arabia."

(source: Mint Press News)

NEW JERSEY:

Death penalty still supported by majority of NJ residents

It's been over 7 years since New Jersey abolished the death penalty, and a new poll released Monday shows the majority of residents still support it.

In December 2007, New Jersey abolished its death penalty after legislation was passed and signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 32 states have the death penalty and 18 have abolished it. In 2013, Maryland became the last state to abolish the death penalty.

A poll that was taken in 2006 by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind asked Garden State residents their opinions on the death penalty. 8 years later, the same question was asked and it received almost the same responses.

"Right now, 57 % of Garden Staters say they favor the death penalty for certain crimes with 36 % who are opposed. Back in 2006, support came in at 54 %," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science.

Partisanship, gender and racial divides are evident in the survey.

"Support is the strongest among Republicans, whites, men and Gen Xers with clear majorities of all these groups saying 'yes' to the ultimate penalty," Jenkins explained. "Support is considerably less among Democrats, people of color and millennials."

65 % of the white poll respondents are in support of the death penalty while 35 % of black New Jerseyans say the same. More than 3/4 of Republicans favor capital punishment, but less than 1/2 of Democrats agree.

Other breakdown percentages included:

52 % of Independents favor the death penalty;

64 % of men support it;

51 % of women are unopposed;

48 % of those ages 18 to 34 favor the death penalty;

61 % of those ages 35 to 59 support it;

60 % of New Jersey residents 60 and older are unopposed.

After a spate of botched executions across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court is now considering the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 13 to 19, 2015 using a randomly selected sample of 1314 adults in New Jersey, including an oversampling of 403 African-Americans.

(source: nj1015.com)

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FDU Poll: Majority support remains for death penalty

With the Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being sentenced to death, and a number of botched executions attracting the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, the death penalty has been in the headlines recently. The most recent survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind finds support for the death penalty virtually unchanged from when the same question was asked in 2006. 57 % of respondents say they favor the death penalty for certain crimes with 36 % opposed. In 2006, support measured 54 % with 31 % opposed.

"With the Supreme Court decision on lethal injections looming, and another federal defendant sentenced to death, sentiment in New Jersey is squarely on the side of allowing the practice to continue. A majority would undoubtedly agree with the decision to sentence the Boston bomber to the ultimate penalty," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science. She went on tos say "It's not really a state issue, as New Jersey is among those states who abolished the death penalty in 2007. It's more of a federal issue, given the difficulty that many states are having in getting the drugs needed for the legal injection cocktail. Right now Garden Staters are about where the nation is in regard to the question. Other polls have national support at 56 %, another sign that New Jersey is really a microcosm of the rest of the nation."

Not everyone embraces this form of punishment: Support is the strongest among Republicans, whites, men, and Gen Xers - with clear majorities of all of these groups saying yes to the ultimate penalty. There is considerably less support among Democrats, people of color, women, and Millennials - all of whom oppose the death penalty in numbers almost reaching or exceeding a majority.

Partisanship and race are the 2 biggest dividers in attitudes toward the death penalty. Among whites, approval approaches 2/3, but among blacks support plummets thirty points to 35 %. 3/4 of Republicans favor this form of punishment with fewer than half of all Democrats.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 1314 adults, including an oversample of 403African-Americans, in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 13 through April 19. The margin of error is +/- 3 % points.

(source: politickernj.com)

NEBRASKA:

Conservative Support Aids Bid in Nebraska to Ban Death Penalty

The Nebraska Legislature will decide in the next several weeks whether to do what no other conservative state has done in more than 40 years: Abolish the death penalty.

In the latest sign that vigorous support for capital punishment can no longer be taken for granted among Republicans, a coalition of Republican, Democratic and independent lawmakers has backed a bill that would replace capital punishment with life imprisonment. Its members cite reasons that range from fiscal and practical to ideological.

On Friday, the unicameral Legislature voted in favor of the bill, 30 to 16, after four hours of debate. A final vote is likely this week, and if the lawmakers approve the measure again, as is expected, it will go to Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Tea Party Republican and strong supporter of capital punishment. The governor has said he would veto the bill, setting up a potentially fierce campaign to override him.

In a statement after the vote, Mr. Ricketts said the repeal vote "puts the safety of the public and Nebraska families at risk."

"The death penalty in Nebraska remains an appropriate tool in sentencing the most heinous criminals," he added.

But the Republicans who support repeal say they are part of an emerging group that has changed positions on the death penalty, forming what they hope is a compelling conservative argument against it.

Those Republicans have argued that the appeals process for inmates sentenced to death has left the state with unnecessary costs, money that should be spent elsewhere. They have spoken of the botched execution in Oklahoma last year and the difficulty in procuring the drugs for lethal injections. (The electric chair was outlawed in Nebraska in 2008 when the State Supreme Court declared the method unconstitutional.) Some lawmakers have also pointed to the fact that Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, leaving family members of crime victims waiting interminably for resolution. 11 inmates are on death row.

Senator Colby Coash, a conservative who is a sponsor of the bill, said he had come to believe that opposing capital punishment aligned with his values as a Republican and a Christian conservative.

"I'm a conservative guy - I've been a Republican my whole life," he said in an interview. "A lot of my conservative colleagues have come to the conclusion that we're there to root out inefficient government programs. Some people see this as a pro-life issue. Other people see it as a good-government issue. But the support that this bill is getting from conservative members is evidence that you can get justice through eliminating the death penalty, and you can get efficient government through eliminating the death penalty."

But other Republicans, dismayed over what they see as a deviation from the party's core beliefs, have vowed to fight the measure. Senator Bill Kintner, who opposes repeal, said a filibuster had been discussed to try to stop it.

Those lawmakers in his party who favor the bill, Mr. Kintner said, have lost their way. "Conservatives have always been the bedrock of law and order," he said in an interview in his office in the Capitol. "We want to make sure our streets are safe."

Yet even some lawmakers who ultimately voted against the bill on Friday said they had lost sleep trying to decide. "I have struggled with this issue," Senator Dave Bloomfield said. "At the end of the day, I will be voting to keep the death penalty on our books as an alternative to the most heinous crimes."

Mr. Ricketts, in a last-minute attempt to shore up Republican opposition to the bill, announced on Thursday that the state had acquired "all 3 drugs" necessary to carry out lethal injections. But Senator Ernie Chambers, an independent from Omaha, who introduced the bill, questioned whether the state had procured those drugs.

"The governor is going to have to show and establish where these drugs come from," Mr. Chambers said during debate. "They don't have them in their possession. The timing of this announcement is very problematic."

Lawmakers in other conservative states have made their own efforts this year to abolish capital punishment. In Montana, a bill to ban the death penalty passed the Senate but encountered opposition in the House. A vote there ended in a tie, 50 to 50, effectively killing the bill.

A bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature this year is in committee, and it is unclear whether it will advance to a vote.

The Midwest has historically been a stronghold of opposition to the death penalty, which has been outlawed in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

18 other states have banned the death penalty, and Nebraska has tried before. In 1979, a bill to do so passed the Legislature but was vetoed by the governor, and lawmakers failed to override his veto. In 1999, the Legislature passed a moratorium on the death penalty, citing concerns that it had been applied unfairly. That bill was also vetoed by the governor.

The measure was approved on Friday in a preliminary vote. The governor has promised a veto. Credit Andrew Dickinson for The New York Times "This year, there apparently are conservatives on the national level who have finally acknowledged the truth of what those of us who are against the death penalty have been saying," said Mr. Chambers, the longest-serving member of the Nebraska Legislature, which is officially nonpartisan. "But it has more impact coming from them. The arguments are being presented by people whose presentation carries far more weight than mine. If I say it, it's, 'Ho-hum, he's been saying that for 40 years.'"

Supporters of the bill in Nebraska say they are encouraged by the erosion of support for the death penalty on a national level. Last year, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that support for it in the United States had slipped, with 52 % of Americans favoring life without parole over the death penalty.

"It's a broken government program that produces no tangible benefits," said Marc Hyden, the director of the national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. "More and more conservatives are increasingly seeing this as just another program that is antithetical to our conservative ideas."

Some conservatives, like Senator Coash, say they now see the death penalty as anti-Christian. 22 % of Nebraskans are Catholic, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, and studies have revealed that Catholic support for the death penalty is decreasing as Pope Francis denounces it strongly. A Pew poll released in April showed that 42 % of Catholics in the United States opposed the death penalty, compared with 36 % 4 years ago.

Stacy Anderson, the executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said this was the closest Nebraska had ever been to having a veto-proof majority on a bill to eliminate capital punishment, leaving her "cautiously optimistic" that it would succeed.

"We're hearing across the board from Republicans and Democrats that the system is broken, there's no way to fix it, and it's time to move on," Ms. Anderson said. "Republicans have been saying that this is a pro-life issue for them. They believe in the sacredness of life across the board. And for fiscal conservatives, the math just doesn't make sense, especially when we aren't getting any benefit from it."

In Nebraska, bills must be approved 3 times before they reach the governor's desk, and the intense lobbying in advance of Friday's vote, the 2nd, signaled that much more fighting is in store as the bill heads toward its final vote. Opponents and supporters of repeal have been bombarding lawmakers with phone calls and emails, and the governor has been pushing Republicans who support repeal to change their minds, arguing that the measure would provide "no cost savings" to taxpayers.

Repealing the death penalty, the governor said on Friday, "is out of touch with Nebraska citizens that I talk to on this issue."

(source: New York Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Son who swore vengeance against his mother's killer at 6 years old when testifying against him meets him after 20 years on death row - and now vows to save his life

Clifford O'Sullivan was just six when he appeared in a California court at the trial of his mother's killer, Mark Scott Thornton

He gave a stirring sentencing testimony during which he asked for the 'bad man' to be killed

Thornton has spent the past 20 years sitting on death row as California hasn't executed a single prisoner since 2006

O'Sullivan says he has now changed his mind and he doesn't want Thornton to die

A son, whose mother was murdered in 1993, has come face to face with the killer who has spent the past 20 years on death row and has vowed to fight to save the man's life.

Clifford O'Sullivan was just 6 years old when he appeared in court at the trial of his mother's killer and gave a stirring sentencing testimony asking for him to be killed.

'All I think is that what the bad man did to my mom should happen to him,' he told the court.

Kellie O'Sullivan, Clifford's mom, was kidnapped in Malibu and murdered on September 14, 1993 as she drove to collect her son from daycare.

Mark Scott Thornton, who was wanted at the time on a juvenile-probation arrest warrant, abducted Kellie - a nurse - and drove her to a remote area off Mulholland Highway, where he shot her once in the chest and twice in the back.

At his trial, a jury convicted Thornton of 1st-degree murder. During sentencing, Clifford was given the chance to take the stand and give us thoughts.

'It's really sad for my family 'cause she was one of the greatest mothers I've met,' he said.

Now 26, O'Sullivan - who works in a Nashville emergency room - has changed his mind and no longer believes that the death penalty is the right punishment for Thornton.

O'Sullivan's change of heart comes partly from his own experience of just how damaging the death penalty system is to victims' families.

'You don't heal,' said O'Sullivan, who as a 15-year-old was caught with cocaine and arrested for assault.

At 20, Scott Thornton become the youngest inmate on death row when he was sentenced to die in 1995.

He was admitted to San Quentin State Prison, where California houses its male death row inmates, but since 2006 the state hasn't executed a single prisoner.

With California unlikely to ever execute Thornton, O'Sullivan has said that he - and many other victims - are not given closure.

'The process goes on,' O'Sullivan said, 'delayed for years in a way that is torturous.'

With his strong belief that the capital punishment system doesn't do what it is supposed to, O'Sullivan decided to write to his mother's killer asking if he could visit him.

Last September - some 22 years after his mother's death - O'Sullivan flew to California to meet with Thornton and the 2 men spoke for 5 hours.

'It was the greatest gift he could have given me,' O'Sullivan said.

When O'Sullivan told Thornton that he no longer thought he should be killed he was surprised at the killer's response

Rather than talk about his own future, Thornton wanted instead to make peace over what he had done all those years ago.

'Let us focus on making sure that the next 20 years are not a reflection of the past 20 years,' he said. 'Let's find meaning in this, for your sake, for mine and for your mother's.'

It was not the response O'Sullivan expected, but he maintains that he longs wants Thornton to die.

'If they put him up for a date I would stop it, just like I started it,' said O'Sullivan.

(source: Daily Mail)

USA:

GOP Consultant: Death Penalty Supporters Will Be Like Gay Marriage Opponents

Republican strategist Matthew Dowd says opponents of the death penalty will be as outmoded as gay marriage opponents in 20 years.

Dowd told a This Week panel he didn't understand the conservative support for the capital punishment, which is back in the news thanks to the jury that handed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a death sentence last week.

"20 years from now, people that are for the death penalty are going to be in the same place as people that are against gay marriage," Dowd said. "The death penalty is going to go the way of opposition to gay marriage."

"I find it amazing that conservatives are all for the death penalty and government involvement in the taking of a life, but they're not for government involvement in health care, and the saving of a life?" he asked. "I don't get the disposition on this."

(source: Fox News)

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Chechen Leader Says Tsarnaev Death Sentence Is Part Of US Intelligence Plot----In an Instagram post, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got the death sentence because "US intelligence agencies had to find a victim"

The leader of the Chechen Republic lashed out at the U.S. Sunday over the jury's decision to give Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the death penalty for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. In a post on his Instagram acccount, Ramzan Kadyrov accused U.S. intelligence agencies of using Dzhokhar and his older brother to hide their own involvement in the grisly 2013 attack.

Kadyrov is one of the most powerful figures in Russia, and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Under their unwritten pact, Kadyrov keeps order in a region that has been notoriously unstable, and in return, he gets free rein to be heavyhanded with any local opposition to his own rule. Some worry that the Chechen leader is transforming the republic into a place where dissenters are punished and Islamic law is used for oppression rather than religion.

At one point in his Instagram post on Sunday, Kadyrov says: "US intelligence agencies, who were accused of involvement in the Boston tragedy, had to find a victim. Tsarnaev was handed to them as a victim." Later, speaking about Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamerlan, who died in the police chase following the bombing, Kadyrov writes: "If they actually did that attack, I don't believe the US special intelligence services didn't know about it." Kadyrov is close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Dzhokar is from a family of ethnic Chechens who were forcibly removed from the Russian province in the years after WWII and resettled in the then-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. In 2002, his immediate family gained political asylum in U.S. They had sought to return to Chechnya, but Russian authorities prevented them from returning to the Russian republic, which was ravaged by war and had become a hotbed of radicalism. Tamerlan Tsarnaev had made two visits to Chechnya in the years leading up to Boston bombing, and some believe those trips fed his growing radicalization.

After 3 months of testimony, a jury on Friday sentenced Dzhokar, 21, to death for the 2013 bombings, which killed 3 people, injured hundreds more and deeply scarred the city of Boston. His appeals are expected to take years.

(source: vocativ.com)

INDONESIA:

Jokowi says he's no coward

For the 1st time after 7 months in office, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo met his campaign volunteers in public, asking them to support his recent policies, including the slashing of fuel subsidies and the execution of drug convicts.

During a speech on Saturday at the Cibubur camping grounds in East Jakarta, Jokowi said he would face the consequences of his controversial policies.

"I'm ready to become unpopular. I'm ready to be attacked. Don't ever think that Jokowi is a coward. Keep that in mind," the President said.

On executing drug traffickers, Jokowi said he would do anything to protect the nation's interests and sovereignty. "When [the government] was about to execute the drug traffickers, I was warned that there would be foreign pressure, including from Amnesty [International], the United Nations and leaders from other countries. But I insisted that we have the legal sovereignty - that our law recognizes the death penalty," he said.

Jokowi repeated his standard talking point on defending capital punishment. "50 people die [in Indonesia] every day and 18,000 every year because of drugs, so why do we need to take care of 1 or 2 people who have been convicted as drug traffickers?" he said.

Defying international pressure, the government executed 14 death row prisoners in the first four months of the year, including 12 foreign nationals.

Despite his popularity in the months prior to last year's presidential election, Jokowi, an Indonesian Democr