and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

AUGUST 28, 2015:


Charge against Columbiana man in death of girlfriend changed to capital murder

A Columbiana man now faces the possibility of a death penalty if convicted in the July death of his girlfriend.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office late Thursday filed a document in court stating it had dismissed a murder charge against Demarcus Lamar Means after it had served him with a new warrant for capital murder in the death of 18-year-old Haleigh Green. The new charge carries the possibility of a death sentence if convicted.

The new capital murder charge against Means was based on "the facts at issue" in the case, according to the court filing by Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee and Assistant District Attorney Roger Hepburn.

Means, 19, was captured by U.S. Marshals in Los Angeles on July 21 after an arrest warrant was issued in Green's death.

Green was last seen by family members on July 6 in the Columbiana area. Her body was found 5 days later when the sheriff's office spotted her red Ford Mustang in a heavily wooded area off County Road 315 near Columbiana. Searchers found her body nearby. She had been shot.

Green had recently graduated Shelby County High School and was a student at Lawson State Community College. Shelby County residents had rallied around Green's family after her disappearance and death. Hundreds attended a vigil one week after her body was found.

Means was to have had a preliminary hearing before Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves on Wednesday but that was delayed after prosecutors decided to upgrade the charge against him to capital murder. Means' attorney, Victor Revill, had declined comment Wednesday.

Reeves late Thursday also issued an order stating that because the capital murder charge against Means carries the possibility of the death penalty, if convicted, prosecutors must maintain an open file for the purpose of discovery by defense attorneys and preserve the rough field notes of law enforcement officers involved in the investigation.

Means was transferred Wednesday to the St. Clair County Jail and is being held without bond on the new charge, court records show.

Prior to the new charge Means had been held on $500,000 bond and Revill had filed a motion seeking a reduction in the bond amount.

The bond reduction motion states that Means had voluntarily talked to law enforcement officers twice before he fled "due to numerous death threats" he and his family had received by phone, Facebook and Instagram. The motion included affidavits from Means' mother, aunt, and 2 cousins about the threats.

When Means left town a warrant for his arrest also had not yet been filed, the motion states.

The motion stated that Means graduated from Valleydale Christian Academy, with at least a 3.0 grade point average, in May of 2014 and had attended the Laurus Technical Institute until February 2015 when that school was shut down.


OKLAHOMA----impending execution

High court won't rehear death penalty case

The Supreme Court refused Friday to reconsider the death-row appeals of 3 Oklahoma prisoners whose pending executions by lethal injection were upheld by the justices in June.

Without comment, the court denied a petition filed by the prisoners' lawyers that would have turned the case into one testing the overall constitutionality of the death penalty.

The justices ruled 5-4 on June 29 that Oklahoma can use the sedative midazolam as part of a 3-drug lethal injection protocol, despite contentions that it may not render prisoners completely unconscious and incapable of feeling pain. The court's majority said the inmates failed to suggest any better alternative.

Supreme Court refuses to ban controversial method of execution

But the decision included a sweeping dissent from Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that questioned whether capital punishment is no longer constitutional. The 2 liberal justices cited scores of death-row exonerations, racial and geographic disparities, decades-long delays between sentencing and executions and a trend away from capital punishment in courts and states.

Breyer, who wrote the dissent, urged the court to hear a case in the near future on whether the death penalty violates the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The court ruled that way in 1972, resulting in a 4-year moratorium on executions, but reversed itself in 1976.

"It would be appropriate for the court to use this case to address the constitutionality of the death penalty, because the outcome will turn not on facts specific to any single litigant, but on circumstances common to the administration of the death penalty," attorneys for death-row inmates Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole said.

A similar effort was mounted in early July by Missouri prisoner David Zink, but the Supreme Court refused to delay his execution, and he was put to death July 14. Barring a last-minute reprieve, Glossip is scheduled to die Sept. 16, with Grant and Cole to follow later this year.

A more likely candidate for the Supreme Court to consider whether the death penalty is constitutional will come before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Monday. In that case, a federal district judge already has declared California's death penalty unconstitutional because of long delays, inadequate funding for defense lawyers, and the lack of a lethal injection protocol.

The June Supreme Court case concerned the specific drug used by Oklahoma and some other states to sedate prisoners before lethal drugs are administered. While Florida has used midazolam with apparent success, three executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma resulted in condemned prisoners gasping and writhing on their gurneys.

The high court's 5-member conservative majority ruled that states may continue to uses midazolam because the defendants could not suggest an alternative - a burden that the court's 4 liberal members criticized in a dissent written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

(source: USA Today)


Nebraska group says it can stop death penalty repeal

An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the 1st traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.

The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal going into effect. They appear to have exceeded the 10 % of registered voters hurdle needed to block repeal pending a November 2016 ballot measure on the issue.

"Nebraskans sent a strong message about crime and punishment in our state by signing this petition in extraordinary numbers," said state treasurer and former attorney general Don Stenberg, a co-chair of the petition drive.

The announcement came just before the repeal law was set to go into effect on Sunday, but the signatures still need to be verified. The petitions now go to the Nebraska secretary of state's office, which will forward them to counties to verify the signatures in a process that will take about 40 days.

Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson, who supports the death penalty, said in a statement that the signatures are "presumptively valid" until determined otherwise. Stenberg said no one will know the exact number of valid signatures for at least a month, but the state constitution makes clear that petitions go into effect on the day they're submitted.

Even if the law is suspended, Nebraska currently has no way to execute any of the 10 men on death row because its lacks 2 of the 3 required lethal injection drugs and has struggled to obtain them legally. The state paid $54,400 in May to order the drugs from a broker in India, but federal authorities have said they can't be legally imported.

Nebraska lawmakers voted by the narrowest possible margin, 30-19, to override Ricketts' veto. Ricketts assailed the Legislature as out of touch with the wishes of most residents. The repeal vote was helped by an unusual coalition of conservative state senators and more traditional death penalty opponents who had fought unsuccessfully for decades to eliminate the punishment. Some conservatives said they opposed it for religious and moral reasons, while others cast it as an inefficient government program that wastes tax money.

"What the Nebraska Legislature did is going to have an effect," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, whose group takes no stance on the death penalty but often criticizes how it's administered. "The message that conservative legislators can reach across the aisle with moderate and liberal legislators - that message is still there and still resonates."

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, and has never done so using the state's current 3-drug lethal injection protocol.

The state was the 19th to abolish capital punishment, as has the District of Columbia, while the death penalty is legal in 31 states and for some federal crimes. The number of executions in the United States has gradually declined in recent years and only a handful of states led by Texas regularly put inmates to death.

The announcement of the number of signatures caps an 82-day petition drive backed by Ricketts and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. The governor had given $200,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty as of the last filing deadline on July 31, while his father had donated $100,000. The group raised a total of more than $652,000 from 40 individual donors and seven groups classified as businesses, political action committees and other entities.

The largest donation in July came from the conservative, Washington-based Judicial Crisis Network, which gave $200,000. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty relied on a combination of paid and volunteer petition circulators, and was aided by an Arizona-based strategist who specializes in ballot campaigns.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty in California is a charade

On Monday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the constitutionality of California's death penalty in the case of Jones v. Davis. This is the case from last year in which U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the state's death penalty system is unconstitutional.

"The dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding [any] actual execution," Carney wrote in his ruling. "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose."

Broken beyond repair, "such a system is unconstitutional."

Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed that ruling.

California has the largest and most expensive death row in the nation, yet inmates are more likely to die of old age or suicide than be executed.

Since 1978, California has spent more than $4 billion on death penalty costs and executed only 13 people, according to a recent study. By 2030, when the population of San Quentin's death row is projected to reach 1,000, the tab for maintaining the death penalty will reach $9 billion.

Judge Carney found that death-row inmates and their advocates are not to blame for the delays. The system is so backlogged that hundreds of direct appeals are pending before the California Supreme Court right now, and there are far more cases than there are attorneys qualified and willing to defend them.

And these are just the mandatory appeals, not opportunities to introduce new evidence that might prove someone innocent. Those appeals might not happen until a decade or longer after a trial.

60 % of California death penalty cases are overturned once they get into federal court due to serious errors in their original trials. There is no end in sight.

I have repeatedly tried to fix this problem. In 2011, I introduced Senate Bill 490 to replace the system with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. That would have saved the state close to a billion dollars by this point, without releasing any of the inmates.

Like other legislative efforts to reform the death penalty system, including study commissions, increasing funding levels, reducing the number of death sentences and other common-sense changes, that bill stalled. Nothing has happened.

Since 2011, public support for the death penalty in California has declined sharply. The Field Poll, which tracks voter attitudes, found that as of 2014 support for the death penalty had reached a 50-year low and that it has dropped as much in the last 3 years as it had in the previous 30. It's no surprise: By keeping this failed policy for a handful of people, we're not being tough on crime; we're just being tough on the taxpayer.

How many more students could we send to college on full scholarship? How many crumbling roads and bridges could be rebuilt? Investing in just about anything else would have been wiser.

The federal courts must act because California has not been able to fix this problem. Joined by Sen. Mark Leno and former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, I submitted an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit asking the court to affirm Judge Carney's decision that the state's death penalty system is unconstitutional.

It's time to end this charade.

(source: Commentary; State Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) is chair of both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary----Mercury News)


What's behind surge in Saudi beheadings?----Saudi Arabia has executed 1 person every 2 days since last August, new Amnesty International report finds

One person has been executed in Saudi Arabia every 2 days since last August, making the Gulf kingdom "one of most prolific executioners in the world," Amnesty International said this week.

The country has executed more people in the 1st half of 2015 than all of last year, Amnesty said in a new report.

Between Jan. and June, 102 people were executed, compared to 90 in 2014, Amnesty reported.

Most executions were by beheading and many sentences were handed out to people found guilty of non-lethal crimes, including apostasy, witchcraft and drug-related offences.

"Our main recommendation here is that Saudi Arabia needs to abolish the death penalty," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Of the 2,208 executions recorded in Saudi Arabia since 1985, about 48.5 % were carried out against foreign nationals, Amnesty found. This includes many migrant workers from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, who often do not have access to consular services or translations during trial.

Underage offenders and people with mental disabilities were also not exempt from the death penalty.

An effort to crack down on drug crimes may be responsible for the recent surge in executions, "but that certainly is not the only story here," Neve told the Star.

"It's hard to give an exact explanation of course because everything about the justice system in Saudi Arabia is shrouded in such complete secrecy. There are no explanations ever offered, be that by the government or by the judiciary," he said.

Despite growing international pressure, Saudi Arabia executed 4 people - 3 Saudi nationals and 1 Syrian - on Wednesday for crimes that included murder and drug smuggling, Al Jazeera reported.

The Saudi authorities, Neve said, "have responded defiantly and aggressively" to criticism of the country's human rights record, and of its use of the death penalty.

"They take the position that it's an internal Saudi matter, that the Saudi justice system is absolutely fine. They . . . essentially convey a message to the rest of the world that it's nobody else's business how Saudi Arabia conducts its justice system."

The Saudi legal system is based on Islamic law, or Sharia, which is derived from the Quran and the Sunnah, the practices and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad.

In addition to Sharia courts, a Board of Grievances deals with cases involving the government and committees within government ministries settle specific disputes. Saudi Arabia also established a Supreme Court in 2007.

But in many criminal cases, Amnesty said, Saudi judges are not bound by legal precedent when handing out sentences or deciding what constitutes a crime. This gives them "wide powers of interpretation."

The country's ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, retains the final authority over judicial matters and he can issue royal decrees when Sharia law does not prescribe a solution.

Some observers were cautiously optimistic when Salman took the throne last January after the death of his brother, King Abdullah. But so far, the new king has instituted few substantial democratic reforms.

Despite this, Saudi Arabia remains a major Western ally in the Middle East. King Salman is expected to make his 1st official visit to Washington next week, and the kingdom was the top client in U.S. arms sales in 2014, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Canada-Saudi ties are also strong. Last year, Canada finalized a $15 billion arms deal to sell light armoured vehicles to the Gulf monarchy. A report in The Globe and Mail this week revealed that Ottawa is contractually obligated to keep the details of that agreement secret.

"The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canadian principled foreign policy," Amy Mills, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, told the Star in an e-mailed statement when asked about alleged Saudi human rights violations.

"Canadian officials engage regularly with Saudi officials, including the Saudi Human Rights Commission, to maintain an open, respectful and constructive dialogue on human rights issues. The Government of Canada takes every opportunity to regularly make its views on human rights known to Saudi authorities and the international community."

But Saudi Arabia has been accused of imprisoning political dissidents, failing to protect migrant labourers and discriminating against minorities and women, among other violations.

Neve said Ottawa has failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable. "All we hear from the rest of the world, including Canada, is silence. It's disgraceful and it's unacceptable and it has to end," he said.

"The Canadian government is much more focused on ensuring that a lucrative arms deal . . . goes through. They are much more concerned about upholding that deal than in raising any of these human rights concerns."

(source: The Star)


Law panel drafts paper, favours abolition of death penalty

The Law Commission is set to recommend abolition of death penalty in India except for terror convicts, media reports said on Friday, a move rights activists say is long overdue in the country.

India is one of 59 countries in the world where capital punishment is still awarded and activists have been demanding its abolition, saying death penalty had no place in civilised society.

The issue had generated intense debate before and after the hanging in July of Yakub Memon, the sole Mumbai blasts convict to be executed.

A 272-page draft report of the Law Commission was in favour of speedy abolition of the death penalty from the statute books, except in cases where the accused is convicted of involvement in a terror case, the Indian Express reported.

The Law Commission had recommended retention of death penalty in 1962.

"The Commission suggests that the death penalty be immediately abolished for all crimes other than terror offences. At the same time, for terror offences a moratorium as regards sentencing and execution be immediately put in place. This moratorium can be reviewed after a reasonable period," the report quoted the draft as saying.

The panel also hoped that the "movement towards absolute abolition will be swift and irreversible".

The commission, headed by justice (retd) AP Shah, is likely to submit its report next week to the Supreme Court which had asked the panel to study the issue.

A copy of the report will also be handed over to the Union law minister as any call on changes in penal provisions has to be taken by Parliament.

The panel's term expires on August 31. According to the report, the commission is of the view that death penalty has not served its intended purpose of acting as a deterrent to crimes or criminals.

"The quest for retribution as a penal justification cannot descend into cries for vengeance," the draft paper said.

The panel had held wide-ranging discussions with many different sections including political parties.

Former president late APJ Abdul Kalam is among the people who had earlier supported abolishing death penalty while responding to a consultation paper of the Law Commission.

Ahead of Yakub Memon's hanging after a dramatic late-night rejection of his final mercy, a group of activists had written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking a stay on his execution.

(source: Hindustan Times)


The Death Penalty in Pakistan

Since lifting a long standing moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, Pakistan has executed over 200 people.

tAbdul Basit is 43 and was sentenced to death in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. A Government-appointed medical board recently confirmed that Basit has no use of his lower limbs and is "bed bound with urinary and fecal incontinence." Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, a 'Black Warrant' has been issued for his execution. It is deeply disturbing that Pakistan's authorities are trying to go ahead with this cruel and unnecessary executions. There is surely no justification for trying to hang a man with such severe disabilities.

Among those executed was Aftab Bahadur, who was hanged in June 2015, despite evidence of his innocence. In violation of international and Pakistani law, Aftab was sentenced to death when he was a child. Reprieve worked until the very last minute to save Aftab's life, but the Lahore High Court dismissed our request for a stay of execution.

Shafqat Hussain was also sentenced to death while still a child. He was brutally tortured for 9 days, and eventually 'confessed' to a crime, in order to end the abuse. The Pakistani authorities had tried to execute Shafqat in January and June 2015, but both times thousands of people joined with us to voice their opposition, and succeeded in stopping his execution.

In July 2015 Shafqat was issued with a new execution warrant. Yet again, thousands joined our campaign to email President Mamnoon Hussain, demanding a stay of execution. However, Shafqat was eventually hanged in the early hours of Thuesday 4th August 2015.

Reprieve aims to end the death penalty worldwide, by working on individual cases such as those of Aftab and Shafqat, and on wider projects. We are currently assisting more than 40 people facing the death penalty in 11 countries.



Chad sentences 10 Boko Haram members to death

Chad has sentenced 10 members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram to death on terror charges, after a 3-day trial in the capital N'Djamena.

The 10 were convicted over their roles in twin attacks on the capital in June, which killed at least 38.

The attacks were the 1st by the Nigerian-based group in Chad, which hosts the headquarters of a regional force set up to fight the militants.

In July, Chad reintroduced the death penalty for acts of terror.

Opposition and civil liberties groups have criticised the new anti-terror legislation, saying it could be used to curb civil rights.

The men were found guilty of charges including criminal conspiracy, killings, wilful destruction with explosives, fraud, illegal possessions of arms and ammunition, and using psychotropic substances, according to chief prosecutor Bruno Mahouli Louapambe, quoted in AFP news agency.

The trial had been due to last eight days, but "due to security reasons it was speeded up and moved on Thursday to an undisclosed secret location," a judicial source told AFP.

Among those convicted was Mahamat Mustapha, aka Bana Fanaye, the man described as the "mastermind" of the attack by Chad's Interior Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid.

The June attacks were followed by a blast at a market in the capital in July, which killed 15 people.

Chad has banned people from wearing the full-face veil following the bombings.

Boko Haram had previously threatened to attack Chad, after it sent troops to help Nigeria recapture territory from the militant group, mostly in Borno state.

Chad has been instrumental in helping Nigeria retake most of the areas Boko Haram had seized.

The jihadists, who want to create their own Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, have killed thousands and forced millions to flee their homes in the country's north-east Nigeria since 2009.

(source: BBC news)


EU Blasts Palestinian Use Of Death Penalty

European Union missions based in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank condemned Friday a death sentence issued in the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

The sentence was the 5th issued since the beginning of the year by Palestinian courts.

On Monday, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza City - acting as a court of First Instance - sentenced a 37-year-old Palestinian from the al-Daraj neighborhood to death by firing squad after he was convicted of "collaboration with a foreign hostile entity," the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported.

Under Palestinian law, wilful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy - usually Israel - are punishable by death.

The EU called on authorities in Gaza - run by the Hamas movement - to refrain from enforcing capital punishment on the grounds that the practice is cruel, inhumane, fails to deter criminal behavior, and denies citizens human dignity.

PCHR said that Monday's sentence brings the total number of death sentences issued by the Palestinian courts since 1994 to 161, over 80 % of which were carried out in the Gaza Strip.

The remainder took place in the occupied West Bank in courts run by the Palestinian Authority.

The majority of those facing the death penalty in the Gaza Strip have been executed since Hamas took control on 2007, PCHR said, adding that 19 have been executed since 2007 without ratification by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Under Palestinian law, capital punishment may only be carried out with the approval of the Palestinian president.

As the Hamas movement broke from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and does not recognize the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip sidestep the president's consent on cases of capital punishment.

The EU added that the authorities in Gaza must "comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend."

While Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and the Palestinian Authority rules in the occupied West Bank, the death penalty is carried out by both parties in both territories.

Hamas executed 18 men in August for alleged collaboration with Israel during the 50-day Gaza war.

Palestine is 1 of 22 countries that carried out the death penalty last year.

The practice has been abolished in 140 countries - nearly 2/3 of countries around the world - and in 2012 over half of United Nations member states voted for a UN resolution to be passed for a global moratorium on the practice.

In 2014, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States carried out the largest numbers of recorded death sentences.

Rights groups have criticized Palestinian authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip for implementing capital punishment without due process.



Scheduled Execution Date Withdrawn for Joe Franco Garza

The scheduled execution date for Joe Franco Garza has been withdrawn.

Garza was scheduled for execution on September 2. He was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Silbiano Rangel and sentenced to death.

There is an agreed order that said his execution would be stayed while more DNA testing is completed.

The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney's Office and Garza's attorneys both agreed to this, according to court records.

The agreed order states that a number of pieces of evidence, including clothing, fingernails, and hair among others, be tested.

"It's not an admission by the DA's office that he's entitled to relief," David Guinn, a Lubbock criminal defense attorney, said. "It's a good thing for the court to do. As a matter of fact, it takes a smart judge with a lot of courage to stop an execution date, but in light of recent scientific revelations and material, why not be safe? Why not make sure?"

Guinn added, "If he's a bad guy he's not going anywhere, and if we get it wrong, well, thank goodness for justice."

"Several pieces of physical evidence are going to be evaluated by the lab. Both parties agreed to that as set forth in the order, and that the results of that testing will come back to Mr. Garza's attorneys, and the State of Texas," Guinn said. "And when they get that back, they'll look at it and decide what to do next."



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----10

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----528

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

11---------September 29-------------Perry Williams--------529

12---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------530

13---------October 14---------------Licho Escamilla-------531

14---------October 28---------------Christopher Wilkins---532

15---------November 3---------------Julius Murphy---------533

16---------November 18--------------Raphael Holiday-------534

17---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------535

18---------January 27---------------James Freeman---------536

19---------February 16--------------Gustavo Garcia--------537

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Texan Sentenced to Death Largely Because of His Race Denied a New Sentencing Hearing

A Federal Appeals Court has rejected the appeal of an east Texas man who was sentenced to death largely because a psychologist testified at the punishment phase of his trial that he is 'more likely to commit more crimes because he's African American,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The Fifth Court of Appeals ordered a new execution date set for Duane Buck, who has been in prison since the late 1990s after he murdered his ex girlfriend and a man at her Houston apartment in 1995.

Christina Swarns, the lead attorney in Buck's appeal, said, especially with the current emphasis on the alleged unfairness of the criminal justice system to African American defendants, now more than ever the courts must be free of the taint of racial prejudice.

"This decision can only deepen the growing skepticism of the fairness of the criminal justice system," Swarns told News Radio 1200 WOAI. "No competent capital defense attorney would invite the sentencing jury to make a life or death decision based on racial fears and stereotypes, and no court should enforce a judgment in which race was explicitly proffered as the basis for a death sentence."

Swarns says she will ask the Fifth Court of Appeals to reconsider, and if no relief is granted, she will take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The main argument in Buck's defense is that his defense lawyers were negligent in allowing the testimony of the psychologist without objection. The jury later said it relied largely on that testimony to issue its death sentence. Whether an offender will commit another crime is a key guideline in determining whether that offender is eligible for execution.

In fact, Republican Senator John Cornyn, when he was Attorney General in 2000, identified six cases where a link was made between race and future dangerousness, and each of the other five received new sentencing hearings.

The attorneys for Buck aren't arguing that he is innocent, should be released, or even that he get a new trial. They want a court to order Buck to receive a new sentencing hearing, free of the taint of racial animosity.



Delaware Supreme Court to hear death penalty case

The Delaware Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in October on a case that could deal a hefty blow to the state's death penalty law.

Jermaine Wright was convicted of murder in 1991, with state prosecutors relying on a heroin-fueled confession to convict him.

In his 71-page opinion, Superior Court Judge John Parkins Jr. ruled that police had also not sufficiently given Wright his Miranda rights, thereby nullifying his confession.

He was immediately released from a prison near Smyrna after the decision was handed down in February.

Death penalty repeal advocates have held this case up as an example of why capital punishment should be eliminated, while those defending the death penalty say it shows that the system works -- that appeals can ferret out the wronged.

Those repeal efforts have stalled in a House committee for a second straight General Assembly this year, with House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf opposing anyone trying to bring it to the floor. Supporters say overturning the case could give it the edge needed to call for a full vote.

Oral arguments for Wright's case are scheduled for Oct. 28 in Dover.

(source: WDDE news)


Judge removes death penalty for 1 defendant in Thomasville triple homicide

Judge Christopher W. Bragg made the ruling Thursday morning. In his decision, Bragg determined state prosecutors failed to give the defense information regarding a $750,000 to $100,000 bond reduction for David T. Ward, a co-defendant who has been charged with 3 counts of accessory after the fact to murder.

Carl Kennedy, Leigh Williams, 43, and David Manning, 45, are facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of Sharon F. Rushing, 61, Angela Dawn Soles, 43, and Gary Lynn Seward, 52, all of 101 Rotary Lane, Thomasville. Manning and Williams are still facing the death penalty, pending a possible decision from the Davidson County District Attorney's Office. Kennedy's case is being tried 1st.

Judge places blame on state in trial's delay

After 20 weeks of jury selection, the trial is in its 3rd week of testimony. As Bragg made his decision, Kennedy's sister, Vesta, broke into tears and was comforted by her aunt. Kennedy also was emotional as he looked back at his aunt and sister.

"I told you that my faith had been diminished," Bragg said to prosecutors as he made his ruling. " ... I am taking the death penalty off the table."

SBI agents continue testimony in capital trial

Family members of the victims declined to comment on Bragg's decision.

Co-defendant's testimony in murder trial concludes

Leigh Williams ended her testimony in Davidson County Superior Court against 45-year-old Carl Kennedy.

The hearing Thursday morning took over an hour for Bragg to make his decision. Prior to his decision ruling Kennedy's case noncapital, Bragg has said during the trial that his confidence in the state has been "eroded." Defense attorneys have suggested prosecutors have not given them their entire discovery materials, and Bragg urged Davidson County assistant district attorneys Alan Martin and Greg Brown to use a break from testimony Monday to find any information that needed to be turned over.

Also, prior to Bragg's decision, state prosecutors gave a passionate argument on why Bragg shouldn't have imposed the sanction. However, Kennedy's attorney, Robert Campbell, petitioned Bragg to either dismiss the case or deem it noncapital.

(source: Greensboro News & Record)


Judge removes death penalty in Kennedy case

The presiding judge in a triple-murder case has ruled 45-year-old Carl Kennedy will not face the death penalty for the deaths of three Thomasville residents in November 2011.

Judge Christopher W. Bragg made the ruling Thursday morning. In his decision, Bragg determined state prosecutors failed to give the defense information regarding a $750,000 to $100,000 bond reduction for David T. Ward, a co-defendant who has been charged with 3 counts of accessory after the fact to murder.

Kennedy, Leigh Williams, 43, and David Manning, 45, are facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of Sharon F. Rushing, 61, Angela Dawn Soles, 43, and Gary Lynn Seward, 52, all of 101 Rotary Lane, Thomasville. Manning and Williams are still facing the death penalty, pending a possible decision from the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office. Kennedy's case is being tried 1st.

After 20 weeks of jury selection, the trial is in its 3rd week of testimony. As Bragg made his decision, Kennedy's sister, Vesta, broke into tears and was comforted by her aunt. Kennedy also was emotional as he looked back at his aunt and sister, who declined to comment on the judge's decision.

"I told you that my faith had been diminished," Bragg said to prosecutors as he made his ruling. " ... I am taking the death penalty off the table."

Family members of the victims declined to comment on Bragg's decision.

The hearing Thursday morning took over an hour for Bragg to make his decision. Prior to his decision ruling Kennedy's case noncapital, Bragg has said during the trial that his confidence in the state has been "eroded." Defense attorneys have suggested prosecutors have not given them their entire discovery materials, and Bragg urged Davidson County assistant district attorneys Alan Martin and Greg Brown to use a break from testimony Monday to find any information that needed to be turned over.

Also, prior to Bragg's decision, state prosecutors gave a passionate argument on why Bragg shouldn't have imposed the sanction. However, Kennedy's attorney, Robert Campbell, petitioned Bragg to either dismiss the case or deem it noncapital. Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank said he couldn't comment on the Kennedy case or the cases of Kennedy's co-defendant.

While Bragg ruled no death penalty for Kennedy, the trial continued as Ward testified Thursday. He was accused of storing the weapons used to kill the 3 people.

Ward testified he attended West Virginia University for medical school and his undergraduate degree. He previously was a doctor in the U.S. Army and has been licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Ward said he began struggling with a drug addiction in 1997 when his mother died. His medical license was revoked that same year. He was enrolled in a recovery center for addiction in Atlanta but left that program against medical advice.

Ward, who previously was an orthopedic doctor in pediatrics, reestablished his medical license in 2002 under a restricted format. He returned to practicing medicine as the director of sports medicine for an urgent care system in North Carolina.

But in 2009 as he was continued to be monitored by a medical board, Ward was asked to do a drug screening. "I knew I would fail, and I decided to retire my medical license," he recalled.

Four years before retiring his license, Ward met Kennedy when he came to Ward's High Point residence for the purpose of selling meats for Omega Meats. Ward said he came back into contact with Kennedy again when he returned to the neighborhood selling meats.

At that time, Ward learned Kennedy had been bit by a pit bull and needed medical attention. The doctor asked if Kennedy had been seen by a physician, but Kennedy replied he didn't have insurance or money. Ward invited Kennedy to his doctor's office, so he could do an X-ray and provided the other medical care needed. The doctor took care of Kennedy with no charge at the time of the visit.

Ward and Kennedy's friendship progressed. Ward testified he and Kennedy would drink alcohol together. He also explained he would give Kennedy money for pills, and Kennedy would get them for him.

Then came about 4:30 a.m. Nov. 7, 2011, when Kennedy contacted Ward by telephone, saying that he wanted to stop by Ward's home, Ward testified. Ward inquired why he needed to stop by, and Kennedy said he "just needed" to make the visit. According to Ward, Kennedy seemed anxious and told him to open the garage door. Ward testified that Kennedy also was quick to ask him to close the garage door.

Ward testified Kennedy wanted him to keep a shotgun and get rid of a pistol that was in a brown bag. But instead Ward kept both weapons.

Ward said he first thought Kennedy's comments about his involvement in the killings overnight Nov. 6, 2011, were a hoax. But 5 days later, he heard of the 3 deaths and realized there could be truth to Kennedy's previous remarks. Ward said he loaded the shotgun that Kennedy left and placed it beside his bed because he was concerned for his safety after seeing the news.

Ward was the 2nd co-defendant to testify in the trial. He and Williams have each said they have been given no promises for their testimony against Kennedy.

The trial continues Friday.

(source: The Dispatch)


Woman charged in St. Clair Lane fire ask if death penalty will be sought

A preliminary hearing has been set for the woman charged in the deaths of 4 people and an unborn child on St. Clair Lane in Madison County on Aug. 4.

On Wednesday, a preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 22, in Judge Claude E. Hundley III's Madison County courtroom.

On Thursday, Rhonda Jean Carlson filed a motion asking if the death penalty will be sought by the prosecution in her case.

Carlson is charged with 6 counts of capital murder, including:

--Capital Murder, for a murder committed during an arson, with the victim being Eli Sokolowski

--Capital Murder during a Burglary in the 1st or 2nd degree, with the victim being Jean Smallwood.

--Capital Murder where 2 or more people are murdered by the defendant, with the victims being: Jean Smallwood, Kristin Henderson (unborn infant), Clayton Chambers, and Eli Sokolowski.

--Capital Murder for a victim that is less than 14 years of age, with the victim being Clayton Chambers.

--Capital Murder for a victim that is less than 14 years of age, with the victim being Eli Sokolowski.

--Capital Murder for a victim that is less than 14 years of age, with the victim being the unborn infant of Kristen Henderson.

She and her husband, Christopher Henderson, are being held in the Madison County jail on no bond. Henderson is charged with 7 counts of capital murder.

(source: WAFF news)


Man accused of quadruple homicide could face death penalty if convicted

Robert L. Adams Jr. could face the death penalty if he is convicted of killing 4 people in the basement of a South Linden house on June 13.

A Franklin County grand jury indicted Adams on 29 counts relating to the deaths and the attempted murder of a 5th victim.

Adams is accused of killing Tyajah Nelson, 18; Daniel Sharp, 26; Angela Harrison, 35; and Michael Ballour, 41. A 5th victim, a teenage girl, survived the shooting and identified Adams and an accomplice, according to court records.

The shootings occurred in Ballour's house in the 1600 block of E. Hudson Street. Nelson was his daughter.

Police said Adams was the shooter but was assisted by Jordyn D. Wade, 16. Wade is charged with 4 delinquency counts of murder, 1 delinquency count of attempted murder and 5 delinquency counts of kidnapping.

He is being held in the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center awaiting a hearing in Juvenile Court to determine whether his case will be transferred to adult court.

Wade is accused of holding the victims at gunpoint to keep them in the basement, where they were shot by Adams, police said. Investigators said the victims were robbed, and the killings were drug-related, although officials have not elaborated.

Adams was arrested near Starkville, Miss., on Aug. 12. He will be arraigned on Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Lethal Injection Ruling in Tennessee Raises Concerns - US Advocacy Group

Considering lethal injection as an error proof method to execute inmates in the United States is a cause for concern, US advocacy group Campaign to End the Death Penalty National Director Lily Hughes told Sputnik on Thursday.

"It is disturbing to consider that lethal injection is the most error prone method adopted so far," Huges said.

On Wednesday, a Tennessee judge ruled that the state's injection process for executing inmates using pentobarbital does not violate the constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because former inmates did not prove painful death.

Huges said, however, that although the drug has been labelled as a "sanitized clinical procedure," not enough research has been done on the effects of the individual drugs used in the process.

Lethal Injection

Tennessee Court Upholds Protocol Allowing Execution by Lethal Injection

Plaintiffs argued that state protocol did not explain how to perform executions, allowing for untrained people to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on death row convicts.

Lethal injection executions will not be immediately resumed in the state, as they are currently on hold while appeals are prepared.

Until 2009, most states used a 3-drug combination for lethal injections. In September 2013, Tennessee announced plans to switch to a 1-drug protocol using pentobarbital.

In May 2014, Tennessee governor signed a bill to allow executions by electric chair if lethal injection drugs are not available.

Campaign to End the Death Penalty is a grassroots organization that aims at abolishing the death penalty.



Sedative Access Stirs Different Death Penalty Reactions in Tennessee, Mississippi

A Tennessee judge has upheld the state's lethal injection process for executing inmates. Davidson County Chancery Judge Claudia Bonnyman said from the bench that the plaintiffs, 33 death row inmates, didn't prove that the 1-drug method led to a painful and lingering death. She also said the plaintiffs didn't show during a lengthy trial that there have been problems in states where the method has been used.

Plaintiffs' attorney Kelley Henry said they plan to appeal. Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a statement he hoped the families of victims would be comforted by the ruling.

Tennessee's protocol calls for the use of pentobarbital mixed to order by a pharmacist, because the only commercial producer of the drug has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions. Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than 5 years because of legal challenges and problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs.

Lawmakers moved from a 3-drug lethal injection method to a 1-drug method and to reinstate the electric chair as a backup. Both changes brought challenges, and all previously scheduled executions have been put on hold.

(source: Associated Press)


Supreme Court lets death row inmate's rape conviction stand

A Mississippi death row inmate has lost his appeal of a rape conviction that was later used to support a capital murder conviction in a separate case.

The Mississippi Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision Thursday, denied arguments from Charles Ray Crawford that his attorney in the rape case provided faulty legal representation at his 1994 rape trial. The court also rejected Crawford's argument that his trial lawyer failed to challenge jury instructions and failed to object to inadmissible testimony and prejudicial prosecutorial comments.

Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman, one of four dissenting justices in the case, said there were enough errors by Crawford's trial attorney to justify a new trial in the case.

Justice Randy Pierce, writing for the majority, said Crawford's conflict with his attorney was not such that denied him a fair trial on the rape charge.

Crawford, now 49, is on death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate community in Tippah County. Crawford argued he received ineffective defense counsel to fight the rape charge, which was later used by prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued Crawford got a fair trial and there no errors by trial counsel.

Crawford's attorneys had hoped that overturning the rape conviction would get Crawford off death row where he now resides on the unrelated capital murder conviction.

Attorney General Jim Hood can now petition the Supreme Court to set an execution date.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. 4 days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray, a student at Northeast Mississippi Community College, was abducted from her parents' home.

After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to Ray's body, buried in leaves in a wooded area.



A federal judge said that he blocked executions in Mississippi because the sedatives the state plans to use don't align with what's required by Mississippi law. U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate, in an order issued Wednesday, wrote that without pre-judging the case, Mississippi doesn't plan to use a drug meeting the legal requirement to render a person unconscious almost immediately.

"The court finds that plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood in prevailing, at least, on their claim that Mississippi's failure to use a drug that qualifies as an 'ultra short-acting barbiturate or other similar drug' as required by (state law) violated Mississippi statutory law and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

Wingate issued the order verbally to lawyers Tuesday. He wrote that a more extensive ruling would follow, and told the state to seek his approval before trying to use any other drug. Attorney General Jim Hood immediately filed notice that the state would appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, backed by Gov. Phil Bryant. "The state of Mississippi will exercise its full legal rights to ensure that crime victims and their families receive the justice they deserve and that perpetrators of heinous crimes do not go unpunished," Bryant said in a statement.

Mississippi law requires a 3-drug process, with the sedative followed by a paralyzing agent and a drug that stops an inmate's heart. Through late 2010, Mississippi and all other states used sodium thiopental as the barbiturate, according to records maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center. After a manufacturer stopped selling it for executions, Mississippi used a centrally-manufactured version of pentobarbital, called Nembutal, in 8 executions in 2011 and 2012. But Nembutal's manufacturer also cut off use in executions.

Mississippi then bought pentobarbital mixed to order by a pharmacist. In legal papers, the state said it destroyed that supply and now intends to use another sedative, midazolam, after the U.S. Supreme Court approved the drug's use in Oklahoma.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Doubting Jennifer Herndon ---- An appeals lawyer who has represented more than a half-dozen men put to death in Missouri faces questions about her competency.

In 6 days, on Sept. 1, Missouri is scheduled to execute 50-year-old Roderick Nunley, who was condemned for the 1989 rape and murder of 15-year-old Ann Harrison. The high school freshman was abducted while in her driveway, waiting for the school bus.

If the execution takes place, one of Nunley's attorneys, Jennifer Herndon, will have represented 8 of the last 19 men executed in Missouri. And those 8 men will have been executed in a span of 4 1/2 years.

The Marshall Project profiled Herndon in June, describing how she juggles a debilitating workload as a capital appeals attorney with a separate career as an internet marketer, sending out inspirational messages along with product pitches geared for online entrepreneurs. The story also detailed Herndon’s financial and professional struggles; in 2013, her law license was suspended for 4 months because of delinquent state income taxes.

On Tuesday, 2 other attorneys who once assisted in Nunley's case filed a motion with the Missouri Supreme Court, asking that Nunley's execution warrant be recalled because of "severe doubts" about Herndon's fitness as a lawyer. Their motion cited The Marshall Project's story, in which Herndon said, among other things, "I feel like I'm not doing the best work I can or should be doing for my clients right now."

With Herndon, the quantity of her legal work was already an issue. Because relatively few attorneys handle capital appeals in Missouri, the state's accelerated pace of executions in recent years has created unusual stress for the defense bar. Of the 19 executions held nationally this year, Missouri has 5, 2nd only to Texas.

But the motion went as much to the quality of Herndon's work, and whether she has met her ethical obligations as an attorney.

In years past, the Missouri Department of Revenue filed three liens against Herndon, saying she owed more than $47,000 for unpaid state income taxes from 2006 to 2012, according to court records. But two months ago, the department filed a fourth lien, saying Herndon owes $2,077.85 for unpaid taxes in 2013 - a delinquency that could once again place her law license in jeopardy.

The motion filed by the 2 other attorneys said "equally troubling" was a lawsuit filed against Herndon last month. That suit, an unlawful detainer action, alleges that Herndon's house was purchased on July 14 in a foreclosure sale, but Herndon has failed to leave the residence.

"Ms. Herndon appears to lack the time and capacity to competently represent Mr. Nunley," the motion says. "Her online career and pending legal and financial problems raise substantial questions about her competence."

In an email sent to The Marshall Project, Herndon wrote of how the court system has placed her in the unfair position of handling "a never-ending string of back-to-back executions," while simultaneously refusing to approve additional funds.

"I have rejected opportunities to make money in my other business, opting instead to work on Mr. Nunley's case because his life matters more than money to me. I have laid out money from my own pocket, in excess of $300 to date, to cover copy costs, postage and filing fees. I will not be reimbursed for this, but can't take that into consideration when his life is at stake.

"I am doing everything I can for Roderick. Is it enough? No. Do I think I could save his life if I had all the resources in the world? Not without a miracle. Over the last 2 years, just considering my clients, I have seen the state execute 2 men who were incompetent, 1 who was mentally ill, 1 who was mentally retarded, and 1 who made such a transformation in prison that he would have made a fine next door neighbor. I have filed motions supported by case law the state couldn't refute, hired experts whose opinions were uncontroverted, drafted clemency petitions the size of a book, and yet Missouri continues to execute men, no matter how legally or morally wrong it is under the specifics of each case. That's why I want out. Not because I don't care anymore, but because the system is broken here. I can't fix it, and being a part of it makes me feel like an enabler of the executioner."

The motion filed Tuesday included affidavits from Lindsay Runnels and Jennifer Merrigan, the two attorneys who once assisted in the case, and from Shynise Nunley Spencer, who is Nunley's daughter. Runnels, in her affidavit, said that in the summer of 2010, she agreed to help the defense team search for evidence in Nunley's past that might mitigate the crime, such as childhood trauma or mental illness. But because of Herndon, Runnels wrote, she encountered obstacles with such basic steps as obtaining a copy of the trial file, which "was mostly missing and what did exist was in disarray."

Herndon told Runnels she had never requested the file from the Missouri State Public Defender, nor had she checked with the trial attorneys - because 1 was a friend and the trial had been difficult for her, and Herndon was hesitant to "bring it all up again," according to Runnels's affidavit.

In the fall of 2010, Nunley received a stay of execution based on a due process issue. Afterward, Runnels wrote, she "had essentially no contact" with Herndon, despite informing her that she was "able and willing" to continue working on the case.

This year, when Runnels learned through The Marshall Project's story of Herndon's previous law suspension, Runnels sent a copy of the article to Nunley's daughter. Afterward, Runnels spoke with Nunley on the phone. A rule of the Missouri Supreme Court says lawyers who are suspended must notify their clients. But, Runnels wrote, "Mr. Nunley told me that Ms. Herndon never informed him that she had been suspended from the practice of law, nor had Ms. Herndon obtained his consent to continue representing him ..."

Nunley also told Runnels that he had tried to fire Herndon in 2009 or 2010, but Herndon would not withdraw from the case, according to Runnels's affidavit.

Shynise Nunley Spencer, in her affidavit, wrote that she has kept a "consistent, close and loving relationship" with her father. Despite that, she wrote, "I have never, not once, spoken with Jennifer Herndon. She has never called me. She has never returned my calls. My brother has never spoken to her either."

Reading the story about Herndon made her feel "sick," the daughter wrote. "I was shocked to learn that she had been suspended from practicing law. ... I do not understand how the system allows someone in Ms. Herndon's situation to represent people in the most serious of all criminal cases, where their lives are at stake."

Herndon's last client to face execution was Richard Strong, condemned for the stabbing deaths of his girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter. Herndon pleaded for a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, but came up a vote short. Strong was put to death on the evening of June 9.

That same evening, Herndon went on her business's Facebook page and posted this message:

"I'm in the midst of a sad day. Then I watch the woman in front of me at the store pull out every card she has to try to cover her $20 grocery bill. In the end, she's 31 cents short.

Ponder for a moment what it's like not to have 31 cents to your name. Suddenly I'm feeling very grateful, and happy I could help someone out with a mere 31 cents. It's nothing until you don't have it!"

3 days after Herndon gave her fellow shopper 31 cents, Missouri filed its lien against Herndon, saying she owed the state more than $2,000.

(source: The Marshall Project)


Judge Approves Continuance for Kansas City Death Penalty Trial

A decision in the Frazier Glenn Cross death penalty trial will have to wait until Friday at the earliest, according to Kansas City's KSHB 41.

In what is expected to be a long, drawn-out court process, Johnson County Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan approved Cross's continuance request, as both parties will continue to battle it out in court on Friday, taking Thursday off to mull over strategies.

Prosecutors believe that the admitted perpetrator, who took the lives of 3 innocent by-standards at Jewish Community Centers, is attempting to sabotage the proceedings.

The trial comes nearly 1 year after the shooting, in which the 74-year-old anti-Semite sought and killed Jewish citizens after finding out he had emphysema.

According to FOX 4, Judge Ryan opted to push the trial back a day to give Cross time to prepare his evidence and also because the witness he had planned to call wasn't available on Thursday.

The trial will resume action on Friday.



Man charged in Jewish site deaths accuses judge of denying fair trial

A white supremacist charged with killing three people at Kansas City-area Jewish sites accused a judge on Thursday of denying him a fair trial for not allowing him to present evidence explaining his mindset at the time.

Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., 74, is defending himself at his capital murder trial and could face the death penalty if convicted. He has admitted several times during his 4-day trial that he killed 3 people and shot at 3 others, but has argued that he was compelled to do it because Jewish people are trying to wipe out the white race.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday morning, barely 4 days into a trial they had predicted could last 3 to 4 weeks.

Miller is charged with killing William Corporon, 69, and Corporon's 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center on April 13, 2014. None of the 3 was Jewish.

After jurors were sent out of the courtroom, Miller asked for a postponement until Monday so he could work on his defense and rest up because the trial had taken a toll on his health. Miller fired his lawyers in May.

"It's not my fault I'm not prepared," Miller said.

The judge asked Miller to summarize the evidence he planned to present. Prior to the start of the trial, the judge ruled that Miller could not use a "compelling necessity" defense, claiming he was compelled to kill Jewish people because they pose a threat to the white race.

Miller, who also was known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., said he was planning to introduce books, CDs and news articles to illustrate his state of mind at the time of the shootings, but Ryan responded that it was unlikely those materials would be allowed to be admitted into evidence during the current phase of the trial.

Miller responded angrily that by denying him a chance to explain his actions, Ryan was violating his constitutional rights.

"Making it impossible for me to explain what was on my mind prevents me from getting a fair trial and guaranteeing a guilty verdict," Miller said. "I'm thoroughly convinced I was justified."

After a testy exchange in which Miller repeatedly talked over the judge and prosecutors, Ryan loudly warned him several times that he could be removed from the courtroom if he didn't show more respect for the court.

Ryan sent the jury home at noon and told Miller he could have until 9 a.m. Friday, when he would be expected to present his defense.

(source: CBS news)


Right about death----GOP students call for Kan. party to seek death penalty's demise

Young people aren't afraid to speak up when they think their elders are misguided, and sometimes they're right. That's the case with a recent resolution from the Kansas Federation of College Republicans calling for the party to push to end the death penalty in Kansas.

For too long conservatives in the party have blindly supported the death penalty on one hand, while spouting support for being "pro-life" on the other. One view cancels out the other.

"More young conservatives like myself recognize that our broken and fallible system of capital punishment in no way matches up with our conservative values," the group's chairman, Dalton Glasscock, said in a statement. "By ending the death penalty, Kansas has an opportunity to promote a culture of life and fiscal responsibility. As Republicans - whether young or old - this is a smart reform that we should support."

The organization wants the Republican Party to create a plank in its political platform that vows to work to end the death penalty, then follow through by repealing the law allowing executions.

Republicans throughout Kansas history have supported banning the death penalty and the state itself has wrestled with capital punishment way too long. Kansas repealed the death penalty the 1st time in 1907, then reinstated it in 1935. The death penalty was struck down again in 1976 and then reinstated again in 1994. No execution has been carried out here since 1965.

It's not only life or death that should concern conservatives. The death penalty is also fiscally irresponsible.

Study after study has shown the death penalty is more costly to taxpayers than putting someone in prison for life with no chance of parole. The Republican Party is the one we look to take care of our state funds and spend them responsibly. The death penalty should be at the top of their list of cuts.

But as we saw this last legislative session, Kansas Republicans aren't the responsible party of the past. They would rather push for the death penalty as a misguided "tough on crime" stance that really does nothing to cut crime or protect society.

Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, used a modern social media tool, Twitter, to voice the tired old rhetoric: "(College Republicans) want cop killers to have a shot at adding child rape to their record," Claeys tweeted, adding a hashtag that said "#over my dead body."

One look at that statement and we know voices such as Claeys are simply talking loud without concern for making much sense.

It's time to make room for new, more reasonable voices, like the young people speaking up on our college campuses. Here's hoping they'll soon reach the age where they can run for public office, and in the meantime, the rest of the Republican Party will grow up.

(source: The Hutchinson News)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Susan Sarandon near tears as she considers the death of convicted killer

Susan Sarandon fought back tears during a recent taping of U.S. TV show DR. PHIL as she imagined losing her battle to keep a death row inmate in Oklahoma alive. The actress, who played anti-death sentence advocate Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, is among the activists fighting to stop officials from killing Richard Glossip next month (Sep15).

She agreed to talk to TV therapist Dr. Phil McGraw about Glossip's plight as part of an episode of his show which will air in America on Monday (31Aug15), and when the host asked her to imagine how she'd feel the morning after the convicted killer is terminated, she teared up and said, "I'll feel ashamed and sad for us all, not just for him. I mean it's hard to even put an animal down, but to put a man down, it's just not the way we should be living our lives."

Glossip was handed the death penalty in 1988 for his part in the death of a man in an Oklahoma motel. Another man confessed to the baseball bat murder, but told investigators that Glossip, the motel's handyman, had paid him to commit the murder.

Sarandon has added her name to a petition to keep Glossip alive, and she's hoping Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin will cancel plans to give the death row inmate a lethal injection on 16 Sept (15).

She tells People magazine, "We're hoping that the governor will give a stay and ask for a clemency hearing so they can look at this information that hasn't really been looked at before. "The only thing linking Richard Glossip to the murder is the testimony of the murderer, who was 19 at the time, and gave 8 statements that all contradict each other... There's no physical evidence or motive linking him to the crime. "In Oklahoma alone, of the 10 people that have been exonerated so far, four of them were based on the discrediting of a snitch, and we feel that's what's happening in this case."

Governor Fallin recently released a statement insisting she would not delay Glossip's execution, prompting the Oscar winner to tell Sky News, "The governor of Oklahoma is just a horrible person - and a woman, so it's even more discouraging." Sarandon has since apologized for the comments, stating, "I got very emotional about it and I feel that she's doing a horrible thing but I don't know that she's a horrible person."



Dexter Lewis gets life sentence for Fero's Bar massacre----Jury decides on life in prison after second phase of sentencing

When a Denver jury on Thursday spared a convicted mass killer the death penalty, a confused silence enveloped the courtroom. Dexter Lewis, who stabbed 5 people to death in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison. But the complex wording on the verdict forms that the judge read initially caused quizzical looks instead of tears or smiles.

Attorneys sat stoically at their tables, the family of one of the victims quietly bowed their heads and Lewis stared down at his hands.

His family ran out into the hallway. The 1st thing to break the silence in the courtroom - unclear whether it was joy or anger - was the sound of their screams. Only after the judge thanked the jury for their service did the abrupt conclusion of the 6-week trial become abundantly clear.

Almost 3 years after Lewis joined in on a robbery that spiraled into a gruesome massacre, the case came to a blunt and dazed ending.

After deliberating for less than 3 hours Thursday, at least 1 member of the jury of 10 women and 2 men found that the details of Lewis' life that suggested mercy - including chronic abuse and neglect - outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

That finding means Denver District Judge John Madden IV will sentence Lewis, 25, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of 5 people at Fero's Bar & Grill.

Young Suk Fero, 63; Daria M. Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45, were killed in the attack on Oct. 17, 2012.

"Nobody is walking away a winner or loser today," chief deputy district attorney Joe Morales said after the verdict was read. "There are no winners in these cases."

Lewis' sentence is the final 1 handed down in connection to the attack.

Brothers Joseph and Lynell Hill planned the robbery before Lewis joined. The 2 were charged with similar counts and accepted plea agreements, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Joseph Hill, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, violated his plea agreement and refused to testify during Lewis' trial. He previously had stated that he wants to withdraw his plea, but prosecutors do not appear willing to grant the request.

Lynell Hill, sentenced to 70 years in prison, was the 1st witness called and testified that Lewis fatally stabbed all 5 victims.

A 4th man connected to the crime, Demarea Harris, also testified during the trial. Harris was working as a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time of the attack and reported it to his handlers hours later. He was never charged or arrested in the case.

After the jury filed out of the courtroom Thursday, defense attorneys embraced and patted Lewis on the back. Morales spoke in hushed tones with family members of the victims.

He held one woman's hand as they spoke.

For the 2nd time in the same month, a mass murderer was spared the death penalty in the state. No jury in Colorado has sentenced a defendant to death since 2009.

But unlike the Aurora theater shooting trial, which also ended in a life sentence for the gunman, jurors in this case stopped one step short of completing all 3 phases of the sentencing hearing.

Lewis was convicted Aug. 10 of 1st-degree murder for all 5 victims, launching the case into the sentencing hearing.

Jurors quickly completed the 1st phase of the hearing by finding that the details of the crime were so horrible they could warrant a death sentence. But during the past week, as part of the 2nd phase, defense attorneys presented details of the abuse Lewis suffered even before his birth.

His mother, Tammesa Jones, drank heavily during her pregnancy and hit her stomach while she was pregnant with Dexter. Lewis' father, a well-known member of the Crips, was shot and killed in a gang-related attack in early 1994.

As a child, Lewis watched his stepfather at the time, Phillip Nash, beat his mother, Jones said. He listened as Jones was sexually assaulted in the next room.

Lewis' mother testified that she routinely hit her young son - often with a closed fist.

During his closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Christopher Baumann leaned heavily on testimony from Lewis' family about the abuse he experienced as a child, coupled with expert testimony about the long-term impacts of such abuse.

"Some may think that this is an excuse," Baumann said, "but which of these life stories would anyone take as their own?"

Baumann urged the jury to look at a photograph of a young Lewis smiling with other children at a summer barbecue. He asked them to look into the eyes of a young boy who, just hours after the photograph was taken, would be bloodied and beaten by his mother.

But Morales asked the jury to look at a different photograph.

He asked them to look at the autopsy photo of Daria Pohl. She and the rest of the victims died with their eyes open - alert and screaming.

Morales forcefully rejected the defense attorney's plea for mercy for Lewis. He detailed the multiple stab wounds on each of the victims and the brutality of the crime.

"What could possibly mitigate that?" he asked the jury.

Morales ticked off what Lewis' family glowingly described as his many roles: artist, musician, church leader.

"He is also a killer of 5 innocent victims. He is Dexter Lewis," Morales said. "You can add up the stab wounds. You can add up the pints of blood."

Had the case reached the 3rd and final phase of the sentencing, the victims' families would have testified about how the deaths of their loved ones changed their lives.

Many of those families were not at the courthouse when the decision was read. Pohl's family gathered at their home as the news came down. Her mother, Zinaida Pohl, declined to speak Thursday evening when reached by phone.

After the verdict was read, Morales said he still believes death was the appropriate sentence in this case.

"We have no regrets about what we've done in this case or what we sought in this case. There are cases that are going to come across our community where the death penalty is the appropriate penalty. It is one that needs to be sought," Morales said. "And if the jury does not decide unanimously that it is the right penalty, we respect that."

Morales and deputy district attorney Matt Wenig thanked the jurors for their service.

8 of the jurors left in a group and were escorted out of the courthouse by 3 sheriff's deputies, and the jurors who left individually also had a deputy escort. All refused to speak to the media.

Defense attorneys also declined to comment Thursday.

A group of Lewis' family members came out of the courthouse together, and one woman gave a loud "whoop!" but did not stop to talk with reporters.

Attorneys and Lewis will return to the courthouse at 10 a.m. Friday to set a date for a formal sentencing hearing. On that date, the judge will formally impose the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


The victims

Ross Richter, 29, of Overland Park, Kan., had worked as a river ranger for the Bureau of Land Management since 2009. "You always smiled when you saw him, no matter what mood you were in," park ranger Teri Parvin said.

Kelline Fallon, 45, was known affectionately as "crazy Kelly" because she liked to make people laugh by acting silly. A regular patron at the bar, she stayed in a motel in the area and worked assorted jobs, friends said.

Tereasa Beesley, 45, grew up in the eastern Montana town of Sidney and recently had bought the Maxim Lounge, about 4 miles from Fero's. She left behind a daughter who was 15 and a son who was 20.

Young Suk Fero, 63, owned the bar. "Customers were her life. They were her friends - people she knew and trusted," her estranged husband, Danny Duane Fero, said. "She didn't have a mean bone in her body."

Daria "Dasha" Pohl, 22, worked at the Holiday Inn near the bar. She was a sophomore at Metropolitan State University of Denver and planned to transfer to the University of Colorado Denver to pursue a business degree.

(source: Denver Post)


Dexter Lewis verdict sends a message on Colorado's death penalty

For the 2nd time this summer, a first-rate team of Colorado prosecutors could not secure a death sentence for the perpetrator of crimes of almost indescribable horror.

Dexter Lewis, like James Holmes, will spend the rest of his life behind bars instead. Never mind that he is guilty of stabbing 5 people to death 3 years ago in an orgy of utter depravity. 1 or more jurors obviously concluded that his woefully sad and painful childhood made him an inappropriate candidate for capital punishment.

This is no criticism of the jury. That conclusion is entirely defensible and perhaps even predictable - just as it was always plausible that defense attorneys would convince at least one juror in Holmes' trial that he was too mentally ill to be put to death.

Moreover, a death sentence for Lewis - a black man - would have raised equity questions after Holmes, who is white, was able to secure life without parole.

But if both verdicts in those cases are reasonable, what do they say about the death penalty statute in Colorado?

They say that it's in tatters.

They say a prosecutor would have to be very reckless to seek the death penalty anytime soon in this state.

They say it's time to rethink whether we should have such a sentence on the books.

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn't happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.

(source: Denver Post Editorial Board)


There are too few arguments left in favor of death penalty----2 juries in horrific mass murder trials have spoken: The death penalty doesn’t fly in Colorado

The death-penalty conversation we have been promised in Colorado may be over before it has had a chance to begin.

What else is there to think after a jury rejects the death penalty for convicted mass murderer Dexter Lewis only weeks after another death-qualified jury rejected the penalty for convicted mass murderer James Holmes?

If Lewis and Holmes don't get death, who does? It's with that question - and with the near-certain answer - that the conversation almost certainly has to end.

A jury decided that Holmes was too mentally ill for the state to execute. And a separate jury found that Lewis's upbringing was so violent that the state couldn't reasonably execute him for his own violent crimes.

Both juries had voted unanimously to convict. But neither jury could make the necessary unanimous decision to execute.

If you were surprised in either case - and many were stunned by the Holmes decision - you may not have weighed just how hard it is for a juror, a person not unlike you or me, to have to make a life-or-death judgment. Now think how much harder it is to get 12 people to agree.

What is increasingly clear is how few arguments are left to make in favor of the death penalty (and I say this, admittedly, as a long-time opponent). Colorado has executed one person in the past 48 years. It currently has 3 people on death row. There's no deterrence argument left, if there ever was one. For that matter, it's hard to see where there’s a justice argument left.

It's a punishment that is used so rarely - with decades-long waits on death row for the few assigned there - that any execution now seems to be little more than random, an accident of time or place. And a random punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Steve Breyer recently wrote, can't, by definition, be just. He called it "the antithesis of justice."

We're told that the ultimate penalty is reserved in Colorado for the ultimate crimes. Obviously, these cases qualify. There won't be more horrifying crimes. The Aurora theater shootings unsettled not just our community, but an entire nation. Lewis, meanwhile, was convicted of stabbing to death 5 people in a robbery gone terribly wrong at Fero's Bar and Grill in Denver. According to testimony from others in the gang, Lewis went down the line, stabbing the owner and 4 customers as they were held at gunpoint because he was afraid they would be witnesses against him. And then the robbery crew burned the place down to cover up their crime - one, we're told, that netted $170.

The bar wasn't far from my house. I must have passed it hundreds of times, and each time I looked at its boarded-up door and windows, I couldn't help but imagine the horror of those deaths that took place inside.

But the jury was asked to weigh mitigating circumstances against the weight of the crimes. And so in the 2nd phase of the sentencing procedure, the jurors were told by Lewis' mother of how she beat him as a child, as a toddler, as an infant. Of how he was hit with a 5-pound barbell.

It's a strange thing to be asked to do - to measure the crimes Lewis committed against the crimes committed against him. At what point should abuse as a child translate into life in prison instead of the death penalty? What juror should be forced to make that decision? Which of us is even remotely qualified?

John Hickenlooper made that decision himself in the case of Nathan Dunlap, granting him a "temporary reprieve" rather than letting an execution go forward. He didn't say that Dunlap deserved any form of mercy. He wouldn't even bring himself to use Dunlap's name. Hickenlooper said his problem was with the system of capital punishment and whether it delivers the justice that it promises. He said you can't have an imperfect system and also have justice.

The imperfections are there for all to see, in matters of race, gender and class. It's no wonder that only 7 states executed anyone last year. The botched execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett led the Nebraska legislature, of all places, to end the death penalty there, even overriding a governor's veto to make it happen.

The arguments in Nebraska were familiar. The long, expensive appeals process. The DNA tests freeing those wrongly convicted decades ago. The stories of pharmaceutical companies getting out of the death business - leaving some states forced to buy the lethal-injection cocktail from a London middleman who shared space with a driving school.

We don't know what arguments were made in those 2 Colorado jury rooms. We do know, though, where the arguments led. And we can now guess, after the 2 verdicts in 2 different jurisdictions in 2 very different cases, how the argument will end.

(source: mike Littwin, The Colorado Independent)


2 Colorado juries reject death penalty in a month: Will Colorado ever execute a criminal again?

2 Colorado juries have rejected the death penalty for mass murderers in a single month. Add to that the governor's controversial decision to grant clemency to the last killer who was supposed to be executed, and it begs a question: Will Colorado ever use the death penalty again?

Jurors in Arapahoe County, the only Colorado County that currently has killers awaiting the death penalty, could not unanimously agree to sentence the Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection. Instead, the man who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during a movie premiere was sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison plus 3,318 years -- one of the longest prison terms in history.

Just days later, a Denver County jury decided that mitigating factors were sufficient to stop the process in pursuit of the death penalty for the man who stabbed 5 people to death in a bar that was subsequently set on fire. The mitigating factors included an abusive childhood.

"The question everybody is asking is if these cases didn't justify handing out the death penalty, executing somebody, what case could possible merit that?" said former Douglas County judge Jim Miller.

Miller says concerns ranging from the cost of trying a death penalty case to morality are fueling opposition.

"I think a combination of those factors make it very unlikely that you'll anyone executed in Colorado again," said Miller.

Yet, just last month, a poll found Colorado voters wanted death, 2-to-1, in the theater shooting case.

"I think it's worth a conversation, but the idea that Coloradans have moved on from the death penalty is not accurate," said Arapahoe district attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted the theater shooting case.

Under Colorado law, juries must unanimously agree to impose death sentences. In the theater case, 1 juror was steadfast against the death penalty and at least 1 juror sided with Lewis' defense team's presentation of mitigating factors.

The Colorado legislature last tried to repeal the death penalty in 2013. Supporters of repeal argued that the death penalty is applied unfairly and arbitrarily. But the bill died in committee as Democratic lawmakers wavered on doing away with capital punishment. Governor Hickenlooper, a fellow Democrat, had signaled he might veto the bill. His office had issued a statement saying, "the governor has conflicting feelings about the death penalty. Those feelings are still unresolved."

Death penalty facts:

No Denver jury has sentenced someone to death since 1986.

Colorado has not executed anyone since 1997.

State law requires the Colorado Supreme Court to review all death sentences and defense appeals typically last more than a decade. Afterward, the court that oversaw the case must issue a death warrant indicating the week in which the lethal injection would occur.

Colorado law dictates that the death penalty can only be carried out by means of a "continuous intravenous injection of a lethal quantity of sodium thiopental or other equally or more effective substance."

3 other convicted killers are currently awaiting executions in Colorado, but they were all sentenced between 5 and 20 years ago.

Sir Mario Owens: A jury sentenced Sir Mario Owens to death on June 16, 2008 for the 2005 ambush murders of Vivian Wolfe and her fiance, Javad Marshall-Fields, who were gunned down in their car at an Aurora intersection. Javad Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against Owens' friend Robert Ray.

Robert Ray: A jury sentenced Robert Ray, a 23-year-old drug dealer, to death on June 8, 2009, for planned and ordering the killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe.

Nathan Dunlap: He was sentenced to death in 1996 for shooting to death four employees at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993. In May 2013, Dunlap was 3 months from a scheduled execution when Gov. John Hickenlooper granted him a controversial "temporary reprieve." In a move that outraged Dunlap's victims, the governor said, "Colorado's system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable." While it's unlikely that Hickenlooper will reconsider executing Dunlap, a future governor could agree to carry out the execution.



Former chief justice Norman Fletcher speaks out against death penalty at Rotary

When the state executes a criminal, it is doing the same thing the accused did in the first place and takes the life of someone "created in the image of God."

Those were the words of former Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher as he explained to the Rome Rotary Club on Thursday why the death penalty should be abolished nationwide.

The death penalty is "morally and spiritually indefensible," Fletcher told the club, and he has been working for more than a decade to stop it.

The death penalty has no long-term deterrent effect, makes no business sense and is not fairly and consistently applied, Fletcher argued.

In Georgia, death penalty cases take up 10 % of all court resources but represent less than 1/10 of 1 % of all court filings.

A sentence of life without parole costs much less, he said.

2 cases in Georgia heard by the U.S. Supreme Court played large roles in the handling of death penalty cases nationwide.

In 1972 case, Furman v. Georgia, a decision by the federal court requiring some consistency in applying the death penalty, led to a 4-year hiatus in executions.

Guidelines established in Gregg v. Georgia in 1976 restarted the execution process again.

Fletcher said when he served on the bench he was shocked to see the legal representation many people received in death penalty cases, particular the poor.

Fletcher said at one time he supported the death penalty in extreme cases, but his mind was changed after "much thought and prayer."

Part of his reasoning came about because of the inequality of the defense available to the poorest Americans.

"Lawyers fell asleep, some were prejudiced against their clients, and sometimes civil attorneys who never tried a case were appointed," Fletcher said.

In the U.S., 18 states and the District of Columbia have no death penalty, Fletcher said. 3 states never had it. Connecticut's high court struck down the death penalty there last week.

"I, too, believe it is time we quit tinkering with the machinery of death and totally abolish this barbaric system," Fletcher said.

He was partially drawing on a quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who in 1994 wrote: "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." Blackmun was the lone dissenter when the high court refused to hear the appeal of a man on death row in Texas.

Fletcher gave a similar speech when he received the Gideon's Promise Award earlier this year in Atlanta.

When asked by a club member if he thinks the death penalty will be abolished in his lifetime, Fletcher initially joked: "I think so. I plan to live a long time."

While he said he would prefer to see the death penalty erased legislatively, he predicted the U.S. Supreme Court would strike it down sooner than later.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has already said the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and will like likely be the swing vote should the high court issue a ruling.

Ultimately, Fletcher said, it is better to use the money being funneled into death penalty cases to improve people's lives, better our educational system and support programs to keep people away from drug abuse and alcoholism.



7 Prisoners Executed in Western Iran

According to unofficial reports, at least 7 prisoners charged with murder were hanged to death at Kermanshah's Dizel Abad Prison on the morning of Wednesday August 26. 2 of the prisoners have been identified as Behrouz Nouri, approximately 25 years, and Shah Bakhshihaghi. The names of the other prisoners are not known at this time. Iranian state media and government bodies have not reported on these executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Scrapping death for drugs not wise: IGP

Bukit Aman supports a review of the mandatory death sentence for drug offences, but wants the penalty to remain a legal option.

Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, said abolishing the death sentence would send a wrong signal to drug dealers.

"We would support the proposed review but we'd prefer the death sentence to still be made available to the courts.

"The anti-drug war is ongoing as drugs continue to be a major menace threatening the young people of this country.

"Abolishing the death sentence would be a step backward," he said when asked to comment on calls to review the death sentence for drug offences.

In Malaysia, those who traffic in drugs can be sentenced to death by hanging upon conviction.

Former IGP Tun Hanif Omar said the death penalty for drug offences had to be reviewed entirely.

"There are so many cases where the mandatory death was imposed but it has not stopped people from risking it in order to make money," he said.

Jail sentences would also not deter drug trafficking, he added.

"We can consider putting them (drug traffickers) under a very long prison term but are we prepared to do what the US has done to drug traffickers?" he asked.

According to Hanif, the United States placed drug offenders in dungeons far away from light and company.

On the British legal framework on which Malaysia's judiciary is based, Hanif said the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also had conflicting views on the death penalty at different points in history.

"They too experimented with and without the death penalty but the ultimate goal is to find a way to solve the root of the problem and deter people from committing the offence," he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low recently called for the mandatory death sentence to be reviewed for drug offences, noting that the rising number of convictions had raised questions as to the effectiveness of the death sentence as a deterrent to drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was in the news in Mexico recently due to 3 Mexican brothers due to be hanged in Johor for drug trafficking.

The Federal Court in Putrajaya upheld the Court of Appeal's guilty decision against 3 brothers in April, and the Mexican ambassador to Malaysia Carlos Felix Corona found himself inundated with interview requests from 32 media agencies from his country.

Luis Alfonso, 47, Simon, 40, and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villareal, 37, came to Johor in February 2008 to work at a factory in Senai Industrial Park but were caught by police 2 weeks later.

They were charged with manufacturing about 30kg of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

Since their arrest, the men lost contact with home.

Mexican journalist Victor Hugo Michel broke the news in the country in 2011 and wrote a book, "To Die in Malaysia", based on the brothers' accounts, which were published in August 2013. The book, according to Michel, is now used in journalism schools in Mexico.

Michel said it was while chatting with a Mexican diplomat in the United States one day that he heard about 3 Mexicans who were close to being on death row halfway around the world.

"This is the 1st time in history Mexicans could be hanged to death. It's not like we never had Mexicans sentenced to death overseas, but to die by hanging, that's unheard of. On top of that, it's three brothers!" he said.

Malaysia, though one of 32 countries in the world to impose the death penalty for drug trafficking, is among only 6 countries to routinely execute drug offenders, according to an April 2015 report in The Economist.

The story instantly made headlines in Mexico, and became the focus of a heated debate about whether the brothers deserved their punishment.

Until then, the Gonzalez Villareal family had had no idea Luis, Simon and Regino were in such deep trouble.

"The family had failed to contact the brothers. All they knew was that they had gone to work in a country called Malaysia," said Michel, who visited the family after returning from Asia.

When the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision in August 2013, the story made the headlines again back home.

By then, the brothers' lives did change for the better when Corona was appointed ambassador to Malaysia.

He helped to get them transferred from the Kajang prison in Selangor to the Bentong facility in Pahang, which, according to Michel, was more comfortable.

Corona even wrote to Pope Francis about the brothers. Last year, the pontiff sent the brothers a rosary and medallion on Holy Thursday to lift their spirits.

After the Federal Court judgement, Corona said: "We respect the Malaysian judiciary and we will file a judicial review before resorting to the clemency of the Sultan of Johor."

The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry has said it will appeal to local and international bodies that are against the death penalty.

(source: Daily Express)


Law Commission to recommend death penalty only for terror convicts

The Law Commission of India will soon recommend abolition of death penalty in the country, said a report on Friday.

The Law Commission has prepared a 272-page draft report that has been circulated among its members and will likely be submitted to the government next week.

As per The Indian Express, the report recommends speedy abolition of the death penalty.

It, however, makes exception for those convicted of involvement in terror cases.

India is among 60-odd countries in the world where courts still award capital punishment.

Just recently, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon was hanged till death on July 30.

As per the daily, the draft report expresses hope that the "movement towards absolute abolition will be swift and irreversible".

In its draft report, the Commission observed that "the death penalty has no demonstrated utility in deterring crime or incapacitating offenders, any more than its alternative - imprisonment for life. The quest for retribution as a penal justification cannot descend into cries for vengeance."

In its 35th report submitted way back in 1962, the Law Commission had recommended retention of death penalty.

The Supreme Court had last year asked the Commission to study the issue of death penalty.

(source: Zee News)


Eminently fallible, yet irrevocably final': Majority in Law Commission oppose death penalty

A Law Commission consultation process on a report on whether to retain the death penalty in India saw a majority opposing capital punishment.

However, at least 1 member and an ex-officio member of the Law Commission are learnt to have expressed their reservations on the report.

The Indian Express has reported that a draft report calls for the speedy abolition of the death penalty, with an exception for cases where the accused is convicted in a case related to terrorism. The Commission in the draft report has said that the death penalty is "eminently fallible, yet irrevocably final", according to The Indian Express.

Sources privy to the development said at least 1 member and 1 of the 2 ex officio members have expressed their reservations. But a final view is likely to emerge when the final draft report is adopted in the next couple of days.

The Commission, chaired by Justice (retd) AP Shah is likely to submit its report to the Supreme Court this week. It is working overtime to complete the report as its 3-year term is coming to an end on 31 August.

Justice (retd) SN Kapoor, Justice (retd) Usha Mehra and Mool Chand Sharma are the members of the panel. Law Secretary PK Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh - both from the Law Ministry - are the ex officio members.

The Law panel will submit its report to the Supreme Court "sometime" next week on whether India should continue with death penalty or abolish it. A copy will also be handed over to the Law Minister as any call on changes in penal provisions will be taken by Parliament.

The report assumes significance as it comes days after a debate was generated over the hanging of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon.

The Supreme Court, in the cases 'Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs Maharashtra' and 'Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs Maharashtra', had suggested that the Law Commission should study the death penalty in India to "allow for an up-to-date and informed discussion and debate on the subject".


Death penalty only for terror? Why Law Commission's proposal is no lasting solution

Officially the Law Commission is recommending keeping the death penalty only for terror.

But in reality what it's doing is moving the conversation towards the abolition of the death penalty in India.

According to the Indian Express the commission in its 272-page report is quite clear about what it thinks about the death penalty.

"The death penalty has no demonstrated utility in deterring crime or incapacitating offenders, any more than its alternative - imprisonment for life. The quest for retribution as a penal justification cannot descend into cries for vengeance."

The Supreme Court had already decreed that capital punishment should be reserved for the "rarest of rare" cases. What the Law Commission is basically saying is that is too fuzzy a definition and too many cases are ending up in the "rarest of rare" bucket even though higher courts eventually quashed many of those sentences. In fact the number of death sentences being quashed shows they are being imposed too arbitrarily.

The terror exception is tantamount to the commission drawing its line in the sand. But it is also a transit lounge in a longer journey towards abolition itself.

The reasons why the commission thinks abolition make sense are a different matter as are the arguments of the likes of Ram Jethamalani to retain the death penalty. This is not an issue on which there will ever be quick consensus.

What the Law Commission seems to be doing is easing India into truly getting into the "rarest of rare" mindset. Whether a country keeps capital punishment after all is not so much about the law as it is about a societal mindset. Changing that will take time. And it seemed clear that terror was one issue where civil society activists, lawyers and parliamentarians divided most on the issue.

The problem with the terror exception however is that it's unlikely to work that well as a point of temporary consensus, something that most people can agree on.

Who we call terrorist can sometimes be very much in the eye of the beholder. One person's terrorist can be another person's freedom fighter. As far as deterrence goes an ideologically brainwashed terrorist probably will see glory in death anyway. Capital punishment will not be any deterrent to the terror cause.

In opposing capital punishment Varun Gandhi says it creates "martyrs". The chances of someone who committed an act of terror or political assassination in service of an ideology becoming regarded as a martyr are always high. We only have to look at the assassins of Indira Gandhi for example, on1 of whom died on the spot while the other was hanged. Beant Singh and Satwant Singh were declared "martyrs of Sikhism" by the Akal Takht in 2008 and Beant Singh's family went into electoral politics successfully. And a state's chief minister is going out of her way to show deep empathy for those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. The huge crowds at Yakub Memon's funeral proved that many were not convinced that his role in the Mumbai blasts deserved death by hanging and regarded him as hanging for the crimes of his absconding brother.

It's unlikely any halo of belated martyrdom will ever encircle the Nirbhaya rapists.

In fact, if there is consensus around death penalty it is far more likely to be around brutal cases like Nirbhaya rather than the Yakub Memens and Afzal Gurus of the world. The death penalty is an emotional issue and governments are forced respond to that emotion. That is why the Nirbhaya case was fast-tracked and capital punishment made part of the amendments to the rape law. There was little resistance to it even among death penalty abolitionists who opposed it on principle but did little beyond that. On the other hand, many of those who opposed the death penalty in the Yaqub Memon case on various grounds found themselves pilloried for their stance. The Shiv Sena said those who demanded leniency for Yakub Memon should be "tried for being enemies of the country."

The Law Commission no doubt hopes that its stop-gap measure will offer some respite in the heated rhetoric around the issue and enable us to catch our collective breath. But it's unlikely it will do much in that regard. Instead it will pose the immediate and obvious riposte - what about the likes of the Nirbhaya rapists? Why should they not deserve the death penalty if it has to stay on the books? Why do they not deserve the rarest of rare punishments?

And no government will want to answer that question.

(source for both:


Judicial Backing of the Noose Reflects Public Mood

Section 364A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in brief provides that whoever kidnaps or abducts any person or keeps a person in detention after such kidnapping or abduction, and threatens to cause death or hurt to such person, to compel the person to pay a ransom 'shall be punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine'. A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices T S Thakur, R K Agrawal and Adarsh Goel upheld the constitutionality of this section.

Justice Thakur, speaking for the Bench, observed that "the gradual growth of the challenges posed by kidnapping and abductions for ransom, not only by ordinary criminals for monetary gain or as an organised activity for economic gains, but by terrorist organisations is what necessitated the incorporation of Section 364A in the IPC and a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities". The court ruled that in view of the "concern shown by Parliament for the safety and security of the citizens and the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country, the punishment prescribed for kidnapping for ransom cannot be dubbed as so outrageously disproportionate to the nature of the offence as to call for the same being declared unconstitutional". No doubt the Bench was not concerned with the question of the wisdom or morality of imposition of death sentences. The Supreme Court judgment, however, in a way reflects the present public mood in our country which is not in favour of total abolition of the death penalty in all cases and in all circumstances.

Crime and Proportionate Punishment: The issue of the gravity of the crime and the concept of proportionality as regards the punishment recently came up before a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant. Justice Misra, speaking for the court, succinctly observed that "the prime objective of criminal law is the imposition of adequate, just and proportionate punishment which is commensurate with the gravity, nature of the crime and manner in which the offence is committed keeping in mind the social interest and the conscience of the society". He referred to an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court in 2006 wherein the court ruled that "undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system, to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law ..."

In the case before the Supreme Court, the accused were convicted of the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC. The High Court took the view that "ends of justice would be amply met if their substantive sentences of imprisonment are reduced to the one already undergone by them". The convicts had remained in custody only for a period of four months and 20 days. The Bench came down heavily on the High Court. In the felicitous language of Justice Misra, the judge's discretion regarding sentencing "cannot be allowed to yield to fancy. ... A judge has to keep in mind the paramount concept of rule of law and the conscience of the collective and balance it with the principle of proportionality. ... One cannot brush aside the agony of the victim or the survivors of the victim". The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and ordered that the convicts be taken into custody forthwith to undergo the remaining part of their sentences.

Adding Insult to Injury: BJP President Amit Shah was recently trapped in a lift in a state guest house in Patna for nearly 20 minutes. It appears that nobody was present in the guest house to deal with such emergencies. Shah was rescued by CRPF personnel who ripped apart the lift's steel doors. State BJP President Mangal Pandey smelt a conspiracy, but the state government has attributed the mishap to overloading in the lift. RJD leader Lalu Prasad quipped that "a man as fat as Amit Shah shouldn't have entered the Patna lift as Bihar lifts are not made to carry such fat people". Now, that is adding insult to injury. And that is typical Lalu Prasad, especially in view of the upcoming Bihar elections.

(source: Soli Sorabjee; The author is a former Attorney General of India----New Indian Express)


Dec 16 convicts found guilty in dacoity, kidnapping case----On July 15, 2013, the court had framed charges against the 4 accused after they pleaded not guilty to charges in the robbery case.

A Delhi court on Thursday found the 4 convicts - who are facing the death penalty over the heinous December 16 gangrape and murder case - guilty in a separate case of kidnapping and dacoity.

Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh convicted Akshay Kumar Singh, Mukesh, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma for the offences under sections 395 (dacoity) and 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) of the Indian Penal Code, including others sections in the 2012 robbery case.

"Vide separate order pronounced today, the accused persons are convicted in all the sections for which charges were framed against them. Put up the matter for arguments on sentence on September 2," said Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh.

The court had also framed charges against them for offences punishable under sections 342 (wrongfully confining any person), 394 (person voluntarily causing hurt in committing or attempting to commit robbery), 412 (dishonestly receiving stolen property knowing that it was obtained by dacoity) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the prosecution, driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Vinay, Pawan and Akshay, along with a juvenile, had snatched a mobile phone and Rs 1,500 from Ram Adhar, a 35-year-old carpenter, after luring him onto the bus being driven by Singh.

On July 15, 2013, the court had framed charges against the four accused after they pleaded not guilty to charges in the robbery case.

"It is alleged that on December 16, 2012, at about 8.45 pm at Munirka bus stand or road leading towards IIT flyover, you all (Akshay, Mukesh, Pawan and Vinay) in furtherance of your common intention along with one Ram Singh (since deceased) and one (juvenile) ... kidnapped or abducted Ram Adhar (carpenter) with intent to cause Ram Adhar to be secretly and wrongfully confined and you all thereby committed an offence punishable under section 365/34 Indian Penal Code and within the cognisance of this court," the court had said while framing charges.

The appeals of Mukesh, Vinay, Pawan and Akshay - who were sentenced to death in 2013 for raping and killing a 23-year-old in December 2012 - are pending before the Supreme Court.

(source: Indian Express)


Proautonomy Algerian activists detained, could face death penalty

Algerian authorities should release or try within a reasonable time in a fair and open trial a pro-Amazigh activist, Kameleddine Fekhar, and his 24 co-defendants, Human Rights Watch said today. Fekhar has since 2013 called for autonomy of the Mzab, a northern Sahara region, and has condemned the government for what he called complicity in crimes against humanity by Sunni Arabs against the Amazigh, or Berber, ethnic minority in the region.

All have been in pretrial detention since July 9, 2015. They face the same charges, which include participating in a terrorist act and inciting hatred, for their alleged role in violent confrontations between the Amazigh and the Arab communities on July 7 in the Mzab. The accused, all from the region, could face the death penalty.

"If the government has evidence that Fekhar played a real role in the tragically violent events and is not being held merely for his strong views, it should produce the evidence in open court," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "If not, it should release him."

Fekhar headed the Algerian League for Human Rights chapter in the town of Ghardaia from 2004 to 2014. In late 2013, he founded the Movement for the Autonomy of the Mzab. Most or all of his co-defendants are believed to be supporters of this cause.

Noureddine Ahmine, a defense lawyer for the accused, told Human Rights Watch that the investigative judge has not yet called witnesses or interrogated the accused. As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, the police and the prosecution did not disclose to the defense team any evidence of criminal wrongdoing in this case. Authorities should promptly disclose to the accused and their lawyers any incriminating evidence against them.

The police arrested the 25 at Fekhar's house in Ghardaia. After they spent six days in police detention, a public prosecutor in the first instance court of Ghardaia brought the 18 charges against them. An investigative judge issued an order for their pretrial detention. The group was transferred to the M?n?a prison, 270 kilometers south of Ghardaia. The pretrial investigation continues.

The inter-communal violence that erupted in July - the latest such episode in an ethnically tense region - left 25 people dead and more than 70 injured, from both communities, most from gunfire. The 2 communities have clashed sporadically over property, land ownership, and other issues. Fekhar, in a TV interview, accused Algerian security forces of standing by without intervening during attacks on the Mozabites, as the region's Amazigh are known.

During an earlier round of ethnic clashes, in November 2013, Mozabites in the city of Guerrara accused the security forces of torturing at least 10 people who had been detained. Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Algerian authorities in October 2014 to inquire about investigations into the complaint the 20 men filed with the prosecutor of the First Instance Tribunal in Ghardaia. Human Rights Watch did not receive a reply.

On July 2, 2015, Fekhar addressed a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon requesting UN intervention to protect against what he called "the apartheid and ethnic cleansing" practiced by the Algerian government against the Mozabite community. On July 11, Ahmed Ouyahya, cabinet chief for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, during a public meeting, accused "those who have addressed requests for foreign intervention to the United Nations" of being behind the violence in Ghardaia.

Ahmine, the lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that a police report in the case file stated that the police arrested Fekhar and the 24 others on July 9 because of information that they were gathering that day and might be instigating further violence in the region.

The grave charges brought against the accused include committing subversive acts of terrorism targeting the state security, national unity, and territorial integrity; forming a criminal gang to commit crimes; murder with premeditation; harming the integrity of the national territory; distributing material harmful to the national interest; participating in an armed gathering; participating in a non-armed gathering; and defamation against state institutions, respectively under articles 87bis, 176, 255, 79, 96, 97, and 146 of the penal code.

On July 16, Fekhar started a hunger strike. At his hearing before the accusation chamber on August 2 he was too weak to speak, Ahmine said. The court rejected a defense motion to grant Fekhar and the other 24 codefendants provisional pretrial release.

Algeria is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 9 states, "Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release." The article also says that "it shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody," though release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.

The Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa, adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in 1999, also say that "unless there is sufficient evidence that deems it necessary to prevent a person arrested on a criminal charge from fleeing, interfering with witnesses or posing a clear and serious risk to others, States must ensure that they are not kept in custody pending their trial."

The same principles mandate the authorities to inform the person detained of details of the charge or applicable law and the alleged facts on which the charge is based, sufficient to indicate the substance of the complaint against the accused. They further say that the accused must be informed in a manner that would allow the person to prepare a defense and to take immediate steps to secure their release.



Egypt court sentences 12 IS supporters to death

An Egyptian court sentenced to death 12 members of the Islamic State group Thursday for planning attacks against police and soldiers in the country, a judicial official said.

6 of those who were on trial are behind bars, while the rest are still at large, the official said.

They were convicted of having joined IS -- which has declared a "caliphate" in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control -- and of plotting to attack members of Egypt's police force and military.

In Egypt, death sentences are forwarded to the country's grand mufti, the official interpreter of Islamic law, who then issues a non-binding opinion.

The sentences issued will either be confirmed or commuted on September 12 by the court in the northern province of Sharkia, a court official said.

In a separate trial, 2 cousins were sentenced to three years in prison in the same province for using Facebook to promote the ideology of IS, the official added.


AUGUST 27, 2015:


Nebraska Bishops issue statement on death penalty restoration effort

Nebraska's 3 Catholic bishops issued a statement Thursday reaffirming their opposition to restoring the death penalty.

Omaha Archbishop George Lucas, Lincoln diocese Bishop James Conley, and Grand Island diocese Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt issued the statement 1 day after supporters of reinstating Nebraska's death penalty turned in petitions with more than 166,000 signatures, which would get the issue on the November 2016 ballot if the signatures are verified.

The bishops joint statement says: "Justice requires punishment, but it does not require that those who have committed serious crimes be put to death. The death penalty does not provide rehabilitation to convicted criminals. There is no clear evidence that executions deter crime. Racial minorities and the poor are disproportionately sentenced to death, often as a consequence of racial bias or inadequate defense due to an inability to pay for better representation. Other means are available to punish criminals and to protect society that are more respectful of human life."

"For the Catholic community, this issue - like all life issues - involves more than public policy. It involves our faith and the central principle that human life is sacred. Reflection on the God-given dignity of every human person should guide all our decisions about life, including refraining from the use of the death penalty."

State lawmakers voted to end capital punishment in May. Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed the measure, but the legislature overrode his veto. That triggered the petition drive to put the issue before voters. The more than 166,000 signatures stops the repeal before it was scheduled to take effect on Sunday. It will take about 40 days to verify the signatures.



Iran regime continues spate of executions

Iran's fundamentalist regime on Thursday hanged a man in the central prison of Sanandaj, western Iran.

The man, identified as Jamal Jaafari, had been imprisoned for 4 years. He was accused of murder.

6 prisoners, including political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani, were hanged in Orumieh Prison, western Iran on Wednesday.

On Monday, the mullahs' regime hanged a 25-year-old prisoner identified as Hossein Karimi in Bandar Abbas Prison, southern Iran. He was accused of a drugs related charge.

The regime's prosecutor in Mazandaran Province, northern Iran, on Monday said a prisoner, only identified by the initials R.F., was hanged in Sari Prison on Sunday.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."

(source: NCR-Iran)


HC to hear Baig's death confirmation petition from tomorrow

The Bombay High Court will commence hearing from tomorrow on a petition filed by Maharashtra government seeking confirmation of the death penalty given to Himayat Baig, the lone convict in the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune.

A sessions court in Pune had in April 2013 convicted and sentenced Baig to death for carrying out the blast at the famous German Bakery in Pune's upmarket Koregaon Park in February 2010, in which 17 people were killed and and 58 injured, including foreign nationals.

While the death confirmation petition was filed by Maharashtra government in the High Court, Baig also filed an appeal challenging his conviction and claiming that he has been implicated by the prosecution.

A division bench of Justices N H Patil and S B Shukre said they will start hearing the petitions tomorrow. The court directed police authorities to produce Baig before it tomorrow. Baig is now lodged in a Nagpur prison.

After the petitions were filed in the High Court, former journalist Ashish Khetan filed a Public Interest Litigation against the conviction.

He claimed that the "ATS deliberately created bogus evidence, extracted false confessions by the most inhuman torture, planted explosives in the houses of the accused and thus implicated an innocent Muslim youth.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Divergences in Law panel on retaining death penalty

Sources privy to the development said at least one member and one of the 2 ex officio members have expressed their reservation. But a final view is likely to emerge when the final draft report is adopted in the next couple of days.

The Commission, chaired by Justice (Retd) A P Shah is likely to submit its report to the Supreme Court this week. Justice (retd) S N Kapoor, Justice (Retd) Usha Mehra and Mool Chand Sharma are the members of the panel.Law Secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh -- both from the Law Ministry -- are the ex officio members. A Law Commission consultation process on the report saw a majority opposing death penalty.

The Law panel will submit its report to the Supreme Court "sometime" next week on whether India should continue with death penalty or abolish it. A copy will also be handed over to the Law Minister as any call on changes in penal provisions will be taken by Parliament. The report assumes significance as it comes days after a debate was generated over the hanging of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon.The Commission is working overtime to complete the report as its 3-year term is coming to an end on August 31. The Supreme Court, in Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs Maharashtra and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs Maharashtra, had suggested that the Law Commission should study the death penalty in India to "allow for an up-to-date and informed discussion and debate on the subject".



Pak hangs man convicted for multiple murders

Pakistan today hanged a death row prisoner convicted for multiple murders, taking the total number of convicts executed to 212 since the country lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in March this year.

Maqbool Hussain was hanged early this morning in Multan central jail in Punjab province.

Hussain was convicted for murdering 6 people in 1996 to avenge the killing of his brothers and his petitions were already rejected by higher courts.

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

Executions in Pakistan resumed in December last year, ending a 6-year moratorium, after Taliban fighters gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.

So far 212 convicts have been executed in total despite the criticism from United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in Pakistan and about 160 convicts have been executed since the Nawaz Sharif government lifted moratorium on death penalty.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Opportunity to abolish the death penalty must be seized

Burkina Faso must seize the opportunity to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International said on the eve of parliamentary sessions which will culminate in an historic vote.

Tomorrow the national transitional parliament will start a series of discussions with organisations and interested parties regarding the abolition of the death penalty before putting a bill to the vote on 6 September. The government has already approved the text of the bill which has been sent back to the transitional parliament.

"This is a critical moment for Burkina Faso to put itself on the right side of history by acknowledging the inviolable nature of the right to life"----Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West Africa director.

"The eyes of the world will be on the country's parliamentarians to see whether they will join the steady global movement away from the use of the death penalty and abolish this cruel punishment once and for all."

The last known execution was carried out in Burkina Faso in 1988. If the law is adopted, Burkina Faso will join the 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which have abolished the death penalty.

Progress in the region has been good. Over the course of the last 20 years, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Togo in West Africa, alongside Burundi, Gabon, Mauritius and Rwanda, have all abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Earlier in the year Madagascar became the latest country in Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There is no convincing evidence to support the idea that the death penalty works as a deterrent to crime, or that it is more effective than other forms of punishment. This has been confirmed in many United Nations studies across different countries and regions.


The parliamentary discussions will start tomorrow with the hearing of human rights organisations that have been campaigning against the death penalty in Burkina Faso. This will be followed on 4 September by the Report hearing. The plenary session for the parliament's vote will take place on 6 September.

"The 1st article of the draft bill confirms that the country is an abolitionist in practice, the second introduces a reference to life sentence in respect of all texts applicable before the entry into force of the law."----Amnesty International

The 3rd article states that death sentences already imposed are commuted into life imprisonment. The 4th article indicates that the law shall be enforced as a law of the State.

Burkina Faso's laws currently provide for the use of the death penalty in the penal code, the military code of justice and article 4 of the railways police law.

(source: Amnesty International)


IGP: Cops back death sentence review, but total scrapping a 'step backward'

The police force backs a review of the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences, but abolishing it would be equivalent to taking a "step backward" in the war against drugs, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has said.

Khalid said the police would prefer the death sentence to be kept as an option in the courts, noting that the scrapping of the penalty would give off the wrong signal to drug dealers, The Star daily reported today.

"We would support the proposed review but we'd prefer the death sentence to still be made available to the courts," he was quoted saying when asked to weigh in on calls for the penalty's review.

"The anti-drug war is ongoing as drugs continue to be a major menace threatening the young people of this country.

"Abolishing the death sentence would be a step backward," he was quoted saying in the interview.

Tun Hanif Omar, a former Inspector-General of Police, was quoted backing the complete review of death penalty for drug offences, noting that the mandatory sentencing in multiple cases had not deterred people taking the risk to make money.

Hanif said long jail terms can be considered instead, but questioned if Malaysia is ready to take up the US model where drug traffickers are isolated in dark prison cells.

On June 11, minister Datuk Paul Low said Putrajaya should review the mandatory death sentence for drug offences as it is unfair to drug mules who are caught and hanged, while the kingpins escape

In his speech at the Asian Regional Congress on Death Penalty, the minister in the Prime Minister's department said he was prepared to do what was necessary to change the law on drug penalties.

But Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru has said on the same day that the government has repeatedly promised a review of the death penalty in the past few years but there have been no developments since 2009.

Steven urged the government to make current data on death penalty available to the public, as the information available dates back to November 2013.

In Amnesty International's Death Sentences and Executions Report 2014 in April, the human rights watchdog noted that at least 38 people in Malaysia were sentenced to death and 2 executed last year.

It added that 70 % of these convictions were for drug-related offences.



The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed

History may be susceptible to few inexorable predictions. But we are on safe ground if we say that sacrificing a human being to the false god of deterrence, or for pure revenge, is not going to look civilised when we peer back from the 22nd century, any more than our own history books laud the Salem witch trials 3 centuries ago.

At one time or another, essentially every country has used capital punishment. Yet today, of the 195 states recognised by the United Nations, only 37 killer countries remain: just one in five. Of the rest, 102 have formally abolished, and 56 have either not executed for more than 10 years, or have imposed a formal moratorium. The death penalty is in its death throes.

However, just as a wild animal may be most dangerous when cornered, so the renegade states lash out. Pakistan is an example of this. Nine months ago, the moratorium imposed by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) six years earlier held firm. In 1979, the then PPP leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by the military regime; in other words, they had experienced the caprice of capital punishment first-hand.

However, the current PMLN government, led by Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to execute everyone on death row - which, at 8261 people, is more than in any other country. This is meant to deter the terrorists who had carried out the hideous Peshawar school massacre in December 2014. (All the "jihadis" had willingly died in the attack, so the deterrent value of executions seemed questionable even then.)

Yet Pakistan is an example of a country where deterrence works - for politicians at least. For months, the PMLN government had been discouraged from carrying out executions, by an EU threat to take away favourable trading status, which is said to be worth some $1.3bn dollars a year. They have also been deterred by the terrorists themselves. While those who were said to be extremists made up at least 13 of the 25 hanged in the first 7 weeks of the gallows, on 11 February this year the terrorists apparently issued their own secretive threat of retribution: if any more of their number should be hanged, they would target the politicians and their families personally.

Iran has doubled the rate at which it hangs people for narcotics violations, overwhelmingly small-time mules

Naturally, the politicians did not admit anything publicly, but they stopped executions for a month. The 189 executions since 13 March have included not a single member of these proscribed groups. In other words, the pretext for execution is simply false, and yet Pakistan is executing a flood of those with nothing to do with terrorism - from schizophrenics, paraplegics and juveniles, many of whom seem to be innocent.

Iran is another country where a recent bloodbath on the gallows may be subject to western influence. Iran has recently doubled the rate at which it hangs people for narcotics violations and these are, overwhelmingly, small-time mules. Iinvestigations by Reprieve show that UK support for Iranian drug police directly enabled 2,917 hangings, and a western-funded UN drugs programme has helped to put the necks of more than 2 drug mules in the noose each day this year.

Another pretext for using the death chamber is common to conservative Christians and Muslims alike - that the death penalty is somehow mandated by God. Their take on the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye") is itself dubious, as such countries impose death for many crimes, including drugs and blasphemy. In Saudi Arabia the new ruler, King Salman, has more than doubled the number of prisoners beheaded this year, and more than 1/2 have been foreigners who generally do not speak Arabic and have little chance of defending themselves.

The United States still has more than 3,000 people on death row, but only five states have managed to conduct 19 executions between them this year, down more than 2/3 on 1999, with public support waning. However, the battle is far from over. The US is less susceptible to international pressure, and the conservatives take their shibboleths seriously. Recently, some states have had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs, for the simple reason that pharmaceutical companies do not want their product used to kill people. In a recent supreme court challenge, the conservative 5-justice majority voted to uphold the lethal execution process, insisting that a prisoner who objects to a particularly gruesome and painful method of execution must help the state by suggesting an alternative way to execute him.

China may be the ultimate challenge for abolitionists. Like the US, the regime is not impressed by international pressure. Despite this, Chinese officials have stated that abolition will come sometime in the future, when the time is right. Yet, ironically, they have created the conditions for the internal backlash they fear from the Chinese people: the population remains strongly (95%) in favour of the death penalty for the simple reason that official propaganda says that executions deter crime, and the regime stifles dissent. When the regime allows meaningful discourse, the facts will inevitably create the moment for abolition.

For those of us in the trenches of this battle, it is cold comfort that history will place us on the correct side of the argument. I have watched while 6 of my clients die: 2 in the gas chamber, 2 in the electric chair, and 2 on the gurney. Each time, I have come out of the chamber, and looked up at the stars, wondering how such barbarism has made the world a safer or more civilised place. For today, there are just too many individual, living human beings systematically killed, all for no good reason.

(source: The Guardian)


Argentine mom hopes pope will help get son off death row

When Lidia Guerrero met with Pope Francis in Rome last year, the Argentine native told her he knew all about Guerrero's son, who has been on death row in Texas for 19 years.

"I've prayed so much for that young man from Cordoba,' she says Francis told her, referring to the hometown of Victor Hugo Saldano.

The short meeting in February 2014 left Guerrero with more hope than she has felt in years about the future of her son, who she says is guilty of murder but has been driven to insanity on death row.

Francis, an Argentine native, is a staunch critic of the death penalty. Like most countries in Latin America, Argentina does not have capital punishment.

Death penalty opponents are hoping that Francis pressures lawmakers to abolish it when he visits the United States next month, and Guerrero is praying that the pope intervenes on behalf of her son.

Such pleas by popes or politicians from other countries often fall on deaf ears, and face particularly long odds in Texas, the US state that makes most use of the death penalty.

Still, Pope John Paul II successfully won a reprieve in 1999 from Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan on behalf of a prisoner scheduled for execution who instead was ordered to serve life in prison without parole.

"I have no certainty that Francis will ask for clemency for my son, but I do have hope," said Guerrero, 67.

That hope is based on several factors, from the papal meeting to the legal fight surrounding Saldano's original death sentence. In 2002, the US Supreme Court sent the death sentence back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review because Saldano's Hispanic ethnicity was one of the criteria the jury considered when deciding between the death penalty and life in prison. In 2004, Saldano had a 2nd sentencing trial that did not factor in ethnicity and was again given the death penalty.

"2 different juries have found that Saldano is a future danger and should die for his crime," John R. Rolater, Jr., the assistant criminal district attorney in Collins County, where Saldano was convicted, wrote in an email response to questions from The Associated Press.

Guerrero and her lawyer, Juan Carlos Vega, say they sent a letter to the Vatican about Saldano in December 2013, and were immediately invited to Rome. Since the meeting, Vega says he has provided Vatican officials documentation on the legal fight.

"This isn't just 1 more death penalty case," said Vega, who helped present the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Kenneth Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, told the AP that he wasn't aware of Saldano's case but that people with loved ones in U.S. prisons frequently appeal to the pope. Hackett said Francis is very critical of the death penalty, and he may raise the issue while visiting a correctional center in Philadelphia.

Guerrero says her son left home at 18, first going to Brazil, where his father was living, and then to several countries in South America. Saldano spent the next several years traveling and working odd jobs as he moved across Central America and Mexico.

"From the time he was a boy, he always talked about seeing the world," said Guerrero.

In the early 1990s, Saldano entered the United States illegally via the Mexico-Texas border. After spending some time in New York City, he returned to Dallas and worked in a factory.

Guerrero says her son told her that he was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood and carried a gun for protection.

On Nov. 25, 1995, Saldano and Mexican friend Jorge Chavez, drunk and high on crack cocaine, were seen holding Paul King at gunpoint in a parking lot.

King was later found shot to death in a nearby forest. When Saldano was arrested, he was wearing King's watch and carrying the gun.

During the penalty phase of the 1996 trial, psychologist Walter Quijano was called as an expert witness, according to court documents. Quijano presented 24 factors for the jury to use in evaluating whether Saldano would be dangerous in the future, including race.

Quijano said that blacks and Hispanics were overrepresented in Texas prisons, and thus there was a correlation between race and future dangerousness.

The jury gave Saldano the death penalty.

After several appeals, in 2002 the Supreme Court sent the case back to Texas to review after then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said the state erred by including ethnicity in the case.

During the sentencing trial in 2004, Saldano masturbated twice in the presence of jurors, and prosecutors cited incidents inside the prison, like smearing feces and urine on cell walls.

"They locked him in the pressure cooker of death row for 7 years and then told everyone, 'Look how dangerous he is,'" said Jonathan Miller, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles who has worked on Saldano's case.

Rolater, the assistant district attorney, said that Saldano was competent to stand trial and "has a documented history of faking mental illness during his confinement."

Saldano is in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Houston. Cells are 60 square feet (5.6 sq. meters) with small windows. Inmates are kept alone 23 hours a day.

Saldano's execution date has not been scheduled.

Even if Francis brings up the case, clemency is a long shot. It would require a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to Gov. Greg Abbott, and Abbott could reject it.

Still, Guerrero would be happy with any development that shines a light on her son's case and capital punishment.

"The death penalty is dangerous thing," said Guerrero. "And Victor has already paid for his crime."



Conn. Ruling Against Death Penalty Draws Mixed Reaction ---- Capital-punishment opponents praised the decision, but critics accuse the state's Supreme Court of judicial activism and Gov. Dannel Malloy of political duplicity.

The Connecticut Supreme Court's decision this month that declared its death penalty law to be unconstitutional drew not only praise from capital punishment opponents in the Constitution State, but also charges of judicial activism.

Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012. The law, however, did not apply retroactively to the 11 individuals who were already on death row at the time. The high court determined this was a violation of equal protection and due process.

The state Legislature and Gov. Dannel Malloy passed the law with that caveat because of 2 convicted murderers who were sentenced to death for a horrific 2007 armed home invasion in Cheshire, about 25 miles south of Hartford. The assailants raped and strangled a woman, sexually assaulted 1 of her 2 young daughters, doused them in gasoline and set the house on fire. The mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her daughters, ages 11 and 17, died of smoke inhalation.

Dr. William Petit, the husband and father of the murder victims, who survived the brutal attack, said in a written statement after the court's ruling that the 4 justices who voted to repeal the death penalty law had disregarded the separation of powers and judicial precedent.

"The death penalty and its application is a highly charged topic with profound emotional impact, particularly on the victims and their loved ones," he said.

Given the publicity, shock and horror that surrounded the Cheshire home invasion, Gary Rose, a professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., who follows Connecticut state politics, told the Register that it would have been "political suicide" for Malloy and state lawmakers in 2012 to support a complete abolition of the death penalty.

Rose told the Register that he believes the governor and his allies, despite their assurances that the law would pass constitutional muster, knew that effectively creating two separate classes of murder convicts would be struck down whenever it reached the Connecticut Supreme Court.

"I think the whole thing was a preordained silent type of deal, quite frankly," Rose said. "The court felt there was no way to have some people who were eligible for execution and others who weren't, and I'm 100% convinced the governor probably knew that the law would put the Supreme Court in a very awkward and very compromised position."

Said Rose, "It was a very clever move by the governor."

Malloy issued a conciliatory statement after the court's Aug. 13 ruling. He said capital punishment was a difficult and "deeply personal" issue for Connecticut residents and declared: "Today is a somber day, where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving family members. My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."


The governor's statement did not satisfy Republican and some Democratic lawmakers who criticized the court's ruling and Malloy in several local newspaper op-eds.

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who serves as the senate minority leader, has asked Malloy to publicly disclose the legal advice he relied upon when guaranteeing that the law would be upheld. In 2012, Fasano said, "It was clear that many lawmakers relied upon your words in making their tough decision regarding their votes on the repeal bill."

"Without your guarantees, it is clear that you would not have had the support to advance any death-penalty repeal legislation," Fasano wrote in an Aug. 17 open letter to Malloy.

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, told the Register he also believes it is disingenuous for the governor or any state lawmaker to claim that they were surprised with the court's decision.

"Everyone knew that the state Supreme Court would view it as a violation of equal protection," said Wolfgang, who accused proponents of the 2012 law of "setting up" the high court.

"If they wanted a blanket abolishment, they should have done it the honest way. It should have been debated in the light of day, instead of setting up what everyone knew was a pretext for the supreme court to act," Wolfgang said.

As predicted by many, the Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 4-3 vote, found the law to be untenable and ordered all 11 men to be released from death row. However, the court did not restrict its ruling to the issues of equal protection and due process, but also declared capital punishment to be unconstitutional because it "no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose."

The opinion drew harsh criticism from the three dissenting justices, including Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who wrote that the majority disregarded "the obvious," that the legislature, "which represents the people of the state and is the best indicator of contemporary social mores, expressly retained the death penalty for crimes committed before the effective date of (the repeal)."

The majority opinion also claimed that racial, ethnic and socioeconomic biases are "inherent" in the death-penalty system, as well as commenting on the risk of executing innocent people, the cruelty of forcing people to wait to be executed and the costs involved with appeals.

The Legal Context

"The Connecticut ruling provides some good analysis, good insights and good data for people to chew on to consider whether their states are like Connecticut or not," said Richard Dieter, senior program director at the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit that provides analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.

Dieter told the Register that the Connecticut ruling should be seen in light of the dissenting justices in the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross on June 29 that upheld Oklahoma's lethal-injection protocols. Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer raised broad questions about capital punishment and openly asked for a discussion on whether the death penalty violates the Constitution of the United States.

"The Connecticut decision was not out of the blue," Dieter said. "This kind of debate is going on in many places. State legislatures are debating this issue. More state governors are putting capital punishment on hold in their states, including Pennsylvania, most recently."

Capital punishment is still legal in 31 states, but the number of states that are deciding to abolish it has been growing in recent years. In May, Nebraska voted to repeal the death penalty. Maryland also abolished the death penalty in 2013. Dieter expects the U.S. Supreme Court will at some point agree to hear a case that could result in a possible landmark decision on the fate of capital punishment in the United States.

"Some states will hold on to the death penalty for dear life, but that doesn't mean the death penalty won't be seen as cruel and unusual punishment in the rest of the country's eyes," Dieter said, adding: "The death penalty is in the dock. It's being examined very closely."

Church Teaching

The Catholic Church teaches that capital punishment, unlike abortion or euthanasia, is not an intrinsic evil, and states have the right to its use. Church teaching acknowledges the state’s right to use the death penalty under certain circumstances, when it is the only means available to protect society against the offender.

However, referencing St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that in modern societies "the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent'" (2267).

"Prior to the 2012 abolishment, that was essentially the situation we had in Connecticut," said Wolfgang, noting that the state has just had one execution since 1960. In 2005, convicted serial killer Michael Ross was put to death after deciding to end his legal appeals.

The Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty issued a statement to the Register welcoming the Connecticut Supreme Court's ruling, adding that the court's jurisprudence "is mirrored by the public's increasing rejection of executions and the larger national conversation about commonsense criminal-justice reform."

The Catholic Mobilizing Network further said: "The Catholic Church understands justice and God's mercy are never achieved with the killing of another human being. As the past three Popes have stated, the death penalty does not serve a legitimate penological purpose and is not in keeping with our deep respect for life and the inherent dignity of the human person. We look forward to the day when our nation recognizes, as the Connecticut Supreme Court did, that the death penalty is never the answer."

Wolfgang added that he is also opposed to the death penalty.

"So I'm fine with the result," he said, "but the method by which it was reached was outrageous."

Prayers for Victims and Their Families

The Connecticut Catholic Conference, articulating the Church's modern teaching on the death penalty, has long supported repealing the death penalty and was an active participant in a statewide coalition to abolish capital punishment in Connecticut.

Commenting on the court's Aug. 13 ruling, Michael Culhane, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said the conference "concurs" with the court's decision in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

Culhane added: "However, first and foremost, the conference is also very cognizant of the victims and their families ... and our thoughts and prayers are with them as they deal with what must be a very difficult period."



Pa.'s death penalty moratorium is the right move

As I read about Sue Sciullo's reaction to our governor's moratorium on the death penalty ("Lingering Execution Moratorium Pains Victim's Mother," Aug. 24), I recalled how I felt when my 2 brothers were killed: Herman in World War II and Ken when he was young in a car accident.

Feeling shocked, empty of a loved one so close and dear, leaves a void and a hurt that may never fully heal.

However, as a people we cannot allow such understandable emotions to define how we govern. We must base our laws upon reason even though the system that implements them seems inadequate and lacking.

I trust that Mrs. Sciullo and her family will continue dealing with their grief. At the same time I want to be proud of our commonwealth for leading us in a mature response even to such horrific crimes.



Death sentences rarely help victims' families heal

My heart goes out to Paul Sciullo's mother ("Lingering Execution Moratorium Pains Victim's Mother," Aug. 24). I have walked in her shoes. In 1998, my beautiful daughter, Shannon, was murdered by a serial rapist in Pennsylvania. The common assumption is that families who suffer this kind of loss support the death penalty for the assailant.

I have now learned through working with murder victims' families in more than 20 states that a growing number of families have come to understand that the justice and peace that was promised to them by seeking a death penalty is rarely achieved. They are thrown into a complicated legal process, appeals that go on for decades, hearings that splash the offender's name on headlines while the family waits an average of 17 years reliving their pain over and over. And even when an execution does take place, the promised closure doesn't come.

My family wanted the life without parole sentence and with the assailant's conviction and sentence, we were more quickly able to begin the healing process. We now work to honor Shannon's amazing life through educating our society about the incredible flaws and biases of our death penalty system.

The moratorium, which we support, allows the Senate task force to study in depth the problems of the capital punishment system.

Legislators will gain a clear understanding of the huge price this unjust sentence has on the families of victims. Hopefully, actions that will benefit future decisions while helping victims' families heal more quickly can be considered.

VICKI SCHIEBER----New Market, Md.

(source for both: Letter to the Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Don't give Jesse Matthew the death penalty----No matter how horrific the crime, we should not condone capital punishment

Jesse Matthew's jury trial for murder charges against 2nd-year College student Hannah Graham has been set for July 5, 2016 - just under a full year from now. For some, his trial, should he be found guilty, may serve as a form of closure: the removal of a serial offender from our streets, while it cannot bring Hannah back, will protect other potential victims. But though this trial seeks to answer questions, it brings up even more, because in this case the prosecution has decided to seek the death penalty - a possible result we should not support.

The prosecution's decision renews an ongoing debate about the value of capital punishment. Most arguments against the death penalty are much broader than Matthew's individual case. There is little to no evidence that it deters crime; it is less cost-efficient even than life without parole (by a whopping $1 million per trial); and for every 9 people executed, we can identify 1 innocent person who has been exonerated and released from death row - and this is just a small sampling of arguments against capital punishment. Conversely, death penalty advocates tend to focus on the value of retribution and closure for victims' families.

While I encourage everyone to investigate the arguments outlined above closely, in this particular instance, our community should look internally to confront moral questions about execution, and what executing Matthew would mean in our small corner of the world. We are taught from a young age that 2 wrongs don't make a right, and when it comes down to it, willfully executing another human - when self-defense or safety is not a concern - is wrong.

Often, when approaching capital punishment, we are tempted to consider the issue of whether someone deserves to die. And if he committed this crime, Matthew may well deserve that fate. But perhaps that is not the issue we should consider. Bryan Stevenson, in a brilliant TED Talk, turns the question of the death penalty on its head. He argues we should ask ourselves not whether the perpetrator deserves to die, but instead: do we deserve to kill?

The answer to his question is unequivocally no. If we expect our citizens not to kill - if we contend they do not deserve to do so - then why would we deserve to kill them in response to their actions? Moreover, why would we want to? Life in prison readily answers calls for justice; execution only serves as vengeance. We all felt, so deeply, the pain of losing our classmate, our peer. Would another death alleviate that pain? If the answer is yes, that should trouble us, not encourage us to kill more.

For many of us, Hannah's disappearance is too close to home to allow us to address this issue. But because it is so close to home, we should feel empowered to address these questions head on and, ultimately, follow a moral path. In Aurora, Colorado, a jury opted not to give James Holmes the death penalty after convicting him of killing 12 people and injuring 70 more in a shooting rampage. In the face of a horrific tragedy, that community maintained a strong moral standard. We were horrified at the injustice committed in our community; why, then, commit a different kind of injustice in that one's wake?

If Matthew is guilty, an appropriate punishment awaits him in prison. But if he ends up on death row, just as Hannah's death is on her assailant's conscience, Matthew's death would be on ours.

(source: Opinion; Dani Bernstein is the executive editor of (Univ. Va.) The Cavalier Daily)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Man gets death penalty for killing couple during robbery

A Florida Panhandle man has been sentenced to death for killing 2 people.

A Walton County judge sentenced Barry Davis Jr. on Tuesday. He was convicted in May of 1st-degree murder and other charges.

Authorities say Davis killed John Gregory Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes in May 2012 while robbing Hughes' Santa Rosa Beach home. The couple's bodies were never found. Davis' girlfriend testified that he cut up the bodies and burned the pieces after beating them and submerging their heads in a bathtub full of water.

The Northwest Florida Daily News ( ) reports that prosecutors relied on bank account records, cellphone records and lack of contact with friends and family to argue the fact that the very social Hughes and Rhodes had not simply run off.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors seek death penalty after suspect found guilty in home invasion murder trial

An Orange County man could face the death penalty now that a jury has convicted him of murdering a teenage witness.

A 12-member jury found Bessman Okafor guilty Wednesday of 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of Alex Zaldivar.

Okafor, 30, was accused of shooting 3 people, killing Zaldivar, in 2012 in an attempt to stop them from testifying against him in a home invasion trial.

Jurors deliberated for about 5 hours Tuesday before being sent to a hotel for the night. They returned to the Orange County courthouse at 9 a.m. to resume deliberations.

Shortly after noon, jurors returned to the courtroom, where the verdict was read.

Zaldivar's parents were emotional as the verdict was read. Wednesday would have been their son's 22nd birthday.

Jurors also found Okafor guilty of 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder in the shootings of Brienna Campos and her brother Remington Campos.

Zaldivar's father, Rafael Zaldivar, called Okafor's guilty verdicts on his son's birthday "poetic justice."

"He's an animal. He's sadistic. He's repulsive," Zaldivar said.

The teenager's mother, Kyoko Zaldivar, could barely speak through her sobbing.

"It has been very hard for me today, because he's not here," she said.

Brienna Campos and her brother testified in the murder trial, but neither could positively identify Okafor as the shooter.

"I'm hoping from now on I can have only happy thoughts about Alex," Campos said.

Campos was shot in the head and was near Zaldivar as he took his last breaths.

Remington Campos, who also survived a gunshot wound to his head, said he was glad the verdicts were guilty.

Defense attorneys said they believe that is what the jury was wrestling with as they deliberated.

"It wasn't as clear as law enforcement made it sound at first. I think once the evidence came out the jury realized there were gaps in the story, a lot of circumstantial evidence. The best witnesses in the case don't put Mr. Okafor in the house or around the house. I think it's caused the jury to think further and they're working real hard to make the right decision," defense attorney Dean Mosely said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in the case. Jurors will return to the courtroom Thursday morning as the death penalty phase of the trial begins.

(source: WFTV news)

OHIO----mother may face death penalty

Bellefontaine Mom Indicted for Murder of Sons, Could Face Death Penalty

An Ohio woman accused of killing her 3 sons over a 13-month period out of jealousy at the attention her husband paid them has been indicted on aggravated murder charges and could face the death penalty.

Aggravated murder charges against Brittany Pilkington in Bellefontaine were announced Tuesday by the Logan County prosecutor.

Investigators say the 23-year-old smothered 2 sons, 1 in July 2014 and the other on April 6. Authorities took custody of her 3rd son after he was born 3 months ago, but a judge allowed him to return home because there wasn't conclusive evidence the older boys had been killed. The 3rd son died Aug. 18.

Pilkington's mother said Pilkington told her in a jailhouse phone call that she's innocent.

Pilkington is jailed on $1 million bond.

(source: Associated Press)


Women on Death Row

Brittany Pilkington of Bellefontaine could face the death penalty if she's convicted of murdering her 3 young sons by suffocation, but ABC 22/FOX 45 wanted to find out how her case stacks up against other capital cases in Ohio that involve women.

In Ohio, death sentences for female suspects are so rare that there currently is only one woman on the state's death row; 71-year-old Donna Marie Roberts.

"She was a middle-aged, short lady who had been used to a very privileged lifestyle," said Attorney for the State LuWayne Annos during a 2013 hearing at the Supreme Court.

She was describing Donna Roberts' motivation for hiring a hit man to kill her husband to cash in on the insurance money.

"She never said to the court 'Don't sentence me to death'," Annos continued.

Roberts was sentenced and imprisoned in 2003, and has remained on death row ever since, even though she tried to appeal the sentence twice.

"Are you more responsible if you hire it done, or if you do it yourself might be the question there," said Jefferson Ingram, a criminal justice professor at the University of Dayton who studies the death penalty.

Jefferson said he believes planning a murder makes cases more likely to be death penalty eligible. "A woman who would hire a hitman to take out her husband has clearly done that, she's planned it out ahead of time. But, in the cases of suffocation it's not an instant death, there was planning and ongoing planning while that's going forth so it's difficult to say which one is worse."

In another Miami Valley capital case, China Arnold faced the death penalty after she was accused of microwaving her 4-week-old baby, Paris, to death in 2005.

Arnold was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the crime, but also appealed the conviction while her family maintained her innocence. Arnold could be seen crying in the courtroom during a sentencing in 2011.

Ingram thinks that show of emotion may have helped Arnold escape the death penalty, the same way he thinks it could hurt Brittany Pilkington, who after 2 appearances in court has shown little emotion. Prosecutors described her affect as "flat" during her interviews, and those close to her report she did not cry at the funerals for her first two sons, Niall and Gavin.

"[She] doesn't have the demeanor of someone who has some remorse, then that may help get the death penalty, too," Ingram said.

Donna Marie Roberts remains on Ohio's death row with no scheduled execution date.

Pilkington's case will be heard again in Logan County in September.

(source: ABC news)


Tennessee will keep lethal injections for death row executions, court rules

Judge rejects claim from 33 death row inmates and says they did not prove the 1-drug method led to a painful and lingering death

A judge in Tennessee has upheld the state's lethal injection process for executing inmates, hours after a federal judge in Mississippi said that state's process may break the law.

At issue in both cases is the efficacy of the states' execution drugs. US states have been experimenting with various combinations of lethal injection since a European-led boycott made it difficult to obtain the drugs they require to carry out executions.

Tennessee uses a single drug, pentobarbital, to execute its inmates; Mississippi relies on a 3-drug mixture including a pentobarbital or midazolam, sedatives that are followed by a paralysing agent and a drug that stops an inmate's heart.

In Tennessee, Davidson county chancery judge Claudia Bonnyman said from the bench that the plaintiffs, 33 death row inmates, did not prove that the 1-drug method led to a painful and lingering death.

She also said the plaintiffs did not show during a lengthy trial that there had been problems in states where the method was used.

"Plaintiffs were not able to carry their burdens ... on any of their claims," Bonnyman said.

In Mississippi, meanwhile, US district judge Henry T Wingate said Mississippi's plans did not appear to include a drug meeting the legal requirement for an "ultra short-acting barbiturate" that would render a person unconscious almost immediately.

3 death row prisoners sued, saying they could remain conscious during execution. During the lawsuit, Mississippi changed its procedure to say it would use midazolam as a sedative, after the US supreme court approved the drug's use in Oklahoma.

Mississippi officials have said they struggle to buy pentobarbital because death penalty opponents had pressured manufacturers to cut off the supply.

Midazolam has been implicated in troubled executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that went on longer than expected as inmates gasped and made other sounds.

The US supreme court ruled 5 to 4 in June that Oklahoma's use of midazolam in executions did not violate the 8th amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Grace Simmons Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi corrections department, wrote in an email that the order barred the state from using any drug to execute a condemned inmate. The state quickly filed notice on Tuesday saying it would ask the 5th US circuit court of appeal to overturn Wingate's order.

Mississippi is one of a number of states facing legal challenges to lethal injections. Hood's office asked the state supreme court in July to set a Thursday execution for convicted murderer Richard Jordan, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, but the state court did not act.

In Tennessee, the protocol calls for the use of pentobarbital mixed to order by a pharmacist, because the only commercial producer of the drug has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions.

Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than 5 years because of legal challenges and problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs. Politicians moved from a 3-drug lethal injection method similar to Mississippi's to a 1-drug method and to reinstate the electric chair as a back-up. Both changes brought challenges, and all previously scheduled executions have been put on hold.

Although Tennessee has yet to carry out an execution using compounded pentobarbital, state attorney Scott Sutherland has said that Texas, Ohio and Georgia have had more than 30 successful and painless executions with that drug.

(source: The Guardian)


Kansas College Republicans push to repeal the death penalty

Kansas College Republicans say their conservative and religious views led to their decision to officially oppose the death penalty.

"It actually is against my religion," said Paige Hungate, a WSU sophomore and chairwoman of the WSU Republicans. "I believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death and I don't think there should be any deviation between those 2."

"We wanted to be truly, 100% pro-life. If one innocent person is put to death then it's not worth the policy," said State Chair for the Kansas Federation of College Republicans Dalton Glasscock, a Junior at WSU. He says the overall cost as well as a distrust of government also went into the decision.

By passing a resolution in support of repealing the death penalty KSFCR hopes to change the mindset of their party and ultimately get rid of the death penalty in Kansas.

"Let people know there is a change and shift and its okay to differ on some issues and that's how you actually make real changes in the party," Glasscock said.

Right now the Kansas Republican Party isn't taking a side on the controversial issue.

"We are neutral we're not technically for or technically against because many of our members have such passion on this issue," said Kansas Republican Party Chair Kelly Arnold.

Arnold said a move by the college Republicans could certainly get the party talking by the time they vote on their official platform in 2017.

"I fully expect this to be a hot issue at that meeting. It could sway some votes," he said.

"I think we have a lot of good talking points on it," said Hungate.

"It's okay to challenge what you've always believed and come up with different opinions, different ideas and really debate those ideas back and forth," Glasscock said. He says he has already gotten positive feedback from some Republican leaders.

The death penalty has been banned several times in Kansas, but was re-instated in 1994. However, no one has been executed in Kansas since 1965.



Fate of Nebraska's Death Penalty Likely to Rest With Voters

Nebraska's death penalty won a last-minute reprieve on Wednesday when a group fighting to keep the punishment announced that it has collected more than enough signatures to stop its repeal and place the issue before voters in 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature voted in May to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.

The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal that was set to go into effect on Sunday. Organizers appear to have exceeded the 10 percent of registered voters hurdle needed to block the repeal until the November 2016 general election.

"Nebraskans sent a strong message about crime and punishment in our state by signing this petition in extraordinary numbers," said state treasurer and former attorney general Don Stenberg, a co-chair of the petition drive.

The likely referendum could prompt both sides to pour money into the state in hopes of swaying voters, said Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and death penalty expert.

Berman said the Nebraska Legislature's vote to repeal had suggested the death penalty was losing support even in the American Heartland but a referendum would focus attention on Nebraska.

"Certainly it will make Nebraska a kind of ground zero in the death penalty debate," he said.

Opponents said that the death penalty is beyond repair in Nebraska because of repeated legal challenges and expense to the state.

"We believe the more Nebraskans learn about the failures of capital punishment, the more they will be inclined to get rid of it," said the Rev. Stephen Griffith, the new director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The petitions were delivered Wednesday to the Nebraska secretary of state's office, which will forward them to counties to verify the signatures in a process that will take about 40 days.

Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson, who supports the death penalty, said in a statement that the signatures are "presumptively valid" until determined otherwise. Stenberg said no one will know the exact number of valid signatures for at least a month, but the state constitution makes clear that petitions go into effect on the day they're submitted.

Even if the law is suspended, Nebraska currently has no way to execute any of the 10 men on death row because its lacks 2 of the 3 required lethal injection drugs and has struggled to obtain them legally. The state paid $54,400 in May to order the drugs from a broker in India, but federal authorities have said they can't be legally imported.

Nebraska lawmakers voted by the narrowest possible margin, 30-19, to override Ricketts' veto. Ricketts assailed the Legislature as out of touch with the wishes of most residents. The repeal vote was helped by an unusual coalition of conservative state senators and more traditional death penalty opponents who had fought unsuccessfully for decades to eliminate the punishment. Some conservatives said they opposed it for religious and moral reasons, while others cast it as an inefficient government program that wastes tax money.

"What the Nebraska Legislature did is going to have an effect," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, whose group often criticizes how the death penalty is administered. "The message that conservative legislators can reach across the aisle with moderate and liberal legislators - that message is still there and still resonates."

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, and has never done so using the state's current 3-drug lethal injection protocol.

The state was the 19th to abolish capital punishment, as has the District of Columbia, while the death penalty is legal in 31 states and for some federal crimes. The number of executions in the United States has gradually declined in recent years and only a handful of states led by Texas regularly put inmates to death.

The announcement of the number of signatures caps an 82-day petition drive backed by Ricketts and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. The governor had given $200,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty as of the last filing deadline on July 31, while his father had donated $100,000. The group raised a total of more than $652,000 from 40 individual donors and 7 groups classified as businesses, political action committees and other entities.

The largest donation in July came from the conservative, Washington-based Judicial Crisis Network, which gave $200,000. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty relied on a combination of paid and volunteer petition circulators, and was aided by an Arizona-based strategist who specializes in ballot campaigns.

In a statement, Ricketts said the success of the petition drive marked an important step toward protecting public safety.

"I am confident the people of Nebraska will have the opportunity to vote on this issue next year, and judging by the support so far, I expect the death penalty to be retained," Ricketts said.

(source: Associated Press)


Questions Loom in Battle Over Status of Death Penalty

It was a tough and emotional fight last May but in the end, state lawmakers repealed the death penalty in Nebraska. On Wednesday, more than 166,000 signatures were turned in by those behind the effort to "repeal the repeal" of the death penalty but nothing will be decided anytime soon.

It was a tough and emotional fight last May but in the end, state lawmakers repealed the death penalty in Nebraska. On Wednesday, more than 166,000 signatures were turned in by those behind the effort to "repeal the repeal" of the death penalty but nothing will be decided anytime soon.

Boxes filled with signatures gathered by the Nebraskan's for the Death Penalty were turned in at the capitol Wednesday.

Rob Edwards is with the group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and he said, "We turned in 166,692 signatures, which is astounding."

But getting the repeal took decades and the group named Nebraska Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty called Wednesday a big setback.

Death Penalty opponent Matt Maly said, "It's certainly disappointing in a way. We were expecting that they probably would have enough signatures to get it on the ballot."

But how many signatures were needed? And just what do these signatures do?

The act of repealing a passed law before it goes into effect is unique in Nebraska. 5% of signatures from voters across the state were needed to go on the November 2016 ballot. But if 10 % are gathered, not only will it go on the ballot but it also stops the death penalty repeal from becoming law.

First the signatures have to be verified. Each box is sent to the county it came from and their county election officials verify each and every signature. That can take up to 40 days.

Both sides say if this goes through it means a long road ahead to November 2016.

Maly said, "The more people are exposed to information, the more likely they are to oppose the death penalty, really, because the facts are overwhelmingly on our side. So we will be out teaching people, informing the voters. We are not giving up."

Edwards said, "We believe Nebraskans will have the chance to vote on this. We believe Nebraskans want to vote on this and, more importantly, we are going to stay LB 268 until Nebraskans get to vote on this."

The law is set to go into effect Sunday. So what happens during this 40 day period of uncertainty? There are 2 sides. The Secretary of State's office says, "The law repealing the death penalty in Nebraska goes into effect August 30."

But the Nebraska Attorney General released a statement Wednesday saying, "During this verification process the signatures submitted to the Secretary of State are presumptively valid until determined otherwise."

(source: WOWT news)


Public defender warns governor of death penalty costs

The state of Wyoming is bracing to cover the cost of a new death penalty sentencing hearing for a convicted murderer even as a federal court considers whether the state has lost legal standing to seek to put him to death.

Wyoming Public Defender Diane Lozano recently alerted Gov. Matt Mead that the state could be liable for unspecified legal expenses to defend Dale Wayne Eaton.

Eaton, 70, was sentenced to death in state court in 2004 for the 1988 murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, of Billings, Montana.

U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne last fall overturned Eaton's death penalty, finding he hadn't received an adequate defense. Johnson now is considering whether the state followed conditions he set on possibly seeking the death penalty against Eaton again.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense attorney blasts O.C. authorities in death penalty case

A defense attorney, attempting to shield murder defendant Daniel Wozniak from a possible death sentence, filed a legal motion Wednesday accusing county law enforcement of improperly using jailhouse informants, withholding evidence and other misconduct spanning 30 years.

"There has been an impermissible pro-prosecution thumb on the scale of justice in this county for decades," Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders wrote in a 754-page motion, accompanied by thousands of exhibits. "These patterns of behavior have continued to the present day, and have been as institutionally ignored now as they were in the 1980s."

Sanders contends the actions of prosecutors and Orange County Sheriff's Department employees in past cases are grounds for taking the death penalty off the table for Wozniak, a 31-year-old community actor accused of killing 2 people in 2010.

Prosecutor Matt Murphy, in a rebuttal also filed Wednesday, said Sanders' allegations were misguided and simply wrong.

"These are the same allegations Mr. Sanders made in February of 2014 and again in January of this year. He has added nothing new. These claims were false then and they are false now," Murphy wrote.

Wozniak's murder trial, set for Oct. 2, has been delayed for more than 5 years during the defense attorney's legal challenges.

Sanders has expressed outrage that a prolific jailhouse snitch talked with Wozniak in the county jail.

That same informant secured 130 hours of taped conversation with confessed mass murderer Scott Dekraai, another client of Sanders, at the county jail. Dekraai gunned down 8 people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011.

Murphy countered that the informant wasn't working for authorities when he talked to Wozniak and that he struck up the conversation on his own initiative.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley has set a Sept. 25 hearing on the defense attorney's motion and other pre-trial matters.

(source: Orange County Register)


US Advocacy Group Expects 'Fair' Ruling in California Death Penalty Appeal----Witness to Innocence Executive Director Magdaleno Rose-Avila claims that California's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will listen to all arguments in the recent ruling against the death penalty and will judge fairly.

California's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will listen to all arguments in the recent ruling against the death penalty and will judge fairly, Witness to Innocence Executive Director Magdaleno Rose-Avila told Sputnik.

"I think the judges are going to be fair ...There is some preponderance of evidence that shows us that the most open and understanding of the constitution have been those most recently appointed by Clinton and Obama," Rose-Avila said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, The Los Angeles Times reported that 3 judges Susan Graber, Johnnie Rawlinson and Paul Watford will be hearing next week an appeal of US District Judge Cormac Carney ruling that California's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

Carney argued that California's death penalty system was plagued by delays and uncertainty violating the US constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Rose-Avila noted that capital punishment is ineffective and has been exploited as a political tool.

"It's been a political tool that is used to help district attorneys and other politicians who say they are tough on crime," he said.

People who threaten lives of others should be incarcerated not killed, Rose-Avila stressed.

Witness to Innocence is an advocacy group helping exonerated death row survivors to make their voices heard in the debate over the death penalty.


Ineffective Death Penalty System in California Should Be Halted - NGO

California's death penalty system should be abolished as it is costly and dysfunctional, Equal Justice USA Co-Director Shari Silberstein told Sputnik.

"So many people on death row in California don't have an attorney, and the long backlog makes the process random ... It's time to end this charade once and for all, and we hope that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the wisdom of Judge Carney's ruling," Silberstein said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, The Los Angeles Times reported that three judges Susan Graber, Johnnie Rawlinson and Paul Watford will be hearing next week an appeal of US District Judge Cormac Carney ruling that California’s death penalty law is unconstitutional.

Silberstein explained the ruling confirms that the death penalty is "exorbitantly costly, unfairly applied, and serves no legitimate purpose."

"In California, a bipartisan commission called the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ), headed by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp, concluded that the death penalty in California was highly dysfunctional," she added.

Capital punishment is currently allowed in 31 US states, and abolished in 19 states.

Since 1976, 1413 people have been executed in the United States.

(source for both:


Amnesty describes execution of Behrouz Alkhani as vicious act of cruelty

Amnesty International has condemned the execution on Wednesday of Iranian Kurdish dissident Behrouz Alkhani in a prison in the city of Orumiuh, western Iran.

Mr. Alkhani, 30, from Iran's Kurdish minority, was executed early this morning local time despite the fact that he was awaiting the outcome of an appeal by the regime's Supreme Court.

"The organization has also learned that the authorities have so far refused to return Behrouz Alkhani's body to his family," Amnesty International said.

“Today's execution of Behrouz Alkhani, who was still waiting for the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal against his sentence, is a vicious act of cruelty by the Iranian authorities and a denigration of both Iranian and international law. It is appalling that they have imposed further pain and suffering on Behrouz Alkhani's family by refusing to return his body for burial," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"The fact that the authorities have carried out the execution despite the pending appeal against a sentence imposed in a grossly unfair trial and international pleas to halt the execution, shows their utter disregard for justice. His execution is just further proof of the authorities' determined resolve to continue with a relentless wave of executions which has seen more than 700 put to death in Iran so far this year."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Review for death penalty

While Bukit Aman supports a review of the mandatory death sentence for drug offences, it wants the penalty to remain a legal option.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (pix) said abolishing the death sentence would send a wrong signal to drug dealers.

"We would support the proposed review but we'd prefer the death sentence to still be made available to the courts.

"The anti-drug war is ongoing as drugs continue to be a major menace threatening the young people of this country.

"Abolishing the death sentence would be a step backward," he told The Star when asked to comment on calls to review the death sentence for drug offences.

In Malaysia, those who traffic in drugs can be sentenced to death by hanging upon conviction.

Former IGP Tun Hanif Omar said the death penalty for drug offences had to be reviewed entirely.

"There are so many cases where the mandatory death was imposed but it has not stopped people from risking it in order to make money," he said.

Jail sentences would also not deter drug trafficking, he added.

"We can consider putting them (drug traffickers) under a very long prison term but are we prepared to do what the US has done to drug traffickers?" he asked. According to Hanif, the United States placed drug offenders in dungeons far away from light and company.

On the British legal framework on which Malaysia's judiciary is based, Hanif said the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also had conflicting views on the death penalty at different points in history.

"They too experimented with and without the death penalty but the ultimate goal is to find a way to solve the root of the problem and deter people from committing the offence," he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low has recently called for the mandatory death sentence to be reviewed for drug offences, noting that the rising number of convictions had raised questions as to the effectiveness of the death sentence as a deterrent to drug trafficking.

(source: The Star)

AUGUST 26, 2015:

TEXAS----new execution date

Gustavo Garcia has been given an execution for Feb. 16, 2016; it should be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----10

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----528

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

11---------September 29-------------Perry Williams--------529

12---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------530

13---------October 14---------------Licho Escamilla-------531

14---------October 28---------------Christopher Wilkins---532

15---------November 3---------------Julius Murphy---------533

16---------November 18--------------Raphael Holiday-------534

17---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------535

18---------January 27---------------James Freeman---------536

19---------February 16--------------Gustavo Garcia--------537

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Warner Robins man wins battle to leave death row

A Warner Robins man fighting to leave death row won that battle Wednesday.

Roger Collins, who was the second longest-serving inmate on Georgia's death row in early 2015, was resentenced in Houston County Superior Court by Judge George Nunn to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The resentencing followed mental evaluations requested by both the prosecution and defense attorneys that found Collins suffers from mental retardation. The law prohibits the execution of mentally retarded people.

The option of a life sentence without parole was not an option for the court.

The former Warner Robins city sanitation worker was under a death sentence for nearly 38 years. At least twice his execution was ordered but then stayed.

Collins was convicted and sentenced to death for the Aug. 6, 1977, rape and slaying of a 17-year-old girl in a pecan orchard near Kathleen. He was 18 then.

He was convicted of bludgeoning DeLores Luster with a car bumper jack after he and another man raped her at knifepoint. William Durham, who was dating Collins' mother at the time, was sentenced to life for the murder and rape. A 3rd man, Johnny Styles, who waited in the car after the rape while Luster was killed, was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Collins originally told Houston County sheriff's investigators that he and Durham both struck Luster with the jack but later told authorities he confessed to that because Durham told him to, and he never struck her. He admitted to dropping the jack out of a moving car afterward and discarding her clothes in a convenience store dumpster, according to his statement included in the case file in Houston County Superior Court.

In 1991, a Butts County Superior Court judge remanded the case to Houston County Superior Court on the mental retardation issue after a forensic psychologist found that Collins had an IQ of 66. But a trial to determine whether Collins was mentally disabled never took place.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded people but left up to each state how determinations of mental capacity are made. Georgia is the only state that requires the defense to prove mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard has stood up under appeal.

Collins' case languished for more than 20 years until Decatur-based Watchdogs for Justice petitioned the Attorney General's Office in September 2012 to intervene. The nonprofit group asked that the death penalty be vacated for a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

In January 2013, Houston County Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Dan Bibler wrote a letter to Nunn about the need to get the case moving and requested a new psychiatric evaluation of Collins. State attorneys who represent people charged in capital cases mounted a defense to prevent prosecutors from challenging Collins' 1991 diagnosis of mental retardation and asked Nunn to vacate the death sentence for a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Nunn declined. The prosecution’s mental evaluation was completed in late July of this year.

"A diagnosis of mental retardation ... is based on significant deficits in intellectual and adaptive functioning, which are evident beginning in childhood or adolescence," according to the evaluation performed for the prosecution, which was included in the court record.

Bibler said Wednesday that while Collins was convicted of a brutal murder, the prosecution has to abide by the law, which prohibits the execution of a person deemed mentally retarded.

"I have no misgivings about it," Bibler said.

Amber Pittman, the lead capital defender representing Collins, could not be reached for comment.

(source: Macon Telegraph)


Death penalty supporters turn over 166,000 signatures

Death penalty supporters turned in petitions Wednesday to the Secretary of State's office to be verified. They say the have almost 167,000 signatures, enough to suspend repeal and put death penalty before voters next year.

It appears voters in Nebraska will have the final say on the future of the death penalty.

Supporters of the death penalty in Nebraska said they turned over 166,692 petition signatures Wednesday, which if verified, would suspend the repeal of capital punishment in the state until the issue goes before voters in November 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needed about 57,000 verified signatures -- 5 % of the state's registered voters -- to put the issue to a vote and about 114,000 -- 10 % of registered voters -- to stop the repeal from going into effect until after the 2016 vote takes place.

Standing in front of boxes and boxes of signed petitions at a Wednesday news conference, state Sen. Mike Groene said Nebraskans -- the 2nd house -- will now have their say.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Beau McCoy, and Vivian Tuttle, mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was killed in 2002 during a bank robbery in Norfolk, were at the news conference. Stenberg and McCoy co-chaired the petition drive. Groene, of North Platte, and Tuttle said they gathered more than 1,700 and 1,900 signatures, respectively.

Groene said people "flocked" to sign petitions.

The group began collecting signatures June 6, and paid circulators and volunteers spent every day since circulating petitions in all counties across the state. McCoy said over 1/2 of the 595 petition circulators were volunteers.

Organizers of the petition drive said they expected to have no problem meeting the additional threshold of signatures from 5 % of registered voters in at least 38 counties. Petitions, they said, include signatures from 10 % of registered voters in 70 of the state's 93 counties.

In May, Nebraska made international headlines when the Legislature voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of LB268, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, which repealed the death penalty. The count included votes to repeal cast by senators who identify as conservative. One of the senators who worked hard to gather repeal votes in the Legislature was Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican, and who is also Catholic.

Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have been reported as the largest individual financial contributors to the campaign, which had raised $652,000 by the end of July, as reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. At the last filing with the commission, the governor and his father had contributed at least $300,000.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a group committed to the U.S. Constitution and to limited government, contributed $200,000 on July 27.

Nebraskans for Public Safety, which favors repeal of the death penalty, had raised $433,500 as of the end of July. About $400,000 of that came from the Proteus Action League of Amherst, Massachusetts, a civil rights and social action advocacy group.

Another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is closely monitoring the initial results of the death penalty referendum signature-gathering campaign and will await an official decision from the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, the group said in a news release.

"Just like the legislators they elected, we believe the more Nebraskans learn about the failures of capital punishment, the more they will be inclined to get rid of it," said the Rev. Stephen Griffith, incoming executive director of the organization.

Griffith said that while it looks like the pro-death penalty group got signatures from 10 % of registered voters, it appears to have failed to attract broad-based financial support because Gov. Pete Ricketts, his father and a handful of their associates provided the bulk of funds.

"It is evident that grassroots Nebraskans have already rejected the death penalty with their pocketbooks," Griffith said.

During the next 14 months, he said, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will continue to do what it has done for 3 decades: Have conversations with Nebraskans across the political spectrum about why capital punishment has failed in the state.

Matt Maly, coordinator for Nebraska Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said he's sure Nebraskans who learn about capital punishment will turn against it.

"Once our state's Second House learns all of the facts, we are confident they too will reject our broken death penalty," Maly said.

The petitions will go to Secretary of State John Gale's office, where they will be counted, separated by county and numbered, and then sent to local officials for verification.

Local election officials in each county will verify whether the signer is a registered voter. Each signature will be compared with voter registration records.

Those officials must return the verified petitions to the secretary of state within 40 days after receiving them, although an additional 10 days can be granted in unusual circumstances. The secretary of state will then review the petitions and total the number of valid signatures. If there are sufficient valid signatures, he will certify the measure for the general election ballot.

Attorney General Doug Peterson will write the ballot question or title that summarizes in 100 words or less the purpose of the measure. He will also provide material that explains the effect of a vote for or against the measure to appear on the ballot.

If the language is not challenged in court, a pamphlet written and produced by the secretary of state that contains the ballot title and arguments for and against the measure will be made available to voters at least 6 weeks prior to the election.

Public hearings on the measure will be conducted in each congressional district within 8 weeks prior to the election.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Indonesian migrant worker released from death row in Malaysia----Church leaders praise decision to acquit Catholic woman

Church leaders in Atambua in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province rejoiced this week after a Malaysian court on Aug. 25 ordered a Catholic migrant worker released from death row.

Wilfrida Soik, who comes from the province's Belu district and worked as a domestic helper in Malaysia, was charged with murder after her 60-year-old employer with Parkinson's disease was found dead in Dec. 2010.

The church, along with numerous nongovernmental organizations, has been advocating for Soik's acquittal.

On Aug. 25, Malaysia's Kota Bharu High Court acquitted Soik of the murder charge on the grounds of mental illness. The court also ordered her to be treated in a psychiatric hospital until she is deemed eligible for a complete pardon from the Sultan of the Malaysian state of Kelantan.

"I truly thank God that she is freed from the death penalty. People cannot take other people's lives," Father Gregorius Zainudin Dudy, former secretary of the Atambua diocese's Commission for Justice and Peace, told on Aug. 26.

According to Father Dudy, the Catholic Church had taken active part in securing Soik's acquittal.

"In 2010, we - representing the [justice] commission and NGOs - wrote President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when he was visiting Atambua. We urged him to help Soik get free from the death penalty because she was still young when she was taken to Malaysia and also suffers from a mental illness," he said.

Soik arrived in Malaysia in September 2010, after being approached by brokers offering to get her a job. The men falsified papers, saying she was legally allowed to work - in actuality, she was only 17 years old.

"I came as a witness to a hearing in October 2013. I showed the court her baptism certificate stating her age," said Father Dudy.

Based on her baptism certificate, Soik was born on Oct. 12, 1993. Her passport, however, stated that she was born on June 8, 1989.

"Her release from the death penalty should also make us aware that we should be more careful in applying for jobs overseas," he continued, saying that the Catholic Church will continue to pray until Soik is sent back to her village.

Death penalty

Sister Genoveva Bikan, who heads the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit's Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation in Timor, said the outcome was the result of years of agitating along with other nongovernmental organizations.

"When we made such a strong collaboration, the government could hear our voices," she told

She recalled that her group and others often jointly organized peaceful protests to urge the government to pardon Soik from the death penalty. In October 2013, for example, thousands attended a candlelight vigil in Atambua.

Kornelis Bere Mau, Soik's uncle, said he hopes the court will eventually release his niece.

"She is free from the death penalty and is being treated in the hospital now. But we, her family, do hope that she will come home soon," he told

He also thanked the Catholic Church and nongovernmental organizations for their joint efforts.

One of the NGOs is the Jakarta-based Migrant Care, which deals with issues faced by migrant workers.

"Soik's release from the death penalty should be a trigger for the Indonesian government to immediately eliminate the death penalty," Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, told

According to Hidayah, 272 Indonesian migrant workers now face the death penalty in China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Qatar.

"The Indonesian government must take a maximum defensive measure. But it seems that the death penalty implemented in our country will hamper the government from doing so," she asserted.



2 get death sentence for gang raping a woman in GB

An Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) Gilgit-Baltistan on Tuesday awarded death sentence to 2 accused for gang raping a woman in Skardu.

The death penalty was handed down on 2 culprits Shakeel Ahmad and Ahmad Husain during a hearing in the court of judge Raja Shahbaz.

The court also sentenced both the accused for 34-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs2 million on them.

The court ruled that the prosecution had proved the case against accused Shakeel Ahmad and Ahmad Husain beyond any shadow of doubt by producing sufficient evidence in the shape of ocular, medical, forensic serological report and DNA analysis report. It said that all these evidence showed that the accused had gang raped a victim Haleema Sadia.

The victim, Haleema Sadia, on March 5,2015 submitted a written application with the Police Station Skardu, complaining the accused Shakeel Ahmad and Ahmad Husain had ganged raped her and then made nude video and pictures on cell phone. After the crime, the victim said, the accused threaten her that they would upload the video and pictures on facebook if she disclosed about their crime to police.

(source: The Nation)


Pakistan's Death Row Dilemma

Abdul Basit, a 43-year-old prisoner paralyzed from the waist down after developing tuberculosis in prison in 2010, will likely go to the gallows in his wheelchair in the next few days. Basit is the latest person with a disability on death row whose life is at risk since the Pakistani government began its execution spree this year. Basit joins Kaneezan Bibi, who has a psychosocial disability, and Khizar Hayat, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2008, as among those facing Pakistan's state executioners.

Basit's execution was set for July 29, and requests to have him transferred to a medical facility were refused. On July 29, however, the Lahore High Court stayed his execution to allow for a new assessment of his medical situation. On August 31, the court will decide whether the execution will go ahead.

Rather than confronting the inherent cruelty and injustice of capital punishment, Pakistani officials are puzzling over how to hang a man in a wheelchair. To save their client's life, Basit's lawyers are now arguing macabre technicalities, including that a prisoner in a wheelchair can't meet the prison's requirement that the condemned "mount" the scaffold and "stand" beneath the noose. They are also concerned about the ability to accurately measure the length of rope required for his hanging, which could lead to decapitation.

The Pakistani government has executed 209 people this year. These executions are part of the government's response to last December's horrific attack by the Pakistani Taliban splinter group Tehreek-e-Taliban on a school in Peshawar that left at least 148 dead - almost all of them children.

A group of independent United Nations experts has called on the Pakistani government to halt all executions and commute the sentences of those on death row. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel punishment. The sorry spectacle of executing a person with a severe disability merely highlights this cruelty.

Pakistan's government should reverse its decision to lift its death penalty moratorium and move toward abolition. Only then will Pakistan's death row dilemma come to an end.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Kurdish Political Prisoner Behrouz Alkhani Executed Along With 5 Other Prisoners

At the first possible hour on Wednesday, Kurdish political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani was hanged to death in Urmia Central Prison along with 5 prisoners who possessed various drug and murder charges. An informed source tells Iran Human Rights that Alkhani's execution was carried out at 1:10am on Wednesday. Before Alkhani's execution, Amnesty International and activists had reached out to Iranian authorities and called on them to stop his death sentence.

Fars Alkhani, Behrouz's father says the Iranian authorities have refused to give the family access to his son's body: "We went to the Revolutionary Court, they said it won't be possible for us to retrieve his body. We went to various government offices, including the Ministry of Intelligence, but none of them would sign off on us. We saw Behrouz's body as they were loading him in a vehicle (after his execution)." However, the bodies of 3 prisoners with drug related charges and two prisoners with murder charges (who were executed with Behrouz Alkhani) were reportedly returned to their families.

Behrouz Alkhani was arrested in January 2009 and accused of affiliations with the armed Kurdish group PJAK. Several months later, he was also accused of taking part in the murder of a judicial authority. He was sentenced to death in Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Urmia for Moharebeh through association with PJAK. In another court hearing he was issued a 2nd death sentence, this time for murder. Alkhani has repeatedly denied the murder charge. "The murder charge is an unfounded lie. They've charged him with murder, because they're out to kill him," says Fars Alkhani.

Iran Human Rights strongly condemns Wedesday's executions. "The legal proceedings for Behrouz were unjust. He, like many other politcal prisoners, did not have access to a lawyer and was abused & tortured throughout his imprisonment," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Criminal execution of Kurdish political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani

The Iranian Resistance offers its condolences to the family and friends of Kurdish political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani and to the Kurdish people for his criminal execution and calls on all compatriots, especially the youth throughout the country, to rise up against these cruel executions, especially the execution of political prisoners, and to support the families of those executed and the families of the political prisoners.

The Iranian Resistance calls on the international community, especially the European Union, the United States, the United Nations, and human rights organizations to condemn the execution of Mr. Alkhani. It reiterates that silence in the face of the rising number of executions in Iran along with visits by high-ranking European officials to this country for whatever reason have no meaning but collaboration with the ruling religious fascism and encourage it to continue and intensify its crimes.

Mr. Behrouz Alkhani, 30, from the city of Salmas was arrested on January 27, 2010. He was imprisoned and tortured for six years and was executed in the early hours of August 26 on the charge of "taking part in the assassination of the criminal prosecutor of Khoy" along with five other prisoners. He was suffering from heart ailment due to the severity of his tortures and the dire prison conditions.

These tyrannical executions and the blood of the martyrs of freedom will only deepen the resolve of the Iranian people, especially the youth, in the struggle against the religious fascism and will hasten its overthrow.

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


New Death Sentence Issued in Gaza

In light of a new death sentence issued in the Gaza Strip, which is the fifth of its kind in 2015 in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reiterates its call for the abolition of death penalty in the PA controlled areas.

On Monday, 24 August 2015, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza City, acting as a court of First Instance, sentenced N. 'A. A. (37), from al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City, to death by firing squad after convicting him of collaboration with a foreign hostile entity in violation of Article (131) of the 1979 Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code.

Thus, the total number of death sentences issued by the PA since 1994 has risen to 161, of which 133 has been issued in the Gaza Strip and 28 in the West Bank. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 76 have been issued since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The Palestinian Authority also executed 32 death sentences, of which 30 have been executed in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank. Among those executed in the Gaza Strip, 19 have been executed since 2007 without ratification by the Palestinian President in violation of the law.

PCHR is gravely concerned over the continued application of the death penalty in Palestinian Authority controlled areas, and:

1. Points out that the call for abolition of the death penalty does not reflect a tolerance for those convicted of serious crimes, but it is based on a moral, philosophical and legal position when considering deterrent penalties that maintain our humanity, especially that this is a non-retractable punishment in case of implementing it. Moreover, it did not prove that it was deterrent to crimes in many countries as it is still applied in the United States and Saudi Arabia etc.; and

2. Stresses that ratification of the implementation of death sentences is an absolute power of the Palestinian President according to the Palestinian Basic Law and relevant laws, and no death sentence can be implemented without such ratification.

3. Calls for an immediate moratorium on the use of such cruel punishment because it violates international human rights, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the UN Convention against Torture (1984);

4. Calls upon the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), if convened, to review all legislations related to the death penalty, especially the Penal Law No. 74 (1936) which remains in effect in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that is in effect in the West Bank, and enacting a unified penal code that is in line with the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty.


SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia reacts to criticism of its high rate of executions by ordering three murderers and a drug smuggler to be beheaded today----4 executions have been carried out in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday

4 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia, just 1 day after an international report condemned the country's frequent use of the death penalty.

This brings the number of judicial killings so far this year to 130, compared to a total of 83 in 2014 - when Saudi Arabia executed more people than any country in the world, except China and Iran.

Riyadh diplomats claims the rise in executions is due to the appointment of more judges, which has then increased the number of cases heard in court.

They deny that increase in executions in 2015 is related to the the ascension of King Salman, who began his reign in January this year.

All 4 executions took place in different Saudi cities on Wednesday. 3 were of Saudi nationals convicted of murder - in Asir Province, the city of Taif and al-Baha Province respectively .

A Syrian man was executed in the northern province of al-Jawf for drug smuggling.

This comes the day after Amnesty International published a highly critical 43-page report on judicial killings in Saudi Arabia.

The conservative kingdom has executed at least 178 people over the past 12 months, on average 1 person every 2 days, according to Amnesty.

Nearly 1/2 of the 2,208 people executed in the past 30 years have been foreign nationals, with many believed to have lacked sufficient Arabic skills to understand court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of sharia - Islamic law - and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.

People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

'Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale,' Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one's fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

The conservative kingdom, whose judiciary is composed of clerics, denies its trials are unfair.

(source: Daily Mail)


Death penalty considered for Rostraver man accused in bludgeoning death of sister's boyfriend

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said Tuesday he will soon decide whether to seek the death penalty against a Rostraver man accused of bludgeoning to death his sister's boyfriend earlier this year.

Peck told a county judge that Billy Ray Boggs has a lengthy criminal record, including a case from 1995 when he was charged with attempted murder, a factor that could lead prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Boggs, 49, is charged with the 1st-degree murder of Thomas Guercio, 35, of Jeannette, who had been missing since the end of March. Guercio's body was found in an Armstrong County gas well.

Boggs appeared in court Tuesday for a brief hearing before Westmoreland County Judge Chris Feliciani as part of the scheduling procedure for trials.

Defense attorney Brian Aston said Boggs would plead guilty to a charge of 1st-degree murder.

Peck, though, asked to delay a guilty plea so he could consider a potential death penalty.

"I want to explore all the possible sentences before any decision is made," Peck said.

According to court records, Boggs has been convicted of several burglaries, and Peck said he wants to review details of the attempted-murder case that was filed against Boggs 20 years ago in Cumberland County. Court records indicate Boggs served a 5- to 10-year prison sentence associated with pleading guilty in that case.

Aston said Boggs was prepared to accept responsibility for his actions. Boggs in May gave a detailed confession to police in which he said he beat Guercio in the head with a hammer, and after the man wouldn't die, continued to assault him into the next day and stabbed him to ensure he was dead.

Boggs, according to court records, told police he killed Guercio because he threatened the defendant's sister. Guercio and his girlfriend, Jamie Lynn Boggs, had been in a relationship and quarreled just before the fatal assault, police said.

"We're just waiting for John Peck to decide. We were going to plead guilty today, but John Peck said there were other considerations," Aston said.

1st-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Should Peck seek the death penalty against Boggs, a jury or a judge would weigh evidence before a sentence is imposed.

Peck has most recently sought and secured death penalties against 3 men. Ricky Smyrnes, 29, and Melvin Knight, 24, are on death row for the February 2010 torture slaying of a mentally disabled woman. Kevin Murphy, 55, was sentenced to death for the 2009 slayings of his mother, sister and aunt in Loyalhanna.

Peck said the death penalty moratorium imposed this year by Gov. Tom Wolf will not affect his decision to seek capital punishment. The governor has said he won't sign death warrants until a review of the state's death penalty is completed.

"The law has not been changed," Peck said. "The Legislature has enacted a law that is still on the books. I took an oath to uphold the law."



Death penalty halted for prisoner after judge asks if lethal injection is painful

A convicted killer on death row since 1976 has had his execution halted after a judge demanded to know if the use of lethal-injections was painful.

The ruling by US District Judge Henry Wingate shuts down the use of the death penalty in Mississippi until the case is heard.

His decision came almost a month after the Attorney General's Office in the state asked the Supreme Court to set an execution date no later than Thursday for inmate Richard Gerald Jordan.

The 69-year-old along with another death row inmate have alleged the combination of drugs Mississippi has been using in lethal injections could cause them great pain before killing them.

Prison officials cannot now use pentobarbital or midazolam, 2 drugs used to make prisoners unconscious.

Mississippi law requires a 3-drug process, with the sedative followed by a paralysing agent and a drug that stops an inmate's heart.

If pain is caused in the use of the lethal injection it would violate the constitutional mandate against cruel and unusual punishment.

Jordan's lawyers in New Orleans had asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the setting of an execution date until he rules on the lawsuit.

Wingate granted the request yesterday ensuring the convicted killer will have a stay of execution until a decision has been made.

Reacting to the decision Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said: "We are extremely disappointed that the federal court has frustrated the State of Mississippi's lawful duty to enforce its criminal sentence of capital punishment.

"Just months ago the United States Supreme Court approved Oklahoma's method of lethal injection. Mississippi's method follows that of Oklahoma. We feel strongly that the district court misapplied the law."

Jordan, the state's longer serving inmate on death row, was convicted of shooting dead Edwina Marter in January 1976.

He had kidnapped the 33-year-old before demanding a $50,000 ransom in Gulfport, Mississippi.

His trial heard how the killer targeted mum-of-two Marter after learning her husband was a vice president at a Gulfport Bank.

Jordan claimed he accidentally killed Marter while trying to stop her from fleeing.

However evidence showed she was kneeling in front of Jordan when he shot her in the back of the head in northern Harrison County, Mississippi.

Legal experts predict if the injection is found to be painful it could have ramifications across America and see a ban of the drug.

Following a number of botched executions America's death row units have found it increasingly difficult to obtain the deadly injections due to a European-led boycott on such sales.

The controversy surrounding the use of such methods has recently gained momentum after European manufacturers, including the Denmark-based maker of pentobarbital, banned US prisons from using their drugs for executions.

It came after convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett convulsed, clenched his teeth and struggle to talk on the execution table before officials moved in to block the view of witnesses.

The 38-year-old killer's death in April last year was the 1st time Oklahoma had used a new, 3-drug lethal cocktail.

Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after he was initially injected.

Amid the growing shortages of the injections Tennessee agreed to bring back the electric chair, Oklahoma the gas chamber and Utah the firing squad.

(source: The Mirror)


Kevin Daigle makes 1st court appearance following arrest in connection with trooper's death

Daigle, 54, accused of killing Louisiana State Trooper Steven Vincent, 44, was making his 1st court appearance since his arrest Sunday. Daigle is charged with 1st-degree murder of a police officer and aggravated battery.

Daigle appeared before Ware in 72-hour court for a right-to-counsel hearing at Calcasieu Correctional Center. The Public Defender's Office was appointed to represent Daigle, but the office has already been in contact with attorneys certified to handle death penalty cases, Ware told Daigle. The case was allotted to Judge Guy Bradberry's department.

The hearing was held in a small room off to the side of the larger courtroom at the jail where about 50 other inmates were also making court appearances.

The District Attorney's Office will make the final determination of whether to seek the death penalty in the case, which will be presented to a Calcasieu grand jury in the coming days or weeks.

Daigle is also a suspect in the killing of his roommate, who was found dead in his Moss Bluff house Monday.

State police said Vincent was responding to a report of an erratic driver when he found Daigle stuck in a ditch in a truck. Daigle opened the door and shot Vincent with a sawed-off shotgun, Col. Mike Edmonson said.

(source: KSLA news)


Ohio Mom Accused of Killing 3 Sons Could Face Death Penalty

A woman accused of killing her 3 young sons over a 13-month period out of jealousy at the attention her husband paid them was indicted Tuesday on aggravated murder charges that carry the possibility of a death sentence.

The charges against Brittany Pilkington in Bellefontaine, in western Ohio, include capital punishment factors of multiple victims and victims under 13.

Logan County Prosecutor William Goslee had previously said death penalty charges were unlikely given the circumstances, which included what he said was Pilkington's abusive childhood and life with her controlling husband, who previously was her mother's boyfriend.

Pilkington, 23, is in jail on $1 million bond. She didn't speak at a brief court hearing last week and wasn't required to enter a plea on the murder charges against her.

Her mother, Lori Cummins, said Pilkington told her in a brief jailhouse phone call last week that she's innocent.

But police and prosecutors say Pilkington confessed Aug. 18, the day her 3rd son, 3-month-old Noah, was found dead.

Goslee has said authorities didn't have any evidence of a crime in the earlier deaths and no one could have predicted Pilkington would kill her remaining son.

Authorities were unsure what caused the July 2014 death of 3-month-old Niall, which was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome. After 4-year-old Gavin died in April, a daughter and the newborn boy, Noah, were taken into custody by the Logan County Children's Services agency pending an investigation.

During a hearing, a doctor speculated that the boys might have had a genetic defect. But the doctor also said there were signs of neglect.

A judge allowed Noah to be returned home because there wasn't conclusive evidence the first 2 boys had been killed. The judge, Dan Bratka, said he couldn't comment about the Pilkingtons because the family's child services case is pending in his court.

Authorities now believe Pilkington used each boy's comfort blanket to suffocate him in his crib or bed because she wanted her husband to pay more attention to her and their 3-year-old daughter, Goslee said.

Goslee said Pilkington was dominated and isolated by her 43-year-old husband, Joseph Pilkington, who had been Cummins' live-in boyfriend before marrying Brittany Pilkington in 2010. He isn't a suspect in the case. Relatives say he hasn't been seen since his wife's arrest. He hasn't returned messages from The Associated Press.

Police and prosecutors have noted that Brittany Pilkington did not seem affected or emotional about her sons' deaths.

Cummins said that her daughter was always good with the children and that Joseph Pilkington favored the 4-year-old son over the 3-year-old daughter. This bothered Brittany Pilkington, who said the children should be treated equally, Cummins said.

The county prosecutor has alleged Brittany Pilkington was physically abused as a child by her father. Her father, Ed Cummins, said he wasn't present when she grew up and he regrets it. But Cummins, 41, said he never harmed her.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty sought for Bellefontaine mom accused of killing her sons

Bellefontaine mom Brittany Pilkington could face the death penalty if convicted of smothering her 3 young sons to death over the past 13 months.

A Logan County grand jury indicted the 23-year-old mom on 3 counts of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification late Tuesday.

Pilkington was scheduled to have a hearing in Bellefontaine Municipal Court at 5 p.m. Tuesday but that was cancelled after the grand jury's decision.

An arraignment on the new charges will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Logan County Jail. Pilkington's bond has been set at $1 million.

Pilkington's family said they will attend Noah's funeral on Wednesday instead of the court hearing in order to lay him to rest.

Police have accused Pilkington of killing 3-month-old Niall Pilkington in July 2014 and 4-year-old Gavin Pilkington in April. Authorities took custody of her 3rd son, Noah Pilkington, after he was born in May, but a judge allowed him to return home because there wasn't enough evidence to determine a cause of death for the first 2 boys.

Noah died Aug. 18, 6 days after he was returned to Brittany Pilkington.

A visitation for Noah will take place at noon today, followed by a funeral service at 2 p.m. at Eichholtz Daring & Sanford Funeral Home, 321 N. Main St. in Bellefontaine.

Family members who showed up for the cancelled court hearing Tuesday evening said they plan to attend the funeral instead of the rescheduled court hearing now that they are at the same time.

"Once we can get this baby buried and laid to rest with his brothers, there will be a little bit of peace there," said Pat Cummins, Brittany Pilkington's step-mother.

A vigil has also been organized for 4 p.m. Saturday at Southview Park on Lake Avenue in Bellefontaine. The entire community is invited to launch balloons in honor of the boys or anyone they've lost and want to remember, Cummins said.

Brittany Pilkington's uncle Jeff Skaggs has called local lawmakers, hoping to propose a new law to prevent deaths like Noah's.

"I hope something positive comes out of this," Skaggs said.

He believes there should have been more Children's Services could have done to keep Noah and his sister in foster care after the deaths of Brittany Pilkington's first 2 sons.

County officials have said the law prevented them from keeping the children out of the home because the causes of death in the other cases remained undetermined.

"I'd like to change the law and call it Noah's Law," Skaggs said.

His niece has received counseling while in jail, Skaggs said, and the family has left word for her that they are supporting her.

"The message is, 'We are here for you,'" he said. "It was wrongful what she did, but I just hope she gets the help she needs."

Cummins said the last she'd heard, Brittany Pilkington was on suicide watch at the jail.

"It's just hard to take," Cummins said.

She doesn't believe that her step-daughter is capable of what she s accused of, but said if she did do it, she needs to spend time in prison or a mental health facility. She doesn't deserve the death penalty if convicted, Cummins said.

Skaggs denies allegations of child abuse that prosecutors have said Brittany Pilkington made against her father.

She has had a troubling relationship with her husband Joseph Pilkington, Skaggs said. He lived with Brittany Pilkington's mother from the time she was about 8 years old.

"It goes back 12 to 15 years," Skaggs said. "Brittany never went to her prom, she never had a boyfriend," because Joseph Pilkington had complete control over her, he said.

Joseph Pilkington hasn't been able to be reached for comment.

(source: Springfield News-Sun)


It is time for repeal of death penalty

James Latham and Ronnie York were army deserters barely out of their teens when they went on a cross-country killing spree. One of their seven murder victims was killed in Kansas. For that, they were sentenced to death and on June 22, 1965, became the last condemned criminals to be executed in Kansas. That is 50 years without capital punishment in Kansas.

I commend leadership of the Kansas Federation of College Republicans for taking a stand against the death penalty and calling for legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback to repeal the law. Maybe these college students should be running the state. They aren't afraid to think for themselves rather than follow the bell mare of conservative dogma. They understand pretending to practice capital punishment is almost as expensive as actually executing someone occasionally.

The resources that go into maintaining a law that isn't likely to be used could put more troopers on the highways and better equip them to help people. Taking a stand that is pro-life from pre-birth to natural death makes sense to these young Republicans.

I'd like to ask Rep. J. R. Claeys, of Salina, to explain his nonsensical statement connecting cop killers and child rapists and what that has to do with the position taken by college Republicans. Also, explain how Kansas is going to be measurably improved by starting back down a road not traveled in 50 years. Leaders of the college Republicans have the vision to see keeping the death penalty "in no way matches up with our conservative values." They hope to "promote a culture of life and fiscal responsibility." The clown show that is the old guard Republican Party in Kansas is in jeopardy. Principled young Republicans are waiting in the wings giving hope to conservatism in our traditionally red state.


(source: Letter to the Editor, Capital Journal)


Kansas College Republicans Latest Conservative Group To Oppose The Death Penalty"----I can't support a policy that would endanger one innocent life."

The Kansas Federation of College Republicans last week joined what appears to be a growing conservative movement to call for an end to the death penalty.

The KSFCR, an umbrella group for the state's college Republicans, last week unanimously passed a resolution supporting a repeal of the death penalty in Kansas. The resolution marks the 1st time the group has taken a position on the issue.

"Our job is to inform the party where our generation stands on social issues," Dalton Glasscock, a junior at Wichita State University and chairman of the KSFCR, told The Huffington Post Monday. "In the past, college Republicans have largely just agreed with the national party. But we need to show the generational shift."

Glasscock said that for young conservatives who oppose the death penalty, it's ultimately a matter of consistency. He noted that the KSFCR has "a 100 percent pro-life state board."

"I am pro-life, from conception to natural death," said Glasscock, who also cited the "the fiscal cost" of capital punishment. "But it's not just about life -- it's about the inherent distrust of the government that's common in my generation."

Abolishing the death penalty is usually thought of as a goal of social progressives, but Marc Hyden of the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty said it's quickly becoming a conservative cause, too -- albeit for different reasons.

"The narrative is changing around the death penalty," Hyden told HuffPost. "The state Republicans took the death penalty off their platform, so it makes sense the College Republicans went along with this resolution."

"My experience in talking to colleges across the U.S. [is that] younger people tend to be more skeptical of government power," he went on. "And there's no greater power than taking a human life."

Clayton Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, confirmed that after years of supporting the death penalty, the state party now holds a neutral stance on the issue.

"We do a platform every 2 years, and this year it was left out," Barker said.

Hyden noted that in states that have the death penalty on the books but rarely use it, support for the punishment eventually tends to wane. Kansas is one such state -- the last time it carried out an execution was 1965. It has abolished and reinstated the death penalty three times since the early 1900s. The most recent attempt at abolition, in 2010, fell one vote short.

While Glasscock sees the shift against death penalty as an issue of particular importance to millennial conservatives, Hyden notes that many older Republicans have long opposed the punishment and are only now gaining enough momentum to issue meaningful calls for abolition.

Yet even as those calls grow louder -- especially in conservative Midwestern states -- there's still plenty of pushback.

Nebraska legislators successfully repealed the state's death penalty earlier this year, in a push that drew bipartisan support and even survived a veto attempt by Gov. Pete Ricketts (R). The state's harshest penalty is now life without the possibility of parole -- but a group of Nebraskans have mounted an effort to restore the death penalty by ballot referendum.

"I just think -- move delicately. It's OK to have different opinions with somebody. But have conversations," Glasscock said, acknowledging that there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue. "My recommendation is to investigate and know where you stand instead of just believing [an issue is right] -- and [be] willing to change your opinion."

Glasscock said that hearing stories from death row exonerees ultimately caused him to change his views, which had previously been staunchly pro-death penalty.

"I can't support a policy that would endanger 1 innocent life," he said. "Even if it's the worst of the worst, we can incarcerate them so they're not a danger to society. It's not worth endangering an innocent person."

Hyden offered an ambitious forecast of what the future holds for capital punishment -- not only in Kansas but around the country.

"There are a handful of states I'm telling everyone to keep their eye on in coming years. Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana -- they had a 50-50 tie last time they voted on [repealing the death penalty], and they don't use it much either," he said. "But I think Kansas is pretty close."

Rick Halperin, an expert on the death penalty who leads Southern Methodist University's Embrey Human Rights Program, said he strongly agreed with Hyden's assessment.

"Kansas has had a recent history of strong abolition efforts," Halperin told HuffPost in an email, adding that the strongest anti-death penalty movements tend to be the ones that bring together a bipartisan coalition. "In today's climate, it has become much more politically acceptable for those from the political right to join this cause."

A major common factor linking states like Kansas, Montana and New Hampshire is that they haven't used their death penalty in years, according to Fordham Law professor and death penalty expert Deb Denno. Montana's last execution was almost a decade ago, while New Hampshire hasn't carried out an execution since 1939.

"The entire culture is changing," Denno told HuffPost. "The pieces of this puzzle have been here for decades... and now we're lining up the dominos in a certain way and watching them fall."

(source: Kim Bellware, Huffington Post)


Nebraskans for the Death Penalty to Announce Their Numbers Wednesday

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty will announce Wednesday how many signatures they have collected across the state for its petition to bring the issue of the death penalty before Nebraska voters.

The petition needs 5 % of registered voters to get on the 2016 ballot. If 10 % of registered voters have signed the petition it would suspend the law repealing the death penalty in Nebraska until it's voted on in 2016. Signatures must be collected from 5 % of registered voters in 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties.

Holdrege's Vincent Allard says he has collected 381 signatures in Phelps County, which would be more than 6 % of registered voters in the county.

"I guess I've always believed in the death penalty. If it's enforced, I think it will do some good," Allard said.

His wife Lori was with him when he found out how to properly get people to sign the petition.

"He's going to go and he's going to do it if he makes up his mind he's going to do it," Lori Allard said.

He met with people in Holdrege, Funk, Loomis, Atlanta and Bertrand.

"In some ways I think the Legislature overruled this and I don't like to be ruled by just a few people," Allard said.

He knocked on people's doors, called voters on his flip phone and set up tables in front of local restaurants.

"I personally believe the death penalty needs to be reinstated. I allowed him to sit out there and collect signatures," said the owner of Country Cookin', Cherie Brendel.

Allard is hopeful Nebraskans for the Death Penalty got enough people to sign.

"If what happened around the state is what happened here in Phelps county, yes they made it," Allard said.

Their numbers will be released around 3 p.m. on Wednesday.



Death Penalty Delays Not Violative of Eighth Amendment, Unanimous California Supreme Court Holds

The lawyer for a death row inmate failed to demonstrate that systematic delays in the resolution of capital cases result in an arbitrary process that violates the Eighth Amendment, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday.

The court, which has rejected such arguments in the past, asked the parties for supplemental briefing on the issue after a federal district judge ruled last year that such delays rendered the state's death penalty unconstitutional.

But while Ropati Seumanu is free to make a more individually focused argument in a habeas corpus petition, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote, he is not entitled to have his sentence overturned merely because more than 14 years have elapsed since he was sentenced to die for a murder in his hometown of Heyward.

"Our conclusion would be different were the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ask all capital inmates who have exhausted their appeals to draw straws or roll dice to determine who would be the 1st in line for execution," the jurist said. "But the record in this case does not demonstrate such arbitrariness," she continued.

"Unquestionably, some delay occurs while this court locates and appoints qualified appellate counsel, permits those appointed attorneys to prepare detailed briefs, allows the Attorney General to respond, and then carefully evaluates the arguments."

Those delays safeguard the defendants' rights, rather than violate them, she said.

Seumanu was 22 when he, his brother and 2 teenagers stole a car one night in May 1996 and confronted Nolan Pamintuan, 25, who had just returned from a pre-wedding dinner with his fiancee, according to testimony.

The robbers took an inscribed Movado watch his fiancee had given him as a wedding gift and $300 that they forced him to withdraw from a bank ATM. After expressing irritation at the fact he had no more money to give them and had reached the ATM's withdrawal limit, Seumanu killed him with a shotgun blast to the chest, according to the testimony.

His brother, Tautai Seumanu, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison, and the two teenagers were given shorter sentences for manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery.

Ropati Seumanu, who served as a deacon in the First Samoan Gospel Church, where his father was pastor, was also described by a witness as the founder of a gang called Sons of Samoa, affiliated with the Crips. Witnesses said he committed numerous assaults in the years before the murder.

In addition to rejecting Seumanu's Eighth Amendment claim, the justices concluded that he was not entitled to a reversal based on prosecutorial misconduct.

Werdegar was critical of Deputy District Attorney Angela Backers for, among other things, telling the jury that Seumanu's lawyers were putting on a "sham" defense and didn't believe their client's alibi, for asking jurors to view the case through the eyes of the victim, who begged for his life before being shot, and for telling the jury - after the defense lawyers introduced themselves and their client - that the deceased was her "client."

But none of those remarks affected the verdict, Werdegar said, because the evidence of guilt was strong and the jury was properly instructed not to be swayed by prejudice or sympathy and that the remarks of counsel were not evidence.

The case is People vs. Seumanu, 15 S.O.S. 4375.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)


Tsarnaev Juror Changes Mind About Death Penalty----He didn't know 8-year-old victim's parents opposed it

During the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, jurors saw and heard heartbreaking testimony about the final moments of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. What they didn't hear about was the fact that Martin's parents didn't want Tsarnaev to get the death penalty, and the 1st juror to speak about the case says he wouldn't have chosen death if he had known. Kevin Fagan tells WMUR that he "probably" would have changed his vote in the penalty phase of the trial - though if he had known, he "wouldn't be on the jury either" because they had been ordered not to access media coverage of the trial.

Martin's parents, whose daughter lost a leg in the bombing, didn't want Tsarnaev to get the death penalty because they didn't want to have to relive the horror through the inevitable years of appeals. Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed tells the Boston Globe that Fagan's change of heart probably won't play a major role in any appeal because there's plenty of precedent for judges not allowing testimony on victims' views of the death penalty. Fagan is co-authoring an online book about the trial, and Medwed says "the fact that he is selling a book makes me discount what he says." (In the James Holmes case, the grandfather of a victim says the courts should go after the juror who spared Holmes' life.)



Feds Weigh Whether to Seek Death Penalty for Charleston Killer

The federal government's decision about whether authorities should seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 9 African-Americans in Charleston is still likely months away, South Carolina U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a recent interview with Free Times.

The federal case against alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Storm Roof got off to a surprising start last month when Roof’s lawyer, David Bruck, indicated to a federal judge in Charleston that Roof wished to plead guilty to the 33 federal hate crime charges levied against him. Prosecutors allege that Roof outlined his hate-filled worldview in a racist online manifesto and that he told others he hoped to incite a "race war" with his actions.

However, Bruck told the judge that he couldn’t advise his client on whether to enter that plea until he knows whether Roof could face a death sentence. A temporary "not guilty" plea was entered on Roof's behalf.

The 21-year-old also faces murder charges from state prosecutors. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson has not yet said whether her office plans to pursue the death penalty in the case.

Nettles says once his office decides on its recommendation, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would weigh it before coming to a final decision. The South Carolina prosecutor, an Obama appointee who has held the post since 2010, called the process and decision "extraordinarily complex," noting that generally "enormous deference is given to victims."

In this case, many family members have garnered worldwide admiration for their forgiveness of Roof.

"I have never witnessed such a pronounced expression of hope or grace," Nettles says. "A lot of the victims have already expressed forgiveness that is unfathomable."

Along with interviews with family members of victims, Nettles, a former public defender who has worked on capital cases from the other side of the courtroom, says the federal government's protocol puts in place "layers of review to balance competing interests."

A Department of Justice spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Bruck, Roof's attorney, also could not be reached.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to provide unbiased information and analysis of the death penalty, says federal prosecutors will weigh several factors in making a decision. (Bruck, Roof's lawyer, is on the board of the center.)

The wishes of victims' families, the cost of a capital trial and whether local prosecutors can seek the death penalty themselves are big factors, he says.

Roof's potential capital charges differ from the ones against Boston terrorist Dzokhar Tsarnaev, Dunham says. State authorities in Massachusetts cannot pursue the death penalty because capital punishment has been ruled unconstitutional there.

Dunham also says that Roof's indication that he would prefer to plead guilty would save both the federal government and the shooting victims' families a prolonged trial and hefty costs.

"He's expressed willingness to plead guilty, and if the death penalty were off the table that would give the family members of the homicide victims an opportunity to give their statements without cross-examination or interruption during sentencing proceeding," Dunham says. "They could say what they had to say without being subjected to re-traumatization through a trial."

The federal government also has tools the state does not - the ability to put a permanent muzzle on Roof. As they have done with Tsarnaev, "special administrative measures" could be imposed on Roof, meaning his contact with the outside world would be severely limited, Dunham says. In essence, Roof could be barred from publicly expressing racist views.

"The federal prosecution has the ability to essentially make Dylann Roof disappear from view," Dunham says. "His ability to become a symbol for white supremacists disappears."

A trial on Roof's state murder charges has been set for July 2016. No further hearings have yet been scheduled by federal prosecutors in the case.



UN denounces death penalty in Iraqi Kurdistan----Recent executions break 7-year 'informal moratorium' in autonomous Kurdish region

UN rights officials are denouncing the execution of a man and his 2 wives in Iraq's Kurdish region over the kidnapping and murder of 2 girls, saying they fear the self-ruled region may slide back toward use of the death penalty.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that Farhad Jaafar Mahmood and wives Khuncha Hassan Ismaeil and Berivan Haider Karim were hanged Aug. 12 following convictions in April last year. Local officials said, however, the hangings took place Saturday. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the OHCHR, said he could not immediately explain the discrepancy.

The UN opposes the death penalty. The human rights office said the 3 executions are the 1st under the Kurdish regional government since an "informal moratorium" was set up there in 2008. It said Iraq overall has executed more than 600 people since it reinstituted the death penalty in 2004 after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein. Soran Omar, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the 3 executed had been arrested for kidnapping the two girls on separate occasions in November 2011 and October 2012 in the town of Zakho. The wives allegedly helped the man kidnapping the 2 girls and brought them to the city of Irbil. There the man raped the girls and killed them.

Under suspected pressure from local tribes and political leaders, Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani signed the execution order despite previously refusing to do so. Omar said 205 people in the Kurdistan region are on a list to be executed, but Barzani has not given the final order in those cases.

(source: Associated Press)


A matter of penalty and death

It is desirable that the constitutional validity of death penalty be reviewed by a larger bench of the SC.

Controversy characterises the execution of death sentence in the Yakub Memon case considering the legal community was divided over the penalty. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that its earlier decisions in 13 cases to award the death sentence were a grave error of judgment.

The absence of legal procedure to determine whether the death sentence or life imprisonment is appropriate affords judicial decision makers discretionary power over people's lives. Therefore the lack of legal clarity gives scope for debate over death penalty.

In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted 15 convicts on death row into life imprisonment in the Shatrughan Chauhan case. It was held that the undue delay by the President to reject the mercy petition of a death row convict amounts to torture.

Further, it was lamented that such inordinate and unexplained delay by the President is sufficient in itself to entitle the convict to a commutation of death sentence. Here, the Apex Court had untenably stepped into the shoes of executive.

Similarly, in other cases, most death sentences have been pardoned either by the President or Governors/ Lt Governors of the states. Former president Pratibha Patil had granted a record 30 pardons in 28 months, of which 22 related to brutal crimes. In 13 cases, the Supreme Court has held the death sentence to criminals have been awarded wrongly.

Invariably, terrorists and brutal killers are awarded the death penalty in the country. Other th-an the 1860 Indian Penal Code, there are 25 offences across different statutes like the 1950 Army Act/ Air Force Act/ 1956 Navy Act, 1987 Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act; besides the 1985 Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Act which are punishable by death sentence.

The Apex Court states that if a murder is "diabolically conceived and cruelly executed", it would justify the imposition of the death penalty on the murderer. The tools and manner of their use, horrendous nature of the crime, helpless victim, steal the heart of law for a stern sentence.

If the murder was pre-meditated and involves extreme brutality or exceptional depravity, it merits death penalty. Therefore, punishment by death ought not to be given - except in the rarest of rare cases when an alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.

Invariably, terrorists and brutal killers have been awarded the death penalty in the country. While the SC has formulated guidelines to commute death sentence into life imprisonment, it may or may not be done on political compulsions.

When the President or the Governor commute death sentence on the advice of the Central or state government, there is no transparency underlying the decision to do so. Interestingly, the Supreme Court itself has the power to revoke death penalty which is based on criterion like age of the accused, the possibility of repentance, compulsion of circumstances and lack of adequate evidence.

From 2001 to 2011, only 4 death convicts out of 1, 400 were hanged to death. Those were Auto Shankar [1995], Dhananjoy Chatterjee [2004], Ajmal Kasab [2012] and Afzal Guru [2013]. Even the Rajiv Gandhi assassins who were on death row got their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Both Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi advocated the need to pardon their father's killers.

UN Resolution

The UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution in December, 2007 to prohibit death penalty to promote humanism which speaks volumes about this barbaric practice. Similarly, Justice P N Bhagwati has opined against the award of death penalty in 1980 in the Bachan Singh case.

After the Bachan Singh case, the constitutional validity of the death sentence itself was never reviewed by a larger bench of SC judges. It is desirable that the constitutional validity of death penalty must be reviewed by a larger bench of the SC.

However, the Indian Penal Code retains death penalty because gruesome capital offences must be treated seriously and only execution deters potential offenders. The 1967 Law Commission of India report and the Apex Court judgements acknowledged that death penalty serves as a deterrent.

However, sometimes, offenders are able wriggle out of capital punishment through legal presumptions of innocence owing to the benefit of doubt in their favour. To that extent, there is no certainty of capital punishment given the ambiguity in procedural law.

Today District & Sessions judges decide whether death penalty should be awarded or not which is thereafter reviewed by High Court and may be contested at the SC. To that extent, the superior courts only interp-ret the law, while the critical job to obtain evidence related to the case is undertaken at the district level where the highest standards of professionalism may not necessarily be prevalent.

Therefore, the need to establish special courts headed by experienced High Court and Supreme Court judges post-retirement to decide on capital offences.

(source: Mohan Bolla; The writer is Professor, School of Law, Christ University, Bengaluru----Deccan Herald)


Why we need to abolish the death penalty----More than 160 nations, Member States of the UN, have either abolished capital punishment or do not practise it. The death penalty has no place in the 21st century, especially in a civilised democracy. Why does India still insist on depriving its citizens of the fundamental right to life?

What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!" As Albert Camus says, capital punishment is perhaps the "most premeditated of murders." Victor Hugo, in his condemnation of capital punishment, has perhaps best illustrated this fundamental dichotomy, underlying the imposition of death penalty in a civilised democracy. Taking of life, even when backed by legal process, is too absolute, too irreversible, for 1 human being to inflict on another. Echoing Hugo’s sentiments, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon categorically stated that "the death penalty has no place in the 21st century."

The UN Special Rapporteurs on judicial executions and torture, Christof Heyns and Juan Mendez, asserted that there is "no proof" that the death penalty has a deterrent effect, and many executions have resulted in "degrading spectacles." Therefore, wisdom prevailed with the global community where more than 160 Members States of the UN, with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it. Why does India, an admittedly democratic republic, still insist in depriving its citizens of their fundamental right to life, as exemplified by the execution of Yakub Memon?

Yakub was convicted of "criminal conspiracy to carry out terrorist act" in the devastating Mumbai blasts, where thousands of families lost their loved ones.

The Indian judicial response to Mumbai blasts culminated in the Supreme Court's unprecedented early morning hearing on July 30. The Court in this hearing rejected Yakub's application seeking suspension of his execution and reaffirmed his death sentence. Yakub's execution compels India as people to revisit the issue whether death penalty is sustainable in a modern democracy. In 1980, the Supreme Court of India, in Bachan Singh vs. Union of India, observed that, "the normal rule is that the offence of murder shall be punished with the sentence of life imprisonment. The court can depart from that rule and impose the sentence of death only if there are special reasons for doing so. Such reasons must be recorded in writing before imposing the death sentence."

The Supreme Court further also acknowledged that this requirement of "special reasons" was very loose and would allow courts to impose the death penalty in an arbitrary and whimsical manner. The Court, however, declined to list crimes that may fall in this category.

Paradoxically, however, this doctrine has enabled judges to impose death sentences in an arbitrary manner, reinforcing the deeply flawed character of capital punishment in India today. Perturbed by the numerous flawed, judicially sanctioned, executions, 14 eminent retired judges wrote to the President in 2012, pointing out that the Supreme Court had erroneously given the death penalty to 15 people since 1996, of whom 2 were hanged. The judges called this "the gravest known miscarriage of justice in the history of crime and punishment in independent India."

Former President late Abdul Kalam, acknowledged that one of his most difficult tasks during his tenure, was deciding who deserved mercy or capital punishment. According to a study conducted during his tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan, all pending cases of capital punishment had a socio-economic bias; the death penalty was mostly given to the poor.

India's argument for death penalty is based on an assumption that its continuance prevents crimes of similar or serious nature, by instilling fear. There is no credible empirical evidence to show that death penalty acts as a deterrence, as noted in a UN resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. The lack of such deterrence is further demonstrated by the fact that the UN International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia (a region where more than 150,000 people died and about 4 million were displaced) and Rwanda (a country where about 1 million people died and 2 million were displaced), followed by the International Criminal Court, have not included death penalty as a mode of punishment. Even though these judicial institutions adjudicate on the most devastating and brutal crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, rape, and war crimes. India's legislative and judicial framework still resorts to this brutal punishment.

Insistence on retaining death penalty will cloud India's emerging clout in the global context - in which India harbours lofty global aspirations. It is way behind other countries in key current legal and moral trends on justice-related issues.

For example, the UN Moratorium on Death Penalty (last affirmed in 2012) notes that in a country like India, where trials are lengthy and decades may pass before actual execution of the verdict, those who await execution have died a thousand times already because of their anticipation of the final horror.

Similarly, in its 2012 Universal Periodic Review of India, the UN Human Rights Council recommended that India establish an official moratorium on executions and move towards abolishing the death penalty. The Council also recommended that India commute all death sentences into life imprisonment terms. However, India did not accept any recommendations regarding the death penalty, or abide by any international moratorium or resolution that requires it to eradicate death penalty from its legal order.

An outdated argument by India is that each nation has a "sovereign right" to determine its legal system, and to punish criminals according to its laws. This is grounded in a false assumption that such a right is absolute. By participating in a global legal system, ratifying treaties and submitting itself for global monitoring, India's "sovereign right" is fundamentally tempered. While this argument may sound politically impeccable in a national context for populist reasons; it displays blatant ignorance of a growing globaltrend towards the abolition of the death penalty. Unsurprisingly enough, in 2014, India, along with 37 other countries, voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for moratorium on death penalty. India aligned with Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the USA. and Zimbabwe. An overwhelming majority of 117 countries supported the moratorium. Despite facing internal volatility, Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia, Croatia, Israel, Myanmar, Rwanda, Serbia, Somalia, Tonga and Uganda joined the European Union in supporting the moratorium on death penalty. Some of these countries, that have undergone incessant war, genocide, mass rapes, sexual violence, and other forms of brutal crimes, at a much larger scale than India, have rejected the use death penalty. This display of solidarity for humanity, irrespective of geopolitical considerations, sends a powerful moral message to countries like India, which are still clinging to capital punishment. It is time to turn away from vengeance disguised as deterring punishment.

India's stance should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the accused, but by the resilience of the human spirit, and diversity of civilisations of this land, where compassion for all is the foundation of the edifice of progress. A Private Member's Bill for the abolition of death penalty by MP Kanimozhi is on the anvil. Under its objectives, capital punishment has been termed as "irreversible in a justice system susceptible to human failure", "unjust" and "inhuman". At the essence of all deliberations on death penalty, lies a fundamental question, as asked by Helen Prejean: "The important question is not, 'Do they deserve to die?' but 'Do we deserve to kill them?'"

(source: Commentary; Gurdhyan Singh, former UN investigator in Yugoslavia & Rwanda, is Founder Executive Director of Global Justice Academy. Aratrika Choudhuri, is a IInd-year law student at West Bengal National University of Juridicial Sciences & Director Projects, Global Justice Academy. Views are

AUGUST 25, 2015:

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Stay in Execution Granted to Texas Inmate on Death Row

Human Rights First today praised the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for granting a stay of execution in the case of Bernardo Aban Tercero to allow for additional investigation of legal claims. Tercero was scheduled to be executed tomorrow by the state of Texas.

"The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals did the right thing by staying Mr. Tercero's execution." said Human Rights First's Melissa Hooper. "Many questions remain in this case, and now the court will allow at least some of them to finally be investigated. We are hopeful that this stay is the 1st step in providing Mr. Tercero with some measure of due process that until now he has not received."

This comes following last week's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) preliminary report finding that the United States violated Bernardo Aban Tercero's rights to due process and a fair trial that are enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The IACHR report recognized repeated failures on the part of Tercero's court-appointed counsel at every stage of his proceedings, including pre-trial, trial, appeal, and post-conviction review. The IACHR also stated that Texas failed to ensure adequate representation, violating Tercero's rights to due process and to a fair trial.

(source: Human Rights First)


Appeals court stays execution of Houston killer after witness says she lied

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday stayed the execution of convicted Houston killer Bernardo Tercero after a prosecution witness in his 2000 trial said he had testified falsely.

Tercero, 39, was convicted in the March 1997 murder of Reagan High School English teacher Robert Berger during a robbery of a southwest Houston dry cleaning shop.

In an affidavit submitted to the court by Tercero's Austin attorney Walter Long, witness Sylvia Cotera said that she falsely testified that Tercero told her that he had shot his victim because the man had no money. "He never talked to me about the amount of money he robbed nor that he was angry because the man did not have very much money," she said in the statement. "What I said about these things in my testimony wasn't the truth."

Cotera, who has an 8th-grade education and speaks no English, also recanted her testimony that Tercero had shot Berger because the teacher's 3-year-old daughter, present at the time of the crime, had seen him.

In her trial testimony, Cotera told jurors she had not gone to the police because Tercero threatened to burn her apartment while it was occupied by her 3 young children. In reality, she said in her affidavit, Tercero threatened to burn her apartment because she could not send him money, a comment she took as a joke.

In a 2000 statement to a trial investigator, Cotera said she testified as she did because she feared the law. In the recent petition filed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Long said he had no evidence that prosecutors were aware Cotera's trial testimony was false.

The appeals court issued its Tuesday stay so that the case's trial court could consider the merits of the new appeal.



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----10

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----528

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

11---------September 29-------------Perry Williams--------529

12---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------530

13---------October 14---------------Licho Escamilla-------531

14---------October 28---------------Christopher Wilkins---532

15---------November 3---------------Julius Murphy---------533

16---------November 18--------------Raphael Holiday-------534

17---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------535

18---------January 27---------------James Freeman---------536

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Life, not death: Prosecutor says he won't seek death penalty in at least 1 defendant's case

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric says he's seeking a sentence of life in prison - and not the death penalty - for a woman charged with participating in a plot to murder her boyfriend in 2014.

On Friday, Skoric filed a 1-sentence notice in Sandra Garcia's case stating "that the state does not intend to seek the death penalty for this particular defendant."

Garcia, 27, is 1 of 3 people charged in connection with the murder and subsequent decapitation and mutilation of Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres in January 2014.

Sandra Garcia is alleged to have asked her brother, 29-year-old Pedro Garcia Jr., to find someone to kill Guerra-Torres, her longtime boyfriend. Pedro Garcia Jr. allegedly recruited/hired John L. Marquez, 51, to commit the murder.

On Monday, Skoric declined to elaborate on his decision in Sandra Garcia's case and declined to say whether he's made a decision about what punishment he'll pursue for her 2 co-defendants.

The Garcia siblings are each charged with felony counts of aiding and abetting 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder.

Marquez is charged with 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder. He's alleged to have fatally shot and then dismembered Guerra-Torres.

The allegations and charges are largely based on an account of the crime that Pedro Garcia gave to law enforcement this past March; attorneys for Sandra Garcia and John Marquez have questioned Pedro Garcia's credibility.

All 3 defendants have pleaded not guilty and are presumed to be innocent.

At the request of Sandra Garcia's defense team, District Court Judge Steven Cranfill had effectively given Skoric a Friday deadline to decide whether he was going to pursue the death penalty in that case.

The defense attorneys representing Pedro Garcia and Marquez haven't made that request, so Skoric has no current deadline in those cases.

The death penalty is extremely rare in Wyoming; the state has executed 1 person since 1965.

(source: Powell Tribune)


Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty in Roadside Shooting

Federal prosecutors may seek the death penalty for an 18-year-old man charged in the deaths of a husband and wife who authorities say stopped to offer him help on the side of the road on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation.

A new grand jury indictment filed Friday includes death as a possible punishment if Jesus Deniz Mendoza of Worland, Wyoming, is convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and carjacking that resulted in death.

The original indictment filed Aug. 6 sought life in prison for the shooting deaths of 51-year-old Jason Shane 47-year-old Tana Shane in the town of Pryor. Their daughter, Jorah Shane, was wounded in the July 26 shooting.

Investigators say the family stopped to help a man who claimed to be having car trouble. They say Deniz demanded money and opened fire after they said they had none.

(source: Associated Press)

IRAN----impending execution

A Kurdish Political Prisoner Scheduled to Be Executed in Uremia Prison

Behruz Alkhani, death row political prisoner has been transferred to the solitary confinements of Uremia Prison in order to be executed.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Behruz Alkhani has been transferred to the solitary confinement this morning and his family has been called for the last visit.

Behruz Alkhani, son of Fares, born in 1985 in Salmas, was arrested along with 15 others on January 27, 2010. He was first charged with cooperation with PJAK but after some months faced a new charge, namely "involvement in murdering Khoy city's prosecutor". He was sentenced to death by branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Uremia with chief judge Chabok.

His case was then sent to the Supreme Court where the death sentence was canceled and his case was sent to branch 10 of the Appeal Court of East Azerbaijan Province. The appeal court upheld the death sentence.

Behruz Alkhani appealed once more and the case was again sent to the Supreme Court. It was said that the Supreme Court has made yet no decision.

He was also sentenced to 10 years in prison on charge of holding gun. However close sources to him state that at the time of arrest there were no guns found on him.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Thailand tourist murders: Accused men's bid to access Met report rejected

The men accused of the murder of 2 British tourists on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand have failed in a High Court bid in London to gain access to a confidential report prepared by the Metropolitan Police.

The report was prepared to reassure the victims' families about the investigation conducted by the Thai authorities into the deaths.

Burmese migrants Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 22, deny killing David Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in a trial that began last month and is still continuing.

The bodies were found at a beach on the popular tourist island in September last year.

Lawyers for the accused men, who could face the death sentence if found guilty, asked Mr Justice Green to order disclosure of the police report in the hope that it might help their defence.

Rejecting the application, the judge said: "There is nothing in the report which is exculpatory or would be of material assistance to the claimants in the operation of their defence in the course of the trial."

The judge said the matter had been dealt with as a matter of urgency as the prosecution had almost completed presenting its case and the accused would open their defence shortly.

He said: "The stakes are very high for both sides. For the claimants they could hardly be higher: life or death."

The application for disclosure had been brought under the 1998 Data Protection Act.

The judge said the case raised an important legal point about the extent to which police authorities, when co-operating with foreign police authorities, "must make the fruits of their labour available" to individuals whose personal data appears in police reports.

The Metropolitan Police argued they were entitled to refuse access because of the need for confidentiality during international co-operation between police forces, and a court order for disclosure would have "a very serious adverse effect" on future co-operative ventures.

Lawyers for the accused men said such an argument could not prevail in death penalty cases.

The judge said: "My ultimate conclusion is that there is nothing in the personal data which would be of any real value to the claimants."

The objections to disclosure raised by the police "are valid and, on the facts of the case, suffice to outweigh the claimants' otherwise strong interest in access".

The judge said he had made his decision feeling "very considerable unease" as he did not have a true "hands on" feel for the trial in Thailand. He said that doing "the best I could" had not been "a comfortable process".

He added: "I have not been assisted by the lack of evidence about the Thai proceedings or as to the evidence that has in fact been tendered by the prosecution or as to the main lines of defence". Rosa Curling, of Leigh Day Solicitors, who acted for both accused men, said there would be no appeal.

Ms Curling said: "Our clients are disappointed not to be able to verify their data themselves.

"But they are reassured that at least a British judge has now looked at the information held by the Metropolitan Police, applying anxious scrutiny, and determined that it would not assist them in their ongoing proceedings in Thailand."

The legal charity Reprieve also expressed disappointment, and spokeswoman Z oe Bedford said: " Concerns about the conduct of the Thai investigation and the safety of any convictions resulting have been raised from the very beginning of this case, including by the Foreign Office.

"The defence team has not seen the information in the Metropolitan Police's possession - only the defence lawyers in Thailand are in a position to judge whether the information could be of assistance. It is disappointing that they have been denied this opportunity."

(source: Express & Star)


Dec 16 gangrape convict shifted to another jail----Convict Vinay Sharma had alleged that he was assaulted regularly by the prison inmates

Tihar Jail authoriries today told a Delhi court that 1 of the 4 death row convicts in the December 16 gangrape and murder case, who had claimed he was being regularly assaulted by the inmates, has been shifted to another prison where CCTV cameras are installed for surveillance.

The superintendent of Tihar Central jail number 5 informed the court in a single-page report on the plea by convict Vinay Sharma seeking transfer from the jail where he was lodged.

Sharma, who is also facing trial along with 3 others in a separate robbery case, had sought transfer to ward number 2 of jail number 5 apprehending threat and had alleged that he was assaulted regularly by the prison inmates.

"The same matter has already been decided by competent authority and Vinay Sharma has been shifted from Central Jail number five to Central Jail number 3 on August 21 and Akshay is presently lodged in Central Jail number 2 with the direction to (conduct) proper surveillance and to keep in separate cell where CCTV cameras are installed," the report filed before Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh said.

"It is pertinent to mention here that convicts Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh alongwith other co-accused were previously transferred from Central Jail number 5 to Central Jail number 2 on May 13, 2015 by the direction issued from the PHQ for their safety and security due to lack of separate cells in Central Jail number 5," it said.

The court is hearing final arguments in the robbery case in which the 4 convicts of December 16 gangrape and murder case -- Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh - are facing trial.

They were awarded death penalty by trial court in the gangrape and murder case which was later confirmed by Delhi High Court. Their appeals are pending before the Supreme Court.

(source: Press Trust of India)

TEXAS----impending execution

Nicaragua pleads with US to call off execution

Nicaraguan officials and activists called on the United States Monday to cancel the execution in Texas later this week of Bernardo Tercero, the only Nicaraguan national on death row in the US.

Tercero is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday for killing high school English teacher Robert Berger while robbing a Houston dry cleaning business in 1997.

The impending execution has sparked protests in Nicaragua, which abolished capital punishment in 1979, when the leftist Sandinista rebels came to power.

For us here in Nicaragua, where we don't have the death penalty and embrace a spirit of humanitarianism and solidarity, it seems pathetic to be on the verge of a Nicaraguan citizen's execution," said the country's ambassador to the Organization of American States, Denis Moncada.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been pleading for clemency for Tercero with US officials "at the highest level," including President Barack Obama, Moncada told Channel Two news.

Activists have called a demonstration later in the day to demand Tercero be spared.

Nicaraguan national Bianca Jagger, a campaigner for the abolition of the death penalty, is one of those leading the protest movement.

"His execution would constitute an egregious miscarriage of justice," she wrote in an online petition signed by more than 500 people.

Jagger, the ex-wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, said Tercero had "abysmal" legal representation and that his case was fraught with errors.

Church leaders in the majority Catholic country also joined the appeal.

"I call with all my heart on the US authorities to accept the petitions to save Bernardo Tercero's life," said Cardinal Miguel Obando.

(source: Global Post)


Death Penalty Abolition Ruling Leaves Racial Disparity Argument Unresolved

For years, death penalty opponents have claimed that prosecutors are far more likely to argue for capital punishment for people of color than for white defendants.M

Several years ago, a group of death row inmates challenged their sentences, arguing that decisions on who should be charged with capital felony and made eligible for a potential death sentence in Connecticut were made with racial bias. More than 1/2 the men who were on death row are African-American, though blacks comprise about 10 % of the state's population.

While that racial disparity argument was shot down by a trial judge in 2013, the case, In re Death Penalty Disparity Claims, has remained on appeal before the state Supreme Court. That appeal became moot this month when a divided court ruled it was unconstitutional to execute those who were on death row when the General Assembly in 2012 repealed the death penalty for future murder cases. Those who were on death row will now serve life sentences.

However, the racial disparity issue was not a moot point for retired Justice Flemming Norcott Jr., who was part of the panel that repealed the death penalty, and Justice Andrew McDonald. They took the opportunity to pen a 23-page decision on the topic despite it having little to do with the merits of Eduardo Santiago's criminal case, which gave rise to the justice's majority opinion.

"We write separately to express our profound concerns regarding an issue of substantial public importance that will never be resolved by this court in light of the majority's determination that the imposition of the death penalty is an unconstitutionally excessive and disproportionate punishment," wrote Norcott and McDonald. "Specifically, we cannot end our state's nearly 400-year struggle with the macabre muck of capital punishment litigation without speaking to the persistent allegations of racial and ethnic discrimination that have permeated the breadth of this state's experience with capital charging and sentencing decisions."

The decision proceeded to discuss the history of racial disparity in death sentences in Connecticut and elsewhere for decades, even centuries.

The justices noted that of the 160 executions in the state's history, more than 1/2 the defendants were black. They said since 1693, only black men have been executed for rape in Connecticut, and each for the rape of a white woman. In contrast, they wrote, in almost 400 years, no white person has ever been executed in Connecticut for the murder of a black person.

"It may be that every black man ever executed for raping a white woman and every Native American ever executed for murdering a white man in Connecticut was guilty as charged, and received his due process and his proper punishment under the laws then in effect," the justices wrote. "But white men in Connecticut have also killed Native Americans over the past 400 years, and raped black women. None has ever hanged for it.

"To the extent that a criminal justice system operates such that only racial minorities are subject to execution for their participation in interracial crimes, the fact that those executed are guilty as charged is of little succor," the justices continued. "To the extent that such biases, however subconscious, invariably continue to influence who is charged with and sentenced to the ultimate punishment, the death penalty likely would be hard put to survive constitutional scrutiny."

In Chief Justice Chase Rogers' dissent, she argued that Norcott and McDonald's opinion "is based on unfounded assumptions and cherry-picked opinions."

"I believe that it undermines the institutional integrity of this court for Justices Norcott and McDonald to express their views on such an important issue when the court as a whole, which might well have agreed with those concurring justices' analysis if the court had been able to address the issue in the case in which it was actually litigated, is now barred from considering it," wrote Rogers.

In their opinion, Norcott and McDonald addressed the chief justice and said she has authored concurring opinions in the past that discussed issues not before the court. "As we have explained, one of our goals in authoring this concurring opinion has been to highlight the racial disparity issue for consideration by other courts and legislative bodies," the two justices wrote. "That has long been considered a legitimate function of a concurring opinion."

Several legal experts were impressed with the concurrence.

"There's no doubt that concurrence and the actual majority opinion will be used by courts and death penalty abolitionists across the country as a road map to abolish the death penalty," said David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. McGuire helped pen an amicus brief in Santiago supporting the death penalty repeal.

Todd Fernow, director of the University of Connecticut School of Law's criminal law clinic, applauded the concurrence, opining that it was clear McDonald and Norcott did not want the racial disparity issue to simply be "mooted out" by the majority's decision to repeal the death penalty.

"Obviously, this is something that was a passionately held conclusion reached by these two justices after a lot of reading and a lot of study," said Fernow. "As a last thing he's going to write for the court, Justice Norcott really felt he had to write it and I commend him for it."

With that said, Fernow is uncertain whether there will be any practical use for the concurring opinion in future cases. He could foresee it spearheading a legislative committee tasked with looking at racial disparity in the criminal justice system. He does not expect the racial disparity arguments regarding the death penalty to be shifted to run-of-the-mill murder convictions.

"It's very hard to make that translation," said Fernow. "It's probably going to be easier in the bail context where the disparate impact is measurable in so many different ways."

For example, is a black defendant getting bail set at $1 million while a white defendant's bail is $100,000? Are white defendants more easily affording bail than minority defendants, and how does that correlate with suburban and urban environments as their background? "That may benefit ultimately from this sort of analysis," said Fernow.

Otherwise, Fernow does not see too many scenarios in court where the same kind of racial disparity argument will continue to apply. He said he could see a lawyer saying something along the lines of, "Your honor, the state wouldn't be pushing for life in prison if we were talking about a poor black victim."

"You've got to be very careful how strategically you go about this stuff," Fernow said.

Fernow said the circumstances are different for approaching such an argument in a death penalty phase hearing, as preventing the death penalty is the defense lawyer's sole goal. If there's a basis for bringing up racial animus then, "You do it. You've got nothing to lose," Fernow said. That same approach, he said, may not go over in a regular murder case.

(source: Christian Nolan, Connecticut Law Tribune)


Race and the court's biggest decision

Craig Hicks and Dylann Roof are both charged with multiple counts of murder in the shooting deaths of several people. Both could face capital punishment. Both received national attention.

But another factor might play a major role in their trials: They're both white men accused of killing people of color.

Roof, 21, is charged with 9 counts of murder in the deaths of nine black members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Bible study on June 17 in Charleston, S.C. Hicks, 46, is charged with 3 counts of murder in the deaths of Muslim-American university students Deah Barakat, Razan Abu-Salha and Yusor Abu-Salha on Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill.

Racial bias in capital punishment

According to fresh data from a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, criminal defendants are significantly less likely to receive a death sentence for killing people of color than for killing white people.

The data shows that since 1976, more than 75 % of U.S. homicide cases where the killer was executed involved white victims, though only 50 % of all homicide victims are white.

"In North Carolina, the odds of receiving a death sentence rose by 3.5 times for defendants whose victims were white," the report states.Nationwide, a minority - 43 % - of death row inmates are white, though whites make up the vast majority - about 78 % - of the U.S. population.

Frank Baumgartner, a UNC political science professor who specializes in capital punishment in the U.S., said if the victim in a capital case is white, it's dramatically more likely to lead to execution.

He said that on the rare occasion white killers are given the death penalty for killing people of color, it's often in cases of blatant racism or extremism.

"When you look at those particular cases, they're Ku Klux Klan, they're Aryan Nations, they're a white supremacist prison gang that kills another prisoner," he said.

Death penalty support wavering

Kristin Collins, a spokeswoman for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, said that while racism in capital punishment is a well-documented phenomenon, the popularity of the death penalty in general is on the decline in the U.S.

"It's always a response that we hear to a big, high-profile crime - that we need the death penalty," she said. "I actually feel like public opinion is trending away from the death penalty. A whole bunch of states have repealed it just in the past 10 years, and many other states are no longer using it, including North Carolina."

No execution has taken place in North Carolina since 2006.

Collins said a capital conviction can hurt the families of victims by drawing out the legal process for decades, since defendants can appeal the sentence several times.

"We've seen some families really suffer a lot waiting decades for this execution that they think is going to make them feel better, but it never comes," she said.Baumgartner said only about 30 % of capital convictions in North Carolina result in execution.

"If they go for the death penalty rather than agree on a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Mr. Hicks will get enhanced legal protections; he'll have more attorneys, he'll have guaranteed appeals," he said. "The average person on death row has already been there 15 years."

Yousef Abu-Salha, a cousin of Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, said the victims' family is focusing on returning to their normal lives in the wake of the tragedy rather than fixating on Hicks' upcoming trial.

"It's going to be a long and painful process, but we have faith in our justice system. Our faith and our people mean more to us than the fate of a murderer," he said. "The hurt hasn't gone away, but we will continue to live as proud Muslim-Americans."

The 'lone wolf' narrative

Since the tragedies in Chapel Hill and in Charleston, various media outlets have tried to explain the crimes by examining the mental health and personal history of Hicks and Roof.

Both acts were immediately viewed as hate crimes, but in Hicks' case, police and state prosecutors have said the motivation behind the Chapel Hill shooting was a long-standing parking dispute - a statement contested by the victims' families, UNC's Muslim Students' Association and several other 3rd parties.

The hesitation to label violent crimes by white perpetrators as acts of terror is a way the media criminalizes people of color while giving white people the benefit of the doubt, said Lisa Wade, an expert in race and gender in the media.

Wade said that it's common for white killers to be treated like "lone wolves" who do not represent their race or gender, and that people of color don't receive the same treatment.

"There's a very strong association in American culture between black people and criminal activity. If there's an assumption that members of a less dominant racial group are 'up to no good' anyway, we see violent crime as one of the normal things that happen to people who are 'up to no good,'" she said. "Because we elevate whiteness and we define a white person as the upstanding citizen, when a white person commits a violent crime, our global view is challenged."

Wade said because whiteness and maleness are dominant traits in American society, they become invisible in the context of crime.

"We're looking at this epidemic of white men doing these crimes, and yet whiteness and maleness and their intersection is not part of the media's discussion. Nobody is asking, 'What's wrong with the white guy?' even though it's a very clear pattern."

(source: Daily Tarheel)


Mom: Death of toddler was accidental ---- Dad charged with forcefully shaking 2-year-old son

The mother of a toddler killed over the weekend called her son's death an accident.

Gena Redden said she and Jose Luis Rosales Sr. only just obtained full custody of their 2-year-old again earlier this month. Redden spoke Monday about what she believed happened to their 2-year-old, son Jose Luis Rosales Jr.

"I was at the grocery store and Jose Sr. said the baby must've fallen out of the bed," Redden said. "I believe Jose."

Deputies with the Houston County Sheriff's Office obtained a warrant Monday charging the 25-year-old Rosales Sr. with felony 1st-degree domestic violence assault in connection with his toddler's death.

Court records show a warrant obtained by sheriff's investigators charged Rosales with shaking his son by force.

Jose Rosales, Jr. was pronounced dead in the emergency room at Flowers Hospital at 4:54 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said Saturday rescue units were called to a home on Fortner Street at 4:18 p.m. Following the death, the Houston County Sheriff's Officelaunched an investigation.

Sheriff Donald Valenza said he expected to release some information on the investigation after the completion of the toddler's autopsy.

District Attorney Doug Valeska, who attended Rosales' 1st appearance in court Monday, declined to talk about the specifics of what investigators believe happened to the child. But he said it could "potentially" be a capital murder case. He said the age of the victim makes the case "potentially" death eligible.

"I can't say it's a death penalty case until we have the cause of death from the pathologist," Valeska said.

The toddler was taken to state Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery to determine an official cause of death through an autopsy.

Rosales is being held without bail at the Houston County Jail. A preliminary hering is set for Sept. 4. District Judge Benjamin Lewis appointed attorney John Steensland III to represent Rosales in court.

Court records show Rosales appeared to have no criminal records except for a pending misdemeanor fishing without a license charge.

Redden recalled how Rosales Sr. called her from a neighbor's phone after finding their son. He had been outside with their 2 older daughters after putting Rosales Jr. down for a nap. "He said he had laid him down because he said he said was tired," Redden said.

Redden said there was a history of Rosales Jr. jumping on the bed and falling. She said they had already notified officials with the Houston County Department of Human Resources of those occasions. She said the 2-year-old fell out of what she referred as a 3-in-1 bed, which was set up as a baby crib. She said their son went by the affectionate nickname of "Bubba."

"Bubba didn't deserve to go yet," Redden said. "Jose was an excellent father, and if he said it was an accident I believe him."

Redden said she and Rosales Sr. had lost custody of their son, who had been in foster care for around a year until February of this year. She said they were granted full custody again earlier this month.

"We had been investigated for anything and everything a parent can be investigated for, and we just got cleared," Redden said. "It was great to have him home, but I didn't get much time with him. I wish could've spent more time with him."

(source: Dothan Eagle)


Death row inmate: Alabama ignores my innocence

The latest Alabama inmate seeking freedom from death row maintains the state is wrongly ignoring his claims of innocence while his health fails behind bars, one of his attorneys said Monday.

Legal arguments filed by Donnis Musgrove contend the state is arguing about technicalities rather addressing legitimate concerns about the man's 1988 conviction and death sentence.

Musgrove's appeal is currently in federal court, and the defense is asking the judge to rule quickly because the prisoner has lung cancer and was hospitalized last week in grave condition, said Cissy Jackson, one of his lawyers.

"We would love to get him out of prison ... so he could have some peace after being wrongfully imprisoned for so many years," said Jackson.

Out of the hospital and sent back to Donaldson prison near Birmingham, Musgrove will be treated in the prison infirmary for an indefinite period, Jackson said.

The attorney general's office declined to comment on Musgrove's legal arguments.

The state has argued that rules prohibit Musgrove from making new claims about being innocent and bar him from questioning evidence used in his trial, but prosecutors haven't directly addressed his arguments about being wrongfully convicted based on bogus evidence conjured by prosecutors and police.

Musgrove, 67, was sentenced to die for the gunshot killing of Coy Eugene Barron in 1986, but his attorneys maintain the prosecution falsified every piece of evidence against him, including witness statements and a shell casing that was used to link him to the slaying.

The defense earlier this year asked a federal judge in Birmingham to overturn Musgrove's conviction, and his lawyers filed a brief late Friday accusing the state of failing to address questions about innocence.

Prosecutors had no immediate response, and they won't necessarily have to file additional documents before U.S. District Judge David Proctor rules on Musgrove's bid for freedom.

Musgrove is trying to become the third inmate freed from Alabama's death row since April. Lawyers asked Proctor to rule quickly because of Musgrove's ill health.

Two other men have been released from Alabama's death row since April after winning appeals. One of them, Anthony Ray Hinton, was tried by the same Jefferson County prosecutor and judge who handled Musgrove's case, and the same ballistics expert was involved in each case.

Musgrove contends the evidence of wrongdoing in his case is more extensive than in the case against Hinton.

(source: Associated Press)


Cross: Confident white jurors will find him innocent

A white supremacist accused of killing 3 people at Jewish sites in Johnson County made it only a few words into the 1st sentence of his opening statement before an assistant prosecutor objected and jurors were removed from the courtroom.

Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit attorney Ron Evans says in a motion for a continuance filed Tuesday that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe recently told him of his decision to seek the death penalty against 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.

Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. is representing himself in the capital murder trial stemming from the April 2014 killings in Johnson County.

The 74-year-old Aurora, MO, man, who also goes by the name Glenn Miller, attempted Monday to lay out a defense contending that Jewish people are committing genocide against the white race. All 3 victims were Christian.

Cross said, "If you believe our people have a right to survive on earth," that he is confident the white jurors' conscious "will find me innocent."

The judge told him that he cannot argue about "Jews taking over the world" during the guilty or innocent phase, only during the penalty phase.

Cross has repeatedly admitted to killing William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center on April 13, 2014.

Assistant District Attorney Chris McMullin began his opening statement with what he said was a quote from Cross as he was sitting in a police car in a parking lot where he was found shortly after the shootings.

"My name's Glenn Miller, I am an anti-Semite, I hate (expletive) Jews. How many did I get?" McMullin quoted.

McMullin graphically described the wounds Corporon and Reat suffered as they were hit in the head with shotgun blasts at point-blank range. He spoke of LaManno, who was visiting her dying mother, being frozen in fear as Cross pulled a shotgun from the trunk of his car after a different gun failed to fire.

Thomas Bates is a combat medic in the Army and worked part time at Jewish Community Center. When he heard the shots he ran to his truck to get his gun and trauma bag.

"I grabbed my trauma bag, said a prayer and ran towards the gunshots," said Bates as he rushed to try to save Reat.

"Isn't it obvious when someone is shot in the head at close range with a shotgun that the shooter intended for the victim to die quickly without suffering?" Cross asked.

Bates didn't agree.

"My opinion anytime an individual uses a firearm, other than self-defense, the intention is to make that person suffer," Bates said.

Prosecutors said Cross plotted the attacks for weeks and was armed with 4 guns to carry out his plan. They say Cross admitted his crimes to a friend and a jailhouse recording.

"I did it. I'm proud of it. I planned it. I plotted it. I schemed it," McMullin quoted.

McMullin objected before Cross could complete his 1st sentence for opening statements.

Cross had told Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan earlier that he twice offered to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder if prosecutors would take the death penalty off the table, but they refused. He started to tell jurors of those failed offers before McMullin spoke up.

"If he wants to confess, that's fine, but we can't talk about things not in evidence," the prosecutor said after jurors left the room. "If the state said that, there would be an immediate mistrial. We don't want a mistrial."

With the jury excused, Ryan warned Cross to only talk about what will be presented in trial. Not his motive.

Cross has said he is suffering from chronic emphysema and wanted to kill Jewish people before he died. He also has said he didn't know all 3 of the victims were Christians, or that the teenage victim was so young.

He argued that if he couldn't convince jurors he had a valid reason for his actions, there was no way he would be acquitted. Ryan responded that the present phase of the trial was not the place to present evidence of his intentions, but was to determine whether he committed capital murder.

Ryan also told Cross he couldn't present to jurors his belief that the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve are controlled by Jews or argue that Jewish people are committing genocide against the white race.

"What you're telling me is I'm not going to have a chance at all of being found not guilty," Cross said. "What in the world would make me do such a terrible thing? I will prove genocide is being committed against white people."

Cross told the judge he wants to the chance to explain to jurors his intentions on that day in April.

"I want to explain why I did what I did, what was in my mind, what was my intention. And there is a lot of stuff in my mind. Are you going to let me explain what was in my mind? What in the world would make me do something this horrible?" Cross said.

Cross is a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party. He ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.

Cross, who has no formal legal training or significant courtroom experience, fired his 3 defense attorneys in May. They are on stand by in case he has questions.

If convicted, Cross could be sentenced to death. He has said he was willing to plead guilty if the death penalty were to be taken off the table.

Cross told one witness that he was a brave man for chasing after him. Cross fired after Mark Temme but missed.

8 witnesses testified Monday. Court is in recess and will pick back up at 9 a.m. Tuesday.


OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Prejean, Sarandon, Knight and exoneree Nate Fields to appear on Dr. Phil on behalf of Richard Glossip

Anti death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, award winning actress Susan Sarandon, legal team member Don Knight and Illinois exoneree Nathan "Nate" Fields will appear on The Dr. Phil Show to advocate for the life of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Recently receiving a whirlwind of press from Sr. Helen's work and Ms. Sarandon, the Glossip supporters will attempt to lay out the details of his case that they believe will show that Glossip is an innocent man, although he is scheduled to be executed in McAlester on September 16

According to Glossip's close friend Kim Van Atta, the airdate is September 8th, but he says "I understand the show was so powerful that Dr. Phil would like to air it sooner if he can, and wants to contact his Governor."

Nathson "Nate" Fields, also a guest, will tell how he was acquitted on April 8, 2009, of double homicide for which he spent almost 20 years in prison, including more than 11 years on death row.

To date, there have been 155 exonerations in 26 different States. Oklahoma has had 10.

Knight said, "Dr Phil gave the telephone number to the Governor's office to his TV audience and told them to call. He's really against the injustice of executing an innocent man."

In Oklahoma City, The Dr. Phil Show can be seen on KWTV, News9 at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about Nathson Fields, visit the Witness for Innocence website. For more information about Richard Glossip, go to

(source: The City Sentinel)


3 judges appointed by Democrats will hear California death penalty appeal

The constitutionality of California's death penalty system will be reviewed next week by a panel of three Democratic appointees on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judges Susan P. Graber and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Clinton appointees, and Paul J. Watford, an Obama appointee, were randomly assigned Monday to hear an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the state's death penalty law as unconstitutional.

Graber is a former Oregon Supreme Court justice. After joining the federal appeals court, she was once asked to recuse herself from a death penalty case out of Arizona because her father was killed in a carjacking nearly 40 years earlier.

One of the teenagers sentenced to death for her father's killing later had his sentence overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Graber declined the recusal request in the Arizona case, which also involved a carjacking and killing.

Rawlinson is viewed as one of the most conservative Democratic appointees on the court. A former prosecutor from Las Vegas, Rawlinson was the only member of an 11-judge panel to vote to uphold a felony conviction of Barry Bonds, the former San Francisco Giants baseball player.

Watford, a former federal prosecutor, is viewed as a potential candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court if a seat opens up while President Obama is in office. He is generally described as a moderate.

The 3 are scheduled to hear arguments in Pasadena on Aug. 31 on last year's death penalty ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, appointed by former President George W. Bush.

Carney, based in Orange County, decided California's system of capital punishment was so plagued by delays and uncertainty that it violated the constitution's ban on cruel or unusual punishment.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit. The court has allotted each side 20 minutes for arguments.

UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky described the judges as moderates.

"No one can look at this panel and say it is a slam dunk based on who the judges are," Chemerinsky said. "It is not the most conservative panel, and it is not the most liberal. It's in the middle."

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Death sentence in 1993 murder upheld

The state Supreme Court upheld the death penalty sentence of a Moreno Valley resident on Monday, Aug. 24, who instructed gang members to shoot anyone who resisted their carjacking attempts, an instruction that led to the death of a woman motorist in 1993.

Jack Emmit Williams, who was 32 at the time of his 1998 conviction, was not the shooter but deemed criminally responsible for the death of carjack victim Yvonne Los, an Air Force nurse and mother of 2. The shooter in the case, Alonso Dearaujo, was sentenced to life in prison after a jury deadlocked 10-2 for death.

Williams talked to others, mostly teens, about forming a gang to commit crimes, including robbery, carjackings and kidnappings, and using the money to buy a house, invest in stocks and start bank accounts for the participants, according to court records. He told the others what to do.

In the appeal, the defendant alleged numerous errors in his trial cumulatively prejudiced him and warranted a reversal. The justices found no error or prejudice and upheld the death sentence.

(source: Press-Enterprise)


Defendants officially enter not-guilty pleas----Jury selection scheduled to begin Sept. 12, 2016

Attorneys for the defendants in the 2014 Bank of the West robbery, shooting and hostage siege formally entered pleas of not guilty Monday afternoon, after which Judge Bernard Garber set a start date for the trial of Sept. 12, 2016.

"I've been asking them to enter pleas for several months," Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said after the 30-minute court session. "I'm glad they entered pleas."

The attorneys for 20-year-old Jaime Ramos and Pablo Ruvalcaba, 22, left San Joaquin County Superior Court without commenting.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Ramos, who is suspected in the events that ended in the death of hostage Misty Holt-Singh. Ruvalcaba faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted of dropping off the gunmen for the robbery. 2 robbers were also killed in the shootout that ended Holt-Singh's life in the July 16, 2014, tragedy.

Himelblau argued to no avail Monday that the trial should start as soon as January. Garber ruled against Himelblau, saying the massive amount of pretrial discovery for the defense attorneys makes a speedier trial date unrealistic.

"The bulk of the material has been turned over," Himelblau said. "The defense has had this case for more than a year with a vast amount of information. I haven't heard good cause from the defense. 'Gee, it's a lot of stuff' isn't really good cause."

Ramos' attorney, Jonathan Fattarsi, said it is rare for a case in which a defendant faces the death penalty to begin much sooner than within 2 years of the crime.

"I challenge Mr. Himelblau to name a death-penalty case under 2 years," Fattarsi said. "I need more time."

Garber sided unhesitatingly with the defense.

"The court has to balance the people's rights vs. the defendants' rights," Garber said. “There's an overwhelming amount of discovery. I've never seen a case with more discovery. ... We have to give the defense all the benefit as far as the amount of time."

Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 12, 2016, with opening arguments possibly beginning less than 3 weeks later, Garber said.

(source: Stockton Record)


Bring Back the Gallows?

Reading between the lines of the U.S. Supreme Court's majority decision in Glossip v. Gross, it would be easy to conclude that the recent spate of botched executions is actually the fault of death-penalty abolitionists.

In Glossip, the Supreme Court narrowly held that the 3-drug cocktail used to execute prisoners in Oklahoma and several other states did not violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. In so doing, the Court rejected the prisoners' claims that midazolam, the drug 1st administered during an execution, was not consistently powerful enough to render the condemned insensate to the 2nd drug (which paralyzes the prisoner) and the 3rd drug (which stops the heart). The Court suggested that the choice of sedative was not to blame for Oklahoma's horrific execution of Clayton Lockhart, who woke up moaning in the middle of the process. Instead, the problem was a faulty execution protocol, which has since been corrected by the state.

But that was not the majority opinion's central point. Writing for the Court, Justice Samuel Alito argued that because the death penalty is constitutionally permissible, it must be practically implementable. To succeed in their claims, the prisoners must show that "the risk of severe pain presented by an execution protocol is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives." The word "available" is key - the Court's aim is to prevent morally motivated market pressures from thwarting a state's right to put criminals to death.

The trouble, from Alito's perspective, is that 2 alternative drugs widely considered to be preferable to midazolam for use in execution are no longer available - thanks to people who oppose the death penalty. The original sedative used in the 3-drug cocktail was sodium thiopental - a powerful and fast-acting barbiturate. Alito recounts how anti-death penalty activists pressured the only American manufacturer of the drug to cease making it domestically, and to refuse to sell its Italian-made product for use in lethal injections in the United States. In January 2011, the drug company ceased manufacturing sodium thiopental entirely. With the original drug of choice no longer available, capital-punishment states turned to pentobarbital, another barbiturate. That drug was used in all 43 executions carried out in the United States in 2102. But the same thing happened again. Anti-death penalty advocates successfully lobbied the Dutch manufacturer of the drug to stop selling it for use in executions. With strong barbiturates no longer available, capital-punishment states turned to midazolam, a less powerful sedative in the benzodiazepine family of drugs.

The Court's message to death-penalty abolitionists and to drug companies that refuse to be complicit in capital punishment is clear: They have not stopped executions; they have only made them potentially more gruesome. The Court's threat is also clear: If the manufacturers of midazolam now decide to step aside, the states can always return to the firing squad or the electric chair or even bring back the gallows.

The Court's message must be resisted, because it involves an illegitimate effort to shift moral responsibility. The blame for botched injections falls squarely on the states that impose the death penalty, not upon those who are trying to abolish it. Drug companies that refuse to provide powerful barbiturates for use in capital punishment are not responsible for the state's decision to go ahead with less powerful drugs despite the risks, or even with alternative means of execution if drugs are no longer available. Similarly, medical professionals who give notice of their refusal to oversee an execution on moral grounds are not guilty of what happens in their absence. The state's decision to go ahead with the execution under those circumstances is the determinative factor.

There are important moral debates to be had about what constitutes impermissible complicity with state-sponsored killing. The Catholic tradition considers this question - one of the most difficult in moral theology - under the framework of "cooperation with evil." It requires nuanced moral analysis and fine distinctions, and often generates much disagreement among knowledgeable people of goodwill. For example, we can argue about whether a drug company opposed to capital punishment can rightly take the position that it will provide the sedatives to insure the condemned prisoner will feel no pain, but will not supply the paralytic agent or the heart-stopping dose. Some opponents of the death penalty might accept that reasoning; others might say that even providing the sedatives is too much involvement in the state's machinery of death.

But what we can't reasonably argue about is the moral responsibility for any decision to go forward with an execution. That falls squarely upon the state - not upon those who conscientiously refuse to provide sedatives for such a lethal purpose.



Boston Marathon bombing trial juror speaks out about death penalty decision

A juror in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev says he probably would not have voted for the death penalty had he known that the families of some victims preferred a life sentence.

Kevin Fagan spoke to WBUR-FM ( ) on Monday, the same day a federal judge rejected a motion by The Boston Globe to publicly release the names of all jurors.

Fagan is believed to be the first juror to speak publicly using his name.

He did not discuss deliberations but said he likely would have changed his vote in the penalty phase had he been aware of opposition to the death penalty by the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, killed in the blasts.

The 23-year-old Fagan also said he could relate to Tsarnaev because they are so close in age.

(source: Associated Press)


Keralite on death row in Abu Dhabi seeks PM's intervention

The family of Ezhur Kalarikal Gangadharan, a janitor at the Al Rabeeh school in Abu Dhabi who is accused of raping a seven-year-ld Emirati student of the school in 2013 and is facing death sentence if convicted by the UAE Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Abu Dhabi seeking his intervention in the case which they claim constitutes a gross miscarriage of justice.

The letter is with the Prime Minister's Office, and the family is awaiting a response.

Mr. Gangadharan's pleas are that the charges were based on a confession extracted under torture, and that all evidence, including forensic, that disproved the charge were ignored.

The case has gone through several levels of the Emirati judicial system. In 2013, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance convicted Mr. Gangadharan and sentenced him to death.

Though he appealed against the conviction, the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal confirmed it in March 2014. He then appealed before the UAE Supreme Court, which vacated the death sentence in May 2014 and sent it back to the Court of Appeal ordering a new set of judges to reconsider the evidence. The Supreme Court specifically asked them to examine Mr. Gangadharan's claim of having been tortured into a confession. The reconstituted Court of Appeal re-confirmed the death sentence in February 2015.

Final decision

The case is now before the UAE Supreme Court for its final decision on September 6.

Mr. Gangadharan, who is from Malappuram, knows a smattering of English, but was given a Hindi translator who was later found to be unlicensed by the court. His complaint that he was tortured was misrepresented as an expression of satisfaction with his treatment.

Reprieve, a London-based international legal action charity that provides assistance to people facing the death penalty around the world, is among the many organisations fighting Mr. Gangadharan's case.

(source: The Hindu)


Woman gets death penalty for killing husband in Rangpur

A court yesterday sentenced a woman to death for killing her husband on JB Sen road in Mahiganj-Satmatha area of Rangpur city on April 4, 2010, over family feud.

The convict, Sufia Begum, 45, went into hiding after securing bail on January 22, 2013.

Sufia spiked a glass of milk with sedative and served it to her husband Ahsanul Haque Belal, 50, who was a Bangladeshi expatriate in Saudi Arabia. Later, she chopped the body into 3 pieces and was caught by locals when she went to a graveyard in Chilahat Jhar area to dump it.

(source: The Daily Star)


New NPC bill proposes life without parole for 'major corruption'

China's legislature is considering a new bill that will ensure that perpetrators of "major corruption crimes" will spend the rest of their lives in prison, reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet.

Records show that on Aug. 24, the 16th conference of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp legislature, introduced a draft amendment to the country's criminal code.

One of the amendments introduces a new clause stating that perpetrators found guilty of major corruption crimes are to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A 2nd amendment in the bill would give courts, when handing out suspended death sentences, the power to simultaneously rule that the defendant must serve a life sentence after 2 years without a chance of parole or a reduction in sentence. Under current laws, suspended death sentences are typically commuted to life imprisonment after 2 years, leaving open the chance of reduced sentences or parole in the future.

Expressly stipulating life without parole for major corruption crimes or suspended life sentences is not adding a new form of punishment, though it would prevent instances where corrupt officials later receive pardons, reduced sentences, or otherwise manage to serve less than the punishment that was handed down to them.

The proposed amendments are even stricter than recommendations issued by China's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission last February, which suggested that corrupt officials who receive suspended death sentences need to serve at least 22 years before they can be eligible for parole.

Huang Jingping, a law professor from Renmin University of China in Beijing, told reporters that the proposed changes are significant because life imprisonment means one day the prisoner might be set free, whereas life without parole ensures that they will die in prison.

Huang notes, however, that the new law, if passed, would have a very narrow application to just major corruption cases and those involving a suspended death sentence. The amendment is also not retrospective and would not apply to previous sentences such as those recently handed down to former deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan and retired oil and security tsar Zhou Yongkang.

According to Duowei, there have been many instances of corrupt officials finding ways to reduce their sentences in recent years. One example is former Guangdong Jianlibao Group chairman Zhang Hai, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2007 for corruption but was released in January 2011 following 2 reductions in his sentence.

Tsinghua University law professor Zhou Guangquan said he believes the proposed measures reflect the resolve of the Communist Party leadership in cracking down on corruption. He also said that it is very rare to see criminals executed for corruption unless lives are lost, adding that no corrupt official has been executed since the generational leadership changeover of the 18th National Congress in November 2012.

Legal experts do not think the proposed law has anything to do with calls to abolish the death penalty in China, which remains one of the 36 United Nations member countries that continues to practice capital punishment. However, the country has been taking steps in recent years to curb the number of death sentences handed down. In May 2011, a legal amendment canceled 13 death sentences, reducing the total number of death row inmates in the country from 68 to 55. At the third plenum of 18th National Congress in November 2013, it was recommended that fewer death sentences be handed out. Last October, another proposed amendment suggested abolishing nine death penalty sentences where the crime was not violent in nature.

(source: Want China Times)


PHC halts death penalty awarded by military court

The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday suspended a death sentence passed by one of the country's new military tribunals, officials said.

Lawmakers voted in January to set up military courts to hear terrorism cases, prompting criticism from lawyers and rights activists concerned about the hearings, which are held in secret.

The Supreme Court backed the move earlier this month, rejecting claims it was unconstitutional, but said defendants had the right to challenge sentences in civilian courts.

The high court in the northwestern city of Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of the violence that has wracked Pakistan over the last decade, on Tuesday stayed a hanging imposed by a military tribunal.

"The Peshawar High Court has ordered the military court to halt the execution of my client Haider Ali, who was awarded the death sentence by a military court on August 13," Ajmal Khan, lawyer of the death row convict told AFP.

Khan said the military personnel came to visit Ali s parents to inform them of the sentence but did not say what the conviction was for.

On the same date, the military announced the death penalty for 6 militants linked to an assault on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 151 people in the country s deadliest terror attack, but Ali s name was not included on that statement.

He said Ali was handed over to the military in 2009 by a local council of elders, known as a jirga, and his family has not heard from him since.

"The family of my client was never allowed to meet him since the military took him into custody in 2009 -- they won t even say anything about where he is to his parents," he said.

Khan said the family only heard about the death sentence through the media.

"My client was a grade 10 student at the time of his arrest and was around 15 years old," he said.

A court official confirmed details of the case, saying Ali was listed as a missing person and a petition for his recovery had been with the court for 5 years.

The military courts were established as part of a crackdown on militancy following the massacre at the Peshawar school on December 16 last year.

Parliament has approved the use of the courts for the coming 2 years, and cases are referred to them by provincial governments.

But some have called for the trials to be more transparent.

The International Commission of Jurists has condemned the military courts as "secret, opaque" and in violation of fair trial obligations.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


5 Prisoners Executed and 1 Prisoner's Life Spared in Rajai Shahr on August 20

Since Iran Human Rights published a report on Thursday August 20 about the execution of 4 prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison on that day, state run media has brought the number up to five prisoners and also reported that 1 prisoner sentenced to death was spared his life by the plaintiffs on his case.

Iran's Javan newspaper has identified and described the prisoners as: Safdar, charged with murdering three members of a family; a 42-year-old man, whose name was not published, charged with murdering his wife; a middle aged man, who name was not published, charged with murdering his wife; Parviz, 30 years old, charged with murdering a 31 year old man on Tehran street; and Yavar, charged with murdering a man. According to Javan News, Parviz had stated in his confessions that he was drinking alcohol with the victim and they were intoxicated when they got into a fight in the street.

Javan News also reported on a prisoner who had been transferred to solitary confinement with the five prisoners but had his life was spared by the plaintiffs on his case file. The prisoner's name is reportedly Ardeshir, 33 years old, charged with murdering an 18 year old.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Islamic State has killed at least 30 people for sodomy, UN told ---- US ambassador tells security council meeting it is ‘about time’ the issue of violence and discrimination towards LGBT people is highlighted

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organisation has told the 1st UN security council meeting in New York to focus on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It's about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking centre stage," said the US ambassador, Samantha Power, who organised the meeting with Chile's UN envoy. "This represents a small but historic step."

Diplomats said 2 of the 15 council members, Chad and Angola, had not attended the informal closed meeting.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by Isis in Iraq and Syria claimed to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.

Fear of the extremist group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, was fuelling violence by others against LGBT individuals, she said.

Subhi Nahas, a gay refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib, told the council that President Bashar al-Assad's government "launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals" when the country's uprising started in 2011. Soon afterwards gay hangouts were raided and many people were arrested and tortured. "Some were never heard from again," he said.

When the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front took Idlib in 2012, he said, its militants announced "they would cleanse the town of those involved in sodomy". Arrests and killings of accused homosexual people followed. In 2014 when Isis took the city, the violence worsened, he said.

"At the executions hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding," Nahas said. "If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate, too."

He was able to escape to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where he was threatened by a former schoolfriend from Idlib who had joined Isis. Finally he reached the US.

Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Isis, and called for UN action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and to bring the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.

(source: The Guardian)


Palestinian sentenced to death in Gaza for providing info to Israel

A Hamas military court in the Gaza Strip on Monday sentenced a Palestinian to death for allegedly providing information to Israel said to have led to Palestinians being killed, judicial sources said.

The 28-year-old man was identified only by the initials N.A. and no other details on the accusations against him were provided by Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian territory which has seen three wars with Israel in 6 years.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 157 people have been sentenced to death in the occupied territories since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

32 have been executed, including 30 in the Gaza Strip.

All execution orders must in theory be approved by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognises his legitimacy.

In Gaza, beyond death sentences handed out by courts, Hamas has also carried out summary executions for collaborating with Israel, sometimes in public places.

The most prominent occurred during last summer's 50-day war between Palestinian militants in the territory and Israel, when a firing squad of men in uniforms from Hamas' armed wing s hot dead six people in front of Gaza City's main mosque.

Under Palestinian law, collaborators, murderers and drug traffickers risk death sentences.

(source: al-monitor)


One of the World's Most Prolific Executioners

Saudi Arabia remains one of the most prolific executioners in the world. Between January 1985 (the earliest year from when information on executions is available) and June 2015, it executed at least 2,200 people, almost half of whom were foreign nationals.

Over 1/3 of these executions were carried out for offenses that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law. Most of these crimes, such as drug-related offenses, are not mandatorily punishable by death according to the authorities' interpretation of Sharia law.

Saudi Arabia also continues to sentence to death and execute individuals for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age, in violation of the country's obligations under international customary law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also in violation of international law, the death penalty in Saudi Arabia continues to be used against people with mental disabilities.

The death penalty is also used disproportionately against foreign nationals, the majority of whom are migrant workers with no knowledge of Arabic - the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out. They are often denied adequate interpretation assistance. Their country's embassies and consulates are not promptly informed of their arrest, or even of their executions. In some cases, their families are neither notified in advance of the execution nor are their bodies returned to them to be buried.

The authorities recurrently fail to abide by international standards for fair trial and U.N. safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. Too often trials in death penalty cases are held in secret, and their proceedings are unfair and summary with no legal assistance or representation through the various stages of detention and trial. Defendants may be convicted solely on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment, duress or deception.

The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to claim that they apply the death penalty only for the "most serious crimes" and only following the most rigorous and thorough judicial proceedings. They have argued that the death penalty is an integral component of Sharia law that guarantees the rights of perpetrators and victims alike, and that the death penalty and public executions serve as a deterrent to crime. The authorities' claims on the use of the death penalty contradict its practice in reality.

The scope of the death penalty in Saudi Arabian laws is a major cause for concern. In both Sharia and statutory laws, offences that are not internationally considered "most serious crimes," such as drug-related offences, are punishable by death. There is, however, no evidence to support the Saudi Arabian authorities' argument that the death penalty prevents crime more effectively than other punishments.

Saudi Arabia also continues to impose the death penalty on those convicted of "offenses" that are not recognizably criminal offenses under international human rights law. These include apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.

In August 2014, Saudi Arabia executed 26 people in a sudden surge in executions that has persisted since then, with the total number of executions in the first 6 months of 2015 reaching 102. In the space of less than a year, from August 2014 to June 2015, therefore, the Saudi Arabian authorities executed at least 175 individuals, an average of 1 person every 2 days. Of the total number of recorded executions since 1991, executions for drug-related offenses constituted 28 % and have been steadily rising in the past 5 years.

Foreign nationals, particularly migrant workers from disadvantaged economic backgrounds who moved to Saudi Arabia from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, comprise a high and disproportionate number of those executed in Saudi Arabia. Of the total 2,208 executions recorded between January 1985 and June 2015, at least 1,072, or some 48.5 %, were of foreign nationals. During their trial, their foreign nationality and the fact that they often lack Arabic language skills place them in a particularly disadvantageous position.

Saudi Arabia continues to carry out executions, mostly by beheading but some also by a firing squad, in public and, in some cases, to display executed bodies after death in public. The authorities often fail to inform those under the sentence of death and their families of their imminent execution or to return the bodies of those executed to their families after death.

The situation is compounded by the fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabian legal and judicial safeguards. In terms of the legal provisions, the lack of specificity in the definitions of most crimes renders them open to wide interpretation by the judicial authorities. Those authorities also frequently fail to apply both national laws and international human rights law standards during trials. Notably, they too commonly deny detainees the right to a lawyer and to a meaningful appeal. One of the most significant concerns remains the fact that "confessions" extracted under torture, duress or coercion are often the sole evidence in cases of those sentenced to death.

The Saudi Arabian authorities also fail to consistently apply safeguards to ensure that 2 categories of individuals - juvenile offenders and people with mental and intellectual disabilities - are not subjected to the death penalty. Individuals in both categories have been executed in recent years.

The case of Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr illustrates a number of these concerns. On May 27, 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah convicted him and sentenced him to death for offenses committed when he was 16 or 17 years old and which included participating in demonstrations against the government, attacking the security forces, possessing a machine gun and armed robbery. The court seems to have based its decision primarily on signed "confessions" that al-Nimr claims were extracted under torture and other ill-treatment and which the judge has refused to look into.

In the past 2 years, conducting human rights research on Saudi Arabia has become increasingly difficult. As well as continuing to prevent Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations from visiting the country to conduct human rights research, the Saudi Arabian authorities have taken measures to silence independent activists in a bid to prevent cases and evidence of human rights violations from reaching the outside world.

The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny Amnesty International access to the country for research purposes. The organization has therefore had to conduct research for this briefing remotely.

It has conducted detailed analysis of over 20 death sentences and executions since 2013. In all these cases, Amnesty International acquired information either directly from those sentenced to death before their execution, their lawyers and legal representatives, or a family member closely following the case. In most of the cases, it was able to analyze available court documents, which included decisions by different courts, charge sheets and, in rare cases, defendants' appeals.

Amnesty International has also reviewed information about executions made available by the authorities through statements released by the Ministry of Interior, including the names of executed prisoners, their nationality and the crimes of which they were convicted, as well as the dates and location of the executions.

Recent government initiatives to introduce legal and judicial reforms, even though they remain inadequate to address the systematic nature of violations in detention and courts, could help to bring Saudi Arabian criminal justice standards closer to those of international law if properly implemented. There is therefore an opportunity for change.

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International recommends that the Saudi Arabian authorities:

--Restrict the scope of the death penalty to intentional killing, in line with international law and standards on its use.

--Stop using the death penalty on anyone under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged offence, in accordance with Saudi Arabia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

--Stop using the death penalty on anyone suspected of suffering from mental and intellectual disabilities.

--Ensure that foreign nationals have adequate access to consular and interpretation services.

--Ensure rigorous compliance in all death penalty cases with international standards for fair trials.

--Ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment used to extract "confessions" are promptly and impartially investigated, and those found guilty of committing them are held to account. As Amnesty International is highlighting, the Saudi Arabian authorities can address many of these concerns simply by ensuring application of their own laws and international obligations.

This is the executive summary of the Amnesty International report "Killing in the Name of Justice: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia."

(source: Newsweek)


Rampant executions fuelled by justice system 'riddled with holes'

--Death sentences imposed after unfair trials lacking basic safeguards

--At least 102 executed in first six months of 2015 compared to 90 in all of 2014

--Average of 1 person executed every two days, most by beheading

--Almost 1/2 of executions in recent years are for non-lethal crimes

--At least 2,208 people executed between January 1985 and June 2015

--Nearly 1/2 of those executed since 1985 were foreign nationals

--Juvenile offenders, people with mental disabilities among those executed

Hundreds of people have been condemned to death after being convicted in unfair trials under Saudi Arabia’s deeply flawed judicial system, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

'Killing in the Name of Justice': The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia exposes the shockingly arbitrary use of the death penalty in the Kingdom, where the death sentence is often imposed after trials that blatantly flout international standards.

"Sentencing hundreds of people to death after deeply flawed legal proceedings is utterly shameful. The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale. In many cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of 'confessions' obtained under torture or other ill-treatment in flagrant miscarriages of justice."

Use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Between August 2014 and June 2015 at least 175 people were put to death - an average execution rate of 1 person every 2 days.

1/3 of all executions since 1985 were imposed for offences that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes' for which the death penalty may be applied under international law. A large proportion of death sentences in Saudi Arabia - 28% since 1991- are imposed for drug-related offences.

Nearly 1/2 - 48.5% - of people executed in Saudi Arabia since 1985 were foreign nationals. Many of them were denied adequate translation assistance during the trial and were made to sign documents - including confessions - that they did not understand.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one’s fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

Flawed justice system

Saudi Arabia's Shari'a law-based justice system lacks a criminal code, leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and widely open to interpretation. The system also gives judges power to use their discretion in sentencing, leading to vast discrepancies and in some cases arbitrary rulings. For certain crimes punishable under tai'zir (discretionary punishments) suspicion alone is enough for a judge to invoke the death penalty based on the severity of the crime or character of the offender.

The justice system also lacks the most basic precautions to ensure the right to a fair trial. Often death sentences are imposed after unfair and summary proceedings which are sometimes held in secret. Defendants are regularly denied access to a lawyer, or convicted on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment. They are also denied the right to a proper, thorough appeal.

Saudi Arabia has vehemently rejected criticism of its use of the death penalty arguing that death sentences are carried out in line with Islamic Shari’a law and only for the "most serious crimes" and with the strictest fair trial standards and safeguards in place.

"Claims that the death sentence in Saudi Arabia is carried out in the name of justice and in line with international law could not be further from the truth. Instead of defending the country's appalling record, the Saudi Arabian authorities should urgently establish an official moratorium on executions and implement international fair trial standards in all criminal cases," said Said Boumedouha.

The case of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a cleric from eastern Saudi Arabia and a government critic who was sentenced to death in October 2014, clearly illustrates these shortcomings. He was convicted of vague offences after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial and was denied the chance to prepare an adequate defence. Some of the offences are not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law.

"The fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabia's legal system leaves the door wide open for abuse. The authorities are toying with people's lives in a reckless and appalling manner," said Said Boumedouha.

"If the authorities wish to show their commitment to rigorous fair trial standards they must implement reforms that will bring Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system in line with international law and standards."

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to restrict the scope of its use to crimes involving "intentional killing" in line with international law and standards, and to end the practise of imposing death sentences on juvenile offenders and those suffering from mental disabilities.

(source: Amnesty International)


Saudi Arabia 'carrying out one execution every 2 days'----More than 100 people were executed in the first 6 months of this year compared to 90 in the previous year, says a new Amnesty report

Saudi Arabia is carrying out executions at a rate of one person every two days, according to a new report.

At least 102 people were executed in the first 6 months of this year compared to 90 in in the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International on Tuesday.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. Child offenders and mentally ill prisoners are among those who have been killed.

The group said the death penalty was being disproportionately used against foreign nationals, many of them migrant workers with no ability to understand Arabic - the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death. Rights groups have long criticised the system for its ambiguous nature and a lack of due process.

The kingdom is among the world's most prolific executioners, consistently featuring in the top 5 countries for capital punishment. The country recently advertised for 8 new executioners to cope with the upsurge in work.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health. Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case; a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions.

The interior ministry has previously cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishments.

Death row prisoners and their families are actively discouraged from any actions which might draw attention to their campaigns, Amnesty said. They are sometimes given assurances that if they do not challenge the authorities' decisions or violations in the case, such as arbitrary detention and unfair trial, then they might be spared the sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died in January. The numbers have accelerated this year under his successor, King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

In May, a job advert on a Saudi civil service website advertised for the services of eight new executioners. No special qualifications were 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 said.

The Saudi record was "utterly shameful", Amnesty said. "The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, acting Middle East director.

(source: The Telegraph)

AUGUST 24, 2015:

TEXAS----impending execution

An Austin Resident is Scheduled for Execution This Week

A Harris County resident, Bernardo Aban Tercero, is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, pursuant to a court order by the 232nd District Court, said a press release from The Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton's office.

A Harris County jury found Tercero guilty of murdering a man by the name of Robert Berger during an aggravated robbery in October 2000.

According to the facts of the case, Berger, on March 31, 1997, and his young daughter entered a Park Avenue Cleaners in Austin near closing time, and at about the same time, an employee, Ricardo Toruno, unlocked the back door of the cleaners to take the trash out to the dumpster. As Toruno made his way back inside, one of Tercero's accomplices put a gun to Toruno's head and accompanied him through the door. Tercero then entered the cleaners and proceeded to the front of the store where the manager, Michelle Johnson, testified that Tercero said something to Berger, but the man did not respond. Tercero then grabbed Berger by the arm and pushed him back. Berger attempted to get away from Tercero, but the gunman shot him in the back of the head, and he fell to the ground. During this exchange, one of the robbers with Tercero demanded money. Afterward, Tercero and his accomplice fled the cleaners through the back door with a cash drawer each in hand.

The press release stated that during his testimony, Tercero said he robbed the cleaner because he and his live-in girlfriend, Marisol Lima, were having economic difficulties. Lima, who worked for Park Avenue Cleaners with her sister told Tercero that he could easily get money from it and the 3 of them discussed how to commit the robbery. Tercero and the sisters "cased" the dry cleaners the day before the incident and devised a pager code so Lima's sister could page Tercero and his accomplice when there were no customers in the shop. Tercero also testified that when he pulled out his gun in the dry cleaners, waved it in the air, and asked for money, Mr. Berger began to advance on him. The 2 men began struggling over the firearm and "the gun went off."

However, Tercero's story did not coincide with witness testimony.

According to this testimony, after the robbers escaped the dry cleaners with the money from the cash drawers, Tercero stayed with another woman, Sylvia Cotera, who he later told about the shooting. He told her he did so because the person didn't have any money and that made him mad. He also told Cotera that he shot Berger because he was afraid he had seen his face and could identify him. He then threatened Cotera with burning down her apartment if she said anything.

Additional evidence in the case showed this incident wasn't Tercero's 1st run-in with the law for a similar crime. Tercero previously robbed 3 men at gunpoint in his home country, Nicaragua, where he shot 1 victim and kidnapped his 4-year-old son. He also shot at officers who pursued him.

On November 20, 1997, a Harris County grand jury indicted Tercero for the capital murder of Robert Berger during the robbery. He was sentenced to death on October 20, 2000. Tercero filed an application for state habeas corpus relief and pro se petition for a write of habeas corpus, but was denied. On May 19, 2015, the 232nd state district court issued an order setting Tercero's execution date for Aug. 26, 2015.




(source: Amnesty International USA)


Dad "potentially" faces death penalty in death of toddler son

The Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska called the case filed against a Dothan father "potentially" a death penalty case in connection to the death of his 2-year-old son.

Valeska spoke shortly after the 1st appearance in court for Jose Rosales, 25, of Fortner Street, held Monday morning in front of District Court Judge Benjamin Lewis.

Lewis informed Rosales he currently faces a felony 1st-degree domestic violence-assault charge.

Valeska told the court during the hearing he expected to hear results from the victim's autopsy later Monday.

Deputies with the Houston County Sheriff's Office arrested Rosales late Saturday night.

Rosales, son, Jose Rosales, Jr. was pronounced dead in the emergency room at Flowers Hospital at 4:54 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said Saturday rescue units were called to a home on Fortner Street at about 4:18 p.m. Following the death, the Houston County Sheriff's Office initiated an investigation.

Valeska said Sheriff Donald Valenza, Sheriff's Capt. Bill Rafferty and the case investigator contacted him multiple times over the weekend about the circumstances surrounding the death of the 2-year-old boy.

"We'll know more later today as to what happened to the child," Valeska said.

Valeska declined to talk about the specifics of what investigators believe happened to the child. But he said the case could "potentially" be capital murder, death penalty case. He said because the victim was less than the age of 14 makes the case "potentially" death eligible.

"I can't say it's a death penalty case until we have the cause of death from the pathologist," Valeska said.

Valeska said the child was taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for an autopsy.

Court records show a warrant obtained by sheriff's investigators Monday morning charged Rosales with felony first-degree assault domestic violence by shaking the victim, Jose Rosales Jr, by force.

No other details have been released by the Houston County Sheriff's Office. But the Dothan Eagle was told Sheriff Donald Valenza will hold a press conference at a later time.

Rosales is held without bail at the Houston County Jail. Lewis set a bail and preliminary hearing for Rosales on Sept. 4. He also appointed attorney John Steensland III to represent him in court.

(source: Dothan Eagle)


Medina County judge says death penalty remains possible in Brunswick mother's killing

A Medina County judge will not take the death penalty off the table for a Brunswick man accused of killing his mother.

James D. Tench, 29, faces capital punishment in a case that charges him with 3 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

He pleaded not guilty during his September 2014 arraignment in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Joyce Kimbler rejected the defense's argument that Ohio's death-penalty statutes violate the U.S. Constitution and international law. The judge wrote that the claims could be "summarily rejected" and "lack merit."

Defense attorneys Kerry O'Brien and Rhonda Kotnik argued the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

"Ohio's methods, modes and procedures for lethal injection violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment by effectively torturing the condemned person to death," the attorneys wrote in a December motion.

Neither O'Brien nor Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman were immediately available for comment Monday.

Ohio's death-penalty statute came under increased scrutiny last year following the controversial execution of murderer Dennis McGuire. Executions have been on hold in Ohio since then but are set to resume in January.

Kimbler also rejected a defense motion to instruct the jury to consider mercy if Tench is convicted, and to prevent prosecutors from arguing against mercy.

Tench is accused in the Nov. 12, 2013 death of his mother, Mary Tench, 55, of Brunswick.

Mary Tench was found dead inside her car on Carquest Drive in Brunswick around 2:20 p.m. Nov. 12. Medina County Coroner Neil Grabenstetter said she died from multiple blunt trauma injuries to the head and neck. The impact fractured her skull.

Tench pleaded guilty last year to robbing a Strongsville restaurant and is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence at the Richland Correctional Institution.

Kimbler ruled on more than 50 motions last week, many of which addressed criminal procedure, jury selection and privacy. Other notable rulings included:

The judge denied a motion for a change of venue. The judge ruled the request was premature, but could be remade if a voir dire examination of potential jurors reveals that pretrial publicity has prevented Tench from obtaining an impartial trial.

Kimbler denied a motion requesting that Tench be allowed to appear at pretrial hearings without restraints. Tench will be allowed to appear at trial without restraints.

Kimbler denied the defense's request to restrict public access to court documents on the Medina County Clerk of Court's website. The defense did not prove that public access would infringe upon Tench's right to a fair trial, the judge wrote in her ruling.



Nebraska Seeks Death Drugs From India

The ACLU asked Nebraska's U.S. attorney to investigate state officials' attempts to import lethal injection drugs from India, though the state has outlawed the death penalty.

Nebraska's unicameral Legislature banned capital punishment on May 20 and overrode the governor's veto on May 27, becoming the 19th state to prohibit execution.

On Aug. 20, the ACLU of Nebraska wrote to U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Gilg, asking her to investigate "Nebraska's ongoing efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs from a foreign source."

The letter claims that Nebraska has tried or is trying to get sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide, despite explicit knowledge and court orders that importation of foreign-made sodium thiopental is illegal.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the state tried to get the drugs from India on July 31, for $54,400.

Sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide are the first two drugs in typical three-drug combinations used for lethal injections.

The ACLU letter claims: "State officials have had direct contract with DEA officials informing them the products they seek to import cannot be brought into the U.S.," and that "Harris Pharma, the seller of the drugs, is the same company that provided illegal sodium thiopental to Nebraska in 2011."

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said in a statement: "State officials have been told repeatedly by federal authorities that there is no legal way to import the drugs, yet they continue to repeat a suspect claim in various recent media reports that they are working with federal officials to secure the drugs. The facts don't add up. Nebraska taxpayers deserve a straight answer."

Nebraska last executed a prisoner in 1997, by electric chair. After large pharmaceutical companies stopped providing lethal injection drugs due to public pressure, some states resorted to buying them from compounding pharmacies. These purchases have been challenged in court.

Nebraska has been unable to obtain legal supplies of a three-drug cocktail it required to kill people after its old method was outlawed by the state's supreme court.

"The materials enclosed demonstrate a protracted effort of months to obtain illegal drugs despite clear and unequivocal notice that their conduct was prohibited by federal law," ACLU of Nebraska legal director Amy Miller wrote in the Aug. 20 letter.

"Given the state's concrete and active efforts to violate federal law, we request your office initiate an investigation."

Miller told the U.S. attorney that Nebraska sent Customs forms to Harris Pharma in India on July 31 this year. "It appears that despite all warnings from federal agencies, the state of Nebraska is continuing to move forward with their plan to have illegal drugs sent into the U.S.," Miller wrote.

After the Legislature overrode his veto, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts called it "a very dark day for public safety" and vowed to fight to reinstate the death penalty.

He has since insisted that he will continue to pursue a way to execute the 10 inmates on Nebraska's death row, despite the legislative ban.

Ricketts and his billionaire father, TD Ameritrade boss Joe Ricketts, are bankrolling a petition drive for a ballot initiative to reinstate the death penalty.

The World-Herald reported that the Ricketts father and son have donated more than $300,000 for the petition drive. They need valid signatures of at least 5 % of registered voters by the end of August to qualify the measure for the ballot.

(source: Courthouse News)


Jury deliberations resume for man charged in double killing

Jury deliberations are scheduled to resume Monday at the trial of an Arizona man charged with killing his brother and fatally shooting his 6-year-old nephew who witnessed the crime.

Monday marks the 2nd day of jury deliberations for Christopher Rey Licon.

Authorities are seeking the death penalty against the 24-year-old in the December 2010 killings of his half brother, Angel Jaquez, and Jaquez's son, Xavier Jaquez.

Licon has mounted an insanity defense.

Prosecutors say Licon killed his brother in the Phoenix townhome they shared over a drug dispute and then kidnapped and fatally shot his nephew in an alley 20 miles away.

Investigators believe the boy either saw or heard his father die and was killed by his uncle out of fear that the child would snitch on Licon.

(source: Associated Press)


Remember Jose Rivera when you think about the death penalty

On June 20, 2008, Correctional Officer Jose Rivera was attacked by 2 inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary at Atwater, Calif. One inmate held Rivera down while the other, Jose Cabrera Sablan, stabbed Rivera 20 times with an 8-inch shank. After 7 years of litigation, Sablan finally accepted a plea agreement to serve the remainder of his life in prison.

As the Church Lady from "Saturday Night Live" would say, "Isn't that special!"

When Sablan murdered Rivera, he was already serving a life sentence for murder, but there was the chance for parole, which at least for now has been eliminated. Nevertheless, Sablan is right back where he was, receiving this 3meals a day and 1-hour rec time. Perhaps he's also receiving therapy in helping him cope with losing his parole.

Oh, the federal prosecutors talked a good game, announcing at the start that they would seek the death penalty, but in the end they caved.

The case was made to the public that seven years had already elapsed and despite a trial date having been set, it might take several more years before justice would finally be served and in the meantime, the taxpayers would have to carry the burden in paying Sablan's legal fees, not to mention his 3 meals a day and trips to the infirmary for unsightly cold sores.

The decision as expected has upset the family as well as the correctional community. Rivera's mother, Terry, told the media she was outraged. While noting that her son was also a U.S. Navy veteran who had served 2 tours in Iraq, she stated, "My son gave his entire life to his country. He believed in the justice system and it failed him."

The national president of the Council of Prison Locals was quoted, "We want to know that there's an ultimate consequence when someone takes the life of our correctional staff." That's how most citizens who have lost a loved one to violent criminal activity feel, and who unfortunately must languish with a lifetime of misery thanks to the bureaucratic milquetoast ways of our justice system. Or perhaps I missed something? Do we now have sanctuary prisons?

Despite their proclamations to the contrary, most prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys do not feel your pain. Their win-loss conviction stats, now that's another matter. The representatives of justice are very practiced at soothing the heightened emotions of the victim's families. "By putting the bad man in prison for life, he will no longer be able to hurt anyone else" is a common argument brandished, hoping to save themselves the effort of seeking the death penalty for the commission of a capital crimes. Then there is the approach suggesting that such cases "can go on for years and get real expensive and you'll have to go on living knowing that we will not be able to convict quickly." These politicians who represent the criminal justice system are quite proficient when convincing a victim's family that a plea agreement is preferable.

But as the family and friends of officer Rivera know all too well, inmates locked up for "life" can hurt and kill again. Those who are assigned the responsibilities of keeping us safe from those incarcerated must go to work each day knowing that in the blink of an eye, their own lives may be cut short.

According to a report by representatives for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "of all U.S. workers, correctional officers have one of the highest rates of nonfatal, work related injuries." And from 1999-2008, there were 113 fatalities mostly due to attacks by inmates. Also, keep in mind that correctional officers are not allowed to carry guns, yet they find themselves dealing with confrontations with the same violent persons whom police arm themselves to the teeth against when engaging on the street.

So let's just tell it like it is: A criminal with a violent history is pretty likely to hurt another innocent again as long as he's drawing a breath, whether he's locked up for "life" or when he is paroled after some softie bureaucrat has determined that the subject is no longer a threat to society.

Why should there be any discrepancy when someone intentionally takes another person's life? Is the pain any less, say, for the family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, killed by the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, and, say, the family of New York Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Tarsia, murdered by David Sweat, the recent New York prison escapee who shot Tarsia 12 times and then ran him over in his getaway vehicle?

So when anti-death penalty organizations such as Amnesty International or Catholics Against Capital Punishment start shouting, "The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights, "and then make claims of racism, poverty or mental health being factors used to deny perpetrators their rights, try not to let your heart break, and remember Jose Rivera. And don't be afraid to let your representatives know that justice and re-election should not be joined at the hip. Or if not, just drop a postcard to Sablan as he suns himself in the California prison yard as to how pleased you are knowing he's getting his 3 meals a day. And wondering when he's going to attack again.

(source: Bob Rinearson is resident of Fort Wayne----News-Sentinel)


Rare mass 'terror' trial opens in the UAE----Mass trials on terrorism charges are rare in the UAE which has largely been spared the Islamic militancy that has hit other Arab states

A rare mass trial of 41 radical Islamists accused of seeking to overthrow the government and links with "terrorists" opened on Monday in the United Arab Emirates, official media reported.

WAM news agency said the hearing at the state security court in Abu Dhabi was devoted to procedural measures, including the appointment of lawyers.

The judge then adjourned the trial to September 28.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor general accused the defendants, who include both Emiratis and foreigners, of plotting attacks aimed at trying to "seize power and establish a caliphate".

He also accused them of creating a group "with a terrorist, takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) ideology".

Takfiris regard Muslims who do not follow their extreme interpretation of Islam as apostates who can be killed.

The Islamic State group, which has set up a "caliphate" on territory it has captured in Syria and Iraq, follows the takfiri ideology, as does Al-Qaeda.

It was not immediately clear if the 41 suspects were accused of links to either group.

However, the prosecutor has said they were in touch with "foreign terrorist organisations... to help them achieve their goal".

The defendants could face the death penalty if found guilty.

They are also accused of setting up cells to train members in handling weapons and explosives in preparation for attacks in the UAE.

Authorities reported their arrest on August 2 and prosecutors immediately levelled the accusations against them and said they would face trial.

Such mass trials on terrorism charges are rare in the UAE which has largely been spared the Islamic militancy that has hit other Arab states.

The UAE is part of a US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Syria since September last year.

The wealthy Gulf state has upped security measures in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

In July, it adopted tougher anti-terror legislation and introduced the death penalty for crimes linked to religious hatred and "takfiri groups".

These measures were taken a week after an Emirati woman convicted of the jihadist-inspired murder of a US schoolteacher was put to death by firing squad in a rare execution approved by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

IRAQI KURDISTAN----executions

Kurdistan hangs 3 offenders, breaking death penalty moratorium

A Kurdish man and his 2 wives, convicted of abducting and murdering 2 schoolgirls, were hanged last week, the 1st judicial executions in the Kurdistan Region since a death penalty moratorium in 2008.

The hangings were announced by District Judge Abdulrahman Zebari, who had issued the death sentences in April 2014 at a court in Duhok city.

"The 3 convicts were hanged shortly after death sentences were signed by the Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani in accordance with protocol," Zebari said.

The 3 offenders were convicted for the abduction and murder of 2 schoolgirls in 2011 and 2012.

Apart from terrorism-related cases, no other death sentence has been carried out since 2008, because President Barzani has imposed a moratorium by refusing to sign the execution orders.

The judge said the president was asked to make an exception and sign the verdicts for the 3 offenders, due to the gravity of the crime.

They were hanged for the deaths of 2 11-year-old girls, Avan Haji and Havin Hasan, who were kidnapped in Zakho before being abused and murdered.

1 of the girls was reported missing in November 2011 and the other in March 2012.

The male offender was initially investigated by police in 2012 but was released for lack of evidence, police said.

"It was through 1 of his wives that we could charge the man again and find evidence," Captain Nashaat Sulaiman of the Zakho police force, told Rudaw.

"Initially, 1 of his wives came and complained that the man was beating her but then she revealed the bigger crimes concerning the 2 girls," Sulaiman said.

The man was a construction worker and had 6 children from the 2 marriages.

Both his wives were also charged and sentenced to death "for complicity" and "because of the gravity of the crime," the verdict read.

Kurdistan's Supreme Court did not overrule the sentences, despite lawyers' objections.

"There were growing public demands that we should respond to the cruelty with which the crimes were committed," the judge said.

The number of inmates on death row in Kurdistan has grown to a record high as authorities continue to maintain a de facto moratorium on death penalty.

In the region's 3 provinces, there are now 205 prisoners who have been sentenced to death. The number is higher than in any year since the 1990s, when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) established its autonomous courts, virtually independent of Iraq's judiciary.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and UN Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov have urged Iraq to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and called on the Kurdistan region to abolish it permanently.



Sacco-Vanzetti execution anniversary remembered in Springfield----Mass.' last execution was in 1947

It's been 88 years since 2 Italian immigrants were executed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Many people believe that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were wrongly executed based on flimsy evidence and their political beliefs.

To commemorate the date and to build opposition to the death penalty ever being conducted in the state, the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty group held a memorial service Sunday at the Sinai Temple in Springfield.

John Tomson of Springfield told 22News, "The evidence is very strong that they didn't get a fair trial. We think it goes further than that, and shows that they were actually innocent, but there's no question that they didn't get a fair trial."

The last time somebody was put to death in Massachusetts was back in 1947. The death penalty was eventually abolished in the state in 1984.

(source: WWLP news)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Death row prisoner's race against time to find woman who says her dad framed him ---- O'Ryan Sneed has vanished after writing a letter claiming her father lied to police when he said Richard Glossip hired him to carry out the murder

Investigators working to free a man set to be executed in 22 days have launched a desperate hunt for the daughter of the real killer who says he is innocent.

Richard Glossip, 52, was convicted in 1998 of murdering the owner of the motel where he worked as a handyman.

Justin Sneed, 37, claimed Glossip had hired him to carry out the murder. For his testimony he received a plea deal of life without parole.

But in a shocking twist, Sneed's daughter, O'Ryan Justine Sneed, 21, wrote to the clemency board in Oklahoma pleading for Glossip's life.

She wrote: "1 innocent life has already been taken by my father's actions. A 2nd one doesn't deserve to be taken as well."

She said her father had lied about the killing of Barry Van Treese, to escape the death penalty and "stay in my life".

She added: "He was backed into a corner, facing being charged with the death penalty. But he was offered a plea agreement, of life without parole, to testify against Mr Glossip.

"I feel he is holding important facts about Mr Glossip's case in fear of losing his own deal.

"I am sure that Mr Glossip did not do what my father originally said, that he did not hire my father to kill Mr Van Treese, and he doesn't deserve to die over my father's actions."

Investigators are now desperately trying to trace O'Ryan, who went to ground when her family ordered her not to speak out any further.

Her letter was not heard by the clemency board after arriving too late and Glossip is now due to die by lethal injection on September 16.

Thousands have signed a petition at to stop the execution, in a campaign supported by actress Susan Sarandon, 68.

Glossip was convicted purely on Sneed's claim that he offered him 6,460 pounds for the killing.

O'Ryan's evidence could pave the way for a Supreme Court appeal.

Glossip's niece Billie Joe Boyiddle said: "O'Ryan's testimony is new evidence that could see Richard free at last."

The case against the death row inmate is riddled with holes and an illogical motive, say campaigners.

And interview footage shows officers appearing to encourage Sneed to implicate Glossip while there was not a shred of physical evidence against him.

The only chance of an appeal now lies with the Supreme Court if any new evidence was to be presented.

On average, a death row inmate has been found to be innocent and exonerated every 3 months in the United States since 1973.

4 % of current condemned prisoners are estimated to be innocent.

(source: The Mirror)


Problems with death penalty

Recent news stories tell us that the execution drugs our state has purchased from some questionable source in India have still not arrived in Nebraska ("ACLU asks for investigation in death penalty drug purchase," August 20). It seems to me that the handwriting is on the wall. Few states in the U.S. use the death penalty, fewer executions take place each year and we hear more frequently about errors in the system.

Supreme Court Justice Breyer recently questioned the entire enterprise. It has become not just a cruel punishment, but a very unusual, infrequently used one. One of our state legislators, who voted for repeal, said that if all Nebraskans had seen the wealth of information with which the legislature was provided, Nebraskans would have no problem supporting repeal.

Please, decline to sign this petition. The entire effort is a waste of our money being thrown at a broken system.

Joan Didion, Lincoln

(source: Letter to the Editor, Journal Star)


At least 100 people may speak at James Holmes' sentencing

At least 100 victims and witnesses of James Holmes' deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater are expected to testify about the crime's profound and continuing impact on their lives during a formal sentencing hearing starting today.

The 3-day hearing gives survivors a chance to share their harrowing stories with the judge, but it won't change Holmes' sentence. Jurors already determined that Holmes will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole for the July 20, 2012, attack that killed 12 people and injured 70 others.

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. will formally sentence Holmes to life on 24 counts of 1st-degree murder - 2 for each of those killed. This week's testimony will help him determine Holmes' sentences on 141 other counts that include attempted murder and an explosives charge. Samour has not set a limit on the number of people who can take the stand.

Many victims testified during Holmes' 4-month trial about the terror and carnage he inflicted on more than 400 people who filled the seats at a sold-out midnight movie premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in suburban Aurora. Holmes, a former graduate student in neuroscience, slipped into the darkened theater, threw gas canisters into the crowd and opened fire with a shotgun, assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol.

Now, victims will be able to talk about the enduring harm he caused. They won't be able to address Holmes directly but rather the judge.

Holmes will also have an opportunity to speak, though he declined to do so during his trial.

State corrections officials will determine where Holmes will be incarcerated after an evaluation that includes his mental health. That could last up to 60 days, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said.

Colorado prisons have an extensive mental health care system, and Holmes, who has been diagnosed with varying forms of schizophrenia, could wind up in the department's mental hospital, the 250-bed San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo.

The department has four levels of security for inmates, and those serving a life sentence, like Holmes, are usually classified at the highest or second-highest security level, Jacobson said. She said she couldn't speculate on what kind of prison routine Holmes or any inmate would have.

Holmes' attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, and experts testified that it wouldn't have happened if he were not seriously mentally ill.

Jurors quickly rejected his insanity defense, convicting him on July 16 of 165 felony counts. But they could not unanimously agree on the death penalty for Holmes.

After the trial, prosecutors said Holmes' fate ultimately came down to a single juror, who said she could not morally impose a death sentence after hearing testimony about Holmes' mental illness. The Aug. 7 verdict shocked many in the courtroom and the community, who assumed Holmes would pay with his life for one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

(source: Associated Press)


James Holmes prosecutor talks about holdout juror and the future of the death penalty

Arapahoe County Dist. Atty. George H. Brauchler spent the last three months in the courthouse's Division 201, trying to persuade a jury that Aurora, Colo., theater gunman James E. Holmes should be put to death. After hearing from more than 300 witnesses and seeing nearly 3,000 pieces of evidence, 1 juror voted against execution, and Holmes' life was spared. Formal sentencing is scheduled to begin Monday in Centennial, Colo. As many as 200 victims will read statements.

What was your reaction to the verdict?

I was surprised, no doubt about it. But as obviously as I thought it was a case that cried out for the death penalty, I never went into it cocky, that it was a foregone conclusion. The fact that we came so close made it more disappointing. When the judge says it's a profoundly reasoned moral judgment and says it 10 times, you always know that any death penalty case could come out this way.

Have you spoken with the jurors?

They said they were shocked and surprised that this juror held the view she held and took the position she took.

As much as I disagree that life is justice for this guy, I am a defender for this system. I think it should be incredibly difficult for the government to take the life of a citizen. I am going to believe that she did exactly what the judge instructed her to do and voted as a matter of conscience. I have no information to tell me otherwise.

Juror 17 is the only one who has spoken publicly. She said there were 1 holdout and 2 wobblers. Is her analysis correct?

Wobbler is even too strong of a term. They had gone around the room at some point and said, "OK, how strong are you on your position?" They had gotten 10 [on a scale of 1 to 10 to gauge how strong the positions were] from everybody and 8 on these 2.

So what happened with the holdout, and when did she break the news to the jury?

This juror said, "I'm a 10, but I'm a 10 for life." It was an hour to an hour and a half before the judge got the completed verdict forms. They really felt comfortable with the idea that they were going to get death until this person revealed her position.

Do you know what affected her most?

Mental health of course was an issue in the case. The juror who was a holdout, there was no indication to us that this juror even engaged in lengthy description of, "This is how I felt." The deduction is that it had to be mental health.

You said that at some point the jurors voted among themselves about whether they could sentence Holmes to death if mental health was not an issue. Is that correct?

I can't tell you if it was a formal vote or if this was a discussion topic. It was something like, "If mental health were not an issue, would you all vote for death," words to that effect. Everyone said yes.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he would not allow someone to be executed while he is in office. Governors in Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania have taken similar actions. Did that affect the jury?

We're talking about 1 juror. Without talking to that one juror, it is impossible to know. Some of the victims who were onboard with the death penalty said that it had impacted them. They said, "I was willing to sign up my family for a death penalty trial, but now, if some governor 20 years from now can pull the rug out from under a jury and sentence, I would rather have closure right now." It was painful.

Many have said that, if Holmes does not get the death penalty after killing 12 and wounding 70, then the death penalty is dead in Colorado. Do you agree?

No. It was 1 juror. If it came back 12 for life, I would have said, "Good grief." If this juror also came back with death, no one would have said: "This is dispositive. The death penalty is here to stay, and mental health is never going to be an issue." To suggest that because that juror had reservations for whatever personal reasons, I don't think you can draw any policy implications from that.

This year alone, the death penalty has been thrown out in Connecticut and Nebraska. Defendants in high-profile death penalty cases in Washington state this summer got life in prison without parole. Do you see a change in the air?

I think there's always been that group that feels like we should find a way to minimize the consequences for the most terrible crimes. Maybe it picked up traction because of the Nebraska Legislature. But people here do not want to create a ceiling of maximum possible punishment for people who commit the worst of the worst crimes.

So you think the death penalty will stay on the books in Colorado?

In one way or another, I do.

Dexter Lewis was just convicted of murder in Denver for killing 5 people during a robbery, and the jury is in the sentencing phase considering execution. The judge in that case warned jurors that the 2 cases are not alike. Do you think the Holmes verdict will impact the Lewis case?

I hope it doesn't. I want the jurors to follow the instructions they were given. 1 holdout juror should not affect them. Each of these cases must be thought about individually. They are both evil acts.

Holmes was convicted of murdering 12 people and wounding 70. But I have heard you say that there are 1,200 victims in the case. How do you figure?

The way victims are defined under our laws extends beyond the people injured. It goes to immediate family members. With just the 12 deceased, we were dealing with a group of more than 100. Everyone in Theater 9 or 8 could have been a victim under an attempted murder statute. We didn't charge that way because of logistical reasons. It doesn't deny that those people are victims.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Dozens of RI nationals on death row for drugs: BNN

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has said that there are currently 129 Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty for their role in drug smuggling.

"The majority of them are migrant workers who were tricked into becoming couriers by international drug syndicates and most of them are women," BNN chief Anang Iskandar said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.

The BNN has appealed to Indonesian citizens, especially migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau, to remain alert over the danger of drug syndicates in the countries in which they work.

"They should not be easily duped. They should be careful when someone wants to entrust something to them. Also be very careful with strangers," he said.

Anang earlier warned women in the country to be careful when dating foreigners, suggesting they could be tricked into becoming drug mules. He said that many Indonesian women were languishing in prisons abroad because they were "easily tricked into drug-trafficking". On Sunday, Anang also called on Indonesian nationals who use drugs abroad to immediately stop and seek help from an Indonesian representative office. The office, he said, could recommend them to a rehab center.

"We are cooperating with a number of countries on a bilateral and multilateral basis to prevent and eradicate drug abuse, and to unravel international drug networks that use Indonesian citizens as mules or consider Indonesia a part of their smuggling route," he said.

Anang also said that the demand for drugs in Indonesia remained very high, making the country one of the main destinations for drug smuggling.

The BNN estimates that there are more than 4.2 million active drug users in the country.

"If one of them consumes 0.2 grams a day, it means 80 kilograms of drugs is needed every day to satiate demand, or 2.4 tons per month and 29 tons per year," he said.

Indonesian consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat, said there were 28 Indonesian citizens currently embroiled in drug cases in Hong Kong.

"12 of them are still in detention, while 16 others have been sentenced. In Macau the number is 10, and most of them are couriers and most are women," he said.

Under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration, the government has implemented tougher measures on drug offenders.

Declaring a "drug emergency", President Jokowi has called for the death penalty for drug dealers and has rejected clemency pleas from convicted traffickers. Despite protests from human rights campaigners and the international community, his administration executed 14 convicts - including foreigners of multiple nationalities - in January and May of this year.

(source: The Jakarta Post)


Suhakam disappointed with sluggish response from government

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is disappointed with the sluggish response from the government on its various proposals relating to human rights issues.

Among these were its recommended amendments to the Suhakam Act, a report on a national inquiry, its convention against torture and the death penalty, as well as the proposed National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP).

Suhakam vice-chair Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee said overall, the respective recommendations and reports were submitted, but responses had either been "slow" or "unfavourable".

The amendments to the Suhakam Act, in particular, were presented in anticipation of the commission's re-accreditation exercise that would take place in November this year.

She revealed the commission met with the Attorney-General's office, the police, as well as the director-general of the legal department in the Prime Minister's Department.

Suhakam, Khaw said, was hoping to convince the accreditation board that it was a body that was able to retain its status under its principles.

"We are not sure now what that position is going to be in view of the rejection or unfavourable response from the government," she told reporters at a press conference today.

Currently in "Grade A", which entitles the commission to speaking rights, Suhakam expressed fears of being downgraded to "Grade B", which does not allow speaking rights.

"We basically can't go to an international forum and have our views expressed," she added of the Grade B status.

Other amendments to the Suhakam Act included the issue of Suhakam's visitation to detention centres and consultation on amendments of any laws relating to human rights.

It also wants its annual reports to be debated in Parliament. This was currently not being done although the reports were given to the house of representatives.

Khaw said the act currently gave the commission power to visit detention centres, but that was subject to rules and needed authorisation from the authorities.

"We asked that Suhakam be given authority to visit without seeking permission from authorities. In other words, surprise visits."

On the convention against torture and the death penalty, Khaw said the government was urged to review it and also suggested a moratorium on the death penalty.

"During the second universal periodic review, one of the comments made by the government was that the government was studying the death penalty and in particular the mandatory death penalty imposed (on drug traffickers) and that the study by the Attorney-General's Chambers will be ready by the end of 2014.

"We are almost at the end of 2015 and we have yet to hear the progress made."

Where the NHRAP was concerned, a draft was submitted to the government in 2006, said Khaw, with the government having said in 2010 that it would develop the action plan.

"A steering committee was formed but to date, progress has been very slow. We regret the lack of progress made and hope this cam be expedited."

(source: The Rakyat Post)


Bangladesh Indicts 10 for Allegedly Beating Boy to Death

A magistrate in northeastern Bangladesh indicted 10 men and issued arrest warrants for three alleged fugitives Monday in the beating death of a 13-year-old boy in a case that stunned a nation used to violent crime because a video of him being tortured was posted online.

Magistrate Shahedul Karim made the decision and fixed Aug. 31 for next hearing, prosecution counsel Misbahuddin Siraj said.

The boy, Samiul Islam Rajon, died of internal bleeding after being attacked in the northeastern city of Sylhet. The attackers allegedly were punishing him for stealing a bicycle, an allegation his family and police say is unfounded.

The alleged fugitives include the main suspect, Kamrul Islam, who has been detained in Saudi Arabia and is awaiting repatriation. 10 men are behind bars after being arrested with the help of local residents, who were said to have caught some of the attackers when they tried to dump the body.

The charges in the indictment include murder or helping the alleged attackers. Defendants convicted of murder could face the death penalty.

Some of the accused men said they were innocent.

The chilling, 28-minute video went viral online, triggering protests in the South Asian country, where such incidents are not rare. His body bore at least 64 injury marks, according to an autopsy report.

In the cellphone video, the boy is heard screaming in pain and pleading with his attackers: "Don't beat me, please, will die, will die." The attackers laughed at the boy when he asked for water.

Like many poor children in Bangladesh, Rajon was forced to leave school to work to help his family, in his case selling vegetables.

(source: Associated Press)


Is Pakistan bold enough to give sex-offenders the death penalty? ---- LHC ordered the offender to pay compensation of Rs0.1 million to the victim and another Rs1 million to the child born out of the rape.

A recent verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has laid appropriate emphasis on the award of both criminal and civil compensation for rape victims. In the contemporary judgment of Nadeem Masood vs The State, Justice Anwarul Haq, while invoking Section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), not only sentenced the convict to 20 years of imprisonment but also ordered the offender to pay compensation of Rs0.1 million to the victim and another one million rupees to the child born out of the rape.

This judgement, however, comprises part of the population of less than 5 % of Pakistan's rape cases that actually result in a conviction and came to a resolve after almost 5 years.

Following the amendment to the controversial Zina Ordinance 1979, and PPC through the Protection of Women (Criminal Law) Amendment Act 2006, section 376 PPC states that,

"(1) Whoever commits rape shall be punished with death or imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 10 years or more than 25 years and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) When rape is committed by 2 or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life."

Despite the laws being extensively revised, no one can safely conclude that the modifications have led to a measurable decrease in incidents of rape across Pakistan - the Kasur sexual abuse scandal can be cited as supporting evidence to this claim. One cannot also place reliance on the reported rape cases statistics available as majority of the rape cases go unreported. Experts in the field have suggested that reported cases are but the tip of the iceberg and actual cases may be significantly higher.

Nevertheless, we can certainly concur that notwithstanding the offence of rape being punishable by fine, imprisonment, and even death penalty, the punishments would only act as a deterrent to rape if they are consistently and effectively enforced over a period of time.

The abovementioned ruling of Nadeem Masood vs The State is a rare case in point that not only indemnified the victim, but also the child born as a result of the rape with supporting citations from the Hadith and Indian and Bangladeshi case precedents - albeit the ballpark figures awarded as compensation must undoubtedly be questioned as 'appropriate' or not, as no amount of money can underwrite the physical and psychological damage suffered by a rape victim and Rs1 million is certainly not enough to raise a child.

The compromised law enforcement for rape victims in Pakistan has generally been attributed to its patriarchal set-up and socio-cultural norms which have given birth to a complex and rather inaccessible legal and procedural framework for seeking justice in such cases. The reluctance to report rape cases is not only a consequence of protecting family 'honour' but also the convoluted legal procedures involved that ultimately result in delayed, reconciliatory or no justice at all - even 'justice delayed is justice denied'.

Judgments such as Nadeem Masood vs The State must be applauded and highlighted time and time again in the media. However, such decisions are relatively painless wins for Pakistan's law enforcers as these are single individuals accused. Where there is more than one accused in a rape case, for example gang rapes, the courts have been reluctant to award a sentence, as the prescribed penalty is death or imprisonment for life. Take for example the Mukhtaran Mai case, where those accused of the gang rape were eventually acquitted. The disinclination from judges to apply capital punishment in rape cases has also severely handicapped the spirit behind the extortionate punishment, that is, prevention of sexual abuse.

Additionally, the wearisome chain of command involved in pursuing a rape case (from the police to various authorities to lawyers to judges) in a male-dominated culture is itself a discouragement to even initiate a First Information Report (FIR). In the absence of expectation of a fair treatment from the subordinate hierarchical avenues, the onus lies on the chief authority, judges, to implement laws impartially but rigorously.

Many have cited lack of education, sexual frustration, and laws as reasons behind a crippled justice available to rape victims. While it could take centuries to rid Pakistan (for that matter the world) of patriarchy and high testosterone levels in men (pun intended), with the judges having been armed with a largely apt technical legal structure for rape laws in Pakistan as an aftermath of Protection of Women (Criminal Law) Amendment Act 2006, the ball is now in the judges court to enforce an accountable justice system for rape victims by taking bold and daring decisions and put into effect punishments that reflect the spirit of the law - even if it means a death penalty.

(source: The Express Tribune)


The farce of justice

India recently hanged to death Yakub Memon, a chartered accountant, for his role the Mumbai bombings in 1993 which took 257 innocent lives. The execution took place on July 30, 2 hours after the final decision on Memon's fate was taken by the bench which was constituted after 2 Supreme Court judges had differing opinions on the matter.

This execution has sparked a fiery public debate on the abolition of the death penalty in India. Prominent figures like Salman Khan and Shashi Tharoor who vociferously opposed Yakub Memon's hanging were ostracised and labelled as unpatriotic or sympathetic to terrorists. Anil Dharkar, a prominent journalist, very rightly pointed out the arbitrariness and politics that surrounds the death penalty in India by asking how many were prosecuted by the state when thousands of Sikhs and Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs in 1984 in Delhi and in the 2002 Gujrat riots respectively. The answer is zero. He further highlighted how the state rescued those convicted for Rajiv Gandhi's murder for the simple reason of them having already spent 22 years in prison. So had Yakub Memon but he was not pardoned as the pressure from the public driven by media publicity seemed to have influenced the judges of the apex court.

Things are no different, in fact even worse, in Pakistan. After the gruesome attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, the public was thirsty for revenge and as a knee-jerk reaction the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted. The 21st Amendment passed to pave the way for the creation of military courts was duly endorsed by the Honorable Supreme Court and military courts are now a reality we have to live with for another 2 years.

In India, however, there are certain additional safeguards - at least on paper, even if practically little relief is given to people like Yakub Memon. These safeguards include a right to the second review of the Supreme Court's appeal decision and a mechanism known as 'curative petition' whereby 3 senior-most judges of the apex court determine whether any exceptional oversight has led to miscarriage of justice and avert or cure it accordingly. Additionally the Indian Supreme Court declared that the death penalty be awarded only in the "rarest of the rare" cases and this does involve subjectivity and a degree of arbitrariness as there is no objective criteria to determine when the threshold is passed in this regard, but at least there is a filter which does not happen to be the case in Pakistan.

Whether we must jettison the death penalty altogether or not is another debate altogether but the history of the criminal justice system of Pakistan is replete with instances of miscarriage of justice and gross violations of international human rights law. The lifting of the moratorium as a means to curb crime and terrorism and to satisfy the desire for revenge is a logically flawed and imprudent assertion as there is no statistical data indicating a correlation between the death penalty and crime prevention. Second, a state policy to be based on emotions of revenge and retribution is absolutely ridiculous.

The very purpose of lifting of the moratorium becomes obsolete with the record revealed by Reuters stating that of 180 people hanged since December 2014, fewer than one in six were linked to militancy. So if we are not executing terrorists then who? It is people like Abdul Basit, a paraplegic who went into coma for 3 weeks, and was sentenced to death in 2009 and Khizer Hayat who is schizophrenic and whose plight is similar to that of Kanizan Bibi who was a schizophrenic and despite having spent 26 years in prison was executed. The execution of these 2 men has been stayed at the moment.

How can we forget Shafqat Hussain, the case that attracted a lot of media attention, a juvenile who was tortured into confessing and despite the governments of Sindh and AJK calling for his execution be halted, nothing could change his fate. Shafqat's case was similar to that of Aftab Bahadur Masih who was executed in June this year and was only 15 years old at the time of commission of the offence in 1995 (a juvenile could be awarded a death penalty then).

The minimum age for execution was raised to 18 under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, which has been challenged in the senior courts and whose future remains uncertain. It is in gross contravention of both national and international law to execute juveniles, and those mentally or physically unfit.

Similarly the police department is inefficient and corrupt and the tactics they used to cover up their incompetency include torturing the accused into confessing and, if someone has absconded, harassing family members and often times arresting and implicating next of kin instead. Another facet of the misery of condemned prisoners is what is known as 'double-jeopardy' - despite having spent more than 15 years behind bars, the duration equivalent to life imprisonment, they are still executed. This goes against the letter and spirit of Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which provides sentence for murder to be either death or life imprisonment and not both.

In a recent Supreme Court judgement in Mohammad Arshad v The State (2015 SCMR 257), the apex court distinguished this case from the earlier precedent set in Hassan and others v The State (PLD 2013 793) and Dilawar Hussain v The State ( 2013 SCMR 1582), ruling that double jeopardy in itself is not sufficient to commute a death sentence. In absence of effective investigation and good legal representation, miscarriage of justice is commonplace.

Article 45 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan allows condemned prisoners a chance to send a mercy petition to the president who has the discretionary powers to commute the sentence, but practically speaking such petitions are not only refused but also ignored. It is also common knowledge that it is the interior ministry that takes decisions on mercy petitions and not the president himself. There is lack of clarity in the Prison Rules with regard to mercy petitions, and the provision in the constitution itself is apparently redundant as hardly any convict is given any relief under this provision.

We need to overhaul the criminal justice system as the word 'justice' is more of a farce in the present situation where it is predominantly the poor who are thrown to the gallows while the rich - like Shahrukh Jatoi - get away unpunished by exploiting the non-compoundable status of the offence of murder. There is still time and the president of Pakistan can exercise the discretionary powers given to him under the constitution to pardon lives of Abdul Basit, Khizer Hayat, and many others like them who have been languishing in prison for years and there are compelling reasons to commute their sentences.

(source: Opinion, Ayesha Siddique Khan; The writer is a barrister based in Islambad----The News)


The force of law

Pakistan has the misfortune of being periodically bashed by the international media. Recently, it has been the uproar over the revival of the death penalty. The European Union, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called for reimposition of the moratorium on executions.

Locally, the HRCP criticised the measure, arguing (without any study/survey) that execution of convicts has no nexus with the crime rate in the country. Some columnists also cautioned the government to exercise restraint, lest innocents get hanged for want of a fair trial.

The moratorium was imposed in 2008 as a condition for getting the GSP Plus status with the European Union. Reportedly some 8,000 convicts, proven guilty for heinous crimes including terrorism, were languishing in prisons - with growing attacks by the Taliban to set them free. In April 2012, in a daring assault on the Bannu prison, 400 prisoners were released, followed by another audacious attack (in July 2013) at a prison in D I Khan, resulting in the release of another 248 hardened criminals. This caused alarm and panic in the country: the KP government asked the centre to transfer Dr Shakil Afridi, a high-value target (alleged facilitator of the US raid on Bin Laden), from the Central Prison Peshawar. There were calls for resumption of executions of condemned prisoners.

The government was, however, in a quandary: the moratorium could not be lifted without the risk of losing the GSP-Plus status. Public pressure then intensified after the horrific incident of APS, Peshawar. The government relented and executions resumed.

The global community is divided over the imposition of capital punishment. It has abolished or suspended in 140 states but still practised in 63 others. In Pakistan, the death penalty is prescribed for various offences, ranging from murder, bomb blasts/suicide explosions to narcotic/drugs, gang rape, blasphemy, etc. It is in our constitution and sanctioned by the substantive/procedural law.

Under the constitution, the right to life is not absolute but qualified; hence the state has the right to award capital punishment. There is yet another aspect of the death penalty: it is imposed under Islamic law, which carries supremacy. The constitution stipulates that any existing law repugnant to the injunctions of Islam is invalid (Article 203D), and all such laws must be brought in conformity with Islamic injunctions (Article 227).

Islamic law lays stress on the sanctity of life. Says the Quran: "On that account: We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person - unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole mankind: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind" (Sura 5:32).

Thus, Section 302 of the PPC prescribes Qisas as punishment for the offence of murder. It is a private right of the heir of the victim and can be compounded by Diyat or forgiven without compensation. And whereas the president has the power to grant pardon (Article 45 read with Section 402A of the CrPC), such power cannot be exercised in respect for the penalty of Qisas without the consent of the heirs of the victim (Section 402 of the CrPC). Besides Islam, other revealed religions - Judaism and Christianity - also permit capital punishment. Israel practises capital punishment for major offences including treason and war crimes/crimes against humanity. Some states in the US also practise capital punishment.

The insistence of the European Union on abolition of the death penalty is unfair, keeping in view the troubling times. Its stance is baffling, for it doesn't object as vehemently to the killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the illegal/unjustified wars in Iraq, Syria and the drone strikes in Pakistan. Capital punishment is awarded to convicts proven guilty for the heinous offences of murder, bomb blasts, terrorists' acts, etc.

The European Union has also reminded Pakistan of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966. Let it be clarified that this convention, far from imposing a total embargo on capital punishment, permits it for serious crimes. It however bans the death penalty for children under 18; that is fully complied with under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, which prohibits, inter alia, death sentence to minors below 18 years of age.

The abolitionists' often-quoted arguments are that the death penalty is cruel, inhuman, degrading, and that convicts are likely to suffer irreparable/irreversible loss due to a defective criminal justice system, etc don't stand to logic, as the same arguments equally apply to the suggested alternative punishment of imprisonment for life.

What then is the likely scenario: letting the murderers/terrorists get way and relapse into Hobbes' state of nature: "war of every man against every man", making "life solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". Further, the counter-narration of pain/suffering inflicted on a victim and his/her family, disturbing the social balance in society, flouting the writ of the state, is missing from the discourse. It is a cardinal principle of morality and justice that the convict gets his just desserts to assuage the angry sentiments of both the victim and the community.

The government therefore need not be influenced by such criticism. The executions are legal; the moratorium was illegal since executive notification cannot override the law. The country is passing through a turbulent period. There is no security of life/ property; even highly guarded ministers/political leaders are being targeted. There is an escalating trend of violence coupled with bomb blasts and suicide explosions by militants/terrorists. In these circumstances, the country can ill afford to lower its guard by abolishing the death penalty and giving a free hand to militants/terrorists to operate with impunity.

After normalcy returns, the government may refer the matter to parliament as it requires research and study. The law must be reviewed to restrict the scope of anti-terrorism law and ensure that capital punishment is awarded in serious/heinous crimes. The law/constitution are not immutable but organic and open to reform. The provision of Qisas requires review.

Law, in order to remain relevant, must evolve with the vicissitudes of time, emerging realities and socio-economic conditions. Our criminal justice system is also in dire need of reform/improvement to prevent the miscarriage of justice.

(source: Dr. Faqir Hussain; The writer served as secretary, Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan; director general, Federal Judicial Academy; and registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan----The News)


Kidnapping for ransom qualifies for death: SC

The rising incidents of kidnapping and abduction for ransom not only by ordinary criminals but even by terrorists necessitate a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities, the Supreme Court has said while upholding death sentence under section 364A of IPC. “The gradual growth of the challenges posed by kidnapping and abductions for ransom, not only by ordinary criminals for monetary gain or as an organised activity for economic gains

but by terrorist organisations is what necessitated the incorporation of Section 364A of the IPC and a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities, reports PTI.

"Given the background in which the law was enacted and the concern shown by Parliament for the safety and security of the citizens and the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country, the punishment prescribed for those committing any act contrary to Section 364A cannot be dubbed as so outrageously disproportionate to the nature of the offence as to call for same being declared unconstitutional," a 3-judge bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.

The apex court's verdict came on a petition filed by a convict, who was awarded death sentence in a kidnapping-cum -murder case, challenging the constitutional validity of section 364A of IPC.

The court made it clear that "situations where the act which the accused is charged with is proved to be an act of terrorism threatening the very essence of our federal, secular and democratic structure may possibly be the only other situation where courts may consider awarding extreme penalty.

"But, short of death in such extreme and rarest of rare cases, imprisonment for life for a proved case of kidnapping or abduction will not qualify for being described as barbaric or inhuman so as to infringe the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution."

(source: Free Press Journal)


Panel to submit death penalty report

The Law Commission of India is expected to submit its report on the death penalty to the Supreme Court next week making its recommendations as to whether capital punishment should be retained or done away with. The report comes days after the law panel's consultation process saw a majority opposing the death penalty.

The commission is expected to submit its report to the Supreme Court "sometime" next week on whether India should continue with the death penalty or abolish it. A copy will also be handed over to the Union law and justice minister as any call on changes in penal provisions will be taken by Parliament.

The report assumes significance as it comes days after a debate was generated over the hanging of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon. The commission is working overtime to complete the report as its 3-year term is coming to an end on August 31.

The Supreme Court, in Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs Maharashtra and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs Maharashtra, had suggested that the Law Commission should study the death penalty in India to "allow for an up-to-date and informed discussion and debate on the subject".

In a consultation paper released on May 22 last year, the commission had said that at this juncture, an ex-haustive study on the subject would be a useful and salutary contribution to the cause of public debate on this issue. Such a study will also provide a definitive research-backed orientation to the legislators and judges on this very contentious issue, it had said. The commission said the study would have to address queries and concerns of courts and present an international perspective.

(source: Asian Age)


China Plans to Boost Penalties for Sex With Girls Under 14

Chinese state media say China is planning harsher penalties for men who have sex with girls under 14, following public outrage over high-profile offenders including teachers.

Under the new law, all such cases would be considered rape because another criminal charge that served as a loophole for some offenders would be eliminated.

The state-run China News Service said Monday the crime of "prostitution with underage girls" would be removed from China's penal code under the revision being considered by lawmakers. If the bill is approved, any sex with girls under 14 would be considered rape and subject to harsher penalties, including death.

The current penalty for prostitution with underage girls is 5 to 15 years in jail.

Members of the public and legal scholars have long called for the change.

(source: Associated Press)


3 inmates on death row

The Zambia Prisons Service (ZPS) says there are only three inmates on death penalty at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe after President Lungu commuted death sentences of 332 people.

On July 16, President Lungu commuted death sentences of 332 prisoners who were on death row to life imprisonment.

ZPS deputy public relations officer Stephen Kagoli said in an interview that the condemned prisoners were sentenced to death after the President exercised his prerogative of mercy on the 332.

"As of now, we only have 3 inmates on death row countrywide," Mr Kagoli said.

He said the 3 are all male.

The condemned section at Mukobeko has a capacity to accommodate 48 people, but the number swelled to 332 as at July 16.

(source: Daily Mail)


At Least 3 Prisoners Executed in Northern Iran----2 prisoners charged with murder were hanged to death in Rasht's Lakan Prison, one prisoner was hanged in Ardebil Central Prison on a drug related charge.

2 prisoners charged with murder (identified as M.M., 37 years old, and A.M., 33 years old) were hanged to death in Rasht's Lakan Prison on the morning of Saturday August 23, reports the Justice Department in the province of Gilan. An informed source, who has requested to be annonymous, says there were a total of 3 prisoners who were hanged to death in Lakan Prison on Saturday. "One of the prisoners' names is Asghar Mohammadi," says the source.

In Ardabil Central Prison one prisoner (identified as Hamed Madeh Moghadar) was hanged to death on Saturday for possessing more than 580 grams of crystal meth, according to the Press Department of Ardebil's Judiciary. The prisoner was reportedly issued the death penalty by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in the province of Ardabil.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Indian wife on a mission to save husband on death row in UAE----Convict's wife, supported by village, trying to raise blood money

The wife of an Indian convicted to death in the Gulf is running from pillar to post to secure blood money in order to free her husband.

Keralites will find the story line familiar - of an award-winning Malayalam movie 'Perumazhakaalam' - except that this time it is for real and the man who has been accused of murder is in the central prison in Abu Dhabi for killing his colleague.

Santosh Prabhakaran from Attingal village in Thiruvananthapuram was arrested in July 2011 following the murder of Subin Varghese.

Both men worked for a building maintenance company in the UAE.

A UAE court awarded the death penalty to Santosh and even as his appeal is pending before a higher court, his wife, supported by other members from the village, is frantically trying to raise enough blood money that could free Santosh from the sentence of death.

So far about Rs18 lakh (Dh100,000) has been raised and additional funds have been promised by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Santosh's wife Sheena says the victim’s family are demanding Rs50 lakh (Dh280,000) to issue a mercy petition that could spare Santosh's life.

"My family, neighbours and members of the village panchayat have come forward to collect money. So far, we have managed about Rs38 lakh (Dh211,111), which includes about Rs20 lakh (Dh111,111) promised by the Kerala Chief Minister's office," she says.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing Santosh has appealed against the death penalty, which is scheduled for September 7.

Santhosh's brother Satish, who also works in the UAE, has flown to India to try and get the mercy petition signed by the victim's parents.

"He landed here this (Sunday) morning. We are planning to pay Rs16 lakh [Dh88,888] to Varghese's family and get the mercy petition signed. The remaining amount has to be deposited before the court in the UAE before September 7. We are trying our best," she added.

Santosh had come to the UAE a month after his wedding. The couple have an 8-year-old school-going daughter. Varghese is survived by his parents and 2 sisters.

Sheena is hoping that her story could end the way the director scripted the tale of 'Perumazhakalam'. The movie ends on a note where the victim's wife signs off on the petition, enabling the freedom of the man who had accidentally killed his friend in Saudi Arabia.


AUGUST 23, 2015:


60 years of death-penalty opposition

Friday, June 19, 1953 was the day I became an opponent of the death penalty. Just before sundown, out of "respect" for the Jewish Sabbath, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed at New York's Sing Sing prison for the crime of conspiracy to commit espionage - not espionage itself, but conspiracy to commit espionage. However, it was their refusal to name other conspirators that paved the way for their death sentences. The prosecution had used possible death sentences as leverage. Staunch, misguided communists that they were, the Rosenbergs called their bluff and orphaned their children.

Julius Rosenberg was indisputably guilty; Ethel's involvement is less clear. David Greenglass, Ethel's brother, was convicted of the same crime and received a 10-year sentence because he named others, including his sister. Harry Gold and Morton Sobell, also convicted, received lengthy prison terms.

The disparity in sentences was a flagrant injustice Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower chose not to redress. Suffice it to say defendants should not be put to death for refusing to implicate others in their crimes.

By way of justification, the Rosenbergs were made to look responsible for the wave of post-war communist aggression, from the descent of the Iron Curtain to the invasion of South Korea. Never mind that compared to the damage caused by Klaus Fuchs, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and other Soviet spies, the Rosenbergs were dabblers. Their case merely is one example among thousands of the uneven, inconsistent manner in which the death penalty has been meted out in this country.

Additionally, I have long speculated the Rosenbergs fate was influenced not only by the post-war Red Scare, but by the effect of their arrest and conviction upon American Jewry.

The sense of shock, betrayal and anger in Jewish communities was widespread, as was concern about an uptick in anti-Semitism. I have often wondered how the Rosenbergs might have fared had their judge and prosecutor been something other than Jewish. Could it have been that prosecutor Irving Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman, spurred on by Sen. Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel, the equally infamous Roy Cohn, wished to leave no doubt about the patriotism of American Jews, and vented their wrath by sending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to their deaths?

With the forgoing in mind, I am pleased with the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision declaring the death penalty to be contrary to the state constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments. Predictably, there are many who feel otherwise, citing among other things, the legislature's clearly stated intent to exclude those currently on death row from its abolition of the death penalty. However, given the legislature's abolition of the death penalty, it seems utterly logical to conclude that thereafter, any execution in Connecticut would become an "unusual punishment" prohibited by the state constitution.

Moreover, in a previous failed attempt to abolish the death penalty, it was clear many legislators were influenced by a desire to see the murderers of the Petit family receive the death penalty. This smacked of trial by legislature.

While I welcome the demise of the death penalty, my feelings are uncomfortably mixed about the 11 men on Connecticut's death row whose lives have been spared. As criminals go, they are the worst of the worst, so much so that there really is no punishment commensurate with their crimes. The murders of the Petit family and Julia Ashe are among the most diabolical crimes ever committed in this state, and their perpetrators should remain imprisoned until their dying breaths, along with their now former death-row cellmates.

Some claim a life sentence with no possibility of parole is cruel and inhumane; others raise the matter of doing mercy as well as justice. As one who believes in the prudent societal exercise of mercy, are not food, shelter, medical care, recreation and educational opportunity more merciful than that accorded the victims of these unspeakable crimes? And should mercy eclipse justice? Releasing the perpetrators of the most monstrous, calculated murders is a gross injustice to the victims and their families.

As for releasing the "rehabilitated" among the worst of the worst, it's no secret our prisons do not have a stellar reputation for rehabilitation.

The 11 men to be released from Connecticut's death row have given adequate notice they are deadly menaces to society. Let them be declared rehabilitated and fit for re-entry into our communities the day their victims are rehabilitated. Such is the meaning of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

(source: Rocco M. Pugliese; Republican American)


An eye-opening view of the justice system

"Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" by Bryan Stevenson is the true story of the author's fight for justice, starting as an intern at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee at 23 years of age in 1983 and rising to executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which he founded to defend those most desperate in need.

The book reads like a novel, but it's even more gripping because Stevenson is describing real cases, real people and real injustices.

He begins his story with his first visit to a death-row inmate, where his boss at the SPDC told him to deliver one message: "You will not be killed in the next year." What happened on this trip led him to finish his internship committed to helping the death-row prisoners he had met that month. He states: "I went back to law school with an intense desire to understand the laws and doctrines that sanctioned the death penalty and extreme punishments."

It led him to realize that his whole life, he had questioned how and why some people were treated unfairly, and he could work this belief into his career.

Besides telling his story throughout the book, Stevenson also explains what he thinks is wrong with our justice system, and he makes a strong case. From wasting money to innocent men spending years in prison to children being tried as adults and incarcerated for their lifetime, Stevenson not only writes about these issues, but he also works to fix a broken system.

He also tells the story of a late 1980s case involving Walter McMillian, a black man on death row in Alabama who insisted he did not commit the crime he was convicted of.

An 18-year-old white girl from a good family had been killed, and police could not find the murderer. At the same time, McMillian was facing some legal troubles of his own because of an extra-marital affair he had with a white woman, Kelly, who was going through a divorce.

The ex-husband was out for revenge, and Kelly fell into all sorts of trouble, getting involved with a criminal who eventually accused McMillian of murdering this 18-year-old girl. The police wanted to solve the case, so they arrested McMillian.

Because McMillian was black in Alabama, he found himself on death row. When he met Stevenson, he claimed he was innocent. Stevenson looked into the case and discovered this was indeed true - McMillian had been at a fish fry during the time of the murder.

After Stevenson took the case and fought to get him off of death row, McMillian's conviction was overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1993, and he was released in March 2003 after spending 6 years on death row.

The book is full of different cases Stevenson has worked on and laws that he has tirelessly struggled to change. It is inspirational but also an eye-opener to the American justice system. In the end, he states, "Walter made me understand why we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent."

This book is about race and socioeconomic level in the courts, and it is full of examples of Stevenson's statement.

Stevenson invites interested readers who want to work with or support volunteer programs that serve incarcerated or newly released people or seek reform of criminal-justice policy to visit his organization's website,

(source: Margo Dill, News-Gazette)


Freedom, Finally, After a Life in Prison

When she was 15 years old, Paula Cooper and 3 high school classmates in Gary, Indiana, decided to cut school and steal some money to play games at a local arcade. They drank some cheap wine, smoked some pot and walked to the nearby home of a 78-year-old Bible teacher, Ruth Pelke. They figured she might have a jar of money somewhere.

The teenagers cajoled their way inside by telling Ms. Pelke that they were interested in Bible lessons. Once there, 1 of them hit her with a vase. Ms. Cooper stabbed Ms. Pelke 33 times with a butcher knife.

The others stood watch, joined in the slaying or searched for cash. They left with $10 and took a joy ride in Ms. Pelke's old Plymouth.

3 girls received long prison sentences. Ms. Cooper pleaded guilty to murder and in 1986 was sentenced to die in the electric chair, becoming the youngest death-row inmate in Indiana history.

What followed was extraordinary.  Bill Pelke, the Bible teacher's grandson, forgave Ms. Cooper for killing his beloved grandmother, who never would have wanted an execution, he said. Mr. Pelke started a sweeping campaign to spare Ms. Cooper's life, wrote to her faithfully and visited her behind bars.

"She told me how truly sorry she was for what she'd done," said Mr. Pelke, who is the president of Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing, an anti-death-penalty group he co-founded.

More than 2 million people, most of them in Europe, signed petitions on behalf of Ms. Cooper; protesters in Italy began a Paula Cooper crusade, complete with T-shirts bearing her mug shot. The pope made a plea for clemency.

In 1989, Indiana's Supreme Court commuted Ms. Cooper's sentence to 60 years in prison.  She earned a bachelor's degree, trained assistance dogs for the disabled, tutored inmates and ran the prison kitchen. In June 2013, after spending her adult life as inmate No. 864800, she walked out of prison, released decades early because of her good behavior.

She didn't know how to use the Internet. She constantly got lost; in prison, there's no need to learn directions because someone always tells you where to go. "I didn't know how to use an A.T.M. card - anything," she said.

She nevertheless got a job cooking hamburgers at Five Guys and soon became a manager. She got engaged and moved into an apartment with her fiance. She won her dream job as a legal assistant in the Indiana federal community defender's office, led by her longtime friend and defense attorney, Monica Foster, the chief federal defender.

"You've got to have hope," Ms. Cooper told me. "If you give it up, you're never going to make it."

On May 26, some 2 years after her release, Ms. Cooper committed suicide. She would have turned 46 this month.

I was one of the few journalists to talk to Ms. Cooper post-prison and was the last to speak with her, in a call a month before her death.

I'd been planning a trip to Indianapolis to finally meet her for a story about teenagers on death row who transformed themselves. If anyone was proof that redemption was possible, it was Ms. Cooper.

She asked me to wait a little. "My life is quiet right now, and that's how I like it. Once people find out who I am, they all have an opinion about me because of what I did. They start seeing me as a monster."

Ms. Cooper had been severely depressed since childhood, her older sister, Rhonda LaBroi, told me. Ms. LaBroi begged her to get counseling, but after all the time in prison, Ms. Cooper couldn't trust anyone. Ms. LaBroi said that in a suicide note, her sister said that "she wanted to tell people suffering from mental illness not to go down that road, not to commit suicide, to reach out any way they could."

Ms. Cooper's history was daunting. Her mother tried to commit suicide and kill Ms. Cooper and Ms. LaBroi when they were young. She put the girls in the car with her and ran the engine in a closed garage. Ms. Cooper's father, Herman, now deceased, issued daily beatings, often with an extension cord, Ms. LaBroi said.

School officials, police and social workers wouldn't intervene. "We begged them to help and they never did," she told me.

In prison, the torment continued. At the Indiana Women's Prison, her 1st home, "some of the guards lived to make us miserable," Ms. Cooper said.  In her 20s she spent 3 straight years in solitary confinement, heaping new scars on top of old.  Leading causes of criminality are chronic trauma, neglect or abuse, said Ms. Foster, a public defender for 3 decades. "The prison system does absolutely nothing to respond to that."

"Paula showed the incredible possibilities in people," Ms. Foster said. "She'd been put down, put down, put down, sentenced to death, did 28 years, and she came out and did great - she turned everything around. In the end it wasn't enough, because no one gave her the help she deserved."

"It's a complete tragedy," Ms. Foster told me after her death.

Mental health care in prison is mostly a pill in a paper cup. Ms. Cooper herself was briefly on antidepressants, she told her sister.  No one mandated follow-up treatment for "re-entry," an apt term considering how much it must feel like dropping from outer space. "Nobody helps because people don't see us as human beings," Ms. Cooper said.

Basic reforms could have made the difference for her, and putting them in place could help hundreds of thousands of other offenders, according to everyone from judges and psychiatrists to advocates. This isn't about pampering. The reforms would cut costs by reducing recidivism.

We need to provide mental health assessments; adequate counseling and treatment programs; rehabilitation; and appropriate medication, as opposed to just sedatives. We should make outpatient treatment a condition of parole, and expand the use of specialized mental health "re-entry courts," which offer intensive guidance and support.

Whatever demons Ms. Cooper fought with, she hid them well. "She's thriving," Ms. Foster told me a month before Ms. Cooper's death. "She's full of joy."

She learned to shop for food, and drive (badly). She was the cheerful, patient voice on the phone for terrified and lonely law office clients. She spoke at 2 colleges to "give back to the community." She tried everything she could to help a mentally ill homeless man in her neighborhood.

But she felt mentally ill herself, she told her sister, who said: "Bill Pelke forgave her, but she couldn't forgive herself. She said she felt like she didn't deserve to live."

There are lots of Paula Coopers in the country. Prisons release more than 650,000 inmates every year. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, some 70 % of incarcerated women in state prisons suffer from mental health problems.

Ms. Cooper needed help to survive her despair over the crime. Her sister said she thought about it every day. When her victim's grandson visited her in prison, he forgave her, and hugged her. "You've taken a burden off me," she told him.  In the end, there were too many others to lift.

(source: Amy Linn is a journalist who received a 2015 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship to write about teenagers who were on death row----New York Times)


Opening statements to begin Monday in capital murder trial for Frazier Glenn Cross

8 women and 9 men were selected Friday to serve on the 12-person jury with 5 alternates. The alternates will not be identified until the case is ready to be deliberated. They were selected from a pool of 200 in a week-long jury-selection process.

The trial is expected to last 3 to 4 weeks.

The 74-year-old Aurora, MO, white supremacist is accused of killing 3 people last year at 2 Jewish sites in Johnson County.

Though he has pleaded not guilty, Cross has admitted that he went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom retirement home with the plan to kill Jews since he is dying from a lung disease. He wound up killing 3 Christians.

He is accused of killing William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center on April 13, 2014.

Cross, who uses a wheelchair to get around, suffers from chronic emphysema and has oxygen tanks nearby during court proceedings. He told police soon after his arrest that he wanted to kill Jews before he dies because they were squeezing out the white race.

Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, is a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party. He ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.

He fired his attorneys in May so he could speak on his own behalf. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Several times last week during the jury selection process, Cross challenged the patriotism of would-be jurors and quizzed them about their views on the government and media.

With no legal background and a stated disdain for government, Cross was admonished during earlier hearings for loudly interrupting Johnson County District Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan and making disparaging remarks toward members of the court.

Last week, Cross remained subdued, even as Ryan upheld prosecutors' occasional objections about Cross' line of questioning or reaction to answers given by would-be jurors.

Cross has challenged the patriotism of some would-be jurors and asked others if they simply had better things to do than sit through a trial that could span up to a month. He also quizzed them on whether they support a single world government; whether the U.S. was fighting wars in the Middle East to protect its own interests or Israel's; and whether the mainstream media is "controlled."

Ryan ruled last month that Cross will not be allowed to use a "compelling necessity" defense to justify the killings.

His former attorneys remain as stand-by counsel in case Cross is removed from the courtroom. Concerned about how he might behave during the trial, prosecutors this week filed a memorandum of law addressing the court's right to remove a disruptive defendant and deny Cross the right to defend himself.

When Cross fired his attorneys, Ryan cautioned him about the amount of work necessary to defend a capital murder case.

Last week, Cross acknowledged that he had not read thousands of pages of discovery he had received from prosecutors, nor did he know how to write and submit proposed jury instructions. Stand-by attorney Mark Manna told the judge he had given Cross guidelines on how to do them and was hesitant to do more in his current capacity.



Longtime death penalty attorney questions past death penalty decisions

Execution protocol -- lethal injection

This is the state's lethal injection protocol as stated in the Nebraska Administrative Code.

Identification. Executions shall be accomplished by the intravenous injection of the following substances into the condemned inmate by the method described in this protocol.

Sodium thiopental

Pancuronium bromide

Potassium chloride

Administration of the lethal substances. The lethal substances shall be administered to the condemned inmate by the mechanism described in this protocol. They shall be administered in the following order and dosages.

Sodium thiopental will initially be administered in one 3 gram dose. There will be a waiting period of at least one minute between the administration of the sodium thiopental and conducting the consciousness checks. If unconsciousness is not verified by the Warden after the administration of the initial dose, additional 3 gram doses will be administered and consciousness checks conducted after the administration of each dose until unconsciousness is verified.

Once unconsciousness is verified, pancuronium bromide will be administered in one dose of 50 mg/100 ml.

Once the pancuronium bromide has been administered, potassium chloride will be the third lethal substance administered in one dose of 240 Meq.

A 50cc saline flush will be administered following each injection of a lethal substance.

If the coroner does not pronounce the condemned inmate dead at the conclusion of this process, the director shall order the execution process repeated in the manner described by this protocol.


J. Kirk Brown has raised eyebrows and ire among some former co-workers since he retired 15 months ago from the state's top law enforcement agency.

The former solicitor general had worked on death penalty cases for almost 40 years, most of that time in the Nebraska Department of Justice except for 6 years with the Texas Department of Corrections.

In Nebraska, he worked for numerous attorneys general beginning in 1976.

But his last 4 years, under former Attorney General Jon Bruning, were not easy after he was unceremoniously pushed out of decision-making circles on death penalty issues. Then-Chief Deputy Attorney General David Cookson said Brown was removed because of his work performance.

But since his retirement in May 2014, Brown has publicly questioned decisions made during that time -- and those who made them -- that he felt weakened the state's ability to carry out death sentences. In particular, he has been critical of the failure to change the state's problematic lethal injection protocol.

Doing so, Brown said, "would have allowed us a sense of moving forward."

"Otherwise we were at a basic standstill for the next 2 to 3 years."

And by that time, he said, the drugs would have expired.

By law, Nebraska must use a 3-drug cocktail of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride to kill an inmate. State officials have been trying -- including efforts in recent months -- to get hold of the first 2 from a supplier in India, but have not been successful. Among other reasons, federal law prohibits importing sodium thiopental.

Changing the law that dictates the protocol would have delayed executions by only a few months, Brown said.

The Attorney General's Office had cases that were ready to move toward execution, including that of murderers Michael Ryan, who since died of cancer, Carey Dean Moore and John Lotter.

But as long as litigation over the propriety of the drugs or their purchase was in place, he said, the office could not assure the Nebraska Supreme Court that the Department of Correctional Services was prepared to carry out an execution.

The state has not executed an inmate since John Joubert, Robert Williams and Harold Lamont "Wili" Otey were put to death in the electric chair in the mid-1990s.

Ten men now sit on death row, with repeal of the death penalty set to become effective at the end of this month, barring a successful referendum petition drive.

About 115,000 verified signatures would be required to stop the repeal from going into effect until a vote could be taken in November 2016. About half that many would be needed to put it on the ballot.

* * *

Brown says he is still baffled by the change in his status from solicitor general to senior assistant attorney general, and an order he got from Chief Deputy Cookson at that time to have no further communication with anyone at the Corrections Department.

"I was presented with a list of complaints that they had, some of which went back several years and I'd never heard of before," he said.

But right or wrong, Brown said, attorneys in the Justice Department serve at the pleasure of the attorney general, who has the right to organize the office any way he wants.

Cookson said this week that Brown was relieved of his death penalty duties because of performance issues, and it was because of those performance issues that he was told not to communicate with anyone in Corrections.

"Because obviously if he doesn't know what's going on he's not going to give them accurate information," he said.

Regardless of what path the attorney general's office chose, Cookson said, "there was not going to be a quick or easy solution as we anticipated litigation on anything we did in trying to carry out the death penalty."

Brown said former Gov. Dave Heineman would have been the one to make the administrative decision not to change the protocol.

"I don't know who else it could have come from," Brown said. "Jon Bruning couldn't order the Department of Corrections not to do something."

Heineman reiterated last week that he strongly supports the death penalty. He said his office worked closely with Bruning's to try to carry out death sentences.

"Death penalty sentences in Nebraska have been complicated by constant legal challenges, the availability of the drugs necessary for an execution and the expiration of those drugs before being used," he said.

"The attorney general and I talked several times about changing the protocol but moving forward was complicated by the ongoing legal challenges and the Department of Corrections' sentencing problems."

Bruning also said last week that he remains -- as he always has been -- a strong supporter of the death penalty.

"Any claims to the contrary are patently false," he said.

Moving forward, Gov. Pete Ricketts' office said changing the execution protocol still is a possibility.

"The governor and attorney general continue to explore all options," said Taylor Gage, the governor's spokesman.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, who opposes the death penalty, said he would be against any attempt to change the protocol before a vote of the people on the issue. And, he said, any attempt to carry out an execution would be unlawful.

"I'm assuming that if they attempt to execute somebody, I think that the Legislature and other people will hold them accountable," he said.

Attorney General Doug Peterson, who succeeded Bruning, has argued that moving inmates off of death row violates the Nebraska Board of Pardons' constitutionally exclusive power to change final sentences imposed by the courts.

* * *

Brown has always been comfortable with the death penalty as a criminal sanction in appropriate cases, he said.

But he never saw himself as an advocate for it. His role was to work on appeals and death penalty issues, and when called upon, to give people accurate information on the process.

"I wasn't a zealot for the death penalty but the litigation around the death penalty was cutting-edge stuff," he said. "It was challenging. And I always thought you learn more about a system under stress than you do when it's not under stress. And the death penalty, clearly, for both sides, stresses the system."

He was fascinated to see where that system was strong and where it would crack, he said.

There aren't too many more important questions, he said.

There may be many issues about the death penalty that can be debated, but in Brown's mind, it boils down to this: Can a human being do something so contrary to society's values that he or she should lose their life for it? Or can death never be an appropriate punishment, no matter what someone has done?

Most people don't want to deal with the fundamental question, he said. They want to argue that the system is too flawed, or it takes too long to go through appeals, or that's arbitrary, doesn't deter crime or costs too much.

Those questions are legitimate, Brown said, but they can be manipulated either way.

People opposed to the death penalty don't want to win the argument, he said. They want the argument to not reach the public.

"They think it's worth $400,000 to prevent the citizens in the state from getting to answer that question. And that troubles me," he said.

Morfeld said the initiative process is part of the democratic process in Nebraska and people should have the right to decide. But that doesn't mean people with opposing views can't raise money and educate people on one side of the issue or another.

"For the pro-death penalty folks to suggest that because other people are exercising their right to be a part of the democratic process is somehow suppressing other people's rights is just ludicrous," he said.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Midlands Voices: Death sentence no deterrent

Many of my fellow Nebraskans are being urged to sign, or choosing to decline to sign, a petition seeking to reverse the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty. Although I forthrightly say that declining to sign is the better position, I'd like to share some of my reasoning.

Readers may want to know my qualifications before they consider what weight to give my opinions. I'm an attorney by education and profession, and I served as a district judge for over 32 years.

I served as a member or presiding judge of at least 6 3-judge panels to determine whether a sentence of death should be imposed. I was the presiding judge of the panel that sentenced John Joubert to death, a sentence carried out in 1996. I also presided over many homicide cases not involving the death penalty.

The basic reasons for criminal sentences, aside from rehabilitation, are to deter the offender from committing additional crimes (a specific deterrent), or to deter others from committing similar crimes (a general deterrent). The question to ask, as I'm sure our senators have done, is whether the death penalty satisfies these reasons.

There is no question a sentence of death, if carried out, specifically deters that offender from committing other murders. But a sentence of life imprisonment, under appropriate conditions, does the same.

So the only real reason to keep death as a penalty would be if it were a general deterrent. Is our homicide rate lower because such a sentence is possible? My experience, and all statistics, show that isn't the case.

Nearly all states with a death penalty also have higher per capita murder rates than the states without a death penalty. My experience with homicide cases clearly shows that offenders give no thought to apprehension - and even less to punishment.

No clearer example could be given than Joubert, an extremely intelligent individual who committed monstrous acts. He easily could have transported his first Nebraska victim, Danny Joe Eberle, 2 or 3 miles east to Iowa, a state without a death penalty, rather than four to five miles south of Bellevue.

There is a widespread opinion that the death penalty would be a general deterrent if it were imposed and carried out in a more expeditious manner. That involves another issue I'm sure our senators considered - the fairness in its application.

There is no question the penalty has been imposed upon some who were actually innocent. I don't believe that to be possible under our present procedures and judicial system, but shortening or limiting appeal times or issues would increase the likelihood of such a result - a result that has no remedy.

The issue of fairness in application cannot overlook the fact that in our system, the 1st decision in a death penalty case is made by a locally elected official - 1 of 93 county attorneys with essentially complete prosecutorial discretion. I have great respect for most of those with whom I have dealt, but any thought that a decision to seek a death penalty is never influenced by political (votes) or financial (budget) considerations is delusional.

And there's another other aspect of this discretion - a death penalty is sometimes threatened to induce a guilty plea to other or lesser crimes, notwithstanding a defendant's actual innocence.

There are other factors I'm sure our senators considered, such as expense, inability to obtain the means of execution, religious philosophies and more. I'm certain individual senators placed differing weights upon each factor. I would urge anyone approached for a petition signature to first call his or her senator, particularly those who voted for repeal, and ask them to explain their reasoning.

I think I understand what might be described as a normal human response to want revenge or retribution, particularly if the crimes involve moral depravity. But revenge and retribution are poor or nonexistent reasons for sentencing.

The Legislature made a thoughtful decision based on all the facts and arguments presented by both sides. It overwhelmingly adopted a smart alternative to the death penalty without compromising public safety, our moral values, or our fiscal values - life in prison with no parole.

The fact the death penalty has no deterrent value is alone a sufficient reason to accept senators' decision. But there is at least one more practical reason: It is a step toward removing the United States from the list of countries continuing to impose a death penalty, a list that includes China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan.

And it acknowledges an evolving standard of decency, which does not permit the state to kill under a premise that it will dissuade others from killing.

(source: Ronald Reagan; The author, a retired Sarpy County district judge, sat on the judicial panel that sentenced John Joubert to


Stephen Wayne Anderson, a murderous creep with an IQ of 136, earned admiration and awards from the literary community while writing on death row

Stephen Wayne Anderson was known in some circles as the Poet Laureate of America's Damned, a man whose way with words earned him admiration and awards, even though his literary gems were penned on death row.

His talent for capturing the regret and despair of the condemned also aroused great waves of sympathy, especially among people who appreciate an elegant line of verse.

I miss listening to the sounds of night,

crickets chirping and birds calling each other,

I miss watching life unfold and hearing echoes

continuing through winter's cold.

I miss so much living behind these walls,

cloistered away from the world beyond: but sometimes

I hear the rain across the roof, and

smell it upon the sidewalks cleaned.

A man who could conjure up images like these, his literary fans argued, couldn't possibly be capable of the crime that placed him among the monsters awaiting execution.

They could not resolve the idea of the brilliant poet, with an IQ of 136, with the other Stephen Wayne Anderson, the thug who shot a grandmother point blank in the face, a life-long crook, who had spent half his life in and out of jail.

Anderson was born in 1953 in St. Louis, the older of 2 sons of a mentally unbalanced couple. Dad was an alcoholic with a temper and mom so hated her offspring that she told them that she "dreaded the days" they were born. Stephen tried to protect his younger brother from beatings and abuse. At 14 he was kicked out of his home. By then the family had moved to New Mexico, and the teen ran into the hills, surviving on his wits, luck and stealing.

By the time he was 18, he was behind bars in Utah, convicted of burglary. He was there long enough to murder an inmate and assault another inmate and a corrections officer. Then, in November 1979, he busted out of prison.

Nothing more was heard of him until Memorial Day weekend, 1980, when police received a phone call from worried neighbors of Elizabeth Lyman, 81, a retired piano teacher. They had heard dogs barking and noticed a strange man walking around in Lyman's Bloomington, California, house.

When the officers arrived, they found the 26-year-old fugitive sitting in Lyman's kitchen, watching television and dining on a bowl of noodles and a glass of milk. Money, he told them, was his motivation for breaking into the house, which he chose because he believed Lyman was away on vacation. Still, he took the precaution of cutting the phone wires before he entered.

According to his story, he had no intention of killing her. As he crept into the bedroom, around midnight, Lyman woke and sat up in bed. Startled, Anderson shot wildly into the darkness, or so he told the police.

The wound, from a .45-caliber, told a different story. Lyman died from a single bullet under her left eye, delivered from a distance of 8 to 20 inches away.

After pocketing all the cash he could find, about $100, Anderson turned on all the lights, opened the curtains, cooked his wee-hours snack, and sat down to watch TV. He was still there 3 hours later when police arrived. He freely confessed to her murder, as well as 6 other unsolved murders in Utah.

"She didn't deserve that. I was very wrong," he told the court during his trial. It did not take long for the jury to find Anderson guilty and worthy of the ultimate penalty. He was shipped off to death row at San Quentin to wait.

There, he filled his time with intellectual pursuits and started writing, churning out poems by the hundreds, as well as novels and plays. In 1998, he sent a letter to Professor Bell Gale Chevigny, chair of the prison program of the Poets, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN) American Center. "I was passing through California when I shot someone during an $80 bungled burglary and found myself a permanent resident. That residency grows short; my lease is coming due," he started his letter.

Chevigny was impressed with his work, which eventually won two PEN awards, was showcased in an off-Broadway play, and included in the anthology of prison writing, "Doing Time." Believing he was fully rehabilitated, the professor took up his cause. Even the most unlikely of supporters - the families of the 2 people he was known to have murdered - called for clemency.

But all appeals failed and after 22 years, on Jan. 29, 2002, Anderson's time was up.

Many groups oppoing capital punishment protested against giving Anderson the death penalty, saying that he 'still had so much more to contribute to the world.'

Hundreds of protesters held a vigil the night of the execution, but Anderson reacted to his impending doom with an eerie calm. He silently downed the 2nd headline-grabbing meal of his life - a last supper of grilled cheese sandwiches, a pint of cottage cheese, hominy and corn, radishes, peach pie, and a pint of chocolate chip ice cream.

No last words crossed his lips, until one of his attorneys, Margo Rocconi, mouthed, "I love you." He silently replied, "Thank you."

Despite his supporters' insistence that he "still had so much more to contribute to the world," more signs would emerge decades later to strengthen the notion that, sensitive poetry aside, this man was a stone-cold serial killer.

In June 2015, Utah police said that after 35 years they found enough evidence to pin another murder, the contract killing for a drug deal gone bad, on the bard of damned.

(source: New York Daily News)


Capital punishment in Guam

Trying to piece together the history of capital punishment on Guam is like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together with some pieces missing and others scattered about. For this reason, I cautiously relay my findings in this column with a warning that I am well aware of its many deficiencies. I am hopeful that knowledgeable readers will help fill in the gaps through their comments on the online version of this week's article. My focus is on executions ordered since the arrival of foreign powers to the island.

As stated in prior columns, I define capital punishment as the state-approved execution of criminal offenders. A loose interpretation might give Magellan the dubious distinction of ordering the 1st execution on Guam. During his 3-day stay on the island in 1521, a group of Chamorros took one of the ship's skiffs. Enraged by this act of theft, he ordered his men to retaliate. As a result, several islanders were killed.

Nearly 150 years later, with the establishment of Father Diego De San Vitores' mission on Guam in 1668, conflict between the Spanish colonizers and Chamorros soon erupted. One day, a young Spaniard boy ventured into the jungle. He was ambushed and killed by several Chamorros. The Spanish commander ordered the arrest of the offenders. When one Hagatna chief refused to cooperate, the commander had the chief killed.

In 1672, San Vitores himself was slain in Tumon by Chief Matapang. Prior to his death, San Vitores tempered the religious zeal of Spanish soldiers, insisting that the islanders' conversion to Catholicism be voluntary. With his death, the military unleashed brutal conversion tactics. Islanders were presented with only 1 option, convert or die. Countless unrepentant Chamorros were summarily executed, seemingly under official approval of the military command.

With the passage of time, greater legal formalities were required before a death sentence could be imposed on Guam. Persons accused of more serious crimes, including capital crimes, were transported to Manila, where they stood trial for their offenses. Defendants sentenced to death were executed in Manila. However, there was at least one exception to this usual arrangement.

In 1884, Guam Gov. Angel de Pazos Vela-Hidalgo was assassinated by 20-year-old Chamorro sentry Jose de Salas y Santos. He was alleged to be part of a conspiracy of local guards to take control of the island. Jose soon surrendered and he and the other co-conspirators were transported to Manila for trial. Following the trial, 12 were set free, 31 received jail terms, and 4 were sentenced to death. Perhaps as a warning to other would-be conspirators, those who received death sentences were returned to Guam and shot on a Hagatna beach.

In 1898, the American colonial administration replaced Spain's. The U.S. Naval government oversaw the island's legal system and maintained capital punishment as the ultimate punishment. However, the number of executions that were actually carried out in the early years of the American administration is unclear. I did find a notation that on March 23, 1933, Gov. Root signed an order authorizing the execution of 22-year-old Antonio M. Cepeda for the murder of Jose S. Quintinilla. Apparently, Cepeda was hanged on April 3, 1933.

During the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1944, the Japanese military command executed numerous Chamorros. In 1942, soon after the Japanese captured Guam, 2 islanders were publicly executed for what appear to be relatively minor offenses to demonstrate Japanese intolerance for acts of disobedience. Over the 2-1/2 years of the Japanese occupation, many Chamorros were slain.

After World War II, war-crime trials were conducted on Guam. Between 1947 and 1949, scores of legal proceedings were conducted and about 10 Japanese war criminals were hanged.

After the war, Guam's legal system came under civilian control. Guam's revised criminal code continued to authorize the death penalty for 1st-degree murder. In 1966, only those defendants who murdered law enforcement officials faced the possibility of execution. In 1970, the list was expanded to include those who killed the governor, lieutenant governor or political candidates. In 1978, following an overhaul of Guam’s statutes by the Guam Law Revision Commission, the Guam Legislature eliminated capital punishment.

I found no reference to any post-war civilian executions. However, on Jan. 28, 1954, following the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to reverse their convictions, the military hanged 2 black Air Force airmen, Robert Burns and Herman Dennis Jr., for rape and murder.

The possibility of a death sentence for Guam criminals remains because capital punishment is still authorized for certain federal crimes. However, a Guam execution is unlikely; only 3 federal criminals have been executed in the past 50 years.

Bill Pesch is a family law attorney with the Guam Family Law Office in Hagatna; Pacific Daily News)


Taiwan will use death penalty cautiously: President Ma

President Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday that his government's policy is to retain the death penalty but use it cautiously, as it has been doing in recent years.

Addressing a national youth policy forum, Ma asked the participants about their views on the controversial issue of the death penalty.

Among the 85 participants at the annual forum that was organized by the Ministry of Education, 26 said they supported abolition of the death penalty law, while 46 said they did not.

One of the participants who expressed support for capital punishment said people who take others' lives should be punished.

Another participant said he could not support the idea of abolishing the death penalty because a member of his family had been a victim of homicide. The perpetrator received a prison sentence of 14 years, which was commuted to eight years, he said.

The killer eventually left prison, while the victim's family continues to suffer everlasting pain, said the young participant, who did not give his name.

Taking the other side of the argument, a participant said each life is unique, and one should not choose revenge after being hurt, but rather should choose forgiveness.

"A life for a life is too extreme," the youth said.

In response, Ma said that during his tenure as justice minister 1993-1996, more than 50 death-row prisoners were executed, but now there are only 5 or 6 executions per year.

The government will not abolish the death penalty at this time but will use it with caution, Ma said.

The Ministry of Justice has been reviewing the policy and is disinclined to carry out such sentences. Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay, one of the many Cabinet members who attended the forum, said that while the death penalty is a thorny issue, it can be easily decided by legal means in a democratic country.

While all pacifists many want to see the death penalty done away with, this can only be done by means of a majority decision in society, the minister said.

The forum was also attended by Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and 85 participants, ages 18 to 35, from around the country.

(source: Focus Taiwan news channel)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executes Yemeni for killing officer----The execution brings to 121 the number for this year in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday executed a Yemeni convicted of shooting dead a security officer who was trying to arrest him in the southern Jazan region, the interior ministry said.

The Yemeni, who was wanted by the kingdom's authorities, opened fire at the Saudi officer who was trying to arrest him, said the statement published by the official SPA news agency.

It provided no further details.

The execution brings to 121 the number for this year in the kingdom, compared with 87 for the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most prolific executioners, along with China, Iran, Iraq and the United States.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict legal code, murder, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Executions in Saudi Arabia are almost always carried out by beheading.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishments but rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom.

(source: Gulf News)


Manchester custos reiterates call for murderers to get the death penalty .

For more than a decade, Sally Porteous has been a strong advocate of the death penalty, and despite criticisms from some opposed to this form of punishment, the custos of Manchester is not backing down.

"I want to know how many more are to be killed before somebody says, 'Stop. It's enough'? I'm saying stop, it's enough! Get the gallows ready and hang them," Porteous told The Sunday Gleaner last Wednesday.

"They have to be taken out and I don't want to hear anybody come to me and say, 'Oh, you know it doesn't prevent murder.' Well, if that's your argument, then we should let everybody out for robbery, rape and everything else. If you're going to kill somebody, you must pay for it with your life. They are destroying the whole country," charged Porteous.

According to the one-time Jamaica Labour Party activist, her call for a resumption of hanging should not be interpreted as a political position as it is a personal position endorsed by many well-thinking Jamaicans.

"I don't want to debate everybody in the whole world. That's my belief and that is also what people have come to me and said. When justices of the peace (JPs) and community people come to me and say, 'Custos, you need to talk more about what we want', then I must do that on their behalf."


Custos Porteous, who broke down in tears during the service of thanksgiving for murdered businessman and JP Terence Green at the Kendal Conference Centre last Sunday, was calm and resolute as she spoke with The Sunday Gleaner about the impact of the growing crime wave and the need for action.

"It's not a complicated issue with me. I think that the country is way beyond terrified. I think that if Jamaica continues like this you will never see any more new investment.

"We've been far too high in the murder rate for far too long, and if you go abroad and sit among a group of people and ask them, 'Would you come to Jamaica to live or to invest?' They would tell you no, and the reason is because they are afraid of being killed," said Porteous.

She continued: "Now, when you have that from abroad and when you speak to the average Jamaican, they know that it's a question of time before some horrible crime will happen to them. There is small cadre of pathological, cold-hearted murderers killing our police and killing our good citizens and they cannot remain. They have to be taken out."

According to Porteous, the night before the gun-slaying of Green, two other JPs in the parish narrowly escaped being murdered.

"One was held up by a gunman in Montego Bay and heard the click of his weapon. It just didn't go off. The same night in Manchester, in Knockpatrick, another had a gun put to her head," said Porteous, who has long argued that the death penalty is the only answer for murderers.

The death penalty remains on Jamaica's law books and can be applied to persons convicted of the murder of a member of the security forces; judicial officers; witnesses; and murder for hire; murder in the course or furtherance of another offence such as robbery, rape or arson; or murder committed to further an act aimed at undermining the public peace. Double-murderers or repeat murderers are also punishable by death.

However, the last murderer to be executed in Jamaica was in 1988.

(source: Jamaica Gleaner)


ormer Olympian one of the last people to receive death penalty in Nova Scotia

The name Emmett Sloane was an alias for Inguald Bing Anderson, an American Olympic ski jump champion from New Hampshire, down on his money and luck and out of ideas and a job.

By February 1930, he had not worked for months and was staying at the Norfolk Hotel on George Street in Sydney.

He called the night clerk Oeblois Rehberg up to his room on the pretext of fixing his overhead light. Believing he had money on him, Sloane struck him a blow to the head with an iron bar. He went through his pockets and found no money.

He went downstairs but found another man at the desk. He left the Norfolk in a rush, walking in a terrible snow storm toward the railway tracks until he reached a lumber camp near Frenchvale.

He was given shelter and fed supper. Somebody said that it was too bad the radio wasn't working as they might learn about the storm. He said he thought he could fix it and started shifting tubes around. Suddenly it started to work and began broadcasting that a murder had occurred at the Norfolk Hotel.

It described the suspect as wearing a blue pencil-striped suit. A man named Neil MacPherson testified to this at the trial. He looked at Sloane, pulled on a pair of boots and went to the nearest house and called the police. Long after midnight, the chief of police arrived by horse and sleigh and took him to the lockup.

He gave Sloane a drink of rum to warm him up. He then asked him what he hit the victim with and was told an iron bar from 12 to 15 inches long that he picked up in the alley. It was disallowed in court because of the rum. Rumour had it that Clarance Darrow was coming to represent him but it failed to happen.

My father Rannie Hook remembered the trial vividly. His mother whose maiden name was Christena MacPherson was from Frenchvale and a sister to Neil at the lumber camp who had phoned the police.

On March 15, 1930, Sloane was found guilty. He was confined to a small cell at the old county jail on Welton Street for 3 months. He maintained to the end that he did not remember the murder and went to his death without confessing. According to press reports, it was felt he did not care to remember.

At approximately 1 a.m. on the night of May 20, 1930, the trap door was sprung. His head was swollen twice its normal size from the hanging. There were 60 people who witnessed it from inside the jail and hundreds outside hoping to catch a glimpse. The hangman was told to get out of the city as quickly as possible. Sloane was buried in Hardwood Cemetery.

The ironic thing to note regarding the hangman whose name was Arthur Rioux from Montreal was that he stayed at the same hotel - Norfolk - as the accused.

Sloane was the 2nd last man hung in Cape Breton. The last was George Alfred Beckett on April 30, 1931. The last one in Nova Scotia was in 1937. The last in Canada was 1962.

Hangings were quite common in England and known as the bloody code. At one time during the 1800s, there were 250 crimes punishable by death. In the short span of 60 years from 1770 to 1830 more than 7,000 people were publicly executed. All this showed that what was intended as a deterrent failed miserably. Anyone caught stealing anything with a value of more than 5 schillings could be hanged. A woman could claim pregnancy to avoid a hanging.

Another way of claiming benefit of clergy where the convicted could read a passage from the Bible to avoid the noose.

The gallows was a simple but effective instrument of death. It was abolished in Canada in 1976.

(source: Ron MacDonald; Cape Breton Post)


British minister's visit to Tehran amid mass executions and meeting with officials responsible for 120,000 political executions encourages more executions and betrays human rights and democratic values

The visit of Mr. Philip Hammond, the British foreign minister, to Tehran and his meeting with leaders of the religious fascism ruling Iran encourages the clerical regime to continue and intensify torture and killing and export of terrorism and fundamentalism. This visit and similar ones are against the national interests and the will of the Iranian people to overthrow the regime and establish democracy and popular sovereignty in Iran.

The clerical regime leaders whom Philip Hammond will meet are among the officials responsible for 120,000 political executions including the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988 and the execution of more than 2000 prisoners during Rouhani's tenure. During this period, in addition to the increase of executions, repression of and discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities has been intensified in an unprecedented way.

Amnesty International said in its July 23 statement that in the 1st half of 2015 at least 694 prisoners have been executed and this "paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale ... we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year's end."

The people who will be meeting Mr. Hammond in Tehran are the highest authorities responsible for export of terrorism and fundamentalism and massacre of innocent people in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Meeting with such individuals who must be tried on charges of crimes against humanity for crimes inside and outside Iran only provokes hatred of the Iranian people.

While the justification for this trip and similar trips is the nuclear agreement of the mullahs with the world six powers, the regime's highest officials stressed that they don't have any commitment to observe the UN Security Council resolutions stemming from this agreement. On Saturday, August 21, the mullahs' president Hassan Rouhani said Resolution 2231 "is not an obstacle for our work and we buy and will buy weapons wherever we feel necessary and we will not wait for anyone and any approval by anyone and we will not look at any resolution. If somewhere we need to sell weapons, we will. We will sell our weapons without any consideration, without any resolution."

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran calls on all defenders of human rights and democracy and all supporters of peace and tranquility in the region and the world to condemn this visit and take immediate action to cancel it.

(source: National Council of Resistance of Iran)


Govt to seek review for Sayedee's death

The government will move a review with the apex court seeking death for convicted war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said today.

"We will file a review plea with the Supreme Court seeking his death penalty after obtaining the full verdict," he told reporters at his office.

However, he could not shed light on when the SC might release Sayedee's full verdict.

The top court on September 17 last year commuted the death penalty of Sayedee to imprisonment until death for crimes committed against humanity during the country's Liberation War in 1971.

Earlier on February 28, 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 sentenced Sayedee to death for war crimes.

The SC commuted his punishment to imprisonment until death following an appeal filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami leader against the ICT-1 judgement.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam also hoped that the SC would release a full verdict on another war criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed soon.

The SC on June 16, this year upheld the death penalty of Mojaheed for crimes against humanity in 1971.

The government can start process for executing Mojaheed after getting the full judgement. Mojaheed can seek a review of the verdict after receiving the full text of the judgement.

(source: The Daily Star)


Supreme Court on Death Penalty to Kidnappers

Rising incidents of kidnapping and abduction for ransom not only by ordinary criminals but even by terrorists necessitate a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities, the Supreme Court has said while upholding death sentence under section 364A of IPC."

The gradual growth of the challenges posed by kidnapping and abductions for ransom, not only by ordinary criminals for monetary gain or as an organised activity for economic gains but by terrorist organisations is what necessitated the incorporation of Section 364A of the IPC and a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities."

Given the background in which the law was enacted and the concern shown by Parliament for the safety and security of the citizens and the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country, the punishment prescribed for those committing any act contrary to Section 364A cannot be dubbed as so outrageously disproportionate to the nature of the offence as to call for same being declared unconstitutional," a 3-judge bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.

The apex court's verdict came on a petition filed by a convict, who was awarded death sentence in a kidnapping-cum -murder case, challenging the constitutional validity of section 364A of IPC.


The quality of mercy: Restorative justice has started to make its impact in India----What does it take to forgive someone who has done a grievous harm? And does it really help one forget? Even though the idea of restorative justice is yet to find a firm foothold in India, those who have experienced it say the act is twice blessed.

If anyone had asked 6-year-old Avantika Maken what she wanted to do when she grew up, it would had taken the little girl an instant to reply: "Kill the person who killed my parents."

It was a sentiment that festered in her as she grew up, with anger, loneliness and helplessness compounding her immeasurable loss. Her wallet always carried photographs of her parents Lalit Maken, Congress leader and MP and his wife Gitanjali, daughter of former president Shankar Dayal Sharma. Except that these were not happy family photos, but those of their bullet-ridden bodies. In her wardrobe, tucked in a corner was a blood splattered locket - the one her mother had been wearing on that fateful day of July 31, 1985.

She'd been 10 days short of her 6th birthday, when 3 men waylaid her father, then 35 years old, as he stepped out of their house in west Delhi's Kirti Nagar.

As the men opened fire, Maken tried running back inside the house. Gitanjali stepped out to shield her husband. A few minutes later, Maken's mother would reach the spot to find her son dead and her daughter-in-law fatally wounded. Gitanjali would later die in the operation theatre.

Avantika realised something was wrong when someone from her maternal grandfather's office came to pick her up from school that afternoon. "That day as I was getting ready, my mother scolded me over something and said they would not come to pick me up after school. But my father smiled and said, of course, they would," says Avantika, now 36 years old. Shankar Dayal Sharma was then the governor of Andhra Pradesh and she was taken to Andhra Bhavan where he broke the news to her.

"He said, 'Promise me you won't cry' and I didn't," says Avantika.

But the loss left her ravaged. "I missed my parents, especially my father. Initially, both sets of grandparents went to court to get custody of me, but by the time the judgment came, they all agreed that I would be better off in a hostel. That made me feel unwanted. I didn't have any siblings to turn to or a home of my own. I was studying in Modern School in Delhi when my parents died. Afterwards, I was sent to Maharani Gayatri Devi hostel in Jaipur and then to Welham in Dehradun. At 18, I opted to get married just so I could stop living in relatives' homes. But the marriage didn't last. I feel a lot of my personality was shaped by the loneliness and the insecurities of my childhood," she says. Avantika is now married to Haryana Congress MP Ashok Tanwar and the couple have 3 children.

The 3 men who had murdered her parents were eventually caught. Ranjit Gill aka Kuki, Harjinder Singh Jinda, Sukhdev Singh Sukha were extremists out to avenge the 1984 violence against the Sikh community after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi. Lalit Maken's name had figured in a 31-page booklet released by the People's Union for Civil Liberties called "Who are the Guilty?" that had names of Congress leaders involved in the carnage in Delhi's colonies. Sukha was arrested in 1986 and Jinda in 1987 - both were later sentenced to death for the murder of General Arun Vaidya, architect of Operation Bluestar and hanged in 1992.

Kuki says he now realises that violence is never the right response to any injustice Kuki says he now realises that violence is never the right response to any injustice.

Meanwhile, Kuki fled to the US and was arrested by Interpol in New Jersey, USA in 1987. He was deported to India in February 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003. Later that year, a petition was filed asking that his life sentence be commuted on the ground that the fatal shots hadn't been fired by him. But it hinged on Avantika's consent.

The volcano of bitterness that had been building up in Avantika finally found its vent in 2008, but in a manner no one quite expected. That year, Avantika met the then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and asked her to agree to the petition that had been moved. She then went to Kuki's house and had a meal with his father.

As Kuki's sentence in prison ended and he was set free, it was Avantika who finally found a release.

Restorative justice, where criminals either meet their victims or are forgiven by them, may still be a rarity in India as compared to the West, but it has slowly started to make an impact. Much of its importance lies in the fact that what it unarguably does is to facilitate the most difficult task of any tragedy - bring a closure to a painful chapter in one's life. It was what Priyanka Vadra Gandhi had admittedly sought when she travelled to Tamil Nadu in 2008 to meet Nalini Sriharan lodged in Vellore jail for her complicity in the assassination of her father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was also what made Gladys Staines, widow of the Australian missionary Graham Staines, publicly forgive the man who burnt to death her husband and 2 sons in Orissa in 1999. And it was what Avantika received in return for her generosity of heart and spirit.

"My father was my hero - he was good-looking, charming and sang well. But he was also a victim of politics," she says.

HS Phoolka, senior advocate of Delhi High Court, human rights activist and author, known for spearheading one of the longest and torturous legal battles to gain justice for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and fighting individual cases on the involvement of politicians in the riots, says little is known about the nature of Maken's involvement in the anti-Sikh riots. "I have no first hand evidence of his involvement other than having read his name in the report," says Phoolka.

Avantika had other unanswered questions too: Was Gill the one who pulled the trigger? What were her parents' last thoughts? When Kuki's petition came up, Avantika had been in Ludhiana campaigning for her colleague Manish Tiwari for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. "There was a journalist who knew both Kuki and me. She asked me if I would be open to meeting him," says Avantika. Her anger hadn't subsided, but she agreed to meet him so she could hear his version of the accounts of that day.

The meeting took place in Ludhiana in May 2004. "I told her that it was a political fallout, that I had certainly been involved in the conspiracy, but I wasn't the one who had pulled the trigger that killed her parents. She asked me, why my parents? I told her that her father's name had been on that list, but her mother's death was an accident. She came in front of her father during the firing and that I was deeply sorry about it. Looking back now, I realise that violence is a shortcut and not the proper way to express resentment at an injustice," says Kuki, 55, who now lives in Ludhiana with his wife and daughter and writes a weekly blog

That meeting changed things for Avantika. Kuki had been a gold medallist at the Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana, where he had studied genetics and crop science. His incarceration had not been easy for him either. "Kuki came across as a well-educated, soft-spoken person. I went to his house and met his parents and suddenly, images of how I had seen my grandparents pine for their son and daughter and cry all the time flashed before my eyes. I realised I didn't want another family to go through the same pain," she says. She was moved by the anguish of Kuki's parents. "My maternal grandparents, the Dayals, were in politics, so they still had their public life to hold them together. My paternal grandparents were especially devastated because they were a middle-class family whose lives revolved around their children," she says.

Her decision, when it came, didn't take long. "I thought he had suffered enough. Our jails are worse than death. You die every day there instead of that one day, and I wasn't sure his death would make things better for me. My loss could never be replaced, but if, because of me, another family's loss could be stemmed, I felt I needed to take the step," she says. Her family, all except her eldest son, supported her decision. "What is the point of holding on to a grudge if it gave me no peace? Now I can finally say I am happy. I have my own home and family and am at peace with myself," she says.

But if it took Avantika 23 years to arrive at forgiveness that took away the searing pain she had nursed till then, for American national Kia Scherr, the move was almost instantaneous. In November 2008, Kia's husband Alan and their 13-year-old daughter Naomi were shot dead in Mumbai's Oberoi hotel during the terror attack of 26/11. Kia was at that time in Florida spending the Thanksgiving weekend with her parents; she had dropped out of the trip at the last minute. As she sat with her family watching the aftermath of the attack on television, she saw the grainy image of the lone terrorist who had survived - Ajmal Kasab - flashing across the screen . She was numb with sorrow, but remembers that her first reaction was to turn to her family and say, "We must forgive them." Scherr counts that among the most difficult moment of her life. "Despite the shock and outrage, the moment I uttered those words out loud, I felt a ray of peace," says the woman who became a life skills teacher afterwards with the organisation she founded, One Life Alliance, that teaches people love and tolerance.

While their meeting gave both Avantika and Kuki a sense of closure, for Kia, seeing Kasab on screen meant the beginning of a whole new journey. "I knew that if I could forgive the terrorists, I could go on living and loving. There is already enough hate," says Kia. She even wrote a letter to Kasab in 2012, but it remained undelivered.

Kia says her decision to forgive was prompted as much by her religion as that of her faith in a modern spiritual organisation Synchronicity, of which she and her husband had been members. Synchronicity uses technology to promote a message of oneness and sacredness of life around the world. In fact, it had organised that trip to India in 2008 to spread the foundation's message. "Forgiveness serves to free us from holding on to hatred, resentment, anger and feelings of revenge. This does not mean any of us pardon those actions or condone in any way what they (the terrorists) have done. We all agree that actions have consequences and the law of the land must be upheld," says the 59-year-old, who comes to India regularly and visits the Oberoi hotel, the place where she lost her family.

Anup Surendranath, director at the Centre of the Death Penalty at National Law University, New Delhi, and one of the most vocal anti-death penalty crusaders in the country, says that while everyone has their own moral and philosophical stance on capital punishment, there needs to be a debate on two other fronts. "One is that given our political and economic realities, whether we as a country are in a position to administer the death penalty in a fair and constitutional manner. And the second is the idea of forgiveness and compassion. It's very surprising that in a society like ours, this idea has not taken off the way it should have. There is a strong cultural ethos for this debate to take place. A very strong marker or indicator of the way a society has evolved is how it treats its prisoners or those condemned by that society. Forgiveness and empathy need to be an integral part of our criminal justice system. The whole idea of reformation is sorely missing," says Surendranathan.

Sometimes, forgiveness can indeed set one on the path of reformation. On February 25, 1995, Rani Maria, a Roman Catholic nun, was travelling from Udainagar to Indore in Madhya Pradesh, by bus when she was attacked. Samundar Singh stabbed her 54 times and dragged her body out of the bus. A trial court sentenced Singh, then aged 22, to life imprisonment. At prison, Singh met Michael Purattukara, a Catholic priest who visited inmates. Purattukara, now known as Swami Sadanand, is the founder of Sachidanadan Ashram in Narasinghpur in Madhya Pradesh. He began counselling Singh. "In the beginning, Singh was unrepentant and wanted to take revenge on the person who had hired him to kill Maria. He told Sadanand that he had been paid Rs 10,000 by a local leader. After realising that Singh had been used as a pawn, the priest began working for his release," says Stephen, Maria's elder brother.

Sadanand informed the nun's family in Kerala about Singh's role in the crime, and they were willing to forgive him. Maria's younger sister Selmi, also a nun working in Indore, met Singh in jail. "She met him in the 8th year of his term. She tied a rakhi on his wrist as a mark of accepting him as her brother. In the next 2 years, she visited him several times," says Stephen.

After 11 years and 6 months, the Madhya Pradesh government accepted his mercy plea which had been endorsed by Maria's family, and Singh was released on grounds of good conduct. But there was no home to return to - his family and wife had abandoned him after he was convicted and his only son had died while he was in prison.

In April, 2012, Sadanand took Singh to Kerala to meet Maria's parents. His friends in Udainagar warned him not to go; but Singh decided to go to Pulluvazhy anyway. "My father was bed-ridden at the time. Singh came home and threw himself at my parents' feet, seeking forgiveness for his crime," recalls Stephen. In a remarkable act of kindness, Maria's mother, 88-year-old Vattalil Eliswa told Singh that the family was accepting him as member of the family and a 3rd son.

Today, Singh is a farmer and lives in a village 20 km away from Udainagar. His family had left him his share of the land. Every year, on the eve of Maria's death anniversary, Singh visits her tomb in Udainagar, offering his harvest. He regularly visits the convent where Maria had lived and meets Selmi who works there. In 2013, the story of Singh and Maria's family was chronicled in a movie titled Heart of a Murderer, directed by Australian-Italian filmmaker Catherine McGilvray. "If the mother and the sister of his victim were able to forgive him and love him as a son and a brother, it means that we too can forgive everything: forgiveness is the ultimate freedom for every human being," said McGilvray in interviews at the time of the film's release.

Does forgiveness bring peace? Surendranath says, "When people have suffered the loss of their loved ones, for the longest time they get caught up with the idea that the elimination of the person responsible will bring them a sense of closure. It's been well documented abroad that when that does happen, it's very rare that any sense of closure is felt by the victim's kin. In fact, they are still left grappling with their loss. It's then that they need to face up to what is it exactly that they had been bottling up or what does closure really entail."

5 years ago, in September 2010, a fugitive Mujeeb Rahman and his wife Khayarunneesa were found dead inside the forest at Thampuran Estate near Nilambur in Malappuram in Kerala. Rahman had fatally wounded SI Vijayakrishnan of Kalikavu police station 2 days ago when he had come to his residence at Chokkadu with a police team to execute a warrant issued by a family court on the basis of a complaint filed by his 4th wife. The sub-inspector later succumbed to his injuries and Rahman committed suicide after killing his wife. His 2 children were sent to an orphanage.

Cut to 2013. At a ceremony held at the school, the two children - Dilshad and Mohsina, 15 and 10 respectively, were gifted a house in the village built by donations from the staff and students of the school. Even more heart arming was the arrival of a special guest at the ceremony - Vishnu, son of the sub-inspector whose father had been killed by Dilshad and Mohsina's father. It was Vishnu who welcomed the children into the house with the words, "I am here for you as an elder brother, and you are not orphans." Vishnu, who has also joined the police force, described the gesture more as doing a favour to himself than to anyone else. "I tried to forget the incident, but I couldn't. Then I decided to forgive the killer and reached out to his children as they were innocent. They had not committed any crime. But they too have suffered like me. Doing that has helped me put my painful past behind me," he says.

Like it did for Kia. "Forgiveness is the bridge to peace, the bridge to freedom from the past. It simply means acceptance of the reality of the situation and letting go of the incident, which cannot be changed," she says.

(source: Indian Express)


Should India retain the death penalty? Law panel report next week----The report assumes significance as it comes days after a debate was generated over the hanging of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon.

Days after its consultation process saw a majority opposing death penalty, the Law Commission will submit its report on the much-debated subject to the Supreme Court next week recommending as to whether capital punishment should be retained or done away with.

The law panel will submit its report to the Supreme Court "sometime" next week on whether India should continue with death penalty or abolish it. A copy will also be handed over to the Law Minister as any call on changes in penal provisions will be taken by Parliament.

The report assumes significance as it comes days after a debate was generated over the hanging of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon.

The Commission is working overtime to complete the report as its 3-year term is coming to an end on August 31.

The Supreme Court, in Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs Maharashtra and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs Maharashtra, had suggested that the Law Commission should study the death penalty in India to "allow for an up-to-date and informed discussion and debate on the subject.

In a consultation paper released on May 22 last year, the Law Commission had said that at this juncture, an exhaustive study on the subject would be a useful and salutary contribution to the cause of public debate on this issue.

Such a study will also provide a definitive research-backed orientation to the lawmakers and judges on this very contentious issue, it had said.

The Commission said the study would have to address queries and concerns of courts and present an international perspective on the issue.

Former President late A P J Abdul Kalam and DMK MP Kanimozhi were among the people who had supported abolishing death penalty while responding to the consultation paper.

A discussion held last month on a Law Commission consultation paper on whether capital punishment should be retained or abolished saw most of the participants opposing capital punishment.

(source: Indian Express)


Death Penalty for Heinous Crime Not Barbaric, Says Supreme Court

In the wake of the debate over the death penalty following the execution of Mumbai attack convict Yakub Memon, the Supreme Court has said capital punishment is not inhuman or barbaric and will not violate the right to life and liberty in heinous crimes.

The observation came on Friday from a three-judge bench which was hearing the appeal from a murder case convict who has been given the death sentence.

Vikram Singh, who had been convicted for abducting and killing a 16-year-old, had challenged his death sentence, arguing that capital punishment is applicable only to terrorists.

The bench of Justices TS Thakur, RK Agrawal and AK Goel said, "A sentence of death in a case of murder may be rare, but if the courts have found it is the only sentence that can be awarded, it is difficult to revisit that question..."

What was important, the top court said, was that the punishment should be should be proportionate to the crime.

"Death penalty in a case of kidnapping or abduction will not qualify to be described as barbaric or inhuman so as to infringe the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," the court said.

While death penalty is awarded in the rarest of the rare cases, the last few persons to be executed were people convicted on terror charges - Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case and Ajamal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

But it was Yakub Memon's execution that not only triggered questions from the civil society about his punishment, but also on the larger debate on death penalty.

Vikram Singh had been arrested for the abduction and murder of school student Abhi Verma in 2005.

He was awarded the death sentence by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court. He had challenged the death sentence given for the crime he was booked under - kidnapping for ransom (Section 364A).

Punishments under the section include death sentence, life imprisonment and a fine.

(source: NDTV)


Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood chief gets new life term

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, who has been sentenced to death, was handed another life term in prison Saturday for an attack on a police station.

A criminal court sentenced Badie, the Islamist movement's spiritual leader, over the attack in the northeastern city of Port Said on August 16, 2013.

Eighty-eight co-defendants were also handed life terms, which in Egypt is 25 years in jail. Only 18 of them were in court with Badie, however, and the rest were sentenced in absentia.

Twenty-eight others received 10 years in prison and 71 were acquitted.

The attack came two days after a bloody crackdown by security forces in Cairo on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi that left hundreds dead in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

In June an Egyptian court upheld death sentences against Morsi and Badie for plotting jailbreaks and attacks on police during the country's 2011 uprising.

He had already been sentenced to death in April, and has been handed life sentences in 5 other cases.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, was ousted in 2013 by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after mass street protests against his year of rule.

An ensuing police crackdown targeting his supporters has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

Hundreds more have been sentenced to death after spee dy trials criticised by the United Nations.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which made major political gains following the 2011 overthrow of longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, was designated a "terrorist group" in late 2013.


AUGUST 22, 2015:


Capital murder charge filed for woman's death on west side of town

A man already charged with killing his girlfriend could now face the death penalty.

Ronald Jackson appeared in court Friday as prosecutors upgraded his charges to capital murder in the beating death of 38-year-old Jennifer Herrera.

Prosecutors say Jackson kidnapped Herrera with the intent of killing her and that is the reason for the upgrade.

She was found dead last September inside a westside home. Jackson was arrested later that night during a traffic stop.

His trial date is scheduled for November 16th but that is likely to be delayed.

(source: KRIS tv news)


Death penalty, murder case rulings expose rift in high court

2 major rulings this year on the death penalty and a murder case yielded highly unusual criticism from Connecticut Supreme Court justices against their colleagues, reaching levels of acrimony that some legal experts say hasn't been seen since the 1990s.

The recent conflicting opinions shine a rare light on the people whose decisions have had wide-ranging effects on residents of the state, whether it was approving gay marriage, abolishing the death penalty or ruling Hartford schools needed to be desegregated.

"I think it does show a depth of passion," said Todd Fernow, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. "You really know where these people are coming from. I think we all benefit by that. The last thing you want is a decision that is robotic and psychically distant from the issues of the day."

The court ruled 4-3 on Aug. 13 to abolish the death penalty for the 11 men on the state's death row, overturning a 2012 state law that eliminated the death penalty for future crimes only.

Chief Justice Chase Rogers wrote a dissenting opinion saying there was "no legitimate legal basis" for the majority's decision. She also joined Justices Peter Zarella and Carmen Espinosa in accusing the majority justices of tailoring their ruling based on personal beliefs.

"I can only conclude that the majority has improperly decided that the death penalty must be struck down because it offends the majority's subjective sense of morality," Rogers wrote.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Richard Palmer, took issue with Rogers' comments, accusing her of refusing "either to consider or to recognize the import of the words of our elected officials, the actions of our jurors and prosecutors, the story of our history, the path trodden by our sister states, and the overwhelming evidence that our society no longer considers the death penalty to be necessary or appropriate."

Justices Dennis Eveleigh and Andrew McDonald and now-retired Justice Flemming Norcott Jr. joined Palmer in the majority.

Espinosa used especially strong language in her dissents in the death penalty ruling and in a 4-2 decision in March that granted a new trial for Richard Lapointe, a brain-damaged man sentenced to life in prison for the 1987 killing of his wife's 88-year-old grandmother.

Espinosa wrote that the Lapointe decision was "unfettered judicial activism" and "a gross parody of judicial economy," and she accused the majority of being partial toward Lapointe.

"Justice is most certainly not attained by doffing one's judicial robe and donning an advocate's suit," Espinosa wrote.

The majority opinion, again written by Palmer, took Espinosa, who arrived on the court in 2013, to task.

"Rather than support her opinion with legal analysis and authority ... she chooses, for reasons we cannot fathom, to dress her argument in language so derisive that it is unbefitting an opinion of this state’s highest court," Palmer wrote. "Justice Espinosa dishonors this court."

Fernow said he thought Espinoza’s language has been particularly forceful.

"I think that Justice Espinosa has brought a more intense language in advancing her positions here and perhaps has been directly name-calling the people she disagrees with in ways that have led Justice Palmer and others to take umbrage at it," he said.

Palmer, Espinosa and Zarella declined to comment for this story.

Rogers said in a statement that despite the strong disagreements, the court is functioning well, as shown by its 134 decisions issued since last September.

"There is no question that some of the issues that we are called upon to decide are extremely challenging and it should not come as a surprise to anyone that on occasion we do not agree about the result in a case and strongly express our views in our opinions," she said.

Acrimonious and lively language is nothing new in the world of state and federal appeals courts. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is known for his colorful dissents.

Espinosa's dissents may be the most strongly worded on the Connecticut court since those of former Justice Robert Berdon, who retired in 1999 after 8 years on the high court. Berdon accused fellow justices of paying lip service to racial discrimination in juries and issuing "cockamamie" opinions.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty law changes aim to restart NC executions

For Asheville businessman George Lane, any development that might bring about the execution of his son's killer is good news.

That's why Lane enthusiastically supported state lawmakers' approval earlier this month of the Restoring Proper Justice Act. The new law amends the state's capital punishment procedures with the aim of restarting executions in North Carolina after a 9-year hiatus.

Lane, the 79-year-old owner of Leicester Pawn & Gun, still tears up when he talks about his son, Mark, who was 22 when he was shot and killed during a robbery at the store on Aug. 14, 1991. Mark, a state champion wrestler his senior year at Erwin High, was Lane's youngest son.

"The horrible thing for my family is that one minute I've got a son, and the next minute I don't," Lane said.

Mark Lane's killer, Edward Earl Davis, has been on death row since 1992.

"I hope to be able to hang on until they kill him," said Lane, who turns 80 in December.

The Restoring Proper Justice Act passed with easy majorities in the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Aug. 5. It removes some of the impediments to executions, including dropping the requirement that a licensed physician be present during an execution.

Doctors had been reluctant to participate because such an action violates their medical ethics. The revision allows other medical professionals, not just doctors, to oversee an execution.

The new law also allows the state to exempt information about drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that manufacture them from public records laws. Drug manufacturers and pharmacies have shied away from providing drugs for executions because of bad publicity, and some states including Oklahoma have procured experimental drugs.

North Carolina is one of 31 states with a death penalty, but because of legal challenges no executions have been carried out in the state since 2006.

"Currently, North Carolina has the death penalty, but there has been some difficulty carrying out those punishments," said Rep. Brian Turner, a Democrat from Biltmore Forest who joined with Republicans in passing the legislation. "This change will allow these sentences to be carried out the way the courts intended."

But death penalty opponents and proponents alike say the law changes likely won't jumpstart executions anytime soon because of ongoing legal challenges.

"I don't think this is going to lead to a rash of executions," Turner said. "I don't think this law will turn North Carolina into Texas."

David Weiss, an attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, an anti-capital punishment nonprofit that provides legal services to about a third of the state's 148 death row inmates, agreed.

"I think that's what they are trying to do (resume executions), but as a practical matter that's not what it's going to accomplish," Weiss said. "There are still a lot of thorny problems the courts are trying to figure out."

Legal questions

Courts are still wrangling with the question of whether North Carolina's lethal injection procedure constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, which the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

Weiss pointed to botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona in 2014, with the condemned man in each case appearing to writhe in pain and the process taking much longer than planned. In the Oklahoma execution, experimental drugs were used.

"The courts have an obligation to review the execution procedure to make sure what's proposed doesn't violate that (cruel and unusual punishment) rule," Weiss said.

The 2nd thread of legal challenges surrounds Racial Justice Act cases in which defendants are raising questions about whether racial bias played a role in a conviction and death sentence. The issue doesn't always depend on the race of the defendant or victim but can involve the racial makeup of juries. Death penalty opponents say prosecutors have excluded African-American jurors in some cases.

Nationally, botched executions and recent exonerations of death row inmates, including Henry McCollum last year in North Carolina, have eroded public support for executions, and the number of executions has dropped, Weiss said.

Since 1973, 150 people have been exonerated and freed from death row in 26 states, including nine in North Carolina, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

McCollum, North Carolina's longest serving death row inmate, was freed last year after three decades because of new DNA evidence that showed he was innocent of the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.

Since 1977, when a 10-year national moratorium on executions ended, 1,413 people have been put to death in the U.S., according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of that, 528 were in Texas. Nationally, the number of executions gradually increased from 1977 to a peak in 1999, when there were 98 executions, and gradually decreased since then. So far in 2015, 19 people have been executed.

Weiss said the Restoring Proper Justice Act "really increases the chance that an execution could be botched and for an execution to be cruel and unusual punishment. It seems like we should be increasing the safeguards instead of taking them away. Just as a matter of basic human decency, we should have safeguards to ensure it's done predictably."

Closure for Lane

George Lane has heard the arguments against the death penalty, but he still believes with all his heart that Edward Davis should pay the ultimate price for killing his son.

Davis had been a menace to society for years before he killed Mark Lane, George Lane said. He was convicted of murder in the 1975 stabbing death of a 60-year-old man in Columbus, Ohio. He was paroled the year before he killed Mark Lane.

As part of a crime spree that included the Leicester robbery, Davis and another man carried out armed robberies at a McDonald's in Canton, as well as others in Georgia and Tennessee. Davis had escaped jail in Tennessee, where he was being held on a robbery charge, before the Lane murder.

"They let out a criminal and thought he was rehabilitated, but right away he was out robbing and killing," Lane said. "He deserves what he gets."

24 years after his son's murder, he said Davis' execution, if it ever happens, "will bring closure. I wouldn't have to think about it anymore."

Buncombe death row inmates

People convicted of murder and sentenced to death from Buncombe County, along with the date they were sentenced:

Edward E. Davis, March 12, 1992

Randy L. Atkins, Dec. 8, 1993

Leslie Warren, Oct. 6, 1995

Jamie L. Smith, May 10, 1996

James F. Davis, Oct. 2, 1996

Phillip Davis, Aug. 22, 1997

Lyle May, March 18, 1999

James Morgan, July 8, 1999

Terry A. Hyatt, Feb. 7, 2000

[source: N.C. Department of Public Safety]

History of executions in NC

Public hangings were common in North Carolina until the state took over administration of the death penalty in 1910.

Since 1910, the state has executed 404 people. After a moratorium on executions from 1962 to 1984, North Carolina put 43 people to death between 1984 and 2006. One Buncombe resident was among those inmates - Zane Hill - who was executed on Aug. 14, 1998.

Since 1910, there have been 3 methods to carry out executions, all at Central Prison in Raleigh. For the first 28 years, the state used the electric chair. In 1936, the state first used the gas chamber. In 1983, inmates waiting for execution were allowed to choose lethal injection or the gas chamber. In 1998, lethal injection became the state's only method of execution.

Currently, 148 people are on death row in North Carolina, including 2 women. Of that total, Buncombe has the 3rd highest number from among the state's 100 counties, with 9, trailing only Forsyth (14) and Wake (10), according to N.C. Department of Public Safety records.

Executions by decade:

1910-20 - 50

1921-30 - 58

1931-40 - 130

1941-50 - 108

1951-61 - 15

1962-84 - 0

1985-2006 - 43

2007-present - 0

[source: N.C. Department of Public Safety]

(source: Ashville Citizen-Times)


Trial begins for murder of wealthy couple

The trial began Friday for the man accused of killing a wealthy Tampa couple. Hector and Debra Rivera were found shot to death in their Avila mansion back in 2012.

It was a chance for both sides to say their piece before we get into the thick of things.

Julian Ospina-Florez faces the death penalty if convicted. Tuesday, the he cried when he heard about the death penalty option. And once again Friday, Ospina-Florez broke down quietly as he listened to his own frantic words from the 911 call made the night of the murders.

"They killed my boss... no, no, the owner of the house," he told the operator.

Hillsborough prosecutors spent an hour retracing the days that lead up to the January 9, 2012 killings. Ospina-Florez was Debra Rivera's driver and assistant.

Assistant State Attorney Ada Carmona described Mrs. Rivera as a boss prone to "temper explosions," saying it was not unusual for her to yell at employees or call their intelligence and abilities into question.

Things turned sour when Mrs. Rivera accused him of stealing merchandise from her jewelry business. She wanted employees at her Avila mansion to submit to a lie detector test.

On the night she was killed, Carmona said, "The scuffle started in the kitchen, her boots scuffing not only the floor but the doors of the cabinet, and the skirmish forceful enough for her earring to land on the floor. It ended in the bathroom where she met her death."

Prosecutors say Ospina-Florez then turned the gun on Hector Rivera when he returned home.

"The defendant's gun was in fact the one used to kill Dr. And Mrs. Hector Rivera," said Carmona.

When police arrived, Ospina-Florez's socks were found soaked in blood. A trail of bloody clothed footprints lead to a drawer where his own gun, also identified as the murder weapon, was found.

"Julian Ospina-Florez is an innocent man who did not murder anybody," said Public Defendant Charles Traina.

Ospina-Florez's attorney's opening comments were much more brief, asking the 16 jurors to use "common sense, logic and fairness."

"There are no eyewitnesses to this terrible event, there is no video that captures it," Traina said. "Lawyers do not speak evidence. The evidence has to come to you from the witness stand."

We heard from several witnesses Friday, including a Hillsborough County deputy who was among the first on scene. He said Ospina-Florez was inside the home, on the floor when they arrived, and got up to let them in.

Deputy Don Shook said he was a "plastic wire tie" on the defendant's wrist and a couple of them on the ground. "I don't remember him crying," Shook said. "I remember him being emotional, upset... and agitated, that's a good word."

Witness testimony continues Monday morning. The trial is expected to last 3 weeks.



No need to rush next execution

The Florida Supreme Court did the right thing in halting - for a 2nd time - the state's next scheduled execution, pending further review of a new drug blamed for botched capital killings nationwide.

1 execution in Oklahoma ended in a bloody mess.

Florida's high court last month sent the case of convicted Orlando killer Jerry Correll back to a lower court to determine whether the new drug, midazolam, will have particularly harsh effects because of his alleged brain damage and prior drug use. The results are due by Aug. 27.

In demanding an evidentiary hearing on the sedative - part of a 3-drug cocktail used to execute prisoners in Florida - the Supreme Court is asking the questions lawmakers should have answered before rolling out the new lethal-injection process 2 years ago.

Already, Florida faces too many flaws in its death penalty machine, which is why the Florida Bar's Board of Governors, among others, recommends a top-down review. The call makes sense given that Florida ranks 4th for executions; 90 since 1976 and 16 in the past 3 years. We also hold the record for the most death row exonerations - a shocking 25 since 1979.

It's unfortunate the court's stay of execution is only temporary. Still, it's good the justices rejected Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to lift the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the drug's use. More important than doing things fast, it's better we do things right.

Correll was convicted of killing his ex-wife, their daughter and 2 other relatives. After 3 decades on death row, his February execution was postponed while the nation's high court reviewed whether the drug violated a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. After the court ruled, Bondi requested a new execution date be set.

Instead, the court sent Correll's case to the Ninth Circuit Court in Orange County to determine whether midazolam could have adverse effects during the execution process.

Midazolam is supposed to put inmates to sleep. Florida was the 1st state to roll it out after drug companies stopped selling pentobarbital to prisons because of growing public sentiment against the death penalty.

When Florida approved its use in 2013, midazolam was untested as a capital punishment drug, and some worried its sedative effects would wear off before the lethal drugs set in. As it turned out, the state's 1st guinea pig, inmate William Happ, remained conscious and his body writhed longer than inmates put to death with pentobarbital.

The track record for midazolam has worsened since then.

In Ohio, inmate Dennis McGuire struggled and choked for nearly 25 minutes before dying. In Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett bled out and died of a heart attack 43 minutes after his injection. In Arizona, Joseph Wood gasped and snorted before succumbing almost 2 hours later.

It's hard to feel pity for the worst of the worst criminals. But nobody deserves to die so tortuously, especially at the hands of government.

Meanwhile, Florida faces another U.S. Supreme Court case next year that questions how the death penalty is decided upon. Florida is the only state that allows a simple majority of jury members to impose capital punishment. Most states require a unanimous jury decision.

The good news is Gov. Rick Scott has taken a break from signing death warrants, the longest pause since taking office 4 years ago. That's something, considering Scott sent more Floridians to death row in his 1st term than any other modern governor.

Better news would be that Scott and the Legislature would get to work on reforming our state's death penalty woes.

(source: Editorial, Sun-Sentinel)


Appellate court rejects speedy trial claim of Jacksonville inmate facing death penalty

The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee has ruled that prosecutors and police did not violate the speedy trial rights of a man facing death row for a Jacksonville murder.

Corey Jamaine Dozier, 35, has been charged with the 1st-degree murder of his 27-year-old girlfriend, Shelly Desravines. Prosecutors argue that Dozier should be executed for the murder, and also charge him with grand theft auto and the attempted murder of a man who was shot at the same time that Desravines was killed.

"We're very pleased with the decision and look forward to trying Mr. Dozier," said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda.

Dozier was locked up in South Carolina at the time he received notice that he would be charged with Desravines' death and it was over a year before he was brought back to Jacksonville. Legally, the notice Dozier got was called a "detainer" that let prison officials in South Carolina know they shouldn't release Dozier because he was facing more charges in Florida.

Under Florida law once someone is charged with a crime they have the right to a trial within 180 days.

Dozier claimed his right to a speedy trial began as soon as he was notified that he would face charges in June 2012. Prosecutors disagreed and said his right didn't begin until he was extradited to Jacksonville and officially charged in January 2014.

In a unanimous decision, the appellate court sided with prosecutors, finding that a "detainer" was not sufficient to start the right to speedy trial without an indictment or official complaint.

The appellate court judges conceded that this issue has never been addressed before by any court in Florida. That means if Dozier is convicted the issue may end up being appealed again to the Florida Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Dozier could not be reached for comment Friday.

De la Rionda conceded that if the case had gone the other way it would have been challenging for prosecutors since it often takes time to extradite someone from another state.

Dozier went to South Carolina while police were looking for him in Florida.

According to 2011 news reports, Dozier robbed a gas station along Interstate 95 in South Carolina, crashed the car he'd taken from Desravines and then lay down along the pavement of Interstate 26 as a ruse and hijacked the car of a couple who stopped to help.

He drove toward Charleston until he was arrested.

After receiving word that he would face charges in Florida, Dozier asked to be sent back to Florida immediately to face the charges.

Dozier wrote to the warden of the prison where he was incarcerated in South Carolina, and then wrote the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Duval County Clerk of Court and the chief judge of the 4th Judicial Circuit. He did not write to the office of 4th Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey.

In those letters, Dozier invoked his right to speedy trial under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, which requires different states to quickly transfer inmates when they face criminal charges in both states.

The letters were written between July 2012 and January 2013.

Dozier is not scheduled to get out of prison in South Carolina until 2020, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections. If the appellate court had ordered the Florida charges dismissed against him he would have returned to South Carolina to finish his sentence.

He was convicted of armed robbery, carjacking and kidnapping in South Carolina and sentenced to 10 years in prison.



'Unhinged' Woman Gets Death For Boy's Murder

Heather Leavell-Keaton cooked anti-freeze into the food of 3-year-old Chase DeBlase and his sister Natalie.

A woman has been sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 2010 murder of her common-law husband's 3-year-old son.

Heather Leavell-Keaton intentionally killed Chase DeBlase, and recklessly caused the death of his 4-year-old sister Natalie, a jury in Alabama found.

The prosecution alleged that Leavell-Keaton cooked anti-freeze into the children's food, and told the court that they were tortured, gagged and choked to death.

Chase and Natalie's bodies were found dumped in woods near Citronelle, Alabama, and Vancleave, Mississippi.

John DeBlase, their father, was sentenced to death in 2014.

Judge Roderick Stout upheld a jurors' recommendation at Mobile County Circuit Court on Thursday.

He ruled that Leavell-Keaton had failed to protect the children from "needless suffering and death an unexplainable malice", reported. The website also reported that she is the 1st woman in Mobile County to be put on death row.

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Reich told the website: "We believe that Heather Keaton ... is a domineering, manipulative, deceitful and morally unhinged woman.

"Her actions are worthy of the death penalty."

Greg Hughes, defending, told the court Leavell-Keaton had suffered from bipolar disorder from a young age and had lived with partial blindness throughout her life.

(source: Sky News)


One Lawyer's Fight For Young Blacks And 'Just Mercy'

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Last April, Anthony Ray Hinton, who had spent 30 years on death row after being wrongly convicted in two Alabama shootings, was exonerated and freed thanks to persistent efforts by the Equal Justice Initiative. After the court's reversal of his death sentence, Hinton addressed the media and expressed his gratitude, starting by saying, the sun do shine.

ANTHONY RAY HINTON: The sun do shine. Thirty years ago, the prosecution seemed deemed to take my life from me. They just didn't take me from my family and friends. They had every intention of executing me for something I didn't do. But for all y'all that's snapping the cameras, I want you to know there is a God.


HINTON: He sit high, but he looks low.


HINTON: He will destroy, but yet he will defend, and he defend me. And I just want to thank him. I'm not ashamed to let you know that he sent me not just a lawyer but the best lawyers - the best lawyers. And I couldn't have made it without them. And I want to say to the victims' family, I will continue to pray for you just as I have for 30 years - a miscarriage of justice not only to me but to the victims' families.

BIANCULLI: The lawyer Anthony Ray Hinton was thanking is today's guest, Bryan Stevenson, the man who for decades argued for Hinton's freedom. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which is based in Alabama. His clients are people on death row, abused and neglected children who were prosecuted as adults and placed in adult prisons, where they were beaten and sexually abused, and mentally disabled people whose illnesses helped land them in prison where their special needs were unmet. He's argued 5 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won a ruling holding that it's unconstitutional to sentence children to life without parole if they are 17 or younger and have not committed murder. Stevenson is a professor at NYU Law School and his awards include the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he grew up in what he describes as a poor and racially segregated settlement in Delaware. His best-selling memoir, "Just Mercy," has just come out in paperback. Terry interviewed him last year when the book was first published.


Bryan Stevenson, welcome back to FRESH AIR. So there's a story I want to start with. It's a story of something that happened to you, which leads me to believe you have great understanding of what happened to Michael Brown and other unarmed black men who were shot by the police. And this is a story about when you'd been practicing at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee for about 4 years. You're a young man in your 20s. You'd just moved into a new apartment in Atlanta, Ga. You had a roommate. And you got home after a long day at work. You sat in the car listening to Sly and the Family Stone 'cause that was, like, your pleasure of the day (laughter) listening to them on the radio. And then you see a police car that stops, and you didn't know what they were doing there. You didn't realize they were coming for you. So what happened?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Right. Yeah, it was late at night. I'd been working actually on a case involving a young man who had been killed by police in Alabama. And I was just really enjoying the fact that my radio was playing. It didn't usually play, and I was listening to these songs sitting outside my apartment. And then the police car pulled up, and I was curious what they were looking for. And they shined the light on me, and I realized that, oh, they're here for me.

And I got out of my car. I was going to explain to them that this is where I live. And before I could say a word, the police officer pulled a gun, pointed it at my head and said, move and I'll blow your head off. And I saw him standing there. His hands were shaking. I was terrified, and I had this moment of just crisis. And I put my hands up, and I began saying, it's OK, it's all right, it's OK, it's all right. And I was completely confused.

I had a moment where I thought these aren't real police. They were actually Atlanta SWAT officers, which meant that they didn't wear the traditional police uniform. They were all dressed in black - black boots, black pants, black shirt. And he was just so menacing and threatening, and he kept saying, move and I'll blow your head off. And a 2nd officer got out of the car, came behind my car, came up behind me, threw me on the back of the vehicle and wouldn't let me reach in my wallet to get my driver's license to show that this is where I lived. And it just turned into this horrible ordeal where they kept me out there for 15 minutes. Neighbors were coming out. People were complaining about other burglaries in the neighborhood. They were asking the police to interrogate me about their missing items. You know, ask him if he has my vacuum cleaner, ask him if he took my cat. And it was sort of surreal and terrifying.

One of the officers did a completely illegal search of the vehicle, went inside the car, started digging around, opened up the glove compartment. I had, like, Bazooka bubblegum and M and M candies that he went through and then tossed aside. And I could never persuade them that I was there legitimately. And after they found nothing in the car and they confirmed that they didn't have a warrant for me, I asked them to apologize and they wouldn't. The officer who left said, you should be lucky you got away. Next time, we'll get you.

GROSS: You say in the book that your 1st impulse was to run.

STEVENSON: No one had ever pointed a gun at me like that before. I was terrified. I just - you know, a kid growing up in the country, yeah, that was my 1st instinct. And I was, at that point, a lawyer who had done police misconduct and civil rights cases for several years. And so I knew to say, it's all right, it's OK, but I had to take control of that situation and calm everybody down and that's terrifying.

GROSS: Let me just ask you, was this neighborhood in which you were stopped, a neighborhood that you had just moved into, was it predominantly white?

STEVENSON: It was. My neighbor - my roommate - was actually another - was a classmate from Harvard Law School. And we had lived in really low-income sections of the city because we both were low-paid, public interest lawyers. And, you know, it was a middle-class, working-class neighborhood in Midtown, Atlanta, but most of the people on that particular block were not African-American. And just sitting in my car listening to music for 10 or 15 minutes while I was actually getting my legal papers ready for the next day is what made me a target for this kind of assault.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Bryan Stevenson. He's a lawyer who represents people on death row, children, the mentally ill. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. He also teaches at NYU, and he's the author of a new book called "Just Mercy: A Story Of Justice And Redemption."

At the center of your book is the story about a prisoner on death row whose case you took on because he always maintained his innocence. And you not only believed him, you found a kind of trail of clues showing you that the people who testified against him were lying. It was an unusual case for many reasons. And one of them was that the jury convicted him of life without parole, but the judge overturned that sentence and gave him the death penalty instead. When you decided to take on this appeal, a person called you who didn't - you didn't realize he was the judge who condemned him. And what did the judge want you to do? What did the judge tell you?

STEVENSON: Well, the judge didn't want me to take the case. And what was so surreal about this case was that all these things that weren't supposed to happen kept happening. You know, I went to the prison to meet him first, this condemned man. And he told me that he'd been placed on death row for 15 months before the trial. And I thought, you know, that's not what's supposed to happen. And then I got back to my office, and I got a call from a man named Robert E. Lee Key, who was the judge who had condemned him to time, who told me that I shouldn't take the case, that this was not the kind of case that I should get involved with.

And then I went to the community and met dozens of African-Americans who were with this condemned man at the time the crime took place 11 miles away who absolutely knew he was innocent. And they told the police, and the police didn't do anything. And it was just one thing after the other. But, yeah, it was a very, very bizarre start to my career and to the work that I was doing in Alabama. Having a judge call up and say, hi, I'm Robert E. Lee Key, and I don't want you taking this case, was a pretty big turnaround for me.

GROSS: Why do you think the judge did not want you to take the case?

STEVENSON: Well, I think everyone knew that the evidence against Mr. McMillian was pretty contrived. There was no logical sensible story about how he could have committed this crime. As I said, there were dozens of people who were with him 11 miles away. The story given by the testifying witness made absolutely no sense. The police couldn't solve the crime. And there was so much pressure on the police and the prosecutor, on the system of justice, to make an arrest that they just felt like they had to get somebody convicted. And I think to a certain extent, there was this complicit - you know, there was this complicity with a wrongful conviction and getting an outside lawyer might challenge that. I think that was one of the reasons why the judge didn't want me involved.

And the second was that it was a pretty clear situation where they just wanted everybody to forget about this man. Let him get executed so everybody could move on. The case involved a young white woman who was murdered in downtown Monroeville - a lot of passion, a lot of anger in the community about her death. And I think there was great resistance to someone coming in and fighting for the condemned person who had been accused and convicted.

GROSS: One of the things you found was that the sheriff and a couple of other law enforcement authorities basically coerced the person who testified against Walter McMillian, who you were representing, and it was all lies. You even found tapes...

STEVENSON: Yeah, it's...

GROSS: ...That had evidence of a coercion. I think they paid him, too, to do it. And, I mean, it's such an incredible miscarriage of justice. So, you know, you presented all this in court, and you got him released after being on death row for how long?

STEVENSON: 6 years, 6 years. And you're right, it was pretty surreal. They did coerce the witnesses to testify falsely against him and for some bizarre reason tape-recorded some of these sessions. So you hear this tape where the witness is saying, you want me to frame an innocent man for murder, and I don't feel right about that. And the police officers are saying, well, if you don't do it, we're going to put you on death row, too. And they actually did put the testifying witness on death row for a period of time until he agreed to testify against Mr. McMillian. Other witnesses were given money in exchange for their false testimony.

But it was challenging because even when we presented all of that evidence and we presented Mr. McMillian's strong alibi, the first couple of judges said, no, we're not going to grant relief. It took us 6 years to get a court to ultimately overturn the conviction. And I think it speaks to this resistance we have in this country to confronting our errors, to confronting our mistakes.

One of the really bizarre parts of this whole case for me was this whole episode took place in Monroeville, Ala., where Harper Lee grew up and wrote "To Kill A Mockingbird." And if you go to Monroeville, you'll see a community that's completely enchanted by that story. They love the story. They have all of this "To Kill A Mockingbird" memorabilia. The leading citizens enact a play about the book. And you can't go anywhere without encountering some aspect of that story made real in that community. And yet when we were trying to get the community to do something about an innocent African-American man wrongly convicted, there was this indifference - and in some quarters hostility. This is one of the few cases I've worked on where I got bomb threats and death threats because we were fighting to free this man who was so clearly innocent. And it just reveals this disconnect that I'm so concerned about when I think about our criminal justice system.

GROSS: You have cousins who are police officers. Is that a healthy connection for you to have in the sense that you've seen a lot of police responsible for mistreating people who they have arrested? You were mistreated by police very early in your law career. Is it helpful to be reminded that there's a lot of really good people who are police, including your relatives?

STEVENSON: Well, it is. But, you know, I actually am always mindful of that, even without that personal connection. I mean, we need law enforcement officers who are committed and brave and dedicated and hardworking and smart. If I had three professions I would double the salaries of, one would be teachers, the second would be police officers and law enforcement and the third would be social workers because I think they play a critical role in a society as devastated by dysfunction and drugs and racism and bias and poverty as our society, so I've always had that.

And I meet people all the time - law enforcement officers, correction officers - in the McMillian case, one of the things that turned the case around was the appointment of two ABI investigators who just took an honest approach to the case and helped us show the evidence of innocence to prosecutors. So that's always been clear to me that we need people performing these roles in our society who are uncorrupted by the cynicism, who are not distracted by bigotry and bias against the poor, people of color, who are informed and educated about the challenges of mental disability and age.

BIANCULLI: Author, professor and attorney Bryan Stevenson speaking to Terry Gross last year. We'll hear more of their conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's interview from last year with attorney, professor and author Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. His best-selling memoir, "Just Mercy," is now out in paperback.

GROSS: You know, one of the stories I told myself in reading your story about this case was Walter McMillian, the man who was on death row who was actually innocent, that when he was on trial the first time around, he was probably represented by a lawyer who didn't really want to take the case and who didn't really care and didn't really spend a lot of time doing research and didn't present a very convincing argument in court. And then I read that one of his lawyers was J.L. Chestnut, who's actually a celebrated civil rights lawyer. I interviewed him years ago. He wrote a memoir about the civil rights movement, about the march, you know, on Selma.


GROSS: And I couldn't understand why the case seemed to have been handled so poorly and yet they had this celebrated civil rights attorney.

STEVENSON: Well, I - yeah. Yeah. No, J.L. Chestnut is an amazing lawyer, and his co-counsel, Bruce Boynton, were both, you know, very strong advocates. And I think it just spoke to the resolve in that community to convict Mr. McMillian. If you read the transcript, you'd say no reasonable jury should convict this person. It's not so much that they lost the case. I think they, in this one instance, underestimated the resolve that some of these folks had to convict even an innocent person and to condemn them to die.

And, you know, I think, you know, sometimes the challenge with these cases is that you have to prove innocence. You can't go into court with the presumption of innocence, assuming that your client is presumed innocent. That's the way it's supposed to work, but in many of these cases, that's not the way it does work. And if you go into court thinking that your client is presumed innocent, you're going to get an outcome that is not satisfactory.

And it took hundreds of hours to kind of uncover some of the things that we had to uncover. The case was forced to trial. It was rushed to trial. They moved it out of the county, where the population is 43 % African-American, to a county that has less than a 10 % African-American population. And that really undermined the effort that his attorneys made.

GROSS: What's something I found really sad in the story is - OK, so you get Walter McMillian out. He's freed from death row. He's freed from prison. It's proven that he was not guilty of the murder. He returns to his work, which is in the timber business cutting down trees. He injures himself, breaks his neck, recovers from that partially, but then gets dementia. And not long after he's freed, he ends up in a home for people with dementia. And because he is not clear-minded anymore, he thinks he's back on death row. And I found that so upsetting because the mind plays such tricks on you. And to finally be freed, yet to then have dementia and think that you're not, that you're back on death row, that's such a nightmare.

STEVENSON: It is a nightmare. And I think one of the things that pains me...

GROSS: There's nothing you can do about that. As the best lawyer in the world, there's nothing you can do about that.

STEVENSON: No, that's right. (Laughter) Well, I think one of the things that pains me is that we have so tragically underestimated the trauma, the hardship we create in this country when we treat people unfairly, when we incarcerate them unfairly, when we condemn them unfairly. You can't threaten to kill someone every day, year after year and not harm them, not traumatize them, not break them in ways that is really, really profound.

And yet, when innocent people are released, we just act like they should be grateful that they didn't get executed. And we don't compensate them many times. We don't help them. We question them. We still have doubts about them. And I saw that create this early onset dementia - which many of the doctors believed was trauma-induced - was a function of his experience of being nearly killed. And he witnessed eight executions when he was on death row. And during those days, people were executed in the electric chair. And he would talk about smelling flesh burning as people were executed. And it was a really horrific experience for him.

And you're right. When that comes full circle - and he's sick, and he's in a hospital, and he's saying to me, you got to get me off death row again, it's heartbreaking. And one of the things I just wanted people to kind of understand is that we can't continue to have a system of justice defined by error and unfairness and tolerate racial bias and bias against the poor and not confront what we are doing to individuals and to families and to communities and to neighborhoods. And Walter is in some ways a kind of a microcosm of that reality. He's a representative of what we've done to thousands of people. And we ought to want to stop doing that.

BIANCULLI: Author, professor and attorney Bryan Stevenson speaking to Terry Gross last year. We'll continue their conversation after a break. And we'll also hear film critic David Edelstein's review of "Meru," a mountain climbing documentary that's a cliff-hanger, literally. I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross, back with more of Terry's interview from last year with lawyer Bryan Stevenson. He's the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which challenges racial and economic inequities in our criminal justice system. His clients are people on death row, abused and neglected children who were prosecuted as adults and placed in adult prisons and the mentally disabled. His memoir, "Just Mercy," is now out in paperback.

GROSS: When you've represented somebody on death row and tried to get them off death row and fail, do you witness their execution?

STEVENSON: I have, yeah. There have been a couple of times when I've done that, and it's a surreal experience. I got involved in cases early on where the case was very close to execution. And there was really no opportunity, no meaningful opportunity, to stop the execution but it felt like it was important to fight for that condemned person anyway. Our system has really shifted over the last 20 years. I think in the '70s when the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty, they said death is different. We want heightened scrutiny, heightened review.

Over the last 25 years, you've seen how that's flipped. How we are actually sometimes less willing to give close scrutiny to death penalty cases because we're in such a rush to execute people. I'm worried about the fact that we've elevated finality over fairness. And in these early cases, we had some evidence that suggested that these people had been unfairly sentenced, but every court said too late. And one of the first cases I ever dealt with where the man was executed was a surreal case where, you know, I got that call from the Supreme Court denying the last stay motion.

Drove down to be with this man before his scheduled execution and was standing back there before he was going to be executed and they, you know, they shave the hair off the person's body before they put them in the electric chair. And we're standing there - very emotional conversation, holding hands, praying, talking. And him saying to me - I remember him saying to me - he said, Bryan, it's been such a strange day. When I woke up this morning, the guards came to me and said, what do you want for breakfast? And at midday, what do you want for lunch? In the evening, they came back and said, what you want for dinner? And all day long, he said, they kept saying, what can we do to help you? Can we get you stamps to mail your last letters? Can we get you water? Can we get you the phone to call your friends and family? And I'll never forget that man saying, Bryan, it's been so strange. More people have said, what can I do to help you in the last 14 hours of my life than they ever did in the first 19 years of my life.

And I remember standing there, holding his hands, thinking, yeah, where were they when you were 3 years old being abused? Where were they when you were 7 and you were being sexually assaulted? Where were they when you were a teenager and you were homeless and struggling with drug addiction? Where were they when you came back from war, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder?

And with those kinds of questions resonating in my mind, this man was pulled away and executed. So it's a really surreal and, I think, deeply destructive act to kill a person who's not a threat to other people. But that's our system, and that's one of the reasons why getting people closer to that system is one of my new priorities.

GROSS: What do you think it meant to him to know that you were there as a witness to the execution?

STEVENSON: I think for him and his family, it meant that he was still a human being. You know, when I give talks about this issue, I tell people that I don't believe that any person is their worst act. I think all of us are more than the worst thing we've done. I think if somebody tells a lie, they're not just a liar. I think if someone steals something, they're not just a thief. I think even if you kill someone, you're not just a killer. And we think we're executing killers and that's all they are. And when you surround people who've been condemned with some measure of humanity, some measure of dignity, I think that changes. And I think for him and his family - but also, I hope for the system of justice - it represented something that was important about what we're doing to other people.

GROSS: One of the cases that you write about is about one of the children who you represented. He was, I think, 13. And he was in prison for having shot his mother's boyfriend after he witnessed the mother's boyfriend abusing her, and she ended up unconscious and bleeding. And the son wasn't even sure if she was alive. She was kind of out cold for about 20 minutes, bleeding profusely. And I don't know whose gun it was that the boy used?

STEVENSON: It was the boyfriend - the mother's boyfriend's gun that he had hidden away in a dresser drawer.

GROSS: So the boy took the gun, shot and killed the mother's boyfriend. So he's in prison. You're trying to represent him. And you go to visit him. He's uncommunicative. And he finally just kind of breaks down crying and tells you what's been happening to him in prison, which was...

STEVENSON: Yeah, it's one of the real tragedies that we continue to tolerate in this country. I went to the jail and there's this little kid. He's 14, and he's just tiny and he won't say a word. And after 20 minutes of trying to get them to talk to me, I finally went around and got close to him. I said, look, you got to talk to me. I can't help you if you don't talk to me. And at one point, I leaned on him and I put my arm around him and when I did that, he just collapsed into me. And he started crying hysterically and began telling me nothing about his mom, nothing about the man, but he started talking to me about the jail.

He told me on the first night that he had been there, he'd been hurt by several men and then he told me on the next night, he'd been sexually assaulted by several people. And then he told me on the night before I'd gotten there, so many people had hurt him and sexually assaulted him, he couldn't remember how many there had been. You know, and I held that little boy while he cried hysterically for almost an hour. And when I left the jail, I couldn't help but think, who is responsible for this? And I realized we are. We are a society that has allowed our fear and our anger - we've allowed these false narratives about children being super predators and other such nonsense - to create policies where we are putting children in peril. And I just - I really was never the same after that. We got that little boy out of there, and we ultimately got a good outcome for him. But it's, again, one of the ways in which this disconnect has made us a less fair, less just society.

GROSS: What was the outcome that you got because it's not like he was innocent of shooting and killing a man? Doesn't mean he should have been sentenced to repeated rape by adult men.

STEVENSON: That's exactly right, you know. And I think this was an act of a child, you know? And so what we were able to do was to get him out of the adult criminal justice system and back into the juvenile system, which meant that he would have a better chance at getting services and treatment and would likely, if he demonstrated that he was not a threat to public safety, you know, get out sooner than if he had been sentenced to life without parole, which is what happens to a lot of children who act just like he did, who commit acts of violence in circumstances just like he has. And unfortunately, it's more likely that a child like that will be prosecuted as an adult today than it was, you know, 40 years ago and that's part of this dishonesty, you know.

We are very clear that children are not like adults when it comes to whether they can drink or smoke or vote. In a lot of states, you can't even buy firecrackers or get a tattoo until you're 18. And yet, if you commit a criminal act, we pretend as if you're just like an adult. And that phenomenon has, I think, created tremendous injustice in this country and what we've done to children is really unconscionable. That there are 13 and 14-year-old kids who have been condemned to die in prison, who are being abused and assaulted because of our indifference to child status, is one of the things I'm deeply concerned about.

BIANCULLI: Author, professor and attorney Bryan Stevenson speaking to Terry Gross last year. We'll hear more of their conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's interview from last year with attorney, professor and author Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. His best-selling memoir, "Just Mercy," is now out in paperback.

GROSS: The Equal Justice Initiative, which you founded, is based in Alabama and represents clients in the South. Have you ever felt that you were discriminated against within the legal system yourself as a professional within the legal system because you're African-American?

STEVENSON: Oh, sure. I mean, I think - I mean, that happens all the time - and not just in the South. Actually with the juvenile cases, with the cases involving children, I've been representing kids all over the country. We have clients in California, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, everywhere. And I was in a courtroom in the Midwest not too long ago getting ready for a hearing. It was my first time there, and I had my suit on. I was sitting at defense counsel's table. I wanted to be early and the judge walked out followed by the prosecutor. And when the judge saw me sitting at the counsel table, he looked at me and he said, hey, hey, hey, you get out of here. I don't want any defendant sitting in my courtroom until their lawyers get here. You go back out there in the hallway and wait for your lawyer.

And I stood up and I said, oh, I'm sorry your honor. My name is Bryan Stevenson. I'm actually the lawyer representing the client today. And the judge started laughing and the prosecutor started laughing and I made myself laugh, too, because I didn't want to disadvantage my client. And then my client came in. He was a young white kid who I was representing. And we did the hearing. And I went to my car after that, and I was really just tired. You know, you get so burdened down. It's exhausting confronting these presumptions. And I was worried about being in front of a judge that was prepared to presume my dangerousness, my status - even though I was in a suit - just because of my race.

And so, yes, it happens all the time. And it's actually one of the reasons why our newest project at EJI, at the Equal Justice Initiative, is really trying to change the conversation about race in this country. We've done a very poor job of really reflecting on our legacy of racial inequality. And you see it in the South, but it's everywhere. And we want to talk more about slavery, and we want to talk more about this era between Reconstruction and World War II, which I call an era of terrorism, of racial terror and violence that shaped attitudes. I want to talk more about the civil rights era - not through the lens of celebration. We're too celebratory of civil rights these days. You know, we have these 50th anniversaries and everybody's happy and everybody's celebrating. Nobody's talking about the hardship.

You know, it's almost as if the civil rights movement was this three-day event. On day one, Rosa Parks didn't give up her seat on the bus. On day two, Dr. King led a march on Washington. And on the third day, we signed all these laws. And if you think about that history in that way, you minimize the trauma, the damage, the divides that were created. You can't segregate and humiliate people decade after decade without creating long-lasting injuries. And so our newest project is really trying to introduce some concept of what transitional justice requires - some commitment to truth and reconciliation. You know, at the end of the civil rights movement, we didn't tell the truth about what our history had done to us. And as a result of that, we haven't reconciled ourselves to that history. And that manifests itself in my work every day, for me as an African-American professional, but also for my clients, and more importantly for the communities my clients are coming from.

GROSS: Your grandmother was the daughter of people who were enslaved in Virginia. Did she tell you stories that were passed on to her about slavery?

STEVENSON: Oh, absolutely. Her parents were born into slavery in Bowling Green, Va., in the 1840s, and she was born in the 1880s. And because her father learned to read as a child and had to keep it secret - you know, his parents were terrified that he had figured out how to read. And they wanted him to use that skill to help them figure things out when emancipation came. But they were terrified of him revealing to anyone he knew how to read. Even after emancipation, my grandmother would tell me that he didn't like people to know he could read, but he desperately wanted her to learn to read. And that orientation was incredibly impactful for me.

You know, my grandmother had a wisdom and a perspective that was shaped by the experience of slavery. She had all of these ways of making us cope with a world, prepare for a world where there would be these barriers. You know, she'd say things like, I'm going to teach you how to grow up on the rough side of the mountain because that's what you're going to have to climb if you want to get where you're trying to go. And I think that was very definitely shaped by slavery and her own experience growing up during terror, during the era of lynching and convict leasing and all of these horrific threats that she had to navigate until she got to Philadelphia where she raised my mom.

GROSS: Since your grandmother told you stories about how her father was afraid to let people know that he could read because he was a slave and then, you know, a freed man, did that help instill in you a sense that reading and education were actually really important and it was almost, like, subversive to be smart?

STEVENSON: Oh, absolutely. My mom, her daughter, was just one of these people who believed that, you know, you had to learn to read as early as possible. You needed to be surrounded by books. My parents didn't go to college and were denied opportunities that I ultimately got. But, you know, my mom went in debt to buy World Book Encyclopedia so we could have that in our poor house. And she went in debt to buy me Dr. Seuss books because she - as she used to say all the time - I love to see you all reading. And that was, you know, very much intention in odds with our environment, where most of the adults got on buses to go work in the chicken factory, and where there was limited opportunities for education. And so, yes, I think that my great-grandfather's learning to read and understanding the power of that and my grandmother's respect for him was passed on to me.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Bryan Stevenson. He's a lawyer who represents people on death row, children, the mentally ill. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. And he's the author of a new book called "Just Mercy," a story of justice and redemption.

You've argued several cases before the Supreme Court. In 2010, you won a case regarding life imprisonment without parole when applied to children. Tell us what the outcome of this case was.

STEVENSON: Yeah. So the first case was actually about children who had been convicted of non-homicides, crimes that did not involve murder - burglary, assault, a range of crimes. And there were dozens of children who had been condemned to life without parole for those kinds offenses. And so we went to the Supreme Court and argued that a life without parole sentence for a child of 13 or 14 or 16 for a non-homicide was cruel and unusual punishment and the court agreed and banned these death in prison sentences for children convicted of non-homicides.

My client was a young kid named Joe Sullivan, who was 13, who had been sentenced to life without parole in Florida for a crime we don't think he actually committed. And he had had a horrific time in prison, again, experiencing a lot of sexual assault, developed multiple sclerosis, is now in a wheelchair. But it meant that his sentence would be reduced. And we're now very hopeful that Joe will be released soon, as have many other people who had been condemned to these death-in-prison sentences, including a lot down in Louisiana. Louisiana had a large population of children who were sent to Angola, the notorious plantation prison in Angola, La. And we've done a lot of work there where we've now gotten reduced sentences for dozens of people who are sentenced to life without parole.

GROSS: You've been working with people on death row, with the poor, with children who have been convicted of crimes, with the mentally ill for years. You started this work in the 1980s. Give us an example of something that you think has improved in the justice system since that time...


GROSS: ...And something that you think has gotten worse since that time.

STEVENSON: Well, I think recently we've begun to recognize that we cannot sustain the level of incarceration that we have created. In the last couple of years, the prison population has been stabilizing. The federal prison population has decreased recently. And you hear in various states across this country a different kind of debate going on about how are we going to reduce our prison populations? Maybe we shouldn't just settle for being tough on crime. Maybe we need to be smart on crime and right on crime.

We've seen some maturation on the war on drugs. I think most people now recognize that we'd do far better in this country if we treated drug dependency as a health care problem rather than a criminal justice problem. And I'm very encouraged about that. We won these cases at the U.S. Supreme Court - the 2010 case and then a 2012 case. I went back in 2012 and the court banned mandatory life without parole sentences for children. So I think the status of children is shifting in hopeful ways.

What's discouraging is the way in which we have continued to tolerate error, the way in which we've continued to accept a system where poverty is so condemning - you know, our criminal justice system is shaped by wealth, not culpability - and the way in which we have made so little progress on race and the legacy of racial inequality, that we are still allowing the presumption of dangerousness and guilt to kill so many young kids. I mean, the new statistic from the Bureau of Justice is really disheartening. The Justice Department is now reporting that 1 in 3 black male babies born in the 21st century is expected to go to jail or prison. The statistic for Latino boys is 1 in 6. That statistic was not true in the 20th century. It was not true in the 19th century. And that means we've got enormous work to do to improve our commitment to a society that is not haunted and undermined and corrupted by our legacy of racial inequality.

GROSS: Bryan Stevenson, thank you so much for talking with us.

STEVENSON: You're very welcome.

BIANCULLI: Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the memoir "Just Mercy," which has just come out in paperback. He spoke last year with Terry Gross. Last April, after persisting appeals by the Equal Justice Initiative, Anthony Ray Hinton was freed after 30 years on death row, having been exonerated for murders committed in 1985. Joe Sullivan, Bryan Stevenson's client who was sentenced to life without parole when he was 13, is still in prison, awaiting a hearing before the Florida Supreme Court.



Judge won't dismiss capital charges against man accused of murder

A Medina County judge on Tuesday denied a motion to have capital charges dismissed against a Brunswick man accused of murder.

Defense attorneys Kerry O'Brien and Rhonda Kotnik alleged in December that the death penalty is unconstitutional and violates international law. Their client, James "Jimmy" D. Tench, is accused of killing his mother, Mary Tench, in 2013.

O'Brien and Kotnik alleged the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, which has been deemed unconstitutional. In addition, they argued the death penalty violates United Nations agreements to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"Society's interests do not justify the death penalty," the attorneys wrote.

In response, county Prosecutor Dean Holman in May wrote that their arguments have been repeatedly rejected by the state’s highest court.

"Tench's motion is opposite controlling decisions of the Supreme Court of Ohio," Holman wrote. "Accordingly, it must be denied."

County Common Pleas Judge Joyce V. Kimbler agreed.

"These claims can be summarily rejected," the judge wrote. "Defendant's motion is overruled."

Kimbler on Tuesday also ruled on 54 other motions filed by Tench's attorneys.

Among them was a motion to bar prosecutors from telling the jury not to show Tench mercy when deciding whether to put him to death.

"The defendant is not entitled to an instruction that mercy is a mitigating factor," Kimbler wrote, citing case law. "Defense counsel may argue the issue of mercy and the prosecutor may respond accordingly, but a separate instruction is not necessary."

Tench, 29, of Brunswick, faces charges of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. According to police and autopsies, Tench's mother died of skull fractures and blunt trauma to her head and neck.

The trial is tentatively scheduled for February.

Many of the 55 motions ruled upon Tuesday dealt with privacy, criminal procedure and jury issues. Of note were denials of motions to suppress evidence, to change the venue to another county, to grant Tench the right to appear at hearings without restraints and to seal the online court record from public viewing.

At trial, Tench may appear without visible restraints, the judge wrote.

Many details about Tench's case were not revealed to the public at the time of his mother's death. In court documents, prosecutors outlined the events leading to Tench's arrest.

Mary Tench, 55, was found dead Nov. 12 in the back of her SUV, which was parked in a lot off Carquest Drive in Brunswick - less than a mile south of the Camden Lane home she and her son shared.

According to court documents, her son had filed a missing person's report because he hadn't seen her since the night before. Police, who would learn later that day that Mary Tench was dead, arrived at the home to investigate her disappearance and reported they witnessed suspicious activity.

When police said they wanted to use his mother's credit cards to track her possible movements, he produced one of her cards and said he'd bought toiletries and gas with it earlier that day.

"Tench said he had called off from work because he was so distraught about his mother's disappearance," prosecutors wrote, "and detectives noted that it seemed odd for him to be out buying everyday items if he was so distraught."

Tench said he was trying to keep busy so he wouldn't dwell on his mother's disappearance. He told detectives he had been crying all day and that he "did not have any tears left," but police reported he did not appear to have been crying.

During their conversation, Tench said the last time his mother contacted him was a missed call she allegedly placed at 11:51 p.m. the previous night. Detectives informed Tench the call was made from their Camden Lane home, according to GPS records.

Mary Tench's body was found shortly afterward.

Tench was arrested Nov. 13 on charges that he robbed a restaurant in Strongsville, where he had worked.

Prosecutors argue the robbery and his mother's slaying are linked. They allege Tench had been stealing from his mother and robbed the restaurant to replace the money he'd stolen. Prosecutors argue Tench killed his mother because she found out he was stealing from her.

Over the course of their investigation, detectives reported they found blood matching Mary Tench's DNA on Jimmy Tench's boots and photos of him purchasing the same kind of duct tape that was found binding his mother's body.

When confronted with the evidence, detectives reported Tench responded: "Good job."

Tench awaits trial in Richland Correctional Institution, where he's serving a 5-year prison sentence for the restaurant robbery.

(source: The Median Gazette)


Plea hearing scheduled for murder suspect 'Bobby' Clark----Clark accused of killing elderly couple, Doyle and Lillian Chumney

Robert R. "Bobby" Clark, 1 of 2 men accused of kidnapping and killing an elderly Strasburg couple in January, will appear in court next week for a plea hearing.

According to the Coshocton County Common Pleas court docket, Clark is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Aug. 28 before Judge Robert Batchelor.

In March, the 30-year-old Clark pleaded not guilty to 15 counts - including 10 counts of aggravated murder - for the deaths of Doyle and Lillian Chumney of Strasburg.

Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason Given declined to comment about Clark's upcoming appearance and said he would make a statement following the plea hearing.

Clark, of Dennison, is being represented by attorneys William Mooney and Kirk McVay, both of the Ohio Public Defender's Office.

Along with the aggravated murder charges, Clark is charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, aggravated arson and 2 counts of kidnapping, all 1st-degree felonies.

8 of Clark's aggravated murder charges include a specification. The first 7 call for the death penalty, while the eighth contends a gun was used during the killing of the Chumneys. A Coshocton County grand jury filed the indictments in March.

While Clark's indictments call for the death penalty, the indictments of Clark's accused accomplice, Jeffery C. Stewart, do not.

Stewart, 22, of Barnhill also faces 15 charges - including 10 aggravated murder charges.

Clark and Stewart are being held separately in the Tuscarawas County jail. Stewart is being held in lieu of a $2 million bond, and Clark in lieu of a $5 million bond.


The Chumneys were abducted late Jan. 20 or early Jan. 21 from their Strasburg home and driven to a remote township road in Coshocton County near Bakersville, where they were shot with a .25-caliber handgun, according to investigators. Their remains were found Jan. 22 in their burned car.

Stewart was arrested Jan. 31 after Tuscarawas and Coshocton County sheriff's offices released his photo to the news media and on Facebook, seeking the public's help in identifying him.

Clark also is a suspect in armed robberies in West Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia occurring between Jan. 31- Feb. 1.

Clark was arrested Feb. 5 in Arizona by Mohave County sheriff's deputies. Officers have said that Clark sped away from officers when they tried to stop him on Interstate 40 near Kingman.

Clark eventually pulled onto a dirt road, where the van he was driving became stuck. Clark ran, but was later captured.

Coshocton County Coroner Dr. Robert Gwinn released autopsy findings for the Chumneys in May. According to the autopsy, both bodies were reported to have a gunshot wound and burn injuries. Gwinn has said he could not determine the actual cause of death - a gunshot wound or being burned.

The case is a joint effort between Coshocton County Sheriff's Office, the Tuscarawas County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Batchelor appointed Tuscarawas County Prosecutor Ryan Styer, along with Assistant Ohio Attorney General Paul Scarcella, as special assistant prosecutors to aid Given.

When contacted Friday, Styer also declined to comment.

(source: Canton Repository)


Man accused of killing IMPD officer to appear in court

There could be some movement in the case against a man charged with killing an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer on Friday.

A pre-trial conference for Major Davis, Jr is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

He is accused of shooting Officer Perry Renn to death on July 5th 2014. Davis was also shot and critically wounded by Officer Renn, but survived.

Davis is charged with murder and faces the death penalty if convicted.

In December a trial date of February 6 2017 was tentatively set.

A spokesperson for the Marion County prosecutor's office has said the long delay is typical in death penalty cases.

(source: WISH TV news)


Christians wrestle with thoughts on death penalty

On Monday evening, Nov. 25, 2005, Eric Nance was executed for the brutal murder of Julie Heath, a Malvern teenager. It was the last time Arkansas administered the death penalty. On the night Nance was executed, CBS news reports that about 30 people gathered outside the governor's mansion and sang "Amazing Grace" while holding candles. I wonder if those 30 people lit candles for Julie Heath.

There are currently 34 people on death row in Arkansas. Arkansas Department of Correction invoices show more than $24,000 was recently spent for drugs to be used for upcoming executions. One of the three drugs, Midazolam, is connected with the problematic executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

Now that these controversial drugs have been received, Gov. Hutchinson can begin scheduling executions. So in the coming months, Arkansas will begin executing our death row inmates for the f1t time in 10 years.

Just so you know, these 34 men have been convicted of horrible crimes. In a society saturated with violent television, movie and games we can easily overlook how terrible murder really is. A precious life has been taken. Justice must be served.

Christians fall on both sides of the death penalty debate. It is a complex issue, but when I consider this issue, several thoughts come to mind:

-- Our Lord was executed. The horror of his experience concerns me. Is it possible we could execute an innocent person?

-- Did you know it is cheaper to imprison someone for life than it is to execute them? Did you know that Arkansas allows life imprisonment without parole as a sentencing option?

-- Would we rather trust the state to administer ultimate justice, or would we trust God to do that?

-- Yes, it is tremendously merciful to allow someone to grow old in a prison cell while their victim lost their life instantly. But are we to err on the side of mercy?

-- Can a murderer receive forgiveness from God? Is legitimate conversion possible for someone on death row? Does the grace of God only extend to 'good' sinners like us or does it extend to everyone?

-- And while we are justifiably angry at those who commit such atrocious crimes, can we transform our passion into something positive? For example, what are we doing to comfort the victim's loved ones? What are we doing to make our state safer? What are we doing to share the love of Christ with the young men and women who have been warped by abuse and violence and humiliation -- the ones most likely to commit heinous crimes?

No, I have not lost a loved one to violent crime. But I know our justice system does not exist to satisfy the victim's demand for vengeance. Our system of justice has a particular purpose within the social contract we live in together. But as Christians, we participate in an even greater system. We are citizens of a kingdom that promises accountability and judgment for all people. We are citizens of a kingdom that promises to bring wholeness and healing, where the King himself will dry the tears from our eyes. We are citizens of a kingdom that will make everything right. We are citizens of a kingdom built on grace.

Trusting God isn't always easy. And in the face of violence, it is extremely difficult. But that is what he calls us to do. I love the state of Arkansas ... but my faith is in the Lord.

(source: The Rev. Steve Sheely is pastor of Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville Northwest Akransas Democrat Gazette)


Victoria Davis Murder: 5 Arrested

Victoria Davis, a 24-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas, woman, was the kind of person who would "bend over backwards to help you," according to one of her neighbors.

She would frequently allow homeless people to stay at her house, a practice many would acknowledge as dangerous.

But when her body was found brutally beaten and left for dead on Wednesday at a nearby residence, it became horrifyingly clear that it wasn't a stranger in her life that she should have feared.

Authorities have since arrested 5 individuals - 3 men, 2 women - in an attack that police are calling "extremely violent" and disturbing.

1 of the individuals arrested was her husband, 27-year-old John Christopher Davis. Others involved were Rebecca Lloyd, 36, Mark Edward Chumley, 45, and Christopher Lee and Desire Treat, both 29.

All 5 could be charged with capital murder, a crime eligible for the death penalty in Arkansas.

While police are unclear on motive at this time, they suspect that Victoria Davis was planning to divorce her husband, NWA Online reports.

Their residence at 433 S. Hill Avenue in Fayetteville had garnered a reputation for being a house of horrors. Chumley and others staying at the residence were referred to as "bullies" by some of their terrified neighbors, 1 of whom said that she did not feel safe walking past the house alone and that "you always lock your doors" because of the "sketchy" people living at the residence.

Police suspect that all 5 of the individuals they have arrested contributed significantly to Davis's death, noting in their report that Davis had admitted to "doping" up his wife late Wednesday night.

After doing so, police suspect that Davis and the 4 others used a blunt object to bludgeon Victoria to death.

Davis was reportedly the only one of the 5 who sustained any damage from the alleged assault, with the police report noting that he had wounds on his face. While on the way to receive medical attention, he "uttered multiple statements that implicated him in the death of the deceased female."

In a separate report from 5NEWS, Davis reportedly said that several weapons were used in the assault, which occurred over a span of "hours."



Court filings sealed in 2 ongoing death penalty cases, one local murder case----Press official: sealing records undercut public access to courts

The Topeka Capital-Journal sought to intervene in the sealing of two court filings dealing with the terms of a plea agreement extended to Jermaine Thomas Brown, a man charged with the killing of a 49-year-old woman who was fatally wounded when she answered the door to her downtown Topeka home.

If court documents are sealed, how do I know they've been filed? a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter asked the spokesman for the Franklin County District Court during a hearing for capital murder defendant Kyle Trevor Flack.

"You don't," the spokesman said.

Documents sealed in a a 1st-degree murder case in Shawnee County District Court and 2 ongoing death penalty cases in Franklin and Labette Counties underscore that reporters are hindered in reporting serious criminal cases if court records are sealed, the head of the Kansas Press Association said this week.

"I think we've seen an increased use of sealing documents in the last couple of years," Doug Anstaett said.

For 11-plus years, Anstaett has been executive director of the KPA, which represents newspapers. Documents filed during criminal proceedings, including a capital murder case, normally are open to the public.

"It's almost a paranoid reaction on the part of the courts that any kind of release of information is somehow going to taint a jury or jury pool," Anstaett said. Alternatives exist to sealing court records, which should be a last resort, Anstaett said.

"We rely on those documents to keep us up-to-date and keep the public up-to-date, and now so many of those are being sealed almost routinely," Anstaett said.

The sealing of documents is part of the "inherent conflict" between freedom of the press and fair trial to provide the defendant with a trial free of prejudicial pre-trial publicity, Anstaett said.

The American system of justice is set up to be scrutinized and that is done by the news media, Anstaett said.

Some cases -- juveniule crimes and children in need of care -- need to be handled "more discretely," Anstaett said.

"But (trials dealing with) crimes against our communities need to be as open as possible," Anstaett said.

Anstaett points to 2 quadruple murders in Kansas in which the judges sealed documents in those capital murder cases in the past 2 years.

In Franklin County, a judge on June 30 denied the Ottawa Herald's motion seeking to unseal 68 documents sealed in the case of Flack, who is charged with killing a 21-year-old mother, her 18-month-old daughter, and 2 men, 31 and 30.

Flack, 30, is charged with capital murder in the slayings of the mother and daughter, 2 counts of premeditated 1st-degree murders of the men; and criminal possession of a firearm by a felon. The 4 were killed between April 20, 2013, and May 1, 2013.

The Ottawa Herald had sought a court order to block sealing more records, to re-open records earlier sealed, and to conduct hearings in open court when future requests to seal documents are made.

The sealed documents include motions and exhibits, but District Court Judge Eric Godderz said many of the 68 documents are subpoenas amounting to a paper flow of 3 documents for each subpoena.

However, Godderz declined to unseal the documents, saying that would represent "a clear and present danger" to the fairness of the capital murder trial.

Godderz said he didn't think the prejudicial effect of making those documents public could be eliminated by any other reasonable means other than sealing them.

Godderz used the language found in the Kansas Surpeme Court decision in Kansas City Star v. Fossey, a 1981 case, to make his rulings. In Fossey, the court favored open judicial proceedings and free access to records.

According to Fossey, a trial judge can close a preliminary hearing, bail hearing or pretrial hearing and seal a record only if dissemination of information from the proceeding and its record would "create a clear and present danger to the fairness of the trial" and the prejudicial effect of such information on the fairness of the trial can't be avoided by any "reasonable alternative means."

The alternatives are moving the trial outside the county the crime occurred in, using jurors chosen in another county, intensive questioning during juror selection, and adding more peremptory challenges.

Michael Kaye, a Washburn University law school professor, said the U.S. Supreme Court addressed closing courts and excluding the public in Globe Newspaper Company v. Superior Court, a 1982 decision.

Based on a Massachusetts law, a state court conducted a trial excluding members of the public and press in which a male was accused of raping 3 girls.

The U.S. Supreme Court found that a Massachusetts court ruling violated the First Amendment of the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Massachusetts Supreme Court judgement.

In Parsons, a mother and her three children, 9, 6 and 4, were killed in Parsons in Labette County, and David Cornell Bennett Jr. was charged with capital murder in the slayings in November 2013.

District Court Judge Robert Fleming issued a blanket order sealing documents filed in the case.The Parsons Sun, Montgomery County Chronicle and TV station KOAM challenged the order, resulting in reversal of the order in July 2014 because the order didn't meet the requirements of Fossey.

In Parsons, "it was was a year before people in that community even knew how these 4 people were killed," Anstaett said. "They were sealing everything."

In that case, the judge wasn't familiar with Fossey, Anstaett said.

In both cases, Max Kautsch, a Lawrence lawyer, cited the Fossey case to justify unsealing court records. Flack and Bennett are to be tried in 2016.

More recently, 2 documents were sealed in Shawnee County District Court in a 1st-degree murder case.

On Aug. 13, a judge in Shawnee County District Court sealed 2 documents in the case of Jermaine Thomas Brown, who is charged with the 2012 slaying of Terri Sims, 49. Defense attorney James L. Spies sought that order.

As a result of sealing the Shawnee County documents, lawyers also were blocked from answering questions from a reporter about the documents.

In the Brown case, The Topeka Capital-Journal filed a motion to intervene on Aug. 14, saying the "restrictive orders" sealing the counts would restrict the newspaper from performing its First Amendment functions of gathering and reporting newsworthy information.

Michael W. Merriam, a Topeka attorney, filed the motion. The Capital-Journal cited federal court decisions, rulings by the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas statute. A date to hear the motion to intervene hasn't been scheduled.

District Court Judge Jack Burr, a senior judge from Sherman County, issued a temporary ruling to seal the two documents. Defense attorney James Spies sought closure of public access to a defense motion and the response by chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling, who opposed sealing the court documents.

Brown is charged with 1 count of premeditated 1st-degree murder in the slaying of Sims; conspiracy to commit the 1st-degree murder; and 3 counts of solicitation to commit 1st-degree murder.

During Brown's preliminary hearing in 2014, several witnesses testified Brown either shot Sims or directed 2 other men to fire shots at 714 S.W. Taylor, the victim's home, on Sept. 12, 2012, when she was fatally wounded.

The 2 filings will remain sealed until at least Sept. 3 when a motion hearing will be conducted. The trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 13.

Burr said the temporary order wasn't "detrimental" to either side, but he overlooked a 3rd party impacted by the order, Merriam said.

"The court is omitting the most important party - the public," Merriam said.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)


Jury selected in white supremacist's capital murder trial; opening statements set for Monday

Jury selection concluded Friday afternoon in the capital murder trial of a Missouri white supremacist accused of killing 3 Christians last year at 2 Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City.

17 Johnson County residents were culled from a pool of 200 in a weeklong jury-selection process. 12 will serve as jurors and the other 5 will be alternatives, but they won't know which role they will play until after closing arguments.

Opening statements are scheduled for Monday in a trial expected to last 3 to 4 weeks.

Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., 74, of Aurora, Missouri, is representing himself at trial. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

Several times during the week Miller challenged the patriotism of would-be jurors and quizzed them about their views on the government and media.

Though he has pleaded not guilty, the former leader of the now-defunct White Patriot Party has admitted killing the 3 victims. He claims he was morally obligated to carry out the crimes and didn't know the victims weren't Jewish - or that a teenager who died was so young.

He is accused of killing William Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center on April 13, 2014.

Miller fired his attorneys in May so he could speak on his own behalf. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

With no legal background and a stated disdain for government, Miller was admonished during earlier hearings for loudly interrupting Johnson County District Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan and making disparaging remarks toward members of the court. This week, Miller has remained subdued, even as Ryan upheld prosecutors' occasional objections about Miller's line of questioning or reaction to answers given by would-be jurors.

Miller has challenged the patriotism of some would-be jurors and asked others if they simply had better things to do than sit through a trial that could span up to a month. He also quizzed them on whether they support a single world government; whether the U.S. was fighting wars in the Middle East to protect its own interests or Israel's; and whether the mainstream media is "controlled."

Miller, who uses a wheelchair to get around, suffers from chronic emphysema and has oxygen tanks nearby during court proceedings. He told police soon after his arrest that he wanted to kill Jews before he dies because they were squeezing out the white race.

Ryan ruled last month that Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., will not be allowed to use a "compelling necessity" defense to justify the killings.

His former attorneys remain as stand-by counsel in case Miller is removed from the courtroom. Concerned about how he might behave during the trial, prosecutors this week filed a memorandum of law addressing the court's right to remove a disruptive defendant and deny Miller the right to defend himself.

When Miller fired his attorneys, Ryan cautioned him about the amount of work necessary to defend a capital murder case.

On Monday, Miller acknowledged that he had not read thousands of pages of discovery he had received from prosecutors, nor did he know how to write and submit proposed jury instructions. Stand-by attorney Mark Manna told the judge he had given Miller guidelines on how to do them and was hesitant to do more in his current capacity.

(source: Associated Press)


Conflicting opinions expressed on carrying out death penalty

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a 3-day series of stories on the status of the death penalty in Nebraska, amid efforts to gather enough signatures to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

* * *

On the day of the vote in the Legislature this spring to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska, Miriam Thimm Kelle of Beatrice was on edge.

For her, that day was the culmination of a 20-year journey to make sure no other family had to go through the pain that her family had dealt with since 1980 when her brother, James Thimm, was killed.

His killer, Michael Ryan, a cult leader who tortured and murdered James Thimm in Rulo, Neb., spent more than 30 years on death row before dying of brain cancer earlier this year.

At first, Thimm Kelle and her family were sure that the death penalty would be carried out and supported that.

But 10 years later, when it was becoming clear that wouldn't happen, Thimm Kelle started speaking out - in an effort to keep other families from waiting for an execution day that may never come.

The Legislature's decision to repeal the death penalty - and an override of a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts - may make it look like Thimm Kelle's perspective was on target.

But the reality is the issue isn't over. The death penalty in Nebraska isn't going down without a fight.

After the legislative action, the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty organization immediately started a petition drive to gain signatures to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

The success of those efforts will soon be known, as Thursday, Aug. 27, is the deadline for collecting signatures of registered voters.

The effort to put the issue on the ballot has been opposed by the Nebraskans for Public Safety organization, which is made up of those who oppose the death penalty and feel it creates financial and moral problems.

Danielle Conrad, executive director of the Nebraska ACLU in Lincoln and a member of Nebraskans for Public Safety, said the petition drive didn't come as a shock.

"I wouldn't say it was a surprise by any means, but I would say that there was a level of disappointment among a variety of different people who worked very hard on this issue for many years," Conrad said. "We're really ready to move to more positive priorities impacting our state."

But for people like Vivian Tuttle of Norfolk, the death penalty - the ability to exact the ultimate punishment on the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes - is a fundamental piece of government's responsibility that can't be lost.

Tuttle lost her daughter, Evonne, in the 2002 U.S. Bank shootings in Norfolk, and she's been driving across the state to different counties on her own dollar, sharing her story and criticizing state senators who voted to repeal the death penalty against the wishes of a majority of their constituents.

She carries with her a photo of her daughter taken just a few days before her death.

Like Thimm Kelle, Tuttle also wants to keep families from waiting years for the death penalty to be carried out. But unlike Thimm Kelle, Tuttle has faith in the system.

Tuttle said she's spoken to the governor, who has personally promised her he'll be able to obtain the drugs necessary for lethal injection.

Ricketts has been an outspoken proponent of the death penalty from the start, citing its purpose for public and police safety.

In May, Ricketts spearheaded the process of buying quantities of sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide - the needed drugs used in the lethal injection combination, for $54,400 to prove that the Nebraska execution system could follow through on a sentence. That's something it hadn't done since 1997.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wouldn't allow the transaction as importation was outlawed due to the drug's producers not wanting their medicine used to execute. So the purchase remains in limbo.

Ricketts has donated $200,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, the group financially backing the petition for a referendum on the death penalty.

Death penalty supporters said there's nothing wrong with Ricketts backing a cause he believes in. There are no legal barriers to the governor's contributions, either. According to Frank Daley, director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, there's nothing legally wrong about Ricketts' donations.

Others, like Conrad, see it differently.

Conrad said the governor financially backing such a large portion of the petition drive's cost tends to undermine his statements that there's an overwhelming number of Nebraskans behind the movement.

But Ron Stauffer of Norfolk, who has helped lead the petition-gathering process in Norfolk, said he has more of a problem with Conrad's organization.

He said the $400,000 the Nebraskans for Public Safety received as a donation from the Proteus Action League in Massachusetts is seeking to keep Nebraskans from being able to have a say on the issue - regardless of what side they're on.

"This isn't about the death penalty," Stauffer said. "This is about the citizens making a choice, and that's the only reason I got involved."

To Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who co-sponsored Legislative Bill 268 that resulted in the repeal of the death penalty, the entire situation is an example of why he believes a majority of state senators voted for repeal.

For a system that hasn't been implemented since 1997, what’s the benefit of keeping a broken system alive, he asks.

Coash, who grew up in Bassett, said anyone who thinks now is the time to be able to simply and easily fix the problems with the death penalty is misguided.

"Look, we had 10 years of (former Gov. Dave) Heineman, who was very pro death penalty and had supported it," Coash said. "Senator (Ernie) Chambers was gone for 4 of those 10 years. Don't you think if it was possible, (Heineman) would have already tried?"

One of the main things that bothers Thimm Kelle about the debate is the money that's been donated and spent. She said the money would be better spent on new reforms like increasing mental health treatment.

"I don't have $1 million to put into this," Thimm Kelle said. "If I did, I would. All I have is our story and my hope for Nebraska to let go of the old, move to the new and prevent this from happening to another family. Because it's awful living like this all the time."

But petitions around the state gather more signatures every day. Although Nebraskans for the Death Penalty isn't releasing any numbers on how many signatures have been gathered, individuals like Stauffer and Tuttle said they believe the effort will reach the 58,000 benchmark needed to get the death penalty referendum on the 2016 ballot.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, who voted for the repeal, has serious questions about what purpose all of this work is trying to serve. Throughout debate in the Legislature, Schumacher said he thought it was made clear the death penalty wasn't protecting the public and that its only redeeming value was retribution for the families.

"Is the feel good, the sense of retribution of a tiny number of families worth hiring some guy in India to scour the black market of Third World countries looking for drugs?" Schumacher said. "Is it worth the tremendous expense? Is it worth the chance that it might be wrong?"

Even though it's been a fight lasting for 4 decades, state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said he's not concerned about the forces working against him and other repeal advocates.

"My train is not off the track because the governor is trying to buy what he couldn't win," Chambers said. "My train is not off the track because the Republican Party couldn't bully the senators they had in the Legislature to vote the way they wanted them to."

If the issue gets on the ballot and passes, he's not going to back down. Chambers said he’s determined to see the issue through.

"I'm not going away," Chambers said. "I'll push what I believe in."

(source: Norfolk Daily News)


Drugs for executions more difficult to find

Increasingly, the drugs needed to carry out death sentences are becoming harder and harder to obtain.

Several of the companies that produce them have come out against their use for execution purposes. In addition, the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Glossip vs. Gross left a lot of questions open on lethal injection methods after a botched execution.

The primary drug in question is midzalom, which is used as an alternative to sodium thiopental after it became illegal to import to the U.S. Both are anesthetics, which is one piece of the 3-drug cocktail for lethal injections.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has OK'd its use, conflicting opinions on midzalom put its future in jeopardy. Some experts say midzalom is unsuitable for any serious sedation, which, along with experiences in botched executions, has led states like Ohio to back out of using it. However, others like Florida have made no indication that executions will stop.

In light of the challenges facing lethal injection, some legislatures are looking at other possible methods of carrying out the death penalty, such as the electric chair, firing squad, gas chamber and hanging.

But there also are states like Texas. It uses a single drug, pentobarbital, and has conducted nearly 40 percent of the nation's total executions in the past 10 years.

That leads to this question: If other states are able to maintain a relatively efficient system of implementing the death penalty, what has been holding Nebraska and similar states back?

State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who was a leading proponent in the Legislature for repealing the death penalty, said the reason Nebraska can't operate like Texas is partly because it would require a level of secrecy - regarding the securing of the combination of drugs used to execute someone - that citizens in Nebraska wouldn't appreciate.

"There is a way, but what we have to do is give up transparency, and I don't think that's what Nebraskans want," said Coash, who is a native of Bassett. "Nebraskans value transparency, and everything about capital punishment is handled in a transparent way."



Alleged child killer seeks change of venue

Defense attorneys for a Bullhead City man facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering an 8-year-old girl last September has asked Judge Lee Jantzen for a change of venue.

Attorneys Gerald Gavin and Ron Gilleo in court documents said media attention to the crimes Justin James Rector has been charged with "has, and will continue to saturate this relatively tiny locale regarding his case, making the task of obtaining a jury not tainted by coverage of the alleged details of the crime, and detailed accounts of the pretrial legal activities, nearly impossible."

The attorneys said Rector, 27, understands reporters are attempting to "do their job," but since his life is at stake, he is concerned that the limited number of news outlets in Mohave County and the gravity of the alleged crime might prejudice the jury against him.

The attorneys in court documents specifically mentioned a recorded telephone conversation between Rector and his father that was released to the media. A remorseful Rector essentially confessed to killing Bella Grogan-Cannella and told his father he intended to plead guilty.

Gavin and Gilleo cited several legal precedents that support a change of venue due to pretrial publicity, particularly in death penalty cases. Their argument is that Rector's right to a fair trial can't be met in Mohave County, but the case gained national attention last fall. It sparked outrage here and elsewhere, in large part because of the lifestyle of the girl's parents, who were arrested for selling methamphetamine a couple of weeks after Grogan-Cannella's partially-clad body was found buried in a shallow grave in a wash about a mile from her home. There was no evidence indicating the child had been sexually assaulted.

In a separate matter, Gavin and Gilleo accused the Mohave County jail of interfering with Rector's defense. The issue involves a defense request to provide Rector with a laptop he could keep in his cell and access at anytime to review CDs and DVDs containing the evidence against him.

Rector apparently said detention officers entered his cell and reviewed his legal materials.

"Defense counsel would ask the court make clear Mr. Rector's legal materials are not for review and analysis by detention staff," the attorneys wrote.

Prosecutors opposed giving Rector the laptop for a number of reasons, including the fact he had not yet been provided any CDs or DVDs to review.

Defense attorneys countered they would not provide them because doing so could compromise Rector's case - and safety - if he had to use a room at the jail to review the material that apparently doesn't afford privacy.

Rector's next court date is set for Sept. 30.

Calls made after hours to Gavin at his Mesa office were not immediately returned.

(source: Kingman Daiy Miner)


F is for Forgiveness

Forgiveness is "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." Forgiveness is not always easy.

About a dozen years ago in Albany, NY, I witnessed an extraordinary event: 4 men touched by violence, coming out to speak against the death penalty. Bill Babbitt, seeing his mentally ill brother Manny, who he had turned in to the authorities, executed for murder; David Kaczynski, who turned in HIS brother Ted, the Unabomber; Gary Wright, who himself was almost killed by Ted Kaczynski; and Bud Welch.

They all had compelling stories, but Bud's moved me the most. In April 1995, his "23-year-old daughter, Julie Marie, was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City along with 167 others ... In 2001 Timothy McVeigh was executed for his part in the bombing."

Bud Welch's story shows up in that Jesus for President book I've been reading:

He said he went through a period of rage when he wanted Timothy McVeigh to die. But he remembered the words of his daughter, who had been an advocate for reconciliation against the death penalty. She used to say, "Execution teaches hatred." It wasn't long before Bud had decided to interrupt the circle of hatred and violence and arranged a visit with McVeigh's family. Bud said he grew to love them dearly, and to this day says he "has never felt closer to God" than in that union.

He decided to travel around the country, speaking about reconciliation and against the death penalty, which teaches that some people are beyond redemption. And he pleaded for the life of Timothy McVeigh. As he worked through his anger and confusion, he began to see that the spiral of redemptive violence must stop with him. And he began to look into the eyes of Timothy McVeigh, the murderer, and see the image of God. He longed for him to experience love, grace, and forgiveness. Bud believes in the scandal of grace.

Bud's narrative I also found on a page called The Forgiveness Project, which uses the process of restorative justice to try to heal both the victim and the perpetrator of wrongs.

Similarly, I came across Project Forgive, which was initially sparked by a different kind of tragedy, a man's wife and 2 children being killed by a drunk driver.

The Mayo Clinic notes that forgiveness is good for your health. Forgiveness can lead to:

Healthier relationships

Greater spiritual and psychological well-being

Less anxiety, stress and hostility

Lower blood pressure

Fewer symptoms of depression

Stronger immune system

Improved heart health

Higher self-esteem

But as I mentioned at the outset, forgiveness is not always easy...

(source: Roger Green, Times Union)


Trial for Accused 9/11 Terrorists Delayed Once More----The trial of the suspected 9/11 "masterminds" has been delayed once again.

As we near the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 5 men accused of being the "masterminds" still have not been granted a speedy trial. After several years of delays, the trial was once again set back last week as the U.S. military canceled another pretrial hearing.

Reuters reports that a spokesman for the Department of Defense said the hearing scheduled for August 24 through Sept. 4 was canceled by James Pohl, an Army colonel and judge for the trial.

"The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest," said Commander Gary Ross.

The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 4 alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Foreign Policy reported, "the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the 5 separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action - information that could be used against the interests of their own clients."

There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:

"In January 2013, the court's audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo "kill-switch." Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) - which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency's rendition, detention, and interrogation program - had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.

In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.

Wright was a veteran of the military since 2005, serving 15 months in Iraq and has working as a Judge Advocate. He was extremely critical of the government and their efforts to slow or hinder the trial. "All 6 of these men have been tortured by the U.S. government," he told NPR.

The slow progress of the trial corresponds with a report by the Telegraph in 2012, which stated that the trial would likely not begin for another 4 years in 2016. When ever the trial finally does get underway the public will not know much about what these men have to say because the proceedings will not be televised or publicly available. In 2012, Al-Jazeera reported, "The government has produced a protective order to make everything the defendants say presumptively classified, pending completion of a classification review."

The 5 men have been held since 2002 and 2003. They face the death penalty if found guilty in the planning of the September 11 attacks. The attacks of that day took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Since that time, a real investigation into not only these men, but the entire events of that day, has been stifled by the U.S. government.

If this nation wishes to reclaim the idea of a nation of justice and laws, these men must be given a proper trial. Once the truth about that day finally comes to light, then, and only then, will this country begin to truly heal from the wounds of September 11, 2001.



The death penalty makes real punishment a sure thing

To the editor: Kevin M. Barry quotes Democratic Connecticut state Sen. Edith Prague's call in 2011 for a medieval-style public penectomy for home-invasion killer Joshua Komisarjevsky, and then grieves that "this is the festival of cruelty that the death penalty incites." ("State by state, the death penalty is losing ground," Op-Ed, Aug. 19).

No, it is the overturning of a death penalty that bends over backward to be humane that incites festivals of reaction.

Barry asks, "Do we approve [of lynching], or have we evolved?" Clearly, capital punishment in Connecticut has evolved - from state-sanctioned hanging in 1639 to the electric chair in 1937 to lethal injection in 2005. But the state has demonstrated no evolution away from cruel and unusual crimes. Maybe that's why Prague, then 85, still believed in vengeance.

Others may not believe in such vengeance, but until life in prison is not conditional on "evolving standards of decency," only death can prevent parole.

Bruce Swanson, Glendale

(source: Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times)


7 hanged, including 2 in public, in Iran

7 more prisoners were hanged this week by the fundamentalist regime in Iran, including at least 2 cases in public.

5 prisoners were hanged at dawn on Wednesday in the notorious Gohardasht Prison (Rajaishahr Prison) in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, the state-run newspaper Javan wrote.

Another 2 men were hanged in public on Tuesday in the city of Zanjan, north-west Iran.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."


Fallen For Freedom: 20,000 PMOI Martyrs

The mullahs' regime in Iran has to date executed more than 120,000 political prisoners, the vast majority members and supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI (Mujahedin-e Khalq, MEK).

Through tremendous effort the Iranian Resistance has managed to collate and publish a partial list of the 120,000 victims of political executions in Iran under the mullahs' regime.

The 1st volume of the 'book of martyrs' contains the list of names and particulars of 20,000 members and supporters of the PMOI who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle for freedom from the clutches of religious tyranny in Iran.

The leaders of the clerical regime, including Ruhollah Khomeini, Ali Khamenei, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani and other senior ministers and officials have played a direct role in this massacre.

The compilation of the list of 20,000 martyrs in 1,000 pages was carried out in 2 stages and took nearly 100,000 hours. The photographs of 4,358 martyrs appear in this book.

Of the martyrs listed, 681 died under torture, 608 were assassinated or were victims of other terrorist plots by the clerical regime. Another 1,736 persons were martyred during operations and clashes. A number of martyrs were beheaded, burned, mutilated, buried alive or thrown from heights. Over 16,000 were executed.

The level of education and occupation of 12,975 of the martyrs have been registered in this list. The list includes 230 persons with a PhD or Master of Science degree, 734 with a Bachelors of Science degree, 4,010 high school and college graduates, 3,510 university students and 2,310 high school students.

Of 13,344 martyrs in the list whose ages were verified, 789 were under the age of 18 at the time of their execution, including adolescents between 11- 13 years old. There are also 16 other children in this list.

The 1st volume of the 'book of martyrs' also contains the names of 200 physicians and medical professionals, 784 elementary and high school teachers, 381 civil servants, 410 army officers, NCOs and conscript soldiers, 497 businessmen, 145 technicians and 860 laborers and farmers. There are 93 artists and 145 athletes, including the former captain of Iran's national soccer team, included in the list. 70 of the martyrs were PMOI candidates in the first Majlis (Parliament) elections after the 1979 revolution, and 176 were political prisoners under the Shah's regime.

There are 62 women listed who were pregnant at the time of their execution. Also included are 410 families who have lost at least three of their relatives in the wave of executions.

At the end of this list, there is information on 83 men and women who died or suffered a stroke after hearing news of the execution of their children or loved ones.

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


CBSE invites students to debate death penalty

The Central Board of Secondary Education has invited the 16,000 schools affiliated to it to join a debate on abolishing capital punishment weeks after Yakub Memon's hanging re-ignited the issue.

The country's largest school board, which is collaborating with the ministry of social justice and empowerment to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, in a circular issued to the schools on Thursday asked them to conduct mock parliamentary debates.

One of the subjects chosen for debate is whether "capital punishment is unjust and degrading".

Uniform civil code, free speech and the impact of consumerism are among the 10 topics identified by the board for discussion. The schools can hold the debates at any time during the year.

The former principal of Delhi's Sanskriti School, Gowri Ishwaran, welcomed the move. "Capital punishment is an international issue. Uniform civil code is a touchy issue. But the children of higher secondary classes need to discuss to understand the issues in detail," she said.

Students of Classes XI and XII will participate.



Is deathpenalty a deterrent?

The criticism that, on merits, justice has not been done to Yakub Memon is absurd. But the question one needs to ponder over is whether the execution of a particular death sentence awarded to a terrorist would be counterproductive The city of Mumbai was the target of unprecedented terrorist attacks on March 12, 1993. 12 bomb explosions, in a span of about 2 hours, shook the city and left 257 people dead and 713 seriously injured. After investigations, a prolonged legal process and the judgment after nearly 20 years, Yakub Memon was named a prime accused and awarded the death sentence. He was executed on July 30, 2015. Our judiciary and the Supreme Court in particular must be applauded for the manner in which the trials and appeals were conducted in the case. Fair trial and due process

On March 21, 2013, a bench comprising Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan disposed of the death sentence cases and the criminal appeals of the accused after one of the longest hearings which resulted in a massive judgment of 2,995 paragraphs and 1,004 pages of the Law Reports. The judgment not only examined the guilt of over 100 accused who were convicted, but also individually discussed the sentences. A Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court had awarded the death sentence to 10 other persons but the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of Yakub alone; it was commuted to life imprisonment for the rest. On July 30, 2013, the same bench rejected the review petitions after denying oral hearings.

Later, the Supreme Court decided in Mohammed Arif's case ((2014) 9 SCC 737) that limited oral argument be permitted in review applications in death sentence cases. Consequently, on April 9, 2015, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Anil R. Dave, J. Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph heard oral arguments in a review petition filed by Yakub after going through the judgment under review as well as the judgment of the trial court. The review was dismissed.

A curative petition was then filed and on July 21, 2015, a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, and Justices T.S. Thakur and Anil R. Dave rejected the petition, holding that there was no ground made out.

Another writ petition was filed by Yakub (Writ Petition, (Crl.) No.129 of 2015). There was a difference of opinion between two judges on the question of whether the curative petition had been decided in accordance with the law and as per the requirement of Supreme Court Rules. Following this, the Chief Justice of India immediately constituted a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Prafulla C. Pant and Amitava Roy which dismissed the writ petition on July 29, 2015 and held that there was no flaw in the decision on the curative petition and that the issue of death warrant was in order. Another writ petition (W.P. (Crl.) No.135 of 2015) was filed and heard on the night of July 29/the morning of July 30, 2015 by the same bench, which dismissed it and observed that a further stay of the execution of the death warrant would be nothing but a travesty of justice.

Yakub's conviction and death sentence was examined by eight judges in the Supreme Court from time to time before his execution on the morning of July 30, 2015. Not only was due process fully ensured but also undue lengthening of due process was accommodated by the highest court, by granting a midnight hearing. Justice according to the law has not only been done but was seen to be done. The criticism that, on merits, justice has not been done to Yakub Memon is absurd.

Every Indian should be proud of the manner in which this case has been dealt with by the judiciary.

Is the death penalty justified?

Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), there are several offences which may attract a death penalty or life imprisonment. These include murder - Section 302; waging war (including attempt and abetment) - Section 121, and mutiny - Section 132. Under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA) (now repealed but in force in 1993) and under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) (now repealed), the death sentence could be awarded for terrorist acts.

Bomb explosions and the loss of lives as a result of terrorist attacks are completely different in nature, objective and motivation from a common murder. In this case, the objective is not to target someone in particular but to destabilise society and to encourage the disintegration of the sovereignty and security of a nation. Such terrorist attacks are often state-sponsored - and are an act of undeclared war.

For many years India has faced, and still faces, the most severe threats on account of terrorism. India was regarded as a "sponge" until the world took notice of the evolving nature and threat posed by terrorism after the terror attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Awarding someone the death penalty for acts of terrorism is qualitatively different from awarding someone the death penalty for having committed other crimes.

A criticism levelled by some against the death sentence having been awarded to Yakub reiterates the familiar argument that the death penalty as such should be abolished as it is a violation of human rights and is an inhuman and cruel form of punishment.

In the seminal case of Bachan Singh, the majority judgment upheld the constitutional validity of death penalty for murder under Section 302 of the IPC.

In his vigorous dissent, Justice P.N. Bhagwati, while declaring unconstitutional and void Section 302 (IPC) read with Section 354 (3) (Cr.P.C) as being violative of Articles 14 and 21, made the following observation: "I may make it clear that the question to which I am addressing myself is only in regard to the proportionality of death sentence to the offence of murder and nothing that I say here may be taken as an expression of opinion on the question whether a sentence of death can be said to be proportionate to the offence of treason or any other offence involving the security of the State" - ((1982) 3 SCC 24 at 76).

These words, from the strongest votary against the death penalty, are revealing. Justice Bhagwati clearly indicated that his observations do not apply to punishment of death in relation to terrorist acts or to treason - implicitly endorsing the death penalty for terrorist acts.

While abolition of the death penalty for crimes other than terrorist acts or treason may be justified, its retention in the case of punishment for having carried out terrorist acts or treason seems equally justifiable.

How effective?

The death penalty may be well deserved and a judge has to make a decision according to the law. The power to commute the death sentence ought to be exercised by the Executive selectively.

After Yakub's execution in Nagpur, his body was flown to Mumbai the same day. Large crowds thronged his residence, the mosque at Mahim and at his burial at Marine Lines.

There is increasing support for the view that the death penalty for terrorists may not only be ineffective but also be counterproductive. Why? Terrorists, when awarded the death penalty, become martyrs influencing many other misguided youngsters to espouse a similar cause. Many religious fanatics believe in reward in the "after life" and endless pleasures in heaven. Not awarding them the death penalty would mean depriving them of the "anticipated rewards in heaven". Again, imprisonment and incarceration of a terrorist may result in yields - obtaining information relating to other terrorist organisations.

Here, it is worth citing Jessica E. Stern, an expert on counterterrorism and a lecturer at Harvard University, who also served on the National Security Council (1994-95) in the United States. In an article published in The New York Times on February 28, 2001, titled "Execute terrorists at our own risk", she had said this:

"As a nation, we have decided that terrorism that results in loss of life should face the possibility of the death penalty. But is this wise?

" .... One can argue about the effectiveness of the death penalty generally. But when it comes to terrorism, national security concerns should be paramount. The execution of terrorists, especially minor operatives, has effects that go beyond retribution or justice. The executions play right into the hands of our adversaries. We turn criminals into martyrs, invite retaliatory strikes and enhance the public relations and fund-raising strategies of our enemies ...

" ... For instance, the United Kingdom in 1973 debated whether to repeal the death penalty in Northern Ireland. By a margin of nearly three to one, the House of Commons decided that executing terrorists, whose goal is often to martyr themselves, only increased violence and put soldiers and police at greater risk. In a highly charged political situation, it was argued, the threat of death does not deter terrorism. On the contrary, executing terrorists, the House of Commons decided, has the opposite effect: It increases the incidence of terrorism."

Alan Dershowitz, the American lawyer and a life-long opponent of capital punishment, wrote in The Guardian on April 24, 2013 about the death penalty. In an article titled "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should not face the death penalty, even for a capital crime", and which was about the surviving Boston marathon bomber, he wrote:

" ...There is an argument, however, that could have an impact even on proponents of the death penalty.

"Seeking the death penalty against Tsarnaev, and imposing it if he were to be convicted, would turn him into a martyr. His face would appear on recruiting posters for suicide bombers. The countdown toward his execution might well incite other acts of terrorism. Those seeking paradise through martyrdom would see him as a role model."

The question one needs to ponder over is whether the execution of a particular death sentence awarded to a terrorist would be counterproductive.

(source: Opinion; Anil Divan is a senior advocate----The Hindu)


Death penalty for kidnap: SC upholds validity of Sec 364A----The Supreme Court says provision required as terrorist activities acquiring menacing dimensions.

The Supreme Court upheld on Friday the constitutional validity of Section 364A in the Indian Penal Code, which entails death sentence for kidnapping for ransom.

Section 364A was brought into the statute book in 1993-94 following an amendment in the criminal law of the country. The provision states that whoever kidnaps or abducts any person and hurts or kills that person with a demand for ransom shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

A 3-judge bench led by Justice T S Thakur underlined the circumstances that prompted the legislature to amend the law. "The gradual growth of the challenges posed by kidnapping and abductions for ransom, not only by ordinary criminals for monetary gain or as an organised activity for economic gains, but by terrorist organisations is what necessitated the incorporation of Section 364A of the IPC and a stringent punishment for those indulging in such activities," noted the bench, also comprising Justices R K Agrawal and Adarsh G Goel.

It held that given the background in which the law was enacted and the concern shown by Parliament for the safety and security of the citizens and the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country, "the punishment prescribed for kidnapping for ransom cannot be dubbed as so outrageously disproportionate to the nature of the offence as to call for the same being declared unconstitutional".

It added: "Section 364A came on the statute book initially not only because kidnapping and abduction for ransom were becoming rampant and the Law Commission had recommended that a separate provision making the same punishable be incorporated but also because activities of terrorist organisations had acquired menacing dimensions that called for an effective legal framework to prevent such ransom situations and punish those responsible for the same."

The bench was deciding the legal question referred to it by a two-judge bench in 2013. Vikram Singh, who was sentenced to death under Sections 364A and 302 (murder), had challenged the validity of awarding capital punishment under Section 364A.

According to his counsel, Section 364A was attracted only where an offence was committed against the government, any foreign state or international inter-governmental organisation and not to situations in which a victim was kidnapped for ransom demand from a private individual.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar opposed this contention, arguing Section 364A was not confined only to cases involving acts of terrorism but was attracted even in cases where the crime is committed for securing ransom.

(source: Indian Express)

AUGUST 21, 2015:


Fifth Circuit Rejects Duane Buck's Appeal of Racially Biased Death Sentence

Should a person's skin color help determine whether or not they get the death penalty? A doctor at Duane Buck's sentencing hearing told the Harris County jury that Buck's race was a factor that made him more likely to commit violent crimes in the future. While some would say that's evidence of the death penalty's racial bias, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has once again looked at Buck's case and declared there's nothing wrong here. Nope, not a thing.

Buck was sentenced to death by lethal injection by a Harris County jury in 1997 for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and the man who was with her, Kenneth Butler. He also shot his stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, but Taylor survived. 2 witnesses identified Buck as the shooter, according to the Fifth Circuit ruling issued Thursday. Buck laughed during and after the arrest and stated to one officer that Garnder "got what she deserved." The big problem with Buck's case has never been a question of Buck's guilt, but why he was sentenced to death. His lawyers contend that it was because he's black.

During his murder trial psychologist Walter Quijano testified that Buck was more of a danger to society because he is African American. Quijano had actually been called by Buck's lawyer but the prosecutor cross-examined the psychologist.

"You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that's just the way it is, and that the race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons, is that correct?" the prosecutor asked, according to court records.

"Yes," Quijano said. A few years after Buck was convicted, Quijano was cited by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn for giving racially influenced testimony to juries. Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, identified seven cases that needed to be reviewed for sentencing, and Buck's was one of them. All of the other cases have been allowed new sentencing hearings, but Buck's has been denied. In 2009, the Fifth Circuit concluded Buck's lawyer was responsible for the introduction of Quijano's "race-as-dangerousness" testimony.

He was scheduled to be executed in September 2011 but the U.S. Supreme Court stepped and granted a stay of execution while the justices reviewed the case. (The Supremes also got the ball rolling on this issue years ago when they found that race was improperly used in sentencing Victor Saldano, who was set to die for the murder of Paul Ray King, the man Saldano abducted from a grocery store, robbed and shot to death. Quijano was the psychologist who testified on that case as well.) Ultimately, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, though Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented on that call.

With that the issue got kicked to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals where it was decided 6-3 not to allow Buck a new sentencing hearing in 2013. His lawyers immediately went back to bat with a request for relief that was rejected by the district court, a decision that was then bounced back up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (This is the third time the Fifth has looked at Buck's case, a fact noted in the 11-page opinion.)

On Thursday, a panel of Fifth Circuit judges, including Judge Jerry Smith, Judge Priscilla Owen and Judge Catharina Haynes (all Republican appointees) issued their decision. The opinion completely dodged the question of whether race should be allowed to be considered as a factor in deciding whether to issue a death penalty.

The justices restricted themselves to "asking only whether the district court's resolution of the claim 'was debatable among jurists of reason.'" The trio decided the district court decision they were reviewing wasn't, in fact, up for debate. They nodded at the race issue and then ignored it.

Yup, that's right, the Fifth Circuit won't even address whether it's okay to consider race when issuing the death penalty.

The Fifth ruled that Buck's petition did not show a violation of a constitutional right or any indication that the district court had made the wrong decision in previously denying Buck's appeal. Buck's request for a certificate to appeal included eleven points that his lawyers claimed made his case "extraordinary" but the Fifth ruled that none of these points, including the contention that Buck had been promised his case would be reviewed and he would be re-sentenced the way the other Quijano cases were, qualified as "extraordinary."

One of Buck's lawyers, Kathryn Kase, stated that they'll ask the Fifth to review the case again and that they'll ask the Supreme Court to weigh in if they need to.

(source: Houston Press)


April trial set for defendant in Duncan family deaths ---- An April trial has been set for Alan J. Hruby, 20, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in Stephens County District Court. He is accused of shooting his father, mother, sister, inside their Duncan home in October.

An April trial has been set for a man who wrote in a letter this summer that he welcomes the death penalty "100 %."

Alan J. Hruby, 20, is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in Stephens County District Court. He is accused of shooting his father, John Hruby, 50; his mother, Joy "Tinker" Hruby, 48; and his sister, Katherine Hruby, 17, inside their Duncan home in October.

He pleaded not guilty at arraignment Thursday.

Hruby told The Oklahoman in a June 29 letter he deserved the death penalty. "It is so unspeakable," he wrote.

The scheduling of a trial and the not guilty plea does not mean Hruby has changed his mind. Under state law, prosecutors must put on sufficient evidence at a trial - at least before a judge - to show the death penalty is warranted, even if a defendant wants that punishment.

Also, a defendant volunteering for the death penalty has to undergo a mental health examination to see if he is competent to make that decision.

Prosecutors allege he killed his family for his inheritance. Officials say he confessed Oct. 14.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Will others follow Nebraska's lead on death penalty repeal?

Editor's Note----This is the 2nd of a 3-day series of stories on the status of the death penalty in Nebraska, amid efforts to gather enough signatures to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

It's no surprise - especially for those who keep abreast of the politics of capital punishment - that support for the death penalty has generally been decreasing.

In recent years, some religious groups, fiscal conservatives, moderate Democrats and others have come out against it, so policy experts like Robert Dunham were expecting that more states might vote to repeal it.

What he didn't expect was that it would happen in Nebraska - and for it to happen in 2015.

"If you'd asked observers in 2014 or 2015 whether Nebraska was going to be the breakthrough state, very few of them would have put their money on that," Dunham said.

After the Nebraska Legislature's vote to repeal, national media, political groups and others analyzed how one of the most seemingly conservative states came to take a stand against the death penalty.

And one of the more pressing questions was this: What kind of effect will this have on the rest of the country?

Dunham is the executive director of, which is one of the largest resources for death penalty information and is based in Washington, D.C.

The Nebraska Legislature's vote, he said, is an indication of an accelerating, emerging trend.

Even though it came as a surprise to many, Dunham said it actually falls in place with what experts have been tracking across the nation.

In the 1990s, when public support for capital punishment was at 80 %, death penalty opposition was politically toxic for legislators because the conversation centered on fear of crime. But with results of some studies downplaying the death penalty's effects on crime, national support for the death penalty as a means of public safety has dropped to 7 %.

The conversation, in other words, has changed dramatically.

From Dunham's perspective, a bill introduced by an independent senator - Ernie Chambers of Omaha - that received support from a Legislature of mostly registered Republicans represents a pivotal moment in the death penalty debate. It likely will send a strong signal to other states, he said.

"You'll see more bills seeking to repeal the death penalty, you'll see more action being taken on those bills and you'll see more instances in which they succeed," Dunham said.

Dunham said that's not surprising because the issues brought up during debate on the potential repeal of the death penalty aren't limited to Nebraska.

As the state with the second-most executions in the nation over the last 40 years, Florida is one of the front-runners in terms of modern-day use of capital punishment. However, Florida is also the top state in individuals on death row subsequently being exonerated.

Charles M. Harris, a senior judge in the fifth appellate court in Florida, was appointed to the circuit bench in 1984 after 20 years of general civil practice. Part of the procedure when he was being considered for the bench required him to give his views on the death penalty.

At the time, Harris said, he had no real opinion on the issue.

But after serving on the bench for years, retiring to serve as a senior judge and working with the Florida Governor's Commission of Capital Cases, he said it became clear to him that the death penalty didn't have much going for it.

During his years as a judge, Harris sentenced a man to death for the 1979 rape and murder of a 6-year old girl. The offender, Brian Jennings, has been on death row for more than 30 years because of appeals and legal technicalities.

Harris said the case is a clear example of how someone can, in effect, capitalize on the criminal justice system, robbing victims' families of peace and a state of money.

But he doesn't necessarily see Nebraska's vote as a trend-setter.

"I was happy to see it, but there has been a trend lately for states to repeal the death penalty," Harris said. "It has not affected the way we do things here, and I doubt the Nebraska experience will make a difference."

Recently there was a movement in Florida's Legislature to adopt a policy that a death sentence can be ordered only by a unanimous jury. That kind of an approach, which is in place in some other states, failed to generate enough support. So, in Florida, a jury needs only to reach a 2/3 majority, but a judge can override the jury on a death penalty sentence.

"For as long as I can recall, up to the present moment, Florida citizens favor the death penalty (as) a 2/3 majority," Harris said. "The Legislature is well aware of this fact so I expect no movement there."

He said the only change he can see affecting Florida would have to come from a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

That isn't likely either given the high court's split on the issue, highlighted in the recent Glossip v. Gross case.

In his opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that he believed the death penalty may violate the Eighth Amendment, calling its constitutionality into question. However, Justice Antonin Scalia called Breyer's 46-page opinion "gobbledy-gook," saying the U.S. Constitution provides people with the ability and right to choose capital punishment.

In addition, although many states are introducing bills limiting the death penalty or aiming to abolish it, it's not a sweeping reform.

Last year, lawmakers in 14 states introduced bills that would abolish the death penalty, but of them Nebraska was the only one that prevailed.

There were also a number of bills that expanded capital punishment.

Several states proposed bills that would keep the providers of the drugs needed to execute someone confidential. Among those bills, the measures in Arkansas and Texas passed, while bills in Mississippi and Virginia were defeated in the final steps.

In addition, Utah reinstated the firing range in the absence of lethal injections and Indiana made beheading legal in a punishment for murder. North Carolina also expanded who can be licensed to perform lethal injections.

* * *

Coming tomorrow: An issue like the death penalty can generate a wide range of opinions.

(source: Norfolk Daily News)


Gay People At Risk After Ashley Madison Hack ---- Gay people who used the dating site could face the death penalty in some countries after their details were exposed by hackers.

People living under oppressive regimes who used the Ashley Madison adultery dating site to arrange secret liaisons could be at risk of prison or the death penalty.

The hacking of the site has exposed millions of people, including hundreds in Saudi Arabia where adultery is potentially punishable by death.

The site was predominantly used by people looking to cheat on their partner, but it is thought that many single gay people used the service to avoid detection by oppressive governments.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, while in Qatar - where 50 members of the site are registered - it carries a 5-year prison sentence.

Sky's Technology Correspondent Tom Cheshire said one Reddit user based in Saudi Arabia has even fled the country after being exposed.

He said: "Ashley Madison was sold as a way to get casual hook-ups for cheating spouses, but some users in the Middle East say they used it as a discreet way of having meetings with homosexual men who didn't want to be identified.

"There are 1,200 email addresses with the Saudi Arabia suffix where homosexuals face the death penalty.

"More than 50 accounts are from Qatar where homosexual relationships are punishable by 5 years in prison.

"And there are 1,500 from Turkey where homosexuality isn't illegal but you can get kicked out of the country or banned from military services."

Details of the site's 37 million members were obtained by hackers in July, who demanded that the site be shut down.

This week, with the site still online, they released the data on the dark web.

Among those exposed are civil servants, senior military officers and university professors.

(source: Sky News)


Raif Badawi: Wife of Saudi blogger launches campaign to free African writer on death row for criticising prophet Mohamed

The wife of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, has launched a campaign to free an African writer who is on death row in Mauritania for criticising the prophet Mohamed.

In an article for The Independent, Ensaf Haider said that while "millions of people around the world" had campaigned for her husband's release, the case of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir risked being forgotten by the international community.

The 30-year-old journalist was arrested in January last year after publishing an article on the website of the newspaper Aqlame. In it, he criticised the Mauritanian caste system and said that certain social groups were being marginalised because of their religion.

Mr Mkhaitir later "repented" during a pre-trial hearing at a military police station and again during his trial in December last year, telling a court in the city of Nouadhibou he had not meant to insult Islam but intended to denounce those who used religion to belittle others.

Despite Mauritanian law stating that leniency must be shown if a defendant repents, the judge convicted him of having "lack of respect for the prophet" and handed down a death sentence - the 1st imposed in Mauritania for apostasy since the country gained independence in 1960.

Ms Haider, who has led the international campaign for her husband's release, said Mr Mkhaitir "could be executed at any time" if pressure was not placed on the Mauritanian government to reconsider his sentence.

"Millions of people around the world rallied to the support of Raif Badawi; who will care for a poor young man in Mauritania?" she wrote. "He will be executed for blasphemy - by those who insist that Isis does not represent Islam."

Dozens of human rights organisations signed a joint statement in March calling for Mr Mkhaitir to be freed, describing him as "a prisoner of conscience who has not committed any crime but was merely peacefully exercising his right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion".

However, there have since been no updates on his case. His lawyer told Mauritanian television earlier this year that his condition in prison was "miserable" and that he had been tortured and placed in solitary confinement, Ms Haider said.

Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher, said: "The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in cases like that of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir where a dubious law is being used to stifle free speech.

"Mohamed Cheikh's trial was blatantly flawed and his repentance - which should have entitled him to leniency - was twice ignored by the authorities. We continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release."

The writer's case has numerous parallels with that of Mr Badawi, who was arrested in June 2012 over material published on his Saudi Arabian Liberals website. While he has been in prison, the 31-year-old activist has received a number of awards for promoting freedom of expression and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Badawi has so far only received 1 round of 50 lashes, which are supposed to be carried out weekly. Earlier this month his family learned that the kingdom's Supreme Court is reviewing his case, raising the possibility that his draconian sentence may be reduced - but Ms Haider says "the flogging could still happen at any time".

(source: The Independent)


Justices Had No Choice But to Abolish Death Penalty

Much of the recent criticism of the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision in State v. Santiago, invalidating what was left of Connecticut's death penalty, follows a familiar path. In effect, the court is assailed for being a cabal of activist, unelected judges who arrogantly ignore the will of the people. Not so fast.

The Santiago decision is not only historically and doctrinally sound, but also it shows why judicial review is an indispensable feature of our constitutional democracy. The process of constitutional adjudication in the United States is unique. Most of the world's democracies subscribe to the notion of parliamentary sovereignty. In Great Britain, for example, ultimate lawmaking power is vested in a democratically elected parliament, which alone has the power to create or abolish any law. Whereas no court in London has the authority to invalidate an act of Parliament, we have long believed that unqualified deference to legislative enactments endangers constitutional rights, even when those rights are claimed by the worst of the worst in our society. Had this issue arisen in a country that subscribes to the notion of parliamentary sovereignty, no subsequent litigation would follow for parliament has spoken. We, on the other hand, recognize that political decisions must still square with constitutional principles and that unelected judges are best positioned to reconcile questions that intersect constitutional law and party politics. At the outset, it is important to note that the Connecticut Supreme Court did not invite the question of the continued constitutionality of the death penalty in this state. The legislature did when it prospectively repealed capital punishment for all crimes committed on or after April 25, 2012. Indeed, the Supreme Court previously upheld the constitutionality of the penalty of death, declaring that its continued viability in this state was a matter for the legislature to determine. In deciding that the death penalty no longer served the proper purposes of criminal punishment from April 25, 2012, forward, the legislature, I suggest, purposefully relegated the fate of the Cheshire killers and 9 others of lesser notoriety to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court, in effect, was conscripted to do what the legislature lacked the votes to do spare the Cheshire killers while at the same time ending capital punishment in this state.

Even the most cursory analysis, however, shows that the Constitution spared these wretched individuals from execution, not a cabal of unelected justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court. And that is the great strength of judicial review. Faced with the question of whether it would violate the constitutional proscription against cruel and unusual punishment to execute death-sentenced prisoners after the repeal of the death penalty, the Supreme Court had little choice but to answer in the affirmative. And the legislature knew this. No state has ever executed a defendant after either the repeal of the death penalty itself or a change in capital punishment jurisprudence that would have made the defendant ineligible for the death penalty had the change occurred before the defendant's death sentence. The likelihood of Connecticut becoming an outlier in this regard hovered around zero.

In repealing capital punishment prospectively, the legislature created a legal anachronism. The courts have long recognized that a punishment, once accepted, could become cruel or unusual in the constitutional sense by dint of disuse. It follows that executing any of the men whose crimes predate the April 25 cutoff, while others who have committed equally atrocious crimes after April 25 never even face such a fate, would be unusually cruel. In effect, it would be little more than an act of state-sponsored vengeance, a basis for imposing punishment that is categorically rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ironically, had the death penalty been repealed prospectively in the 18th century, when the cruel and unusual punishment clause was written into the Eighth Amendment, there would be no question that previously sentenced prisoners would be relieved of their death sentences. 18th-century jurisprudence held that once a punishment is legislatively repealed, or is otherwise stripped of public authorization, it becomes a constitutionally prohibited unusual punishment. Should 21st century condemned prisoners in Connecticut have fewer rights in this regard than their 18th-century counterparts?

When the legislature repeals a punishment as unique and irreversible as death, it expresses the legislative judgment that state-sanctioned executions no longer serve the legitimate ends of the criminal law or satisfy valid societal interests. It follows that such profound legislative judgment cannot be applied on a prospective-only basis. Our legislature knew this. It simply required that our Supreme Court, in the exercise of its constitutional authority of judicial review, confirm it. This in turn would allow individual legislators the cover to tell their constituents that they did what they could to preserve the death penalty for the Cheshire killers but their hard work was undone by an activist, unelected court.

We should all take comfort in the fact that in our system, unelected judges ensure that political decisions square with constitutional principles, especially in extreme cases where the political winds are the strongest.

(source: Commentnary; Robert M. Casale is a criminal defense attorney in New Haven with more than 35 years experience in handling capital cases. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law---- Connecticut Law Tribuine)


State to seek death penalty in Cochran case

Family and friends of Day Williamson gathered in the Macon County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon hoping to find closure through resolution of the case against Charles Andrew Cochran, the man charged with Williamson's murder. After a 20 minute delay to begin court, and another 2 hour recess at the request of Cochran's counsel, Williamson's family learned that the state will now seek the death penalty.

Before court began, it was believed that the District Attorney's office and Cochran's counsel would be settling on a deal that would offer a life in prison sentence for Cochran instead of the death penalty, if Cochran were to plead guilty on Tuesday. The plea would avoid a trial and provide closure for the family of the victim. But moments before court began, Cochran's lawyer, David Belser out of Asheville, informed Superior Court Judge Bill Coward that a guilty plea was not possible at the time and requested an additional month to continue to work with Cochran.

District Attorney Ashley Welch informed Judge Coward that if Cochran did not want to plead guilty at the time, then she would petition the court to move forward with a Rule 24 hearing and that the option for no death penalty will no longer be available for Cochran.

Judge Coward attempted to address Cochran to ask him if he understood what Welch had said, and despite addressing Cochran several times, Cochran did not answer the judge's questions and instead stared blankly toward the floor.

A Rule 24 hearing is required to take place before a judge in first degree murder cases for the purpose of determining whether the state will seek the death penalty in the case.

As Cochran was indicted on 1st degree murder, 1st degree arson, assault by strangulation, felony larceny, larceny of a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a felon, a Rule 24 hearing was required.

Judge Coward allowed Cochran and his lawyer to meet for an addition 15 minutes to discuss Welch's directive of seeking the death penalty if an agreement wasn't reached. At 2:25 p.m. Cochran and his lawyer re-entered the courtroom and informed Judge Coward that a resolution was not able to be reached, at which point Welch formally declared the state would be seeking the death penalty.

The charges against Cochran began on July 30 shortly after 9 p.m. when he escaped custody at the Macon County Detention Center while taking out the trash. After escaping custody, Cochran was involved in a five-day crime spree that included the strangulation death of Day Williamson in her Burningtown home. Cochran also set fire to Williamson's house before stealing her vehicle and fleeing the scene. Prior to escaping custody, Cochran was being held at the detention center on non-violent crimes stemming from charges incurred in Colorado.

Judge Coward scheduled Cochran's next court appearance for November, at which time the court will ensure that Cochran's counsel had adequate time to review the 4,000 pages of discoveries in the case. Welch also hopes to be able to schedule the case for trial at that time.

(source: Macon County News)

ALABAMA----female gets death sentence

Heather Leavell-Keaton becomes 1st Mobile County woman sentenced to death

Heather Leavell-Keaton, the woman who murdered her common law husband's 3-year-old son 4 years ago, has become the 1st woman in Mobile County history to be sent to death row.

Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Roderick P. Stout sentenced Leavell-Keaton to death by lethal injection on Thursday following about 75 minutes of remarks.

In his ruling, Stout said that Keaton failed to protect the children from "needless suffering and death and unexplainable malice."

Stout followed the prior sentence recommendation from the jury, which found that Leavell-Keaton intentionally killed Chase DeBlase in 2010, but only recklessly caused the death of his 4-year-old sister, Natalie DeBlase. Prosecutors allege that Leavell-Keaton cooked anti-freeze into the children's food.

Their father, John DeBlase, was convicted on multiple counts of capital murder in the children's deaths in late 2014 and sentenced to death. Two jurors from the John DeBlase trial and five jurors from the Leavell-Keaton trial attended the hearing.

Leavell-Keaton, who kept her hair in a braided ponytail, displayed no emotion during her sentencing.

The crime

According to prosecutors, the little girl was choked fatally 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.

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.

Corrine Heathcock, John DeBlase's ex-wife and the biological mother of both children, began to sob hysterically and had to leave the courtroom when Stout read the horrific facts of the case.

Following the hearing, Corinne DeBlase said that Chase and Natalie "are in a better place right now."

Prosecutors claimed that Leavell-Keaton was jealous of Natalie and bristled when friends and family members called her a princess. Chase was murdered shortly after he began asking where Natalie was.

"We believe that Heather Keaton ... is a domineering, manipulative, deceitful and morally unhinged woman," said Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich. "Her actions are worthy of the death penalty."

'A death penalty is never required'

During the hearing, Rich and her co-counsel, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright, kept a sculpture of 2 faceless children on their desk called "Sister and Brother." Rich said it was representative of Natalie and Chase during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Greg Hughes, Leavell-Keaton's attorney, argued that his client should be spared the punishment because "she's a spiritual person now."

"She's into reading the Bible and writing songs and poems and she keeps to herself," Hughes said. "She's not going to be someone causing problems."

He also added that Leavell-Keaton grew up in a dysfunctional family, developed bipolar disorder at a young age, and lived with a partial blindness throughout her life.

"A death penalty is never required no matter how atrocious, how horrible how anything is," Hughes said.



Request for new hearing in Colbert capital case denied

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denied a request from a Colbert County man sentenced to death in connection with the 2004 capital murder of his wife.

Kim VanPelt filed a Rule 32 petition in 2012 with the Court of Criminal Appeals seeking a new trial in his December 2006 capital murder conviction.

In a 104-page ruling, the appellant court denied that request on the basis VanPelt failed to meet the burden of proof in any of his claims.

"We're pleased with the ruling," Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr. said. "He was asking for a new trial, but we felt all along he got a fair trial."

VanPelt, 54, of Tuscumbia, was convicted of killing Sandra Ozment VanPelt, 40, in order to collect a $300,000 life insurance policy. He was convicted in December 2006 and sentenced to death in March 2007.

The victim's body was found Nov. 24, 2004, at the edge of some woods close to Marion 53 near Hackleburg. An autopsy revealed she died from suffocation. Graham said the death sentence was appropriate for the crime VanPelt committed.

"This was one of the most senseless and heinous crimes we had ever had," Graham said.

In their ruling, the court judges pointed out VanPelt's conviction had already been upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2009, and the Alabama Supreme Court declined to review the case in 2011.

In the Rule 32 petition, VanPelt alleged the "state had suppressed evidence, a juror's untruthful response during voir dire violated his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury, and that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel during both the guilt phase and the penalty phase of this trial."

In their ruling, the appellant judges said VanPelt "failed to plead sufficient facts" in support of the claim to "satisfy the requirements" of the petition.

The judges went on to say VanPelt's assertions on the issues amounted to nothing more than "bare factual allegations" without reference.

Testimony during the trial pointed out VanPelt met his wife on the Internet and lived briefly in Muscle Shoals before he reported his wife missing Nov. 22, 2004.

Prosecutors argued VanPelt killed his wife to collect her life insurance policy, which brought the case to the level of capital murder. It also was an aggravating factor that, according to state law, made him eligible for the death penalty.

(source: Times Daily)


FDA warns Ohio not to illegally import execution drugs

The prison Ohio carries out executions in registered for a DEA license to import the drug last year for a "law enforcement goal", but until now it was unknown if the state actually intended to use the license.

"Since sodium thiopental is not available in the United States, we assume that this product would be purchased from an overseas source", the FDA letter stated.

FDA officials had learned that Ohio was looking for large amounts of the lethal injection drug, wrote Domenic Veneziano, director of the division of import operation.

In an email, state prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith declined to say whether her agency is still seeking sodium thiopental from outside the United States. "This process has included multiple options", Smith said.

BuzzFeed followed up with Ohio corrections department to find out if Harris was the planned supplier for Ohio as well.

The state halted use of a mix of midazolam, a powerful sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, after Ohio's 1st-in-the-nation try with the drugs caused convicted killer Dennis McGuire to repeatedly gasp and snort in a 26-minute lethal injection procedure.

Numerous 34 death penalty states have measures in place to hide the identities of their suppliers in order to protect them.

Berman noted some past court rulings that have blurred the ability of the federal government to stop state agencies from enforcing the death penalty, including a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Texas could execute a Mexican national despite objections from the Bush administration that it violated a U.S.-signed treaty. The FDA-approved manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the drug in 2011 so that it couldn't be used for this objective.

The purchase of drugs for executions in the United States has become increasingly hard.

"Functionally, it can never be achieved under the system that requires them to have nonprofessionals using drugs from gray markets or markets that you should never be obtaining drugs from", he said. In May Nebraska announced that they had paid $54,400 for execution drugs from an Indian company.

(source: Press Examiner)


Momentum growing to end death penalty

On the eve of Valentine's Day in 1906, in the basement of St. Paul's Ramsey County Jail, a trap door swung open and convicted killer William Williams, a rope cinched around his neck, fell through. The state of Minnesota was carrying out its 66th execution - and, as it would turn out, its last and one of its most gruesome.

Sheriff Anton Miesen, who attended a dinner party beforehand, had miscalculated the length of rope needed. So when Williams fell, his feet hit the ground and he was able to push himself back up a bit with his toes. As a result, he didn't immediately - or even quickly and certainly not humanely - die. Not even after a trio of sheriff's deputies scrambled to the top of the gallows to take turns pulling on the rope to strangle him.

Such a horrific moment has been brought to mind because, last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion as Minnesotans did all those Valentine's Day eves ago, that the death penalty runs counter to state constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment, that it doesn't work to deter crime and that there's no place for it anymore in modern America.

Connecticut and Minnesota are among 19 states that have done away with capital punishment, raising the question, as law professor and civil rights attorney Kevin M. Barry did in yesterday's Los Angeles Times: When will the U.S. Supreme Court follow suit?

"Are 19 states - as opposed to, say, 26 - sufficient to tip the constitutional scales toward invalidation nationally?" Barry asked. "19 should do."

Nearly all of the 35 executions in the U.S. in 2014 were carried out in 4 states: Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma. They're "the proverbial tail wagging the dog of our standards of decency," Barry wrote. "Do we, as a society, approve of vengeance? Supporters of the death penalty say that a legitimate desire for closure and restoration of moral order motivates the death penalty, not vengeance. But that is nonsense. The primary reason that Connecticut's Legislature retained the death penalty for those on death row in 2012, Connecticut's justices tell us, was 'to placate the public's desire to exact vengeance' on 2 particular offenders, 'the much reviled perpetrators of the widely publicized 2007 home invasion and murder of 3 members of Cheshire's Petit family.'"

The death penalty incites a "festival of cruelty," Barry argued. "Do we approve, or have we evolved?"

Evolved, of course, doesn't mean there shouldn't be consequences for wrongdoing. Punishments still need to fit crimes. And though some might shudder at the thought of taking of a life to balance the loss of another, more others are unable to sleep soundly knowing their loved one's murderer still walks, eats and breathes.

As true as that may be, the reality is the threat of death fails to deter crime. In 2008, 14 states without capital punishment had homicide rates at or below the national rate, according to Amnesty International. Also, because humans make mistakes, there's always a risk of executing someone innocent. Between 1973 and 2012, 140 people were released from death rows in the U.S. while another 1,200-plus were executed.

So is it only a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court follows the justices in Connecticut as well as lawmakers there, and in Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska, who, in just the past 5 years, abolished capital punishment?

Each decision to do so helps to assure that the gruesomeness that played out on the eve of Valentine's Day in 1906 in the basement of the county jail in St. Paul is never repeated.

"Slowly the minutes dragged," the St. Paul Dispatch reported after the trio of sheriff's deputies began taking turns pulling on the rope to strangle Williams. "The surgeon, watch in hand, held his fingers on Williams' pulse as he scanned the dial of his watch. 5 minutes passed. There was a slight rustle, low murmurs among the spectators and then silence. Another 5 minutes dragged by. Would this man never die? ... The dead man's suspended body moved with a gentle swaying. The deputies wiped their perspiring brows with their handkerchiefs. ... Only a surgeon's fingers could detect the flow of blood now. 14 1/2 minutes. 'He is dead,' said Surgeon Moore."

And so was capital punishment in Minnesota.

(source: Duluth News Tribune)


Clemency Denied For Claremore Man Convicted Of Killing Baby

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has denied clemency for a Claremore man sentenced to die for killing his 9-month-old daughter in 2002.

The 5-member board voted 3-2 Thursday against recommending that Gov. Mary Fallin grant clemency for 50-year-old Benjamin Robert Cole.

Cole was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to die by a Rogers County jury for the death of his daughter, Brianna Cole. His execution is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Cole has not denied killing the child, but his attorneys maintain his mental and physical condition has significantly deteriorated since he has been in prison.

Cole's defense attorney, Susan Otto of the Federal Public Defender's Office, says Cole is mentally ill and urged the board the spare his life. Cole declined an opportunity to speak to board members.



Sky apes hit podcast Serial with series on death-row inmate

Sky is aiming to piggy-back the success of the global hit podcast Serial with its own 5-part investigation into a man on death row in the US.

Sky News Radio, which supplies news to commercial radio stations, has launched a podcast series about Richard Glossip who is facing death by lethal injection on 16 September.

The series is called Another Dead Man Walking, a nod to Hollywood actor Susan Sarandon who is campaigning for a stay of execution for Glossip, whom she has described as "clearly innocent".

Sarandon stars in the 1995 film Dead Man Walking in which she portrays a nun who strikes up a relationship with a death-row inmate, played by Sean Penn.

"In the podcasts, I explain how I stumbled across the case while researching the death penalty in the United States, and how Glossip was so happy that someone was taking such an interest that he invited me to witness his death," said Ian Woods, special correspondent at Sky News. "At that time, Richard Glossip's case had attracted little attention, even in Oklahoma."

Sky's podcast series apes the format and style employed in Sarah Koenig's hugely successful Serial, which became a global hit when it revisited the 1999 case of murdered Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee.

(source: The Guardian)


US attorney in Nebraska reviewing execution drug allegations

The U.S. attorney's office in Nebraska is reviewing allegations by a civil liberties group that state officials are trying to violate federal law through their attempts to import lethal injection drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska obtained emails and other documents through a public records request and sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg arguing that state officials are actively pursuing the drugs despite warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that they can't be legally imported. Amy Miller, the group's legal director, pointed to a 2012 incident where execution drugs had to be seized because they were shipped to the state illegally from India.

"Given the state's concrete and active efforts to violate federal law, we request your office initiate an investigation," Miller said in the letter.

Federal attorneys are looking over the documents, a spokesman for Gilg said Thursday. Jan Sharp, the U.S. attorney's Criminal Division chief in Omaha, said attorneys need time to review the papers but should decide by next week whether to act.

"Like any correspondence that comes in, we take it seriously," Sharp said. "... We don't disregard anything that gets sent to us. Whether or not we pick up and run with it is left to a prosecutor's discretion."

Gov. Pete Ricketts has said state officials are working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to import the required drugs - sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide - so the state can resume executions. But Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill that abolished the death penalty and overrode the governor's veto of the measure. Nebraska currently has 10 men on death row, and the state's last execution was in 1997.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said Nebraska is legally registered to import drugs, but can be blocked from doing so if other federal agencies object. In a July 13 letter to Nebraska corrections director Scott Frakes, a DEA administrator said the FDA raised legal concerns about the state's effort.

"According to the FDA, there is no approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved drug into the United States," wrote Joseph Rannazzisi, a deputy assistant administrator within the agency.

In responding to the ACLU's allegations, Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage referenced a possible 2016 ballot initiative that would reinstate the death penalty. The group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has until Aug. 27 to gather enough signatures for a statewide ballot measure.

"The ACLU is clearly aligned with the side of the ballot initiative that does not want to give the voters of Nebraska a say on the death penalty - their letter should be viewed in that light," Gage said.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said the state should abandon its efforts to obtain the drugs and request a refund for the "over $50,000 of taxpayer funds" used to purchase the drugs in 2012.

(source: Associated Press)


Time winding down for supporters of the death penalty

Time is winding down for supporters of the death penalty. They have just one week left to gather enough signatures to put the ban on the ballot.

By next Thursday, supporters of the death penalty will need to turn in the signatures of 5 percent of voters to put the measure on the ballot. If they get 10 %, it will suspend the ban until that vote.

With just days left in their drive, death penalty petitioners have taken their message to one of the busiest intersections in Omaha, gathering signatures in the parking lot of Crossroads Mall.

"We've been doing some telephone calls into some communities, letting people know where there is an opportunity to sign, and the days after we do that, wherever we're set up to, the response has been incredible," said Rod Edwards, of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

Edwards said the group made calls to bring supporters to a signing for its last big push. He said by Monday the group hopes to have all petitions back in the office.

As the days wind down, Nebraskans for Public Safety leaders said they're continuing to spread their message to decline to sign.

"We pass out information, answer questions and kind of carry on our positive message," said Zack Burgin, of Nebraskans for Public Safety.

Burgin said the group tries to get to voters before they sign, and those conversations make the group confident the ban will stand.

"We've been overwhelmed with the amount of support that we have from both faith leaders across the state, fiscal conservatives, moderates, Republicans, Democrats," Burgin said. "People of all stripes have come to our campaign, and we've been very, very grateful for their support."

If the measure gets enough signatures, it will go on the November 2016 ballot. Nebraskans for Public Safety said it has already laid the groundwork for a campaign, if necessary.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty told KETV NewsWatch 7 that it's still focusing on signatures.

(source: KETV news)


A reason for Colorado to abolish death penalty

It is time for Colorado to join the 19 other states that have abolished the death penalty. The back-to-back trials of James Holmes and Dexter Lewis make the choice clear. The commonalities of the cases include gruesome murders committed by assailants with histories of mental health issues. The differences include a substantially higher death and casualty toll in the Holmes case, and the greater likelihood of some shared responsibility with other perpetrators in the Lewis case. Objectively, Holmes might be the more likely candidate for execution.

Mounting evidence from across the nation has demonstrated that the death penalty is administered neither fairly nor reliably. It is disproportionately meted out to defendants who are poor and racial minorities. We must put an end to this arbitrary and unjust system.

Randi Smith, Denver

The writer is an associate professor of psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Denver Post)


Judge: Modesto attorney accused of murder cannot represent client while in custody

A judge on Thursday said a Modesto defense attorney accused of murder cannot represent his client in a murder trial while in custody.

But Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova will wait to decide whether attorney Frank Carson can represent his client in the trial while out of custody. Carson has been in county jail since his arrest Friday. He is being held without bail.

Carson is accused of orchestrating a criminal conspiracy that resulted in the death of Korey Kauffman and the alleged cover-up of his murder. The 26-year-old Turlock man's body was found in Mariposa County a year and a half after he went missing.

A special circumstance allegation makes the case against Carson and some of his co-defendants eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors are expected to inform the court on Tuesday whether they will seek the death penalty against any of the defendants charged with murder in Kauffman's death.

If prosecutors seek the death penalty, Carson could be held in custody without bail through the conclusion of his case. If they choose not to seek the death penalty, a judge can set bail for Carson as high as $10 million.

Attorneys on Thursday morning argued over the issues involved with the Juan Manuel Tello case. He is accused of murder in the Dec. 16, 2011, death of Robert Ruvalcaba. Tello's 1st trial ended in June with a hung jury. Tello has refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, so his 2nd trial had to begin by the end of this week.

Percy Martinez, Carson's attorney, argued that Carson has done all the preparation work for Tello's 2nd trial, and Carson should be allowed to proceed with the trial, even while in custody.

Martinez said Carson has already defended Tello effectively, and he can do it again. "Mr. Tello has total confidence in him," he told the judge.

Tello, who is well aware of Carson's charges and custody status, told the judge he is willing to start his trial soon with Carson at his side. "I know that Mr. Carson is the only one who can prove my innocence," Tello said in court.

Prosecutors are seeking to remove Carson from some of his clients' cases, arguing that Carson would have a conflict of interest if he were to represent clients facing their own murder charges.

Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson, who is prosecuting Tello, said the defendant has the right to have effective counsel in his trial. He told the judge that there are investigators involved in Tello's case and Carson's case, some who testified in Tello's 1st trial and will testify in the 2nd.

Prosecutors are warning the court that Carson could try to go easy on the investigators during cross-examination in the Tello trial for his own benefit in his case.

Martinez argued that he and Carson have known about the Kauffman murder investigation for 3 years, and this "cloud of suspicion" has been hanging over Carson's head that entire time, even while he effectively defended clients in trials. He told the judge that Carson cross-examined these same investigators in Tello's 1st trial, and he never tried to curry favor from them.

"We knew the people who were investigating Mr. Carson," Martinez said in court.

The judge said he doubts that Carson would do something to "make nice" with investigators in Tello's trial, nevertheless it is among the court's concerns.

Tello has a Sixth Amendment right to be represented by an attorney of his choosing. He hired Carson to represent him. But the court has the discretion to overrule that right in "extreme circumstances," Judge Córdova said.

The prosecutor told the judge that Tello's right to a fair trial could be adversely affected by some potential jurors aware of Carson’s charges. He said maybe they can address that during jury selection.

There's also the possibility Carson's law license is suspended. The prosecutor told the judge that the District Attorney's Office has notified the State Bar that Carson was charged with murder, conspiracy and perjury.

Martinez told the judge State Bar officials are expediting their inquiry into Carson, and that they appeared to be more concerned with Carson's custody status, not his charges. "They really don't know if they're going to do anything," Martinez said about State Bar officials.

Tello ultimately decided to waive his right to speedy trial for 40 days. If Carson is released on bail, the judge would still have to determine whether he can continue to represent Tello at trial.

Cordova appointed Deputy Public Defender Maureen Keller as independent counsel and advised Tello about his rights to have an attorney without a conflict of interest. The judge scheduled Tello to return to court Wednesday to further discuss his pending trial.



Petition challenging Haugen death sentence denied

Gary Haugen was sentenced to death for the murder of a fellow inmate, but he believes the state passed up its chance to execute him.

But Judge Tom Hart ruled against a petition Thursday challenging the conviction and death sentence.

Haugen argues the state missed its window when former Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on the death penalty days before his execution.

The judge disagreed.

Haugen spoke during the hearing by phone, claiming his fate was being caught up in a larger debate over the death penalty.

"Come on, define it," Haugen said. "Either they want to kill me or they don't want to kill me. Or they want me to go post-conviction or fight my case or they don't. I don't know whether to smoke a cigarette or take off my hat in dealing with these courts."

"There is no doubt that Gov. Kitzhaber, when he granted you temporary reprieve, changed the legal landscape in some respects," Hart said.

Haugen was serving a life sentence for a murder in 1981 when he killed another inmate in prison. He'd waived all his appeals and the state Supreme Court set an execution date before Kitzhaber stepped in.

(source: KATU news)


I don't support killing of Kombian - Kwasi Jonah

Mr Kwasi Jonah, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) on Thursday said the state should offer Johnson Kombian, farmer and businessman sentenced to death for killing 2 police officers, an opportunity to reform and amend his ways.

"Kombian should have been given a life sentence to afford him the opportunity to change from his bad ways", Mr Jonah told the Ghana News Agency in an interview after addressing participants on "Ghana's Proposed Amendment: How Developmental Are They?"

"As a Catholic, I believe it is God who gives life and it is only God who can take life," he said.

Mr Jonah, who is also a Political Science Lecturer, explained that, he does not support the death penalty as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution that was why he was very happy with the Constitutional Review Committee report, which called for the replacement of the death penalty with life imprisonment among other issues.

The Economy of Ghana Network, in collaboration with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, held the workshop to discuss whether the proposed amendments will move the nation from a political to a developmental Constitution.

In a related development, Mr George Asamaney, lawyer for Kombian, also told the Ghana News Agency in an interview of his intention to appeal against the death sentence verdict of the seven member jury.

He claimed that Kombian thinks that he did not get the justice he deserved hence "he is aggrieved had instructed me to launch an appeal against his conviction and sentence".

According to Counsel "the verdict was against the weight of evidence because public opinion was against him".

He said: "Kombian thinks the conviction and sentence was too harsh, excessive and out of date".

According to the Counsel, he would apply for proceedings and as soon as he secures it, he would file the appeal.

Mr Asamaney said his client felt that the state did not prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

He said Kombian was of the view that the motive for which he killed the Police was paramount adding; "There was no motive for committing the crime and he had nothing against the Police officers."

Mr Asamaney said no proper investigations were done to unearth the real culprits and wondered that since his arrest, none of the so called accomplices have been arrested.

"No efforts have been made by the Police to arrest other accomplices who are alleged to have committed the crime," he said.

Counsel recounted that Kombian had been described in the media as a "notorious armed robber" hence getting witnesses to testify for him was difficult.

As part of the grounds of Appeal, Counsel said there were so many inconsistencies in the case of the prosecution and that the jury was misdirected.

Johnson Kombian was on Wednesday sentenced to death by hanging by an Accra Fast Track High Court for killing 2 police officers in the Northern Region.

The deceased are Constable Prince Agyare and Constable Owusu Frimpong. A 3rd policeman, Corporal Osei Bonsu, survived after sustaining gunshot wounds.

Kombian was also sentenced to 30 years imprisonment on the charge of conspiracy to commit crime the sentences were to run concurrently.

This was after a 7-member jury unanimously returned a verdict of guilty on 2 counts of murder and conspiracy to commit crime.

Kombian, alias Garkum, and his accomplices, who are currently on the run, are alleged to have ambushed 3 policemen on October 17, 2010 and succeeded in killing 2 of them.

Kombian also allegedly conspired with his friend, Kofi Naaman, known as Accra Boy, to rob Djato Mathias and then attempted to kill him.

He was, therefore, arrested, tried and sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment by the Tamale Circuit Court but he escaped whiles serving his jail term.

Kombian sought refuge at Nakpanduri in the Bunkpurugu Yunyoo District of the Northern Region, which happened to be his hometown.

On October 17, 2010, the accused person and his accomplices received information that a number of policemen had been detailed to perform duties at the Nakpanduri Scarp.

Kombian and his accomplices, however, ambushed and attacked the 3 policemen. They allegedly fired gunshots at the deceased policemen, who were then on a motorbike. The policemen fell into a 10-metre long valley.

The accused person and his group continued to fire sporadically into the valley, with the hope of killing the policemen, who also retaliated with occasional gun fires.

After some minutes of firing, Kombian and his gang stopped, and on realising that the gunshots had ended, Agyare and his colleagues mistakenly thought their attackers had left. They, therefore, came out of their hideout and were subjected to more gun fire.

Help finally came for Agyare and his colleagues whiles Kombian and his accomplices bolted. The wounded policemen were conveyed to the Nalerigu Hospital but Agyare was later pronounced dead.

Frimpong also died later, while Bonsu was transferred to the Police Hospital in Accra where he was treated and discharged.

Kombian escaped to Togo after the incident but he was later picked up by the Togolese authorities and handed over to the Ghanaian authorities.



Parliament inquiry on death penalty states

A federal parliamentary committee will inquire into how Australia can engage with countries that still use capital punishment, and promote change.

The discussion follows the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in Indonesia in April, which led to a surge in activism by Australians against the death penalty.

Chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee, Philip Ruddock, says it's a "unique and special opportunity for Australians to have their say," adding that public submissions should be received by October 2, before a report to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop by the end of the year.



4 Prisoners Executed in Rajai Shahr Prison

On the morning of Wednesday, August 19th 4 prisoners charged with murder were hanged to death in Rajai Shahr Prison, according to an informed source. The prisoners, whose names are not known at this time, were transferred to solitary confinement prior to their executions.

"2 days ago 9 prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison were transferred to solitary confinement, but for unknown reasons the execution of five of them has been delayed for now," says the source.

The 4 executions on Wednesday morning have not been announced by the Judiciary's Press Department or Iranian state media.


27 Death Row Prisoners Saved From Execution in Past Year in a Northern Iranian Province

Ali Akbar Ghafarian, the head of prisons in the province of Mazandaran, says at least 27 prisoners in this province have been spared from execution in the past year.

According to the Press Department of the Prisons Organization in Mazandaran, Ghafarian says the death sentences for 57 prisoners were sent in [for review], and after pardons by plaintiffs, approximately 27 of the prisoners have been saved from execution.

Additionally, the Press Department of the Judiciary in the province of West Azerbaijan has reported on 1 prisoner, identified as A.M., charged with murder and sentenced to death, who was saved from execution upon being pardoned by the murder victim's family. However, the prisoner must first reportedly pay blood money to the murder victim's family.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


14 Things That Could Get You Executed In Iran

Iran has executed almost 700 people so far this year, in some cases for "crimes" that wouldn't even get you jail time in the U.S.

Iran is executing people at a record pace this year. Since January, 694 people have been given the death penalty, and Amnesty International says the number will probably top 1,000 before 2015 is over.

Earlier this year, we looked at all the things that can get a person executed in Saudi Arabia. But Iran in some ways is in a league of its own. It now has the highest per capita rate in the world for inflicting capital punishment - and the government widely underreports executions - Amnesty reported.

Iranian law imposes executions on people for a host of different things, from drug smuggling and homosexual relations to denouncing Islam. Sleeping with your stepmother can also get you killed. Often executions are carried out on ethnic minorities and peaceful activists fighting for minority rights. Some crimes are punishable by execution but only after the 4th violation. Those include having unwed sex or engaging in lesbian relations - and in such cases, both parties can be punished with the death penalty.

Most executions are hangings, and despite a 2008 judicial moratorium on public executions, the hangings are often carried out in public. Stoning reportedly has been used sometimes in recent years despite a 2008 judicial moratorium against it.


AUGUST 20, 2015:

TEXAS----impending execution//foreign national

Petition to Greg Abbott, Governor of the State of Texas: To stay the execution of Bernardo Aban Tercero and grant him clemency

see: Tercero_and_grant_him_clemency/



Crime lab backlog continues to delay death penalty case

Nearly 3 years after an Ardmore woman was shot to death, only 1/3 of the physical evidence that Winston-Salem police seized in their investigation has been sent to the State Crime Lab, according to a letter from an attorney representing one of the defendants.

And only about 20 % of the evidence sent has been examined, David Botchin, an attorney representing Anthony Vinh Nguyen, writes in a July 29 letter to Jennifer Martin, the chief assistant district attorney who is 1 of 2 prosecutors in the case.

Nguyen, 23, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree burglary, 1st-degree kidnapping and armed robbery in the death of Shelia Pace Gooden, 43. Authorities say Nguyen and 2 other men -- Daniel Aaron Benson, 24, and Steve George Assimos, 23 -- broke into Gooden's house at 700 Magnolia St. on Oct. 11, 2013, held her against her will and stole a flatscreen television valued at $200.

Benson, Assimos and Nguyen are all facing the same charges, but only Nguyen is facing the death penalty because prosecutors allege that Nguyen shot Gooden in the head.

The delay is largely due to protocols that the State Crime Lab has put into place for dealing with backlog. The State Crime Lab sets limits on the amount of evidence that law-enforcement agencies send at one time. According to the State Crime Lab guidelines, homicides are limited to 10 pieces of evidence per discipline for the 1st submission and 5 items for subsequent submissions. The lab has been criticized for having too few analysts to handle the backlog of requests from law enforcement to review evidence.

"At this rate it will take, as a minimum, another year-and-a-half to complete the process," Botchin wrote in his July 29 letter. "Has your office made any inquiries of the Lab about the long delays in examining the evidence or what can be done to move things along?"

Botchin said in the letter that Martin has told him previously that she waits closer to the trial to let defense attorneys review physical evidence and that she would want all three defendants in this case to view the evidence at the same time. Botchin and Nguyen's other attorney, John Bryson, also had complained last year about delays in getting access to physical evidence.

"We have a statutory right to examine the evidence and we know of no statutory right that permits the State to determine when and how it is to be viewed," Botchin wrote.

Martin said the rules of professional responsibility prohibited her from commenting on pending criminal matters.

Martin had filed a motion last September asking the state Crime Lab to waive the policy. She said in the motion that the policy would cause lengthy delays in the prosecution of the case and could potentially prejudice both prosecutors and Nguyen's attorneys. At a hearing in October 2014, she said that she and Assistant District Attorney Ben White had talked to officials at the State Crime Lab about the policy. She said she had confidence that some of the items could be analyzed without too much delay in the case.

Some progress has been made. Last fall, a Forsyth County judge ordered that defense attorneys can have access to cellphones and laptops that were seized.

A hearing on Botchin's request to view physical evidence is scheduled for Sept. 10. No trial date has been set. All 3 defendants are in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)

ALABAMA----female may face death penalty

Heather Keaton to be sentenced in deaths of stepchildren

Heather Keaton, who was convicted of killing her 2 stepchildren, will be sentenced on capital murder and manslaughter charges on Thursday.

Keaton could face the death penalty for the killing of Jonathan and Natalie DeBlase. A jury convicted Keaton in May of capital murder for the death of Jonathan Chase DeBlase, and manslaughter in the death of Natalie DeBlase.

If sentenced to death, Keaton would be the 1st woman in Mobile County to face the death penalty.

In January, her common-law husband, John DeBlase, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for his role in the murders.

The 2 young children, were killed on separate occasions, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said Keaton played a vital role in their deaths, knowing that the children were mistreated, knowing that their lives were in danger and then willingly participated in the disposal of the bodies in a wooded areas near Vancleave, Mississippi and Citronelle, Alabama.

When questioned in the interview about disposing of Natalie's body, Keaton said, "We stopped and it was really dark and there were a lot of trees. He got out and went to the trunk and I guess he walked into the trees."

Natalie was not seen thereafter. In June, Keaton said Chase also became ill and was unresponsive on Father's Day morning. Keaton said Chase's limp body was still warm when she picked him up off of the floor.

She said she told DeBlaze, "I think I still hear him breathing. I think I hear him mumbling. Are you sure we shouldn't try anything?"

(source: WALA news)


Kansas College Republicans call for end of death penalty but lawmaker slams decision----Group says death penalty costly, secretive

The Kansas Federation of College Republicans is calling for an end to the death penalty, a practice that has traditionally held greater support among conservatives.

1 Republican lawmaker, however, accused the group of wanting "cop killers to have a shot at adding child rape to their record."

The organization's board - an umbrella group for college Republicans throughout the state - unanimously passed a resolution opposing the death penalty. The resolution says the death penalty is costly, the lengthy appeal system burdens victim families and the administration of the punishment has become secretive with questionable methods.

The resolution urges the Republican Party of Kansas to add an official platform plank calling for the repeal of the death penalty in Kansas and calls on the Legislature and governor to pass a law repealing the death penalty.

"More young conservatives like myself," the group's chairman, chairman Dalton Glasscock, said in a statement "recognize that our broken and fallible system of capital punishment in no way matches up with our conservative values. By ending the death penalty, Kansas has an opportunity to promote a culture of life and fiscal responsibility. As Republicans - whether young or old - this is a smart reform that we should support."

A news release announcing the resolution said the adoption of the resolution language took place at a meeting of the organization's state board in July.

The Kansas Republican Party currently takes neither a pro- or anti-death penalty stance in its platform. The Kansas Republican Liberty Caucus has passed a resolution opposing the death penalty.

In a statement, Edward O'Brien, the Kansas Republican Party's 2nd district vice chair, said GOP attitudes are changing.

"Recently, I've seen more Republicans reconsider their views on the death penalty and come to oppose it. I'm encouraged to see young people, committed to protecting life, leading the GOP in the right direction on this issue," O'Brien said.

Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, took to Twitter soon after the announcement from the college Republicans to denounce the resolution.

"(College Republicans) want cop killers to have a shot at adding child rape to their record," Claeys tweeted, adding a hashtag that said over my dead body.

Several top Republican leaders support the death penalty, at least in some cases. Gov. Sam Brownback has described his position as opposing the death penalty except when society cannot be protected from the perpetrator.

During the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, however, Brownback ran TV ads that suggested his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn death penalty sentences. The ads questioned the high court's ruling that overturned death penalty sentences for Reginald and Jonathan Carr. The 2 brothers killed 5 people in Wichita in 2000.

The death penalty was reinstated in Kansas in 1994, but no one has been executed since. The last execution in Kansas came in 1965, when George Ronald York and James Douglas Latham were hanged.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)


Oklahoma Group: It's Time To Give Homicide Victims A Voice

Death row inmate Richard Glossip is set to be executed in less than one month. Since his murder conviction he has maintained his innocence, and has garnered all kinds of support from behind bars.

But now one group in Oklahoma said they've had enough and it's time the victims have a voice.

"I'm not here to change your opinion. I'm not here to change their opinion. All I'm here to say is why I support the death penalty. Why it is just," said Ken Busch with the Homicide Survivor's Support Group.

Ken Busch has heard a lot of opinions lately. The loudest are in support of convicted murderer Richard Glossip. Anti-death penalty Activist Sister Helen Pejean continues a constant flow of support on Twitter, writing the state risks executing an innocent man, pointing to flaws in Glossip's case and how his conviction rests on the testimony of one man.

Most recently Oscar Winning actress Susan Sarandon has brought celebrity power to Glossip's defense. The actress is raising international eyebrows.

"Governor of Oklahoma is just a horrible person and a woman so it's even more disturbing," said actress Susan Sarandon.

Sarandon has since apologized for that statement and has stuck to what she hopes that Glossip is at least granted a stay for his new attorneys to collect more evidence in his case.

But Busch has a message to Sarandon and any anti-death penalty advocate attempting to withhold what he considers justice.

"My question to her is how do you know? How do you know and how could you even imagine. Have you walked one step in my shoes? Just one. I don't want you to," Busch said.

That's because Busch himself takes each day in stride. In 1990 his 7-year-daughter Kathy was brutally beaten, stabbed and murdered then left in a dumpster.

"You can either crawl in the corner and die with them or you can stand and fight," Busch said.

This time Busch has decided to fight for support of Barry Van Treese's family. Van Treese was beaten to death with a baseball bat in 1997 by Justin Sneed, who Glossip hired to carry out the murder.

Busch is part of the group Homicide Survivors Support. Each member was united by the pain left when a loved one was murdered.

"We're not a group with blood dripping from our fangs, we don't have a blood lust we're not out here to see every killer out there executed. We want justice, we want the right person executed," Busch said.

To the group, Glossip is the right person. Found guilty by 2 juries, his sentence was upheld through multiple appeals.

"By any definition in the United States, that's guilty. So it's time for justice to be served," Busch said.

Years after his daughter's murder, Busch watched Kathy's killer being executed. After that he said he felt less stress and less worry -- emotions he feels the Van Treese family deserves.

"If he had been given life without paroles than that's what they family would accept, life without parole," said Busch. "For (the Van Treese) family to see justice, sentences have to be carried out."



Death penalty battle in Nebraska just beginning

Editor's note: This is the 1st of a 3-day series of stories on the status of the death penalty in Nebraska, amid efforts to gather enough signatures to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot.


Coming into last year's legislative session, state Sen. Paul Schumacher didn't have a strong opinion on the death penalty.

"My predisposition was that we have the best of both worlds," said the Columbus legislator.

What he meant was that because Nebraska hadn't executed anyone since 1997, it made the death penalty practically nonexistent, and that appeased opponents. But having it as state law allowed county attorneys across the state the benefit using the threat of it in negotiating plea deals.

As a former Platte County attorney, Schumacher respected that.

But by the end of the 2015 legislative session, Schumacher was praising the repeal of the death penalty in Nebraska, and a photo of him bumping arms in celebration with state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha was an image that helped rally death penalty supporters.

The Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty via Legislative Bill 268 and, later, to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto by a vote of 30-19 - the exact number needed to preserve the repeal.

It's a decision that's spurred a petition drive to place the issue before Nebraska voters in 2016, provided tangible proof of the effects of term limits for state lawmakers and caused a statewide and even national examination of capital punishment in Nebraska.

Each side has opinions on how the decision came to be. For proponents of repeal, it was a practical decision resulting from a broken system. But for the opposition, it was an out-of-touch Legislature not making good on its constituents' wishes.

The latter is how Vivian Tuttle of Norfolk and many others around the state feel.

Tuttle is the mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was 1 of 5 people killed in the 2002 U.S. Bank shootings of Norfolk. She wants the perpetrators of that horrific crime - Jorge Galindo, Erick Vela and Jose Sandoval - given the sentence handed to them: the death penalty.

Vivian Tuttle, who was part of an effort to raise public support for the death penalty as the Legislature debated the issue this spring, said the situation is a direct result of bad politics.

"We wanted people to know what was going on, and we wanted people to get a hold of their senators," she said.

Many tried but weren't given an opportunity to speak in person with lawmakers and express their support for retaining the death penalty.

"They (senators) went ahead and voted how they wanted to," she said.

Now Tuttle and others like her around Nebraska are gathering signatures as part of a petition drive financially backed by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, of which Ricketts' $200,000 donation comprises nearly a third of funding.

Tuttle, like some others, isn't taking any compensation for her work and guesses that she'll spend more than $2,000 of her own money traveling to towns to circulate petitions.

But it's worth it, she said.

The purpose is to allow Nebraskans to vote on repealing LB268 and thereby retain the death penalty. The possibility also exists that, if enough additional signatures are collected, that LB268 would not become law until the 2016 vote is taken. If that happens, those individuals on Nebraska's death row will remain on the path toward execution.

Schumacher said the Legislature's action came from a policy-focused effort to hear out both sides and see what did and didn't work about Nebraska's system.

Schumacher said that, in his opinion, proponents of the death penalty ended up making the weaker argument. At the legislative hearing on the issue, for example, there were more than 40 advocates of repeal who testified, while just one testified in favor of retaining the death penalty.

Schumacher, who has a legal practice in Columbus, sums up the arguments against the death penalty in terms of the standard 4 reasons for criminal punishment: deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation and retribution.

Of the 4, deterrence - keeping similar acts from happening again - has always been touted by those in favor of the death penalty. The governor, for example, has used the argument of public and police safety multiple times as a need for the death penalty.

But when proponents of repeal shared studies showing the death penalty's presence had no definitive effect on violent crime - and supporters couldn't present an effective counter-argument - Schumacher said it was clear to him that deterrence isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"The overwhelming evidence shows that the death penalty, or even a life sentence, isn't on people's mind when they commit a murder," Schumacher said. "For deterrent purposes, it's not there, and such a weakness in the argument of people for the death penalty was a major consideration by the Legislature."

In addition, rehabilitation - the effort to build a more productive member of society - and incapacitation, which is taking a criminal out of the societal equation, are irrelevant when deciding between a life sentence and the death penalty, he said. Either way, offenders aren't reintroduced to the public.

The lawmaker said the only true argument brought forth for retaining the death penalty focused on retribution - the eye-for-an-eye argument.

Schumacher said he believes that, in most cases, the death penalty is a false promise because the lengthy appeals process and the lack of the needed lethal drugs to execute leave almost all on death row. In the cases where the death penalty is carried out, it addresses only a select few, he said.

"That disparity between a small, small percentage of victims' families who get that retribution and the large number of those who do not is a real problem," Schumacher said. "It's an indication of some kind of imbalance in the system."

Tuttle said the appeals process is the 1st thing that needs to be fixed if Nebraska votes to reinstate the death penalty. One idea would be to offer 90 days of hearings and appeals at each level - local, state, national and again on the local level - to expedite the process.

But that may not be realistic. No state has achieved anything like that. Even someone sentenced to death in Texas - the state responsible for almost 40 % of executions in the past 10 years - has an average time on death row of 10.87 years.

State Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk said there's a reason the appeals process is so thorough.

"If we're going to have true justice, you have to make sure they have the ample opportunity to protect their rights and their ability to prove their innocence," said Scheer, who voted against the repeal of the death penalty.

Scheer is among those who don’t believe the death penalty serves as a true deterrent, but he also strongly believes that government still has a responsibility to dole out appropriate punishments for heinous crimes.

He said the death penalty also has value as a bargaining chip for lawyers involved in prosecuting cases. The fact that many lawyers in Nebraska did not want to see LB268 passed is a testament to that.

Schumacher said that, in the past, he felt the same way. Threatening to pursue the death penalty was an effective tool to get low-cost plea deals that makes taxpayers and county boards happy while cutting around technicalities in the legal system.

But the problem, he said, is that it's proven on more than one occasion to be too effective of a tool.

Look at the Beatrice 6 of 1985 in which 6 people were incarcerated on a plea deal obtained by threatening the death penalty - in addition to falsified evidence from a forensic investigator. The accused were released in 2009 when further evidence found them innocent. The state's paid over a million dollars for the wrongful convictions.

For the most part, these opinions and talking points aren't new information.

Many Nebraskans are well aware that Chambers has introduced a bill to repeal to the death penalty every session he's served as a senator since 1976, except from 2009 to 2012 when he was out of the Legislature.

The last time it came close to reaching this point was 1979 when it was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.

So what about this year was different?

Both sides agree that one of the main factors was the influx of new state senators, a result of enacting term limits on lawmakers of 2 4-year terms.

17 new senators were sworn in this past session - over 1/3 of the Legislature. Of those 17, 10 voted to pass LB268, as well as to override the governor's veto.

The impact of the presence of new senators is viewed differently by each side of the debate.

Tuttle said she believes the new group of senators was more interested in personal convictions than protecting or bettering the state as a whole.

"They were easy enough to sway because they were told that's what you do," she said. "You trade votes so you can get what you want."

Schumacher disagrees, saying there's an answer more practical than that.

When you substitute out such a large number of senators, the Unicameral is going to surprise voters with decisions that reflect a morphing legislative body.

"You're going to see this over and over with term limits," Schumacher said. "You're going to see large numbers of new people coming in and thus what you thought was a political landscape is not that way, and what you thought was a viable idea is not. And what you thought would never see the light of day becomes something openly discussed."

* * *

Coming tomorrow: Will the Nebraska Legislature's decision to repeal the death penalty have a nationwide impact?

(source: Norfolk Daily News)


ACLU asks for investigation in death penalty drug purchase

The ACLU of Nebraska has asked U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg to open an investigation into Nebraska's ongoing efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs from a "sketchy" foreign source.

In a letter from ACLU of Nebraska, Legal Director Amy Miller said communications between the state and the Drug Enforcement Authority demonstrate a months-long effort by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services "to obtain illegal drugs despite clear and unequivocal notice that their conduct was prohibited by federal law."

Those lethal injection drugs are sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide.

According to documents obtained by the ACLU through open records requests, Miller said, federal authorities clearly informed Nebraska officials that federal law prohibits import of the drugs.

Nebraska officials paid $54,000 in taxpayer funds to India-based Harris Pharma for the drugs that have yet to be produced and are now months past initial assurances of their delivery date.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday the department is still negotiating with the DEA to obtain the drugs, but would not give a timeline on when they might be delivered.

According the ACLU letter, the state sent customs forms July 31 to Harris Pharma in India.

"The ACLU is committed to holding state officials accountable for their ongoing efforts to secure lethal injection drugs in violation of federal rules," said ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad.

The documents provided show state officials have been told repeatedly by federal authorities that there is no legal way to import the drugs yet they continue to repeat a suspect claim that they are "working with federal officials to secure the drugs," Conrad said.

Nebraska taxpayers deserve a straight answer, she said.

"It is time to end this charade," Conrad said. "Nebraska officials should request an immediate refund of over $50,000 of taxpayer funds they committed to this sketchy foreign source without doing any due diligence and should cease and desist from all future attempts to skirt federal rules."

Miller said rather than wait for illegal drugs to enter the country, Gilg should assure the state complies with federal law and stop all efforts to "flout" clear FDA provisions.

(source: Journal Star)


Does Colorado's death penalty have a race problem?

James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison despite killing more people than the 3 African American men, on Colorado's death row, combined. Now, many are asking, does race affect who gets death? A new study from the University of Denver's law school suggests that the answer may be yes.

James Holmes killed more people during his movie theater massacre than Nathan Dunlap, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray combined. Dunlap, Owens and Ray, all of whom are black, are on death row. Holmes, who is white, will spend the rest of his life in prison.


The 3 jurors - 2 wavering, 1 resolute - who chose to spare Holmes' life reportedly did so because of his mental illness, not his race. Attorney Forrest "Boogie" Lewis, who defended Dunlap in 1996, said, "It is folly to speculate on the motivation of individual jurors in such emotional, complex cases."

Still, on the day of the Holmes verdict, Colorado state Rep. Jovan Melton tweeted, "Today's verdict proves again that the death penalty is arbitrary. Only people on death row in CO are Black. It has no place in CO."

Melton's Tweet echoes the "If he was white, he'd still be alive" argument that presents itself each time police kill another unarmed person of color. If Holmes were black, would he now be facing execution?


A recent study from the University of Denver Law School adds credibility to a theory as widely reported as it is unpalatable: Colorado's death penalty has a race problem.

The DU study, titled "Disquieting Discretion," features statistical analysis of more than 500 Colorado prosecutions from 1999 to 2010. Controlling for both the heinousness of crimes and the variable rates at which different racial groups commit crimes, researchers found that nonwhite defendants here are 5 times more likely to face the death penalty than their white counterparts. Of the 22 capital cases tried in those years, only 2 were against white defendants. The study's other major finding - that the 18th Judicial District prosecutes disproportionately more than its share of death penalty cases - suggests a potential explanation why. The decisions of individual juries cannot be controlled, but across the state, prosecutors pursue death against many fewer defendants than are eligible for it. District attorneys, in other words, have a large amount of discretion when it comes to deciding whose lives are put on trial.

This finding is not entirely new. Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged the discretion when he granted Dunlap an indefinite stay of execution in 2013.

"The inmates currently on death row have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving mandatory life sentences," Hickenlooper said. "The fact that those defendants were sentenced to life in prison instead of death underscores the arbitrary nature of the death penalty in this State, and demonstrates that it has not been fairly or equitably imposed."


Bob Grant, a former prosecutor whose case against white defendant Gary Lee Davis led to the state's last execution in 1997, said prosecutorial discretion is not problematic.

"You can do all the statistical studies you want, and they're not going to get to the full story." Grant said. "Race has nothing to do with a death decision. Never has." Defense attorney David Lane disagreed.

"The death penalty is, was and always will be about race," Lane said.

The study's authors agree with Grant that race is likely not an explicit factor for prosecutors or juries.

"We're definitely not in the business of saying that these prosecutors or these jurors were out to kill a black person," said Sam Kamin, one of the study's authors.

But implicit bias, Kamin said, is a powerful thing.

"I think that all of us in society carry these preconceptions around about people, and it would be surprising if that didn't manifest in our criminal justice system," he said.

It's possible that jurors are more likely to consider mental illness a mitigating factor for white defendants than minorities.

"I think that (Holmes') mental illness was more important than his race," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "However, if you change his race, I'm not sure the same calculus applies."

Lane speculated that jurors may have been more sympathetic to Holmes because of his race and class background. He was a graduate student. His parents took the witness stand and spoke articulately about his happy, stable childhood.

"If Holmes had been equally crazy and black, would one juror have said that mental illness for this African American man is so significant that I'm not going to pull the trigger?" Lane asked.


Longtime Democrat Rhonda Fields, a member of the Colorado House, never thought she'd be a death penalty advocate.

"I didn't support it," she said. "I didn't think I would ever be touched by it."

But in 2009, capital punishment became personal for Fields.

Days before her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, was to testify against defendant Robert Ray for the killing of Marshall-Fields' best friend, he and his fiance were ambushed and murdered while driving. Ray had ordered the murders to protect himself from Marshall-Fields' testimony. His friend Sir Mario Owens, who is also now on death row, carried them out.

"I support the death penalty because I believe that some people commit such heinous crimes that they deserve the worst punishment on the books," Fields said.

She, along with many death penalty advocates, believes capital punishment differentiates the worst killers from those who commit, in the words of 18th Judicial District prosecutor George Brauchler, "run-of-the-mill 1st degree murders."

Fields supported the death penalty for Ray because he was already facing life in prison for the previous shooting, and she also wanted him punished for the death of her son.

"Why would I want to give him a freebie?" she asked.

An African American woman, Fields is hesitant to say that race has anything to do with the decision to pursue the death penalty.

"I really have great confidence in the criminal justice system," she said. "If a DA doesn't want to use it as an option, it's probably because the crime doesn't meet the criteria."

Still, she said, "I know race matters. We've seen these things play out."


Grant insists that the specifics of each crime, not race, are what matters. He pointed out that the study's rough measurement for heinousness - whether a defendant killed more than one person - doesn't give enough information about a crime to know whether the defendant deserves death.

"Look at the aggravating factors and decide for yourself," he said. "They are what separate a domestic violence murder, for instance, or an individual dispute murder ... from the most heinous, the most aggravated murders."

One of the main aggravating factors against both Owens and Ray was the fact that they'd killed a witness. Outside the courtroom on the day Ray was sentenced to death, then district attorney of the 18th Judicial District Carol Chambers said, "Killing a witness undermines the very foundation of the criminal-justice system."

In 2003, Caleb Burns and Nathaniel York - both white - kidnapped, bound, gagged and then murdered 2 teenagers they believed were witnesses to an earlier attempted murder. Like Owens and Ray, these white men committed their crimes in the 18th Judicial District.

Burns and York were both able to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences.

"Black men who kill witnesses in the 18th Judicial District get the death penalty," said Lane. "White men get life."


Many state and national studies have indicated that race affects prosecutions and outcomes of death penalty cases.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that statistics are not enough. In 1987, University of Iowa professor David Baldus studied 2,000 murder cases in Georgia and found that killers of white victims were more likely to receive the death penalty than killers of black victims.

But when death row inmate Warren McCleskey attempted to use the study to overturn his sentence, SCOTUS ruled against him. Even if the statistics were accurate, the court ruled, it wasn't enough to prove any racial motivations for McCleskey's own case.

In an infamous opinion, Justice Powell wrote for the majority, "Apparent discrepancies in sentencing are an inevitable part of our criminal justice system."

The sentencing trial of Dexter Lewis, who stabbed 5 people to death in a Denver bar in 2012, is set to conclude in the upcoming weeks.

A life sentence for Lewis, who is also black, could imply that Coloradans are simply becoming lukewarm toward the death penalty. Though 2/3 of Coloradans polled said they supported death for Holmes, support for capital punishment is at a 40-year low nationwide.

But a death sentence for Lewis will likely cause outrage, perhaps justified, among death penalty opponents.

In his executive order granting Dunlap a stay of execution, Hickenlooper wrote, "If the state of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. The death penalty in Colorado is not flawless."

He then added, "It's a legitimate question whether we as a state should be taking lives."

(source: The Colorado Independent)


Coerced Confessions and Jailhouse Snitches: Why the Death Penalty Is So Flawed

If a majority of the Supreme Court justices eventually strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional, Henry Lee McCollum may be an important reason why. Perhaps that will provide some small comfort to him, given the 30-year ordeal he suffered on death row in North Carolina as an innocent man.

McCollum and his brother, Leon Brown, had falsely confessed to the murder of a 11-year-old girl. They were young, intellectually disabled, and they quickly recanted their confessions as having been forced on them by the local police, who used overbearing interrogation tactics. Last year, when DNA testing on evidence that had remained hidden for decades finally exonerated them, the results implicated another man, a serial murderer. Both men have now been pardoned.

In one of the last opinions announced by the Supreme Court this Term, in Glossip v Gross, by a 5-4 margin the Court approved the lethal injection "cocktail" now being used in Oklahoma and other states. What makes the case so important, though, were the defensive remarks by justices in the majority, who perhaps now sense that the days of the death penalty are numbered.

In his remarkable dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that the death penalty is flat-out unconstitutional. Justice Breyer explained just how rare and unusual death sentences are, raising serious concerns under the Eighth Amendment, but also a dilemma: the very delays that prolong litigation in death penalty cases, also result in remarkable number of reversals and outright exonerations of innocent prisoners. And Justice Breyer cited the case of Henry McCollum, noting how in 1994, the Supreme Court denied relief in his case, over the dissent of just 1 justice.

At the time, Justice Antonin Scalia loudly proclaimed that the death penalty was richly merited in "the case of an 11-year old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!" It took 20 additional years for DNA to prove that McCollum was innocent. No comment from Justice Scalia.

False confession cases such as McCollum's show it is inevitable that innocent people will be sentenced to death. Death penalty cases often heavily revolve around confession evidence. One half of the 20 cases of individuals exonerated by DNA testing from death row in the US included false confessions. Each of those confessions supposedly included specific details of the crime that only the murderer could have known.

The police claimed that Brown and McCollum had each separately told them in gruesome detail how the victim had been raped and murdered, including how she was asphyxiated by her own panties: we now know that they were innocent and their confession statements were contaminated - meaning that police must have actually told the brothers each of those facts during the interrogation.

Confession Contamination

Such confession contamination has happened in case after case. I have found that almost without exception, the false confessions by DNA exonerees were contaminated. Of 69 false confessions, 65 had been contaminated. Nineteen of these exonerees who had falsely confessed were even convicted despite DNA tests that cleared them at the time of trial - such is the power of confession statements, even false ones.

Indeed, in a 1997 death penalty case, that of Damon Thibodeaux, police did not conduct DNA tests that would have proved his innocence, because they had secured his (false) confession (54 minutes were recorded of his 9-hour interrogation).

At his trial, the prosecutor explained that if "somebody confesses" you do not "need DNA to tell you" who the culprit is. And police still fail to record entire interrogations; videotaping who said what in the interrogation could help to prevent confession contamination.

Death penalty cases continue to centre on confession evidence. In Virginia, I have found that 7 of the 20 capital cases that have gone to trial since 2005 have involved confession statements, most of which were undocumented.

Far broader studies of murder cases have found similar figures. Professor John Donohue, in his important study of the Connecticut death penalty, found 59% of death eligible murders since 1973 involved confession statements made to the authorities, and in addition, 43% involved incriminating statements to third parties.

The classic study lead by Professor David Baldus of the Georgia death penalty found that 29% in a sample of 1,066 murder and voluntary manslaughter cases involved self-incriminating statements.

Snitched Up

Why do many capital cases have confessions? Police may be particularly keen to conduct lengthy coercive interrogations in capital cases. Henry McCollum knows this well. And still more death penalty cases involve confession statements supposedly made to informants or jailhouse "snitches" (of the 20 DNA-related exonerations in death penalty cases, 10 involved testimony by informants).

Around the world, the most serious murders are often "solved" using interrogations and confessions. In Japan, Iwao Hakamada spent a horrifying 47 years on death row based on a false confession, until DNA tests exonerated him. Indeed, in Japan - and Japan is far from alone in this respect - nearly all criminal cases generally rely on confessions to police.

Interrogations themselves can be improved through safeguards such as videotaping. But the death penalty itself cannot be made foolproof - and indeed, high-profile murder investigations may be even more prone to tragic errors.

This is a problem internationally and in any criminal justice system, since error is inevitable. The death penalty makes those errors irreversible and in the most serious criminal cases. As most states in the US have realised, as most of the globe has realised - and as four US Supreme Court justices seem to have realised: the death penalty is broken and it cannot be fixed.



Supreme Court to Decide 3 Thorny Capital Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its 2015-2016 term with oral arguments in October on 3 tough cases on capital punishment from the minority of states which still maintain a de facto death penalty.

In Kansas v. Carr, Gleason, the issues presented involve the trial judge's instruction to the jury and the question of joinder and severance for 2 defendants during the sentencing proceeding. Carr and Gleason were brothers who were convicted of a series of brutal rapes and murders during a crime spree in Wichita, Kansas in 2000. There was little doubt as to the result of the guilt phase of the trial.

During the death penalty hearing the judge denied the defendants' request for severance of their cases. The defendants' case of mitigation was in the words of the Kansas Supreme Court, "so weak it would not pull the skin off of rice pudding." Although the evidence was not openly antagonistic between the 2 defendants, the appellate court later speculated that some of the evidence may not have been admitted against both defendants if there had been separate proceedings. The jury's verdict was death.

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the convictions but reversed the sentences as a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The joint proceeding deprived the defendants of an individualized sentence determination. The court went on to hold that the trial judge should have instructed the jury that the defendant need not prove mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the judge had instructed that each juror should assess and weigh the mitigating circumstances.

Predicting the Court's decisions in the emotion-packed morass of death penalty cases is never easy but not as difficult as divining the rationales of each Justice to support her/his vote. Separating the ultimate result from the nuance of the legal issue without distorting the evolution of the case law in non-capital cases has been a tortured exercise for decades. The defendants point to little concrete harm that resulted from the joinder, but this seems the better issue for them. The instruction issue seems less persuasive.

Hurst v Florida

The following week, October 13th, the Court will hear the case of Hurst v. Florida on whether its previous case of Ring v. Arizona should be extended to void the Florida practice of making the jury's sentence verdict as only advisory to the trial judge, who makes the decision on a penalty of death, as well as issues on how the jury goes about deciding the advisory verdict.

Timothy Lee Hurst was convicted of the brutal murder of a co-worker in a Popeye's Fried Chicken restaurant in Escambia County Florida in 1998. The psychologists testified that Hurst's IQ was between 69 and 78 and therefore not ineligible for the death penalty as being "retarded."

The jury's advisory verdict to the trial judge did not identify which "aggravators" they found or whether a majority agreed on a single theory. They voted 7-5 to recommend death. This procedure leaves open the possibility that less than a majority agreed on a single aggravating circumstance, which would justify the jury's recommendation. The trial judge conducted his own hearing on the issue and ultimately sentenced Hurst to death.

The Supreme Court in Ring held that whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt the necessary aggravating circumstance warranting a death verdict is an issue of fact finding for the jury to determine. It did not spell out whether that decision had to be binding on the sentencing judge or how the jury was to go about the process. The case left some knotty issues: whether the jury's role could be in the form of an advisory opinion to the trial judge; whether individual jurors could use different theories of aggravation; and whether the vote of a majority of the jury was a constitutionally adequate verdict.

Florida death penalty litigation has been a fertile ground for death penalty opponents. The state may want to allow Texas to devise the statutory system since Texas has been so much more efficient and successful at imposing and upholding its death verdicts and administering the fatal drug combination.

It is hard to believe that the Supreme Court will uphold a system in which all three of the potential issues left over from Ring have coalesced. Justice Breyer has already made clear his own views that only juries can decide to impose a death verdict. Both he and Justice Ginsburg have called for the Court to accept a case on the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

Montgomery v Louisiana

The 3rd capital sentencing case for October, Montgomery v. Louisiana, did not ultimately result in a death penalty but life without parole imposed on a juvenile. Henry Montgomery was a 17 year old African American 11th grader with an IQ in the 70s who shot and killed a white Sheriff Deputy in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1963. With crosses burning in the neighborhoods and the KKK actively promoting racial tension, Montgomery was convicted and sentenced to death without any opportunity to present mitigating circumstances during a sentencing proceeding.

The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, he was re-tried, convicted and automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Montgomery is now 69 years old and has been in prison for 52 years.

In 2012 the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama held that sentences of mandatory life without parole for defendants under the age of 18 violated the 8th Amendment. But the Court has never decided whether Miller should be applied retroactively.

Retroactivity in criminal procedure cases is determined by a 1989 Supreme Court case called Teague v. Lane, whose rule requires the finding either that the decision involves a new substantive rule of criminal constitutional procedure or, if procedural rather than substantive, whether the case implicates fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding.

These are slippery concepts and there are those who think that the Justices first decide the end result of the case from a policy perspective and then apply the Teague rule accordingly. The equities of the Montgomery case weigh on both sides of the balance. A law enforcement officer was killed, but a half century has passed since the defendant killed him. For my money, once you decide to make the sentence unavailable for minors (whether you agree with this policy or not), to make it not applicable to cases after 50 plus years seems fundamentally unfair.

Three cases with thorny legal issues to be decided under the rule of law as part of a larger agonizing debate about whether we should have 2 systems of punishment in this country, one by the vast majority of states which have concluded for various principled and practical reasons to abolish the death penalty, and the other in a handful of states which have concluded that the ultimate penalty of death is necessary for their system of criminal justice. Anomalies will always exist in a federal system but few seem so profoundly perplexing.

(source: Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office;


Military court upholds death sentence in 2003 'fragging' case

The nation's highest military court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for a University of California, Davis, graduate who admitted killing 2 fellow U.S. soldiers at the start of the Iraq War.

In a closely split decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected claims by Los Angeles native Hasan K. Akbar that his original defense team was ineffective. Akbar argued at trial that he was mentally ill when he killed 2 and wounded 14 in the March 2003 attack in Kuwait.

"We conclude that if there ever was a case where a military court-martial panel would impose the death penalty, this was it," Judge Kevin A. Ohlson wrote.

The court's 3-2 decision leaves Akbar 1 of 6 military men to be facing execution at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kan. Though he had launched a wide-ranging challenge to his conviction and sentence, a big part of the case decided Wednesday dealt with his claim of ineffective counsel.

"With the benefit of appellate hindsight, we could dissect every move of these trial defense counsel and then impose our own views on how they could have handled certain matters differently and, perhaps, better," Ohlson noted. "However, that is not the standard of review we are obligated to apply."

Ohlson, a former Army paratrooper and federal prosecutor appointed to the court by President Barack Obama, observed that Akbar was "represented by 2 experienced military attorneys who devoted more than 2 years to preparing and presenting the defense in this case."

The 2 dissenting judges countered that Akbar's trial defense attorneys fell short, with specific mistakes that included providing Akbar's 313-page diary to the court-martial panel.

"These pages included a running diatribe against Caucasians and the United States dating back 12 years, and included repeated references to (his) desire to kill American soldiers 'for Allah' and for 'jihad," Judge James E. Baker noted.

Baker, who has since retired, explained that "the defense intended the diary to reflect (Akbar's) descent into mental illness," but that it was "offered without adequate explanation, expert or otherwise."

More broadly, Baker observed that the defense team had a hard time in making the case for Akbar because "the armed forces have no guidelines regarding the qualifications, training, or performance required of capital defense counsel."

Born Mark Fidel Kools, the son of a felon and the product of broken home, Akbar was from a young age "indoctrinated in the Nation of Islam's militant teachings," defense attorneys recounted in a brief.

Nonetheless a top student in high school, Akbar graduated in 1997 from UC-Davis with dual degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering. Akbar took 9 years to complete college, subsequently enlisting in the Army in 1998.

He was a sergeant assigned to the 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division when his unit deployed to Kuwait. Early on the morning of March 23, 2003, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq was unfolding, Akbar threw incendiary and fragmentation grenades and fired his M-4 rifle in his solo assault on officers sleeping in several tents.

Army Capt. Christopher S. Seifert, a Pennsylvania native and intelligence officer, and Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone, a Boise resident and member of the Idaho Air National Guard, died in the attack.

Stone, the appeals court noted, "was killed from 83 shrapnel wounds."

The Army's subsequent investigation found evidence that Akbar had previously contemplated attacking his fellow soldiers.

"As soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible," Akbar wrote in a Feb. 4, 2003, diary entry, made public at his court-martial held at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The court-martial panel required only 2 1/2 hours to convict Akbar, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Akbar's attorneys subsequently challenged the conviction and death sentence in a massive 328-page brief submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a panel of civilians based in Washington.

"Against all odds," Army Capt. Aaron R. Inkenbrandt and Akbar's other appellate attorneys wrote, "Akbar seemed fated for success, until mental illness weakened the resolve that for so long repressed years of deprivation."

(source: San Luis Obispo Tribune)


Pakistan to hang paraplegic convict 'from his wheelchair'----Wheelchair-bound Abdul Basit, 43, will be hanged despite appeals from human rights groups

A paraplegic man is facing the prospect of being hanged by prison officials in Pakistan from his wheelchair as he is unable to mount the scaffold.

Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted of murder in 2009 but developed tuberculosis one year later, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

A "Black Warrant" was issued for his execution on July 29 but appeals from Basit's legal team led to a stay of execution.

They now await a final hearing on August 25 which will decide whether to go ahead with the procedure.

It means that prison officials are grappling with the conundrum of how much rope is required to hang a man who cannot support his own body weight.

Basit's lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan have issued an urgent mercy appeal to Pakistan's president, Mamnoon Hussain, claiming that hanging a wheelchair-bound person is in breach of its own prison regulations.

"Given that the condemned prisoner is unable to use his lower body to support his own weight and unable to stand, it is not possible to accurately measure the length of rope required for his hanging," they wrote.

"Consequently, no provision can be safely made for the accurate measurement of the rope that would hang him and to proceed with an inaccurately-measured length of rope would place him at risk of an appalling death."

Extracts from a prison handbook, seen by The Telegraph, stipulate that prisoners must be able to "stand" on the scaffold.

One extract reads: "The drop is the length of the rope from a point on the rope outside the angle of the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold, to the point where the lope is embraced in the noose after allowing for the constriction of the neck that takes place in hanging.

"The condemned prisoner shall mount the scaffold and shall be placed directly under the beam to which the rope is attached, the warders still holding him by the arms."

As Basit would be unable to "mount" the scaffold or "stand" beneath the noose, and there are no legal provisions in place for hanging disabled people, the execution should be called off, his lawyers said.

Pakistan has carried out a spate of executions after it lifted a moratorium in response to last year's Peshawar massacre, which saw Taliban soldiers gun down around 130 schoolboys.

Nearly 200 convicts have been hanged since the December 2014 attack, ostensibly in a bid to crack down on terrorism - though critics note that many of those executed are not convicted of terror-related offences.

Maya Foa, the head of legal charity Reprieve's death penalty team, warned Basit's hanging would be a "cruel and violent spectacle".

"The decision to go ahead with the hanging of a severely disabled man would mark a new low for the Pakistani justice system," she said.

"Abdul Basit contracted tubercular meningitis while imprisoned; authorities failed to provide proper medical assistance and as a result, his illness worsened, leaving him entirely paralysed from the waist down.

"Abdul's hanging would be a cruel and violent spectacle, unlawful under both Pakistani and international law, and an affront to justice and humanity. Abdul's execution should be stayed, and the moratorium reinstated, before more lives are senselessly lost."

A medical report seen by The Telegraph describes Basit's paraplegia as a "complication of tuberculous meningitis."

"At this moment, he is having 0/5 power in lower limbs and 4/5 power in upper limbs," Dr Javaid Iqbal and Dr Anjum Mehdi wrote in the report.

"In our opinion, patients with this condition are usually permanently disabled and there is almost no chance of any recovery. He is likely to remain bed bound for his life," they added.

Earlier this month Pakistan hanged Shafqat Hussain, a young man whose murder confession was extracted through torture when he was just 14 years old, according to his legal team and human rights groups.

United Nations rights experts said his trial "fell short of international standards" and had urged Pakistan to investigate claims he confessed under torture, as well as his age.

Should Basit's hanging go ahead, it is understood to be the 1st case in Pakistan's history of a state execution of a wheelchair-bound convict.

A similar incident occurred in 1993 in the United States where an "extremely disabled" killer was put to death in a Virginia prison.

Charles Stamper, 39, who suffered spinal injuries after a fight in prison, used leg braces and a walker to take his final steps to the electric chair.

(source: The Telegraph)


Pakistan police arrest 3 Christians over poster

Pakistani police have arrested 3 Christian men under terrorism laws for using the word "prophet" to describe a dead pastor on a poster, officials said Thursday. The men were arrested in the town of Gujrat, in the eastern province of Punjab, after police spotted posters marking the 20th anniversary of the death of priest Fazal Masih that referred to him using the Urdu word for prophet.

In Pakistan, the word is used only for Islamic prophets and anyone claiming to be one is liable to be charged under blasphemy laws, which can carry the death penalty.

"We have arrested 3 men, including the son of the priest, because they used the word prophet for the late Fazal Masih," local police station chief Shahid Tanveer told AFP.

He said officers had summoned local Muslim clerics and elders of the Christian community to the police station to consult them on the matter.

The Christians organising the event apologised and asked forgiveness, saying they had used the word to celebrate Masih's services to religion, but the Muslim clerics refused to accept the apology, he added.

Tanveer said that a case under anti-terrorism law had been registered against the organiser and three men had been arrested while 11 others were at large.

He did not explain why terrorism charges were brought, though the legislation is often used in sensitive and high profile cases as it gives access to a fast-track trial process.

Christians, who make up around 2 % of Pakistan's mostly Muslim population of 180 million, have been increasingly targeted in recent years, often over allegations of profanity regarding the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.

Pakistan's Supreme Court agreed last month to hear an appeal by a Christian woman against her death sentence for blasphemy, lawyers said, in a case that has drawn criticism from rights campaigners.

Asia Bibi, a mother of 5, has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of insulting the Islamic Prophet Mohammed during a row over drinking water with Muslim women with whom she was working in a field.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence, and acquittals in court are rare.



Judge who gave death penalty to Kasab retires

Justice M L Tahilyani, who had sentenced Pakistan terrorist Mohamed Ajmal Kasab to death for his role in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, retires tomorrow as the Bombay High Court Judge after 28 years of distinguished judicial service.

Justice Tahilyani is slated to take up a new assignment as the Lok Ayukta of Maharashtra on August 24.

Justice Tahilyani was given a fond farewell by lawyers affiliated to the Advocates Association of Western India (AAWI) in the Bombay High Court today.

During his tenure as a sessions judge in Mumbai, Judge Tahilyani had tried many sensational cases, including the murder cases of music baron Gulshan Kumar and trade union leader-MP Datta Samant and also the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case in which Kasab was executed.

Tahaliyani began his career in 1987 as a metropolitan magistrate in a Bandra court. He was appointed as Additional Sessions judge in Mumbai Sessions Court in 1997.

He was promoted as Principal Judge in the city's civil and Sessions Court in early 2000 prior to taking up the assignment in the HC as Registrar (inspection). He was appointed as a judge in the 26/11 trial in 2009. He was also posted as a special judge to handle CBI cases.

The Supreme Court, in its judgement confirming the Bombay High Court order on Kasab's death sentence, praised Justice Tahilyani for exemplary handling of records.

The SC observed that "in the course of hearing of appeal (of Kasab), we also came to know the trial Judge M L Tahilyani. From the records of the case, he appears to be stern, no-nonsense person. But he is a true flag-bearer of the rule of law in this country. The manner in which he conducted the trial and maintained the record is exemplary."

In 2010, Justice Tahilyani was promoted as a Judge of the Bombay HC.

Felicitating Justice Tahilyani at a function organised by AAWI, senior lawyer S R Chitnis described him as an "outspoken Judge." Apart from listening to advocates' arguments, he (Tahilyani) would directly ask questions to the litigants to find out the truth, Chitnis said.

In his court, many couples had opted for compromise in domestic violence cases instead of moving on with litigations.

"He always kept the court atmosphere tension-free, which benefitted junior lawyers. He disposed of a large number of appeals under Prevention of Corruption Act," said another senior lawyer Ashok Mundargi.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Lord Carlile: We must speak up against sharp rise of executions in Iran----Co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom Lord Carlile of Berriew calls on the international community to condemn the human rights situation in Iran with nearly 700 executions since January 2015.

The alarming recent rise in executions in Iran, especially during the weeks following the nuclear deal between Iran and world's 6 major powers, is a matter of great concern.

"The Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July 2015", Amnesty International said in a statement published on its website on July 23.

According to reliable reports from Iran, the regime's authorities have carried out more than 60 executions, some of them through public hangings, in addition to barbaric punishments such as amputation of limbs and eye gouging, in various Iranian cities since the nuclear deal was announced on 14 July 2015.

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, warned: "If Iran's authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year's end."

Today, many more are reported to be on death row, including juveniles, facing immediate execution, sometimes for ambiguous and invented charges like "Corruption on Earth" and "Waging war against God".

One such case is the execution of juvenile offender Salar Shadizadi, planned for August 10, who according to Amnesty International was jailed and sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was just 15 years old. The death sentence against Salar Shadizadi is a serious violation of the international human rights law that strictly prohibits the use of death penalty for crimes committed by persons under the age of 18.

Another case causing shock and protests was highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on August 5, as he expressed alarm at the imposition of the death penalty on Mohammad Ali Taheri, an Iranian writer and founder of a spiritual movement. The U.S. State Department has also expressed deep concern about the death sentence handed down to Mohammad Ali Taheri.

The International Community must strongly condemn the Iranian authorities' use of capital punishment as a political tool, designed to create an atmosphere of fear. UK can play a vital role in this regard and HM Government should join the international community in condemning and demanding a halt to the planned executions of Salar Shadizadi and Mohammad Ali Taheri.

Furthermore, the government should make any future economic relations between UK and Iran conditional on substantive and tangible improvements in the human rights situation in that country.

(source: Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC, is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF). He was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom (2001-11);

TEXAS----impending execution//foreign national

Death Watch: After Little Help From Counsel, Inmate to Die----Tercero's execution would be 12th in Texas this year

On March 31, 1997, Robert Berger and his 3-year-old daughter walked into the Park Avenue Cleaners in Houston at the same exact time Bernardo Aban Tercero and an accomplice were trying to pull off a robbery. His interruption irked Tercero, and the 2 started scuffling. When Berger tried to separate himself, Tercero shot him in the head. Tercero returned to his native Nicaragua after the robbery, but on Nov. 20, 1997, he was indicted for capital murder. He was found thanks to the help of a female acquaintance in July 1999 in Mexico, attempting a return to the United States.

Tercero's attempts to take control of his own fate suffered mightily immediately thereafter. Apprehended, his requests to speak with the Nicaraguan Consulate-General (a right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations) was denied, and he was returned to Harris County, where a trial began in October of 2000. There, he received the counsel of 2 attorneys - Gilbert Villarreal and John Denninger - who did little to aid their client, filing no motions to request a mitigation investigator or any other experts that could conduct background investigations or prepare a social history. In fact, of the $21,670 trial counsel was provided by the court in order to perform due diligence in preparing a case to defend Tercero against capital murder, the 2 only used $13,200 - to travel to Nicaragua (2 weeks before the trial), and pay for travel and lodging for Tercero's family during the trial. There, they did an inept job of representing Tercero, calling one witness to the state's 17. That 1 witness was Tercero himself; he testified that the murder was unintentional. Nevertheless, a weeklong trial returned a guilty verdict. The state called 6 witnesses at punishment, most of whom were Nicaraguan and could testify to Tercero's history of robberies and kidnappings. He was sentenced to death on Oct. 20, 2000.

Attorneys Dick Wheelan and James Crowley, assigned at different times to aid Tercero's appeals process, did little to help his case, either. They glossed over interview opportunities with jurors, trial counsel, or any of the involved witnesses. Further, in Wheelan's case, he neglected to secure any type of background records, including birth records - an important item as Tercero maintained that his age - 17 - barred him from the death penalty under the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons. No surprise, then, that his claims for relief weren't upheld in federal court, where a judge ruled that each was either exhausted and/or procedurally defaulted, or at the Court of Criminal Appeals or the state habeas court.

On Tuesday, Tercero's counsel filed a petition for a stay of execution based on their client's mental competency (a prison doctor has diagnosed Tercero with psychosis), as well as a motion to reconsider certain claims that had been barred. He's currently scheduled for execution at 6pm on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Should it happen, he'd be the 11th Texan executed this year, and 529th since the state's reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


IACHR Concludes that the United States Violated Bernardo Aban Tercero's Fundamental Rights and Requests that his Execution be Suspended

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the United States of America to stay the execution of Bernardo Aban Tercero, a Nicaraguan citizen, which is scheduled to take place on August 26, 2015, in the state of Texas, and to grant him effective relief, including the review of his trial in accordance with the due process and fair trial guarantees set forth in the American Declaration. The United States is subject to the international obligations derived from the Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Declaration since it joined the OAS in 1951. Accordingly, the IACHR urges the United States, and in particular the state of Texas, to fully and properly respect its international human rights obligations.

The IACHR granted precautionary measures to protect the life and physical integrity of Bernardo Aban Tercero on April 4, 2013. The request for precautionary measures was filed in the context of a petition alleging the violation of rights recognized by the American Declaration. Through the precautionary measures, the Commission asked the United States to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the IACHR had the opportunity to issue a decision on the petitioner's claims regarding the alleged violations of the American Declaration.

The IACHR decided the case was admissible on June 24, 2015. On August 18, 2015, the IACHR adopted Report No. 50/15 on the merits of the case and determined that the United States is responsible for the violation of the rights guaranteed in Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration, with respect to Bernardo Aban Tercero. The Inter-American Commission concluded, among other findings, that the State's failure to respect its obligation under Article 36.1 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to inform Bernardo Aban Tercero of his right to consular notification and assistance deprived him of a criminal process that satisfied the minimum standards of due process and a fair trial required under the American Declaration. According to the Commission's jurisprudence, the rights to notification and to contact a consular official are part of the due process guarantees that apply in the prosecution of a foreign national. The IACHR also concluded that during the process against Bernardo Aban Tercero, his court-appointed counsel committed serious mistakes that affected his right to defense, especially taking into account the applicable standards in a case involving the death penalty. The Commission also concluded that he did not have a possibility to have his sentence effectively reviewed due to the limitations imposed by federal laws and the interpretation of the national courts.

Accordingly, the Commission recommended that the United States review of Bernardo Aban Tercero's trial and sentence in accordance with the guarantees recognized in the American Declaration. It also requested the State to ensure that every foreign national deprived of his or her liberty is informed, without delay and prior to a statement, of the right to consular assistance and to request that the diplomatic authorities be immediately notified of his or her arrest or detention. Also, taking into account the facts of this case, the IACHR recommended the United States to implement measures to ensure that the juridical assistance offered by the State in cases of death penalty be really effective and that the counsel is adequately trained to act with the required due diligence. The Commission further recommended, as has already done in other cases before, that the United States push for urgent passage of the bill for the "Consular Notification Compliance Act" ("CNCA"), which has been pending with the United States Congress since 2011.

The United States has 5 days to report on the measures adopted to comply with the recommendations made by the IACHR. The Inter-American Commission urges the State to ensure full compliance with all the recommendations and in this way to remedy the violation of Bernardo Aban Tercero's fundamental rights. Should the state of Texas carry out this execution, it would be committing a serious and irreparable violation of the basic right to life recognized in Article I of the American Declaration. The IACHR further reiterates that noncompliance with precautionary measures seriously contravenes the United States' international legal obligations and undermines the effectiveness of the Commission's procedures.

The Inter-American Commission has dealt with the death penalty as a crucial human rights challenge for decades. While a majority of the member States of the Organization of American States has abolished capital punishment, a substantial minority retains it. In this regard, the Commission notes that the United States is currently the only country in the Western hemisphere to carry out executions.

The Commission reiterates the recommendation made in this and other cases, as well as in its report "The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition", that States impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward the gradual disappearance of this penalty.

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the OAS, and derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of 7 independent members who are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in a personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.



Questions Swirl Around the Cameron Todd Willingham Prosecutor

It's been more than a decade since Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the arson deaths of his 3 young daughters in Corsicana. Willingham went to his execution declaring his innocence, and in the years since it has become increasingly clear that he was convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of junk arson science and a key witness who testified under troubling circumstances. Willingham was pronounced dead 7 minutes after he received the lethal injection on February 17, 2004, but the stories about the case just keep coming.

The latest is about John Jackson, the Navarro County prosecutor who convicted Willingham. Jackson has always said there were no special deals offered to secure the jailhouse snitch testimony that helped send Willingham to his death, which conflicts with what the informant has told reporters in recent months. And, in what is perhaps a more troubling revelation, it turns out Jackson used a similar deal with an inmate informant in a death penalty case in 1986, according to a new report by the Marshall Project.

The Willingham case wasn't the 1st time Jackson chose to strengthen his hand in court with testimony from an inmate informant, according to the Marshall Project. In a case 6 years before, Jackson had a solid case against Ernest Baldree for murdering a husband and wife as he stole cash and jewelry, but even in a case where evidence - including a stolen car - clearly tied the defendant to the crime, Jackson reportedly chose to go the extra mile by securing testimony from a jailhouse snitch. Jackson used testimony from inmate informant Kyle Barnett. Barnett told the jury that Baldree confessed to the murders while both were in the Navarro County Jail. Baldree was convicted and executed in 1997.

While he didn't give the prosecutors exactly what they wanted - Barnett actually ditched drug rehab and tried to flee to avoid testifying and he didn't really say much on the stand - Barnett did testify in the end. He says he was told he'd be facing a life sentence if he didn't.

If that story sounds familiar, it's because it's a lot like what happened in the Willingham case. About 5 months ago it came out that there was a letter indicating that Jackson, the lead prosecutor in the Willingham trial, had made a deal with Johnny Webb, the scale-tipping witness against Willingham, in exchange for Webb's testimony. For years, Jackson insisted that Webb wasn't coached on his testimony and that he got no special treatment or perks of any kind for agreeing to testify against Willingham.

Webb ultimately testified that Willingham had confessed to the murders while they were in lockup together. That jailhouse confession, coupled with the "arson science" of the time, eventually led to Willingham's conviction and death sentence.

Afterward, Webb did indeed get a lighter sentence. He also received a truck and financial support from local rancher Charles Pearce for years while he was both in and out of prison. And he also attempted to recant his statement that Willingham had confessed to murdering his 3 daughters while he and Webb were in the Navarro County Jail, though the letter he sent was never put in Willingham's file or given to Willingham's lawyers.

After he served his time, Barnett got financial help from Pearrce, just like Webb did. Also like Webb, Barnett then shared how he'd come to be a jailhouse witness for the prosecution in the first place. Barnett signed a sworn affidavit in 1991 for lawyers working on Baldree's appeal stating that Jackson and Navarro County District Attorney Patrick Batchelor had pressured Barnett into testifying in exchange for a better deal in his own case. "I never wanted to testify," Barnett said in his affidavit, "but the prosecutors there had me in a position where it would be real hard on me if I refused."

Jackson, Batchelor and a detective, Leslie Cotten, all filed affidavits in response to Barnett's denying his claims of witness coaching or any deal offered. Baldree's defense attorney, Kerri Anderson, told the Marshall Project that she never heard about anything being offered in exchange for Barnett's testimony, and said that his testimony was only a small piece in a very solid case against her client.

The argument from prosecutors would hold more water if Barnett's story didn't sound so very much like Webb's, down to getting monetary help from the same rancher, Pearce. Webb also told the Marshall Project that he and people like Barnett gave Navarro County law enforcement information about the drug trade in exchange for lighter sentences.

In March, the State Bar of Texas filed a formal accusation of misconduct against Jackson in the Willingham case, accusing him of obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham. The bar action also accused Jackson of not telling Willingham's defense of the deal he'd made with Webb to get Webb's testimony.

The Willingham story was bad enough when it looked like an overzealous prosecutor had gone too far, but now we have something more troubling to contend with: The Willingham case might not have been an aberration. It's looking like this was simply how things were done in Navarro County. If Jackson felt the need to stack the deck in a case like Baldree's, where even the defense lawyer says the evidence was solidly against her client, what chance was there he wouldn't do the same with the thinner case against Willingham?

(source: Houston Press)


Talking About the Death Penalty, Court to Court

The Connecticut Supreme Court could have taken an easy route to finding the state's death penalty unconstitutional in the decision it issued last week. The State Legislature repealed the death penalty in 2012, but it made the repeal prospective, leaving 11 men on death row. The reason for the prospective-only repeal was obvious to all: 2 of the death-row inmates, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, had committed a horrific home-invasion triple murder that shocked the state in 2007, and the prospect of barring their execution was unpalatable to Connecticut politicians and many members of the public.

As a matter of constitutional doctrine, the State Supreme Court might simply have found the distinction between those who committed murder before and after the repeal date of April 25, 2012, to be arbitrary - a violation of due process, equal protection or both. Taking the repeal law, signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, to embody the collective judgment of the people's elected representatives that capital punishment is no longer an appropriate tool of criminal justice in Connecticut, on what basis could the state apply the death penalty to one class of murderers and spare another, with the 2 groups separated only by the date of offense?

The 92-page majority opinion in Connecticut v. Santiago, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer for 4 of the court's 7 justices, was much more ambitious than that, however, and in its ambition lies its significance.

On hearing that the Connecticut Supreme Court had invalidated the state's death penalty, many people probably shrugged and thought, "O.K., that's one little blue state that hardly ever executed anyone (a single execution in the past 55 years, if you're counting) and that was already never going to add anyone new to death row. How important can this decision be?"

That was, frankly, my thought as well, and I picked up the decision - more than 200 pages, including concurring and dissenting opinions - with some reluctance and a sense of obligation. (My apartment building is across the street from the New Haven courthouse where crowds, gathered for the consecutive trials in the home-invasion murders, blocked the sidewalks for weeks in 2010 and 2011.) But I turned the pages with mounting excitement. In the breadth of its perspective on the history and current problematic state of the death penalty, in its cleareyed dissection of the irreconcilable conflict at the heart of modern death-penalty jurisprudence, the Connecticut Supreme Court not only produced an important decision for its own jurisdiction; but it addressed the United States Supreme Court frankly and directly. The decision engages the Supreme Court at a crucial moment of mounting unease, within the court and outside it, with the death penalty's trajectory over the nearly 4 decades since the court permitted states to resume executions.

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Gregg v. Georgia and the 4 other Supreme Court decisions that reviewed the new generation of laws the states enacted in an effort to comply with the 1972 decision that had invalidated all existing death-penalty laws. "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual," Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in a concurring opinion in the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia. The new laws that the Supreme Court upheld were supposed to avoid just such arbitrariness by limiting those defendants deemed eligible for the death penalty and by channeling juries' discretion over when to impose it.

The problem, as the Connecticut Supreme Court demonstrates, is that it hasn't worked. Of some 200 cases in the state that might have been charged as capital murder between 1973 and 2007, prosecutors sought the death penalty in some 130 and obtained death sentences in 12. "The selection of which offenders live and which offenders die appears to be inescapably tainted by caprice and bias," the court said, pointing to "an inherent conflict in the requirements that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, imposes on any capital sentencing scheme."

On the one hand, the death penalty can't be automatic, but has to result from specific findings about the crime and the defendant through a process that relies on specifically identified "aggravating factors." That's the effort to channel discretion and treat like cases alike. On the other hand, the jury must have absolute discretion to consider any "mitigating factors" that it deems relevant. That's the effort to treat each defendant as an individual. The United States Supreme Court deems both efforts as constitutionally essential. But to quote from the Connecticut opinion:

"The question is whether this individualized sentencing requirement inevitably allows in through the back door the same sorts of caprice and freakishness that the court sought to exclude in Furman, or, worse, whether individualized sentencing necessarily opens the door to racial and ethnic discrimination in capital sentencing. In other words, is it ever possible to eliminate arbitrary and discriminatory application of capital punishment through a more precise and restrictive definition of capital crimes if prosecutors always remain free not to seek the death penalty for a particular defendant, and juries not to impose it, for any reason whatsoever? We do not believe that it is."

6 weeks earlier, Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting from the decision that rejected a challenge to Oklahoma's lethal-injection protocol, identified another inherent contradiction. Deploring lengthy delays that "both aggravate the cruelty of the death penalty and undermine its jurisprudential rationale" (the average delay between sentencing and execution is now more than 17 years, they noted), the justices said that the "special need for reliability and fairness in capital cases" means that substantial delay is inevitable. Justice Breyer, who wrote the 42-page dissenting opinion that Justice Ginsburg joined, said this: "In this world, or at least in this nation, we can have a death penalty that at least arguably serves legitimate penological purposes or we can have a procedural system that at least arguably seeks reliability and fairness in the death penalty's application. We cannot have both."

The 2 justices didn't flatly declare a belief that the death penalty is unconstitutional, saying rather that it was "highly likely" to violate the Eighth Amendment; the court, they said, should invite full briefing on that question "rather than try to patch up the death penalty's legal wounds one at a time."

Like the Connecticut justices, these2o justices went beyond the confines of the case before them to confront the deeper questions. (Along with Justice Elena Kagan, Justices Breyer and Ginsburg also signed Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion, which more conventionally addressed the majority's holding on lethal injection.) The Connecticut decision and the Breyer-Ginsburg dissent were meant for wider audiences, and to a notable degree, each found an audience in the other. The Connecticut justices cited Justice Breyer's dissent. I have no idea whether Justice Breyer knew about the Connecticut case, which had been pending for more than 2 years by the time the United States Supreme Court issued its lethal injection decision, Glossip v. Gross, on June 29. (I found no mention of the Connecticut case in the briefs the court received.) But Justice Breyer did cite the same statistical evidence in the same study of the Connecticut death penalty that the Connecticut justices used, concluding that "such studies indicate that the factors that most clearly ought to affect application of the death penalty - namely, comparative egregiousness of the crime - often do not."

Were the Connecticut justices emboldened by Justice Breyer's invitation to grapple with the death penalty itself? Maybe they were; coming late in what by all signs was a brutally contentious process within the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Breyer dissent must have appeared to the majority justices as a gift from on high, an open door. And clearly Justices Breyer and Ginsburg mean to spur hard thinking about the death penalty by every judge in the country.

And what about the Supreme Court itself? The last member of the court to renounce the death penalty was Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010. In the ensuing 5 years of silence, executions plummeted to a 20-year low (35 last year, compared with a high of 98 in 1999) and public approval of the death penalty, at 56 % earlier this year, was the lowest in 40 years. 7 states carried out executions last year, compared with 20 in 1999. It's no exaggeration to say that there is a widespread de facto moratorium in place, even in most of the 31 states that still have the death penalty on their books.(In 4 of those states - Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania - governors have imposed an actual moratorium.)

Although a Supreme Court decision abolishing the death penalty wouldn’t shock much of the country, it's not easy to imagine the John G. Roberts Jr. court taking that step. If the question, as it is so often, is "what would Justice Kennedy do?" it's worth noting that he signed neither of the dissenting opinions in the lethal injection case. He silently joined the majority opinion of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. - the justice who during the oral argument, in one of the uglier performances that I can recall on the Supreme Court bench, asked the lawyer for the Oklahoma death-row inmates whether it was "appropriate for the judiciary to countenance what amounts to a guerrilla war against the death penalty." On the other hand, Justice Kennedy has become an outspoken advocate for reform of the criminal justice system, with a recent focus on solitary confinement.

I'm not counting the days, or the Supreme Court terms, until the court declares the death penalty unconstitutional. But from 2 courts, the highest in the land and the highest court of one of the smallest states, a fruitful conversation emerged this summer that will inevitably spread, gain momentum and, in the foreseeable if not immediate future, lead the Supreme Court to take the step that I think a majority of today's justices know is the right one.

(source: Op-Ed, Linda Greenhouse, New York Times)


Jury convicts ex-boyfriend in 2011 Valentine's Day killing of woman and her cousin

In a verdict that could lead to a death sentence, a Philadelphia jury found Shaun Warrick guilty Wednesday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 2011 Valentine's Day shootings of his ex-girlfriend and her cousin.

The Common Pleas Court jury of 6 women and 6 men are to return to court Thursday to begin hearing testimony in the penalty phase of the trial in which they decide whether the 32-year-old Warrick should be executed by lethal injection or spend life in prison without parole.

Relatives of the slain cousins, 19-year-old Tiffany Barnhill and Marcedes Ivery, 22, sat quietly in court, some weeping and others watching for Warrick's reaction.

There was none. He appeared resigned to the verdict. He slouched in his chair at the defense table, head resting against his left arm, staring ahead.

The jury returned its verdict around 2 p.m., 8 hours after beginning deliberations on Tuesday. After jurors left for the day, what followed was 2 hours of emotional, often heated arguments involving Warrick, defense attorney Jack McMahon and Warrick's mother.

Although the exchange took place in an anteroom reserved for meetings between defendants and their lawyers, the screaming was easily heard in the courtroom. It involved what mitigating evidence McMahon might use to try to convince the jury to spare Warrick's life.

Late in the day, Judge Glenn B. Bronson took the unusual step of calling Warrick and McMahon into the courtroom for a closed-door hearing about Thursday's hearing.

Bronson asked spectators and the prosecutor, Assistant District Thomas Lipscomb, to leave the courtroom because the hearing would involve confidential issues involving defense strategy for the death penalty hearing.

The Warrick case is one of the few since District Attorney Seth Williams was elected in 2009 in which prosecutors have followed through on plans to seek the death penalty.

Early on, Williams put in place an internal review committee to approve all capital trials that included invitations to defense lawyers to present so-called "mitigating evidence" before trial to convince prosecutors to remove the death-penalty from trial.

Warrick, in fact, rejected a pretrial offer from prosecutors to waive the death penalty in exchange for pleading guilty and being sentenced to life without parole.

The bodies of the victims were found in upstairs bedrooms at Ivery's house in the 5400 block of Rutland Street in Frankford. Each had been shot multiple times with a .40-caliber Glock holding 14 rounds.

Warrick, of Logan, was angry because Barnhill had broken off their relationship and Ivery was interfering with his efforts to talk to her; Barnhill did not own a cellphone and Ivery was refusing Warrick's calls to her cell and her landline.

Trial witnesses testified that shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2011, Warrick, accompanied by two women, arrived at Ivery's house. While the women waited outside, witnesses said Warrick kicked in the front door and entered. Gunfire was heard and Warrick then ran out of the house, tucking something into his pants, and fled with the 2 women.

When the jury returns to court Thursday, Lipscomb will present evidence of "aggravating factors" - a double murder, for example - that he will argue merit the death penalty.

Lipscomb said one of his witnesses will be Kelley Hunt - Barnhill's sister and Ivery's cousin - who will describe the impact their deaths have had on the family.

McMahon will present evidence of mitigating factors supporting a default sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. What that evidence might be - especially after the turmoil of Wednesday afternoon - was not disclosed.



Anthony's attorneys seek change of venue

Attorneys for the suspected gunman in a triple homicide have filed motions to move his trial out of Pitt County and eliminate the death penalty as a possible sentence because of mental illness.

One of the motions filed in Pitt County Superior Court claims Antwan Anthony, 32, is severely mentally ill and was delusional as result of smoking synthetic cannabinoids on the night of April 1, 2012, when 3 employees of Hustle Mart 3 in Farmville were shot to death during an armed robbery. The motion details an account of the night as told by Anthony to a forensic psychiatrist.

Anthony is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, 3 counts of 1st-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon and is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 28. Pitt County District Attorney Kimberly Robb is seeking the death penalty in the case.

(source: Greenville Daily Reflector)


Deadline approaches for death penalty decision in Roof trial

The deadline for pretrial motions in the Dylann Roof trial is today, according to USA Today.

Roof wanted to plead guilty to 22 federal charges, but his lawyer said in court that he couldn't advise his client to do so until prosecutors say if they will seek the death penalty.

During an earlier hearing the judge set the deadline for pretrial motion filings as August 20.

No future hearing have been scheduled.

Roof is accused of opening fire inside a Charleston church, killing 9 people.

He faces multiple federal and state charges.

(source: WYFF news)


Opening statements to begin in Orange County home invasion slaying case

Opening statements are set to begin Thursday in Orange County's 1st death penalty case since 2009.

Bessman Okafor, 30, is accused of killing Alex Zaldivar, 19, to prevent him from testifying in another case.

If the jury finds Okafor guilty of 1st-degree murder, they will then decide whether to recommend that Okafor be sentenced to death. That was one reason jury selection took so long -- potential jurors had to be willing to consider the death penalty.

16 jurors have now been seated.

Investigators said 4 months after Okafor committed an armed home invasion at an Ocoee home, he went back to kill Zaldivar, 19, to prevent Zaldivar from testifying against him.

After 8 days of jury selection, the defense told the judge it was rejecting the 16 jurors, trying to get the judge to start all over.

"We're not accepting the panel and I would ask the whole panel be stricken," said defense attorney Frances Leannaco.

The judge rejected the argument and the jurors were sworn in.

2 others whom Okafor allegedly tried to kill to prevent from testifying in the home invasion case were not home when Zaldivar was killed.

They will testify at trial.

(source: WFTV news)


Gruesome details emerge in murder of Homestead Job Corps student

3 Homestead Job Corps students have confessed to a plot to lure a teen to the woods, where he was repeatedly hacked with a machete and forced into a shallow grave as he lay mortally wounded, police revealed on Wednesday.

The sickening details were included in an arrest report for a 4th student, Desiray Strickland, 18, who was detained on Wednesday and charged with her alleged role in the savage June murder of 17-year-old Jose Amaya Guardado.

The arrest report reads like a scene from the classic novel Lord of the Flies. During the carnage, Strickland "complained that she had missed the first series of machete strikes because she had walked away for a few minutes to urinate in the woods," according to the arrest report.

After the group of students buried Jose and cleaned up the bloody scene, Strickland and accused ringleader Kaheem Arbelo stayed in the woods to have sex before returning to the Job Corps campus, the report said.

Miami-Dade police homicide detectives last week arrested Arbelo, 20, a suspected drug dealer at the school; Jonathan Lucas, 18; and Christian Colon, 19. A 5th suspect is expected to be arrested in the coming days.

Law enforcement sources have described the students as part of a group of bullies within the federally operated school. Investigators believe the killing may have stemmed from a debt that the victim owed to Arbelo.

The four are now being held in Miami-Dade jails to await trial on charges of 2nd-degree murder. All of them are adults, meaning they could be eligible for indictment for 1st-degree murder and the death penalty.

All of the young people, including Guardado, were students at Homestead Job Corps, a live-in school and vocational training program run by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The program helps young people get their high school diplomas and learn job skills ranging from masonry to office administration. Job Corps, designed for at-risk students between the ages of 16 and 24, runs 125 campuses across the country.

In a statement released on Wednesday, a Labor department spokesman said "safety and security is our top priority."

"Steps already have been taken to strengthen security at the Homestead center, and Job Corps is reviewing safety and security at all its centers," said spokesman Stephen Barr.

He said the department was "deeply saddened" by Jose's death and would be offering grief counseling to other students.

Jose went missing on June 28, and relatives had searched for him throughout South Miami-Dade. His brother later found the body buried in the woods not far from the Job Corps facility. Relatives described Jose as a "peaceful" boy who worked at a flea market selling ice cream.

Strickland, of Miami Gardens, refused to cooperate with Miami-Dade detectives when detained on Wednesday. According to police, she shoved an investigator, head-butted his chest and flailed about before she was shackled in an interview room.

She also used screws from an electrical outlet to try and pick her handcuffs, then scrawled "MPD Go to Hell" on a table, the report said. Strickland also was charged with resisting an officer with violence, battery on an officer and criminal mischief.

Arbelo, Lucas and Colon all confessed - in video-recorded statements - when they were detained last week, according to Miami-Dade police. The arrest warrants detailing their arrests remain sealed by the court.

According to Strickland's arrest report, the group "conspired to plan" the murder about 2 weeks before the killing of the bespectacled teen. A few days before the murder, the group even dug the grave and hid a machete in the brush, Miami-Dade Detective Juan Segovia wrote in the arrest report.

On the night of June 28, they lured Jose to the woods and "ambushed the victim" with blows that caused "massive injuries." As he was dying, the students ordered Jose to lie in the grave.

"The victim made one last attempt to fight off the attackers," the detective wrote, "at which time, [Arbelo] struck the victim with the machete several more times until the victim's face caved in."

The group buried Jose, then wiped blood off a nearby fence before burning the dead teen's belongings and their own clothes. "They also got rid of the machete and the shovel," Segovia wrote.

(source: Miami Herald)


Mesac Damas trial delay possible due to death penalty challenge

The long-delayed murder trial of Mesac Damas might be further pushed back, possibly into early or mid-2016, because of a challenge to Florida's death penalty laws.

Damas' lawyers are asking to temporarily put the case on hold - known as a "stay" - after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in March to decide whether part of Florida's death penalty laws are unconstitutional. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Damas, who has admitted to killing his wife and 5 children at his North Naples home.

Damas' trial on 6 1st-degree murder counts is scheduled for November, but his lawyers say it's senseless to spend multiple weeks trying the case, only to have some of the laws used at trial possibly declared unconstitutional months later. The justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in October, with an opinion likely issued in the winter.

"If you sentence to death pursuant to an unconstitutional statute, you can pretty much guarantee that death sentence is not going to stand," said James Ermacora, 1 of Damas' 2 lawyers.

Prosecutors haven't filed paperwork indicating whether they'll agree to the request to stay the case, and the State Attorney's Office spokeswoman declined to comment on the motion.

The request, which was made last week, came after Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt asked lawyers on both sides to come to an Aug. 28 hearing prepared to discuss the pending U.S. Supreme Court case. Hardt also asked the lawyers to prepare to discuss a change of venue in light of the extensive media coverage Damas' case has garnered. It's unclear when Hardt will decide on the request to stay.

In at least 1 Florida death penalty case, a Miami-Dade County judge has granted a stay pending the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. In Orange County, however, a death penalty case is moving forward to trial, with jurors seated this week, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The case under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't impact Damas' trial as it relates to his guilt or innocence. It could, however, significantly alter the process for deciding whether Damas should be sentenced to death.

Under Florida law, the same jurors decide whether Damas is guilty, and they make a recommendation to a judge about whether Damas should be sent to death row. If the state's death penalty laws are changed, Damas' lawyers say they would question potential jurors differently during the jury selection process.

The state's death penalty laws are being challenged on several fronts. Most notably, lawyers for an Escambia County death row inmate say jurors should determine whether certain circumstances, known as "aggravating factors," exist to warrant a possible death sentence (a judge currently does that). They also argue that jurors should be required to reach a unanimous verdict about the death penalty (Florida is 1 of only 2 states that requires a simple majority).

In emails and court filings, Damas has said he wants to plead guilty, but Ermacora said Wednesday that "there's no indication of that at this point." Even if Damas pleads guilty, he will be subject to the death penalty and the at-issue proceedings.

(source: Naples News)


US appeals court orders hearing for Oklahoma man given death penalty in state trooper's death

An Oklahoma man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a state trooper deserves a hearing to determine whether his attorneys adequately defended him during the trial's penalty phase, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A 3-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ordered a federal judge to convene an evidentiary hearing for Kenneth Eugene Barrett, of Vian. Barrett, 54, was convicted of intentionally killing a state law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his duty, which is punishable by the death penalty.

Prosecutors say he opened fire on Trooper David "Rocky" Eales and other members of his Oklahoma Highway Patrol tactical team as they were about to conduct a drug raid on his cabin in Sequoyah County. Eales, 49, was killed and another trooper with him in the lead vehicle was wounded.

Barrett argued that he didn't know he was firing at law enforcement officers, pointing out that Eales' vehicle was an unmarked white Ford Bronco that had no emergency lights.

In his appeal, Barrett contends that his trial lawyers were ineffective because they failed to present evidence about his troubled mental state and background that might have spared him the death penalty.

The appellate court's ruling states Barrett's jury heard evidence of his drug use, including a state prison employee's testimony that he had been using marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, tranquilizers and other drugs up until the time of the shooting.

But none of the defense witnesses discussed Barrett's mental health or troubled background in any significant detail, it says.

"Defendant's own history suggests mental illness," the appellate decision says. In January 1986, Barrett attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a shotgun and received psychiatric treatment. Later that year, he was involuntarily committed to a hospital after complaints from his mother and ex-wife that he was violent and suicidal, according to the ruling.

Barrett's attorney, David Autry of Oklahoma City, and U.S. Attorney Mark Green did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the ruling.

Barrett's 2005 federal trial marked the 3rd time Barrett had been tried for Eales' death. A Sequoyah County jury deadlocked on a murder charge against Barrett in 2002. At a subsequent state trial in 2004, Barrett was convicted of 1st-degree manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Additional attorney added in Broken Arrow family slayings in anticipation of death-penalty request

A Tulsa County judge approved a motion Wednesday for a Broken Arrow teenager who is charged in the deaths of his parents and three of his siblings to receive a second attorney.

Robert Davis Bever, 18, and his 16-year-old brother, Michael Bever, each face 5 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of assault and battery with intent to kill in the deaths of David Bever, 52; April Bever, 44; Daniel Bever, 12; Christopher Bever, 7; and Victoria Bever, 5, and the stabbing of their 13-year-old sister, who survived the July 22 attack inside the Bevers' home.

The siblings were arrested just before 12:20 a.m. July 23 after a police dog tracked them to a wooded area behind their home and their sister identified them as her assailants, according to their arrest reports.

A 2-year-old sister was found unharmed in the home, police said at the time. Both surviving siblings are in a "safe and secure" location, their attorney has said.

Although Michael Bever is charged as an adult, his age bars him from being sentenced to death in the case. But Robert Bever is eligible for the death penalty, according to the motion for an additional attorney filed this week by attorney Cheryl Ramsey.

"Because counsel faces what are effectively 2 different trials -0 1 regarding whether the defendant is guilty of a capital crime, and the other concerning whether the defendant should be sentenced to death - providing quality representation in capital cases requires counsel to undertake correspondingly broad investigation and preparation," Ramsey wrote in her motion.

"Investigation and planning for both phases must begin immediately upon counsel's entry into the case, even before the prosecution has affirmatively indicated that it will seek the death penalty," she wrote.

District Judge Sharon Holmes, who will hear the case if the teenagers are bound over for trial, ordered that Oklahoma City-based attorney Mark Henricksen serve as Robert Bever's co-counsel.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Wednesday night that a decision on whether to seek capital punishment would occur after a preliminary hearing and after a death-penalty review team evaluates the case.

"I certainly understand a concern by his attorney when (his case involves) the deaths of 5 people," he said. "But at this point no decision's been made, nor would it be."

Search warrant affidavits filed in Tulsa County for the case claim that one of the brothers "spontaneously uttered" that plans for a "mass homicide" could be found on a thumb drive inside one of the bedrooms. Police have declined to comment on whether those plans, if found, indicated plans to harm people outside their immediate family.

Michael and Robert Bever are set to appear in court Oct. 9 for a preliminary hearing.

(source: Tulsa Wolrd)


Goodyear man could face death in wife's murder

State prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Goodyear man accused of killing his wife if he is convicted, court documents show.

John Leo Davis, 38, is accused of stabbing and killing his wife, Michele Davis, while their children were present. Davis in April pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder, child abuse and disorderly conduct and is being held on a $2 million bond, according to court documents.

Prosecutors this week filed a motion of intent to seek the death penalty if Davis is convicted of 1st-degree murder, documents show. Prosecutors allege that Davis committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

Police said Davis killed his wife in March at the family's home near 168th Drive and Watkins Street. The incident started when Davis got angry at one of their kids for playing video games and then hit the child in the face, records show.

The child told Michele, who confronted Davis, and an argument ensued. The children saw John Davis wield a knife and chase his wife from the kitchen to the front door, documents show.

John Davis then called Goodyear police to report that he had lost his mind and stabbed his wife, court records say.

A 14-year-old girl also called 911 and told police she saw Davis stab his wife and then clean the knife in the kitchen.

When police arrived, they found Michele Davis in a pool of blood by the front door, records show, and she was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

There were reportedly seven children in the house at the time of the murder, records show. None of them was harmed.

The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 8, court documents show.

(source: Arizona Republic)


Defense makes closing arguments in double murder trial of Christopher Licon

An Arizona man charged with killing his brother and then fatally shooting his 6-year-old nephew who witnessed the crime was in the throes of a psychotic episode on the day of the 2 deaths, his attorney said Wednesday as he urged a jury to accept his client's insanity defense.

Attorney James Wilson said he wasn't asking jurors to let Christopher Rey Licon walk free out of the courtroom, but instead pressed ahead for a "guilty, except insane" verdict that would spare his client the death penalty and prison time and instead send him to a state mental hospital.

"He is not the monster the state has tried to portray him as," Wilson said during closing arguments at Licon's trial.

Authorities are seeking the death penalty against the 24-year-old in the December 2010 killings of his half brother, Angel Jaquez, and Jaquez's son, Xavier Jaquez.

Prosecutors say Licon killed his brother in the Phoenix townhome they shared over a drug dispute and then kidnapped and fatally shot his nephew in an alley 20 miles away. Investigators believe the boy either saw or heard his father die and was killed by his uncle out of fear that the child would snitch on Licon.

Sanitation workers found the child's body. The boy, surrounded by a pool of blood, was still wearing his school uniform and had a Burger King kid's meal nearby.

Prosecutor Laura Reckart said in closing arguments Tuesday that Licon hasn't proven that he suffered from a mental disease that would have prevented him from understanding that his actions were wrong.

Wilson said family members attribute Licon's actions not to his drug use, but rather to a chronic psychological illness. "They know that but for Mr. Licon's mental illness, this would not have happened," Wilson said.

Wilson said Licon had lost weight, experienced hallucinations and became detached and uncommunicative around the time of the killings.

The defense attorney pointed out the differences in Licon's appearance in a mugshot in which his eyes looked dazed and a 2009 high school photo in which a clear-eyed Licon wore a tuxedo.

Authorities say a neighbor witnessed Licon dragging his nephew into a car that would be used to bring the child to the alley where he died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Licon, then a construction management student at Arizona State University, told investigators that he was studying at a library in Tempe at the time that his half brother was killed. He said he came home to find his brother's body in the townhome.

But authorities say Licon's alibi collapsed quickly after neighbors were interviewed and other evidence was gathered.

Authorities say 2 key pieces of evidence were found inside the car Licon used to bring the boy to the alley: a 9 mm bullet casing that matched a casing found at Jaquez's home and a toy from the Burger King kid's meal.

Prosecutors say Licon was in an illegal drug business with his half brother and had acknowledged selling drugs in the months before both deaths.

(source: Assoicated Press)


Attorney says client may not be not eligible for death penalty

The attorney for a man accused of sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing a woman behind an east valley strip mall in January says his client may suffer from an intellectual disability that would exempt him from the death penalty if found guilty.

A notice of intent to seek the death penalty against 24-year-old Jerry Howard was filed Monday with the Eighth Judicial District Court by the Clark County District Attorney's Office, court records show.

Howard is facing charges of murder, sexual assault, robbery and 1st-degree kidnapping in the death of Kathy Shines, 54, of Las Vegas. He is scheduled for a jury trial at 1 p.m. Nov. 2, according to court records.

The body of Shines was found early Jan. 3 behind Hammerheads Bar & Grill East at 3310 S. Nellis Blvd., near Desert Inn Road, Metro Police said.

She was collecting cans for recycling when police say she was assaulted and thrown into a trash bin. She crawled out of the bin and died in the alley behind the bar, police said.

Deputy Public Defender Scott Coffee, who is representing Howard, said he was disappointed with the decision to seek the death penalty.

He said his client has been in special education since kindergarten, which is evidence Howard may suffer from a developmental disability.

In Nevada, the death penalty cannot be applied to individuals found to be "intellectually disabled."

The term means a person has "significant subaverage general intellectual functioning" and behavioral deficits.

At least some information about Howard's background was available to the District Attorney's Office prior to the intent filing, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher said.

He declined further comment.

(source: Las Vegas Sun)


2 Public Executions in Zanjan and One Execution in Shiraz's Adel Abad Prison----17-year-old Alireza was hanged in public in Karaj early this morning

On Tuesday August 18th 2 prisoners charged with rape were hanged to death in public in the province of Zanjan, according to the Justice Department in Zanjan. On Sunday August 16th a prisoner, identified as Omar Parastandeh Khial, with drug related charges was hanged to death in Shiraz's Adel Abad Prison, according to the Baluch Activists Campaign group. Iranian authorities have not reported on Khial's execution.

The identities of the 2 prisoners who were hanged to death in Zanjan have not been announced to the public. The prisoners were reportedly accused of the kidnap and rape of a 9 year old child.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi executes Chadians for killing Frenchman----Victim was shot as he was driving home from supermarket

Saudi Arabia on Thursday executed 2 Chadians for killing a French man last year.

The interior ministry said Eisa Saleh Hassan and Ishaq Eisa Ahmad were found guilty of joining a terrorist organisation and shooting the French national and of monitoring vehicles belonging to a consulate in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and shooting employees.

The 2 also faced charges of seeking to target foreign nationals and of being in possession of weapons to attack people and undermine security.

The court said the duo followed a deviant ideology that permitted the targeting of some people.

"Despite all steps the two men took to evade justice, the security agencies were able to arrest them and foil their plans," the interior ministry said.

"Investigations led to levelling charges against them and to referring them to the competent court. The death penalty ruling issued by the judges was upheld by the Court of Appeals and subsequently by the Supreme Court. A royal order was issued to carry out the sentence," the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

According to Saudi reports last year, Laurent Barbot, the Frenchman who was killed in September on a quiet residential street in Jeddah by the 2 Chadians, worked for a military technology systems company.

According to Arab Times, Barbot, in his 40s, was shot through the front window of his car while driving back to Al Zahra district's Sierra Village compound, home to a large expatriate community.

Barbot reportedly was on his way home from a supermarket located less than 400 meters from the residential compound and had to slow down at a speed bump.

At that moment, an unknown car pulled up alongside his vehicle and its occupants opened fire with a machine gun, striking Barbot in the neck and chest.

(source: Gulf News)


Inside the mind of an executioner: Hangman shares his thoughts

An executioner has revealed that his mind is a perfect blank when he takes the life of another human being.

Hangman Sabir Massih said he never feels anything when he ties the noose around the neck of a prisoner and pulls the lever on a trapdoor, sealing their fate.

"I don't think about them at all," he told BBC correspondent Shaimaa Khalil. "For me, it's a technical thing. We have 3 minutes flat to get this done, so I try to do it as quickly as possible. I want to get there on time, I want to go in and out in the time that's allocated and I want to do the job right."

The Pakistani's relatives have been in the business of death for generations. His father, uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather were all hangmen before him. "It's just part of our family," he said.

Pakistan lifted a s7-year moratorium on the death penalty last year after massacre of 150 students at a school in Peshawar by Taliban militants. More than 200 death-row inmates have been hanged in the past 8 months, and the country now has one of the highest execution rates in the world, alongside Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

Massih told the reporter that even the very 1st time he took a life, he was calm. "I had only seen 1 hanging before, that was done by my father," he said. "It was him who taught me at home how to tie a noose properly.

"The superintendent of the jail reassured me and said that there is no reason to get confused or to be anxious. He gave me the signal, I pulled the lever and opened the trap. It was only after I looked that I saw the person hanging. It was a matter of seconds."

Massih's real passion is breeding roosters for cock fighting, and he reserves his emotion for the birds. "This is what I think about when I go home," he said.

Reporter Khalil told Public Radio International that she suspected his complete detachment was a coping mechanism, and he had to maintain a matter-of-fact attitude to the grisly job.

He said prisoners sometimes begged for forgiveness, and others could hardly walk to the gallows. In 1 case, 2 convicted militants hugged each other before their joint execution, 1 saying he could already "smell paradise". Regardless, Massih would be waiting silently, with a black cloth to slip over their heads and the noose in his hands.

This hangman is not the strange, solitary figure we might imagine. He has the support of his friends and the community, many of whom are grateful for the return of the death penalty.

This month Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted of murdering a child, was one of those executed, and many believed justice was being served. Hussain was only 14 when he was convicted, and human rights groups say he was tortured into confessing, but their protests were brushed aside.

Massih does not feel righteous, but sees death as his duty and the job he is paid to do. At the end of the day, he rushes home to his roosters, putting his deadly day's work out of his head.



Leave no stone unturned to bring Bangabandhu's killers to justice

We hope the renewed request sent through Interpol by the Home Ministry this week will assist Bangladesh police in confirming the updated locations of the 6 killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who remain at large abroad.

12 former army officers were handed death sentences for masterminding and carrying out the August 15, 1975 carnage, following a lengthy trial process begun in 1996, after the government scrapped the shameful indemnity act which until then had protected Bangabandhu’s murderers from justice.

5 of the officers who faced trial in person or were tracked down subsequently, were hanged in 2010 after their appeals were completed. 1 of the remaining 7 has since died, but the other murderers still escape justice 40 years after their heinous crime.

It is welcome that the US ambassador to Bangladesh has made assurances of assistance in responding to requests to extradite one of Bangabandhu's fugitive killers and an accused war criminal, who are believed to be residing in the United States.

The government needs to undertake all possible diplomatic efforts to help further such efforts.

Another factor which should also be considered in all extradition requests is that some fugitives may be resident in states such as Canada or in the European Union, which do not have the death penalty, or whose courts will refuse to extradite people to countries where they may be executed.

While it is customary for states under international law not to interfere with due legal process in other countries, the government still needs to take cognisance of this factor, as at least 1 of Bangabandhu's fugitive killers is understood to be in Canada.

Given a choice between being able to extradite a known killer of Bangabandhu for imprisonment short of the death penalty, and letting that person escape any justice, the former is certainly preferable, because it would ensure the accused is held to account and impunity is ended.

As part of its efforts to trace and extradite Bangabandhu's fugitive killers, the government should express willingness to allow full rights of appeal and guarantee that any death penalty awarded by the courts will be commuted. That way at least, justice can be seen to be served and the disgraceful impunity with which Bangabandhu's killers have remained at large for so long, can be finally ended.

(source: Editorial, Dhaka Tribune)


Tendai Biti Fights for Abolition of Death Penalty

Prominent Harare lawyer and politician, Tendai Biti, has joined the growing list of people calling for the total abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe.

The new constitution abolished the mandatory death sentences and limited penalty to cases of murder committed in "aggravating circumstances."

Biti says death row inmates must be pardoned as he goes back to the trenches to fight for people's rights.

The constitution bars death sentences for women and men aged under 21 or over 70 at the time of committing the crime.

Zimbabwe carried out its last execution on July 22, 2005, yet an estimated 95 to 120 prisoners remain on death row in the country.

Amnesty International called the 10-year hiatus in executions a "milestone for the protection of the right to life and the eventual abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe."

Amnesty International director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, says the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and Zimbabwean authorities must take urgent steps to get rid of the hangman's noose and abolish the death penalty altogether.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the minister responsible for justice, has also vowed to take the lead in lobbying for the abolishment of the death penalty in the country.



HURIWA mulls death penalty bill to check graft----huriwa-logoCondemns presidential screening of judges, smear campaign against Anyim, others

To strengthen deterrence, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said it would propose a bill on death penalty for anyone convicted of stealing from the public purse.

National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, told newsmen in Abuja yesterday that HURIWA would be sending a draft of the proposed legislation to the National Assembly when it reconvenes next month.

Onwubiko disclosed that the proposed bill would specifically target those who steal public funds meant for essential services, especially in the health, education, roads, water, electricity and defence. He applauded President Muhammadu Buhari's ongoing anti-graft campaign, though faulting the handpicking of judges for cases involving corrupt persons.

Warning against the breach of the constitution and the principle of separation of powers, he noted that such measures are tantamount to the President operating like a monarch keen to usurp the duties of the judiciary. He added: "We can't allow the nation go through jungle justice any more.

"We do not see any merit in the President setting up a panel to screen judges in a bid to get the incorruptible ones. As the head of the executive arm, he doesn't have the power to screen judges. This is a democracy. He cannot confer on himself the powers unknown in our constitution."

Onwubiko also enjoined Buhari to be wary of those keen on undermining top government functionaries in former President Goodluck Jonathan's administration merely to settle political scores.

He cited the recent claims by the former Chairman of NEPZA, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, against the former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, on the Abuja Centenary City project as a deliberate attempt to smear the good names of officers that served in Jonathan's government.

According to him, a 2-week independent investigation by 27 non-governmental bodies on the platform of HURIWA and the Association of African Writers on Human and Peoples Rights (AFRIRIGHTS) on the issue found that Anyim complied with due process.

The findings include that on March 6, 2015, Anyim wrote to Jonathan on the "despicable conduct of the former Chairman of NEPZA, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, which has threatened not only the operations of NEPZA but indeed its image before many international investors that do business with the agency."

More so, the allegations were independently investigated by then Chief of Staff and found weighty enough that Jonathan, on April 29, 2015, removed Ojougboh as chairman of NEPZA and made him chairman of the Nomadic Education Commission, it added.

(source: Nigerian Guardian)

AUGUST 19, 2015:


Mother of slain Killeen man speaks out ---- Mitchell Jaudon shot dead last week at A.A. Lane Neighborhood Park

The mother of Mitchell Jaudon, 22, of Sylvania, Ga., who was shot dead at A.A. Lane Neighborhood Park in north Killeen last week, is speaking out against the violence that led to her son’s death.

In an interview with the Herald, Jaudon's mother, Rachael Roberson, said Killeen's culture of violence bears some responsibility for the death of her son and at least 10 others who died from gun violence.

In 2015, 15 have died from homicides, according to Killeen police.

"15 homicides?" Roberson exclaimed. "Whoever is in charge here, what are they going to do to make sure families that leave the safety of their hometown to come here for the military - for their family to serve this country - can be able to feel safe? My mother is leaving. My son is leaving. My family is torn apart. My mom doesn't feel as though she can walk to the mailbox."

After their family moved from Georgia to Killeen in 2008, Roberson said she began to notice her son changing.

"Mitchell was headed to the 9th grade when we moved here," Roberson said. "Probably around the 10th or 11th grade, I started noticing some changes in my son."

"I'm not going to sugarcoat anything about him."

She said Jaudon did not graduate from high school and worked odd jobs as he struggled to complete his GED classes at Central Texas College. She said he also struggled with marijuana addiction, but completed rehab.

On the night of his death, Roberson said, Jaudon was at their home, but didn't tell them he was going to A.A. Lane Neighborhood Park, an area neighbors said has become a hotbed for drug and sex activity.

Mervis Hancock, whose home and adjacent gazebo have overlooked the park for years, said he often sees and hears drug use, fights and other chaos. He said at least one other person was stabbed to death last year.

"It's scary," Hancock said.

"I don't want to stay here any longer. It's right up under our nose that someone's getting killed."

Although Jaudon was at his mother's home before his death, she would not elaborate on what he told his family that night.

"We have a slight idea, but we're not allowed to say because of the investigation," Roberson said. "He was here with me, so I know what he said he needed to do."

Killeen police spokeswoman Carroll Smith said it's important for community members and residents to cooperate with each and share information with police.

She said it's also important to prevent domestic violence, which has been linked to many of 2015's deaths.

"The police and the community can work together to decrease opportunities by being good witnesses, contacting the police at the first sight of trouble, reporting crimes and being active in the community," Smith said. "Refrain from engaging in illegal drug activity and domestic violence."

If and/or when police are able to catch Jaudon's killer or killers, Roberson said she plans to seek the death penalty.

"I'm a Christian and people say, 'Oh, well you're not supposed to,'" Roberson said. "Listen. They left him there to die. ... They intended for my son to die. They left him there. It's too late for teaching them morals or teaching them values."

"I think that they are cowards of the worst kind," she said. "They took something from me that is irreplaceable. He's my oldest son, but he was also my friend."

It's up to the Killeen community to end the trend of increased homicide, Roberson said.

"We need to come together as a community to say that violence can’t be tolerated," she said. "It can't. Something has to change. Some way, something needs to be done."

(source: Killeen Daily Herald)


In Death Penalty Decision, Voice of Justice Berdon Heard

Congratulations to Justice Robert Berdon, who patiently served on the Supreme Court for years waiting for the "majority" of the court to catch up to him. It was 1st in 1996 when all seven justices on the court considered an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty under the state constitution.

In that case, Berdon noted: "Today is the 1st time that each of the justices of the Supreme Court of Connecticut has had an opportunity to speak on the issue of whether the death penalty violates our state constitution. The majority of this court, consisting of Chief Justice [Ellen Ash] Peters and Justices [Robert] Callahan, [David] Borden and [Richard] Palmer, now concludes that death at the hands of the state is not cruel and unusual punishment, while 3 justices - Justices [Flemming] Norcott, [Joette] Katz and myself - would hold that the penalty is unconstitutional under the state constitution. The majority's decision today prevents Connecticut from joining those humane and enlightened states and nations that continue to ban the penalty of death. The only remaining issue in this case is by which means Mr. [Daniel] Webb will be put to death." State v. Webb, 238 Conn. 389, 552 (1996) (Berdon, J., dissenting).

Berdon began his diatribe against the death penalty in State v. Ross in 1994, and identified any justice by name who thereafter joined the majority in its conclusion that the death penalty "did not offend our state constitution." See, e.g., State v. Breton, 235 Conn. 206, 261 (1995) (Berdon, J., dissenting). Some colleagues no doubt found his dissents offensive for the way he isolated individuals for their beliefs. Others who agreed with him sometimes wrote separately to highlight other infirmities. "In this present dissent, I want to expound upon my earlier position. Not only do I believe that Connecticut's death penalty scheme violates the state constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, but also I am persuaded that our statutory scheme for the imposition of the death penalty cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny because it allows for arbitrariness and racial discrimination in the determination of who shall live or die at the hands of the state." State v. Cobb, 281 Conn. 285, 543 (1999). (Norcott, J., dissenting). And others added reinforcement. "Adhering to my view that the death penalty is, in all circumstances, cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the constitution, I reaffirm my position that our 'society should not have the authority to sustain an institution the nature of which is to destroy its own members. If our status as moral creatures is to survive, the termination of our ability to accomplish a deliberate institutionalized method of execution heads my list of desiderata for this society.'" State v. Peeler, 271 Conn. 338, 464 (Katz, J., dissenting), citing State v. Webb, 252 Conn. 128, 150 (Katz, J., dissenting).

Not to diminish in any way the excellent job by the public defenders representing him, but the legal challenges in Eduardo Santiago's appeal with regard to whether the imposition of the death penalty is an unconstitutionally excessive and disproportionate punishment were not really new. The fact that the many decisions following Ross did not reinvent the wheel but relied instead on the majority's opinion in that case should not suggest the challenges in those many cases were less than comprehensive or merely "facial." Nor were the arguments in Santiago about whether the death penalty is sought or imposed in a racially discriminatory manner navigated on uncharted territory. And finally, neither was it newly discovered that Connecticut stood "as an outlier, the sole remaining New England state in which execution remains a legal and potentially viable option."

The decision by the legislature in 2012 that the death penalty no longer can be justified as a necessary or appropriate tool of justice may have been the death knell as confirmation that life imprisonment without the possibility of release is a just and adequate punishment for even the most horrific crimes. Or as the dissent argued, that decision may reflect merely a determination that the death penalty had become impracticable. Whether it was truly a principled determination that capital punishment should no longer be the policy of Connecticut or served as a convenient basis for a change of heart by sitting justices, the die is now finally cast and we thank Berdon for his courage and insight, expressed so long ago. His voice is still heard.

(source: Editorial,


Ohio Planned to Import Death Penalty Drug Illegally----A letter from the FDA warned the state that importing the drug would break the law.

The state of Ohio planned to illegally import sodium thiopental, a drug used for executions, according to a Food and Drug Administration letter obtained by BuzzFeed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The June letter says that Ohio planned to "obtain bulk and finished dosage forms of sodium thiopental." Since the drug is not available in the US, wrote Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA's import operation, "we assume this product would be purchased from an oversees source."

Veneziano reminded Ohio Director of Rehabilitation and Correction Gary C. Mohr that "there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States."

According to BuzzFeed:

The prison Ohio carries out executions in registered for a DEA license to import the drug last year for a "law enforcement purpose," but until now it was unknown if the state actually intended to use the license.

Ohio, like many other death penalty states, shrouds its execution drug suppliers in secrecy. States argue the secrecy protects their suppliers from intimidation and embarrassment, while death row inmates and open government advocates argue it removes an important check on state power.

When Nebraska received a similar letter from the FDA last year, it came out that the state paid an Indian dealer named Chris Harris more than $50,000 for enough sodium thiopental to execute hundreds of prisoners. (Nebraska has since abolished the death penalty completely.)

BuzzFeed followed up with Ohio corrections department to find out if Harris was the planned supplier for Ohio as well.

When approached by BuzzFeed News about Harris in June, Ohio DRC spokesperson JoEllen Smith said the department's legal division would have to handle the matter. After spending weeks on the request, she only would say that Ohio had not communicated with Harris's company, Harris Pharma, but did not specifically answer the question of if the state had purchased from him directly or indirectly. Smith did not respond to follow up questions.

Ohio's last execution took place in January 2014, when the state gave inmate Dennis McGuire 10 milligrams of midazolam, a controversial sedative that's use for lethal injections the Supreme Court recently upheld. Ohio plans a new series of executions beginning in 2016.

Many reputable drug manufacturers don't want to be associated with the death penalty, much less the botched executions that have prevailed of late. The FDA-approved manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the drug in 2011 so that it couldn't be used for this purpose. When Missouri announced plans to use propofol, the drug found in Michael Jackson's body at the time of his death, for executions, its German manufacturer expressed displeasure and threatened to get the European Union to stop exporting it the US completely. Many states are now struggling to find the drugs they need for executions.

This fact is compounded in Ohio, whose governor, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, signed a "secret executions" bill this winter that exempts anyone participating in a lethal injection from public records requests. Under the law, medical and nonmedical staff, companies transporting or preparing supplies or equipment used in executions, and providers of the drugs used in lethal injections are all protected from public records requests and do not need to reveal their identity or duties.

(source: Mother Jones)


US appeals court orders hearing for Oklahoma man given death penalty in state trooper's death

A federal appeals court has ordered a federal judge in Muskogee to conduct a hearing on whether attorneys were ineffective when they represented an Oklahoma man convicted of federal charges and sentenced to death in the shooting death of a state trooper.

A 3-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ordered the hearing Wednesday for 54-year-old Kenneth Eugene Barrett of Vian. Barrett received the federal death sentence in 2005 after he was found guilty of intentionally killing a state law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his duty.

Barrett was convicted in the Sept. 24, 1999, slaying of Trooper David "Rocky" Eales during a drug raid at Barrett's home in Sequoyah County. It marked the 3rd time Barrett had been tried for Eales' death.

(source: Associated Press)


Governor Confident of Petition Drive Success

There are 9 days left for circulators to gather enough petition signatures to put the death penalty proposal on the Nebraska ballot.

Governor Pete Ricketts tells KLIN's Kevin Thomas on Drive Time Lincoln he remains confident of its success.

Governor Ricketts is one of the main contributors on the petition effort to return the death penalty to Nebraska. The petition effort follows Legislative action last session ending the death penalty in Nebraska.

(source: KLIN news)


Denver jury hears about abusive childhood of bar killer facing death penalty

A Denver jury is hearing more details about the abusive childhood of a man facing the death penalty for killing 5 people in a botched bar robbery.

The mother of Dexter Lewis sobbed on the stand Wednesday as she described beating her son and how he witnessed bloody fights between his parents.

Lewis was convicted of murder earlier this month for stabbing 5 people to death 3 years ago. The jury is now considering the death penalty for Lewis, who prosecutors say went to the bar with three other men and led the attack. 2 other men have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.

Lewis could become the 1st person sentenced to death by a Denver jury since 1986, and the 4th person on Colorado's death row.

(source: Associated Press)


Lawyer presses insanity defense at trial over double killing

An Arizona man charged with killing his brother and then fatally shooting his 6-year-old nephew who witnessed the crime was in the throes of a psychotic episode on the day of the 2 deaths, his attorney said Wednesday as he urged a jury to accept his client's insanity defense.

Attorney James Wilson said he wasn't asking jurors to let Christopher Rey Licon walk free out of the courtroom, but instead pressed ahead for a "guilty, except insane" verdict that would spare his client the death penalty and prison time and instead send him to a state mental hospital.

"He is not the monster the state has tried to portray him as," Wilson said during closing arguments at Licon's trial.

Authorities are seeking the death penalty against the 24-year-old in the December 2010 killings of his half brother, Angel Jaquez, and Jaquez's son, Xavier Jaquez.

Prosecutors say Licon killed his brother in the Phoenix townhome they shared over a drug dispute and then kidnapped and fatally shot his nephew in an alley 20 miles away. Investigators believe the boy either saw or heard his father die and was killed by his uncle out of fear that the child would snitch on Licon.

Sanitation workers found the child's body. The boy, surrounded by a pool of blood, was still wearing his school uniform and had a Burger King kid's meal nearby.

Prosecutor Laura Reckart said in closing arguments Tuesday that Licon hasn't proven that he suffered from a mental disease that would have prevented him from understanding that his actions were wrong.

Wilson said family members attribute Licon's actions not to his drug use, but rather to a chronic psychological illness. "They know that but for Mr. Licon's mental illness, this would not have happened," Wilson said.

Wilson said Licon had lost weight, experienced hallucinations and became detached and uncommunicative around the time of the killings.

The defense attorney pointed out the differences in Licon's appearance in a mugshot in which his eyes looked dazed and a 2009 high school photo in which a clear-eyed Licon wore a tuxedo.

Authorities say a neighbor witnessed Licon dragging his nephew into a car that would be used to bring the child to the alley where he died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Licon, then a construction management student at Arizona State University, told investigators that he was studying at a library in Tempe at the time that his half brother was killed. He said he came home to find his brother's body in the townhome.

But authorities say Licon's alibi collapsed quickly after neighbors were interviewed and other evidence was gathered.

Authorities say 2 key pieces of evidence were found inside the car Licon used to bring the boy to the alley: a 9 mm bullet casing that matched a casing found at Jaquez's home and a toy from the Burger King kid's meal.

Prosecutors say Licon was in an illegal drug business with his half brother and had acknowledged selling drugs in the months before both deaths.

(source: Associated Press)

USA----re: future book release for Jan. 2016

Women and Capital Punishment in the United States: An Analytical History----by David V. Baker

Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-9950-2----Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2288-0

Not Yet Published, Available 01/2016

About the Book

The history of the execution of women in the United States has largely been ignored and scholars have given scant attention to gender issues in capital punishment. This historical analysis examines the social, political and economic contexts in which the justice system has put women to death, revealing a pattern of patriarchal domination and female subordination. The author includes a discussion of condemned women granted executive clemency and judicial commutations, an inquiry into women falsely convicted in potentially capital cases and a profile of the current female death row population.



Jury of Your Peers? Study Finds Prosecutors Exclude Blacks Because All-White Juries Are More Likely to Convict, Support Death Penalty

According to The New York Times, a study of the Caddo Parish, Louisiana, court system has revealed prosecutors often exclude Blacks from jury trials so they can tip the scales of justice in their favor. The article, written by Adam Liptak, also said prosecutors preferred to have all-white juries because Black jurors reduced their conviction rate.

"No defendants were acquitted when 2 or fewer of the dozen jurors were black. When there were at least 3 black jurors, the acquittal rate was 12 %," Liptak said. "With 5 or more, the rate rose to 19 %. Defendants in all 3 groups were overwhelmingly black."

Lawyers also said prosecutors try to exclude Black people from jury trials because they were less likely to support the death penalty.

"Opposition to the death penalty is much more common among black people, polls regularly show," said Kent S. Scheidegger, a lawyer with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, in an interview with The New York Times. "Striking jurors for hesitation about capital punishment is legitimate, he continued, adding that it is largely balanced 'by defense lawyers doing exactly the same thing the other way.'"

According to Slate, a Pew Research poll showed 63 % of whites supported the death penalty, while only 36 % of Black people were in favor. It seems Black people were less likely to support the death penalty because, having seen so many Black men freed from death row, they realize how flawed the system is.

The study also revealed stark disparities in the Caddo Parish criminal justice system. According to The New York Times, about half of the residents of Caddo Parish are Black, but Black people made up 83 % of the defendants in the study.

The New York Times article pointed out that prosecutors often used "peremptory challenges," which allow potential jurors to be dismissed with no explanation, to eliminate Black residents. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that if lawyers are accused of racial discrimination, they have to provide a neutral justification. Liptak said lawyers offered a broad range of reasons to cut Black jurors.

"Here are some reasons prosecutors have offered for excluding blacks from juries: They were young or old, single or divorced, religious or not, failed to make eye contact, lived in a poor part of town, had served in the military, had a hyphenated last name, displayed bad posture, were sullen, disrespectful or talkative, had long hair, wore a beard," Liptak said.

The New York Times article also said some prosecutors clearly stated they didn't want any Black citizens on the jury.

"The case arose from the 1987 trial of Timothy T. Foster, an African-American facing the death penalty for killing a white woman, Queen Madge White. Prosecutors worked hard to exclude blacks from the jury," said The New York Times. "In notes that did not surface until decades later, they marked the names of black prospective jurors with a B. They highlighted those names in green. They circled the word 'black' where potential jurors had noted their race on questionnaires."

This issue is not unique to Louisiana. The New York Times said similar problems had also been found in other parts of the country.

"That is consistent with patterns researchers found earlier in Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina, where prosecutors struck black jurors at double or triple the rates of others," said The New York Times. "In Georgia, prosecutors excluded every black prospective juror in a death penalty case against a black defendant, which the Supreme Court has agreed to review this fall."

Scholars say racially biased jury trials undermine the integrity of the legal system.

"If you repeatedly see all-white juries convict African-Americans, what does that do to public confidence in the criminal justice system?" said Elisabeth A. Semel, the director of the death penalty clinic at the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Although many Americans see jury duty as an annoyance, many of the Black people interviewed in The New York Times article saw it as an important civic duty.

"Next to voting, participating in a jury is perhaps the most important civil right," said Ursula Noye, a researcher who compiled the data for the report.

(source: Atlanta Black Star)


Libyans Have Earned the Right to Justice

Condemnations were quick and direct when a Libyan court approved a death penalty sentence for the son of deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi and 8 others for war crimes, including murder.

Reasonable people can fairly disagree about the use of death sentences in criminal justice proceedings. Some nations and international organizations don't approve of or use them, but others do -- including the United States. And death penalty opposition is at least partly responsible for some of the criticism surrounding the Libyan verdict. That's to be expected.

However anyone feels about these specific verdicts, Libyans have earned the right to see their tormentors brought to justice. And the work of Libyan courts in these cases should be commended -- or at least respected.

"These Libyan verdicts give some closure to dark times and evil actions.

Those protesting the loudest didn't have to witness and live through the crimes. The Libyans who did replay in their minds images of public hangings, mass executions and even mass burnings of those who opposed Gaddafi. For 42 years, Libyans lived in a large, national corrections camp where the best ways to survive were to become a guard of the state or remain absolutely quiet no matter what humiliation and injustice was dispensed.

As a result, the verdicts and sentences were welcomed by many Libyans who lived through the horrific criminal actions of the newly convicted. Welcomed, not celebrated.

As a resident of greater Boston, the feelings in Libya remind me of local sentiment regarding the death penalty verdicts of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. Like those, these Libyan verdicts give some closure to dark times and evil actions.

Yet critics of the Libyan verdicts question the Libyan court system. That may be partly fair. Today's criminal justice system in Libya is not perfect. Indeed, few justice systems anywhere in the world are. Even the American system is under heavy criticism for long mandatory sentences of non-violent offenders and, yes, for our use of the death penalty.

Few things are perfect in Libya these days. The nation is divided by armed conflict between two governments, under threat and siege by the Islamic State and under diplomatic pressure by the United States and others to approve a peace plan which few Libyans actually support.

"For 42 years, Libyans lived in a large, national corrections camp where the best ways to survive were to become a guard of the state or remain absolutely quiet no matter what humiliation and injustice was dispensed.

Expecting judicial purity and perfection under these circumstances is too much. We should not lower the bar for Libya, but consideration should be afforded to any nation undergoing this level of upheaval.

Even under these circumstances, the Libyan trials were "open to the public" and spanned more than 2 years. Almost 4,000 pages of documented evidence were introduced. The accused were represented by lawyers and afforded the opportunity to defend themselves. In fact, 4 of the 37 original defendants were acquitted in the trials. 9 were sentenced to death and the others received jail sentences.

Attorney Ahmed Nashad who represented Mr. Senussi and Abuzaid Dorda, both of whom received recent death penalty sentences, said in a televised interview, "The trial was not politicized and was conducted in a normal and professional manner. The court was very accommodating to our needs. I am able to say that the trial was well conducted overall."

For a country still recovering from a bloody revolution and 42 years of brutal repression of all human rights, the trials were anything but speedy "revolutionary justice" -- as some have contended. Revolutionary justice is quick and effective at the expense of fairness and transparency. This 2 year trial in the midst of civil war was anything but quick or secretive.

Many forget that even America, during its revolution, executed accused spies and war criminals under less than ideal judicial circumstances. In contrast, Libyans held back the understandable demands for swift extrajudicial retribution and opted instead to give a fledgling judicial system a chance. But that was not good enough for those who have been quick to condemn the entire Libyan justice system.

Libyan courts should be encouraged and supported while they are being improved and strengthened. That's the kind of leadership Libyans need from those who claim to support democracy and the rule of laws.

(source: Emadeddin Zahri Muntasser, Founding board member of the Libyan American Public Affairs ---- Huffington Post)

TEXAS----impending execution//foreign national

Texas Prepares for Execution of Nicaraguan Bernardo Tercero on August 26, 2015

Bernardo Aban Tercero is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 37-year-old Bernardo is convicted of the murder of 38-year-old high school teacher Robert Keith Berger on March 31, 1997, in Houston, Texas. Bernardo has spent the last 15 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Bernardo was born in Chinadega, Nicaragua. He dropped out of school following the 7th grade and came to the United States at the age of 17. Bernardo had previously been convicted on 2 counts of theft in the United States. Prior to his arrest, he worked as an auto mechanic and laborer.

On March 31, 1997, 2 men, Bernardo Tercero and Jorge Becencil Gonzales, forced their way through the back door of a dry cleaning establishment. Gonzales held the employees at gunpoint while Tercero went to the front of the store and demanded money.

Robert Berger, who was there with his 3 year old daughter, approached Tercero. The 2 became physical and Robert was shot. He died from his injuries. Tercero and Gonzales fled. Tercero went to Florida, while Gonzales left the country. Tercero eventually fled to Nicaragua, where he is alleged to have been involved in a series of violent crimes, including robberies, shootings, and a kidnapping. Tercero was extradited to the United States upon request.

Bernardo Tercero has 2 conflicting birth certificates. The one (not used for this article) alleges that he was under 18 at the time of crime, making him ineligible for the death penalty. Bernardo alleges that this is his correct birth certificate. This discrepancy has been the focus of many appeals, non of which have been successful. His attorney is also asking for a stay of execution to allow further litigation.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Robert Berger. Please pray for strength for the family of Bernardo. Please pray that if Bernardo is innocent or ineligible for the death penalty, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Bernardo will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.



Texas prosecutor made secret deals in more than 1 death penalty case, report says

A now-retired Texas prosecutor struck secret deals to secure key testimony in more than 1 death penalty case, according to a new report.

After uncovering evidence last summer that Navarro County prosecutor John Jackson arranged such a deal in 1 death penalty case, The Marshall Project, a news nonprofit focused on criminal justice issues, reported Tuesday that Jackson did the same in another, earlier case. In both instances, the report says, defense attorneys were not told about the deals and those testifying reported feeling pressured into doing so and guided in what to share.

The new story alleges that Jackson bolstered a 1986 case against Ernest Baldree - who was charged with murdering a husband and wife during a robbery - with testimony from Kyle Barnett, who was an inmate with Baldree.

But Barnett says he never wanted to testify against Baldree: "The prosecutors there had me in a position where it would be real hard on me if I refused," he said, according to the report. Barnett said Baldree admitted to the murders, but was also remorseful, saying he was high on speed and didn't know what he was doing - a fact, he says, prosecutors were uninterested in hearing.

"The scenario that Barnett described strongly echoes allegations later made in the far more famous case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters," Maurice Possley and Maurice Chammah write.

Jackson had, for more than 20 years, denied making a deal in that case, too, but a story by Possley republished by The Washington Post last summer cast doubt on his denial.

The former inmate who provided testimony against Willingham in that case, Johnny E. Webb, told Possley that he had been coerced and his testimony that Willingham confessed was a lie. Jackson at the time called the allegation a "complete fabrication."

Jackson has also alleged that he and Barnett have never had contact. But Barnett says Jackson and his prosecution team told him that they needed his testimony.

"They told me that, if I would testify, they would allow me to the Cenikor Drug Rehabilitation program in Fort Worth for violating my probation," Barnett explained in an affidavit, according to the new report. "They said if I didn't testify, I'd be going back to the prison for a long time."

(source: Washington Post)


Junk Science Revisited----Forensic commision right to scrutinize bite analysis

The Texas Forensic Science Commission deserves credit for opeing another front in the battle to keep junk science out of the courtroom. The initiative came in last week's commission vote to investigate the widely discredited discipline of bite-mark analysis, as used in criminal trials.

The term 'junk science' has become a familiar one to lawmakers and criminal-justice reformers in Austin. In recent years, it's become clear that procesution experts advancing outmoded theories and pseudoscience - from shoddy arson forensics to use of dog-sniffing lineups - have helped put people behind bars in Texas.

The use of bite-mark analysis is rarely used, but it's been linked to at least 2 wrongful convictions in Texas. Previous investigations of bite-mark anlysis suggest it boils down to dressed-up guesswork masquerading as expertise.

The forensic commision's inquiry into bite-mark testimony has parallels to how the agency began its sweeping look at the state of arson investigations in Texas. That effort concluded that Texas had allowed its standard to slip. It grew out of a complaint to the commission about forensic work against the executed Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted arson-murder in the deaths of his 3 daughters in Corsicana.

The Willingham complaint was brought by the Innocence Project of New York. Last month, the same group filed a complaint on behalf of a Dallas man, Steven Mark Chaney, sentenced to life in prison in 1987 in the throat-slashing murders of a couple who were peddling cocaine in East Dallas. Dental analysis was key. Based on expert testimony, prosecutors told jurors that "there was only a 1-in-a-million chance" that Chaney wasn't the source of bite marks on 1 of the victims, according to the Innocence Project.

The past 28 years have heaped tons of doubt on that statement. It would be a laughable claim, except that a potentially innocent man has spent 28 years behind bars as a result.

A 2009 study of the nation's forensic work by the National Academy of Sciences said that bite analysis is one discipline that grew out of lab tests but has "never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny."

Kudos to the Texas Forensic Science Commission for its willingness to apply that scrutiny.

For 2 sessions in a row, Texas lawmakers have enacted laws aimed at rooting out junk science from criminal courtrooms. New laws have made it possible for people to challenge their convictions if they could prove junk science or outmoded theories were used to secure a guilty verdict. Lawmakers also have wideened the spectrum of forensic disciplines that the commission has authority over. The commission had already begun an inquiry into microscopic hair analysis, another discipline whose claims have been under attack.

The push to insist on facts, as opposed to guesswork, from prosecution witnesses is a righteous one. Hocus-pocus has no place in Texas courtooms.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Death-penalty deception

In 2012, the Democratic majority in the legislature abolished Connecticut's death penalty while leaving the penalty operative for the 11 convicted murderers on death row, thus demolishing all their moral arguments against capital punishment. If the death penalty is cruel, unusual and morally indefensible, would it not be doubly inappropriate for death-row inmates?

Only those who were committed to a scheme of deception supposed the partial-abolition bill would remain law after the Connecticut's Supreme Court reviewed a case challenging the justice of the throwaway legislation that would permit the state to execute 11 men in the absence of a law prescribing a penalty that had been abolished.

Everyone pretended otherwise - and this pretense was entirely political. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic legislators favoring abolition knew the bill could not pass if the 11 death-row inmates had not been exempted. Two mass murderers, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, only recently had been convicted and sentenced to death for having committed a particularly heinous murder in Cheshire. The 2 recent parolees had invaded a home in Cheshire, pummeled homeowner Dr. William A. Petit Jr. with a baseball bat, tied 2 of his young daughters to their beds, forced his wife to draw money from a bank, raped the wife and 1 of the daughters, and then set fire to the house, murdering all inside but the doctor, who managed to escape and alert police. Theirs was just the sort of crime that merited a death penalty.

After abolition, another heinous crime occurred in Newtown. A heavily armed man, Adam Lanza, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 children and 7 staff members. Lanza committed suicide. Had he been taken alive, Connecticut could not have executed him because the legislature already had abolished capital punishment in all future criminal cases.

The state Supreme Court now has come to the rescue, relieving abolitionist Democrats of their awful political burden. Serving on the court is a justice newly appointed by Malloy who ought to have recused himself from any decision concerning the death penalty. Co-chair of the Judiciary Committee along with then-Sen. Michael Lawlor, Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald led the fight in the legislature to repeal the death penalty. Lawlor, later appointed by Malloy as his penology guru, has produced a program that assigns get-out-of-jail-early credits to rapists and arsonists. Malloy and Lawlor are former repentant prosecutors. Before assuming his position on Connecticut highly politicized Supreme Court, Mr. McDonald was a lawyer in a legislature overweighted with lawyers. Lawlor and McDonald were responsible for striking down a "3-strikes-and-you're-out" bill supported by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

After the Supreme Court's abolition decision was rendered, Malloy, retreating to a default position in which he publicly wiped every tear from every eye, gave a slap on the back to compassion - and himself.

"Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members," Malloy said. "My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."

A difficult day - just a day, after which Mr. Malloy may shelve his concern. One supposes the families of the victims murdered by the death-row 11 will have little time for Malloy's politically obligatory bosh and his dollop of compassion. One supposes they would rather have a death penalty than Mr. Malloy's prayers — not for themselves, of course, but for future victims subject to heinous acts of murderous intent.

(source: Commentary; Don Pesci is a writer----Repubican American)


Lindsey Graham: It's An Outrage Cheshire Killers Won't Be Put To Death

Lindsey Graham, the Republican presidential candidate and U.S. senator South Carolina, said the thought that Cheshire home invasion killers Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky will be spared the death penalty "makes me want to throw up."

Graham's comments came Monday on a radio show hosted by Michael Medved, according to a report by Buzzfeed. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the death penalty is unconstitutional, meaning the 11 men on death row, including Hayes and Komisarjevsky, convicted in the 2007 murders of a mother and her 2 daughters, will be spared execution.

"It makes me want to throw up when I hear that putting these 2 guys to death for what they did to that family is somehow outside the standards of decency," Graham said.

"If this doesn't cry out for the death penalty, nothing ever would. And I don't think you're an indecent society when you take 2 men who broke into a family's home, tortured 2 young girls, raped them, burned them alive. I don't think that makes us indecent that they would be administered the death penalty."

In a statement Thursday Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack that killed his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, said he too disagreed with the court's opinion.

"The dissenting justices clearly state how the 4 members of the majority have disregarded keystones of our governmental structure such as the separation of powers and the role of judicial precedent to reach the decision they hand down today," he said.

A Fox News poll of registered voters last week showed fewer than 1 % of respondents picking Graham as their choice for the Republican nominee.

(source: Hartford Courant)


Jury begins deliberating in Philly Valentine's Day killings

A Philadelphia jury returns Wednesday for a 2nd day of deliberations in the murder trial of Shaun Warrick, accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her cousin on Valentine's Day 2011.

The Common Pleas Court jury of 6 women and 6 men spent about 3 1/2 hours reviewing evidence Tuesday after a morning of closing arguments by lawyers and instructions in the law from Judge Glenn B. Bronson.

The jury twice returned to court, once with a question about the operation of a semiautomatic pistol and once to request police photos of the victims, the Frankford house in which the cousins were killed, and a floor plan of the house's 2nd floor.

Warrick, 32, of Logan, is charged with killing Tiffany Barnhill, 19, and her 22-year-old cousin Marcedes Ivery, whose bodies - each shot multiple times - were found in upstairs bedrooms at Ivery's house in the 5400 block of Rutland Street.

Warrick was allegedly angry because Barnhill had broken off their relationship and Ivery was interfering with his efforts to talk to her; Barnhill did not own a cellphone and Ivery was refusing Warrick's calls to her cellphone and landline.

Trial witnesses testified that shortly after 3:30 p.m., Warrick, accompanied by 2 women, arrived at Ivery's house. While the women waited outside, witnesses said Warrick kicked in the front door and entered. Gunfire was heard and Warrick then ran out of the house, tucking something into his pants, and fled with the 2 women.

The jury must decide whether Warrick is guilty and, if so, the degree of murder: 1st-degree, a premeditated, malicious killing; 2nd-degree, a killing carried out while committing another crime, in this case burglary; or 3rd-degree murder, a malicious crime in which the death occurs through reckless or negligent conduct.

If the jurors find Warrick guilty of 1st-degree murder, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb has said he will ask them to sentence him to death.

That decision will come after a penalty hearing where Lipscomb will present evidence of "aggravating factors" - a double slaying, for example - that he will argue merits the death penalty.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon will present evidence of "mitigating factors - such as a deprived childhood, or mental or emotional problems - supporting a default sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

In his closing argument, McMahon told the jurors there were too many holes in the chain of circumstantial evidence for them to find Warrick guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

McMahon urged the jury to analyze the evidence and not be swayed by emotion: "The was a sad crime, a tragic crime, a horrible crime. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. But that's not the question here."

McMahon argued that there is no physical evidence linking Warrick to the killings: no gun recovered, no witnesses who saw Warrick with a gun or saw him shoot Barnhill and Ivery, and no fingerprints.

McMahon suggested that the real killer was an unidentified male, whose voice was overheard on a cellphone call made by Warrick to Ivery while he and the two women drove to Rutland Street.

The defense lawyer also attacked the credibility of the women who accompanied Warrick to the house, accusing them of blaming him so they would not be charged as accomplices to the double slaying.

Lipscomb, however, argued that the circumstantial evidence, corroborated by Warrick's accomplices and testimony from a woman who said she watched Warrick break into Ivery's house, proved Warrick was the killer.

"Have you guys ever heard what's become my new favorite expression?" Lipscomb began his closing. "If you hear hoofbeats, it's a horse and not a zebra. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most likely and it's borne out by the evidence."



Judge reviews attorney's file in capital case

Testimony was stalled Tuesday as the presiding judge reviewed the file of Leigh Williams' attorney after the co-defendant to Carl Kennedy waived her attorney-client privileges.

Williams' attorney, Lori Hamilton, has come under scrutiny by Kennedy's attorneys for text messages sent between her and Davidson County assistant district attorney Alan Martin. Hamilton denies that there ever was a "secret plea deal" between her and the Davidson County District Attorney's Office.

Her client, Williams, has testified against Kennedy, who was Willams' boyfriend at the time of the 3 November 2011 deaths of Sharon F. Rushing, 61, Angela Dawn Soles, 43, and Gary Lynn Seward, 52, all of 101 Rotary Lane in Thomasville. David Manning, 45, Williams, 43, and Kennedy, 45, are facing the death penalty, but Kennedy's case is being tried 1st.

Williams - the state's 5th witness - took to the witness stand Thursday and her testimony has continued since. She has yet to be cross-examined, and her attorney, Hamilton also is on the murder trial's witness list.

"They are questioning my ethics," Hamilton said in courtroom remarks while addressing Superior Court Judge Christopher Bragg."

Hamilton admitted to the judge that she was the author of text messages to Martin. She acknowledged that she offer an "acceptable resolution" to the DA's office "short of trial." Hamilton said her "overriding goal" has been to protect her client, but the context of her text messages have been mistaken by Kennedy's defense attorneys.

Shortly before sending texts to Martin, Hamilton left a meeting with an attorney who also was representing Williams, she said Tuesday. Hamilton explained the fellow attorney's health had declined, and she was shocked to see him "so very weak." She was worried about her co-counselor being able to proceed for Williams, so she sent the texts to Martin about a possible plea arrangement for her client.

Hamilton sent texts to Martin. According to courtroom remarks, the assistant district attorney replied back to Hamilton saying not to take his silence as a response to her text messages.

Williams, who has testified she was the getaway driver for Kennedy and Manning, told Bragg she was waiving her rights for him to look through her file compiled by Hamilton. Hamilton thinks the defense attorneys want her file to be reviewed because they are trying to figure out if there was a secret deal between her and the state.

Williams has testified that she has not been given any promises by prosecutors in return for her testimony.

Meanwhile, Bragg is expected to release his findings of facts Wednesday morning after reviewing Hamilton's file.

(source: The Dispatch)


'Quasi-venue change' granted for Powers murder trial

A former Northwest Florida Reception Center inmate indicted for the premeditated murder of his cellmate has been granted what Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson calls a "quasi change of venue."

Defense attorneys for Clinton L Powers requested the change but stated their client wanted to be tried before a panel of WashingtonCounty jurors.

"I have no problem where you put the trial as long as I have a WashingtonCounty jury," Powers told Judge Patterson in a pre-trial conference held Monday.

Patterson pointed out all trials which require heightened security such as murders are currently being relocated due to WashingtonCounty currently not having a courthouse.

"If I change venue, then (the trial) becomes (the responsibility of ) the county to which the venue goes," explained Patterson. "Generally, a change of venue is requested because of (things such as) pretrial publicity, but Mr. Powers isn't from WashingtonCounty; he's only here by virtue of a condition out of JacksonCounty."

Judge Patterson ultimately agreed to allow the trial to be heard in BayCounty, under the supervision of the Bay County Clerk of Court and with Bay County Sheriff's Office conducting security but instructed the Washington County Clerk's Office to summon WashingtonCounty jurors for the case.

"I'll grant the motion giving a quasi change of venue," he said.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Powers, who was previously being held in the Santa Rosa Correction Institute after his indictment for the 2011 murder of fellow NWFRC inmate David Hults.

According to records filed by the Florida Department of Corrections Office of the Inspector General, Powers admitted to killing Hults, telling officers he "just got tired" of his cellmate.

Powers stated he lured Hults into going along with what he claimed was a plan to get both inmates transferred to another facility. That plan involved Powers "pretending" to hurt Hults.

According to a filed affidavit, Powers tied Hults' hands by his sides with a "stripped" bed sheet and then used the other end of the sheet to choke Hults.

In his recorded account, Powers stated Hults said, "You're choking me", to which Powers replied "I know; you're supposed to be dead."

Powers went on to tell officers that Hults began "jerking and spitting blood out of his mouth."

"The more he went into spitting blood, the more I went to pulling the sheet," Powers statement reads. "I was literally trying to chop his head off with the sheet. That's how much hatred I had for this individual. Did he provoke me to do this? No. He did not provoke me to do this. This is something that I chose to do. It's something I ... guess you could say I wanted to do."

Powers told a WashingtonCounty court last year that he didn't believe he was receiving adequate service by his attorney, requesting that he be allowed to represent himself on the case but later rescinded that motion after a hearing was held on the matter.

Power's convictions and prison history also include a 5-year sentence for sexual battery, an 18 month sentence for escape, and a life sentence for a 1996 1st Degree murder conviction in Jackson County.

At the time of his death, Hults was serving life sentences for both 1st-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. His past convictions also included grand theft and fraudulent use of personal identification.



Cross leaves some potential jurors in tears

Some potential jurors left the courtroom in tears Tuesday after a white supremacist questioned them.

Prosecutors will continue jury selection Tuesday in the capital murder trial against the man accused of murdering 3 people in a hate-fueled rampage.

Frazier Glenn Cross, an avowed white supremacist, has admitted that he went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom retirement home with the plan to kill Jews since he is dying from a lung disease.

Jury selection continued Tuesday in the Jewish community shootings that left 3 dead.

Frazier Glenn Cross, who ran for office in Missouri as Glenn Miller, has admitted that he went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom retirement home with the plan to kill Jews since he is dying from a lung disease. He wound up killing 3 Christians.

He is acting as his own attorney in his trial, which means he can directly question potential jurors about their beliefs.

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if he is found guilty, and Cross wants to use the trial to promote his brand of hate.

Because of the extensive coverage of the case, an unusually large pool of 200 potential jurors has been called. Jury selection is expected to take about a week.

Eventually, 17 jurors will be chosen. That includes 5 alternates. The trial is expected to last at least 2 weeks.

Cross questioned potential jurors on Tuesday after their political beliefs and even their thoughts on World War II.

Some were clearly frustrated by the questions.

Those who believe Cross is guilty were dismissed and those morally opposed to the death penalty were also dismissed. Cross attacked the patriotism of a woman who is against the death penalty, saying she must not be a law-abiding citizen because it's the law of the land.

Among the questions that Cross posed today was whether the "white race has the right to survive." He also wanted to know whether jurors believe the money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was to protect America or Israel.

Cross has chronic emphysema and has been using a wheelchair and oxygen during courtroom proceedings since his April 2014 arrest in the shootings.

All 3 of the victims of the April 13 rampage were Christians who were active in their churches. William Lewis Corporon, 69, his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood and 53-year-old Terri LaManno were killed.

They potential jurors have been asked if they have an extreme hardship that prevents them from serving, like a vacation that is already paid for, medical issues, a work-related trip or will be out of town.



US appeals court upholds death penalty in double homicide

A federal appeals court has upheld the death penalty of an Oklahoma man convicted in the shooting deaths of 2 men.

In a divided opinion Tuesday, a 3-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of 51-year-old Phillip Hancock of Guthrie. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals previously upheld Hancock's 1st-degree murder convictions and death sentence.

An Oklahoma County jury convicted Hancock of the April 27, 2001, shooting deaths of 37-year-old Robert L. Jett Jr. and 58-year-old James V. Lynch. Defense attorneys had argued Hancock was in a fight with the victims and shot them in self-defense.

Among other things, the federal appeals court rejected assertions that the trial court misled Hancock's jury with what Hancock's attorneys claimed were unwarranted legal instructions on self-defense.

(source: Associated Press)

****************** Faith leaders appeal to Fallin to stop Glossip execution

Faith leaders from Oklahoma and Louisiana are trying every legal and religious move they can muster to prevent the state-mandated execution of Richard Glossip.

Glossip, now 51, has contended for the past 17 years he did not kill or hire anyone else to murder Barry Van Treece, owner of 2 motels in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Although prosecutors and the homicide detectives who worked the case firmly believe in Glossip's guilt, faith leaders like Sister Helen Prejean are just as convinced the former motel manager is innocent. Glossip was employed as the night manager for the Best Budget Inn which Van Treece owned. Prejean told Red Dirt Report that Pope Francis is aware of the Glossip case and is "praying for everyone in Oklahoma," including Gov. Mary Fallin.

Fallin issued a statement last week that she would not consider any more stays of execution for Glossip, a comment that drew criticism from capital punishment foes.

Prejean befriended Glossip and has visited and prayed with him several times on Oklahoma's death row in McAlester where he is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 16. Prejean, an outspoken critic of capital punishment, said Glossip was convicted twice because of ineffective attorneys and an overzealous district attorney in Bob Macy, who is deceased. The 1st conviction in 1998 was overturned because of ineffective counsel. He was convicted a 2nd time 7 years later.

The 2 assistant district attorneys who prosecuted Glossip - Connie Smothermon and Gary Ackley - did not return phone calls for comment. Ackley retired from the DA's office and Smothermon is now a law professor at the University of Oklahoma.

While Glossip was given the death penalty in the alleged murder-for-hire scheme, Justin Sneed worked a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for beating Van Treece with a baseball bat at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City.

"The jury only heard from Justin Sneed who was a jailhouse snitch and the man who actually killed Barry Van Treece. They relied solely on his testimony," Prejean said in a telephone interview from her New Orleans home. "Then, if you don't have a good defense attorney you don't get your message out there and evidence is made to disappear after all these years."

Without speaking directly about the Glossip case, the Most Rev. Paul S. Cloakley, Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, called upon Oklahoma's political leaders to abolish the death penalty.

"Our faith impels us to call for the building up of a culture of life where every human life is valued from conception to natural end. The use of the death penalty, in any form, diminishes us all, and oftentimes provides little comfort to families and survivors who have suffered through these violent acts," he said. "We cannot substitute vengeance for justice."

Members of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches reportedly are trying to meet with Fallin to share their concerns that an innocent man will be executed. No firm date has been set.

Justice has been elusive for Glossip, Prejean said.

"But that's the justice system we have," she said, referring to police and prosecutors who want a quick arrest and conviction.

"Richard Glossip didn't have so much as a traffic ticket. He wound up on death row solely on the word of Justin Sneed. How we got to this point is outrageous," she said.

However, Prejean remains hopeful that either Fallin will grant Glossip a reprieve or the U.S. Supreme Court will order a special hearing.

"If neither of those happens, Richard Glossip [ an innocent man - will die on Sept. 16," she said. "That will be on everybody's head from (homicide detective) Bob Bemo to the prosecutors to the governor."

Brady Henderson, legal director for American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said Glossip's scheduled execution is "most troubling" because the facts are undisputed that Glossip did not kill Van Treece.

"At least in the last 2 executions there was no compelling doubt they had killed. There was nothing left on the table in court. So when Richard Glossip is executed, Justin Sneed will be sitting in prison and will not be executed," he said. "The person who murdered Barry Van Treece will still be alive."

In this case, Oklahoma's legal system allows someone to be executed on evidence that is "ambivalent at best."

"Contrast that to the Colorado theater shooting case where the defendant is going to remain alive. That's a problematic issue surrounding the death penalty," Henderson said.

According to his own appeals attorneys and Prejean, Glossip lied to police during their investigation, a mistake that he has regretted the past 17 years. His supporters say Glossip should have told police early in the murder probe that Sneed, a handyman who lived at the motel, confessed to him about killing Van Treece.

After being pressured by homicide detectives, Sneed said he was paid by Glossip to kill Van Treece for fear the motel owner would fire both men because of missing motel receipts and money.

"There's no doubt you could say Glossip is guilty of serious violations after the murder occurred, but has he done things that allow him to be executed?" Henderson asked. "At this point, it's sad the legal system has let it go this far."

Glossip's appellate attorney Don Knight of Littleton, Colo., was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Sneed's daughter, O'Ryan Justine Sneed, wrote a letter in October 2014 indicating that her father wanted to recant his testimony from the 2 trials, but feared reprisals from law enforcement officials.

"My father told me he said what he had to say to the police to stay in my life," she wrote in the letter. "He was backed into a corner, facing being charged with the death penalty, but was offered a plea agreement of life without parole to testify against Mr. Glossip. I feel he is holding important facts about Mr. Glossip's case in fear of losing his own deal."

The letter's last paragraph reads, "I'm writing today to ask for clemency for Mr. Richard E. Glossip, and to please not execute an innocent man. 1 innocent life has already been taken by my father's actions. A 2nd one doesn't deserve to be taken as well."



Former City Administrator Announces Legislative Run

Tuesday morning, former city administrator Zack Zoul announced he will be running for a legislative seat representing Grand Island and replacing Senator Mike Gloor.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce my candidacy for the Nebraska legislature to serve as Senator representing Grand Island," said Zoul.

He wants to focus on the state's economy, saying it needs to be diversified.

"Nebraska has one of the smallest outlays for economic development purposes, so I think we have to really put an emphasis on that," said Zoul. "And we need to use all of the tools that are at our disposal to accomplish that."

He's passionate about being the voice the city needs even when it comes to hot button issues like the death penalty.

"He differs with Mr. - our current Senator on the death penalty, and that's good because the death penalty is important to law enforcement. The death penalty is important to our county attorneys in Nebraska, and the governor's proven that," said Hall County Board of Supervisors supervisors Gary Quandt.



Death penalty a deterrent, or distraction?

The recent James Holmes death penalty case presented a huge conundrum.

His killing of 12 people and injuring of 70 others when he fired upon a crowded theater of movie-goers was profoundly terrible. And yet, to sentence him to death, a jury of his peers would have to make the same fateful decision that he did to take a human life.

Many people looked at the Holmes conviction and thought if ever there was a crime that deserved a death sentence, it was this one. But Colorado is not a state where heinous crimes often result in the death penalty.

Since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1975, Colorado has executed only 1 person.

Just 3 men are currently on death row in the state, and it may be a long time before any of them is put to death as they go through the lengthy appeals process. Another man who was sentenced to death is now serving a life sentence after an appeals court ruled that jurors improperly looked at an outside material - the Bible - when making the decision for death.

The cost of such cases is staggering. The Death Penalty Information Center estimates the cost of the Holmes trial has reached $5.5 million so far. The Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation says that death penalty case costs are difficult to accurately account for but can be 20 times the cost of prosecuting a similar case where the death penalty is not sought. It also costs more to house a prisoner convicted in a death penalty case, that group says.

Death penalty cases also can make celebrities out of defendants.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, in calling for public discussion this fall of the future of the death penalty in Colorado, said "you create two-bit celebrities out of killers and a platform for copy-cat behavior."

It can also make celebrities out of prosecutors, as some Coloradans are now questioning the decision of Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler to pursue the death penalty against Holmes instead of accepting a plea deal that would have spared the state the cost of the Holmes trial and sent him to prison for life. Others are now watching to see if Brauchler runs for higher office.

Hickenlooper had suggested such a discussion 2 years ago, noting that the state should examine the cost of such cases, whether the death penalty is a deterrent against crime, what happens if the state executes someone later found to be wrongfully convicted (in 2011, Gov. Bill Ritter granted a full and unconditional posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy - convicted and executed as an accomplice to a murder that occurred in 1936 - saying the overwhelming evidence showed he was innocent), as well as issues of fairness (all 3 men currently on death row are black) and morality.

The Denver Post reported in 2013 that a review by University of Denver law experts of every 1st-degree murder case in Colorado over 12 years found that of 500 cases meeting the state's criteria for the death penalty, prosecutors sought death in only 5, and a University of Colorado-Boulder study looked for particularly heinous cases where a death sentence could have been called for but was not and found many: "children who were kidnapped, raped and murdered. A cocaine addict who killed his wife and 16-month-old son."

The questions the governor raises about the death penalty are valid ones.

It's past time the state begin to talk about the issue.

(source: Editorial, Reporter-Herald)


Repeated Trial Delays in Grim Sleeper Murder Case Frustrates Families

For the past 5 years Porter Alexander and his family have driven from South Los Angeles to the criminal courts building in Downtown Los Angeles. Every 2 weeks, they have made the trip to attend pretrial hearings for Grim Sleeper serial killer suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr.

Franklin, a married father of 2 and former LAPD mechanic and sanitation worker for the city of Los Angeles, was charged in July 2010 with 10 murders and one attempted murder. He faces the death penalty for the alleged 23-year murder spree that began on Jan. 15, 1984, when Sharon Dismuke was discovered shot in the chest in the restroom of an abandoned gas station.

More than 5 years after his arrest, the trial has yet to start, despite pleas from victim's family members, including Porter Alexander whose 18-year-old daughter Monique was found dead on Sept. 11, 1988, in a South Los Angeles alley. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled and shot once in the chest.

"It is frustrating," says Alexander who blames the delays on defense stall tactics. "I don't quite understand how the judge is allowing the defense attorney to say and do the things he is doing and get away with it. I don't understand why the judge allows him to disrespect her and the court. Why are we letting him play games with us? It is mind-boggling."

At a court hearing Monday, the repeated trial delays took center stage, with Los Angeles prosecutor Beth Silverman criticizing Franklin's defense attorney, Seymour Amster, for failing to turn over key witness statements including psychiatrists who evaluated Franklin, in a timely manner, calling his tactics "pure gamesmanship."

"This is not gamesmanship," retorted Amster at one point during the contentious hearing that had victims' family members sighing in frustration. "This is not trying to do anything by ambush."

The latest court battle was prompted by Amster giving the prosecution team a list of 142 defense witnesses he may call to testify during the trial or penalty phase. The witness list includes friends of Franklin who appeared in the HBO documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper, family members of victims of Chester Turner, one of several serial killers who preyed on young black women in South Los Angeles in the '80s and '90s, as well as people who are dead.

The back and forth bickering between the 2 attorneys caused Los Angeles judge Kathleen Kennedy to comment, "Well, apparently there is no love lost between you."

"Zero," responded Silverman.

"You know what, your honor?" said Amster. "I would stipulate to that one."

"And I would agree with counsel for the 1st time."

Most of Franklin's alleged victims were shot with a .25-caliber pistol while others were strangled. Their bodies were discovered in Dumpsters and alleyways along Western Avenue in South Los Angeles, an area known for its cheap motels, liquor stores, gambling parlors, auto salvage yards and storefront churches.

His youngest alleged victim, 15-year-old runaway Princess Berthomieux, was found strangled in an alley in Inglewood in 2002. He was tied to the cases through ballistics and DNA evidence.

Police suspect that he may have killed at least 6 additional women in addition to the 10 whose deaths he's charged with.

Franklin, a former corporal in the United States Army, was finally caught through familial DNA testing after his 28-year-old son, Christopher, was arrested for carrying a weapon in the summer of 2009 and had to give up a DNA swab. Once it was determined that Christopher was related to the killer, detectives followed the elder Franklin to a pizza place in Long Beach. As Franklin finished his meal, a detective who posed as a busboy collected a fork, 2 plastic cups, a plate and a pizza slice left by Franklin. A few days later, DNA taken from the pizza slice came back as a match to DNA found on alleged Grim Sleeper victim Barbara Ware.

A new trial date has been set for Oct. 14.



No death penalty for alleged gang chiefs----U.S. decides not to pursue capital punishment in San Diego RICO case

The U.S. attorney general has decided it will not pursue the death penalty against 2 alleged San Diego gang chiefs accused of sanctioning the killing of a fellow gang member they believed was cooperating with police.

Randy Alton Graves and Terry Carry Hollins are charged along with 15 others in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy involving allegations of violent gang activity, from murder to armed robberies to sex trafficking.

The pair are accused of giving the go-ahead for lower-ranking gang members to "discipline" Paris Hill, who was shot to death outside a party on March 1, 2014. Hollins had heard that Hill was talking to police about another killing, and called Graves asking what to do, according to the indictment. Graves replied that what Hill did was "in violation and violations get dealt with. Period. No ifs, ands or buts."

Jermain Gerald Cook and Donald Eugene Bandy are also charged in the killing.

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced last year it was considering making this a death penalty case, setting into motion a lengthy process that gives defense attorneys the opportunity to argue why their clients don't meet the threshold for the most extreme sanction. Death-penalty expert attorneys were appointed to aid in the process, and both local prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their arguments to the capital case unit at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

On Friday, the government announced it won't be pursuing capital punishment against any of the 4 men charged in the killing. No further details were given.

"This should have never been a death penalty case and we're pleased they made the right decision," said Graves" attorney, Jeremy Warren.

Federal death penalty cases are extremely rare. The consideration process has been done twice in San Diego in recent memory, in 2006 and 2007, and both times the death penalty was declined.

(source: San Diego Union-Tribune)


State by state, the death penalty is losing ground

When the Connecticut Legislature abolished the state's death penalty three years ago, it explicitly left in place the death sentences of those who committed their crimes before the repeal. Abolition for future crimes, said the Legislature, not for past crimes.

But last week, in a landmark 4-3 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that the death penalty violates the state's constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and that abolition must therefore extend to everyone. The 11 prisoners on the state's death row, plus a 12th man facing a death sentence, have been spared.

Although the State of Connecticut vs. Eduardo Santiago ruling definitively bans capital punishment in Connecticut, it raises 3 key questions about the death penalty nationally.

The 1st question is for the U.S. Supreme Court: How many states must abolish the death penalty before the high court will strike it down for good? Whenever the high court next turns its attention to the validity of capital punishment, it will look to "objective evidence of contemporary values," something much discussed in the Santiago case. 19 states have abolished the death penalty. Are 19 states - as opposed to, say, 26 - sufficient to tip the constitutional scales toward invalidation nationally?

The Connecticut Supreme Court's 92-page majority opinion suggests that the answer should be yes. "If the legally salient metaphor is the evolution of our standards of decency," write the Connecticut justices, "then a gradual but inexorable extinction may be as significant as the sociological equivalent of the meteor that, it is believed, suddenly ended the reign of the dinosaurs."

In short, abolition does not need a majority; 19 should do. This is especially true given that most states retaining the death penalty are retentionist in name only. "Of the 35 executions carried out in 2014," the Connecticut Supreme Court tells us, "approximately 90% occurred in just 4 states: Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma." These 4 states are the proverbial tail wagging the dog of our standards of decency.

The 2nd question is for state legislators throughout the country seeking to abolish the death penalty: What now? In many ways, the Connecticut justices have strengthened these legislators' arguments by writing far and away the most persuasive testimony in support of repeal.

But the court's decision has also complicated matters. Here's why.

Since 2007, 7 states have abolished the death penalty. Most have done so for future crimes only, leaving to governors and parole boards the hard question of what to do with prisoners currently on death row. Others are lining up to do the same, including Delaware, Kansas, Washington state, Colorado and New Hampshire.

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, however, maintaining the death penalty after repeal is unconstitutional. If legislatures are going to repeal the death penalty, they have to do it for everyone, or the court will do it for them.

Nebraska public officials, meanwhile, have argued just the opposite. When Nebraska abolished its death penalty this year, for future and previous crimes, its governor and attorney general cried foul, saying that the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty for people on death row violated the governor's power to commute sentences.

Legislators are now in a pickle. According to Connecticut's high court, it is unconstitutional for a legislature to leave people on death row after repeal; it violates "evolving standards of decency." Nebraska's governor and attorney general argue, though, that it would violate the constitutional separation of powers for a legislature not to leave those convicts on death row.

Both can't be right. The Connecticut ruling has yielded a puzzle that legislatures, governors and courts will be sorting out for some time.

The 3rd question is for all of us: Do we, as a society, approve of vengeance? Supporters of the death penalty say that a legitimate desire for closure and restoration of moral order motivates the death penalty, not vengeance. But that is nonsense. The primary reason that Connecticut's Legislature retained the death penalty for those on death row in 2012, Connecticut's justices tell us, was "to placate the public's desire to exact vengeance" on 2 particular offenders, "the much reviled perpetrators of the widely publicized 2007 home invasion and murder of three members of Cheshire's Petit family."

The court noted in its ruling that one of Connecticut's state senators suggested they be lynched: "They should bypass the trial [in the Cheshire case] and take that 2nd animal and hang him by his penis from a tree out in the middle of Main Street."

This is the festival of cruelty that the death penalty incites. Do we approve, or have we evolved?

(source: Op-Ed; Kevin M. Barry is a professor of law and a civil rights attorney, specializing in legislative advocacy and litigation in support of death penalty abolition----Los Angeles Times)


Death Penalty Struck Down: Today Connecticut, Tomorrow The Whole Country?

Sometimes the most effective public interest lawyers wear robes.

12 years ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down an opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The lead opinion, penned by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and joined by 2 of her colleagues (with a 3rd colleague concurring), relied on the Massachusetts constitution's equal-protection and due-process provisions to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the Commonwealth. (The winning lawyer, by the way? Mary Bonauto.)

3 justices dissented. Justice Martha B. Sosman's dissent contained some language that, in hindsight at least, seems particularly interesting: "As a matter of social history, today's opinion may represent a great turning point that many will hail as a tremendous step toward a more just society. As a matter of constitutional jurisprudence, however, the case stands as an aberration."

Back then, some people (myself included) agreed with the Goodridge majority that there was no rational basis for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples; however, many - probably more - people shared the dissent's position that the lead Goodridge opinion appeared to be result-driven and was something of an analytical stretch.

Of course, the dissent's language is interesting in hindsight precisely because what might have been a jurisprudential "aberration" 12 years ago now applies to the entire United States, after the Supreme Court relied on the United States Constitution's Equal Protection and Due Process clauses to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country.

Now perhaps that scenario - a state-court "aberration" becoming the law of the land - will repeat itself in a different context.

Just last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court handed down an opinion in State v. Santiago and eliminated the death penalty in Connecticut. The lead opinion, penned by Justice Richard Palmer and joined by of his colleagues, relied on the Connecticut constitution's cruel-and-unusual-punishment provision to strike down Connecticut's death penalty in toto, finding 3 that it "fails to comport with contemporary standards of decency" and "is devoid of any legitimate penological justifications."

3 justices dissented. Justice Carmen Elisa Espinosa's dissent contained some particularly interesting language:

"The majority's decision to exceed this court's limited power appears to be designed to eliminate capital punishment in this state. Rather than faithfully applying a true contemporary standards analysis, the majority applies only the appearance of such an analysis, selecting for consideration only those aspects of each factor that support its conclusion."

Some people (myself included) agree that the death penalty should be struck down as an Eighth Amendment violation, period. However, many - probably more - people share the dissent's position that the Santiago opinion appears to be result-driven and is something of an analytical stretch.

The basic parallels between Goodridge and Santiago are obvious. And additional context offers additional parallels: Goodridge came immediately on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which made major strides in terms of affording same-sex couples due process protections; Santiago follows a 15-year trend of restrictions on the death penalty by the Supreme Court, including Atkins v. Virginia (no death penalty for the intellectually disabled), Roper v. Simmons (no death penalty for children), and Kennedy v. Louisiana (generally no death penalty for crimes not involving a victim's death).

State courts of last resort take their cues from the Supreme Court, both in terms of trends like those and in terms of analytical approaches. Thus even in interpreting the Massachusetts constitution, the Goodridge opinion explicitly applied the Supreme Court's tests for assessing constitutionality under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was not really an aberration. And even in interpreting the Connecticut constitution, the Santiago opinion explicitly applies Supreme Court precedent assessing constitutionality under Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. It is not really just the "appearance" of an Eighth Amendment analysis - it is such an analysis.

Because of this attention to Supreme Court trends and analysis, Santiago could, conceivably, serve as a detailed and persuasive amicus brief signed by 4 public interest lawyers wearing robes. Just like Goodridge did. And it could, conceivably, influence the Supreme Court. Or so say some commenters.


So, given the obvious parallels between Goodridge and Santiago, the next question is obvious too: is Santiago a sign that the end of the death penalty is near?

We'll see.

(source: Commentary; Sam Wright is a dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart public interest lawyer who has spent his career exclusively in nonprofits and


Vietnam court overturns death penalty for Nigerian drug mule

A court in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City reduced a death sentence previously handed to a Nigerian man for bringing methamphetamine into Vietnam to life imprisonment, local online newspaper Thanh Nien (Young People) News reported Tuesday.

The indictment on Monday said Ejiogu Benjamin Ikechukwu had nearly 3.3 kilograms of the drug in metal tubes and a laptop charger in his luggage as he flew to the city-based Tan Son Nhat Airport in June 2012. He had transited in Qatar.

The 33-year-old man said he only planned to go to Vietnam to buy clothes to resell them in Nigeria and had no idea about the drug in his luggage. He said a man asked him to carry the tubes and the charger to Vietnam and someone would pick them up.

A Ho Chi Minh court in August 2013 sentenced him to death, but he applied for an appeal. The People's Supreme Court then canceled the verdict, ordering a new investigation. Investigators could not track down the people who had used him as a drug mule.

Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in Vietnam face death penalty. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by the death penalty.

(source: Xinhua News Agency)


Hanoi court announces death penalty for cocaine-smuggling Filipino----The Hanoi People's Court sentenced a Philippine national to death for drug trafficking on August 18.

40-year-old Emmanuel Sillo Camacho was arrested with cocaine hidden in his luggage at Noi Bai international airport on December 7, 2013.

Security forces discovered the white powder inside 18 socks with the total weight exceeding 3,408 grams.

Camacho admitted that 4 months before the arrest, he met a woman named Jessica through Facebook who was living in Brazil. At their face-to-face meeting, Jessica hired the man to smuggle drugs into Vietnam, adding that she would offer him a job in Brazil or other countries with wages up to 1,500 USD per month.

The court said Camacho overlooked the Vietnamese law for a quick profit and deserved the capital punishment based on the large amount of cocaine sized 2 years ago.

Jessica's identity is still under investigation.

(source: Vietnam Nnews Agency)


Counterterrorism Law Erodes Basic Rights ---- Broad 'Terrorist Acts' List May Criminalize Civil Disobedience

Egypt's new counterterrorism law increases authorities' power to impose heavy sentences, including the death penalty, for crimes under a definition of terrorism that is so broadly worded it could encompass civil disobedience. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi enacted the law on August 15, 2015.

The new law also gives prosecutors greater power to detain suspects without judicial review and order wide-ranging and potentially indefinite surveillance of terrorist suspects without a court order.

"With this sweeping new decree, Egypt's president has taken a big step toward enshrining a permanent state of emergency as the law of the land," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. "The government has equipped itself with even greater powers to continue stamping out its critics and opponents under its vague and ever-expanding war on terrorism."

The law makes it a crime to publish or promote news about terrorism if it contradicts the Defense Ministry's official statements and would allow the courts to temporarily ban journalists from practicing their profession for doing so. It also makes anyone judged to have facilitated, incited, or agreed to a vaguely defined terrorist crime - whether in public or in private - liable for the same penalty that they would receive if they had committed that crime, even if the crime does not occur. The law eliminates any time limit for bringing terrorism prosecutions.

Egypt has had no lower house of parliament, which drafts laws, since it was dissolved by court order in 2012. In its absence, al-Sisi has issued at least 175 laws and decrees since taking office in June 2014. The government has repeatedly postponed elections for a new parliament. By law, the new parliament will have only 15 days after its 1st session to review and amend all legislation passed in its absence before that legislation becomes final.

The government revived its discussion of a draft counterterrorism law - which had been proposed following the 2013 removal of former President Mohamed Morsy by the military - after the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat on June 29, 2015, in a Cairo car bombing. In a speech at Barakat's funeral on June 30, al-Sisi said that "the prompt hand of justice is tied by the laws, and we can't wait for that," and pledged to amend Egypt's laws "to implement the law and justice in the fastest possible time."

Since Morsy's overthrow, the government has focused its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsy's former organization, arresting thousands of its members, while courts have sentenced hundreds to death. On the day of Barakat's funeral, Egypt's State Information Service blamed the Brotherhood for his killing - which the Brotherhood called "reprehensible" - without presenting any evidence.

Egypt's cabinet labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December 2013 and April 2014. Cairo's Court of Urgent Appeals, normally meant to handle temporary civil injunctions, designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in February 2014, but that ruling remains on appeal and legal analysts have said that the court likely exceeded its jurisdiction. No competent court in Egypt has designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group, though prosecutors have filed thousands of cases accusing Brotherhood members of terrorism or membership in a terrorist group.

"Barakat's assassination and the ongoing conflict in the Sinai Peninsula show that the Egyptian government faces a serious and deadly insurgency," Houry said. "But eroding basic rights, curtailing dissent, and using 'terrorism' as a cudgel against opponents is no way to win the battle for hearts and minds."

Provisions of Egypt's New Counterterrorism Law

--The new Law 95 of 2015 for Confronting Terrorism largely maintains the overbroad definition of terrorism in Egypt's penal code. Under this definition, a "terrorist act" encompasses any "use of force or violence or threat or terrorizing" that aims, among other things, to:

--Disrupt general order or endanger the safety, interests or security of society; harm individual liberties or rights; harm national unity, peace, security, the environment or buildings or property; prevent or hinder public authorities, judicial bodies, government facilities, and others from carrying out all or part of their work and activity.

Such a framework far exceeds a definition of terrorism that the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted in 2004 and that the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights subsequently endorsed. That definition says that terrorism is an act committed with the intent to kill, cause serious bodily injury, or take hostages with the aim of intimidating or terrorizing a population or compelling a government or international organization.

Egypt's new counterterrorism law also runs counter to a basic principle in international human rights law that requires laws to be precisely drafted and understandable as a safeguard against their arbitrary use and so that people know what actions constitute a crime.

The new counterterrorism law will affect any person or group designated under Egypt's Terrorist Entities Law, issued in February 2015, which created a procedure for courts to approve prosecutors' nominations of individuals or groups as officially designated terrorists. Egyptian human rights groups have strongly criticized the Terrorist Entities Law for relying on an ambiguous definition of terrorism similar to the broad one included in the new counterterrorism law.

The counterterrorism law punishes a dozen different acts with the death penalty, making it the mandatory punishment for anyone convicted of funding a terrorist group or terrorist act. Other crimes that can incur the death penalty if they result in death include manufacturing weapons; damaging a gas, water, or electricity network; or compelling another person to join or remain in a terrorist group. The law does not require that the death be intentional. Under international law, even countries that maintain the death penalty have to restrict its application to the most serious crimes. Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty at all times as a uniquely final and inhumane punishment.

The law also makes it a crime to join or participate in a terrorist group "with knowledge of its purposes" and prescribes a minimum 10-year prison sentence for any member who receives military or security training. A terrorist group must consist of a minimum of 3 people.

The law attaches stiff penalties for incitement or the propagation of ideas that advocate what Egypt defines as terrorism, potentially criminalizing even private expressions of opposition to the government. In article 6, the law states that "incitement to commit any terrorist crime ... whatever the means used" shall be punishable in the same way as the crime itself regardless of whether such incitement is "public or non-public" or "has an effect."

While international law allows governments to prohibit speech that directly encourages a crime or is intended to result in criminal action, even if no crime is committed, the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism has proposed that countries adopt a more specific definition of incitement that criminalizes the public distribution of a message that incites a terrorist act and creates "a danger" that it may be committed. Countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon have all criminalized incitement to terrorism that occurs in public or results in a terrorist act.

Egypt's new terrorism law goes beyond this by also criminalizing private, ineffectual incitement and by linking that incitement to a definition of terrorism that includes using force or threats to "disrupt general order" or "harm national unity," which could conceivably include civil disobedience. Egyptian authorities have prosecuted many Brotherhood members on terrorism charges for engaging in sit-ins or blocking roads during protests. Anyone who privately urges another to participate in such actions may face prosecution under the new terrorism law.

The law further restricts freedom of expression in article 35, which states that anyone who publishes or even promotes "untrue" news about acts of terrorism or news that contradicts official Defense Ministry statements about counterterrorism operations can be punished by a fine of 200,000-500,000 Egyptian pounds (US$25,000-$64,000). If the person publishes the news as part of their occupation, a court can bar them from practicing their profession for up to a year. The law also punishes anyone who uses a website for the purpose of "promoting ideas or beliefs advocating the commission of terrorist acts" with at least 5 years in prison.

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate strongly opposed an earlier draft of article 35, which prescribed a prison sentence for anyone who published false news about counterterrorism operations. Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council, the judiciary's governing body, also criticized several elements of the draft law, including a shortening of the appeals process. Both appeared to have succeeded in convincing the government to limit some of its changes.

The law significantly strengthens prosecutors by removing some judicial oversight of their actions. Article 46 allows prosecutors or other investigators to order surveillance and recording of terrorist suspects' communications, Internet use, and "whatever takes place in private places" for indefinitely renewable 30-day periods without a court order. Previously, investigating judges held the power to order home inspections and surveillance. The law also establishes undefined special courts within the normal judiciary to handle terrorism cases.

The law further reduces judges' roles by giving prosecutors more power to order detention in terrorism-related cases. Under the new law, an arresting officer can hold a terrorism suspect for 24 hours without a warrant, during which a prosecutor can order the person held for 7 more days without judicial review. The new law puts the prosecutor in charge of subsequent pretrial detention, which under Egypt's recently amended criminal procedure code can be renewed for up to 2 years in cases in which the suspect faces a life sentence or the death penalty. Previously, a minor offenses appeals court judge reviewed and ruled on such detention orders, though in practice, courts have regularly approved prosecutors' requests to hold in pretrial detention thousands of people arrested in the fallout from Morsy's removal.

Under Egypt's law, a terrorism suspect can appeal their detention to a competent court, which must rule within 3 days. An arresting officer must inform a suspect of the reason for their arrest, but a suspect is only allowed to contact their relatives and consult with a lawyer "without prejudice to the interests of the evidence gathering."

Human Rights Watch has documented how police and officers of the Interior Ministry's National Security Agency have forcibly disappeared dozens of people, some of whom were held without access to a lawyer for weeks and subsequently accused of terrorism crimes. The new counterterrorism law raises the possibility that such detentions could become legalized.

A fundamental principle of international law, applicable even during states of emergency, is that every detainee should be brought promptly before a judge to review their detention (usually, within a few days of being detained).

Mimicking language already contained in Egypt's decades-old Emergency Law, the new law also gives the president, in article 53, power to take "appropriate measures to protect the general order and security" to confront the danger of terrorism or in case of an environmental catastrophe. This includes the power to order 6-month curfews or evacuations in defined areas, subject to a majority vote in parliament within 7 days, or cabinet approval if parliament is not in session.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

AUGUST 18, 2015:


Court rejects inmate's challenge of death sentence for 5 slayings in 1993 Ohio prison riot

A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge by an inmate convicted and sentenced to be executed for the slayings of 5 fellow inmates during a 1993 prison riot in Ohio.

Death row inmate Keith LaMar was convicted of aggravated murder in 1995 in the deaths of 5 inmates during the riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville. A jury recommended the death penalty in 4 of the slayings.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision keeping the 46-year-old LaMar's convictions and death sentences in place.

LaMar argues he was denied a fair trial when prosecutors were allowed to withhold evidence from the defense.

A 3-judge panel ruled the evidence would not have changed the outcome of LaMar's trial.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----death sentence overturned

Federal judge throws out death sentence for St. Louis County man

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down the death penalty for a man who killed his grandparents in their Glendale home in 1996.

David Barnett, 39, fatally stabbed Clifford Barnett, 82, and Leona Barnett, 75, at their home in Glendale after they returned from a post-church brunch. Barnett took their car and $120 in cash.

Before the murders, Barnett had spoken to friends about the car, a 1995 Dodge Intrepid, claiming his grandparents were going to rent it to him. While waiting for his grandparents, he boasted to a step-brother on a phone call that he'd just won the lottery.

When his grandparents arrived home, he stabbed them a total of 21 times, using 5 different steak knives.

The next day, he confessed to police. After he was convicted at trial of charges including 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, his lawyers argued for leniency in the penalty phase, saying he had suffered from depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from a troubled and unstable childhood. Barnett mulled suicide at 8 and again at 15 and later overdosed on prescription drugs and set himself on fire.

Prosecutors cited aggravating factors including that Barnett had murdered for money and that the crime was "outrageously vile."

After deliberating for 16 hours over 2 days, jurors voted for death.

U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber's 189-page order is sealed, but a separate document says that prosecutors have 180 days to decide whether to seek a death sentence in a new hearing. Otherwise he will remain in prison for life without parole.

Barnett had alleged that his lawyer was ineffective in failing to present additional mitigating factors. His appeals were unsuccessful until 2013, when Webber ruled that a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the unique circumstances of the case meant Barnett should get a hearing for the presentation of evidence that jurors should have heard.

In legal filings, his lawyers have said that that evidence should include his "mother’s persistent abuse of alcohol and drugs, the chaos and abandonment by his mother and multiple others during his infancy, and the persistent mental, sexual, and physical abuse that dominated (his) household."

Barnett is currently at the Potosi Correctional Center.

(source: St. Louis Post-Disptach)


Conservative pastor: "Stoning gays is the mindset of God"

The New Civil Rights Movement reports that pastor Ben Bailey of the Central Church of Christ recorded a video in which he suggests "the mindset of God" is strongly in favor of stoning gay people to death. According to Bailey, God has "a definite standard and it is not the liberal mindset that we see today."

The speech was part of his weekly "The Gospel of Christ" evangelistic program, which, according to the website, "seeks to teach and preach THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD."

"God does not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage," Bailey claims. "The scripture says ... that is vile, unnatural and deserving of a penalty ... It's an abomination that under the Old Testament deserved stoning."

"And so, is our God, the God of Bible, wanting us to go somewhere where it's liberal, relaxed views and anything goes? No, that's the effect of a very liberal society. And we need to make sure that such is not the idea or the mindset of God."



Backpacker murder trial resumes in Thailand

The trial of 2 Myanmar nationals, accused of killing 2 British backpackers, including 1 from Norfolk, resumed in southern Thailand on Tuesday (August 18) with a focus on the reliability of crucial DNA evidence.

British tourists David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge from Hemsby, 23, were murdered last year on Koh Tao, or Turtle Island, a popular tourist destination in southern Thailand.

Thai police said in October that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, 2 22-year-old migrant workers from Myanmar, had initially confessed to the killings. The confessions followed weeks of speculation and pressure on police to solve the murders.

The pair, who deny charges of murder, rape and robbery, could face the death penalty if found guilty. Defence lawyer of the Myanmar pair said the examination of the DNA evidence is of the most crucial part ot the case.

The examination of the DNA evidence is the most important. This issue is huge, while the (examination) of other evidence is still unclear. But we will still need to wait for the witness hearing this time as well, he said before entering the court room. Police said DNA found on the victims matched the suspects but the 2 men later retracted their confessions, saying they had made them while being tortured.

Defense lawyers said there appeared to be discrepancies between DNA evidence held by Thai police and DNA tested by British police. A judge will decide on Thursday whether the defense can independently test the evidence, one lawyer told Reuters.

Rights groups say the trial is a test case for Thailand's treatment of the 2.5 million migrant laborers, many from poor neighboring countries, on which it relies.

Others fear the pair are being used as scapegoats and will not receive a fair trial in a country where the poor and disenfranchised are rarely afforded justice.

The killings hurt Thailand's image as a tourist haven when the sector was struggling to recover after months of political unrest in 2014 kept some tourists away. Many migrants take jobs Thais don't want in labor-intensive industries like agriculture, construction, and fishing. Others work as domestic helpers or cleaners in restaurants and hotels.

A verdict is expected in October.



Lindsay Sandiford: Redcar death row gran raises half the funds needed for retrial

A Redcar gran on death row in Bali for smuggling drugs has raised half of the funds she needs for a retrial.

Lindsay Sandiford said her death penalty sentence was "unjustly harsh" and she is now desperately trying to mount a final appeal against the execution.

The 58-year-old said she has assembled a new legal team of "competent Indonesian lawyers and experts" to fight her face.

In a post on the Facebook page, 'Justice and fairness for Lindsay Sandiford', said to be written by Ms Sandiford, it says that the cost of the appeal which includes the fees for the experts and evidence, is about $80,000 Australian dollars - 37,415 pounds.

It says: "The brutal truth is that without the funds to pay for the experts and legal costs, my submission cannot be lodged and my execution will go ahead unchallenged."

She said that so far she has raised $40,000 Australian dollars through donations from the public and the purchase of handicrafts that Sandiford and other prisoners have made.

Sandiford was caught trying to smuggle 3.8 kilograms of cocaine when she arrived in the Indonesian island from Bangkok in 2012.

She was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad in January 2013. She has since made numerous appeals but so far none has been successful.

Sandiford has complained that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not helped her battle, although the office denies this saying they had offered consular support.

She has continuously said she was only carrying the drugs to protect her son who she said was being threatened.

On the recent Facebook post Sandiford thanked her friends and supporters.

She said: "I am deeply moved and immensely thankful for all the help you have given me so far in my fight to avoid the death penalty.

"Thank you for all of your support and good wishes. It's a source of great comfort to me and my family.

Sadly, time is not on my side. My situation is becoming more critical with each passing day and I may now be just months away from execution unless I can mount a successful final appeal against my unjustly harsh sentence."


TEXAS----new execution date

Raphael Holiday has been given an execution date for Novermber 18; it should be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----10

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----528

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

11---------August 26----------------Bernardo Tercero------529

12---------September 29-------------Perry Williams--------530

13---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------531

14---------October 14---------------Licho Escamilla-------532

15---------October 28---------------Christopher Wilkins---533

16---------November 3---------------Julius Murphy---------534

17---------Novermber 18-------------Raphael Holiday-------535

18---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------536

19---------January 27---------------James Freeman---------537

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Death penalty ended by judicial contrivance

Having determined 4 years ago that capital punishment was constitutional in Connecticut, the state Supreme Court decided Thursday that it isn't constitutional anymore, because of a law passed three years ago that repealed capital punishment for new offenses while confirming the death sentences already pending.

The court found last week that the new law signified a consensus in society that capital punishment is indecent and that this makes the pending death sentences "cruel and unusual" and thus unconstitutional.

No all-star first baseman ever accomplished such a stretch.

In fact the new law was a political compromise recognizing that there was no consensus against capital punishment in Connecticut - that, as polls long have shown and as the court recognized 4 years ago, most people support capital punishment in general; that even more support it in regard to the 11 murderers whose death sentences were pending and whose guilt was unquestioned; that many people regret the expense incurred by the long appeals of death sentences; that many people fear that death sentences might be imposed mistakenly in the future; and that opinion so favors capital punishment that repeal could be arranged only by splitting the difference.

As Gov. Dannel Malloy put it 3 years ago: "Any legislation I would sign would be prospective -- out into the future." The governor even "guaranteed" that any repeal of capital punishment would not affect death sentences imposed for the murder of the Petit family in Cheshire, an atrocity that shook the state.

A similar "guarantee" was offered by legislators advocating the repeal legislation, like then-Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, who said: "It doesn't affect the 11 inmates who are on death row right now." Then-Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, said she would not support repeal if it saved the perpetrators of the Cheshire atrocity.

Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane knew better. He warned the legislature that the state Supreme Court would use any "prospective" repeal of capital punishment to undo all the pending death sentences as well. Indeed, that seemed to be the secret hope of many of the legislation's advocates -- that they could pretend to their constituents to be keeping the pending death sentences and the Supreme Court would take the responsibility for getting rid of them.

Writing for the court's 4 to 3 majority, Justice Richard Palmer acknowledged suspicion that such deception was the strategy of the repealers all along. Palmer even argued that the governor and legislators didn't really mean the assurances they gave the state about splitting the difference, that they really were part of the supposed consensus against capital punishment in all circumstances, including the circumstances in which the governor and legislators were assuring the state that death sentences would be imposed.

That was enough to cause the court's majority to invoke the constitutional doctrine most loved by judicial supremacists -- that "evolving standards of decency" allow courts to rewrite constitutions without benefit of public participation, so that, for example, a constitution that explicitly recognizes capital punishment, as Connecticut's does, can be cleansed of it by applying a phrase, "cruel and usual," that doesn't appear in that constitution but rather in the federal constitution, though the latter's arbiter, the U.S. Supreme Court, construes the phrase not to forbid capital punishment.

Judicial imperialism as it is, Thursday's decision was no surprise. For 30 years Connecticut's Supreme Court has been a "results-oriented" court, a court that first chooses the policy it favors and then contrives a judicial rationale for it, the facts of the case, the law, and precedent notwithstanding. The only real change here since the court upheld capital punishment 4 years ago has been in the court's own composition -- the addition of another liberal justice, the former state senator and Malloy aide Andrew J. McDonald.

(source: Commentary; Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.)


On death penalty drugs, what does NC have to hide?

North Carolina has taken measures to gut the transparency of its execution process. Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law HB 774, which classifies information on the manufacturers of lethal drugs and removes a requirement that the public be allowed to review and comment on proposed execution protocols. This makes it impossible for citizens, experts and the media to obtain basic information about the state's process of executing prisoners. By cutting off public access to this information, North Carolina has shrouded in secrecy the implementation of the most serious punishment a state can impose.

The death penalty is not at issue in this controversy. The new law will not end North Carolina's de facto moratorium on executions. Rather, it will extend litigation, create difficult legal questions and increase delays. For death penalty supporters, HB 774 is not the solution to resuming executions. It instead restricts accountability and transparency, allowing the government to hide basic information for no good reason.

The secretary of the Department of Public Safety, an unelected official, now has sole authority to choose execution procedures, unanswerable to public concerns.

Public notice and comment have long been a crucial part of policymaking in the federal and state governments. They provide a safeguard to ensure policies are fair, effective and constitutional, even on the most mundane topics such as driver's license registration. Yet, for execution procedures, North Carolinians now have no opportunity to offer opinions before these protocols go into effect.

The foundation of our constitutional republic lies in accountability and transparency, enabling American citizens to learn and debate about policy. Yet citizens cannot engage in robust conversations when basic information is hidden. The media, experts and the public can no longer serve as effective monitors of government activity on this important issue.

Both supporters and opponents of the death penalty should be outraged. Until now, public access to this information has been considered a basic and crucial part of policymaking, not a harmful release of confidential data. Such secrecy has no place in a democracy, especially not for actions as irreversible as executions.

Concerns about these new limits to transparency are not just theoretical. A lack of public awareness of execution protocols could pave the way for lax regulations. In 2010, Arizona obtained lethal drugs from a company operating out of the back of a West London driving school. Other states have acquired lethal drugs from pharmacies that combine or alter ingredients, resulting in drugs not approved by the FDA. In some states, those being executed have struggled, apparently in pain or unable to breathe, because of the kinds of drugs used.

Regardless of our views on the death penalty, Americans must maintain a principled approach to its implementation. The standard ought to be the U.S. Constitution, which mandates the government impose no cruel and unusual punishments. As long as states implement the death penalty, we must ensure they follow this constitutional standard.

The Constitution Project's Death Penalty Committee, in its recent report "Irreversible Error," offered recommendations to prevent errors in the administration of capital punishment. They called for jurisdictions to act transparently in developing execution protocols, requiring some minimal safeguards. HB 774 completely eliminates several of these safeguards, making it difficult to ensure an aspect of state government functions fairly and constitutionally. North Carolinians should be asking themselves, "What does our government have to hide?"

(source: Op-Ed; Mark White is a former governor of Texas, having previously served as the state’s attorney general. Gerald Kogan is a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. They are co-chairs of the Constitution Project Death Penalty Committee----News & Observer)


No A/C for death row inmates at Angola: decision made final, barring another appeal

Death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary who claimed in a federal lawsuit that triple-digit temperatures inside their cells at Angola amounts to cruel and unusual punishment have been denied a rehearing of their case.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to re-examine the case, which was handed down Friday (Aug. 14), upheld a decision delivered July 8 by a three-judge 5th Circuit panel. The July 8 decision found heat indices reaching up to 108 inside the inmates' cells did, in fact, violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the panel explained in its July 8 decision, the prison should not be required to install air-conditioning on death row to remedy the violation.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson had earlier ruled the conditions were unconstitutional and ordered the state to create and implement a plan, which included air conditioning, for cooling off death row.

The state appealed Jackson's decision, but in the meantime, a plan was drafted. Death row tiers, built in 2008, are only heated and ventilated. The plan would have also provided inmate with chests filled with ice and allowed them daily cold showers. An appeals court intervened on behalf of the state before the prison ever put the plans in place, halting the implementation with an injunction while agreeing to take a look at the case.

The 5th Circuit on July 8 offered a few reasons why installing air conditioning on death row would have gone too far to provide relief for the plaintiffs. Air conditioning would be available year-round, when temperatures were often not extreme; it would cool off inmates who didn't have medical conditions worsened by heat; and air conditioning "of course is expensive."

Attorneys for the inmates argued in their request for a rehearing that Jackson's order for air conditioning was less intrusive -- and involved more micromanaging -- than the remedies suggested by the panel.

The 3 inmates who filed suit, Nathaniel Code, 57; Elzie Ball, 60; James Magee, 35, all have medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, that can be exacerbated by high heat.

It's unclear, the inmates' attorney Mercedes Montagnes indicated, whether or not the inmates will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We...have not yet decided our next step," she said in an emailed statement.

(source: The Times-Picayune)


Anthony Sowell, 'Killer Instinct': 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Anthony Edward Sowell, born in August, 1959, is currently sitting on death row for the murders of 11 women over the span of several years in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sowell's murderous rampage will be detailed in the new Discover ID series Killer Instinct With Chris Hansen, debuting on Monday night at 10 p.m.

Here's what you need to know about the man they called The Cleveland Strangler:


1. Sowell Was Known as the 'Cleveland Strangler' in the Press

The serial killer earned the notorious nickname in local media reports after he was arrested in October 2009 as a suspect in the murders of 11 women whose bodies were discovered at his duplex home.

Sowell was first discovered in September 2009 when he invited a woman to his home for a drink. She reported that after a few drinks Sowell grew angry and started to hit her, choke her and raped her. When police arrived at his home on October 29 with a warrant for the alleged rape, they found 2 bodies on the living room floor. 4 other bodies were eventually found throughout the home and authorities began searching for other victims.

By the end of the investigation, police had found 11 bodies, including a human skull, inside and around the house. Sowell had been living in the duplex for 4 years.


2. He Was Charged With 11 Counts of Murder, Rape & Kidnappin

Sowell was arrested in 2009 and was charged with 11 counts of murder, rape and kidnapping, held on $6 million bond. After nearly half a dozen delays, Sowell's trial did not begin until June 6, 2011 and he plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

On July 22, 2011 Sowell was convicted on all but two counts against him, including the murders of the 11 women whose bodies were found in his house. On August 10, jurors recommended the death penalty and Judge Dick Ambrose upheld the decision. The family members of many of Sowell's victims also supported the verdict, as Adlean Atterberry, mother of victim Michelle Mason said:

Sowell requested a change to his sentence in 2013, suggesting that he did not receive a fair trial based on the extensive media coverage of the murders. The request was denied and Sowell is currently on death row at Chilicothe Correctional Institution.


3. Sowell Grew up in East Cleveland With His Mother, Claudia 'Gertude' Garrison

Sowell was born and raised in East Cleveland, 1 of 7 children born to Claudia "Gertrude" Garrison, who worked a single mother. The house was jam-packed with 7 other children, Sowell's cousins, living there after their mother passed away.

It was not a good place to live. According to Sowell's niece, Garrison regularly abused the siblings while her own children watched near by. While testifying during Sowell's trial, that same niece, told the Cuyahoga County court that he had begun raping her when he was just 11 years old.


4. He Entered the Marine Corps at 19 Years Old

Sowell entered the United States Marine Corps in January, 1978, attending recruit training at Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. There, he worked and trained as an electrician before moving to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Sowell entered the Corps shortly after his daughter was born.

On July 13, 1978 Sowell was assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at the Marine Corps Air State in Cherry Point, North Carolina. Sowell spent a year in North Carolina and then served overseas in Okinawa, Japan. He spent 7 years in the Marine Corps and received a Good Conduct Medal with 1 service star, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Certificate of Commendation, a Meritorious Mast and 2 Letters of Appreciation.


5. Sowell Released a Letter Through the Website 'Serial Killers Ink' in 2012

In November 2012, shortly after the release of 2 books chronicling his killing sprees, Sowell released a self-penned letter through the website Serial killers ink. He wrote to the people of Cleveland and rallied against trial judge Tim McGinty.

Sowell also wrote about his art work, which he drew while on death row, and the sale of his work. The letter was actually posted with a pencil drawing of 11 tombstones but Sowell made sure to point out that he did not profit from the sale, writing:

Frist [sic] let me say that I give out artwork to you and others all the time. I'm not breaking any laws and I will keep on sending out letters, artwork, and photo's [sic]. I'm not being paid for them, they have nothing to do with my case and what ever people do with them is up to them.

The drawing was eventually purchased by Philadelphia businessman Paul Duffy for $225.



Peter Neufeld of The Innocence Project to Deliver 35th Bucksbaum Lecture

The co-founder of an organization that seeks to exonerate wrongly convicted inmates through DNA testing will deliver the 35th installment of the Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Series at Drake University.

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of The Innocence Project, will deliver the free public lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 27, in the Drake University Knapp Center. Seating is general admission and tickets are not required.

The Innocence Project is a national non-profit organization that represents hundreds of inmates seeking post-conviction release through DNA testing and pursues institutional reform to identify and address the systemic causes of wrongful convictions.

More than 300 people have been exonerated by DNA testing in the United States, including 18 people who served time on death row. The Innocence Project's full-time staff attorneys provided direct representation or critical assistance in almost all of those cases, with the assistance of students at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. The wrongly convicted individuals served an average of 14 years in prison before exoneration and release.

"The increasing public attention to the issues of mandatory sentences and the nation's level of incarcerations make this an important time to hear more about the work of the Innocence Project," said Neil Hamilton, professor at Drake Law School. "The number of individuals the Project's lawyers have helped free from prison makes the group a key player in efforts to improve the justice system in the United States."

The Innocence Project advocates for more rigorous scientific validation of forensic procedures and other techniques routinely used by law enforcement outlets and prosecutors in criminal justice cases. Among the first 325 DNA-based exonerations in the United States, eyewitness misidentification was a contributing factor to wrongful convictions in 72 % of cases. Unverifiable or improper forensics were a contributing factor in 47 % of cases; false confessions in 27 % of cases, and the use of informants in 15 % of cases.

"For years, despite lacking a proper scientific foundation, many forensic practitioners have offered either unvalidated evidence or grossly exaggerated the value of the evidence, particularly in forensic disciplines that examined pattern, impression, and trace evidence, e.g. comparison of bite marks, shoe prints, bullets, and hair," Neufeld wrote in a March 30 op-ed to The New York Times. Other contributing factors include government misconduct and bad lawyering, according to the Project.

In addition to working to free wrongly convicted inmates, the Innocence Project also includes a policy department that works to pass laws and implement policies that prevent wrongful conviction; a strategic litigation department that works to improve case law through targeted legal work; and a social work department that supports exonerees as they rebuild their lives post-release.

Neufeld is a partner in the New York civil rights law firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, where he focuses on constitutional law and police misconduct. When not acting as primary counsel, Neufeld has provided pro bono services to dozens of lawyers representing the accused in death penalty cases. He has lectured and taught students, lawyers, judges, legislators, and scientists on subjects at the intersection of science and criminal justice. Before co-founding the Innocence Project, Neufeld taught trial advocacy at Fordham University Law School.

(source: Drake University news)


Jury selection begins for white supremacist's murder trial

An avowed white supremacist who admitted he killed 3 people outside 2 Jewish sites seemed upbeat as jury section began in his capital murder trial. Officers wheeled Glenn Miller into a Johnson County courtroom on Monday; he was wearing a jacket and tie and his hair was neatly combed.

Miller, 74, lives near Marionville, Mo. He has chronic emphysema and has been using a wheelchair and oxygen during courtroom proceedings since his arrest in April 2014.

Miller admits he gunned down a woman, man and teenager outside 2 Jewish centers in Overland Park. He said he was targeting Jews, although none of the 3 victims were Jewish.

Miller represents himself in the trial, which likely will last several weeks. He could get the death penalty if he's convicted of capital murder. A judge ordered his lawyers to be present to continue the trial in case he decides to remove Miller from the courtroom for misbehavior or impermissible statements. The judge refuses to let Miller use the defense that his intent to kill Jews was for the greater good of society because Jewish people have taken over important societal institutions.

Miller offered to plead guilty in return for not getting a death penalty if he's allowed to make a statement about why he committed the murders. The Johnson County district attorney refused to accept the guilty pleas, but won't say why because of the judge's gag order on attorneys in the case.



Judge sets trial date for Craig Wood for murder of Hailey Owens

A man charged with kidnapping, raping, and killing a 10-year-old girl is now set for trial in September and October of next year. A judge on Monday scheduled Craig Wood's trial to begin on Sept. 26, 2016, possibly to last until Oct. 21.

Wood is charged with grabbing Hailey Owens off a street near her home in western Springfield on Feb. 18, 2014, throwing her in his pickup, raping her, fatally shooting her in the head, and putting her body in a plastic tub in his home's basement in central Springfield. Prosecutors want a death penalty if they get a first-degree murder conviction.

Defense attorneys wanted plenty of time to prepare for trial, because of other pending death penalty cases. They asked for the trial to be scheduled in March 2017. Prosecutors told a judge that they could be ready in March 2016. Greene County Circuit Judge Tom Mountjoy on Monday split the difference; he didn't go with the prosecutors' date to try to ensure Wood's right to effective counsel is not violated. It's possible the date could change.

Defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge agreed months ago that Wood's jury will come from Platte County, on the north side of the Kansas City metro area near Kansas City International Airport, because of extensive publicity about Hailey's murder. The trial will be in Springfield with a sequestered jury.

Wood was a coach and aide at Pleasant View Elementary and Middle School, north of Springfield, at the time of Hailey's murder. He worked for the Springfield School District for 16 years. Investigators have not said, if they know, why they think Wood kidnapped a girl from another school and area of the city where he neither lived nor worked. Hailey attended Westport Elementary School.



When in doubt, decline use of death penalty

As the controversy involving convicted killer Richard Eugene Glossip plays out in Oklahoma, it is receiving a fair amount of attention in Glossip's native state, Illinois.

Ironically, Glossip wouldn't face the same fate if he had been convicted of murder in Illinois, and as doubt lingers about Glossip's guilt as his execution date nears, it indicates why Illinois is on the right side of the capital punishment question.

Glossip, 51, was born and raised in Galesburg, and in an interview published last weekend, he told his hometown newspaper, The Register-Mail, Oklahoma is going to "kill an innocent man'' if they carry his execution out.

He was convicted in 1998 of killing Barry Alan Van Treese, owner of a Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Prosecutors said Glossip feared being fired and devised a plot to kill Van Treese. The motel's maintenance man, Justin Sneed, pleaded guilty to killing Van Treese. He admitted to bludgeoning him to death in a hotel room and testified against Glossip in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.

Despite vigorous objections from Van Treese's family, Glossip has maintained his innocence and has drawn some prominent people to his side.

Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip's spiritual advisor and author of "Dead Man Walking," a book which examines moral issues related to the death penalty, has repeatedly defended the death row inmate. Susan Sarandon, who played Prejean in the movie adaption of "Dead Man Walking," also has rallied to his defense.

When Van Treese was murdered in 1997, forensic science was not nearly advanced as it is today, and Glossip was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of Sneed.

Doubt of Glossip's guilt has remained ever since, and O'Ryan Justine Sneed, Sneed's daughter, has written a letter asking for clemency for Glossip. She said her father has expressed his desire to recant his testimony, and the letter included this paragraph:

"I am sure that Mr. Glossip did not do what my father originally said, that he did not hire my father to kill Mr. Van Treese, and he doesn't deserve to die over my father's actions. One innocent life has already been taken by my father's actions. A second one doesn't deserve to be taken as well."

The letter was written long after Glossip was originally convicted, had that conviction overturned, and was convicted anew in 2004. Thus, it is not considered evidence. But it does cast only further doubt on Glossip's guilt, and just a glimmer of doubt is all it should take to call off the execution.

That's what former Illinois governor and current Kankakee resident George Ryan concluded when he suspended executions in 2000. Ryan, once an ardent death penalty supporter, acted after growing doubts about the justice system and after courts threw out the death sentences of 13 condemned men.

Shortly before leaving office in 2003, Ryan cleared death row, commuting the sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison. In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn took the final step by abolishing the death penalty completely.

Many critics of those moves remain, and it's not hard to understand their objections. If it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone has taken a life or lives, then perhaps they should pay with their own.

But, if there is any doubt, and even if it further develops only after someone is found guilty in a court of law, than how can you carry out an execution? Ryan saw sense in that argument.

Will Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin come to the same realization before Sept. 16, Glossip's scheduled date to die by lethal injection? It doesn't appear so, as just last week, she issued a statement saying Glossip's execution will move forward because she is convinced of his guilt and his conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Supreme Court decision or not, it's difficult to discount the other factors that might indicate Glossip is not guilty. The same can be said for many other death penalty cases, and because of it, Oklahoma and the other 30 states that still allow the death penalty should consider following the lead of Illinois.

(source: Editorial, Kankakee Daily Journal)


Why Oklahoma County Backed Off On Pursuing The Death Penalty

Oklahoma County was once among the top 2 % of counties nationwide that accounted for 56 % of the people sitting on death row as of 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Between 1980 and 2001, Oklahoma County District Attorney Robert Macy won 54 death penalty convictions, just over 2 per year during the 21-year period. But according data analyzed by the Marshall Project, Oklahoma County has only sent 3 people to death row in the past 6 years.

So what happened?

Former Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Doug Parr says Oklahoma County prosecutors are far more reluctant to issue death sentences after a 2001 investigation into police chemist Joyce Chilcrist after her scientific analysis resulted in an innocent man spent 15 years in prison for a faulty rape conviction:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reviewed her cases in April 2001, finding that she deliberately and repeatedly falsified DNA matches, withheld exculpatory evidence, and failed to test samples sent to her laboratory. Macy stepped down unexpectedly in June of 2001 but said the investigation wasn't behind his early retirement. He cited a desire to spend more time with his family. He died in 2011.

From 1980 to 1993, Gilchrist provided evidence for thousands of the Oklahoma County DA's criminal cases, including just over 1/2 of the convictions that resulted in the death penalty. 11 of those people were executed before their cases could be reviewed for errors.

In 2007, an Oklahoma County death row inmate was exonerated after Gilchrist's testimony in that case was proven fraudulent. The state government and innocence organizations continue to review other cases where convictions were secured largely by her testimony.

(source: KGOU news)


Life or death: Jury to deliberate on Jeremiah Bean sentence

A Lyon County jury will begin deliberations today on whether Jeremiah Bean will get life in prison or the death penalty.

Jurors have had an emotional week hearing tearful testimony from Bean's family as well as the victims' families.

Bean is convicted in a series of crimes that includes 1st degree murder of 5 people.

The series of crimes happened in and near Fernley in May of 2013.

Bean has shown little to no emotion throughout the trial.

Prosecutors are asking the jury to give him the death penalty.

Their deliberation on his sentence is expected this afternoon.

(source: Fox News)


Closing arguments set at trial over killing of 6-year-old

Lawyers are scheduled to make closing arguments Tuesday at the trial of an Arizona man charged with killing his brother over a drug dispute and then gunning down a witness - the brother's 6-year-old son.

Christopher Rey Licon is charged with fatally shooting his half brother Angel Jaquez in December 2010 at their Phoenix townhome and kidnapping and killing his nephew, Xavier Jaquez.

Authorities say the boy was likely killed because he either saw or heard his father get killed.

The child was found fatally shot in an alley in a Phoenix neighborhood.

Licon has mounted an insanity defense.

His lawyer says Licon's psychological condition was deteriorating in the weeks before the killings.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Licon.

The trial started in mid-April.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge postpones trial date in 'Grim Sleeper' serial killings

The trial of a man charged with 10 counts of murder in the "Grim Sleeper" serial killings was postponed until October after lawyers on both sides complained Monday of potential ambushes by their opponents.

Prosecutors sought the delay in Los Angeles Superior Court because the defense hadn't turned over reports by several potential expert witnesses in the death penalty case of Lonnie Franklin Jr. and said they wouldn't be ready for trial in less than a month.

"You can't ambush the people," Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said in a hearing marked with acrimonious exchanges between lawyers.

The delay until Oct. 14 came 6 months after anguished family members of victims pleaded with Judge Kathleen Kennedy to set a court date in the killings dating back 30 years. Kennedy had set a June date but then postponed it until September.

Franklin, 62, has been behind bars 5 years awaiting trial in the deaths of 10 women shot and strangled between 1985 and 2007. The nickname was coined because of the 14-year gap between slayings in 1988 and 2002.

Defense lawyer Seymour Amster said he hadn't turned over reports by experts in ballistics, photo enhancement and drug trafficking because he hasn't decided if he'll call them as witnesses, but he's prepared to use them if ambushed by prosecutors.

"It's time to make these decisions," Kennedy said.

Kennedy ordered Amster to turn over the reports to prosecutors by Aug. 31 and said she wants to hear personally from a DNA expert if he can't meet that deadline.

Amster has said the DNA expert has found evidence tying 2 of the killings to a serial killer on death row for 14 murders.

Noting the level of hostility between the 2 lawyers, Kennedy said there was "no love lost" between the 2 from a previous death penalty case.

"I would stipulate to that," Amster said.

"And I would agree with the defense for the 1st time," Silverman said.

(source: ABC news)


Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Files Appeal Citing Publicity

Attorneys for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appealed his conviction and death sentence on Monday, arguing that publicity made it impossible for him to get a fair trial in the city and that capital punishment is unconstitutional.

In court papers, defense lawyer William Fick cited a recent dissent by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in which he said that he believes the death penalty "now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment.'"

However, the majority opinion in that very same case opened with the declaration that "capital punishment is constitutional."

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in June for helping his older brother carry out the April 15, 2013, blasts that killed 3 people and injured and maimed more than 200 others.

The appeal claims that "continuous and unrelenting publicity" about the bombings, the defendant and his family, and wrenching survivor stories prevented him from getting an impartial hearing. It notes that Boston announced a new holiday marking the bombings while jurors were deliberating Tsarnaev's guilt.

As users of social media, the jurors would have found it impossible to avoid coverage, the appeal argues.

"Put simply, prejudicial media coverage, events, and environment saturated greater Boston, including the social networks of actual trial jurors, and made it an improper venue for the trial of this case," the court papers say.

The defense repeatedly asked for a change of venue before the trial began, but the requests were rejected by the judge.

(source: NBC news)



(source: DPIC)


Vietnam court overturns death penalty for Nigerian drug mule

A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday reduced a death sentence previously handed to a Nigerian man for bringing methamphetamine into Vietnam to life imprisonment, local media report.

The indictment said Ejiogu Benjamin Ikechukwu had nearly 3.3 kilograms of the drug in metal tubes and a laptop charger in his luggage as he flew to Tan Son Nhat in June 2012.

He had transited in Qatar.

The 33-year-old said he only planned to go to Vietnam to buy clothes to resell them in Nigeria and had no idea about the drug in his luggage.

He said a man asked him to carry the tubes and the charger to Vietnam and someone would pick them up.

A Ho Chi Minh court in August 2013 sentenced him to death, but he appealed the verdict.

The People's Supreme Court then canceled the verdict, ordering a new investigation.

Investigators could not track down the people who had used him as a drug mule.

Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in Vietnam face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


MHA recommends rejection of mercy pleas of 2 death row convicts

President Pranab Mukherjee has been reportedly recommended by the Ministry of Home Affairs to reject the petitions of 2 death row convicts.

The death sentence for the convicts, Mohan Anna Chavan and Jitendra Gehlot, currently lodged in Maharashtra jails, was upheld by the Supreme Court and their mercy petitions were rejected by the Maharashtra Governor.

Mohan Anna Chavan was awarded death sentence by the Bombay High Court in 2002 for the rape and murder of two minor girls in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra and Supreme Court upheld it in 2008.

Jithendra Nayansingh Gehlot killed 7 persons (5 women and 2 children) in Pune, Maharashtra in 1994. Death penalty was awarded to him by a trial court and the same was upheld by Bombay High Court in 1999 and Supreme Court in 2000.

A senior ministry official was quoted as saying, "We have given our opinion to the President explaining our stand. The decision has been reached after going through all the relevant documents as well as the opinion given by the Maharashtra government on the subject."

Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President can grant pardon, and suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death. The President is bound by the recommendation of the Council of Ministers in deciding the mercy petitions. President Mukherjee has rejected 22 mercy petitions so far and has commuted only 1 death sentence of Man Bahadur Dewan from Assam convicted for killing his wife, 2 sons and neighbor.

MHA data reportedly shows that Presidents, with the exceptions of Narayanan and Pratibha Patil, have dealt with mercy petitions largely without mercy. According to information released by the government under the RTI Act, of the 77 mercy pleas decided by Presidents between 1991 and 2010, 69 were rejected. Only 8 - about 10% - of those who sought mercy were spared the gallows. R Venkataraman (1987-1992) rejected 44 mercy pleas, the most by any President.



Yaqub Memon's 'strong role' paved way for 10 men in commutation of their death sentences

Every coin has 2 sides and visibly these sides will always remain completely contrasting to each other. Incidentally this standard applies to Yaqub Memon's 'strong involvement' in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, upholding of his death sentence by Supreme Court and his subsequent hanging.

One side of his strong role played in the serial blasts is that he earned death penalty and was hanged in Nagpur prison on July 30 this year; the other contrasting side is that his same purported strong role helped other 10 men in the case who were also sentenced to death by TADA court in commutation of their sentences by Supreme Court.

The 1st side of Memon's strong role proved him a 'Terrorist' and became reason for his execution but the other side of his same role proved a pivotal criterion for Supreme Court to distinguish the quantity of punishment to the convicts and there by converting death sentence of remaining 10 into life imprisonment.

On March 12, 1993, the commercial hub of the country witnessed an unprecedented terrorist act sending shock waves throughout the world. In a span of about 2 hours i.e., between 13:33 to 15:40 hours, a series of 12 bomb explosions took place one after the other at the following 12 places in Mumbai.

The investigation began and CBI arrested 123 accused including Yaqub Memon and tried them before a special TADA court in Mumbai.

On July 27, 2007 the TADA Court Judge P D Kode convicted 100 accused; 12 of them were sentenced death penalty. 1 of these 12 died in the prison before his appeal could be heard by Supreme Court.

The remaining 11 appealed before Supreme Court against their conviction by TADA court. These 11 were - Yaqub Memon, Kasam Ghansar, Asgar Yusuf Mukadam, Abdul Gani Ismail Turk , Parvez Nazir Ahmed Shaikh, Mohd. Farooq Mohammed Yusuf, Shahnawaz Abdul Kadar Qureshi, Zakir Hussain Noor Mohd. Shaikh, Abdul Khan @ Yakub Khan Akhtar, Firoz @ Akram Amani Malik and Mohammed Mushtaq Moosa Tarani.

All these had played active role in orchestrating blasts and the main charge due to which they were sentenced to death by TADA court was that all had planted bombs.

No one would have ever imagined that bomb planters of such a huge devastation would be shown leniency by the Supreme Court but it did so as it had to discriminate Yaqub Memon and other masterminds of the blasts from other convicts who merely acted without full knowledge of the conspiracy.

On March 21, 2013 Justice P Sathashivam and Justice B S Chauhan of Supreme Court found only Yaqub Memon as deserving to go to the gallows and commuted death penalty of 10 other into life imprisonment.

While providing reasoning in commuting death sentences of 10 convicts the 2 judge bench said, "If we say it in a metaphoric style, Yaqub Memon and all the absconding accused were the archers whereas rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands."

On the same line if one thinks of the case of 26/11 carnage where Ajmal Kasab was sentenced to death by Supreme Court one can imagine the gravity of crime committed by Kasab would have been lowered if his masters in Pakistan would have been tried along with him. He too was only one of the arrows but to see him as arrow detailed role of his archers was not before the Supreme Court.

Further, the reasoning of the Apex Court continued and it said, "They were the architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight", adding at another place, " ... it is not hyperbole to state that, Yaqub Memon was one of the 'driving spirit' behind the plan of the 1993 blasts, whereas the other appellants played a far lesser role and thus a lesser contribution to the crimes resulting from this plan."

One can easily make out from above reasoning of the Supreme Court that if it would not have been for Yaqub Memon's role in the mind of the Supreme Court, perhaps role of bomb planters would have appeared to the court as the chief reason for the deaths of scores of people in 1993 blasts, similar to what it perceived in Kasab's case.

Supreme Court judged Yaqub Memon and other absconding as the real conspirators and agreed that they were the men who hatched the plan and, "the other 10 appellants were mere subservient subordinates whose knowledge and acquaintance might have been restricted to their counterparts".

Even if it was cautious in commuting their sentences, it specified clearly, "This may not help in complete exoneration of the liability of these 10 appellants but the degree of punishment must necessarily reflect this difference. It is vital to remember that 'but for' the masterminds, this blast should have never seen the daylight."

After explaining interpretation minutely, Supreme Court declared," can safely be concluded that no offence might have taken place at all but for the instigation by the absconding accused and Yaqub memon".

Accordingly, it proclaimed, "to differentiate the degree of punishment to Yaqub Memon and other 10 appellants, we contemplate that the ends of justice would be served if the death sentence of these 10 appellants be commuted to imprisonment for life".

There remains no doubt it was because of Yaqub Memon's strong role in the case which was before the eyes of Supreme Court that helped other 10 convicts to live even after hanging of him.

As said earlier, Yaqub Memon's involvement in the case and his joint trial with other accused proved life surviving, especially for the 10 who were in the same line of death penalty as that of him. If not publicly, but in private these 10 men surely must have supplicated for Yaqub Memon "Rest In Peace ... RIP" when he was executed on the morning of July 30, 2015.



Man to die for killing wife

A court here yesterday sentenced a man to death for killing his wife in Kalmakanda upazila of the district in 2005.

The death penalty awardee is Bashar Ali, 55, son of late Shamsher Ali of Gobindapur village in the upazila.

According to the prosecution, Bashar Ali and his wife Halima Khatun locked in an altercation over a family feud on November 2, 2005.

At one stage, Bashar hit Halima with an axe, leaving her dead on the spot.

On the day, Moti Mia, son of the deceased, filed a case with Kalmakanda Police Station against his father.

Police submitted charge sheet against Bashar on December 31, 2005.

After examining 11 witnesses and all the records, Additional District and Sessions Judge Abdul Hamid handed down the verdict.

(source: The Daily Star)


State gets 2 weeks to submit Mir Kashem appeal summary

The top appeals court has given the state 2 weeks to submit the summary of its appeal in the case of death-row war crimes convict Mir Kashem Ali.

A 4-strong Appellate Division bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha set the deadline on Tuesday accepting an appeal from Attorney General Mahbubey Alam for more time.

Last year, on Nov 2, the International Crimes Tribunal found the Jamaat-e-Islami executive council member guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to death.

Mir Kashem appealed against the verdict on Nov 30 with a 150-page application and 1,750-pages of relevant documents. The appeal calls for his release and scrapping of the death penalty.

On May 28, the Appellate Division had set the deadline for submitting appeal summaries.



11 Inmates Hanged by Gallows

11 prisoners who were accused of drug-related and felony crimes executed in Bandar Abbas and Minab prisons.

The offenders who had been reportedly sentenced to the death penalty on the charge of posing 398 K.G drugs including more than 70 K.G Heroin, 200 K.G opium, 105 K.G Crack Cocaine (the freebase form of cocaine that can be smoked), 4 K.G Hashish (Marijuana), 19 K.G Morphine, hanged by gallows in the prisons of Bandar Abbas and Minab on 17 Aug 2015.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Bandar Abbass, Branch 2, had held its charges against 6 offenders, and the other 4 of the criminals had received their sentence as the death penalty by the Revolutionary Court of Minab County that the verdicts finally confirmed and validated by Iran's regime prosecutor, rights groups said.

The inmates were taken to isolation in Bandar Abbas prison to execution on 15 Aug 2015.

The prisoners name who were hanged in Bandar Abbas prison are as follows;

1. Hussain Karimi, 25, from Bandar Abbas city, accused of drug-related crimes.

2. Siyamak Fadai, 24, from Ahwaz city, accused of drug-related crimes.

3. Zaher Omredin, 24, son of Abdul-Nazer, from Afghanistan, who is kept about 6 years in prison.

4. Vazir Ahmad Omredin, 22, son of Abdul-Nazer from Afghanistan, who is kept about 6 years in prison.

5. Amir-Hussain Abdul-Khalegh, 22, son of Haj Mohammad Khan, who is kept about 5 years in prison.

6. Mansour Mehdizadeh, 68, son of Ali Mohammad, from Miyaneh County, who is kept about 4 years in prison.

7. Gholam Fayezi, 28, from Tabriz city, who is kept about 4 years in prison.

HRANA also reported that Sa'adat Shah-Karam Zehi (Rigi), Eisa Omar Zehi, Shahnavazi and Jadgal were hanged in Minab prison.



10 prisoners hanged in Iran

Iran's fundamentalist regime hanged 10 prisoners, including at least 2 Afghan citizens, on Monday in the south of the country.

6 prisoners were hanged on Monday in Bandar Abbas Prison, southern Iran. They were identified as Siamak Fadaii, 24; Zaher Amroddin, 24 (an Afghan citizen); Vazirahmad Amroddin, 22 (Afghan); Amir-Hossein Abdol-Khaleq, 22; Mansour Mehdizadeh, 68; and Gholam Fayezi, 28.

Another four prisoners were hanged on Monday in Minab, 80 kilometers east of Bandar Abbas. They were identified as Saadat Shah Karam Zahi (Rigi), Issa Omar Zehi and two others identified only by their last names Shahnavazi and Jedgal.

They were accused of drug related charges.

Following the executions, Ms. Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and a human rights activist, on Tuesday said: "The fundamentalist regime in Iran is increasingly resorting to group executions to terrorize the population and prevent any popular protests demanding change. The international community should not tolerate such mass killings and should make its ties to Iran conditional upon an end to executions and torture."

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Escalating rate of executions in Iran

Human rights violations are escalating in Iran and the regime is pursuing a "policy of death" despite a nuclear deal with the major world powers, Hamid Yazdan Panah, an Iranian-American attorney, writer and human rights activist, wrote on Monday in Reuters' The Great Debate.

"The nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other major world players has garnered significant praise and fanfare. The agreement has been hailed as a victory for peace and a turning point for Iran. Some have even claimed that the agreement will usher in a new era of moderation and the development of Iranian civil society."

"The facts on the ground paint a very different picture, especially as they relate to human rights. Currently, the Iranian regime leads the world in per capita executions and it continues to escalate the rate of executions and mass repression."

"Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, all talk of the opposition movement and human rights has been swept under the rug while human rights reports from inside the country confirm the true nature of this regime. Earlier this year a report by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Ahmad Shaheed noted that 'the overall situation has worsened' with respect to human rights."

"Just weeks after signing the 'historic' deal and more than 8 months after signing an interim agreement, Iran is in the midst of what Amnesty International has referred to as an 'unprecedented spike' in executions. Currently, Iran's new 'moderate' administration is on pace to hit a new 12-year high in executions. And Amnesty International has noted that while the regime officially claims that only 246 executions have taken place in 2015, this number is closer to 700 in reality."

"Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East Director at Amnesty International, has decried Iran's 'theatre of cruelty,' stating; 'Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the State carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale.'"

"Dissidents and human rights groups have noted that many executions in Iran occur with little or no due process. Trials that do take place are often deeply politicized and flawed, prisoners are often not allowed access to legal counsel, and denied the procedural remedies of appeal. Political prisoners who are sentenced to death usually see their fates sealed in court proceedings that occur in a matter of minutes."

"The mass killings not only take human lives, but they have also traumatized and terrorized a population. Public executions are commonplace in Iran and the horrific spectacle is a constant reminder to those who dare defy this regime."

"Those executed are often individuals who are marginalized in Iranian society. This includes undocumented migrants and refugees from neighboring Afghanistan, as well as ethnic and religious minorities who face disenfranchisement in Iran. In 2014, Iran hanged an Afghan juvenile, 17-year-old Jannat Mir for an alleged drug offense, despite the fact that he was a minor. Iran remains one of the only countries in the world to execute juvenile offenders."

"The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has given more than $15 million to Iran since 1998 in order to fight the 'war on drugs' and most of this money comes from European nations, despite their own opposition to the death penalty. Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team for the human rights NGO Reprieve has called for a change to this policy, stating, 'Even as Iran's execution rate skyrockets, European nations like France and Germany continue to fund brutal raids by the Iranian police which routinely send people to death row for non-violent offenses.'"

"Those who claim that a nuclear deal with Iran presents hope for human rights never identify a mechanism through which this supposed change will occur," he added.

(source: NCR-Iran)

AUGUST 17, 2015:


Top legislative Republican wants 2012 research Malloy used on death-penalty repeal

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano on Monday asked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to give reasons for his 2012 stance that the repeal of the death penalty would not affect the 11 murderers on Connecticut's Ddath row.

Malloy's spokesman discounted Fasano's request as political grandstanding.

"Based upon the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling made by an activist court banning the death penalty, despite the clear intent of the legislature to maintain the death penalty for those currently on death row, including the Cheshire killers, and based on the strong dissent which clearly explains how the majority of the court overstepped the boundaries of our Constitution and purposely hijacked the role of policymakers, I would like to better understand how you came to your conclusion in 2012 that this very situation would not happen," Fasano said in a letter to the governor. "In 2012, you emphatically guaranteed that the death penalty repeal bill would in no way be retroactive."

Last week the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the 11 men on death row cannot be executed because of the repeal of capital punishment. They will now spend their lives in prison without the possibility of release. "I would like to know how and why you reached an alternate conclusion regarding the constitutionality of a prospective-only repeal," Fasano, a lawyer, wrote. He asked that the governor, a former criminal prosecutor, provide the information he analyzed while reaching his 2012 conclusion, as well as the legal opinions he researched.

"I know your personal mindset was against the death penalty in all forms. But your underlying desires could not influence the legal assurances you shared with the public," Fasano wrote.

Devon Puglia, Malloy's Capitol spokesman, said Monday afternoon that the governor's office had not yet received the letter that Fasano shared with reporters.

"Our thoughts are with the victims and their families right now," Puglia said in a statement. "We wish Republicans would show a modicum of respect by refraining from engaging in what are obvious political stunts."

(source: Conn. Post)


New experts in mitigation, appellate law to assist in death penalty cases

Following a $620,000 grant that created FIU Law's Death Penalty Clinic's Florida Center for Capital Representation (FCCR), 2 new staff members have been hired - each with a unique specialty and a clear focus in mind.

Veteran appellate attorney and FCCR co-director Karen Gottlieb and licensed clinical social worker and attorney Elisa Quesada have joined Director and Visiting Clinical Professor Stephen Harper to provide education and consultation to lawyers who are representing clients facing the death penalty.

A big part of an attorney's preparation for a death penalty case is creating a defendant profile. Stepping in to help lawyers tell their clients' stories is Quesada. Quesada will train them in uncovering the extenuating factors applicable to their clients and creating a compelling mitigation profile.

"Oftentimes a defendant is dealing with clinical issues like mental illness and substance abuse - which attorneys are not trained to address," she says. "I will consult with attorneys who are faced with a difficult situation and assist them in understanding their clients and how they can effectively represent them. It's about explaining, not excusing, what their clients have allegedly done so they can provide them with the very best defense."

Gottlieb will use her years of experience in appellate work to teach trial lawyers how to develop motions, strategies and themes that are creative and compelling. Her goal is to help improve their pre-trial and trial methods so that they are able, either to win at trial, or preserve the record for appeal, if they are denied the opportunity to investigate or fully present their case.

"A capital defendant generally has 2 defense attorneys and faces two stages when they go to court: the trial phase and the penalty phase," Gottlieb explains. "It's important to get both lawyers working as a team. They need a comprehensive understanding of both the offense charged and their client's character. The trial team needs to work with the penalty phase team to present a unified defense, and each has to place equal amounts of importance on both phases."

For both experts, the most important outcome of their work is helping attorneys, if not win an acquittal, achieve a life sentence, plea offer or life recommendation from a jury. Through trainings, consultations and direct communication with attorneys, FCCR is available to support the defense team from start to finish.

"The FCCR was created to improve the quality and effectiveness of defense lawyers handling capital cases," Harper says. "Over the next 2 years, our office will work with attorneys to help improve their investigation skills, their abilities to represent effectively their clients and to create mitigating profiles."

The FCCR, made possible by a grant from the Themis Fund, a Proteus Fund initiative, will also include training on jury selection and how to integrate the 1st phase of a capital case with the penalty phase.

Currently, the State of Florida has nearly 400 individuals who face possible execution. In 2014, Florida ranked 2nd in the country in the number of people sentenced to death and ranked 2nd in the number of executions. There are more than 1,000 deathpenalty cases currently awaiting trial.

(source: FIU News)


Black jurors more likely to be struck from Caddo juries

Black prospective jurors in Caddo Parish are 3 times more likely to be struck from a jury than whites, a new study released today says.

The study, conducted by anti-death penalty group Reprieve Australia, looked at 332 felony jury trials prosecuted by the Caddo Parish District Attorney Office from Jan. 28, 2003, and Dec. 5, 2012.

In the cases examined, the DA's office used discretionary "peremptory" challenge, which doesn't require stating a reason, to reject potential jurors. What emerged was a troubling pattern which has garnered renewed scrutiny for jury selection practices in Caddo Parish.

"In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, this pattern discloses that it strongly suggests race has played a role in the exercise of these peremptory challenges, by the Caddo Parish DA's Office, Ursula Noye, Reprieve Australia's vice president and Blackstrikes Fellow, said.

The nonprofit found:

--Of the trials examined, 227 (83 %) involved a black defendant.

--The district attorney's office used discretionary "peremptory challenges" to strike qualified potential black jurors 46 % of the time as opposed to the 15 % of the time for non-black jurors.

--In Caddo Parish 22 % of trials had 2 or fewer black jurors. Not 1 defendant was acquitted in a trial were there 2 or fewer black jurors. The 51 trials with 3 or more black jurors had an acquittal rating of 12 %.

--In 224 12-% juries, there was an average of 3.86 jurors per jury who were black. 206 of these juries returned a verdict.

--Some Caddo DA prosecutors struck black jurors at rate of 4.5 to 5 times the rate they struck non-black jurors.

(source: The Advertiser)


Colorado lawmakers bump into death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap

In June, 4 Colorado legislators got face-to-face with death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, the Chuck E. Cheese killer whose execution was postponed last October by Gov. John Hickenlooper to the dismay of many pro-death-penalty Coloradans.

Like they do most summers, these members of the Capital Development Committee were touring state colleges, universities and other facilities to find out how taxpayers' dollars are being spent and to consider future funding requests.

The June 8-10 tour took the committee to northeastern Colorado, to tour the Sterling Correctional Facility, which houses the state's 3 death row inmates.

Legislators on the Sterling visit were Reps. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland and J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio; and Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

According to the legislators, the accidental encounter was uneventful and Dunlap was "very polite."

Baumgardner said Dunlap came out of an elevator with a guard and had to walk through the group of mostly pro-death-penalty lawmakers because the space was so tight.

The inmate was held by the arm by the guard and was in full chains and shackles, according to Vigil.

"We were surprised," Baumgardner said, and he believed Dunlap was as well.

Vigil described the situation as "surreal. It took me a second to recognize him," he said.

"It's a pretty nice facility," Baumgardner said of the prison. There are things that need to be looked at, but that's true for all of the state's prisons, he added.

As to how meeting Dunlap impacted their opinions about the death penalty, the encounter didn't change any minds, according to the legislators.

(source: The Colorado Independent)


Fero's Bar murders: Jury to hear mitigating factors in death penalty case against Dexter Lewis

Jurors in the Fero's Bar and Grill murders case begin the 2nd phase of the sentencing hearing Monday.

Jurors decided during Phase 1 of the sentencing process that aggravating factors were present in 5 murders committed by Dexter Lewis in Denver during October 2012. Earlier, the same jury convicted him of 5 counts of 1st-degree murder after deliberation, 5 counts of felony murder, 5 counts of attempted robbery and an arson charge.

In Phase 2, defense attorneys will present mitigating factors in an attempt to convince the jury to be lenient with the sentencing, according to Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney.

3 others went to the bar with Lewis on the night of the murders. Brothers Joseph and Lynell Hill pleaded guilty under deals with prosecutors. The 4th, Demarea Harris, was a confidential federal informant and wasn't charged.

Harris and Lynell Hill said Lewis stabbed all 5 people. Joseph Hill refused to testify during Lewis' trial.

Lewis allegedly told his cellmate that he had to kill everyone in the bar because they'd seen his face as he killed the 1st victim. Those killed were bar owner Young Fero, 63; Daria M. Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45. The Denver Medical Examiner said all five victims died of multiple stab wounds.

The 5 victims were found when firefighters responded to the fire at the bar. Investigators believed the fire was set to cover up the killings.

Investigators said robbery was the motive for the slayings. The suspects got away with $170, according to court records.



Lebanon Indicts 11 over Terror-Related Charges

Lebanon Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan on Monday issued 8 indictments against 11 individuals over terror-related charges, including forming armed cells to carry out attacks.

The indictment also accused the men of murder and attempted murder of Lebanese soldiers during duty in the northern city of Tripoli as well as acts of sabotage and possession of weapons and explosives, The Daily Star reported.

A judicial source said among the indicted men was Amir Mansour, the brother of Osama Mansour who was killed in April by police as he tried to escape arrest. He had been sentenced to death in absentia over an August 2014 attack in the northern city.

The other suspects included 8 Syrians and 3 Lebanese.

They could face the death penalty if convicted.

Last October, the Lebanese Army seized the headquarters of militant commander Shadi Mawlawi after 4 days of clashes that left 42 people dead and some 100 wounded. The stronghold had been manned by Mawlawi and his partner Osama Mansour, militant commanders reportedly linked to the Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.

(source: Tasnim news)


Human rights groups blast new anti-terrorism law

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi ratified Sunday evening a new anti-terrorism law, which makes terrorism a capital offense, and which human rights advocates are calling "catastrophic."

The new law

The law, which entered into force upon ratification, will task criminal courts to consider terrorism-related crimes that are punishable by 5 years in jail up to death sentences.

The new law stipulates that anyone who establishes, organizes, runs, preside a terrorist group or entity shall be given from sentences ranging from life imprisonment to death.

Those who belong to or participated in a terrorist group shall receive a harsh punishment not less than 10 years in jail, the law said. Terrorist groups shall be fined from 100,000 EGP to 3 million EGP ($12,7000 to $383,000.)

Moreover, anyone convicted of sabotaging electricity transmission towers or gas and oil pipelines may be sentenced between 7 years in jail to life imprisonment; in case that his "terrorist" acts lead to the death of a person, the punishment would be toughened to the death penalty.

Those who incite violence directly or indirectly shall receive at least a sentence of 5-year imprisonment. This punishment could be toughened to 7 years in jail in case that the act of inciting violence occurred inside a religious worship place or among military and security personnel.

Under Article 24, any one who attacked a public transportation vehicle shall be sentenced at least to seven years in jail; however, it could be punishable up to a life sentence if the vehicle belongs to the police or military.

The punishment of hacking any governmental website is punishable minimum of 10 years in jail.

Those who abstained from calling or reporting the police about "almost terrorist acts" shall be sentenced 3 months in jail and be fined between 100,000 EGP and 300,000 EGP.

'Law incites killing'

"The law brushes off all standards of freedoms; and all human rights activities see it the terrorism itself," Ali Atef, lawyer at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post Monday, adding that "any opposition member could be charged with terrorism under this law."

The law confers immunity for those who carry out the law; for example if a security member used force or killed an alleged terrorist on the ground of self-defense, he would not be held for accountable. Atef saw that this law "allows killing."

Walid Farouk, Chairperson National Association for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (NADRF), told The Cairo Post Monday that law was passed few months before electing a new parliament to "broaden the Ministry of Interior's powers."

"The law has unclear and broad phrases to serve the police body," he noted. He added that the Egyptian Criminal Code has already articles by which terrorists are being tried so he questioned the timing of its issuance.

Article 3 stipulates that a terrorist is a person who used "violence, threats, and terror against people inside and outside the country to destabilize the public order. "Farouk, however, said this law could be used against the police personnel as well "In case that a police officer tortured an inmate or a civilian, he could be designated a 'terrorist' under the Article 3 of the law."

"Hence, I think this law will be unconstitutional zed," he said, as it has flawed articles. He noted that the law also enables the country to pursue the Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters who fled the country.

Media blackout

"The law is muzzling mouths of media," Atef said; according to Article 35, journalists who publish "incorrect" terrorism-related information that contradicts the Ministry of Defense's official statements shall be fined between 200,000 EGP and 500,000 EGP.

Per the law, publishing or broadcasting information about trials of terrorism-related crimes shall be authorized by the presiding judge of the court; violators of this article shall be fined between 20,000 EGP and 200,000 EGP.

In July, Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate and other number of human rights organizations voiced their rejection to the law.

Court's broadened powers

Per the law, the court can order residency in a certain place, ban possession of means of communication, order participation in rehabilitation programs, and order the deportation of foreigners.

Confiscated money for insurance

Per article 54, the state shall issue, obligatorily, life insurance documents for the security and military personnel charged to combat terrorism; the Prime Minister has the authority to allocate money confiscated by the court for repaying the value of insurance documents.

(source: The Cairo Post)


13 men to face charges over boy's videotaped beating death

Police in northeastern Bangladesh are seeking charges against 13 men for allegedly beating a 13-year-old boy to death in a case that stunned a nation used to violent crime because a video of the boy being tortured was posted online.

Detective Branch Inspector Suranjit Talukdar on Sunday sent the charges to a court in Sylhet city involving the case of victim Samiul Islam Rajon, who died of internal bleeding. The attackers allegedly punished him after accusing him of stealing a bicycle, an allegation his family and police say is unfounded.

A magistrate in Sylhet, Farhana Yasmin, scheduled a hearing for Aug. 24 to determine whether charges will be accepted.

A 28-minute chilling video of the beating of the boy, who cried for help, went viral online, triggering protests in the South Asian country, where such incidents are not rare. His body bore at least 64 injury marks, according to an autopsy report.

In the video, recorded with a cellphone camera, the boy is heard screaming in pain and pleading with his attackers: "Don't beat me please, will die, will die." The attackers laughed at the boy when he asked for water.

Like many poor children in Bangladesh, Rajon was forced to leave school to work to help his family, in his case selling vegetables.

The main suspect visible in the video fled to Saudi Arabia. He has been detained there and is waiting repatriation to face trial. The other 12 men were arrested by police with the help of local residents, who allegedly caught some of the attackers when they tried to dump the body.

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

(source: CBS news)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

3 Sri Lankans, 1 Egyptian beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has decapitated 4 more foreign nationals amid global concerns over the rising number of the executions in the kingdom.

According to the Saudi Interior Ministry on Monday, 3 Sri Lankan nationals were executed in the western Saudi port city of Jeddah for their role in the murder of a Saudi man.

An Egyptian was also beheaded in the Eastern Province for stabbing and strangling a citizen to death.

According to statistics, 120 people have been executed in the kingdom since the beginning of 2015, showing a drastic increase in compassion with the 87 executions carried out throughout the previous year.

Back in May, the United Nations warned of the "fast pace" of executions in the Arab country, saying it is "very disturbing."----Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

"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, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said.

In the same month, the Saudi regime had issued an online vacancy announcement for hiring 8 executioners.

Riyadh has been under fire for having one of the world's highest execution rates. London-based Amnesty International attributes 79 executions to the kingdom in 2013 and 2012, 82 in 2011 and 2010, and at least 69 executions in 2009.

Under the Saudi law, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, rape and murder carry the death penalty.

(source: PressTV)


Why Cases of Convicted Soldiers Should Be Reviewed

What the former helmsmen have not disclosed is that through their criminal negligence, thousands of ill-equipped soldiers were massacred by the insurgents while those who refused to commit suicide were either tried, convicted and sentenced to death by courts-martial set up in questionable circumstances.

Recently, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Barde (rtd) disclosed that the armed forces lack the equipment with which to fight the insurgents in the North-East region. Other senior military officers who who were in charge of the armed forces during the era have confirmed that the the troops deployed by them were neither equipped nor motivated sufficiently to prosecute the war on terror. The implication of the belated revelations of the erstwhile military commanders is that the huge funds earmarked for the purchase of military hardware for waging the war against the terrorists were diverted and cornered by some criminal elements. On his own part, the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd.) has said some arms and ammunition, ordered during the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, are yet to arrive in the country. He said some elements, whose identities he did not disclose, were frustrating the nation's efforts to get the critically needed equipment to fight the terror sect, Boko Haram.

What the former helmsmen have not disclosed is that through their criminal negligence, thousands of ill-equipped soldiers were massacred by the insurgents while those who refused to commit suicide were either tried, convicted and sentenced to death by courts-martial set up in questionable circumstances. Thus, from September-December 2014, 70 soldiers were sentenced to death while several others were jailed for mutiny arising from the legitimate demand for arms and ammunition to confront the terrorists. To avoid further embarrassment which the death penalty attracted for the armed forces, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Kenneth Minimah (rtd.) engaged in the summary dismissal of not less than 1000 soldiers in contravention of the provisions of the Armed Forces Act.

... the Chief of Army Staff, General Umar Yussuf Batarai should confirm the cases of the convicted soldiers without any further delay.

As if the official cruelty meted out to the soldiers was not enough, General Minimah, as the confirmed authority, refused to review the findings and sentences passed on the convicted soldiers which ought to have been done within 60 days of the verdict of the courts-martial. By refusing to promulgate and confirm the said findings, the ex-Chief of Army Staff has denied the convicted soldiers of the constitutional right of appeal. Instead of transferring them to prison as required by law, the army authorities have kept the convicted soldiers incommunicado in dehumanising conditions in an underground cell in Apapa, Lagos. Even their family members and lawyers have been denied access to them without any justification.

Despite the recent announcement that the cases of the convicted and dismissed soldiers and the ongoing trials before courts-martial would be reviewed, the Special Court-Martial trying Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti at Abuja sat last week. Even though the charge of cowardly behaviour has been struck out by the military court based on the defendant's no-case submission the case has been further adjourned to September 2, 2015 for continuation of trial. Since the other courts-martial have been dissolved while the suspects have been directed to appear for a review of their charges filed against them it is discriminatory, inequitable and illegal to continue with the trial of Brigadier-General Ransome-Kuti. The case should be reviewed in the interest of justice. In the same vein, the Chief of Army Staff, General Umar Yussuf Batarai should confirm the cases of the convicted soldiers without any further delay.

(source: Opinion; Femi Falana (SAN) writes from Lagos----Premium Times)


The Trials of Ed Graf----In 1988, he was convicted of killing his stepsons - based on arson science we now know is bunk. A quarter of a century later, Texas granted him a new trial, one that pitted modern forensics against old-fashioned Texas justice.

Ed Graf was a bad employee. While working at Community Bank in Texas in the 1980s, he allegedly embezzled from his employer, eventually paying the bank more than $75,000 to avoid prosecution.

Ed Graf was a bad husband. His ex-wife, Clare, would call him "the most possessive person I've ever known." Clare's best friend, Carol Schafer, said her husband, Earl, saw Graf having sex with another woman the night of Graf's bachelor party.

Ed Graf was, according to Clare and her family, a bad father. 2 of Clare's family members accused him of beating his adopted stepsons, Joby and Jason, with a board and belt.

In 1988, a Texas jury found that Ed Graf was also a murderer. Prosecutors argued that 2 years earlier, on Aug. 26, 1986, Graf had knocked out Joby, 9, and Jason, 8, and placed the boys in the back of their family shed. Graf had then spread gasoline, locked the shed, and set the boys ablaze.

The 2 inseparable, athletic, blond-haired brothers died of smoke inhalation and severe burns in the backyard of their home. The address was 505 Angel Fire Drive.

On the day of the fire, Graf broke the news to his wife, telling Clare that both boys had been lost in the blaze. But Graf had been informed that the body of 1 child had been found, not both. It was one of many pieces of circumstantial evidence that prosecutors would pile up to present Graf as a calculating, greedy, and callous monster who murdered the children in a desperate attempt to keep his troubled marriage together.

Other small clues seemed to point to Graf's guilt. Multiple witnesses say they saw a gasoline container on the porch, not far from the kids' bikes. Graf also acted strangely after the fire. He suggested the boys be buried in 1 coffin, according to multiple witnesses. He didn't offer his wife consolation, or apologize that they died in his care. A few weeks after the fire, Graf returned about $50 worth of Joby and Jason's new school clothes that he had previously insisted they keep the tags on. There was more of what others saw as signs of foreknowledge. The normally meticulous Graf, who was said to keep lists for everything, neglected to buy the boys' cereal or fill Jason's Dimetapp prescription the week of their deaths.

In addition to the circumstantial evidence, prosecutors were able to present motive. Weeks before the fire, Graf had taken out $100,000 worth of combined life insurance on the boys if they were to die in an accident. The policies had been mailed out the day before the fire.

The real motive, prosecutors argued, was to get the boys - a source of regular bickering between Graf and his wife - out of their lives. His wife testified that shortly before the fire, she had threatened to leave him over his strict discipline of Joby and Jason, sons from a previous marriage, and to take their newborn 3rd son, Edward III, with her.

The case was still largely circumstantial, though. The thing that likely clinched Graf's conviction was the scientific testimony of a pair of forensic examiners. Joseph Porter, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal's Office, testified that, based on his analysis of photos of the remains of the scene, the door of the shed must have been locked from the outside at the time of the fire, which would indicate foul play. He also said there were obvious charring patterns on the floor of the shed left by an accelerant. "The fire was definitely incendiary," Porter declared. The prosecution's other expert, a top fire investigator from New York known for his report on the Osage Avenue fire, a notorious fire set by Philadelphia officials that destroyed a primarily black neighborhood, was brought in to testify that there was "no doubt" that this was arson.

If the fire was intentionally set, then Graf was the only suspect with means, motives, and opportunity. Even if there was no direct evidence connecting him to the crime, the circumstantial evidence and the word of 2 arson experts was enough. The jury deliberated for 4 hours before pronouncing him guilty of capital murder.

The jurors then had to decide the punishment. The district attorney, Vic Feazell, said that the "facts of the case cry out" for the death penalty - 2 boys burned alive, murdered by a trusted parent.

Defense attorney Charles McDonald gave an impassioned plea that the jurors had convicted an innocent man and would make the injustice irreversible if they chose execution over life in prison. "I'm asking for this man's life because if you did make a mistake there's going to be some folks, somewhere down the line, it may be years ... but maybe the mistake can be corrected," McDonald argued. "If you take this man's life, there ain't no way to ever correct it."

The jurors must have found this argument compelling, because they spared Ed Graf's life.

25 years later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that a mistake had, in fact, been made. The investigators who testified the fire was arson used what in the years since has been discredited as junk science. A state review panel set up to examine bad forensic science in arson cases said that the evidence did not point to an incendiary fire. A top fire scientist in the field went one step further: The way the boys had died, from